Entertaining tricks and fresh ideas for food you’ll love.
Host a Beer Swap
It’s no secret around the Test Kitchens that my husband, Lee, and I prefer a good beer to a glass of wine. This time of year is his absolute favorite because of the huge variety of limited edition batches that debut. Brewers pull out secret special recipes with tons of flavor and complexity in the fall and winter. These beers naturally lend themselves to hearty cold-weather foods. To make the most of this short and busy time, we host a tasting party. Invite a few close friends with instructions to bring one or two six-packs. Set out small glasses and a few snacks. Open a few bottles to sample, and swap the rest to enjoy throughout the holidays. Our personal picks from across the South include Terrapin Beer Company in Georgia, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, and Real Ale Brewing Company in Texas.
Turn canned chickpeas or black-eyed peas into a unique and affordable party snack. Simply toss them in olive oil with a few seasonings and roast until crisp. The key is to bake the beans as long as possible without letting them burn. This will dry them out, making them extra-crunchy like nuts. Enjoy by the handful or sprinkle over a salad. We found a few chickpeas popped like popcorn while being roasted, so use a long handled spoon or spatula while stirring the pan. These are best the day they are made, but you can store in an airtight container up to one day.
No-Fuss Chocolate Bar
Entertaining friends with a homemade meal is my favorite hobby. But I have a secret: I am the worst at making desserts! I have no patience for it. So, naturally (and, of course, conveniently) I always forget until the last minute. I use my favorite trick of setting up a chocolate station. Pick up your favorite chocolate candies at the grocery store, and pour into small glasses. Break a candy bar into pieces. Cut up a bakery brownie into bite-size squares and unwrap a few truffles. Add a few shot glasses filled with ice cream or chocolate milk. Collect everything on a pretty tray, and watch your guests’ eyes open wide with delight. It brings out the kid in everyone. This super-simple display is a fanciful and clever end to an intimate dinner party or a pretty and edible centerpiece at a cocktail party. The best part: no baking or mixing required!