Christmas Open House

happyintexasNovember 12, 2012

I know it's a little early to be talking Christmas, but I need to get a jump on this.

Dh and I have committed to hosting an open house one Saturday evening in mid-December. (Perhaps we should be committed...) The guest list will consist of business associates, past clients, great friends, friends, and people we'd love to be be more friendly with.

I figure 60 or so peoplw will mosey through...

What food would you serve at such an event? I'm especially interested in dishes or appetizers that can be prepped early. We are above average cooks (plus I hang out here to learn from the best)

I'm open to any and all thoughts!

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I agree that it is good to get a jump on things - you may want to test some of the recipes first.

First of all, exactly what time do you expect the first guests to arrive; i.e., is it an early evening or late evening affair. If it starts at 7:00, you will need more food than if it starts at 9:00.

I would consider doing some sort of theme to organize the menu, such as Greek-Armenian-Middle Eastern, and then you could serve hummus, spanakopita, kefta, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, kabobs, babaganoush, moussaka, tabbouleh, kalamari, haloumi, baklava, etc. all of which are easy to prepare ahead of time, although you could cook the kabobs and kalamari at the last minute. You could also have some Po' Boy sandwiches cut into small pieces and an ante-pasta platter.

You have to find a way of limiting your choices, and picking a theme is an easy way to do that.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 2:51PM
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I agree....decide on the hours....and than make your menu fit the hours.
Properly an open house extends for a long time....other than that it's called a cocktail party...I am sort of kidding but not entirely!
If you are having an oepn house say from noon to 5....then you need to start with some brunch type of foods and bloody Marys and coffee....and then work into cocktails and appetizers.
If you are thinking of say 4 to 7....then you can make it all appetizer sorts of stuff....if from say 7 to 9...I would start with some desserts into the food mix, assuming some may be coming from dinner and go on to light appetizers.
Will you send "graduated invitations"...that is some stating starting at say 3 and another group at 5 and another at say 7?...
There are many logistics to an open house....if your period is short, all will come at about 20 minutes after the beginning, if it's a 4 hour period in the middle of the afternoon....ending at say 6, people will come early and then another group will come about 5...on their way to dinner or perhaps another party.
give a lot of thought to what else people may be doing....a Saturday in December can be a very busy time for some. I know i have skipped a few parties because the invitation was say from 2 to 4....and we had plans for the evening and that took a chunk right out of the middle of the day.
Tell us your time frame and I'll bet you will have lots of suggestions.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Just be sure that you have a wide variety of colors, flavors, temperatures, textures, sweet/savory, etc. If your guests are going to be mingling standing up, take that into account; really saucey foods, foods that need cutting up, or even everyone's favorite BBQ wings are a little difficult to eat standing up while hovering over a laden buffet table.

Most open house parties that I have attended had a selection of sweets, nuts, candy, and fruit also - kind of a dessert table.

Be sure to have some vegetarian options just in case. You want to provide everyone with some choices.

I'd suggest you keep the bread-based items and those primarily cheesey to a minimum. It is easy to get carried away with the bread and cheese dishes.

You will want some items to warm in the oven and serve warm as well as other items that will be kept chilled and served cold. Other selections are fine at room temp. If your budget will allow chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, go for it and everyone will love you! Just keep some back to put out later.

Depending on the weather, hot mulled cider from a crock pot is nice to have during the holidays. If you plan to have an open bar, you will want to have a bartender to allow the two of you to be with your guests.

If it were me having this party, I would try my best to have all the foods prepped and cooked ahead so I could enjoy my party too! Depending on your climate that time of year, foods can be kept cold in the garage or in your car or in coolers on a patio if you run out of room in the fridge.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 3:28PM
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What great ideas!

Themes are a great idea...I could do Tex-Mex or Italian better than Greek...but, oh my, Greek would be distinctive...

We decided on 6-9pm hoping that some would pop in before or after another party.

I absolutely love the idea of 'graduated' invites. That ideas is going in the keeper file. As it is, we may carve the guest list down a bit.

So...I was thinking appetizers and dessert. Finger foods. Maybe what I'm thinking is more cocktail party than open house. We are not big drinkers so we wouldn't think to call it that. lol

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 3:42PM
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Good ideas, Teresa!

I love the idea of enjoying my own party!

Shrimp cocktail, mmmmmmm, yes.
Hot spicy cider...makes me think we could have a fire in the fire pit out back and a crock pot of spiced cider near there for those who wanted to venture out. (And someone designated to keep an eye on the fire...)

Love all the ideas! Thank you for stirring the creative juices.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 3:54PM
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You can serve soupy things, too. I've served seafood gumbo out of a crock pot. A scoop of rice from the rice cooker in a colorful paper coffee cup with a scoop of gumbo over it. Served with plastic spoons.

what about hiring some help?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 4:43PM
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In England we tend to serve finger foods. You can pre prepare vol au vent cases, pastry boats etc that you can fill with anything from snails, prawn, chicken.........the old sausage roll can be made with a selection of artisan sausages and chorizo....little skewers....

