Holiday Entertaining Tips And My Favorite Fondue

Christmas seems to be sneaking up on me so fast this year.   There is still decorating that needs to be done, trees that need to be trimmed, gifts that need to be bought and plans with friends and family that need to be made.  There is no denying it, the holidays can be a hectic time of year and it’s very easy to get so wrapped up being busy and working on our to do lists, that we forget to take a moment to actually enjoy the holidays (at least for me!).

Tips To Reduce Stress In Holiday Entertaining

When it comes to holiday entertaining, I used to have a “go big or go home” approach, but I found I really didn’t enjoy entertaining.  So the past few years I’ve started to scale back and simplify my holiday entertaining.   And guess what?  I’m enjoying it more and I think my guests are too!

Cheese Fondue Recipe

Today I’m going to share some of my tips for less stressful holiday entertaining, my favorite fondue recipe that I use for holiday entertaining, and some lovely Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines and recipes that pair perfectly with them.

10 Tips For Holiday Entertaining With Less Stress

My Holiday Entertaining Tips For Less Stress

Holiday Entertaining Tip #1 – Host An Open House

One of the ways that I’ve changed my holiday entertaining in the last few years is that I’ve moved away from formal (or even casual) sit down meals at a certain time and I’ve moved to hosting an open house.   Everyone is so busy with so many holiday parties and get togethers, visiting family and friends all over town, that often it’s really hard to fit specific times into those busy schedules.   We’ve had many years where our holiday schedule looked crazy, with four or five places to be, four or five meals to have, and four or five hours to do it all.   And if you have a little one who still naps like I do, you know how hard that makes things.    I love having an open house, either in the morning or afternoon/evening.  People are free to stop by when it works for them and free to eat as little or as much as they want.   I find this is less stressful for me as a hostess and for my guests.

Holiday Entertaining Tip #2 – Trade Sit Down Meals For Snacks, Sips and Sweets

This tip works wonderfully with the open house format.  Instead of big sit down meals, I have moved to much more relaxed snacks, sips and sweets.   I am not the best at having a giant meal ready and on the table all at once.   With everyone having so many places to go, there is almost always someone who isn’t there when it’s time to eat, and you have that awkward “do we start the meal or wait” situation.  Moving to a snacks, sips and sweets set up has been a fabulous option for my family.   We either do a breakfast/brunch version, or an appetizer/snacks/desserts version.   This takes a lot of pressure off of the host and hostess, and most people really love the variety of food that is served in this format.   This also works really well when your guests bring a dish to share.  It’s so easy to add it to the selection that is out without having to “fit it into the meal” so to speak.

Holiday Entertaining

Holiday Entertaining Tip #3 –  Mix Simple, Store Bought And Homemade Foods

I am a big fan of combining homemade foods with store bought options.  For a breakfast I might make an egg and sausage casserole or a breakfast that can be made in the slow cooker and pair it with some homemade muffins, store bought croissants and danishes.    For an afternoon/evening meal, there are so many great appetizer options at the stores, and so many easy options like fresh fruits and veggies, breads and cheeses, that it’s easy to fill an entire buffet table with items that do not require much more than heating.  Pair fresh veggies and breads with a homemade dip, or dress up a store bought dip by placing it in a bread bowl.    The slow cooker is great for warm appetizers.   One of my absolute favorite holiday meals to mix homemade and store bought ingredients in is cheese fondue.

Fondue Recipe

A delicious fondue easily comes together with some cheeses and Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc (see my recipe below).  It is perfect to serve with fresh granny smith apples, a rustic bread, veggies and whatever else you might have on hand.

Holiday Entertaining Tip #4 – Have A Selection Of Self Serve Sips

Having a great selection of drinks makes for a great party.   Set out a variety of drinks with something for everyone and encourage guests to help themselves.  A nice selection of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wines is a great choice.  In Robert Mondavi’s vineyards in the Central Coast, it’s foggy, windy, cool, and damp, with a break of afternoon sunlight, pretty much every day. It’s beautiful in a rough ‘n’ tumble kind of way. But for grapes, it’s paradise.  In this environment, grapes grow slowly, with plenty of time to build deep, pure flavors, bright acid, and elegant wine textures. From Chardonnay to Cabernet, the delicious benefits of those just-right conditions come shining through in glass after glass of Robert Mondavi’s wines.

