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Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

The holidays and here, and we’ve got a hearty serving of great ideas for your celebration!

Start by baking up something sweet for everyone to enjoy. From decadent Sea-Salted Dulce de Leche Blondie Bars to classic Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake, there’s something for everyone. Or, plan ahead for the morning with a batch of Almond Donuts with Blueberry Glaze. Yum!

For dinner, you’ve got a whole feast of delicious options. How about a centerpiece of Cherry and Allspice Glazed Slow Cooker Ham? Serve it up with sides of Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole, Bacon, Apple and Pretzel Bread Stuffing and our Holiday Dinner Cobb Salad.

We’ve got you covered for all your holiday decorating needs, too. Check out how to Set the Table – Holiday Style. Then, get connected with your crafty side with DIY Holiday Mugs and Festive Gift Toppers. And take care of yourself, too – our Healthy Tips for Making it Through the Holidays will help you start the new year feeling great.

With a little planning, you can make sure that this holiday will be one to remember!

Cherry Allspice Glazed Slow Cooker Ham

Cherry Allspice Glazed Slow Cooker Ham

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

When it comes to entertaining and hosting a crowd during the holiday season, my slow cooker becomes my best friend. I can start one dish in my trusty slow cooker while I work on other dishes on my stovetop and in the oven.

It's almost like having an extra set of hands in the kitchen. Often I make the main dish in my slow cooker like I did with this Cherry Allspice Glazed Slow Cooker Ham. The glaze itself comes together easily in just minutes, making the prep for this flavorful and juicy ham almost effortless.

Other than using my slow cooker, I have found a few other tips and tricks over the years that make feeding a crowd easier and practically stress-free:

  • Offer self-serve dishes like this ham. Just add crackers, bread, cheeses and a few condiments for a DIY ham and cheese bar.
  • Serve dishes that are delicious no matter what temperature they are served at – warm, cold or at room temperature. This ham is flavorful and perfect cold or hot – I speak from personal experience here.
  • Don't be afraid to ask each guest to bring a dish or beverage. Be sure to provide the main dish and all the dining essentials – plates, cups, napkins, utensils – and let your dinner guests help flesh out the rest of the menu.
  • Get as much prep done ahead of time as you can. Look over your menu and see what can easily be prepped the day before or the morning of the dinner party. Lots of prep ahead of time means less work when guests start to arrive and more time for you to socialize.
  • I always love sending my dinner guests home with leftovers, but hate giving up my reusable containers to do so. I ask my guests to bring some of their own food containers with them so they can still enjoy the dinner party the next day. All of my guests have been more than happy to oblige because they get to bring home tasty leftovers and they don't have to worry about returning a container to me later on.
3-4 hours | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 8-10
Ingredients:
  • 3-4 lbs. Fully Cooked Boneless Sliced Cumberland Gap Ham
  • ½ cup Private Selection™ Red Tart Michigan Cherry All Natural Preserves
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 pieces Private Selection™ Whole Allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, whole allspice and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat.
  2. Place the ham in the slow cooker. Pour the cherry allspice glaze over the top. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
  3. Transfer to a serving platter and spoon some of the glaze and cherries over the top. Serve and enjoy!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Shrimp and Artichoke Asiago Dip

Shrimp and Artichoke Asiago Dip

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

We do a lot of entertaining around the holidays, and we also attend quite a few holiday parties and get-togethers. I love having a handful of go-to appetizer recipes on hand that are easy to make and perfect for sharing.

Although you can never go wrong with a classic platter of assorted cheeses, olives and crackers, what's a party without the dip? I always include a crowd-pleasing, tasty dip of some sort in just about every one of my holiday party menus – the cheesier the better.

This Shrimp and Artichoke Asiago Dip is a delicious twist on a classic spinach artichoke dip. The spinach is swapped out for tender shrimp, and the traditional, milder Parmesan is replaced with flavorful and robust Asiago cheese. This bold, creamy and oh-so-cheesy dip is served warm from the oven and is sure to become the star of your next holiday party or get-together.

30 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes | Serves: 8-10
Ingredients:
  • 8 oz. (about 16-17 large shrimp) Kroger Frozen Cooked Shrimp (Tail Off), thawed and chopped
  • 1 jar (12 oz.) marinated and quartered artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. Kroger 33% Less Fat Neufchatel Cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup Kroger Reduced Fat Sour Cream
  • 1 container (5 oz.) Private Selection™ Shredded Asiago Cheese
  • Private Selection™ Toasted Sesame Water Crisps and Private Selection™ Classic Entertainment Crackers for serving
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray an 8”x8” or 9”x9” baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped shrimp, artichoke hearts, minced garlic, cream cheese, sour cream and 1 cup of the shredded Asiago cheese. Mix well.
  3. Spread the shrimp-artichoke mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining Asiago cheese.
  4. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.
  5. Pop the baking dish under your broiler for about 2 minutes after baking to make the top of the dip bubbly and golden brown.
  6. Serve with crackers. Enjoy!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Holiday Dinner Cobb Salad

Holiday Dinner Cobb Salad

Created by: Carrie Robinson, Frugal Foodie Mama

I have to say that I don't think salads get their share of the spotlight during the holiday season. Salads are usually more of a spring and summer thing and they're disregarded during the winter months.

