You're Invited to a Holiday Party at Our House!

Eat, Drink & Be Merry

A party you can pull off without stressing out or breaking the budget. Plus, DIY decorating tips to make it special.


Here's a little-known secret of the holidays: Sometimes it's actually easier to have everyone over to your house instead of trying to figure out how to schedule visits and gift-drops to friends, family, and neighbors. With the party plan that follows, not only will you get points for being a hostess with style and taste but you can pull it off without stressing out or blowing the holiday budget. How's that for a confidence boost?

And the Allrecipes Allstars* are the ones who helped us put this celebration together! We asked what recipes they like to serve at holiday parties, and how they make a holiday table sparkle. What we got back was deliciously doable for busy people. So get ready to host a party where everyone has fun…even you!

Hot Pepper Cheese Ball

Prep | 1 hr, 5 min Total | 1 hr, 10 min Serves | 8 to 10 (1 ¼-pound ball)

Rating * * * * *

956 reviews

armagazine.com/cheese-ball

"This recipe became a favorite of mine about two years ago. I make it for every party I have and every party I go to. Serve with your favorite crackers.” —Michelle

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chopped pecans [ From our kitchen: We needed only 2/3 cup pecans to coat ball.]

  • In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, cheddar, sharp cheddar and pepper Jack cheeses, onion powder, garlic powder, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Shape mixture into a ball, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  • Roll ball in chopped pecans. [ From our kitchen: We split the mixture in half and formed two balls—we rolled one in crushed pistachios and the other in the pecans. Cheese balls keep up to 1 week in the fridge.]

Per 2-ounce serving 351 Cal; 33g Fat (14g Sat); 12g Pro; 4g Carb; 1g Fiber; 356mg Sodium; 71mg Chol

Cocktail Meatballs

Submitted by Lara

Prep | 20 min Cook | 1 hr, 25 min Total | 1 hr, 45 min Serves | 10 (makes 40 meatballs)

Rating * * * * *

29 reviews

armagazine.com/cocktail-meatballs

"These tasty meatballs will disappear quickly from anyone's holiday party. My mom makes them every year for New Year's Eve, and now so do I. These do very well in a slow cooker, as you can simmer them before serving as well as keep them hot for the duration of your party.” —Lara

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 (8-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
  • ¾ cup chili sauce (such as Heinz chili sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, egg, water, bread crumbs, and minced onion. Roll into 1-inch meatballs.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning once.
  • In a slow cooker or large saucepan over low heat, blend cranberry sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Add meatballs, and simmer for 1 hour before serving. [From our kitchen: Thirty minutes is plenty of time on top of the stove—the meatballs are cooked through by then.]

Per 4-Meatball Serving 193 Cal; 10g Fat (4g Sat); 10g Pro; 15g Carb; 0.5g Fiber; 85mg Sodium; 55mg Chol

See how to make this recipe at armagazine.com/cocktail-meatballs-video.

Allrecipes.com 5-Star Rating

Dilled Shrimp

Submitted by Wolseley

Prep | 15 min Cook | 5 min Total | 8 hr, 50 min (overnight) Serves | 8 (4 cups)

Rating * * * * *

80 reviews

armagazine.com/dilled-shrimp

"You can't have a Danish holiday meal without endless platters of dilled shrimp. Served on a red serving platter, it makes the perfect Christmas dish that will have your guests heaping up pyramids of shrimp on their plates. No Scandinavian buffet would be complete without it!” —Wolseley

  • 2 quarts water
  • ¼ cup coarse salt
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 5 sprigs dill
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, with shells
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced dill
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper [From our kitchen: We found we needed to double the dressing—oil, vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper—for 2 pounds of shrimp.]

  • Bring water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add salt, sugar, and dill sprigs; stir until sugar has dissolved. Add shrimp; cook until shells turn pink and meat is no longer translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain shrimp through a colander, discard dill, and chill in refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes.
  • Once shrimp have cooled, peel and devein them; discard shells. [From our kitchen: It took us about an hour to shell all the shrimp—there's a lot!—so factor that into your prep time.] Whisk together oil, vinegar, minced dill, salt, and pepper; toss with shrimp to coat. Cover and chill overnight in refrigerator; serve with sprigs of fresh dill.

