The Holiday Bookends Class
As you might know, I provide Vegan Boutique Culinary Demonstrations and Tastings. In keeping with the season, the class on December 4 was Holiday Bookends – Savory Starts and Fragrant Finishes. Thirteen students gathered for a Holiday feast.
I had two primary objectives — (1) to demonstrate how to prepare delicious celebratory food that was as festive in appearance as it was scrumptious to the palate; and (2) demonstrate the ease of preparing dishes in advance that could be parked, then served with relative ease … all to ensure that, as the host(ess), you would be free to enjoy the party equally as much as your guests.
I prepare for classes no differently than I do when I entertain.
When you take the time to plan ahead, create your menu, develop your grocery shopping list, and establish your prepping game plan inclusive of timetable/schedule, you’ll be dressed and ready to go at kick-off, making it look effortless.
So, the class began with the menu….
Appetizers and desserts that are sure to impress your guests. These dishes can all be made ahead and parked, ready to serve whenever you are so you can be the host(ess) with the most(est).
- Pomegranate Champagne/Persecco
Champagne/Persecco splashed with fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice speckled with pomegranate seeds.
- Chesapeake Bay Crabby Cakes with Horseradish Sauce
Heart of palm create the perfect riff on a Maryland classic.
- Disaronno-Spiked Greens with Butternut Squash, Cranberries, & Slivered Almonds
A warm salad that is not only seasonally colorful but also full of flavor. Is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eyes.
- Burgundy Mushrooms En Croute
A mélange of mushrooms braised in a rich deep red wine then enrobed in puff pastry.
- Jalapeno Popper Hot Dogs
Cheese stuffed hot dogs stuffed inside hollowed-out Jalapeno peppers, then grilled.
- Citrus Scented Rice Cake
An Italian Holiday favorite that, in its original form, called for a dozen eggs and three pounds of ricotta. This is my veganified version scented with oranges and dotted with dried cherries and chocolate chips.
- Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Spiced Buttercream
A pumpkin cake that will delight all the senses with its fragrant Holiday spices and fresh pumpkin.
Starter – Hot Rotel Cheese Dip with Crackers
Finish – Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark
From there, I wrote the recipes for each item as they are all my own original recipes. Next step was to peruse each recipe, scour my pantry and refrigerator checking to see what ingredients needed to find their way to my shopping list, then decide in what order the items would be prepared and what serving vessels would be used.
As has become typical for me before a class (or party), I begin the day before, cutting, chopping, cooking, baking, parking. If an item needs further attention on the day of the event, it gets added to my ‘last minute’ list, which then gets prioritized.
If I have time the evening prior, but no later than the morning of, the tables get set. Non-refrigerated items get parked on trays, each dish having its own tray so when the time comes for me to serve that item (or in the case of the class, also include a demo regarding how to make the dish), everything is organized.
Keepin’ it Fun and Festive!
Fun….it must be fun…here’s where Richard is such a good sport. I always try to wear an apron that depicts the theme of the event. Isn’t my apron just the best?! I couldn’t resist taking it the step further with the hairband and earrings. They just really rounded out the outfit. After the class, one of the students who was new to the class came up to me and said that when she walked in the door, she wasn’t sure if I could be taken seriously with the adornments but was so thrilled that not only did she enjoy all the food but also learned so many tips about how to entertain that she couldn’t wait to plan a Holiday event herself. WoooHooo! Score!
But, I digress…..back to the meal…
Everything was ready. I had individual-sized desserts already on the table on brass tiered platters. Also on the tables were bowls of a dip made of Rotel, vegan cream cheese, tomatoes, and some mayonnaise with several different types of crackers.
The class started with a toast…a champagne glass that was parked with freshly-juiced pomegranate juice and seeds. All I had to do was pour the Persecco (I had non-alcohol sparkling apple cider; but everyone opted for the bubbly) into the glasses, and the party began.
The warm salad just needs assembly, the greens were previously chiffonade and flashed with garlic and Disaronno, the butternut squash roasted in half-moons, cranberries tossed with a scant amount of unrefined cane sugar, and slivered almonds dry toasted in a skillet. While I serve each person their own individual salad in a bowl, if it were a Holiday party, it would have been arranged on a large white oval platter for a spectacular presentation piece. The red cranberries popped atop the colorful greens, boasting Holiday cheer (well, the Disaronno helps out a bit here).
Burgundy Mushrooms En Croute
The mushroom pockets couldn’t be easier. I love the name – Burgundy Mushrooms En Croute. Sounds so fancy-smancy.
Start by making a duxelle (I figured I’d use that term in keeping with the fancy-smancy appearance) of hearty mushrooms, move them into a large stock pot, covering them completely with burgundy (or other deep, dark red wine, such as Merlot or Shiraz—and remember, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it). Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook the mixture down until the liquid is evaporated on a simmer.
This can take as long as three hours, depending on the volume of mushrooms, but it’s also not the sort of thing that you must hover over, such as risotto). You will truly need more mushrooms than you think as they are predominantly water themselves. Allow the mixture to cool.
Preparing the Pastry
Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is vegan!!! How great is that?! It states this fact right on their website. There are two sheets in a pack. Defrost it in the refrigerator, then roll our each sheet to approximately half its original thickness. Cut each sheet into 9 equal squares. On one sheet of squares and using a small ice cream scoop, dollop a scoop of the mushroom mix in the middle of each square.
Using a pastry brush, lightly dampen the edges with water. Place a square from the second sheet on top of each square with the mushroom mixture. Seal the sides well. I use a fork to seal the edges. Place each pocket on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Dock the center of each pocket to allow steam to escape.
Bake It Up!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20 minutes. These can easily be served at room temperature. You can do one of two things….(1) you can make and bake them the day prior, and allow to come to room temperature before serving, or (2) you can make them the day prior and park the cookie sheets in your refrigerator (covered with plastic wrap), then bake them just before serving (removing the plastic wrap before baking).
Jalapeño Pepper Hot Dogs
For fun, I took jalapenos and some of those sweet mini peppers that come in a bag, cutting the bottoms and tops off of them (into my stock bag in the freezer they went), then removing the seeds and veins. Using vegan hot dogs, I cut them lengthwise, then cut a couple slices of Chao cheese slices to match the width of the hot dogs.
I layered them, the bottom of the hot dog, a slice of cheese, then the hot dog top. I cut each hot dog into thirds, then stuffed one into each of the prepared peppers. Into a preheated 390 degree air fryer they went, the hot dogs with the jalapenos taking about 9 minutes, and the sweet peppers taking about 6-7 minutes. Viola! Another quick and easy appetizer that was put together the day before. I actually even air fried them the day before to being almost done, then warmed them in the oven just before serving.
Desserts Finish Us Off
All the desserts were made the day before, so all I had to do was arrange them on the tiered serving trays.
So you see, entertaining can be elegant without taking the life out of the hostess, allowing you to enjoy your party and be present for every moment.
If you have any fun recipes that you use as a go-to for entertaining and are willing to share it here, please do so in the comments. It would be such fun to hear from you as we share our beloved recipes.