Holiday Party!

As the holiday season sets in, take time to experience the joy of gratitude, and reflection. Here are great recipes for a successful party!

As a child I remember both sides of the families always having great gatherings for the holidays. We're talking German Christmas and a Sicilian-style Christmas. Wow! The food was indescribable. Italian Christmas Eve, with its traditional overabundance of fish dishes, is OK. But, I liked Christmas day at Grandma Scorcone's with all the homemade pasta dishes.

Now, that's cucina Italiana. I would like to present for all you here at a contemporary Christmas Eve menu patterned after some of the meals I've prepared each year for friends and family.

As the holiday season sets in, take time to experience the joy of gratitude, and reflection. That means give thanks, you dumbbell. What am I saying? Give thanks! Ok, fine. But, what about having your friends over for a holiday party with all those goodies? Now that's what I'm talking about.

And my fellow cook and writer Danielle Nagel will be assisting me in the kitchen with some GREAT main dishes and, of course, I'll be doing the sumptuous goodies. How about lots of holiday party ideas to accompany all the delights? You got it.

Holiday Invites

First, you've got to get those holiday party invites out right now. Why so early? Trust me, the parties are lining up right now and the calendar is getting full. So, send them out right now. And even though you are the host and making the main dishes with lots of goodies to go around, tell your guests to bring a dish to pass, as they are bodybuilders and we do eat a lot don't we?

So, the holiday season is now upon us, and it's time to start planning the menus. Not only are there some wonderful regional and international variations on the traditional Italian Christmas dinner, there are some fabulous party food recipes that are just right for this busy time of year too. If your circle of friends includes a slew of creative, snack-eating Christmas tree lovers, then an ornament making and tree-trimming party is a great party you should throw!

This kind of party is an excellent way to kick off the season because it really feeds into the sharing and giving aspects of Christmas. You supply the grub, decorations and ornament-making supplies, while your friends pitch in by donating bushels of ideas and it helps to ask them to bring a dish to pass too!

The most successful ornament making and tree trimming parties are those that are well planned and prepared for. Follow a timeline and your party will be a simple, fun extravaganza for everyone you included!

Party Planning

To Do

  1. Select a date
  2. Send invitations
  3. Buy a tree or put up the fake one
  4. Place tree where it will remain the whole season
  5. Hang lights on tree
  6. Get ornaments out

1 Day Before the Party

  1. Get all those Christmas CD's out
  2. Bake cookies
  3. Arrange furniture for party
  4. Finish baking
  5. Make punches and egg nog
  6. Arrange the food around the table…oops, forgot…get a camera too.

Holiday Menu

What will you serve? Well, first of all, don't let the task of preparing food scare you out of throwing a party. Food at holiday and tree trimming parties are commonly simple and seasonal; basically, almost anything goes. You want to prepare food that is simple to eat, easily portable, and appetizing. Also, make sure that you are well-stocked on the snacks. Bodybuilders and their muscle friends love to munch while flexing!

For Italian Christmas Eve my main courses are different every year, but the pulse of the meal is always essentially the same. Here is my favorite dish to kick-start any holiday party:

Basic Egg Nog

  • 1 dozen eggs, separated (that means separate the yolks from the whites).
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups bourbon (optional, rum works good too)
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 quarts whipping cream
  1. Beat together egg yolks and salt in a large mixing bowl, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of sugar beating well after each addition.
  2. Stir in bourbon, rum, milk and vanilla; beat well.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, add the remaining sugar and continue beating the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Whip the cream until thick and peaks form.
  5. Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture, and then fold in the whipped cream.
  6. Taste and add more sugar to taste. Or if you prefer a more fit Egg Nog

Basic Egg Nog PDF (112 KB)

Main Dishes

Shrimp Scaloppini

  • 1 pkg. of 100 count small shrimp
  • 1 lb. Of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 cup of chopped sweet red onions
  • 1 cup chopped red and yellow bell peppers
  • 4 tbs. of Olive Oil
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs. of basil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 cup of tomato paste
  1. Heat the Olive Oil and butter in large skillet.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and Bay Leaf and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp stir, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, paste and remaining spices to the simmering shrimp mixture.
  5. Cover and simmer over low heat for another 15-20 minutes.
  6. Serve over a bed of spinach Spaghetti.

Shrimp Scaloppini PDF (204 KB)

Baked Chicken w/ Roasted Apples, Raisins & Walnuts

  • 5 cups Braeburn apple or any baking apple, unpeeled & chopped into medium chunks
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 lbs. chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients, toss well to coat apples. Spread apple mixture evenly on the bottom of an 8 x 10 inch baking dish coated w/ nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt & pepper, and then arrange chicken on top of apple mixture.
  3. Bake at 475 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is done and apples are tender. Place chicken on a bed of apples, sprinkle with parsley, and serve w/ your favorite harvest vegetable.

Apple Selection: Good-quality Braeburn apples will be firm with smooth, clean skin and have good color for the variety. Test the firmness of the apple by holding it in the palm of your hand. (Do not push with your thumb). A good apple should feel solid and heavy, not soft and light. Always avoid any apples with soft or dark spots. If the skin wrinkles when you rub your thumb across it then the apple has probably been in cold storage way too long or has not been kept cool enough.

Baked Chicken with Roasted Apples PDF (204 KB)

Holiday Goodies

Snow Macaroons

  • 2 2/3 cups Angle Flake Coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt (can delete, I do)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  1. Heat oven to 325 F
  2. Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt in large bowl.
  3. Stir in egg whites and extract until well blended.
  4. Make little 1 inch balls onto lightly greased cookie sheet (I do a little shot of PAM in every spot I'm placing a cookie)
  5. Bake 20 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown that's gold not black! Immediately remove from oven and cookie sheets. Cool on plate. Makes about 3 dozen unless you double the ingredients like I do.

Snow Macaroons PDF (204 KB)

Cream Cheese Brownies

  • 1- 6oz. Pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
  • 2 tblsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 3oz. Pkg. cream cheese (softened)
  1. Grease (PAM it) an 8x8x2 pan. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. In separate bowl mix flour and baking powder.
  2. In another separate bowl for mixture beat 2 eggs and 1 tsp. of vanilla; gradually add 3/4 cup of sugar. Beat until thick and lemon colored.
  3. Add dry ingredients, blend well. Stir in chocolate and nuts.
  4. Beat cheese and 1/4 cup sugar till fluffy and smooth.
  5. Add an extra egg and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.
  6. Spread 1/2 of chocolate mixture, and then add cheese mixture, then top off with the remaining chocolate mixture.
  7. BAKE @ 350 for 45 minutes. Cut into small bite sized pieces.

Cream Cheese Brownies PDF (206 KB)

Now the table is set, the food is done, friends are arriving and the fun begins. Make sure you have lots of holiday season's coffee and or teas and red and white wines to go round. To ALL you readers and authors: Be good to one another, if not for a few more weeks.

Remember this is time for fun and weather you celebrate Christmas or not, doesn't mean you can't just be good and reflect on all the good things that have happened over the past few months. Have a safe and fun holiday season people.