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 3:12AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

It's great to have some cold dishes and some hot dishes prepared ahead of time and waiting.

I was going to suggest soup that can stay warm all night with lots of crunchy buttered bread is a big hit...especially a comfort soup like butternut squash.

One simple and tasty appetizer that looks good is a dried apricot with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a pecan half on top. Yummy, good looking and easy.

A plate that has sliced english cucumber (peel on) layered with sliced salami.

A simple fruit dip is plain yogurt mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar....a platter of cut fruit and you have a beautiful dish.

A crockpot full of kielbasa is always a hit in my Polish family....just slice and add to apple jelly mixed with polish mustard and let it cook for a couple of hours. Serve with sliced seeded rye bread.

A cheese board with grapes and a selection of crackers is always attractive to put out.

Bowls of mixed nuts too for easy snacking.

Once that stuff is around and well tended, then you can add some hot or cold stuff as the evening goes on.

Franks hot wing dip is always a hit at our house.

Neighbor always serves a stromboli at her party that is easy to make and fabulous

Baked stuffed mushrooms:
1 lb fresh mushrooms
2T chopped onion
2T butter
1c shredded cheddar
1 3-oz can real bacon bits
1 slice bread torn into pieces
Chop stems. Cook onion in butter and add stems and cook until tender. Add bread pieces and remove from heat. Stir in bacon bits and cheese. Mound filling into mushroom caps, place in a shallow baking pan and bake at 400 for 15 min until cheese melts.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:47AM
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I've done Xmas open houses for years. I think the best meat option is a ham (or 2!) Start off warm but tastes good at room temp.Serve with dinner rolls and butter and mustards so they can make sandwiches, or not. I get spiral sliced hams from Costco. After heating the ham I cut the slices smaller so you don't really need knife and fork. Have some cheeses to go with or alone. I also make a potato casserole and a sweet potato one, goes with ham and works for vegetarians. Make several so you can keep bringing out a warm one. The rest of menu is whatever cocktail savories I feel like making. Kids love little hot dogs in barbecue sauce. (Grown-ups too!) And a dessert or cookie table.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 3:39PM
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Are you thinking a full meal/buffet or just beverages and finger foods? If people are coming and going to other parties, then appetizers and desserts would give lots of options to eat as much or as little as they choose.

I personally would appreciate food that can be placed on a small plate that is easy to handle while holding a beverage in my other hand. I would not want to have to balance a plate with something like soup or other food that is easy to spill or that could be hard to eat and possibly mess up holiday clothes. Unless you have space for people to sit down to eat at the table, I would serve finger foods so your guests can fill a small plate or graze and visit with others.

A selection of hot and cold appetizers (almost all can be made ahead) with a selection of one bite desserts would be my choice. Once you decide on a theme or an inspiration dish or two, maybe we can help with specific recipes.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:50PM
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This is so timely for me! Yes, it may be early for some, but now that I am back to work full time, I need to be much more aware of planning and do-ahead.

Thanks for all the great ideas - and please keep them coming. Oh and our Open House will be from noon to 5, so brunch type things will definitely be the starting point for us and we will move into the more cocktail type fare later in the afternoon.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 6:29AM
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Just an FYI about something my friend and I have always experienced: if you set up the appetizers at a dining table, and leave any chairs in place at the table, some people will sit there all night. Having people sitting and eating at/on the appetizers table usually stops the ease of flow for everyone else at the party. Next time I need to remember to move those chairs! lol.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 8:18AM
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I would follow Ina Garten's advice, and my friend who host a neighborhood open house for New Years every year. Get friends to help and bring some dishes. Better to serve a few good simple things than to stress yourself out making a whole bunch of things that few eat or don't like. When the food is basic and good and the hostess relaxed and the company fun, that will be better remembered than some elaborate foodie thing you made. I did a Greek food open house and it was good, but then I make and love Greek food so was no biggie. If you like Italian or Tex Mex and do it well and easily, then stick with the tried and true. OK to maybe add one new dish for fun but stick with what you know you can do well and what everyone likes. I've done big spreads with loads of dishes and a lot of stuff doesn't get eaten. Three varied appetizers is fine. I can't tell you the number of side dishes I have been eating up the rest of the week because my guests were too full with the main course. Too much stuff and nothing is memorable.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:53AM
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Thanks for all the great ideas!

I spent one or two days drooling over appetizer and dessert recipes on the Internet. Then I slapped myself. I need to stick to tried and true, then be adventurous with one or two recipes.