But why should they be, when you have so many fresh, readily available cool weather ingredients you can turn into a perfect salad for your holiday dinner? I took the classic Cobb salad and gave it a fresh and delicious holiday twist with the addition of sweet pears, buttery pecans, pomegranate seeds and some amazing cranberry and cinnamon goat cheese crumbles.

Not only is this revamped Cobb salad a beautiful feast for the eyes, but it's so fresh and bright, too. If you can't find fresh pomegranates or pomegranate seeds, feel free to substitute dried, sweetened cranberries. I strongly recommend serving this Cobb salad with Private Selection™ White Balsamic & Honey Dressing because it perfectly complements the flavors.

20 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes | Serves: 6 to 8
Ingredients:
  • 5 oz. Simple Truth Organic® Baby Spinach
  • 3-4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 2-3 oz. Private Selection™ Cranberry and Cinnamon Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • 1 fresh pear, sliced
  • ¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup pecan halves
  • Private Selection™ White Balsamic & Honey Dressing and Marinade
Directions:
  1. Pile the baby spinach on a large serving platter.
  2. Place the pear slices on top of the spinach, forming a row down the middle.
  3. Place the hard-boiled eggs, bacon, red onion, pecans and pomegranate seeds in strips on either side of the pears, on top of the spinach. Alternate the goat cheese in 4 rows between the other strips of toppings.
  4. Dress with the white balsamic and honey dressing, or serve the dressing on the side. Enjoy!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake

Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake

Created by: Cathy Pollack, Noble Pig

I have spent the last 15 years perfecting this Hanukkah apple cake for my husband. He absolutely adores cinnamon and apples together in baked goods. This particular sweet combination triggers happy childhood memories for him, especially during the holidays. His mother baked lots from scratch, with this flavor profile playing a dominant role.

Since my husband does not observe Jewish dietary laws, I have taken the liberty of changing this recipe up over the years. I've made it lighter in taste and more in tune with how we like to eat. It has become a staple on our Hanukkah table every year. In fact, holidays aside, my husband asks for this cake year-round, it's that good.

Many of the Jewish apple cake recipes you'll find are made with vegetable oil. This symbolizes the drop of sacred oil found by Judah Maccabee and his brothers in the rubble of the desecrated temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. This drop of oil lasted not one, but eight nights, and thus Hanukkah candles are lit in a menorah for eight days and nights.

However, I have found the use of only vegetable oil in a cake can lend itself to a very heavy, dense and sometimes greasy dessert. And since all the other Hanukkah dishes are cooked in oil, it's nice to take a break from the expected. In fact, many of our Jewish friends really appreciate the slight deviation.

Using butter (dairy) in this recipe certainly makes it less traditional, but it takes the taste up another level. It's the perfect balance of sweet, with the perfect apple-to-cake ratio. The extra cinnamon just makes it even better.

50 minutes | Prep time: 25 minutes | Serves: 12
Ingredients:
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, plus 1 tsp., divided
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ cups plus ½ cup packed light brown sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½” pieces
  • Confectioners’ sugar
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Let it cool slightly off heat, about 10 minutes. Whisk in 1½ cups brown sugar until smooth, then whisk in the eggs. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in apples.
  4. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Combine the remaining ½ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle it over the batter already in the pan. Cover with remaining batter and smooth the top.
  5. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven. Let it cool for 30 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack until it cools completely. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar on top right before serving.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Bacon, Apple and Pretzel Bread Stuffing

Bacon, Apple and Pretzel Bread Stuffing

Created by: Cathy Pollack, Noble Pig

I love a good stuffing, especially a nontraditional one. Don't get me wrong, I look forward to classic recipes during the holidays, but I always make a few new dishes too. Stuffing is one of the easiest ways to add something unexpected and creative to the mix.

Stuffing can be sweet, savory or both. It's one of those blank canvas dishes that can be prepared in so many different ways. It is definitely my most changed-up side dish every holiday.

The easiest way to add pizzazz to your stuffing is by varying the type of bread used. I love the flavor of pretzel bread, and it tastes delicious in this stuffing. It adds a nice complexity, especially with the added beer and bacon. The apples and cherries incorporate a nice touch of sweetness to the savory flavors. Every bite is a delicious reminder of all the wonderful ingredients found in this recipe.

Trust me when I tell you this is going to be the perfect side dish to your beautiful ham or turkey this season.

