A beautiful and elegant holiday cocktail party can come together quickly and easily, and there’s no need to spend hours in the kitchen, or to spend tons of money on catering.
This post has been sponsored by H-E-B.
I used to take on WAY TOO MUCH when we were having company over for dinner or for a party. Since I talk so much about how I love to cook, I felt obligated to make almost everything from scratch. This became even more of an issue when I started writing a blog that focuses a lot on food. I mean, when I’m constantly sharing recipes online, what will people think if I serve them something that I (*GASP*) bought at a store?
Eventually I came to my senses and realized…they won’t care! When people are in good company and surrounded by good food, they are happy. And, like I always say when I talk about entertaining: When the host or hostesses is stressed out, overwhelmed, or exhausted, nobody’s going to have any fun!
This year, I wanted to do something a little bit special to celebrate the start of the holiday season, and the fact that the cooler temperatures have finally arrived in Houston! So I decided to throw a little impromptu gathering for some of our neighbors.
Here are my tips on how I kept the party super simple and affordable without skimping on quality.
Simple Cocktail Party Tips:
1: Seek out some high quality pre-made items
Yes, I write a lot about food and I do genuinely love to cook, but this blog is first and foremost about KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE. And when it comes to entertaining, that means that pre-made is often the way to go.
My go-to store for these types of gatherings is H-E-B because I know the pre-made food I buy there will taste like I made it myself. :) As my fellow Texans know, H-E-B has an amazing selection of specialty foods, but the vast quantity of choices can make it a little tough to figure out exactly what to buy for a party. The Primo Picks flyer was a great way to gain inspiration and to narrow down my ideas about what to serve.
Right away, I spotted some house-made jalapeno poppers, and I knew that those had to go on the menu. I’ve made poppers myself in the past, and they were delicious, but kind of a mess to put together. The Mi Comida Poppers from H-E-B were every bit as good as the ones I made, and WAY easier.
2: Have balance in your menu
I bet y’all have been to parties before where there are about 10 variations of cheese and crackers. To keep your guests satisfied without spending tons of money, focus on BALANCE!
Your party menu should have a combination of HOT/COLD, LIGHT/DECADENT, and SALTY/SAVORY foods.
In addition to helping me create my party menu, the Primo Picks flyer gave great ideas for pairings and serving suggestions. This Pear Walnut Amaretto jam, for instance, was delicious when combined with blue cheese on top of crackers. With the addition of olives and grapes, it created the ideal salty/sweet/decadent/light appetizer balance.
3: Use a slow cooker or warming tray to keep things warm
By the time your guests arrive, you want most of the food-related work to be done! I kept these little Applewood Smoked Cranberry Pork Cocktail Sausages warm in my mini crockpot until it was time to eat, and then plated with them with toothpicks for easy serving. It was so much simpler than trying to heat them up at the last minute.
4: Choose one “show stopper”
You don’t need to go all out when hosting a cocktail party, but it’s nice to have one item or dish that will wow your guests. For my show stopper, I bought a several packages of the H-E-B Lobster White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese. I baked them in the oven in the oven-proof trays they came in, and then put them into individual cups with a fork for serving. This way, I could make sure that everybody got a nice big chunk of lobster meat with their mac and cheese.
Last but not least, I divided up some apple pie into serving cups for a portable, perfectly portioned dessert. When the table is set up this way, I don’t need to do a thing!
5: Pick it up!
Since our local H-E-B offers curbside delivery, I can make my life even easier by ordering online, scheduling a pick-up, and getting everything I need without leaving my car. If you don’t live near an H-E-B, check your local store to find out about delivery or curbside pick-up options. It’s SUCH a time-saver and stress-saver, especially during the holiday season when parking lots and aisles are packed.
You don’t need to stress yourself out or spend all day in the kitchen to put together a beautiful and delicious spread that your guests will love. Just buy some delicious food and fresh flowers, spend a few minutes heating and plating, and focus on enjoying your company!
Do you have any H-E-B favorites in your house? I always love getting suggestions on new things to try, so please share your H-E-B love in the comments.