During the hectic holiday season, “nobody has three weeks to plan a party,” says expert David Tutera, who makes brides’ dreams come true on We TV’s My Fair Wedding. “Everybody is doing it spur-of-the-moment, so the party needs to be easy and accessible.”
And if you’re not adept around a stove, “takeout food can be less expensive than cooking everything and takes less time,” says the New York-based events planner, who has organized A-list parties for Jennifer Lopez, Matthew McConaughey and Elton John.
After all, “people don’t care if the food is the best they’ve had in their lives,” says Tutera. “They just want to be together and enjoy the company of one another.”
Whether you order takeout or whip up some of Tutera’s fast, delicious party treats (see below), you’ll have plenty of time left over to do for what a host should do best: entertain!
Mini Tortilla Canapés
Tortillas cut with 3-inch round cuter into mini tortillas
Spanish Cheese (Tetilla or Mahon)
To make the tortilla canapés
1. Trim rind off the cheese and cut it into wedges.
2. Place one wedge of cheese on each tortilla then top with a spoonful of caramelized onion.
3. Place the canapés in a hot oven 360º F for 5 minutes to quickly melt the cheese. Serve hot, direct from the oven.
To make the caramelized onions:
1 ½ tsp. of olive oil
3 cups vertically sliced onion (sweet, yellow, white, or red onion)
1. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
2. Add sliced onion, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Continue cooking 15 to 20 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Makes 1 cup.
Grilled Chicken Quesadillas
1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 ½ cups shredded, cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack
¼ cup sliced pickled jalape o chilies, chopped
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1. Preheat oven to 200º F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment.
2. Place beans in a large bowl and use a potato masher or fork to mash them slightly. Add chicken, cheese and jalape os and stir to combine. Season with salt.
3. Place 1 tortilla on a work surface and spread a quarter of chicken mixture over half of tortilla. Fold other half of tortilla over to form a half-moon, pressing firmly. Repeat with remaining chicken mixture and tortillas.
4. Warm a ridged grill pan or a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 quesadilla at a time, turning carefully once, until cheese is melted and tortillas are golden, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
5. Transfer grilled quesadilla to prepared baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. When all quesadillas are grilled, cut each into 4 wedges and serve immediately.
Guacamole Cheese Dip with Blue Corn Chips
4 avocados, diced
2 small heirloom tomatoes, diced
½ small onion
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
4 tbsp.. fresh squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. In a small bowl, mix the avocados, tomato, onion and cilantro. Add lime juice and use a fork to lightly mash the ingredients, still leaving some lumps.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle top with shredded cheese and microwave for 15 seconds to slightly melt. Serve with chips.
Easy Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 2 dozen
1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
2 tbsp. cocoa
5 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 (1-ounce) bottles red liquid food coloring
Cream cheese frosting
To make the cupcake:
1. Beat cake mix and next 5 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes.
2. Spoon batter evenly into 24 paper- or foil-lined muffin cups, filling two-thirds full; bake according to package directions.
3. Remove from pans immediately, and cool on wire racks.
To make the cream cheese frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 ¼ to 2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.
2. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth.
3. Stir in vanilla, beating until mixture is blended.
4. Spread cupcakes evenly with cream cheese frosting.
Makes 4 dozen
1 stick butter
7 oz. almond paste (cut into small pieces)
1 cup sugar
5 extra large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cake flour (sifted)
1 tsp. baking powder
1. Melt butter in saucepan and let cool.
2. Place almond paste in food processor bowl, add in the eggs, sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy.
3. Add baking soda and cake flour and mix quickly.
4. Generously coat Madeleine pans with baking spray.
5. Spoon the batter into molds until they are ¾ full. Bake at 350 º F for 10-12 minutes until golden. Do not let them brown!
6. Immediately remove from molds and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container between layers of plastic wrap.
Champagne Winter Sangria
1 cup sugar
2 cups chilled cranberry juice
1 (750 ml.) bottle chilled champagne or sparkling wine
1 (750 ml.) bottle chilled hearty red wine
½ cup cranberries to garnish
1. Pour wine into a large pitcher. Stir in the sugar and cranberry juice. Add the juice of 2 oranges, and 2 lemons.
2. Thinly slice the remaining citrus fruit and add it to the mix. Before serving, float cranberries to garnish.
3. Fill wine goblets with ice and then half-way with sangria then top off with chilled champagne.
Ice Blue Martini
1 oz. vodka
½ oz. Blue Curaçao
½ Crème De Cassis
Splash of lime juice
Shake, strain, and pour into martini glass rimmed with white sugar. To garnish, add a blueberry kebab.