Per 1/3-Cup Serving 183 Cal; 5g Fat (1g Sat); 23g Pro; 10g Carb; 0g Fiber; 2,889mg Sodium; 173mg Chol

Pepperoni Stuffed Mushrooms

Submitted by Koalagirl

Prep | 25 min Cook | 35 min Total | 1 hr Serves | 24 mushrooms

Rating * * * * *

4 reviews

armagazine.com/stuffed-mushrooms

"This appetizer is by far the most popular with all my friends and family. These mushrooms will disappear in seconds! Pepperoni and mushrooms together—you'll think you are eating a pizza!” —Koalagirl

  • 24 large button mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, minced (about ⅓ cup)
  • ¾ cup diced pepperoni
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup crushed buttery round crackers
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup chicken broth

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • Remove and chop mushroom stems. Set caps to the side.
  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushroom stems, onion, pepperoni, and garlic and cook until onions are tender. Stir in cracker crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, pepper, and chicken broth; remove from heat and allow to cool to the touch.
  • Arrange mushroom caps on prepared baking sheet, then stuff with pepperoni mixture.
  • Bake until filling is hot and mushrooms are cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. [From our kitchen: We needed 35 minutes in the oven for our mushrooms to cook all the way through.]

Per 2-Mushroom Serving 155 Cal; 11g Fat (4g Sat); 6g Pro; 8g Carb; 0.8g Fiber; 388mg Sodium; 21mg Chol

Holiday Hot Spinach Dip

Submitted by Michelle Barr

Prep | 20 min Cook | 20 min Total | 40 min Makes | 3 cups

Rating * * * * *

29 reviews

armagazine.com/spinach-dip

""A yummy hot vegetable dip! Serve with your favorite crackers.” —Michelle Barr

  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (6.5-ounce) jar artichoke hearts, drained and mashed
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Mix together spinach, bell pepper, garlic, artichokes, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese. [From our kitchen: It's hard to mash artichokes by hand; we suggest giving them a whirl in a food processor instead.] Season with salt and pepper. Mixture will be thick; add cream to thin to dip consistency. Spoon into a 1-quart baking dish.
  • 3 Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until bubbly. Serve with crackers.

Per 2-Tablespoon Serving 35 Cal; 3 g Fat (2 g Sat); 2 g Pro; 2 g Carb; 0.7 g Fiber; 84 mg Sodium; 7 mg Chol

Allrecipes.com 5-Star Rating

Always Juicy Baked Ham

Submitted by bitsybites

Prep | 10 min Cook | 2 hrs Total | 2 hr, 25 min Serves | 10

Rating * * * * *

8 reviews

armagazine.com/juicy-baked-ham

"A never-fail recipe that is a family favorite. Frequent basting during the cooking time is key to a delicious result. We can't help taking several tester bites while waiting for dinner to be ready. Makes great leftovers for sandwiches. A Maritimes tradition with home-baked beans and fresh bakery bread. Also fantastic with potato scallops and buttered green beans.” —Bitsybites

  • 1 (12-ounce) can or bottle beer
  • 2 tablespoons unpacked brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 (8-pound) bone-in smoked ham [From our kitchen: Smoked ham is already cooked, so you're really just heating it through in this recipe.]

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Whisk beer, brown sugar, and mustard together in a bowl.
  • Place ham cut side up in a large roasting pan. [From our kitchen: We recommend cooking the ham cut side down; cut side up contributes to drying out.] Pour beer mixture over ham.
  • Bake until ham begins to brown, about 15 minutes, basting 4 to 5 times.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Cover roasting pan with a lid or aluminum foil.
  • Continue to bake until ham is heated through, about 90 minutes more, basting frequently. [From our kitchen: We wrapped our pan tightly with foil and didn't need to baste the ham while covered—it stayed nice and juicy!]
  • Remove lid or foil and bake until ham is well browned, about 15 minutes more. Allow ham to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. [From our kitchen: We trimmed off the rind and fat before slicing.]

Per 5-Ounce Serving 570 Cal; 42g Fat (15g Sat); 42g Pro; 3g Carb; 0g Fiber; 2,963mg Sodium; 127mg Chol

Lemon Parsley Green Beans

Submitted by Rachel C.

Prep | 10 min Cook | 12 min Total | 22 min Serves | 6 (4 cups)

Rating * * * * *

12 reviews

armagazine.com/lemon-green-beans

"This is a delicious recipe. I found it while shopping one Saturday at the local produce market.” —Rachel C.

