With the holiday season officially upon us, invitations for events and celebrations are beginning to arrive. You may have considered the idea of hosting a festive get-together yourself, but perhaps the thought of not knowing what food to serve and how to pull off a successful dinner party has already scared you away. If this is you, or even if you simply need a sprinkle of holiday inspiration, we’re here to help! Find below a few of our favorite tips and recipes for you to embrace. After all, what better way to spread holiday cheer than by showing our family, friends and loved ones how much we appreciate them than over delicious sangria and Christmas cake!
Plan, plan, plan ahead
Save yourself the last-minute stress by planning your party ahead of time.
Get your guest list ready
Start by making a list of people you want to invite and find the date that works for your key guests (or at least for the majority of them). Send out your invites up to at least 2 weeks in advance--3 weeks prior is even better! The holiday season is surely a busy time for everyone, so the more notice you give your guests, the better the turnout you’ll likely have!
Decide on your menu
Typically, you’ll want to have plenty of munch-able appetizers, dazzling main course(s), and of course, delicious drinks. Once you decide on those, make an ingredient shopping list. Or, if you’re like us and plan to use Thistle meals as we did, make sure to place your order no later than 11:59 p.m. on Thursday of the week prior.
Some of our favorite holiday menu items include our Thistle Holiday Sangria for a refreshing holiday drink, and our Christmas Cake for a healthy, yet indulgent treat (recipes for each shared at the end!).
Take stock of your inventory
You can’t serve food without the proper utensils. Make sure to take a quick inventory in case you need to stock up on any serving pieces, glasses, napkins, etc.
It’s all about the appetizers
Make a crudites platter
At Thistle, we love crudite boards. To plate a colorful and enticing crudite board, begin by choosing your produce. Try to get what is in season for a vibrant and flavorful assortment. Choose a woodblock or platter as your canvas, plate any dips or spreads in bowls while staging them on opposite ends of the board for symmetry. Start with the most common color, typically green, and place evenly throughout the board. Follow with the next most common color, and continue plating. Fill up any empty spots with the most unique colors for fun pops of pigment. The best crudite boards are abundant and visually enticing - be sure no space is left uncovered!
For our crudites platter, we used seasonal veggies, winter citrus garnishes (blood orange, cara cara oranges, persimmons), seed crackers, and two Thistle dips: Sun-dried Tomato Cheese and Rosemary & Sage White Bean Hummus.
Double up on Thistle salads
Save some time by using Thistle salads! Our salads are packed with nourishing ingredients, a variety of textures, plus fresh and flavorful dressings. Since this won’t be the main dish but rather a side salad, one Thistle salad could serve multiple guests. Simply plan ahead to make sure you add however many salads you need to your Thistle delivery just in time for your holiday party. To plate, mix in all of the salad contents into a medium or large serving bowl!
Serve a fancy-looking mac n' cheese
Mac n’ cheese is not only everyday comfort food, but also a holiday favorite! We took our Thistle mac n’ cheese (made with a creamy pumpkin sauce) to the next level by following these steps:
- Pre-heat your oven to 450°F. Each component in this dish is already cooked through so we just want some quick browning to create that extra depth of flavor from crunchy browned bits.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread the pasta mixture evenly. However, we don’t want the surface to be perfectly flat. By creating some dips and ‘waves’ on top, we create more surface area to for browning & caramelization to occur.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.
- Sprinkle on quinoa bread crumbs and serve with some roasted veggies on the side for a fancy-looking mac n’ cheese!
Add some ambiance
Set the tone of the evening by creating a cozy environment with soft and warm lighting, mellow or festive holiday tunes, and beautiful, yet inexpensive, decorations! We recommend using a combination of votive and pillar candles that you can scatter around, though you can also use string lights to achieve that warm glow. To decorate inexpensively, gather fresh foliage from your neighborhood and adorn your dinner table with it!
You can also take your party’s ambiance a step further with a homemade holiday aroma that fills every corner of your home! We recommend making a simmering holiday potpourri:
- You’ll need a handful of whole spices: cinnamon sticks, whole allspice, whole cloves, and whole star anise
- Then, get some orange slices, fresh or frozen cranberries, fresh ginger pieces, a small branch of fresh pine, apple cider juice and water
- Combine the ingredients in a medium-size pot, bring to a gentle boil on your stove pot, and then allow it to simmer in the lowest setting for a few hours just before and during your holiday dinner
Now, you can sit back and watch your hard work come into fruition. Even though it might feel like your main role for the evening is to make sure everyone is having a good time, this is also YOUR time to bask in the deliciousness of having good company, yummy food, and a cozy environment all in one place. So pat yourself on the back, stay present, and have fun!
Thistle Holiday Sangria
- 1 bottle (12 oz) Ruby Juice
- 1 c Brandy
- 1 c Red Wine of your choosing
- Juice of 2 oranges (Navel or Valencia)
- 1 Tbsp Organic Maple Syrup (or more for your taste)
- 3 Cinnamon sticks
- Diced pear, apples, and oranges
Instructions: Mix all ingredients together and let mingle and meld for at least an hour! Cheers!
Instructions: Rehydrate the dried fruit by bringing to a boil in a small saute pan with the orange juice and brandy. Simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. Take off the heat and set aside, the fruit should be plump and fragrant. Preheat an oven to 350°F and line an 8x8 cake pan with parchment paper as well as a light coating of oil to prevent sticking. In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, maple, oil, water, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Separately whisk together the dry ingredients, then incorporate into the wet in increments to avoid clumps. Pour into the prepared pan, leveling out the batter with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!