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 Holiday Party & Potluck Guide

Holiday Party & Potluck Guide

Well, it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and I’m already feeling that too full, too tired, and too lazy to function feeling. I’m waddling everywhere, and it’s not even the official turkey day yet. Why, you ask?

2 days. Three different Friendsgivings/Potlucks. Tons and tons of delicious food and drink that I can’t possibly say no too. Oh yes. I’m drinking detox tea as I type this and I’m planning on hitting the treadmill tomorrow. Perhaps I will fork over $30 to attend a Soulcycle session. I’d say this calls for it.

Anyway, this post is not about me complaining about how full I am (oh, the absolute travesty). I want to share some tips and recipes to help you prepare for any holiday party. They have been tested among the populace (my friends) and the results have been quite favorable.  With the holidays coming up, these recipes  are sure to be a success at your next holiday gathering.


The traditional gift to bring for the host/hostess. If you aren’t bringing anything else, at the very least, please bring a bottle of wine. Some of my suggestions:

1)      2014 Blackbird Vineyard Arise  - Black currant, freshly picked summer blackberries, cedar stick, roasted clove, licorice, pipe tobacco, bing cherry, and nutty fig. This red blend retails at about $40-50, and is perfect for the wine snob in your life.

2)      2016 Beaujolais Nouveau – Just less than a week ago, Beaujolais wines were released in stores all over the world. If you are not familiar with Beaujolais wines, they are a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. What makes these so different from other red wines, as one can see, is the lack of vintage on these bottles. The wines are only fermented for just a few weeks before being revealed in stores on the third Thursday of November. It symbolizes the end of the harvest, and while it is a fairly light red wine, it certainly does not lack in flavor. The particular bottle I purchased from Central Market (Joseph Drouhin) has juicy cherry and strawberry flavors, licorice, and floral notes. The bottles are fairly inexpensive and can retail anywhere from $8-20 a pop.

3)      Backhouse 2013 Pinot Noir (California)- Fresh Raspberry and cherry aromas, with plum, $8-10.

4)      2013 Highway 12 Sonoma Red Blend – Medium to full bodied with black cherry, fig, cassis, and cedar.  $24




Potato pancakes with smoked salmon

Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s recipe for this super quick and easy appetizer, I substituted the horseradish for ginger. Two reasons 1) I have a friend who doesn’t like horseradish, 2) upon trying the appetizer with ginger, I was hooked! The ginger and smoked salmon combo is light, refreshing, zingy, and full of flavor. This appetizer will be a favorite among guests!

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup full milk
  • 1 spring onion or ½ cup up chives, sliced.
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil, or olive oil with minced garlic
  • ¾ cup of instant mashed potato mix
  • ¼ cup of all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 package of smoked almon
  • Dill
  • ½ cup of sour cream
  • ½ cup of crème fraiche
  • ½ teaspoon of minced/grated ginger
  • Salt & pepper to taste.

1.       Mix potato mix with eggs, spring onion, flour, baking powder, and lemon zest. Heat olive oil in a pan and ladle small amounts of batter onto the pan. After a minute or two, flip the pancakes over and take off the pan when golden brown on each side.

2.        For the ginger crème fraiche, mix sour cream, crème fraiche, and ginger.

3.       Dollop small amounts of the crème fraiche mixture onto each pancake. Drape small slivers of smoked salmon over the pancakes and sprinkle with dill.

Side Dishes


Creamy Bacon Parmesan Garlic Potatoes & Peas

If all else fails, just add bacon. Just kidding. Maybe. I was inspired by this recipe I found while perusing through Pinterest. I decided to use the fat left over from frying up a few slices of bacon as a base for this dish. The result: Smokey, savory, meaty goodness. And those are just potatoes and peas, mind you.

  • 1lb red potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Half a bag of frozen green peas
  • 1 table spoon of butter
  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • ½ cup of whole milk
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Chives & parsley, chopped

1.       Boil potatoes with the ¼ teaspoon of salt for about 20 minutes.  For the last five minutes, add peas. Drain and set aside.

2.       Fry up the bacon and transfer them to a plate lined with a paper towel, leaving the fat in the pan. With the heat on medium, add the butter and garlic. When the butter melts, add the heavy cream and milk, salt, and cheese. Mix until the sauce begins to bubble rapidly. Turn the heat down to simmer and stir the sauce until it reduces and beings to thicken.

