My Annual Holiday Shindig – The 2014 Version

Holy cow!  Last night I hosted this year’s version of my Annual Holiday Shindig (read last year’s here).  I had 30 people in my house.  Let me repeat…I had 30 people in my house!

By the numbers:

  • 26 invitations
  • 44 people invited, all from different parts of my life
  • 30 people came
    • 1 friend I’ve known since elementary school
    • 2 friends since college
    • 2 friends from grad school
    • 1 friend from synagogue
    • 2 friends of Boyfriend D
    • 4 CrossFit current or former coaches
    • 6 co-workers or their spouses
    • 4 family members
    • 1 gym friend from my days before CrossFit and her boyfriend
    • 2 book club friends plus 1 boyfriend
    • 1 is a neighbor
    • 1 is Boyfriend D
    • 1 is me

This is the one time of the year when I invite friends from all aspects of my life and they all come together.  I am utterly astounded.

You saw the invitations when I had a bit of Writer’s Block a month ago.  I asked people to kindly RSVP by December 21 and I was still getting RSVPs the day of the party.  (OY!)

I spotted this cocktail on Pinterest about 2 months ago and decided it would be this year’s drink.

Raspberry Slushy

For the champagne flutes, I bought these at Bed Bath & Beyond.  They look a lot nicer in person and they are sturdy despite being so inexpensive.  I put two small spoonfuls of crushed ice at the bottom of each glass before pouring in the slushy.  To make the whipped cream, I used 6 cans of full fat coconut milk (I like Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, which I buy at my local Fairway) that was refrigerated for 24 hours.  Open the can at the bottom and pour the liquid out.  I used a spatula and a spoon to scoop out the cream into a large mixing bowl.  I added 4 tablespoons of vanilla, 4 tablespoons of honey, and 8 teaspoons of cocoa powder to the cream.  Using a handheld beater, I whipped the cream then placed it in the fridge until I needed it.  To make the slushy, I put 1 bag of Trader Joe’s frozen raspberries and 1 bottle of Pindar Sweet Scarlett red wine in a blender and let it blend for approximately 1 minute.  I had to make 3 batches (that’s 3 bags of raspberries and 3 bottles of wine) to fill 24 glasses and I had some leftover.  I did not strain out the seeds.  I poured the slushy into the flutes.  My friend B followed, scooping the chocolate whipped cream on top.  My friend J from Book Club placed a straw into each glass after.

The slushy cocktail inspired the theme for the rest of the food of the party with its sweet red, wintry look.  I decided all of the food would fit a green, red, and white theme.  Boyfriend D and I made a list identifying all of the foods in these colors and came up with a menu from there.  We made 2 protein dishes, 3 vegetable side dishes, and 3 desserts.  Since everyone wanted some recipe or other, this post is for you.

Red: Balsamic Braised Beef Short Ribs

The recipe for the ribs is a very easy one to follow.  The most labor intensive part is making the dry rub, coating the ribs, and searing them.  Boyfriend D did everything with the ribs.  You can find him here for any questions.  The first time we made this recipe, we followed it exactly.  For the party, we left out the dates and didn’t notice much of a difference.  We made 3 batches using a total of 10 lbs of ribs.  We also have always used boneless ribs out of sheer laziness.

Red, Green, & White: Paleo Turkey Meatloaf

The recipe for the meatloaf is very easy.  I’ve made this for multiple dinner parties and it is always a big hit.  I used turkey this time and it was so juicy.  I’ve used beef in the past and love it just as much.  To feed 30 people, I doubled the recipe and used 2 loaf pans.  I prepare all of the veggies together (doubled) then split it in half when I need to mix it with the meat.  We cover the bottom of the loaf pans with the BBQ sauce, place the meatloaf mixture into the pan, then cover the top with more BBQ sauce.

I use her recipe for the BBQ sauce, which Boyfriend D made the night before.  We store it in empty, washed out salsa jars from Trader Joe’s (awesome recycling and cost-saving).  You’ll notice one of the ingredients in the sauce is beef stock.  As I keep a kosher kitchen and try to make it a paleo kitchen, I make my own beef stock.  I pour all of it into a large tupperware and leave it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I scrape off the fat and measure out 1.5 cups and place that into Ziploc baggies.   I then leave these in the freezer and pull them out when I need them.

For 2 straight dinner parties, Trainer J takes home half of the leftovers of meatloaf and mixes them with scrambled eggs the next morning for breakfast.  Hello, Protein Heaven!