Today I'm thinking Italian beef in a crock pot with small rolls for slider sized sandwiches.
A platter of cold shrimp with spicy sauce.
Tomato tart
Tomato and mozerella balls on skewers.
One other appetizer or two

Fruit tray with sweet dip
Cheese board with a variety of good cheeses

Dessert table
Chocolate mousse
Mint browies
Cherry cobbler
A pretty cake

I'll have a spicy chez mix out, too.

This list will probably change but at least I have a solid start. All of the above are faithful recipes.

What would you serve to drink?
My thoughts are iced tea (it is Texas after all) A white wine and a red wine...or maybe the Italianversionof champagne. Bubbles are always festive.
Hot spiced cider simmering on the stove. We've considered making a fire in the fire pit and leaving s'mores makings close by. A crockpot of spiced cider nearby.

Now.... To get the house cleaned and decorated!

Thanks again for all the thoughts. If I don't use them this timeI will next time.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:41PM
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Well I like to serve hot spiced cider at parties. It's good and it gives a great smell to the house and the area near it. I sometimes serve it out of my crockpot but I also bought one of those big coffee serving thermoses at a restaurant supply house for times when I need my crockpot for something else. I've also made it in a small coffee urn but there are some potential off flavor issues with that solution depending on your urn situation. You can also buy apple brandy for folks who want to give it a kick. You can also jazz it up visually by mixing it with cranberry juice and floating some orange slices in it. On the other hand, I don't know how that will go over in TX given that it might not be that chilly around Christmas time. You could also do Sangria, which is a wine punch and something that I do for wine lovers is serve hot spiced wine--same way as I serve cider. In fact, my local winery sells both spices grape wine and apple wine that are both fabulous served hot and for a party if you're busy with other things it is dead easy to just buy them and heat them up. You might look for that kind of product around your neck of the woods. Or you can also find recipes on the Internet for that kind of thing too.

I have a kick butt recipe for Cherry Cranberry cobbler if you'd like it, (calls for both dried cherries and dried cranberries along with fresh or frozen sweet cherries) but you may not care for it as it includes the cranberry. Also you have to have access to dried cherries, which are "not inexpensive," shall we say, ahem.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Sounds like you have a good start to a plan!
I would add something else to put into those slider buns....perhaps some slices ham or salami...or even chicken in a light BBQ sauce in another crock pot ( i have a favorite recipe if you want it)

Also, everything is pretty much "eat with your fingers" food but for the mousse and the cobbler. I would make all the desserts also possible to eat out of hand....perhaps some fruit bars instead of the cobbler?

And for drinks....I like the wines....and would also add some you said bubbles are always good. And will you have beer drinkers? I am always surprised at the number of people who will prefer beer to wine. Have a cooler of some bottles of "interesting" beers. Things like a wheat beer, a Christmas ale and maybe the produce of a local small brewery.
And I hope you won't forget to include a plate of raw veggies, for people like me who are munchers....I appreciate having a bowl of carrot and celery sticks next to the chex dip necessary.

Love ithe idea of the fire pit and the hot cider out there....after all you said "This is Texas"....and not like;ly to snow...or is it?
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 4:38PM
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Well it's Texas so we could have two feet of snow or it could be 80 degrees. I'mhopingfor a crisp calm evening.

Good catch on dessert finger foods. Apricot bars and lemon bars perhaps. Or a chocolate dipped biscotti..

Veggie platter- check

Oh- hot spiced wine. We've done 'glow'wine in Germany before. Sounds like a fun idea.

And beer. My son loves Belgian stuff. We like a crisp apple cider. Maybe one more for fun
The cherry cranberry cobbler sounds good. I'd love the recipe.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 6:23PM
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Actually I was picturing a raspberry bar that someone I have to go search for that recipe..

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 7:22PM
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I can post the cobbler recipe but I agree with the others, a bar cookie might be more appreciated at a open house, finger foods kind of do. My best friends who host the New Year's Open house always make cranberry raspberry bar cookies. Maybe I can find the recipe for that! Also, I frankly think cobblers are best warm (although I wouldn't turn my nose up at a cold one, lol!) and warm cobbler might be hard to accomplish at an open house.

I also appreciate a veggetable tray at a party, gives me something to fill up on and helps moderate my appetite so I don't pig out too much on the most fattening stuff!

You might want to consider and antipasta type dish for the party. I have one recipe that is for a very "salady" kind of antipasta and another one that is more cheese and salami type thing. Both are good but need plates and forks to eat, unless you provided pita bread, which might be fun anyway!

Antipasta pasta salad, lol!

Or here's tofu white bean salad, which is actually a riff on the Italian tuna white bean salad. Fish lovers might like that, I think both versions are great. There are also other Italian style tuna salads that some folks might like. Some folks on this board like tuna pate, I have made it but just don't care for it. Ignore the tofu and pretend it is tuna, I imagine tofu is not the most popular food choice in Texas, ;) You could also use chicken for this salad. Is great stuffed in a pita.

Anyway, just my .02, you know your guests' tastes and your own interests best!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 7:08AM
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