(BPT) - When entertaining during the holiday season, time is of the essence. Between cleaning, shopping, decorating and mingling with friends and family, there's hardly enough time to cook let alone prepare an elaborate seven course meal. However, the lack of time doesn't mean your food or your guests have to suffer. By combining classic dishes with unique ingredients, you can enhance the flavor of your recipes without having to spend the entire evening in the kitchen.
Instead of preparing an over-the-top feast, try opting for simple and satisfying fare with a subtle modern twist to wow your guests. Often, it's just that extra ingredient that can really tie together your favorite appetizers, entrees and desserts. Jessica Segarra, of The Novice Chef food blog, offers three simple tips to create standout holiday dishes.
* While it's easy to get caught up in the moment, don't let the holidays sidetrack your guests from eating healthy. Instead, make wholesome, lighter options the life of the party by adding unexpected ingredients to otherwise bland dishes. Serve protein packed, homemade sweet potato hummus with veggies and low-fat pretzel crackers, the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors for fall and winter entertaining. Not only will the hummus keep your guests satisfied, it can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
* Sweet-and-savory never fails. Look for recipes that combine both elements to add a well-balance boost of flavor. This holds true for both desserts and entrees. “Pretzels are my go-to ingredient for adding crunch and just the right amount of salty goodness to my sweeter dishes,” says Segarra. “I've found Pretzel Crisps (R) offer the most versatility when it comes to flavor and use. “They can be easily paired with my favorite holiday desserts, including beautifully layered trifles.”
* Select dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Entertaining is no fun if you're confined to the kitchen while your meal cooks. Choosing a baked entree like pork medallions or chicken breasts that can be prepped before your guests arrive can help to free you up to socialize.
Holiday gatherings are supposed to be fun for everyone, including the hosts. By adopting some simple time-saving secrets to make your food shine, both you and your food can be the life of the party. So, rethink the holidays and celebrate with these seasonally inspired recipes at your next gathering.
Everything Pretzel Crisps Crusted Pork Medallions with Sweet Maple Gravy
Makes 4 servings
1 pound pork loin, sliced into 1 1/2-inch rounds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, whisked
3 cups Everything Pretzel Crisps, crushed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the gravy:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking dish with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Set aside. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Place eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Spread crushed Pretzel Crisps on a rimmed plate. Working with one pork medallion at a time, coat pork in flour, dip into eggs and then press into pretzels. Repeat process until all pork medallions have been coated. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add four to five pork medallions at a time, cooking until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer browned pork medallions to prepared baking dish. Repeat process until all pork medallions have been browned. Place pork medallions in the oven and bake until cooked through, or until internal temperature reaches 140 F, about 8 minutes. Let chops rest for 5 minutes after baking. While pork is in the oven, melt butter over medium-high heat in the skillet used to cook the pork. Whisk in flour, scrapping the edges to include any of the browned pork bits in the pan. Stir continually with a wire whisk until the flour has thickened and started to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour in maple syrup and 1/2 cup of milk, continually whisking. After about 30 seconds, gravy should start to thicken again. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk and whisk until combined. Remove gravy from heat and serve drizzled on top of pork medallions.
Dark Chocolate & Peppermint Pretzel Crisps Brownie Trifle
1 box fudge brownie mix
1 - 4 ounce bag Dark Chocolate & Peppermint Pretzel Crisps
3 cups whole milk
2 packages (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding
1 tub (11 oz.) whipped topping, divided
Crushed peppermint, for garnish
Heat oven to 350 F (325 F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease pan with butter or nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, mix brownies as directed for fudge brownies, using water, oil and eggs. Bake as directed. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Once brownies are cooled, cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside. Then in a medium bowl, beat milk and pudding mixes with whisk for 2 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in 1 cup whipped topping. Place 1/2 of brownie cubes in 2-qt. bowl. Top with a layer of Dark Chocolate & Peppermint Pretzel Crisps, followed by half of the pudding mixture and another layer of whipped topping. Repeat all layers. Sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint and one whole Pretzel Crisps. Refrigerate until ready to serve.