Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas party report-out

The last three weeks flew by and I didn't have a chance to post anything about our Christmas party (or Christmas for that matter).  It was so much fun and everyone was in the holiday spirit.  The entire day with people bustling about, jovial laughing, glasses clinking, and all the delicious food smells made me that much more excited for Christmas.

The party was a potluck which is wonderful for two reasons.  I don't have to break my back to provide enough food for everyone and I get to taste everyone else's cooking.  Some highlights from the food brought by others were the cheesy baked grits, BBQ green beans, spinach dip, and potato salad.

Our traditional Christmas cookies, pecan crescents, nutted thimbles and almond rocca

I prepared desserts for the party. I made lavender lemon bars and ginger oatmeal cream pies along with all the usual Christmas desserts I make.  Once again the flourless chocolate peppermint patt

y cake flew off the table.  I should have made two of those.

The pretty candy cane cake was delicious and gorgeous.  Such a  treat for anyone who loves candy canes. I tried my hand at homemade old fashioned fudge this year since it's one of my absolute favorite holiday treats.  After plenty of frustration I was able to produce two batches, one salted dark chocolate and the other mint chocolate.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it because it was gone rather quickly!
Making old fashioned fudge at this high of altitude proved more difficult than I imagined.  
I don't have any photos of the real food, mostly because it flew off the platters.  I made two rosemary roasted pork loins, two batches of curried chicken rolls and two batches of scalloped potatoes.  As well as smoked salmon dip, and roasted red pepper and goat cheese terrine.  I'll be honest, it wasn't enough.  I should have had a few other main course selections because they didn't last on the table more than ten minutes.  Maybe something easy like lasagna or a rice dish.  Even a pasta salad would have added something hardy to the table.

But the drinks were flowing and no one seemed to complain of the food going so fast.  It was nice because it was an open house so people trickled in all afternoon with dishes to add to the table.

I have so much fun planning the drink menu for parties now.  People enjoy the details and like to have instructions for a pre-planned cocktail.  I really had no idea how much people would enjoy the cocktail I chose.  Now I know to prepare for twice as many ingredients for the drinks.

 Non alcoholic spiced fruit wassail.  A fun option for something kid friendly and festive. If people wanted they could add a dash of bourbon or rum.  But I think it tasted great all on it's own.  It was super easy to make and I omitted any additional sugar in the recipe.  For a drink that combines three store bought fruit juices, it definitely doesn't need any extra sugar.

Spiced Fruit Wassail from Of Tide and Thyme cookbook
2 1/4 cups pineapple juice
2 quarts apple juice or cider
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
a little cheesecloth bundle of cinnamon bark and cloves tied up tight (1/2 cup bark or a few cinnamon sticks and 2 Tbsp whole cloves)

Just add all the ingredients and let it simmer with the spices for a few hours.  Be prepared for this to go quickly.  I doubled this recipe and I should have doubled it again!  The kids loved the red and white striped straws.

Cinnamon apple martini.  This was a huge hit among the adults, men and women alike.  I came up with this recipe because I ordered two pounds of cinnamon red hot candy for Christmas.  I knew I wanted to create a cocktail that used these spicy candies I just didn't know what it was until three days before the party.  As I searched online, I realized I would never have just the right ingredients for some of the cocktail recipes I was finding.  But I wasn't deterred.  This is what cooking in Ethiopia is all about-substitution.  So, I used what I had and it was simple and delicious.

Ingredients for Cinnamon Apple Martinis
1 bottle vodka
1 and a half cups cinnamon red hot candies
1 bottle of cranberry apple juice

Two days before the party I poured the vodka over the red hot candies in a decanter and let them dissolve. Swirl and stir the candies from the bottom often.  You could pour the candies straight into the bottle of vodka to make it even easier.  Just use a funnel.  After almost all the candies were dissolved, I strained the cinnamon infused vodka over a fine mesh strainer to remove the waxy like candy coatings that were left in the alcohol.  You're left with a lovely red sweet cinnamon vodka.

Sara's Cinnamon Apple Martini
1 shot cran-apple juice
1 shot cinnamon vodka.

Shake with an ice cube and serve with the ice.  The colder the better. Serve in short martini glasses.  I like stemless just because they can serve as a pretty glass for lots of cocktails, not just martinis.  I loved this drink for the flavor, but also for the festive red color.  Gorgeous!

Hot Chocolate bar.  This is such a fun concept and I could have done so much more when it comes to options for this drink but I decided to pay tribute to one of our favorite decadent desserts we enjoyed in South Africa.  Thick hot chocolate served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.  It's really quite simple.  Soft peppermint sticks and peppermint Schnapps for the adults made the drink more holiday festive.  This was a huge hit for the kids.  Those peppermint sticks went quick!

I cheated on this drink and used pre-made cocoa drink powder and just added water.  I made it nice and thick and added vanilla to the mix.  The pot sat on the stove simmering during the party so people just had to bring a mug to the kitchen and get a ladle of cocoa and a scoop of ice cream.  Pure decadence.

The gingerbread people kits were a hit and I think it saved some mess and heartache from the parents about this or that.  All I had to do was life the box of kits outside and let the kids have-at it.  One mom helped snip the ends of the frosting bags with scissors but after that, I didn't hear any issues.

We had a silly white elephant gift exchange and 24 people participated by bringing a gift.  I ended up with a lovely latte style coffee mug which seemed unbelievable after seeing a can of boiled peanuts opened as well as a umbrella hat and a dust pan.  Justin came away with a new mop!  HA!  I liked how the game brought everyone at the party together.  Lots of our friends from all sorts of different places in Addis all got to know one another better when you're stealing one another gifts and laughing at the hilarity of some of them.  Such fun.

All in all, the party was a success, thanks to all our enthusiastic friends who brought good food and plenty of wine.  What a way to kick of the holiday party season!


Natasha said...

How festive! Everything looks yummy -- especially your desserts. I agree that people appreciate details. I still want to make a DIY chalkboard menu. I know you had posted a how-to a while back; I am going to put it on my 2014 crafting to-do list!

Chelsea said...

What a beautiful Christmas party! I've been looking forward to seeing your post about it since your teasers on facebook. I love doing a potluck, too. It's so much easier to gauge the amount of food that way, and in the foreign service I think most people pull out the stops and make one of their most special dishes. So you get the best from everyone and usually get to enjoy the party a bit more than otherwise. Merry Christmas!