40 minutes | Prep time: 20 minutes | Serves: 10-12
Ingredients:
  • 10 cups pretzel bread, cubed
  • 16 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. coarse ground pepper
  • 1½ cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup beer (or substitute chicken stock)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup chopped dried cherries
Directions:
  1. Spread out bread cubes on two rimmed baking sheets and let sit out uncovered, overnight, to dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onion, celery, apples, parsley, salt and pepper until softened; about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the bread cubes to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with chicken stock, beer and eggs until fully incorporated. No liquid should remain in the bottom of the bowl. Fold in onion mixture, bacon and cherries.
  5. Bake in a 9”x13” pan for 40 minutes until bread on top is slightly golden brown.
  6. Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Almond Donuts with a Blueberry Glaze

Almond Donuts with a Blueberry Glaze

Created by: Elisabeth McKnight, Bella the Blog

The almond-blueberry combo in these homemade donuts is as fun as it is delicious. These are guaranteed to be just as exciting as the presents on Christmas morning. The frosting can be made ahead of time, and if you really want to be on top of things, you can make the dough the night before, too.

Let it rise overnight in the fridge for easier prep come Christmas morning.

15 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Serves: 25
Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup warm milk
  • 2¼ tsp. yeast (or 1 packet)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2½ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 2 Tbsp. salted butter (room temperature is best)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Glaze Ingredients:
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1½ tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • Fresh wild blueberries
Directions to make the dough:
  1. Heat the milk in a liquid measuring cup – your finger should be able to rest comfortably in the warm milk. Dissolve the sugar and yeast into the milk. Let sit for 8 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and salt to a large bowl and pour in the yeast mixture, butter, almond extract and egg yolks. Beat on medium speed for about 4 minutes or until the dough comes together and forms a ball.
  3. Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
Directions to cut the donuts:
  1. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's ½” thick. I've heard that a donut cutter works great for cutting the donuts, but I just use a glass and the cap of a bottle of vanilla extract for the donut holes.
  3. Cut the donuts out and place them and the donut holes on the cookie sheet. Cover and let them rise for 30 minutes.
    AlmondBlueberryDonut2
Directions to fry the donuts:
  1. Heat enough oil to submerge the donut in a large frying pan. Line the counter with paper towels while the oil is heating up. I put paper towels under a cooling rack. Heat the oil to 350˚ F. If you don't have a way to gauge the temperature, drop a small piece of dough into the oil. If water bubbles around the dough and it begins to fry, it's hot enough.
  2. Fry the donuts and donut holes until they're golden brown, approximately 15 seconds on each side. If your donuts cook too fast, turn down the temperature.
    AlmondBlueberryDonut3
Directions for the glaze:
  1. Cook the fresh blueberries and lemon juice over medium heat until the blueberry skins pop and the juice comes out.
  2. Strain out the skins and the solids, leaving only the juice. Whisk in the powdered sugar.
  3. Dip the donuts in the glaze after they've cooled for a few minutes. Top with crushed almonds, if desired.
    AlmondBlueberryDonut4

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Maple Cinnamon Candied Nuts

Maple Cinnamon Candied Nuts

Created by: Elisabeth McKnight, Bella the Blog

These candied nuts are as delicious as they are easy. You don't need to be a baker or a chef to whip them up. With minimal work, you’ll have a personal and yummy gift for anyone on your list.

The best part is that unlike holiday cookies and breads, these don't need to be eaten within a week. Set these aside to enjoy once the holiday bustle has died down and you're in for a treat during the long winter months ahead.

20 minutes | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 6
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups assorted raw nuts (I used half almonds and half walnuts)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp. water
Directions:
  1. Whisk egg white, water and maple syrup until frothy, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Mix sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in another bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix egg white mixture with nuts. Stir until completely combined. Add sugar mixture to nuts and egg white mixture. Stir until completely combined.
  4. Spread nuts evenly over parchment paper on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 325° F for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir the nuts on the pan. Let cool before serving.

Tip: Even if the nuts don't look done after 20 minutes, take them out – the sugar mixture hardens and you don't want to burn it.

Gifting tip: Package these nuts up in cute mason jars with a swatch of Christmas fabric on top. Or DIY decorate your own holiday mug: fill it with nuts and wrap the whole thing in cellophane with a festive ribbon.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

DIY Holiday Mugs

DIY Holiday Mugs

Created by: Elisabeth McKnight, Bella the Blog

When the cold weather hits, everyone loves a good cup of hot chocolate, coffee or tea. Invite the kids into the kitchen to get creative with this simple craft that makes the perfect gift for friends or family.

Having a good centerpiece can make a world of a difference when entertaining. The best type is one that takes hardly any time to create, yet is also affordable.

This arrangement is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you're doing the cooking as well. It takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and you can get everything you need while you're shopping for the rest of your Thanksgiving groceries.

