Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Parties: Food And Fashion On A Budget

I can't tell you how excited I am to be collaborating again this holiday season with my dear friend Erica from Conflicted Pixie.  Last year we brought you the best of New Year's Eve and this year we present to you holiday parties on a budget!

Erica is the queen of budget-friendly everything!  I don't ever miss a blog post from her so that I can stay on top of the latest trends and also for the best deals out there!  Staying within a budget when it comes to food however is often difficult for me.  I admit I am a sucker for a really good creamy, stinky and expensive cheese.  However, this holiday season (after I nearly spent my savings on airline tickets for Christmas) I am all about keeping it simple and inexpensive.

Holiday parties can still be festive and creative without being over done and complicated.  I personally love small plates, finger foods and sharing.  Serving your party tapas style can keep you from preparing a big meal, out of the kitchen and enjoying that glass of wine with your guests.

I have created some tapas plates with a holiday twist that won't leave your pockets empty.  All three recipes cost me under $50 to make, herbs, spices and condiments included!  Consider serving wine and beer instead of a fancy cocktail to keep things simple and cost effective.  I've paired one of my favorite Spanish wines that I purchased for under $15 and Greg has suggested to try a great pilsner like this one!  

Now, what to wear to this festive tapas holiday party?  Check out Erica's amazing budget-friendly Lookbook (Did I mention she's a personal stylist for Keaton Row and it's free to have her style you?) created just for you (and me)!

Cheers and Happy Holidays!!

Maple Thyme Barbecue Meatballs

1-1/2 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Over medium heat in a large sauce pan, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme.  Stir until the sugar has melted.  Continue cooking until the sauce comes to a low boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the burner and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef, garlic and onions.  Add the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls.

In a large cast iron or non stick pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.  Place the meatballs in the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on all sides .  The meatballs should be about a medium rare.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and place in the pan with the maple thyme barbecue sauce.  Simmer the meatballs and sauce over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Serve hot and garnish with remaining teaspoon of fresh thyme.  Makes 25-30 meatballs.

Note:  To keep the meatballs warm during a party, place them in a small crock pot on the warm setting.

Chipotle Goat Cheese Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers

10 baby bell peppers
8 ounces soft goat cheese, room temperature
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic, roasted
Ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoons chives, chopped

In a small food processor combine the goat cheese, chipotle pepper and roasted garlic.  Season with ground black pepper if desired and pulse to combine.

Cut each baby bell pepper into thirds or quarters depending on the size of the pepper.  Remove the seeds and membranes and discard.  Fill each sliced bell pepper with the chipotle goat cheese.  Garnish with the chives and serve.  Makes 30-35.

Holiday "Stuffing" Empanadas

2 puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup fennel, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Over medium heat in a large pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the butter and melt.  Add the onions and cook until translucent about 3-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, fennel and celery.  Cook for about 7-10 minutes, occasionally stirring.  Add the marjoram, rosemary and thyme.  Stir to combine and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and allow to slightly cool.

Place the puff pastry on a slightly floured surface.  Flour the top of the dough and roll out the puff pastry until about 1/16 inch thick.  Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter cut circles out of the pastry.

Place 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture in the center of the cut pastry.    Brush the edges with the egg wash and fold the pastry in half making a half circle.  Gently pinch the ends together.  Using a fork press down along the edges sealing the empanadas together.  Repeat this until all the pastry is used.  Brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash.

Place the empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool.  Serve with your favorite gravy recipe.  If you need one, here's Greg's favorite.  Makes 12-16.