Holiday Entertaining Ideas

Some perfect non-alcoholic choices include a variety of waters, sodas, cider, coffee or even a hot cocoa bar.  Using a single cup coffee maker with a selection of coffees, hot cocoas and even teas offers a great selection of warm drinks.   Kids love a hot cocoa bar, especially with fun toppings like marshmallows, whipped cream and sprinkles.

Holiday Entertaining Tip #5 – Let Guests Help With Desserts

Desserts is the perfect answer when your guests ask what they can bring!   This makes less work for the hostess, creates a great variety of desserts and if a guest is late or doesn’t show up in time for the meal, their contribution is still perfect!

Holiday Party Ideas

Holiday Entertaining Tip #6 – Holiday Decor Makes For Great Party Decor

One of my favorite things about holiday entertaining is that often our houses are already decorated for the holidays.  Holiday decor makes for perfect party decor, so let it work for you!  One of my favorite simple centerpieces is a giant glass bowl full of beautiful Christmas ornaments.  Twinkling lights always make any setting magical and candles or a fire in the fireplace create a warm and cozy atmosphere.    Chances are your home is already brimming with holiday cheer, so there’s not much more that you need to add.

Holiday Entertaining Tip # 7 – Create An Area With Child Friendly Fun

Having some easy and enjoyable activities available for kids can be a party saver.   You could have a table or area set up with ready to decorate gingerbread houses, sugar cookies waiting to be frosted, ornaments to can be decorated or even a holiday card making station.    You could even have a favorite holiday movie playing on one of the televisions (we love Elf), coloring pages with crayons or board games sitting out.  These ideas do not have to be elaborate at all.   Not only can this provide fun for the kids, but it is often met with a sigh of relief from parents who are worried about how they are going to keep their kids entertained.   Make sure to have bags or boxes on hand if guests are creating something to be taken with them.

Holiday Entertaining Tip # 8 – Don’t Worry About Being Over The Top

Let’s be honest here.  More than ever, people are going over the top with parties.  And if that is your thing, then party on in a big way.  But for many of us, it’s not and we can feel pressure to put on a great theme party or something spectacular like we see on Instagram and Facebook.   Your holiday entertaining does not need to be over the top to be wonderful.   Let me repeat that, it does not need to be over the top to be wonderful.  Your friends, family and guests want to gather together, slow down and spend some time together.   You do not have recreate a Winter Wonderland, the North Pole or Santa’s Workshop to have a great party.   Simple can be wonderful and even refreshing.

Holiday Entertaining Tip #9 – Prepare For The Unexpected And Go With The Flow

I’m great at having everything planned out perfectly in my head, but sometimes things don’t go as planned.   A recipe doesn’t turn out.  The weather changes from bad to worse.  The kids knock over the beautiful centerpiece.   It’s all okay.  Sometimes we put so much time into planning that in our heads we are locked into how things have to happen.  Do your best to have a go with the flow attitude.  The only constant is change, so sometimes it’s best to embrace it versus fight it.  Sometimes a deep breath, a moment of thought and an unexpected direction can work out for the best.

Holiday Entertaining Tips

Holiday Entertaining Tip #10 – Enjoy Yourself

It’s very easy to focus on making everything perfect and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves that we forget to enjoy ourselves!   Many of these tips will help you create holiday entertaining that is easy going, letting you enjoy yourself as well.  While you may be the hostess, the cook, the decorator and the cleaning crew, you are also a guest at your party, so try to find moments to sit down, enjoy it, enjoy your guests and enjoy yourself.  Life moves so fast, don’t miss the moments that matter.

For more great tips, make sure to check out my Holiday Entertaining board on Pinterest.

Easy Cheese Fondue Recipe

I promised you my favorite fondue recipe!  I love to make this fondue and let everyone gather around the table to enjoy.  I love that fondue turns eating into an experience.   We usually do fondue when we have a small group, and everyone brings something to contribute, from a favorite cheese to some wonderfully crusty bread to fabulous fresh veggies.  It’s delicious and pairs wonderfully with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc.

