Holiday Entertaining with Ease

November 24, 2014

We’re ecstatic to welcome back our culinary expert, celebrity Chef Aida Mollenkamp to share some of her holiday entertaining shortcuts, tips and delectable recipes! Let the drooling begin…

Aida MollenkampThanksgiving is near, but the holiday season is just getting into full swing, meaning endless holiday parties and lots of opportunities to entertain! I’m all for hosting an intimate gathering or attending an all-out bash, but I’m not for stressed-out moments in the kitchen or intense cooking prep. When it comes to holiday season cooking, my mantra is small but mighty: have an arsenal of simple, small bites (appetizers, hors d’oeurves, snacks) so you have variety without too much extra effort.

Pulling together a stylish and great-tasting party menu is definitely doable with minimal time, effort and money—just keep in mind these few things. First, plan ahead and create a menu that’s low-stress and able to be prepared ahead of time. Also, be sure to look for ways to cook smarter not harder: use ingredients from the frozen and dairy aisles, as these products are already prepped for you, meaning it’s a shortcut sans compromise. If you keep these ingredients on hand, you’ll be ready to cook at a moment’s notice. A few items I can’t live without for holiday parties—refrigerated pie crust/dough, cheese of all varieties and frozen produce!

Here are some of my all-time favorite, bite-size and small meals to put on your holiday menu:

  • Spiced Apple-Cranberry Biscuit PieSpiced Apple-Cranberry Biscuit Pie: These individual pies are perfectly-portioned so your guests can taste multiple classic pie flavors without overdoing it.
    • Stock up on frozen cranberries for this dish and pair with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream for a decadent dessert; you can even pass these around as a midday snack with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt.
  • Loaded Potato NestsLoaded Potato Nests: These little nests are made from ingredients you probably already have on hand like pre-shredded potatoes, cheese and sour cream that easily transform into something spectacular!
    • Vary the flavor depending on your party. For a family affair, stay true to the recipe, but for more of a cocktail party, fill the potato nests with smoked salmon and sour cream.
  • Orange Ricotta Cream Cheese BarsOrange Ricotta Cream Cheese Bars: Cream cheese is an all-essential because there are endless creative possibilities— it can be whisked into tomato sauce for a creamy twist or whipped with ricotta for these delicious dessert bars.
    • Alternate the flavor by blending seasonal flavors such as pumpkin, cranberry or persimmon into the cheesecake mixture.
  • Flatbread with Potatoes, Blue Cheese, Bacon and ScallionsFlatbread with Potatoes, Blue Cheese, Bacon and Scallions: Easily transitions from appetizer, brunch, lunch or dinner with help from premade refrigerated products.
    • Make use of those Thanksgiving leftovers and throw on some sliced turkey, chunks of potatoes or even quickly sauté your favorite variety of frozen veggies for a more substantial meal.

Keep the ingredients for these four recipes on hand and you’ll be covered for anything from a quick breakfast or mid-cookie baking snack to a show-stopping dessert fit for any holiday occasion.

Watch the clip for more holiday mealtime hacks:

Fore more recipe inspiration and tips to help you master the holidays, be sure to check out


Aida Mollenkamp is a chef, author, traveler, and native Californian. She studied at the Cornell Hotel School and Le Cordon Bleu Paris before joining where she worked behind the scenes as Food Editor. Eventually, she moved to television where she hosted the Food Network show, Ask Aida, and later FoodCrafters on the Cooking Channel.

With her work, she encourages her audience to taste the world and shares her inspirations and creations on her site, Pairs Well with Food. Aida’s cookbook, Keys to the Kitchen, is a go-to for home cooks who want to become more adventurous. She hosts the upcoming TasteMade web series, Off Menu, and is the founder of the new online food-travel destination, Salt & Wind.

Categories: Easy Meal IdeasExplorationNutritionPromotions & HolidaysReal FoodTips & TricksUncategorizedValue