Celeb party planner Linnea Johansson shares tips for an A-list blowout

By Linnea Johansson
Updated December 24, 2012 02:00 PM
Adrian Mueller - Fabrik Studios

Celebrity event planner and chef Linnea Johansson knows how to throw a party. She’s worked with such A-list stars as Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Justin Timberlake and released her second book, Perfect Parties – Tips and Recipes from a New York Party Planner in October. Now she’s lending her expertise to PEOPLE.com with two blogs geared toward your holiday party planning. Cheers!

This holiday season, why not incorporate one of the newest food trends?

Three words: Meatballs are back. First came the BBQ craze, then the burger trend and now meatballs are making their own comeback. Meatballs are great at parties – they offer many varieties from many nationalities, easy finger food and who doesn’t love a meatball?

A little fun meatball gossip: I have planned quite a few parties where Donald Trump’s been a guest. He loves Swedish meatballs, and with me being born in Sweden and all. I had to of course make my grandmother’s Swedish meatballs for him. (Scroll down for the recipe!)

It’s always fun to surprise guests a bit, and give them a fun twists on food and something a bit unexpected. This holiday season, I am all about boozy donuts. The best part is that you actually shoot in your favorite drink into the donuts.

Boozy Donuts with Creme Brulee Topping

Donuts are the new cupcakes, and this is an easy way to spruce-up a plain, store-bought donut from afternoon snack to fun dessert.

  • 6 sugar-covered donuts
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 3 oz. liqueur of choice

Heat the donuts in the oven at 250 degrees for 5 minutes.

Pour the sugar on a plate, brush the top of the warm donuts with water and dip in the sugar.

Then, after filling a small turkey baster or cake decorating tool with the liqueur, insert the tool in multiple spots in the bottom of the donuts and inject the booze.

Tip! Everyone likes to watch when there’s fire involved. So if you have a brulee torch, burn the sugar on top of the donuts until it becomes a hard sugar topping. Let your guests watch – you’ll look like a pro and their mouths will be watering just in time for a warm donut!

When throwing parties, I always like to batch up cocktails so people don’t get stuck behind the bar too long. When entertaining at home and you don’t have help, it’s a must. Pre-making larger pitchers is easiest, and one of my favorite “pitcher drinks” also happens to also be Kim Kardashian‘s.

I put together an event hosted by the Kardashian sisters in L.A., and we wanted to make a signature drink for each sister. For Kim, I heard her favorite cocktail was a drink called Xante Berry created by bartender Ricky Broni, so of course we made the drink for the party. After spending the spending the evening drinking KK’s favorite it’s now one of my favorite “pitcher drinks” as well.

Berry Pitcher drink

• 1 1⁄2 oz Xanté
• 1 1⁄2 oz fresh lemon juice
• 1 oz simple syrup
• 3 strawberries

In a pitcher, muddle the strawberries with simple syrup and add the lemon juice, Xanté (which can best be described as a pear cognac).
Let it sit until you’re ready to serve, then add ice, and strain into your guests’ glasses. No mixing necessary.

Tip: Simply take the recipe and multiply by as many cocktails you want to serve; estimate about 10 drinks per pitcher.

Linnea’s family recipe for Swedish Meatballs

This recipe is total Swedish-ness on a plate, and my family has been making these meatballs for generations!

• 1 lb ground beef • 1 garlic clove • 1 yellow onion • 1 egg • ½ cup bread crumbs, non flavored • ½ cup milk • ½ tsp salt • ½ tsp pepper • 2 tbsp parsley • 2 tbsp butter for frying

In a large bowl, grate the onion and garlic on a grater.
To the onion/garlic mixture, add the ground beef and egg.
In a separate small bowl, add the milk and bread crumbs. Let sit for a few minutes until milk is absorbed by the bread crumbs.
Add the bread crumb mixture to the ground beef, with salt and pepper and parsley. Stir.
Place in refrigerator to marinate the flavors for about 30 minutes.
Wet your hands, and roll small approximately 1 inch in diameter meatballs and place on a plate.
Heat a heavy pan on low to medium heat, ad butter and fry to a golden brown for about 7 minutes. Only fry about 1/3 meatball at a time to keep the pan hot. Keep a close eye on them, and turn often to make sure they brown on all sides.

Swedish Meatball Sauce

The secret is definitely in the sauce and you can’t eat Swedish meatballs without a cream meatball sauce.

• 2 tbsp butter • 2 tbsp flour • 2 cups of half and half • ½ vegetable bullion cube • 3 tbsp sherry wine • 1 dash of Worcester sauce • salt and pepper

In the heavy pan, add an additional 2 tbsp of butter, and 2 tbsp of flour. Melt butter on low heat and stir in flour.

Then add 2 cups of half and half, and the vegetable bullion. Stir and heat on medium till simmering.
When simmering, lower heat and ad 3 tbsp of sherry wine. Add 1 dash of Worcester sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve up the sauce with the Swedish meatballs, and of course, for extra Swedish flavor, serve with a spoon or two of lingonberries!