3.       Add the potatoes and peas and gently toss the vegetables in the bacon Parmesan sauce. Chop up the cooked bacon into small pieces and gently fold them in.

4.     Transfer everything to a serving plate and scatter parsley and chives on top before serving.


Roasted Yams & Brussels Sprouts with a Balsamic Glaze

I love and swear by any recipe that involves just me cutting up some vegetables, tossing it in simple salt, pepper, and olive oil, and then throwing it all on a baking sheet and into the oven. Just set it and forget it, haha. This recipe needs a bit more attention than that, but it’s very minimal, and just that extra bit of love makes all the difference. I was inspired by this recipe. My friend also sent me several recipes for roasted Brussels sprouts as well, and I combined everything I liked to create the recipe that you see below.

  • 1lb Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp of garlic olive oil (or regular olive oil with 1 tsp of minced garlic)
  • 1sp of sea salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite sized pieced
  • ½ cup of fresh cranberries
  • ¼ cup of sliced almonds
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar ( I used strawberry balsamic, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

1.       Preheat oven to 350F. Toss Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and onions in olive oil, salt, pepper, and mustard seeds. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with foil.

2.       Scatter cranberries and almonds over the vegetable mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through and toss the vegetables before putting them back into the oven.

3.       In a saucepan, combine honey, balsamic vinegar, and mustard. When the sauce begins to boil and thicken, pour the glaze over the vegetables and toss to coat.



Cake Parfait Cups with Red Wine Syrup

This dessert came together as a haphazard idea, with leftovers from a cake I had made for a customer. The red wine syrup though- amazing, and I can see this being used with almost anything. Over ice cream, mixed with club soda, etc. If you’re looking to simplify this recipe even further, skip the cream cheese icing and just do sweetened whipped cream. Boom. Dessert in a flash.

  • 6 small dessert cups/jars
  • 1 ½ cups of leftover cake pieces, cut into cubes )
  • 1 cup of icing of your choice
    • Whipped cream: ½ cup of whipped cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla extract.
    • Cheesecake cream: 1 block of softened cream cheese, 1 stick of softened butter, vanilla extract, ¾ cup of confectioners sugar
    • Chocolate cheesecake cream: add ¼ cup of cocoa powder to the cheesecake cream above.
  • ½ cup of red wine ( I used the Highway 12 red blend)
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • Juice of ½ an orange
  • Assorted fruit

1.       Bring the wine, sugar, and orange juice to a boil. Set aside to cool.

2.       Once the syrup is cooled, layer cake pieces, syrup, icing, and fruit into the dessert cups.

3.       Decorate with chocolate, fruit, and cookies.


Strawberry and Guava Pavlova

Last but certainly not least, a showstopper of a dessert, the pavlova. This dessert is a treat for the nose and the eyes as it is for your taste buds. The combination of guava and berries is just heavenly. It’s a sweet, light, and refreshing dessert, and the perfect way to end (or start) a meal.  True story, I was at a friend’s potluck this weekend and while I was waiting for everyone else to show up, I ate this before I ate anything else. I ate the cheese and crackers too, but that’s not an important detail you need to remember.

  •  4 small guava (cut in half and scoop out the insides)
  • 1 pint of strawberries, halved with the stems cut off
  • ¾  cup of heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1sp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar

1.       Preheat the oven to 300F. Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

2.       In a mixer or using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy, add cream of tartar and salt and continue to mix on medium high speed.

3.       Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat the egg whites until the mixture reaches hard peaks. The mixture should be smooth, shiny, and should not fall from the bowl if you turn it upside down.

4.       Fold in the vanilla extract and vinegar until combined.

5.       Transfer the batter to a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper, forming a circle. Smooth out the edges and the top, leaving a slight dip in the middle of the pavlova for the filling.

6.       Bake for 50 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the pavlova rest for about 2 hours.

7.       To make the whipped cream filling, whip together the heavy cream, ¼ sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream over the pavlova and to with the strawberries and guava. 


Have a Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Stay tuned for next weeks post-

24 hrs in San Francisco. 

Holiday Hacks & Tips for the Procrastinator

Holiday Hacks & Tips for the Procrastinator