Drop-Ins Welcome

Food: Entertaining

You're gift-wrapping, you're baking, you're going in 18 different holiday directions when suddenly: dingdong. Entertain on the fly with smiles—not stress—with advice and a few back-pocket recipes from cookbook author Julia Turshen.

By Maggie Glisan
Photos by Andy Lyons

Cocktails & Nibbles

Whisk-together cocktail

Mixing drinks in a large measuring cup means you can easily serve several guests at one time (plus you don't have to own a cocktail shaker). This cocktail also features one of my favorite bar-cart staples: bitters. They add a touch of warmth and spice that I love around the holidays.

Cranberry, Maple & Rye Sour

Total | 10 min.

  • 3 Tbsp. rye, bourbon, or whiskey
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Few dashes Angostura bitters
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 Tbsp. seltzer
  • Fresh cranberries (optional)

In a large measuring cup whisk rye, lemon juice, cranberry juice, maple syrup, and bitters. Fill a highball glass with crushed ice; pour in rye mixture. Top with seltzer; stir. Garnish with cranberries, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 1 serving.

Each serving 175 cal, 4 mg sodium, 20 g carb.

Pantry-raid snack

Oven-roasted beans are an unexpected alternative to a jar of mixed nuts. You can use just about any bean and spice combo, like black beans sprinkled with smoked paprika or chickpeas dusted with curry powder.

Crispy Black-Eyed Peas with Old Bay

You can also use black beans or chickpeas. For black beans, roast about 25 minutes, chickpeas about 35.

Active | 15 min. Total | 45 min.

  • 1 15-oz. can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Place black-eyed peas in an even layer on a clean dish towel; cover with another towel; pat dry. Uncover and let air-dry for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer peas to a 15×10-inch baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt. Spread in a single layer. Roast black-eyed peas about 30 minutes or until peas are slightly cracked, browned, and crisp, stirring occasionally.
  • Sprinkle hot peas with the seasoning; stir well. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 1 cup.

Each ¼-cup serving 129 cal, 7 g fat, 479 mg sodium, 12 g carb, 3 g fiber, 4 g pro.

Fast appetizer

This dip takes no time to make but is impressive and a little unusual, even though it uses ingredients you may already have in your fridge. For a tasty dipper, cut pitas into wedges and keep in the freezer. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toast in the oven.

Whipped Goat Cheese & Green Olive Dip

Total | 15 min.

  • ½ cup green olives, pitted
  • 8 oz. plain goat cheese
  • ½ cup full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

In a food processor pulse olives until roughly chopped; set aside half of the mixture. To remaining olives in food processor, add goat cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and ½ tsp. salt. Process about 1½ minutes or until extremely smooth and slightly aerated, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and top with reserved olives. Serve immediately. Makes 1¾ cups dip.

Each 2-tbsp. serving 95 cal, 8 g fat, 14 mg chol, 222 mg sodium, 1 g carb, 4 g pro.

"Embrace simple food and techniques. The more you can relax, the better everything tastes." —Julia Turshen

Coffee Date

Go-to chocolate cake

This is the little black dress of desserts; dress it up or down depending on the occasion. It makes a delicious afternoon snack with coffee or tea, but could also get gussied up with whipped cream and raspberries for a special holiday dessert. If you want to get ahead, the cake freezes great, too. When company arrives, just wrap wedges in foil and warm in the oven.

One-Bowl Chocolate & Orange Cake

Active | 20 min. Total | 1 hr. 20 min.

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 Tbsp.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (such as Guittard or Droste), sifted if lumpy
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Large pinch ground cloves
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • Powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom and sides of one 9×2-inch round cake pan with baking spray. Line the bottom of the cake pan with a circle of parchment paper. Spray parchment with baking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the 1¼ cups flour, the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, and ½ tsp. salt. Add melted butter, eggs, orange zest and juice, buttermilk, and vanilla; whisk the mixture until batter is smooth. Toss chocolate chips with remaining 1 Tbsp. flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold chocolate chips into the batter. Transfer batter to the prepared cake pan.
  • Bake about 1 hour or until the cake is firm to the touch. Cool in pan on wire rack. Run a table knife around edge of pan. Invert (you might need to give the pan a little whack). Peel off parchment; invert cake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Each serving 439 cal, 21 g fat, 79 mg chol, 344 mg sodium, 64 g carb, 4 g fiber, 7 g pro.

Sweet spoonful

A fruit compote will keep in the fridge for weeks, so it's the perfect thing to keep on hand to jazz up a bowl of vanilla ice cream or a slice of store-bought pound cake or sponge cake (not to mention this chocolate-and-orange cake). You can even serve it alongside cheese at happy hour. I love how roasting cherries concentrates their flavor. And what's especially cool about this recipe is that you can use frozen fruit.

Roasted Bourbon Cherries

Active | 10 min. Total | 35 min.

  • 1 12-oz. bag frozen pitted tart red or dark sweet cherries
  • 3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. bourbon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small roasting dish stir together cherries, brown sugar, bourbon, ginger, and salt.
  • Roast about 25 minutes or until cherries have released a lot of liquid and mixture smells very fragrant, stirring occasionally. Stir in vanilla. Let cool. Transfer to a clean jar and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature or warm gently in a saucepan over low heat. Makes 1½ cups.

Each 2-tbsp. serving 54 cal, 16 mg sodium, 11 g carb.

Party time, anytime

Stock your bar cart like a mixologist. BHG.com/BarCart

Dinner Drop-By

Effortless main

Scampi under the broiler is one of the most impressive meals for company, and it requires minimal effort. I always keep frozen shrimp on hand, but this sheet-pan method also works well for chopped pieces of chicken breast or thigh.

Spaghetti with Sheet-Pan Scampi

Active | 15 min. Total | 20 min.

  • 2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Large handful fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. dried spaghetti, cooked al dente

  • Preheat broiler. Place shrimp on a 15×10-inch baking pan; drizzle with half of the melted butter. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic over shrimp in pan. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and the crushed red pepper (if desired). Toss to evenly coat; spread shrimp in an even layer. Pour the wine over shrimp.
  • Broil the shrimp 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until pink and firm to the touch, turning shrimp once halfway through cooking.
  • Drizzle remaining butter and the lemon juice over hot shrimp. Sprinkle with lemon zest and parsley. Toss to combine.
  • Spoon scampi and sauce over spaghetti. Toss to coat. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving 594 cal, 20 g fat, 411 mg chol, 777 mg sodium, 49 g carb, 4 g fiber, 54 g pro.

Side with endless spins

Roasting vegetables is such an easy side for company. The prep and cleanup are limited, and you can swap in just about any vegetable—squash, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, even carrots. Finish with a big squeeze of lemon, a handful of toasted nuts, and a sprinkle of cheese, and you're good to go.

Roasted Broccoli with Pecorino & Pistachios

Active | 10 min. Total | 40 min.

  • 1 to 1½ lb. broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. finely grated pecorino cheese

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 15×10-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Place broccoli on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt. Roast broccoli 30 minutes or until tender and well browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to serving platter.
  • Drizzle lemon over broccoli; top with nuts and pecorino. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving 148 cal, 11 g fat, 4 mg chol, 257 mg sodium, 10 g carb, 4 g fiber, 6 g pro.

More from Julia

In her new cookbook, Small Victories, Julia presents simple, delicious meals along with kitchen wisdom and shortcuts to boost your cooking confidence (Chronicle Books, $35).