What You'll Need:
  • Plain white mugs
  • Oil-based paint pens
  • Stickers
What to Do:

Place your desired sticker on the mug and make sure it has adhered evenly. Then, using the colored paint pens you want, make dots all around your sticker. It's fine if your dots overlap and if some are larger than others.

Once you've covered your area with dots, remove the sticker. If needed, use a cotton swab and some nail polish remover to get rid of any bleeding paint or misplaced dots.

Finally, place the mug in a cold oven and turn it up to 350° F. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the oven off. Let the mugs fully cool in the oven.

Gifting tip: Fill your new mug with a few bags of your favorite hot chocolate and a small bag of marshmallows for an easy present.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Turkey Breakfast Casserole

Turkey Breakfast Casserole

Created by: Emily Caruso, Jelly Toast

Certain recipes have been in families for years – recipes you remember enjoying from the time you first started forming memories. My family has a sausage egg casserole that my grandma has made for as long as I can remember.

My mom started making the recipe and it became a family staple. We'd have the sausage egg casserole at every brunch get-together. It would seem odd if we didn’t. As our family grew and my siblings and I got married, we started needing multiple casseroles to feed everyone. You know a dish is solid when your husband goes back for thirds the first time he tries it.

It’s such a great recipe, it's become the inspiration for many breakfast casseroles in my kitchen. The classic is wonderful, but sometimes it’s fun to mix things up a bit. My Turkey Breakfast Casserole swaps ground turkey for the sausage, seasoned with fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage. The turkey is layered with bread, sautéed spinach and garlic, then baked into a lovely egg-y casserole that's hearty and comforting.

This Turkey Breakfast Casserole will be on my holiday breakfast menu this year. With houseguests and family around, offering something more substantial than cold cereal is in order. This is a great protein-packed breakfast that will give you something extra special to serve over the holidays and keep your family full. In fact, you can get it ready the night before, refrigerate the unbaked casserole, then pop it in the oven in the morning while you enjoy sharing gifts with your family.

Cook time: 50 minutes | Prep time: 60 minutes | Serves: 8
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh sage, minced
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 5 handfuls fresh spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 5 cups (about 6 oz.) bread, cubed (I used French bread, but you can use sourdough or sandwich bread instead.)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Directions:
  1. Cook the turkey in a large, non-stick skillet, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the turkey is cooked through. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to the pan, then add the spinach and garlic. Stir until the spinach has started to wilt. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover for 2 minutes. Remove the lid and stir the spinach again. Set aside.
  3. Spray a 9”x13” casserole dish with non-stick spray. Layer the bread, spinach, and turkey into the dish. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a large bowl and pour over the ingredients in the baking dish. Top with the cheese.
  4. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Uncover and bake the casserole for 50-55 minutes or until the casserole is puffed and golden.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Vegan Butternut Squash Bisque with Crispy Sage

Vegan Butternut Squash Bisque with Crispy Sage

Created by: Julia Mueller, The Roasted Root

Each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my family gets together for a couple days and puts together a ginormous culinary spread. We bake up dozens upon dozens of cookies, bars and other holiday treats, and we also take a traditional approach to our holiday menu.

We’re all about roast turkey, ham, stuffing, homemade rolls, some form of green bean dish, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, green salad, etc., etc.

During this epic cooking and baking extravaganza, we keep a pot of soup or chili on the stove over low heat so anyone can dip in for a cup or bowl at any time. We’re also all about the charcuterie board, as my family is certifiably obsessed with meat and cheese.

Every single person in my family is notorious for becoming a liiiiittle cuh-ray-zee when we get hungry, so taking the time to plan in-between meal eats has become an essential part of our holiday season. Plus, anything that doesn’t get eaten from those goes on the table for the main meal.

Although I come from a meat-and-potato-centric family with a strong German background, we all have an equal appreciation for creamy squash soups. This Vegan Butternut Squash Bisque requires only five ingredients, not including salt, and it turns out super creamy and full of flavor. You'd never know the soup is completely dairy-free and healthy! Coconut milk is used to replace cream, and just a touch of cinnamon and maple syrup goes a long way to give the soup some unique flavor.

The only time-consuming part is roasting the butternut squash, but this can be done while you're preparing other recipes. Simply start by chopping the tip and tail off the butternut squash and scooping out the insides.

Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and cinnamon. Place face-down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the flesh is very soft and the skin pulls away from the flesh.

Sauté the onion until it's browned. Then add all the ingredients for the soup to a blender and blend until creamy. And that's all it takes!

