In my pre-kid days, I used to throw an annual holiday cocktail party with festive drinks and adorable canapes. These days when I throw a party, guests under 12 outnumber the adults. That’s what happens when so many of your friends have three kids, I guess!
I have not stopped entertaining just because half my guests cannot drink cocktails, and neither should you. I love to host and attend whole-family holiday gatherings because it reminds my children that they are part of an extended community of family, friends and neighbors. Plus it allows kids of different ages to interact, something that is increasingly rare in our society.
It is important to remember that feeding a multi-generational crowd is different than feeding a group of adults. I have found that kids love the idea of hors d’oeuvres as much as adults do, but are weirded out by fancy ingredients.
So I have devised a few go-to hors d’oeuvres that will please kid and adult palates alike. Like all good hors d’oeuvres, these can be made ahead of time to streamline your party preparation.
For fun, consider making a special non-alcoholic drink or punch to serve the kids–it will make them feel very sophisticated!
One of the most classic French hors d’oeuvres, a gougere, is a small cheese puff. Everyone goes nuts for them. Once you make the dough, you need to form the puffs right away, but they can then be frozen on a tray until hard and stored in a plastic freezer bag until needed.
Don’t bother to thaw the gougères before baking–they can go right from the freezer to the oven. Just add a few extra minutes to the baking time.
4 oz. (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 eggs at room temperature
6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
-If baking right away, preheat oven to 425.
-Place the water, milk and butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and turn heat down to low. Add flour and stir mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes together. Continue to stir for two more minutes.
-Remove pan from heat and pour dough into the bowl of a standing mixer or a large bowl.
-Using a standing mixer, handheld electric mixer, or wooden spoon, beat the eggs into the dough one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one. By the time you add the last egg, the mixture should be smooth and shiny. Add the grated cheese and stir to combine.
-Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat baking mats. Using two soup spoons, place golf ball-sized mounds of dough on the baking sheets.
-If using right away, place the trays in the oven and turn down the heat to 375 degrees.
-Bake the gougeres for 26 minutes, rotating the trays 180 degrees halfway through. Make sure the gougeres are puffed and golden brown before removing from the oven.
-Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature.
* If making ahead, freeze the mounds of dough on the trays until hardened. Then remove to a plastic freezer bag for storage.
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Dips are a great way to get kids to eat vegetables, but I find that many kids do not like typical dip bases like mayonnaise or sour cream. And if the dip looks suspiciously green, like maybe it has spinach in it, kids will run for the hills.
This dip uses mild goat cheese to achieve a creamy texture without being too gloppy, and the red color is very appealing. I recommend serving it with raw bell peppers, carrots, radishes, and celery or blanched cauliflower, broccoli and green beans.
You can make this dip a day in advance.
1 head garlic
16 oz. marinated roasted red peppers, drained
8 oz. plain goat cheese
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
-Preheat oven to 350.
-Begin by roasting the garlic. Cut off the top of the head of garlic exposing the cloves. (Do not peel.) Place garlic in small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
-Roast garlic in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves of garlic out of their husks into a small dish.
-Place roasted garlic, roasted red peppers and goat cheese in the bowl of a food processor.
-Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
-Pour roasted red pepper mixture into a large bowl. Add chopped basil, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper and olive oil and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
-Refrigerate dip for a few hours before serving.
Emily Paster writes about fitting ambitious food into family life on her blog West of the Loop. Currently at work on her first cookbook, Emily is the founder of the Chicago Food Swap.