Seasons by the Sea: Noshes Naughty, and Nice

This is also the time when we are faced with rich eggnog, frosted holiday cookies, massive cheese platters, and adult beverages at all times of the day
Baked in a glass pie dish and served nestled in a basket with a festive napkin, seven-layer dip is an easy party dish for any season. Laura Donnelly

    It’s party season! Chances are, you are going to a bunch and may be having one or two or your own. But this is the time of year when we are already spending a good bit of money on gifts and travel so throwing a holiday party could put some additional strain on your wallet. This is also the time when we are faced with rich eggnog, frosted holiday cookies, massive cheese platters, and adult beverages at all times of the day, putting a strain on your waistline, too.
     When hosting your own party, it’s okay to ask guests to help by bringing a bottle of wine or contributing one of the appetizers. A lot of my friends are awesome cooks so I always accept their offers of an additional dish. When my friends who don’t know how to cook offer to bring something, I politely decline while thinking to myself “No, thanks, I can buy Pringles and Frito’s ranch dip on my own.”
    When it comes to cocktails, I like to make one special drink to serve in a big pitcher. However, I never drink these concoctions at other people’s houses. Why? I don’t like not knowing how much alcohol I’m consuming, or the quality. So if you’re going to make a big cranberry punch or spiked cider, please use a decent brand of booze and have seltzer nearby so your guests can tame it. I also have mixed feelings about Champagne. It’s so expensive I usually opt for Spanish cava or a California brand, perfectly delicious and half the price of mediocre Champagne.
    It’s also a good idea to have some options for your friends who have gluten allergies or are trying to stick to a healthy diet. Have rice crackers and tortilla chips, plenty of crudites and lower-fat dips. I have found that the thick Greek nonfat yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream. When I make homemade hummus, I use plenty of chickpeas, garlic, and lemon juice but very little tahini. Sometimes I just add a few drops of toasted sesame oil, same nutty flavor, less calories.
    For ease of entertaining, setting out a big cheese platter with grapes and sliced apples takes about 10 minutes. Get already prepped carrots and celery sticks from the supermarket or gourmet store. Have bowls of nuts and sliced dried sausage set about the house so people have something to nibble on no matter where they’re sitting or standing. One of my favorite go-to party snacks is Snyder’s honey mustard pretzel bits.
    Most important, get as much work done in advance as you can so you can be relaxed and welcoming when your guests arrive. Take a bubble bath, sip one of your signature cocktails, put on the holiday music.
    Here are some recipe ideas to inspire you, some naughty, some nice!

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