And the toppings? They’re important when it comes to giving some textural contrast to all the creaminess. Pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of coconut milk, roasted chickpeas, and/or fried sage are all great options for giving this super simple soup a fancy touch. Add a dollop of plain yogurt for a non-vegan option. Have you ever fried fresh sage? It’s amazing! Basically, it tastes like a crunchy herb infusion on your tongue, and there’s really nothing like it. Frying sage is super easy: heat about ¼ cup of canola oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat, then carefully lay the sage leaves flat on the oil for a few seconds on each side. You can fry about four leaves at a time. Doing this takes your butternut squash bisque experience up a few notches and is well worth the extra step.

Grab a straw...errr...I mean, spoon!

50 minutes | Prep time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • 1 large butternut squash, roasted
  • 1 cup Kroger Full-Fat Canned Coconut Milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Private Selection™ Dark Amber Pure Maple Syrup
  • ½ yellow onion, sliced
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
  • 6-8 fresh sage leaves
  • ¼ cup canola oil
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Chop the tip and tail off the butternut squash and scoop out the seeds and innards. Drizzle olive oil over the flesh and sprinkle with sea salt and a dash of cinnamon. Place both halves face-down on a baking sheet and roast on the center rack of the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the flesh is very soft when poked with a fork.
  2. In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil while the butternut squash is roasting. Add the sliced onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. When the roasted butternut squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skin. Place the flesh in a blender. Add the onions, coconut milk and maple syrup to the blender and blend until completely smooth. Transfer the soup to a saucepan and heat it, stirring frequently, until hot.
  4. Heat the canola oil to medium-high in a small skillet. Carefully place the sage leaves flat on the surface of the oil when the oil is hot. Cook 20-30 seconds, flip, and cook another 10-20 seconds. Use a fork to carefully transfer the fried sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Serve butternut squash bisque with fried sage leaves and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Savory Dairy-Free Mushroom and Thyme Oatmeal

Savory Dairy-Free Mushroom and Thyme Oatmeal

Created by: Hannah Hagler, Champagne Lifestyle

I think most people are used to having oatmeal sweetened with cinnamon, maple syrup or berries, but it is actually quite delicious as a savory recipe! My family doesn’t have too much of a sweet tooth, so on Christmas morning we like to have a hearty, savory breakfast to tide us over until dinner.

This oatmeal has a risotto vibe with sautéed mushrooms and onion, a touch of thyme and dairy-free cheese. You could easily sub in regular cheese, but most of my family is lactose-intolerant, so I opted for a dairy-free version. Even if you aren’t dairy-free, this version is scrumptious.

20 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes | Serves: 1
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ cup shredded dairy-free mozzarella
  • 4 oz. mushrooms
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ medium white onion, finely sliced
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Directions:
  1. Bring water to a boil and pour in oatmeal.
  2. Reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  3. While oatmeal cooks, cut mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme.
  4. In a saucepan over medium heat, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until onion starts to brown.
  6. Add mushroom and thyme, and sauté until mushrooms are brown.
  7. Once everything is sautéed, remove the pan from heat and remove the thyme sprigs.
  8. Remove oatmeal from heat when complete. Mix in mozzarella.
  9. Put oatmeal, mushrooms and onions in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with thyme.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Cran-Apple Fizzy Mocktail

Cran-Apple Fizzy Mocktail

Created by: Emily Buys, The Clever Housewife

The party beverage often gets overlooked, or gets turned into a bottle of soda, juice or water. Just a little planning and creativity can really make that punch stand out. Every holiday party or gathering needs a fun beverage that can be consumed by kids and adults.

If you play your cards right, the punch bowl and glasses can not only serve as a means to quench everyone's thirst, they can also be the talk of the party. This Cran-Apple Fizzy Mocktail is delicious and a big hit among the kids, thanks to the yummy skewer – which is a must.

Don't be fooled by the list of ingredients for this family-friendly mocktail, because putting it together is super easy, and all of the ingredients can be purchased at your local grocery store.

The combination of flavors in this drink are light and refreshing, which is perfect for the kiddos at the party. If your kids are anything like mine, they won't like having rosemary and other strong herbs and flavors that some mocktails and cocktails have. This cran-apple medley will show the kids you’re thinking of them and give them a reason to be on their best behavior.

So spice up your holiday party with a drink that will be the talk of the night!

0 min | Prep time: 5 min | Serves: 8
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups cranberry apple juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups ginger ale
  • Crushed ice
  • 8 apple slices
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • 8 unwrapped caramels
Things You Need:
  • 8 half-pint jars
  • 8 skewers
Directions:
  1. In a large pitcher, combine all liquids and stir to incorporate.
  2. Pour the punch into half-pint jars filled with crushed ice.
  3. Prepare each skewer by threading on one apple slice, one caramel and one maraschino cherry. Place one skewer into each jar, and serve.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Painted Bottle Holiday Decor

Painted Bottle Holiday Decor

Created by: Ashley Torres, Pursuit of Shoes

'Tis the season to DIY! This year put some of your recyclable bottles to good use in a great holiday decor design that can be reused year after year.

