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Entertaining at Home
The many Ways to "Holiday"
December, 2007 - Issue #38
Whether you host an open house, or just earn title of "best guest," one thing holds true: The holidays are nearly here! Get a head start with these great ideas compiled from Santa Clarita's finest caterers and party planners.

Celebrate - Planning For An Event To Remember 259-8611
Celebrate - Planning For An Event To Remember 259-8611
Holiday Open House Made Easy
by Nanette Ferrara
The holidays are the perfect time to get together with family and friends and enjoy the beauty of the season. An open house, by nature, is casual and easy-going, and so should the preparations for such a get-together.

First, designate one table or kitchen counter for all the appetizers, desserts and drinks. Choose an easy-to-access location that your guests will naturally congregate. Make sure plates, napkins and glasses are in easy reach. Second, make the designated area inviting by decorating with candles and holiday greenery. Use a tiered plate stand to highlight desserts in the center and work appetizers around it. Third, keep the menu simple. Instead of stocking an entire selection of alcohol, have one holiday drink available. Have a couple of pitchers ready when your guests arrive to cut down on making individual drinks. Both of these recipes have earned rave reviews.

Raspbertini
4 parts vodka
2 parts Chambord
Rim the glasses with sugar and drop one raspberry in the glass.

Fruit & Goat Cheese Mini Tarts
3 oz. creamy goat cheese
5 tablespoons Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Jam, Hot Pepper Jam or Red Pepper Jam
30 mini fillo shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill each fillo shell with one-half teaspoon goat cheese and top with one-half teaspoon jam. Bake until hot and golden brown (eight to 10 minutes). These go fast so make a double batch!

Nanette Ferrara is the co-owner of McKenna & Greene 296-0935.

Claire
Claire's Flowers 286-1284
"What can I Bring?"
If you are lucky enough to be a guest, and not the host, of a holiday party - kudos to you! But wait, you aren't off the hook yet. For informal gatherings, it's polite to ask the host if they'd like assistance.

Should you choose to kindly volunteer a sidedish, use the chance to impress. Cindy Smith, owner of RSVP - The Catering Company, has generously provided her oft-requested recipe that will have everyone glad you arrived at the party with food in tow.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans
1 cup packed brown sugar
A cup chopped pecans, toasted
A cup chilled butter, cut into A-inch pieces
5 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams) peeled, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
4 large eggs
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Mix sugar, pecans and butter in small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use. This could be done ahead of time; keep refrigerated.

Cook sweet potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 12 minutes. Drain in colander for about 15 minutes. Puree sweet potatoes in food processor.

Beat eggs, syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and salt in large bowl. Mix in pureed sweet potatoes. Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared dish. Sprinkle pecan topping evenly over mixture.

Bake until sweet potato mixture is set and topping is bubbly, about one hour. Let stand for 15 minutes, then serve. Serves 12 to 14.
Cindy Smith is owner of RSVP - The Catering Company 291-1155.

Rolled Chocolate Cookies
Rolled Chocolate Cookies
Kids' Teddy Bear Tea and Cookie Party
by Donna Collins
Start a wonderful new tradition this year... have a Teddy Bear Tea and cookie decorating party! Have your guests bring a favorite bear, supply materials for them to make their own or have them bring a new teddy bear to donate to a local charity or hospital. Serve some yummy hot chocolate instead of tea and bear-shaped sandwiches.

For the cookie decorating portion of the party, bake chocolate bear-shaped cookies for your guests to decorate. Ready-made frosting in the tubes is easiest and neatest way to go for little hands. Don't forget to supply lots of decorations such as colored sugars, sprinkles, chocolate chips and of course, gummy bears!

Give your guests pretty plates to use to take home their creations. Finish with a reading of "Corduroy's Christmas Surprise."

Rolled Chocolate Cookies
A cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
A teaspoon salt
A cup unsweetened cocoa powder

In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder until well mixed. Divide dough in half and chill 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two large cookie sheets. On a lightly-floured surface, working with half of the dough at a time, roll one-eighth-inch thick. With floured cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes. Using a metal spatula or pancake turner, place cookies one-half inch apart on cookie sheets. Re-roll trimmings and continue to cut shapes. Bake eight minutes, or until very lightly browned. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. Makes about three dozen cookies.

Donna Collins is the owner of Party Wishes 263-7278.

Charmaine
Charmaine's Bouquet Canyon Florist 297-3100
Tree Trimming and Dessert Party
by Denise Kane
Desserts weave a dynamic spell, full of sinful sweetness. They help set the stage for celebration, and some desserts tied to holidays and family gatherings make sweets the most memorable and treasured part of the party.

Invite family and friends over for a casual evening of eating, merriment and tree decorating. By only serving dessert (which can all be made well ahead of time), you save yourself from last-minute headaches. Enjoy your own party! Just be sure to host your soiree after a major meal, usually dinner (though a 3 p.m. dessert party is not unheard of, and works great with kids).
Sip on cocoa, nibble on cookies and let your relatives debate over who should place the tree topper! Enjoy one of my favorite recipes for Banana Cream Pie.

Banana Cream Pie Oh My!
Pastry Shell
1 A cups flour
A cup butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sugar

Cream Filling
2 eggs
A cup sugar
A cup flour
2 cups milk, scalded
4 oz. butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
5 firm bananas
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar

For the pastry shell... In a bowl, blend the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine egg, oil and sugar; add enough cold water to make one-third cup liquid. Stir into dry mixture until just mixed. Shape into ball. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Roll out to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Put in freezer 30 minutes or until ready to bake. (The crust will keep in the freezer, covered, for two months.) Bake in 375 degree oven for 10 minutes until golden. Cool before filling. Or, cheat! Purchase a nice frozen pie crust and then make the filling yourself.

Cream filling... In a heavy saucepan, beat the eggs, one-half cup sugar and flour until pale lemon color. Beat the hot milk into the egg mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla until melted. Cover by putting plastic wrap directly on top of the sauce. Cool. (It will keep five days in the refrigerator.) Slice the bananas and fold them in, reserving a few slices for garnish, if desired. Spoon the mixture into the pastry shell. Whip cream with two tablespoons sugar and spread on top of pie. Makes eight to 10 servings.

Denise Kane is the owner of Babe's Dessert Bar 510-7954.
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