Holiday Entertaining!


Did this Mexican Peppermint Hot Chocolate catch your eye? Sadly, you can’t use your virtual taste buds to take a sip from your computer screen. But, it’s easy to make and I’ll even tell you how. It’s part of the hot chocolate bar I set up for my holiday entertaining segment with one of my favorite catch-me-if-you-can Austinites, Chris of Republic of Austin.  What else do I “Rebeccammend” for a holiday entertaining gathering in your home? 

  • Bite-sized hors d’oeuvres or appetizers make it easy for your guests to grab a snack and encourages mingling since you can take them with you if you move around the room.  They also make it easier to eat and drink without juggling plates and glasses and trying to find a place to sit if seating is limited, or standing is encouraged in a more cocktail party-type event.
  • Add a little spice or kick to your menu. For example, in the Grilled Zucchini roll-ups below, you’ll find red peppers. In the Mexican Hot Chocolate, you’ll find cinnamon. A little zest or spicy ingredient adds a little warmth to make a chilly holiday season a little more toasty, and creates bites to remember.
  • Try to create a simple, white, warm holiday feel that isn’t necessarily holiday-specific. That way the decorations can be used year-round, or re-used, and they can be used for a classy celebration of any winter holiday, including New Years.

 Take a look at “Rebeccammended” recipes and decor set-up for a simple, elegant, warm winter celebration below. See photos at the end of the post!


 1) Zucchini Roll-Ups with goat cheese, arugula, basil, red peppers, tied with a thin blanched scallion. * Recipe modified from Rolled Zucchini ribbons with mint, chile, and goat cheese-  “Small Bites” by Jennifer Joyce.


  • 4-5 small zucchini
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 thumb-sized red chili peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced (I couldn’t find fresh, so I purchased dried red chili peppers)
  • Small bunch of fresh chives
  • Small package of mild goat cheese (not crumbles)
  • Handful of fresh mint (I used basil instead) leaves
  • 2 small handfuls of baby arugula, long stems trimmed (or any small leafy green or purple veggie)
  • toothpicks, to secure


  1. Heat a broiler pan or grill pan.
  2. Cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices–longwise
  3. Brush the zucchini strips with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  4. Cook the zucchini until grill marks appear, and the flesh of the zucchini turns more opaque and set aside to cool. *Do not overcook–remove before they are too soft
  5. Heat olive oil on a sautee pan and pan-fry the red peppers until crisp at the edges…drain on paper towels. (*I used dried red peppers, so I skipped this step).
  6. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, drop in the chives, and remove immediately with a slotted spoon. Place in cold water quickly, then leave to dry on paper towels. (This process is called blanching).
  7. Spread each zucchini strip with about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese, place a few basil or mint leaves, one leaf of arugula, and red pepper strips (or whole if dry) perpendicular to the strip so they stick out. Roll the strip up to include the items just placed across it and secure with a toothpick. Tie a chive around the roll to hold, remove toothpick. Refridgerate before serving.
  8. Enjoy!

2) Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with arugula, cilantro, scallions, and toasted sesame seeds with a citrus soy vinaigrette dressing.


  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into 1-in cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp each sea salt and pepper
  • 4 large handfuls of arugula
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • small handful of fresh cilantro


  1. 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 tbsp soy sauce
  4. 1 medium-size red chili pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
  5. 1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
  6. 1 tsp honey
  7. Juice of 1/2 lime


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss with a spoon to coat. Bake for 20 minutes, shaking tray periodically to avoid sticking. REmove from oven and set aside.
  2. Place the dressing ingredients in a jar, close the lid, and skae well. Place arugula in martini glasses and arrange squash on top. Drizzle dressing on top, and top with the toasted sesame seeds, scallions, and cilantro leaves.
  3. Enjoy!

3) Olive and Cheese Snowmen with roasted red pepper scarves.


  • Green or black olives- pitted (they must be pitted for this recipe to work! I’ve learned the hard way!)
  • Medium sized block of mild, semi-firm, but not flaky (like parmesan) cheese. (I used lite Swiss)
  • 1 jar of roasted red peppers


  1. Slice the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes. Also slice several pieces that are 1/2 inch in width, but half of that in height (to make thinner pieces as the brim of the snowman’s hat, and the base for the snowman.
  2. Stick a toothpick into one of the thinner squares to make it stand upright. String 2 olives, vertically, onto the toothpick, one on top of the other.
  3. Top with another thin square for the brim of the hat, then add a cube as the top of the hat.
  4. Slice the roasted red peppers if they are not already, into 1/4-inch wide strips. Wrap one strip around the base of the top olive to create a scarf if desired.
  5. Stand up the snowmen on a platter, and serve!
  6. Enjoy!

4) Hot Chocolate Bar. 


  • 1/4 cup of Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 4 cups of milk (or vanilla soy milk)
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon


  1. In a small saucepan, combine ingredients. Let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  2. Serve with toppings in small dishes, such as marshmallows, crushed up candy canes, shaved dark chocolate, cinnamon.

*You can also make your hot chocolate bar more elaborate by making dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate varieties of the drink to top with the goodies!

Decor- more info to come!

  1. Faux flowers: mini Poinsettias and Hydrangeas.
  2. Candles.
  3. Homemade serving trays.
  4. Square plastic coffee cups for hot chocolate bar.


holiday entertaining montage

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5 thoughts on “Holiday Entertaining!”

  • Allyson December 23, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I love the olive and cheese snowman idea! So cute!

  • TheRebecca December 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks! Isn’t he cute? Some of them look more like winter bandits, but it’s ok because I live in Texas!

  • Hilah December 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Squash salad looks great and I have all of those things in my kitchen RIGHT NOW! Whee! Holiday cook-fest!

  • Hilah December 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I just made the squash salad to take to Grandma’s house for lunch. Used all my sesame seeds in cookie-making so I just added a drop of sesame oil to the dressing. Super good! Thanks, Rebecca!

  • TheRebecca December 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Oh, excellent! I hope it’s delicious!

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