 

What you need:
  • 3 glass bottles (or more depending on the holiday saying)
  • Cardboard craft letters
  • Spray paint (preferably matte)
  • Tacky glue
  • Raffia
  • Faux berry branches

For this DIY I chose a few pressed juice bottles, however, wine bottles or any other smooth glass bottles can easily be substituted.

First, spray paint the bottles. Allow at least one hour of drying time before gluing on the craft letters. Glue on the craft letters while bottles are lying down to ensure the letters don't slide. Let dry for 20 minutes. Each bottle should have one letter, so simple words or phrases work best (I chose “joy”). Next, cut raffia and tie it around each bottle top with a knot in back. Add faux berry branches, and you're done!

The options are pretty endless with this DIY: Change up the color combo; add an additional phrase to the back for an alternative option; use more bottles to create a more compelling decor piece. Happy holidays!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Cranberry Bruschetta

Cranberry Bruschetta

Created by: Ashley Torres, Pursuit of Shoes

Cranberries make for a great holiday recipe ingredient, but sometimes the recipes can be really time consuming. Try this quick and easy cranberry bruschetta, and your holiday party guests will be calling you the next Martha Stewart.

10-15 minutes | Prep time: 20 minutes | Serves: 25
Ingredients Cranberry Relish:
  • ½ lb. fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅛ cup honey
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha sauce
  • Zest from 1 orange, plus some reserved for the end
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped, plus another ¼ cup for garnish
Ingredients Crostinis:
  • 1 thin French baguette, sliced in ¼” thick pieces
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
Directions:
  1. Place the cranberries, ginger, sugar, honey and Sriracha in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Don't process too much; you want it to be a little chunky. If a food processor isn't available, you can always grab a whisk or potato masher.
  2. Add ¼ cup of roughly chopped cilantro and pulse a few more times. You want the bits to be visible, so you don’t need to pulse too much.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a storage container and add orange zest. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until ready to use.
    *If you’re in a hurry, you can refrigerate it for less time. The longer it marinates, the more the flavors mix together – but it will taste great either way.
  4. For the crostini, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
  5. Place baguette slices on the prepared pan. Brush lightly with oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  6. Bake the baguette slices for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove the slices from the baking pan, and transfer them to a cooler surface to begin to assemble your bruschetta.
  8. Whisk the cream cheese until creamy. Spread about ½-1 tablespoon on each crostini. Top with a scoop of the relish. Garnish with a bit of orange zest and cilantro, if desired.
  9. The orange zest, ginger and cilantro really come together with those berries for a sweet and savory bite. Yum! Enjoy!!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Cranberry and Pistachio Cheese Ball

Cranberry and Pistachio Cheese Ball

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

There are a million reasons why I love the holidays. The lights are dazzling; there’s festive music everywhere you go and people just seem genuinely happy. Although, as a person who seriously loves to eat, perhaps the single thing I love most about this time of year is all the fun finger food I inevitably get to snack on at every party.

Pretty canapés with smoked salmon, puff pastry pinwheels studded with an array of fillings and mini beef tenderloin sandwiches are just a few of my favorite items to whip up for a holiday-themed cocktail party. But the one item that seems to hit the jackpot every time with guests of all palate ranges is a good, old-fashioned cheese ball.

While the name alone doesn’t elicit thoughts of elegance or refinement, I find that if you put one of these out, it’s almost guaranteed to be the first thing to disappear – people cannot resist a cheese ball! In this festive version, fresh or frozen cranberries are simmered with plenty of brown sugar to offset the bitterness, along with a little bit of garlic and some water to aid in the cooking process. The mixture is cooled and then added to a trifecta of cheese: cream cheese for creaminess, goat cheese for tanginess and loads of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese to aid in a firm dip.

The cheeses and cranberries are mixed together, formed into a ball and chilled until firm, and then right before serving the entire ball is rolled in crushed roasted pistachios. In this case, I served it with some whole-wheat crackers, but a toasted crostini would also work perfectly.

Festive, gorgeous — and a total crowd pleaser!

15 minutes | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 8
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ⅛ cup water
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 5 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • ½ lb. shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup roasted pistachios, chopped
  • Crackers for serving
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan, add cranberries, garlic, brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer until cranberries are softened and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Transfer the mixture to a small plate and pop in the freezer until chilled.
  2. While the cranberries cool, mix together cream cheese, goat cheese, cheddar and salt. Add in the cooled cranberry mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
  3. Roll in chopped pistachios. Serve with crackers.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Dried Cranberry, Sage and White Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

Dried Cranberry, Sage and White Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

Created by: Nicole Leggio, Cooking for Keeps

I always thought when it came to the kitchen, you were either a cook or a baker – never in between – and for most of my life that mentality was pretty accurate. Although, in the last couple of years, I’ve actually found baking to be quite simple, and I even feel a heavy sense of accomplishment when a recipe I’ve developed from start to finish is received with rave reviews.

