So you’re bringing something to a holiday party this year. Chances are you’re rounding out the menu for the hosts, or supplying a dish that you or others on special diets can enjoy. Want to be confident that your contribution will look great and taste fantastic when you arrive? Check out our foolproof advice and mouthwatering recipes.
Getting it From Here to There
Let your host know ahead of time what you’ll be bringing so he or she can anticipate duplications or offer suggestions on what’s needed.
If your dish should be served warm, it’s best if you can keep the food hot while you transport it. Specially designed insulated carriers are great. You can also improvise by having the food very hot, then wrapping it first in foil and then in several layers of thick bath towel. (I’ve had dishes stay warm for chilly half-hour car rides like this!)
If you do need to reheat your contribution, check with your host ahead of time to make sure there’ll be oven or stovetop space available.
It’s best to bring any special serving equipment or dinnerware your recipe will need with you. This goes for spoons or spatulas, pie servers, platters, specially sized bowls, etc. If it’s not practical to bring your own, consult ahead of time to make sure your host will have what you need.
A starter or hors d’oeuvre is a fun and easy and fun contribution, and it’s usually good for the cook’s ego too: It’s set out before the main feast begins, so it’s bound to get a warm reception from peckish guests.
These three-ingredient Prosciutto, Brie, and Apricot Rollups opens in a new tab can’t be beat when it comes to easy shopping, and they’re gluten-free and require no cooking or warming at all. Layer them in a large airtight container with parchment or wax paper between layers for transport.
Popular Cranberry Cheddar Sausage Bites opens in a new tab are packed with seasonal flavors and can be served either warm or room temperature. You can replace the pork sausage with turkey sausage if you like, and if you opt for a spicy version just don’t overdo it with the red pepper flakes — a 1/4 teaspoon will keep the dish crowd-friendly, not fiery. For a vegetarian dip that’s super easy to put together but a total showstopper, try this Eight-Layer Mediterranean Dip opens in a new tab. You can double the ingredients for a crowd — just assemble it in a 9 x 13-inch dish or 2-quart gratin instead.
Hosts always appreciate side dishes, and a really tasty one will win you a lot of fans. A hassle-free and trendy option is a grain salad — it packs big flavor and texture and will rake in the kudos for being nutritious as well. This healthy Chestnut and Wheat Berry Salad opens in a new tab is absolutely delicious and vegan to boot. For a gluten-free option you can’t do better than a base of quinoa, and this Cranberry Quinoa Salad opens in a new tab is a great holiday player.
Spuds, anyone? A great potato dish steals the show, and most travel well too. If your host has oven space for warming, you’ll get raves from this classic Scalloped Potatoes opens in a new tab. For something a little less traditional, and with the added benefit of no reheating, try Roasted Sweet Potato Salad opens in a new tab, a unique recipe featuring a roster of crunchy, healthy veggies.
One of my blazingly popular contributions to Thanksgiving dinner for the last few years has been a raw Brussels sprout salad. Slice the sprouts thinly, add some crunchy veggies or fruits, and toss it all with a tart vinaigrette and you’ve got one of the most refreshing holiday dishes around. A good starter recipe is this Brussels Sprout and Apple Salad opens in a new tab; blanching the sprouts quickly makes them tender and brilliantly green, but you can skip this step if you want a totally raw sprout experience.
A meat alternative is almost de riguer for big celebrations these days. A great option packed with seasonal vegetables is this lovely Vegan Holiday Tart opens in a new tab, featuring two kinds of winter squash.
Another great idea is to take advantage of the season’s great mushrooms, delicious and meaty enough to make a very satisfying, very festive main course. Mushrooms star in both this hearty Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche opens in a new tab and this wonderfully robust Smoky Mushroom Gratin opens in a new tab. You can use a mix of whatever mushroom varieties you find most appealing at the market.
Special Diet Desserts
A sweet treat for everyone? It’s a holiday must! And the great news is there are more great recipes out there than ever before for people with dietary restrictions.
If you’d just like to adapt your favorite pie recipe to be gluten-free, start with this outstanding recipe for Gluten-Free Pie Crust. opens in a new tab Or make the pie not only gluten-free, but also vegan, egg-free, and without refined sugar with this vegan Date-Pecan Pumpkin Pie, opens in a new tab full of holiday flavor.
Finally, it’s impossible to pass up a mention of these gluten-free, egg-free and vegan Frosted Spiced Cupcakes opens in a new tab, as popular with kids as they are with adults.
Got a favorite holiday take-along of your own? Tell us about it!