Holiday festivities with immediate family members or just a few friends rather than larger gatherings may feel different than normal, but you can make the most of the situation with these tips to add intimacy and special meaning to celebratory moments:
Use special dishes, glassware and linens to convey the tone of the celebration. Go ahead and use your best dishes or enhance your everyday plates with the use of cloth napkins or a festive tablecloth. Bring out the fancy glasses to savor every sip.
Arrange visually appealing, individual mini-snack platters for each person. Combine grapes with a special cheese, crackers, olives and nuts for an easy way to curb appetites before the main course.
Set a festive table with a simple but creative centerpiece. For instance, you can combine candles, flowers and draped bunches of colorful grapes. Place votive candles on mirrors for added shimmer and sparkle. Tie a gold or silver wire ribbon bow around the napkins at each place setting. Handwritten place cards with guests’ names can add a surprising and special touch.
Stay healthy to enjoy the holidays. Choose healthy foods like fruits and vegetables that help support the immune system. Maintain your exercise schedule as much as possible and ensure you are getting enough sleep.
Opt for homemade over processed foods for signature dishes then reinforce with prepared items to fill out the menu, if needed. Let your guests bring part of the meal or something to contribute to the festivities.
Adding a sweet touch to the menu can help keep guests coming back for more. For example, fresh California grapes are available into January and are perfect for the holiday season. Enjoy them as a fresh, healthy snack or side dish, or as an ingredient to add taste and visual appeal to recipes to make the season feel special.
Start the meal with a simple but beautiful salad such as Grape and Spinach Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing, where the grapes provide festive color and pleasing texture. Pair your chosen entree with Warm Farro Salad with Grapes and Delicata Squash for a hearty side dish that can also be served on its own. Finally, cap off the celebration with homemade Grape and Apple Sheet Pan Pie.
Visit grapesfromcalifornia.com/recipe to find more holiday-worthy dishes from appetizers and entrees to sides, snacks and desserts.
Create the perfect appetizer plate
Delight your guests with individual appetizer plates this season by considering color, texture and presentation. Remember, this is the prelude to the meal, so small portions are perfectly fine. Consider this starter list:
Marinated artichoke hearts
Spinach or other dips
Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)
Roasted red peppers
Jam or honey
Grape and Spinach Salad with Raspberry Balsamic Dressing
Prep time: 20 minutes
8 cups fresh baby spinach, washed
4 1/2 cups California grapes
1 1/4 cups mandarin orange segments, drained if using canned
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup bottled light balsamic vinegar and oil dressing
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons raspberry jam
3/4 cup crunchy chow mein noodles
In a large salad bowl, combine spinach with grapes, oranges and onion.
Whisk together dressing, orange juice and jam. Pour over salad and toss until greens are coated with dressing. Divide among eight plates and top with crunchy noodles.
Grape and Apple Sheet Pan Pie
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 50 minutes
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup ice water, plus additional if needed
3 pounds Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 9 cups)
4 cups black California grapes
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all- purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon water
demerara sugar, for garnish
To make dough: In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and toss with flour mixture. Smash each butter cube flat then use a fork to stir in cold water. Knead lightly until dough comes together into a ball. Transfer to floured work surface and use well-floured rolling pin to roll into a 10-by-15-inch sheet. Fold each short side into the middle and close like a book. Fold once more to make a thick block and cut in half. Wrap each piece in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes or overnight.
To make filling: In a large bowl, combine apples, grapes, sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt; set aside.
To assemble pie: Heat oven to 375 F.
Roll one half of the dough out to an 18-by-13-inch rectangle. Transfer to a 10-by-15-inch heavy baking sheet; place in refrigerator to chill while rolling out top sheet. Roll out remaining dough to an 18-by-13-inch rectangle and use a pastry cutter to cut into 1 1/2-inch wide strips.
Transfer filling into chilled pastry and spread evenly. Lay dough strips on top of filling in a lattice pattern and crimp sides together. Mix egg with water and brush the top of the pie. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake until the filling is bubbling, and the crust is nicely browned, about 45-50 minutes.
Warm Farro Salad with Grapes and Delicata Squash
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
3 pounds delicata squash, cut lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups farro
2 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 cups halved California grapes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Heat oven to 425 F.
On a sheet pan, toss squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cayenne pepper. Spread into a single layer and roast 10-15 minutes, or until bottoms are browned. Turn squash and roast 10-15 minutes, or until browned and tender.
While squash is cooking, combine farro, water and remaining salt. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until farro is tender, 25-30 minutes. Drain leftover water and transfer to a large bowl. Add squash, remaining olive oil, remaining pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, grapes and parsley; toss.
Note: Acorn or butternut squash may be substituted for delicata squash.