Admittedly, I started with easy, approachable baked goods like quick breads, simple cookies and brownies — and then slowly moved on to the more difficult yeast-based breads and towering layer cakes. It’s still not something I’d self-proclaim being a “master” at, but the more I bake, the more confident I feel, which should be an encouraging push to all you timid, hopeful bakers out there.

Biscuits, I’ve found, tend to be the perfect balance of skill and ease, and are great for even the most novice bakers. They’re something I always felt comfortable whipping up on a whim, even when I put myself in the “I’m only a cook” corner. I’ve also found biscuits to be the perfect alternative or addition to the standard roll you find spread across pretty much every family table around the holidays.

Here, I took two classic flavors of the holidays – dried cranberries and sage – and turned them into a fluffy, buttery biscuit that’s super easy, quick and will seriously impress your guests.

Everyone has their tried-and-true biscuit recipe, and for me the sweet spot is a mixture of butter, for flakiness and flavor, and vegetable shortening for lightness. First, shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, dried cranberries and plenty of finely chopped sage are tossed together with all-purpose flour, baking powder and plenty of salt. The butter and shortening then get cut into a mixture with a fork, or even with your fingers. Once it’s mostly incorporated, buttermilk gets gently stirred in just until it’s combined.

At this point, I quickly roll the dough out, cut the biscuits out with a 2” biscuit cutter and then pop them in the freezer to ensure the butter doesn’t melt into the dough. Which brings me to the cardinal rule of biscuit making: make sure all your ingredients are cold. The key to getting flaky, tall biscuits is cold butter. You should also make sure you still have bits of butter sprinkled throughout your dough. Once the heat of the oven hits the butter, it expands, making your biscuits super light, flaky and perfect!

I like to serve them right out of the oven with salted, whipped butter or honey butter for a little sweetness – either way, these aren’t your average holiday biscuits.

12 minutes | Prep time: 15 minutes | Serves: 12
Ingredients:
  • 5 Tbsp. cold butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup shredded gruyere cheese
  • 2½ Tbsp. fresh sage, finely chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup cold buttermilk, plus 2 Tbsp.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. water
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a sil-pad.
  2. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Place it back in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined. Add in cheese, sage and cranberries. Toss until combined.
  4. Add the cubed butter and shortening to the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a fork, quickly cut the butter into the flour until small pieces of both the butter and shortening remain and the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  5. Add the buttermilk, and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together just until combined. (It’s OK if the dough is a little scrappy.) Dump the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead it one or two times until the dough comes together.
  6. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough out until it’s about 1” thick. Use a 2¼” biscuit cutter to form biscuits. Use the scraps to make more biscuits until there is no dough left. Line the biscuits up on the prepared pan, and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  7. Mix the egg and water together in a small bowl. After the biscuits have chilled, brush them with the egg mixture. Bake until golden brown and tall, about 12-15 minutes.
  8. Serve warm with butter.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Oregon Pear and Pepper Baked Brie

Oregon Pear and Pepper Baked Brie

Created by: Greggy Soriano, Greggy’s Digest

Who doesn’t love snacking their heart out with a comforting baked Brie during the holidays? Oregon Pear and Pepper Baked Brie is a super-yummy, ridiculously easy and addicting snack combo that takes this classic appetizer favorite to the next level!

20 minutes | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 10
Ingredients:
  • 1 round (4.5 oz.) Brie cheese
  • 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 2-3 Tbsp. of Private Selection™ Oregon Pear and Pepper Jelly
  • 1 egg yolk
Tools:
  • Sheet pan or cookie sheet
  • Silicone baking mat or parchment paper
  • Pastry brush
  • Mini offset spatula, butter knife or cheese spreader
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Unwrap the can of crescent roll dough, and place the dough on a lined sheet pan in a circular fan formation. Make sure there are no holes in the dough and there is enough space for the brie to sit on top.
  2. Place the Brie in the center of your dough, and spread 2-3 tablespoons of Oregon Pear and Pepper Jelly around the top and sides of the cheese.
  3. Overlap the flaps of dough toward the center and completely seal up the round of Brie in the dough.
  4. Glaze the top and sides of the pastry with 1 egg yolk.
  5. Bake in the oven at 350° F for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with a fresh baguette, boule of bread or your favorite crackers! Happy holidays!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Peanut Butter Truffle Balls with M&M’s® Brand Baking Bits

Peanut Butter Truffle Balls with M&M’s® Brand Baking Bits

Created by: Hannah Hagler, Champagne Lifestyle

Chocolate and peanut butter always make for a magical combination. This delicious recipe is much easier than it looks…impress your friends without the stress!

