Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Fun

We hosted a holiday party this weekend.  This is the second year we have hosted this group and of all the get togethers we host during the holidays it is the one that causes me the most stress.  It is also the one that requires the least amount of prep work, so technically it should be the least stressful.  This is a party for the teachers and board members at my kids' preschool and the party is a tradition that has been going on for a few years.  I have only been on the board for two years, and therefore never attended one of the parties before agreeing to host, but I have heard about them and how they are always a great time.  So there is the pressure of the past to live up to.  Then there is the fact that it is a potluck party, and I hate hosting potlucks.  I love going to them, but hate hosting.  The idea of not knowing what will be available to my guests drives me crazy.  I alternate between planning a large assorted menu and a menu with just a box of crackers.  It usually isn't until I am setting up that I finally settle on a menu and by that point I have purchased enough food to host two parties.  Last year we had a lot of spinach and artichoke dip, so I was glad I over prepared and was able to pull out some backup items.  This year we had a better assortment and I didn't need to go to the reserves.  In the end I decided on a simple meat platter (while I hate doing the same thing again and again, when we have a party I almost always do a meat platter.  With a husband who is allergic to pork it is the perfect opportunity for me to indulge in yummy cured meats) and a few desserts. 
 My favorite were the mini gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and the Bailey's truffles were pretty good as well.  Both were extremely simple and very well received.  And while I stressed out on the food, I completely spaced on table decor.  I don't know what was wrong with me and how I avoided thinking about the "table scape."  But about an hour before the party I realized I hadn't given it any thought.  I quickly pulled a few things together, but it was a very lame attempt and I was glad when the food started to come in and hide my sad table. 
Gingerbread Cupcakes

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light. Beat in the brown sugar until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in the eggs.  Fill the cupcake papers three-quarters full, making sure that the batter is divided evenly. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating


Bailey's Truffles

2 tablespoons heavy cream
7 ounce white chocolate chopped
2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (recommended: Baileys)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

Place the cream in a heat-proof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook until heated through. Using a wire whisk, slowly stir the white chocolate into the warm cream until completely melted. Whisk in the liqueur and vanilla. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until pliable but firm enough to scoop.  With 2 teaspoons or a 1 1/4-inch ice cream scoop, make dollops of the chocolate mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm enough to roll into rough spheres.  Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Drizzle the melted bittersweet chocolate over 10 of the truffles. Roll the remaining truffles in the chopped nuts. Chill until ready to serve