My Favorite Cheese Fondue

My Favorite Cheese Fondue

This delicious fondue is wonderful with crusty breads, granny smith apples, veggies and even sausages.

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 7 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
  • 7 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
  • 7 ounces Emmentaler cheese, grated or cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Minced garlic to taste (optional)

Instructions

Combine cheeses and flour in a large bowl and toss to coat the cheese with the flour.

Heat wine in a heavy saucepan until it starts to simmer. Stir in lemon juice and garlic.

Add cheese to wine, a little at a time, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. If cheese is lumpy, you can add a little more lemon juice.

Once melted and creamy, transfer fondue to a fondue pot and serve immediately.

http://www.lovefromtheoven.com/2013/12/08/holiday-entertaining-tips/

Check out these great recipes, created by celebrity chef Justin Warner, that pair perfectly with Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wines.

Broccoli & Cheese-y Cheese Wontons

10 minutes

10 minutes

25-30 Won Tons

Broccoli & Cheese-y Cheese Wontons

Recipe courtesy of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wines. Developed by Justin Warner, Chef/Owner of Do or Dine and Season 8 Winner of The Next Food Network Star Pair alongside Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc VINTAGE

Ingredients

    Ingredients for the Stuffing
  • 6 oz chopped broccoli florets (use fresh, not frozen. We're doing this FOR REAL)
  • 4 oz goat cheese, softened
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • 2 tsp minced parsley
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • Ingredients for the Dipping Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Robert Mondavi Private Selection Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • Ingredients for the Preparation
  • 25-30 wonton skins
  • 1 egg white
  • oil for frying

Instructions

For the Stuffing

1. Moisten some paper towels and wrap the broccoli with them. Put the moistened broccoli parcel on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for two minutes on high power.

2. Carefully place the florets in a mixing bowl with the cheeses, shallots, parsley, and kosher salt. Using a wooden spoon, a fork, or a rubber spatula, mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined.

For the Preparation

Chef’s Tips: I like to fold it in to a triangle, and then fold the bottom corners up to make a sort of crown shape. Get creative. As long as it's sealed you're good to go.

1. Put heaping teaspoons of the mixture in the center of the wonton skins. Brush some of the egg white on the edges of the wrapper.

2. Do this until you run out of filling.

3. Place these guys in the fridge while you make the sauce. Pre-heat the oil in a dutch oven to 350 degrees.

For the Soy Sauce

1. Put the soy sauce and the Sauvignon Blanc in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.

3. Refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

To Fry

1. Fry the wontons in the 350 degree oil, in batches of three or until they are golden brown.

2. Drain on paper towels and serve hot, with the sauce and a cold glass of RMPS Sauvignon Blanc.

Frying Tricks of the Trade: The key to frying is to work in small batches. Like ice in a drink, the wontons lower the temperature of the oil when you put them in. When I fry, I keep a constant eye on the thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly. I use a plate lined with paper towels to allow the wontons to cool because the towels absorb excess oil which can cause sogginess...and sogginess and snacks do not mix in my book. Crisp wine deserves crisp food.

“I developed this recipe because I wanted to show that just because Sauvignon Blanc sounds French, it is a grape that plays well (especially in the masterful hands of winemaker Rick Boyer) with Asian and American influenced food. I like food to be playful and fun to eat. This conjures memories of the treat of broccoli and cheese as a kid, but the won-ton vessel makes it more party friendly (no utensils necessary) and also makes it more snacky. Who doesn't like snacks?” – Justin Warner

http://www.lovefromtheoven.com/2013/12/08/holiday-entertaining-tips/

Tricked Out Ramen

10 minutes

30 minutes

Tricked Out Ramen

Recipe courtesy of Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wines Developed by Justin Warner, Chef/Owner of Do or Dine and Season 8 Winner of The Next Food Network Star Pair alongside Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir VINTAGE

Ingredients

  • Ingredients for the Dish
  • 2 packs of instant ramen noodles (any flavor, with the flavor packet discarded and forgotten about)
  • 4 oz pork tenderloin
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 oz julienned carrot
  • ½ portobello mushroom cap, sliced
  • 1 oz ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt + some for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 tsp soy sauce
  • 4 oz Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir
  • 5 cups water1
  • 1 tsp white vinegar

Instructions

For The Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 300 °

2. In the smallest pot you have, bring two cups of the water and the white vinegar to barely a simmer.

For The Egg

1. Crack the egg and slowly add it in to the simmering water.

2. Using a slotted spoon, gently flick some of the hot water on top of the egg.

3. After 3-5 minutes, when the white is pink and opaque, and no longer wispy, remove from heat and use the slotted spoon to gently remove the egg.