50 minutes | Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 20
Ingredients:
TruffleBalls2
  • ½ bag milk chocolate M&M’s® Brand Baking Bits
  • 3 Tbsp. butter or dairy-free butter
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp. shortening, plus 1 tsp., optional
  • ¼ cup peanut butter chocolate chips
Directions:
  1. Line a baking pan or sheet with waxed paper.
  2. Mix the butter and peanut butter in a medium bowl until blended. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar until a dough-like consistency forms. Mix in the M&M’s® Brand baking bits.
    TruffleBalls3
  3. Roll the dough into 1” balls. The dough should yield about 20 total.
  4. Place the dough in the fridge for no less than 30 minutes.
    TruffleBalls4
  5. After the dough has been in the fridge, melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon shortening in the microwave.
  6. Using a fork, dip the balls one by one into the chocolate. Make sure to wipe off any extra chocolate on the edge of the bowl. Place back into the fridge for 10 minutes when they're coated.
  7. Melt the peanut butter chips and 1 teaspoon shortening in microwave. Drizzle on top of truffle balls.
  8. Place back in the fridge for 15 minutes. Enjoy!
    TruffleBalls5

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Healthy Tips for Making it Through the Holidays

Healthy Tips for Making it Through the Holidays

Created by: By: Molly McBride, RD, LD
Kroger Corporate Dietitian

It’s that time of year when we all prepare some “wiggle room” for weight gain and delicious holiday goodies. What if we looked at the holiday season a little differently? We can indulge yet not overeat! Let’s enjoy the flavors of the season without sacrifice.

  • Load up on the light fare. There may be a large spread of food available when sitting down to dinner with family or at big gatherings. Consider piling your plate or glass high with lower calorie and lower fat items. You can limit calories in sweet beverages by adding extra ice, have an extra sweet potato rather than a mound of stuffing, add extra fruit atop your piece of pie rather than cream, or scoop up more gelatin (or pectin-based gelled dessert) rather than rich brownies after the meal.
  • Only eat half. It’s never fun to waste food, but it’s also disheartening to unintentionally eat more than you wanted to. You can have the best of both worlds by grabbing a full plate and appear to be “working on it” for up to two hours (for food safety reasons) but throw half in a to-go box for the fridge.
  • Try not to start the party on an empty stomach. Do you know that feeling? It can be hard to have self-control if you’re ravaged and looking to eat anything in sight when heading to a fun time with friends and family. Consider eating something sustainable before leaving home, like a peanut butter sandwich, trail mix or even a latte made with decaf espresso, nonfat milk/non-dairy milk and sprinkled with cinnamon. All of these foods contain fiber, protein and carbohydrates to keep you full a little longer.
  • Plan, plan, plan. We can revert to bad habits when we’re short on time, energy and resources. Thinking ahead to how you want your week or day to look in terms of favorite holiday meals and desserts can set you up for success. If you’re looking forward to grabbing that eggnog at the store, let yourself enjoy it, but allot space in your week for turning to low calorie beverages like unsweetened tea or light lemonade on other days. Another good strategy during the holiday season is meal planning for appropriate number of people, whether that be ten or one, so there are not a lot of leftovers you may feel pressured to eat!

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

Holiday Confetti Popcorn

Holiday Confetti Popcorn

'Tis the season to satisfy your sweet tooth with our quick and easy Holiday Confetti Popcorn. Whether you're looking for a simple gift or just something sweet to snack on, this easier-than-it-looks treat is delicious and sure to delight friends and family this holiday season.

5 minutes | Cooling Time: 20 minutes | Servings: 6
Ingredients:
  • 1 bag (3.2 oz.) Pop Secret Homestyle Microwave Popcorn
  • 4 bars Kroger Naturally Flavored Vanilla Candy Coating
  • 2 cups Kroger Mini Pretzel Twists
  • 1 cup green and red M&M’s
  • ¼ cup holiday sprinkles (red, white, green)
  • Ziploc® brand bags or containers
Directions:
  1. Prepare Pop Secret Homestyle Microwave Popcorn according to package instructions, removing all non-popped kernels.
  2. Transfer popcorn to a large bowl.
  3. Add pretzels and M&M’s.
  4. In a smaller microwave safe bowl, add 4 vanilla candy coating bars.
  5. Heat bars in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, up to 90 seconds or until candy coating is melted and smooth.
  6. Drizzle candy coating over popcorn mixture and gently stir until evenly coated.
  7. Pour mixture onto wax paper in a single layer.
  8. Sprinkle holiday sprinkles evenly before candy coating cools.
  9. Let rest 20 minutes to harden.
  10. Break into pieces and store in airtight Ziploc® brand bags or containers.
Tips:
  • For a minty taste, swap M&M’s Dark Chocolate Mint Candies for green and red M&M’s.
  • For extra sweetness, add 1 cup mini marshmallows.

View Party Plan: Holiday Housewarming

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