Kate Flora here, still busy doing my homework, way behind on holiday shopping, with nothing
wrapped and no holiday tree. So you won’t be surprised to learn that when I sat down to write a blog post, I came up kind of empty. Childhood Christmas, I thought. Dug through the old photos. Came up uninspired. Holiday baking, I thought. But I’m not a very good baker, so that was out. And then I remembered: Thea’s Quick and Dirty Holiday Party ideas. Everyone can use a little help from Thea Kozak, right?
So I dug through my old Thea Kozak mysteries, and there it was, on page 283 of An Educated Death. Thea is consulting on a student death at a private school, and the headmistress’s assistant is in a tizzy because she’s supposed to give a party and the school’s emergency has had her working overtime. Thea says: “Are you really in trouble with your own hors d’oeuvres? Because I’ve got some great quick and dirty recipes.” And when the answer is yes, she starts reeling off advice:
“Hope you don’t mind cream cheese. It’s the staff of life. . . .Get some smoked trout, about half a pound. You have a food processor? Okay, you mix it with a package of cream cheese, horseradish, and lemon juice. Thin it with some half and half it it’s too thick. Great on crackers. It’s also wonderful on cucumber slices. Use the English kind, they don’t had those big seeds. Next, a can of crab, another package of cream cheese, a little lemon juice, and a teaspoon or two of curry. Mix it together it the food processor, put it in a dish and bake for about twenty-five minutes.”
I dictated while she scribbled frantically.
“Now, everyone is impressed by piles of food. Doesn’t have to be special, just has to be massive. So get a couple pounds of shrimp, pile ’em on a platter with a bed of lettuce, use a green pepper in the middle filled with cocktail sauce and lots of lemon wedges. Do the same with a platter of raw veggies. Use sugar snap peas, red, yellow, and orange peppers, those ready-peeled baby carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Hollow out a small red cabbage and a small green cabbage, fill one with ranch dressing and one with honey mustard dressing. Belgian endive. Separate it into spears, fill the big end with herbed cheese, arrange on a tray like flower petals and sprinkle with sprouts.”
“Stop,” she said, “this is great but you’re making me hungry. But how do you know all this? You never entertain. You’re always at work. I know you are.”
“I used to have a life once. And my mom is the world’s greatest cook. Don’t forget little smoky sausages and Swedish meatballs with a dish of mustard. Don’t forget toothpicks.”
For my holiday parties, I add a spiral sliced ham, a basket of assorted breads, a variety of mustards, and a caviar pie. Here’s that recipe:
Mix 6 chopped, hard-cooked eggs with 3 T. of mayo
1 c. minced onion
8 oz. cream cheese mixed with 2/3 c. sour cream
Thea and I wish you a very happy holiday.
Pear vodka, St. Germain or other elderflower liqueur, the juice of a fresh lime. Shake with ice or pour over ice. And be careful. Be very careful. These are addictive.
Want to go fancier? Slice some pears, marinate in a bit of the vodka, and add to the drink.