  • 1 pinch white sugar
  • 1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed [From our kitchen: You could easily bump this up to 1½ pounds green beans; there's plenty of garlic mixture. We doubled entire recipe for the buffet!]
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat; add sugar and beans. Cook until beans are bright green and tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
  • Combine butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook until butter melts. Stir in garlic; cook until pale beige and fragrant. Stir in beans; cook until wilted and garlic is dark brown, about 4 minutes. Toss beans with lemon zest and parsley; cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer beans to a serving dish, and garnish with lemon wedges.

Per 1-Cup Serving 119 Cal; 8g Fat (4g Sat); 3g Pro; 13g Carb; 6g Fiber; 148mg Sodium; 15mg Chol

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Vegetables with Thyme and Maple Syrup

Submitted by Don

Prep | 30 min Cook | 45 min Total | 1 hr, 15 min Serves | 4 (makes 4 cups)

Rating * * * * *

3 reviews

armagazine.com/sweet-potatoes-and-veg

"Packed with flavor, these potatoes are a brilliant addition to any feast. Different from the norm, this dish will grace any table.” —Don

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into long, thin rectangles
  • 1 large carrot, cut into long, thin rectangles
  • 1 parsnip, cut into long, thin rectangles Extra-virgin olive oil as needed Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste [From our kitchen: We doubled this entire recipe for the buffet and used a 12x17-inch roasting pan.]

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. [From our kitchen: If you're making multiple dishes from this menu, it's fine to keep the oven at 350 degrees F, same temp as for ham.]
  • Scatter vegetables onto a jelly roll pan; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper. [From our kitchen: We used 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper.]
  • Roast until vegetables are partially soft, about 30 minutes. Scatter thyme sprigs over vegetables and drizzle with maple syrup. Return to oven and bake until vegetables are soft, about 15 more minutes.

Per 1-Cup Serving 218 Cal; 7g Fat (1g Sat); 2g Pro; 38g Carb; 6g Fiber; 176mg Sodium; 0mg Chol


Boscobel Beach Ginger Cake

Submitted by Margorita Whyte

Prep | 30 min Cook | 45 min Total | 1 hr, 25 min Serves | 12

Rating * * * * *

63 reviews

armagazine.com/ginger-cake

"This is a Jamaican cake. It attracted rave reviews at my church's Valentine's tea party. It has been a mainstay at prayer breakfasts too.” —Margorita Whyte

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1¼ cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup grated fresh ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, for dusting

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch Bundt pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in grated ginger root and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. [From our kitchen: Our cake took almost an hour to cool completely.] Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Per Serving 362 Cal; 18g Fat (11g Sat); 6g Pro; 46g Carb; 1g Fiber; 365mg Sodium; 113mg Chol


Diy Decorating

We asked the Allrecipes Allstars for their holiday tabletop and decor ideas.

Have a Ball

"Cheap Christmas ornaments make everything sparkle during the holidays. I made this wreath last Christmas with a hot-glue gun and got so many compliments when I hung it on my front door! —Greengirl24

Back to Nature

"Collect pinecones and acorns in your yard (or a neighbor's…shhh). Spray-paint them with gold or silver metallic paint. Place in a large glass cylinder with a large white candle or within a centerpiece. —Donnam

Our House

"Gingerbread houses are a must! We make them every year. The kids love being able to get their hands into something that they can eventually eat, if it makes it that far! My son has the tendency to eat a good portion of his decorations before they make it onto the house. [From AR: We ordered ours from wilton.com and just assembled and decorated.] —Carloinagurl142

Highs and Lows

"For buffets I try to avoid setting a flat table. Use sturdy containers or even paint cans, taped together in a triangle with duct tape, then draped with a pretty coordinating or contrasting cloth to cover the containers. Place platters on top to elevate them and create more space on the table and a more interesting tablescape. Cake stands also work well for this purpose. —Baking Nana

A Good Run

"Wrapping paper makes a great runner on a dining table or counter, and the options are endless during the holidays! —Mrsfisher0729

Pick a Palette

"When I decorate for a holiday, it's all about color scheme. I choose two or three colors and carry those into the decor throughout my home (even the bathroom!). From candles to placemats, table runners/cloths, centerpieces, and knickknacks, everything stays true to the colors, which creates a sense of continuity and a festive mood and makes the home look very pulled together. —Kristen Kelley

Stick Shift

"I have lots of crystal candlestick holders. I place Christmas-tree ball ornaments in them with the hanger hidden on the underneath side (one ball per holder—sometimes I remove the hanger). Then I arrange them on my food table, on the buffets, on the mantel…wherever I need something festive-looking. —Paula