White & Green: Cauliflower Tater Tots with Avocado-Lime Dipping Sauce

We loosely followed this recipe for the Cauliflower Tater Tots.  We use 1 2-lb bag of chopped cauliflower from Costco instead of the 1/2 head of large cauliflower (it saves us time in the clean up process).  We added the Herbs de Provence this time and it made a huge difference.  We tried making our herb/spice blend the first time and they were okay.  We used truffle salt in lieu of the unrefined sea salt the second time and they were delicious.  For the party this year, I wanted the Herbs de Provence.  These were hard to find but Fairway finally had them in stock.  We decided to bake the tots as frying them takes forever.  To bake:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Using a small spoon, scoop out tots one at a time and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets
  • Using the back of the spoon or your hand, flatten out the tots (they will have some thickness to them, you want the tops to be smooth)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until tops are golden
  • Flip the tots (we used a fork for this)
  • Continue baking for another 10 minutes until golden
  • Remove from oven and let cool (or serve hot)

For the sauce, we doubled the recipe.

Red, Green, & White: Shaved Brussels Sprouts with [Bacon], Leeks, and Pomegranate Seeds

For this recipe, we made 3 batches (and had way too much food) of Against All Grain’s Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Leeks, and Pomegranate Seeds, minus the bacon.  I found the recipe online for you.  Our modifications:

  • Trader Joe’s sells shaved Brussels sprouts by the bag.  We used 2 10-oz bags for each batch.
  • We omitted the bacon (you know…the whole kosher kitchen thing).  In lieu of bacon grease, we used olive oil.
  • We bought chicken soup and a pack of pomegranate seeds at Aron’s Kissena Farms

Red & Green: Arugula, Citrus, [and Bacon] Salad

This salad was a last minute addition.  We tried making white sweet potatoes and that backfired completely (we wanted to make gnocchi but they were too starchy so we decided to mash them – they turned black after we baked them and went to grab dinner).  Thankfully, I had Against All Grain’s Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well and Feel Great: Over 150 Gluten-Free, Grain-Free and Diary-Free Recipes for Daily Life sitting on the kitchen counter (I borrowed it from the library – awesome paleo cookbook if you’re looking for one).  She has a 2-page spread of 4 “starter salads” recipes.  We used the Arugula, Citrus and Bacon Salad and omitted the bacon.  We also used blood oranges and ruby grapefruits instead of a regular orange and grapefruit for the red factor.

  • 1 lb (or less) of arugula
  • 4 blood oranges (or more) – segmented (you want just the juicy part, not the membranes)
  • 3 ruby grapefruits (or more) – segmented (same as the oranges)
  • Toss the above ingredients together in a large bowl

We tripled the dressing, pouring the ingredients into another empty Trader Joe’s salsa jar, sealing it, and shaking the jar to mix everything together.

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Remember – we tripled the dressing recipe.

Red & White: Strawberries & Cream

I decided to make 3 desserts where each dessert reflected one of the colors in my theme.  Going with the whole red and white theme of the cocktails and the whipped cream (who doesn’t like whipped cream?), I decided to make strawberries and cream using Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream.  I bought 4 lbs of strawberries at Costco (two 2-lb containers) that B removed the leaves from and sliced in half the long way.  I made the whipped cream:

  • 6 cans of full fat coconut milk (the same kind I used for the drink and the same process)
  • 4 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 4 tablespoons of Grand Marnier

Using a handheld beater, whip the cream until the ingredients are mixed in.  Place the bowl back in the fridge until you’re ready for it.

A note for both whipped creams – you may need to adjust your mix-ins to your taste to cut the coconut flavor of the cream.

White: Paleo Cookie Dough Bites

We made 4 batches of this recipe.  We use dry, unsalted cashews and add the 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Boyfriend D is much better at rolling these in his hands into smooth balls.  We freeze these on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper.  These are best eaten frozen.

Green: Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’m pretty sure I linked to this recipe before.  Elana’s Pantry and Against All Grain are two of my favorite websites for paleo friendly dishes.  Anyway, I make only a few changes to the muffin recipe:

  • I use walnut oil instead of grapeseed oil and keep the quantity
  • I mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl then add the wet ingredients into the same bowl and mix again.
  • I use a standup/hand grater for the zucchini.  1 large zucchini = approximately 1.5 cups but it’s okay to use extra.
  • Mix the zucchini in then add the chocolate chips and mix again.
  • I line my baking sheet with paper muffin holders – it saves on cleaning time
  • Store extras in the fridge

I believe those are all of the recipes.  Happy cooking and happy eating!

The one and only picture I have of the food and the evening:

holiday shindig 2014

Thank you for being my friend.

(A special shoutout by request: Boyfriend D is amazing for taking off Friday to help me shop and start the prep work then cooking with me all day Saturday and letting my OCD hostessing take over Saturday night.)

Wishing all of you, dear Fitters, a happy and healthy and wonderful 2015.  May next year be your best year yet.

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