Epic Spreads to Level up Your Holiday Gatherings

Naomi Robinson shares her go-to dishes and hosting tips


Everyone knows the key to an epic holiday gathering is the food. That’s why I’m showing you how to create a killer charcuterie board, an alcohol-free holiday punch that doesn’t suck, and a dessert spread that will have everyone rushing through dinner. 

I go crazy for the holidays - I love the gatherings, the food, the concerts, the plays and even the sporting events that start to get crazy this time of year.

Those are the reasons they call it the best time of the year, am I right? Every year, I’m pushing to make it an even better holiday season than last year.  Two years ago, my family made me promise not to bust out any holiday decor or recipes until October 1st, and then they made me push the Christmas lights out from November 1st to at least November 15th. 

All that aside, I’m pushing ahead with holiday cheer by already purchasing our tickets for a holiday play, a live basketball game (this has been a family tradition since Cole was a little guy), and of course there’s always a holiday movie we check out as well. The list goes on and on because I’m all about traditions, and especially when it comes to holiday foods. 

This holiday season, my go-to hosting recipes are a killer charcuterie board, alcohol-free cocktails, and a dessert that will have guests rushing to the end of dinner. With my Capital One Savor Card, I’ll be able to earn cashback while creating all of my holiday hosting essentials.  

First up, Charcuterie Board

Don’t skip it, it’s the mark of a good evening of eats to come. Here are my best pro-tips for a killer charcuterie board:

Variety is key here—sweet + savory, pungent + mild, heavy + light. There’s a reason they say opposites attract—they balance each other. That’s why on a lot of charcuterie boards you’ll see fruit next to uncured meats, soft rich cheeses next to mild firm cheese, fermented foods like olives next to rich fatty pate.

Once you balance the board, you’ll need to pick a wine to go with it. Think light wines. Wines that that are little bubbly and almost sweet are good counterparts to the heavy salts, fats and spices of the of the uncured meats. I prefer rieslings, pinot gris (not pinot grigio), and I know everyone is all about rose, but I’m about lambrusco. If in doubt, think wines that can be chilled for the best charcuterie wine pairing. Avoid the heavy reds here and save them for a later course.

Let's Talk Drinks

Speaking of wine... There are a ton of holiday favorites like mulled wines, spiked ciders and bourbon heavy eggnogs, but be sure you are doing it right by offering an alcohol-free option like this holiday punch. Nothing gets the party started like a good sip, so here’s what you need for the most epic non-alcoholic punch. Start off with a good cider, this is the base that everything else will follow, so don’t skimp on quality. Next up: warm spices like cinnamon and bright citrus like orange and limes will go particularly well together. Sometimes if I really want to punch it up, I add in few shavings of fresh ginger for depth and warmer notes. Remember every good holiday party needs a good holiday punch that everyone can enjoy.

My Favorite Part of the Evening

Next up, I’m skipping over the main course and going directly to desserts. Let’s dive into my special world of holiday cookies and a few traditional standouts. Think teacakes, butter cookies, shortbread, gingerbread, stollen, panettone anything and everything peppermint, chocolates, mince pies, popcorn, candies, and more cookies. Admittedly this portion of the evening gets out of control with offerings. What can I say, I like my holiday gatherings to end with a bang!

I also like to live up to my nickname of "Cookie Queen", with that I’m sharing my best and most favorite cookie that disappears the quickest: Mexican Wedding Cakes, also known as Russian Tea Cakes. This was one of the first holiday cookies I learned how to bake, so not only does it have a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in it for me, but it’s also one that I’ve had a lot of time to perfect and riff on.

By riff on, I mean there are so many variations you can go with once you have the base recipe from below. You can: (1) change out the pecans to just about any nut, but be sure to keep the nut ratio intact (2) add in zests for some kick (3) herbs for a savory note (4) and even pulverized freeze-dried fruit for a stronger profile variation. A few combinations I really enjoy: pecans with 2 tablespoons of orange zest; walnuts with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; roasted cashews with 1 teaspoon of black pepper, or you can even add earl grey tea leaves. See what I mean about riffing – the possibilities are nearly endless.

Now that we have the food handled - hit the link here to see how you start earning some rewards for all your holiday gatherings.

Recipe: Mexican Wedding Cakes

YIELDS 24 1 ½-INCH COOKIES

1 ¼ cup of pecans
1/3 cup of sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg yolk

Directions:

1. To toast nuts: spread pecan onto a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 350F for 5-7

2. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour and salt to mix. Add the butter in small chunks, vanilla extract and the egg. Mix until mixture looks damp and begins to clump together. Add nuts and fold until just combined.  Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Place cookies dough 2-inches apart. Bake for 22-24 minutes. Rotate cookies sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking.

4. Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool for 5 minutes , then using a  sieve dust powdered sugar over the cookies.


Baker's Royale, Naomi Robinson
Self-taught baker and cook Naomi Robinson blends family and lifestyle through her rich, mouthwatering and award-winning content.

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