4. Very carefully, run the egg under a tiny stream of cool water to stop the cooking. This might take a little practice, but I believe in you.

5. Set the egg aside, still in the slotted spoon.

6. Add a tiny pinch of salt to the egg.

Chef’s Tips: Did your egg break? Don’t cry, it’s just an egg. If you only have one egg, just use it in whatever shape it’s in.. If you have more eggs on hand, try again! Don’t want to poach? Just fry one sunny-side in a little vegetable oil.

For The Bacon

1. In a 3 quart sauce pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until almost crisp, about 6-8 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook this until the garlic and ginger browns, about 2-4 minutes.

3. Using tongs and a wooden spoon, carefully remove the garlic, ginger, and bacon, and reserve on a baking sheet.

For The Corn

1. Now cook the corn in the bacon fat, until slightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. At the two minute mark, add 1/2 tsp soy sauce to the corn.

2. Remove the corn and reserve on the baking sheet.

For The Mushroom and the Carrots

1. Add 1/2 the butter to the saucepan, and cook the mushroom and 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce for about 4 minutes until soft.

2. Remove the mushroom and place on the baking sheet.

3. Repeat this exact process with the julienned carrot.

For The Pork

1. Add the pork tenderloin and cook to medium, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Slice and reserve on the baking sheet.

By this point your pot should be littered with tasty bits, caramelized what-nots and bacon/butter drippings.

For The Broth

1. Deglaze the pan with the Pinot Noir

2. Carefully pour the wine in to the sauce pan and scrape all those tasty bits free with a wooden spoon, metal spoon, or rubber spatula.

3. Now add the water, the reserved bacon/ginger/garlic mix and the salt, and bring to a very rapid boil.

4. Boil for 7-10 minutes so that the flavors concentrate and reduce

Chef’s Tips: Deglazing with wine is a great way to make what fancy chefs call a “pan-sauce.” Cooking chicken breasts? Remove the chicken, deglaze with wine, add a little salt and flour. BOOM, sauce!

Meanwhile, place the baking sheet in the oven to get all of the ingredients (except the egg) hot again.

For The Noodles

1. Put the noodles in the boiling water and stir every two minutes until they are no longer rigid.

2. Using tongs, remove the noodles from the broth and place in a big soup bowl.

3. Carefully remove the baking sheet and excellently arrange all the ingredients on top of the noodles.

4. Carefully add the egg. Fill with the broth. Wait one minute, and DEVOUR.

“My girlfriend and I love authentic Japanese ramen, but when we crave it most, we rarely have the time to venture out for it. I developed this relatively quick recipe to ‘trick-out’ the very inexpensive instant ramen noodles found in supermarkets and corner stores. I found that the seasoning packets included with these are loaded with artificial flavors, and that’s just not my deal. Using bacon and pork loin, along with ample amounts of garlic and ginger creates a truly rich and tasty broth that is perfect on a cool end-of-summer night.” - Justin Warner

http://www.lovefromtheoven.com/2013/12/08/holiday-entertaining-tips/

You will find more great recipes and holiday entertaining tips and ideas on my Holiday Entertaining board on Pinterest.

Holiday Entertaining Ideas

Robert Mondavi Private SelectionRobert Mondavi Private Selection offers something authentic, true to Mr. Mondavi’s legacy of making great quality, expressive wines from California’s Central Coast. Connect with us on Facebook for more: www.facebook.com/robertmondaviprivateselection  

Please enjoy our wines responsibly.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Robert Mondavi Private Selection via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Robert Mondavi Private Selection.

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