Hey there! Hope you’re all having a great weekend. This 60 degree weather here in NYC is really throwing me off, but thanks to my festive decorations and the holiday brunch we hosted yesterday (that I started telling you about on Friday!), it’s still beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Hosting in a small apartment isn’t always easy, but such is the price to pay for living in Manhattan. We make it work though, and I found the key is to manage your guest list, stay organized, and clean as you go.
- The guest list was easy. The six of us have been wanting to go to Calle Ocho for brunch but found they didn’t have any available brunch reservations for the rest of the year! Since we already saved the date on our calendars, I decided to just have everyone over instead.
- I’m pretty organized by nature, and planned out everything from the menu, drinks, serving ware, decorations, and grocery list ahead of time. I finished my grocery shopping after work on Thursday and before work on Friday, and also did a quick clean of my apartment before getting started on my Friday night cooking.
- I really have no choice but to clean as I go along. As you can see, I barely have room for myself in my kitchen and I was definitely getting in my own way trying to get everything ready!
Here’s a look at the menu. This ended up being way too much food, but I would rather overfeed people and have leftovers than have everyone go home hungry!
- Chicken Wing Dip (Recipe below!)
- French Toast Casserole with Praline Topping
- Trader Joe’s Quiches
- Candied Maple Bacon
- Blood Orange Bellini
- Mulled Wine
I decided to start making what I could on Friday night. The French Toast Casserole needed to set in the fridge overnight, so I got busy slicing my French bread and mixing the delicious batter.
I also made my Chicken Wing Dip (my signature dish!) the night before to get that out of the way so I could just pop it in the oven for about a half hour before everyone arrived.
Everyone showed up around noon on Saturday and even though I did a lot of prep the night before, my morning was still busy with the following to-dos:
- Set up the Bellini bar (Prosecco on ice and Blood Orange Italian soda)
- Make the Praline topping for the French Toast Casserole
- Put together the Mulled Wine and let simmer for about an hour
- Bake the Chicken Wing Dip
- Make the Candied Maple Bacon
- Bake the French Toast Casserole
- Bake the frozen Trader Joe’s quiches
In the Kitchen
I finished the chicken wing dip right before everyone arrived and even grabbed a couple bites before getting back to work.
Next up was the Candied Maple Bacon (<–link to recipe!). To be honest, I was a little disappointed with how it turned out. I thought it would have a little more of a “candied” flavor and the slices would be crispier. As you can see below, the slices were still pretty flimsy. The flavor was very good (I mean, it was bacon with sugar so kind of hard to mess that up), but don’t you just hate when you follow a recipe to a T, and it just doesn’t turn out quite right?
If I had more time to play around I would have left them in the oven longer, but I had my French Toast Casserole with Praline Topping to get in because it had to bake for 40 minutes and everyone was getting hungry.
This recipe was a winner! Very rich and sweet, so I wouldn’t make it often, but I thought it was a perfect holiday treat 🙂
About halfway through the 40 minutes, I added my three Trader Joe’s Quiches to the oven: Cheddar and Broccoli, Mexican (cheese and pepper), and Spinach, Cheddar, and Mushroom.
Want to know what was another hit? The Mulled Wine! I was a little unsure how it would turn out with all the citrus and spiced flavors, but boy was it tasty. I can’t wait for an excuse to make it again!
Alyssa also made a spinach and garlic pull-apart bread that we demolished throughout the afternoon, and Justin and Jessica brought these amazing cookies from the famed Levain Bakery and I’m super excited about the leftovers in my kitchen right now!
We all stuffed our faces and watched Elf before starting our white elephant gift exchange (AJ and I ended up with Taboo and a Gingerbread house kit!), and we ended the party by playing some card games.
It was such a fun afternoon! I hope to make this a tradition, it’s the perfect excuse to try out new recipes and get everyone together.
Chicken Wing Dip Recipe
I seriously get requests to make this stuff all the time, so promise me you’ll make it, it will surely be a party hit – and it’s so easy!
Come back on Wednesday for the Mulled Wine and French Toast Casserole with Praline Topping recipes!