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Judith Dunbar-Hines adds cheese pesfilling fillo dough. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Judith Dunbar-Hines adds a cheese pesto filling to the fillo dough. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: January 6, 2013 9:36AM



Ah, the glitter, the lights, the parties !

I love this time of year. I love decorating my house and entertaining. I especially love whipping up festive foods from files full of things both tried-and-true and new.

So when December rolls around, I page through those ideas and my kitchen goes into high gear.

Entertaining should not make you anxious. We’re here to help. Here are some tips plus two of my most glamorous party recipes.

First, make a list. Who will be invited, what style will the party be, what will the table look like, and of course, what will you serve?

Those can all be determined well ahead of the actual date, planned well, and then handled with a minimum of fuss at the last minute.

I like to keep the beverages simple. Chilling lots of bubbly and making one pre-mixed drink or punch keeps bartending duties simple.

Adding a supply of flavored club soda and a bowl of frozen raspberries will take care of designated drivers and other non-drinking guests.

Keep food bite-size and easy to navigate, so hands are free for drinks and greeting fellow guests.

If possible, offer food items in several places to avoid that around-the-kitchen-counter cluster for better traffic control. Have plenty of fresh napkins all around the room, and constantly bus the party to remove used glasses and paper goods.

Think about a variety of dietary issues; offer non-dairy, non-gluten, low-fat options among the choices.

Plan ahead for a variety of colors and textures to make the selection more appealing.

Pull out your best platters and trays, and keep them stocked and refreshed throughout the event.

Identify one or two party foods, like these, which are special enough to be the stars, then fill in with easy additions — add a few bowls of herbed olives, nuts, flavored popcorn.

Plan to add a plate of fabulous chocolate truffles as the party winds down to send guests on their way with a sweet ending.

Make the Fillo Quills well ahead of time. They can be prepared and frozen for a week or so. Pull out as many as you need to bake on the day of the party; keep extras ready for baking and serving later.

They can be baked a few hours ahead of time so you won’t need to be in the kitchen, but can enjoy your party and your guests.

And the simple Roses in the Snow presentation is so spectacular, you’ll want to have the makings on hand from now through New Years Eve.

Merely assemble before the doorbell rings.

The only thing you’ll have to do at the last minute is light the candles and put on your best party outfit.

Now where is that red sparkly top I put away in the closet for just this occasion?

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago. For upcoming classes, see www.judith@judithdunbarhines.com.



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