Holiday Open House: Open Your Heart and Your Home

February 12th, 2013 posted by Marilyn Moll

by Marilyn Moll

The holiday season offers an opportunity to open our hearts to friends and relative, guests and strangers with warmth and generosity into our homes. It’s important to differentiate between Martha Stewart-style entertaining, however, and biblical hospitality. Entertaining is often lavish, and done to impress others, and done so with the expectation that your equally or more lavish party will be reciprocated. Biblical hospitality, however, emphasizes the willingness to open your home to others and share what you have without any expectations of a return or a reward, with the goal of building relationships. Are you are thinking of having an open house, dessert party, game night, birthday party or other celebration? Wonderful! The holiday season offers an opportunity to open our hearts to friends and relatives, guests and strangers with warmth and generosity into our homes. People will be delighted just to be invited to get to know you and your family better. Here are some simple and realistic planning steps. // Plan an Open House:


Determine the date, time, and purpose of your party or open house. Send out written invitations or make phone calls several weeks ahead so your event is on their calendar. RSVPs help with planning but are often overlooked. Be sure to give a date by which you wish to hear from people. Don’t stress if people fail to RSVP and show up anyway, as the social grace of response to them is becoming lost.


Start planning the food you will be serving based on the time of day your party is planned. If you start your planning up to a month ahead of time, many appetizers, cheese balls, cookies, and more can be prepared or purchased and frozen ahead. It is perfectly acceptable to incorporate convenience foods and commercial, frozen appetizers such as mini pizzas or quiches, chicken wings, or desserts to make a realistic do-able menu plan. Calculate the number of servings of each item you expect people will eat and multiply that times the number of guests. Then you will be able to make detailed lists of quantities of ingredients that will be needed for the food, as well as the supplies you wish to have on hand, including cups, plates, napkins and decorations. Paper products add more expense but also streamline cleanup, so balance cost versus convenience in all your planning. If you use what you have on hand, expenses may be controlled. Purchase the paper products, and non-perishable grocery items as far ahead as possible, always keeping an eye open for sales when you can stock up. Keep detailed lists updated and revised as you go.


Identify which serving dishes will be used for each food item and set aside all the serving pieces needed for your occasion ahead of time. If you don’t have enough serving pieces, borrow these items beforehand. Plan how you will present each food item attractively with a workable flow. This is a good time to determine who will be responsible, during the party, to keep food trays and beverage service refreshed. Enlist their help ahead of time. This would be a good opportunity to train a responsible child to be attentive to serving others.


Develop a realistic timeline for decorating (if needed), last minute food preparations, and cleaning tasks. Enlist the help of family members, friends or relatives in all aspects of food and home preparations. Remember, you do not need to do it all yourself so don’t be embarrassed about asking! Guests will be delighted to contribute whatever they can. It’s even okay to ask that the guest bring or prepare a specific item or recipe.


Pray over your plans and preparations. Ask the Lord to enable you to be creative and to plan a beautiful, delicious selection of foods without overspending. Make your party plans and preparations fun for yourself as well as the guests by keeping the attitude that you are serving the Lord and doing this for His glory. Avoid perfectionism which will rob your joy! Sometimes our best and funniest memories will be the things that were forgotten or didn’t go perfectly!


Execute your plan on party day by allowing plenty of time for last minute preparations and assigning tasks to family members.

Menu Planning Tips:


When planning the menu for an open house or a buffet, consider serving a wide variety of foods that contrast in color, shape, size, taste (sweet, sour, type of seasonings), and temperatures (hot and cold). For example, a vegetable platter with orange carrots, white cauliflower, green broccoli florettes, red cherry tomatoes, and green celery sticks gives a variety of shape, color, and crunch while the accompanying dips offer complementary smooth texture. Meatballs are warm, savory, and chewy; cheese balls are cold, smooth and spicy and can be served with crackers which are dry, flat and crunchy. Mixed nuts are small and salty; cookies, candies and other desserts contribute sweetness which contrasts and complements the salty or spicy foods being served.


Family favorites that are tried and true recipes can be served to help reinforce the memory of the occasion. As long as you have a wide variety of food items, you will have something that appeals to everyone without boredom and monotony. Leftovers are a very good thing when having a party because no-one wants to come up short on food. Besides, when you plan for leftovers, you plan for future meals that will require minimal preparations.


I suggest that your open house menu include finger foods such as a platter each for veggies and fruits, including dips, a crock-pot of meat balls or chicken wings, appetizers such as mini-quiches, a cheese ball with crackers or chips, sweets, and beverages. If you are planning around regular meal times, make sure you allow extra servings of each item as people will be hungrier and eat more. Events planned after regular meal times, such as early afternoon or after dinner will not require as much food and variety.


Beverages should be simple but tasty. Hot and cold beverages such as sweetened and unsweetened ice tea with lemon, apple cider or juice, and hot tea and coffee are sufficient. Always have a pitcher of cold water available. Beautiful, rich, sweet punches may compete with the foods you are serving. Avoid serving soda as it is expensive and the plastic bottles are tacky.

Author’s Note:

I have just completed a new e-book called Holiday Open House , just in time for the Holidays, to encourage women of all ages in biblical hospitality! Including children in plans and preparations at a young age will be the key to preventing hospitality from becoming another lost art.

Here is a small recipe sampler from the e-book:

Cheese Balls

Cheese Balls are a great way to serve cheese and crackers more economically then sliced hard cheeses. They can be made ahead easily if carefully wrapped, and re-rolled if need be. If you are going to have a party, stock up on cream cheese while it is on sale. It is used in many, many different dips, and appetizers. Be sure to buy plenty.


3 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese (3/4 lb) 8 oz cream cheese Small jar of pimentos 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 1 cup finely chopped pecans 3/4 cup mayo 1 small onion, finely chopped (optional) 2 TB Worcestershire sauce 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley Mix all ingredients together. (Tip: put cream cheese out on the counter for a few hours to warm up. It will mix much easier warm than cold.) Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the parsley and Form cheese mixture into a ball or log and roll in paprika and parsley. Chill until ready to serve, wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Serve with crackers.

Butter Nut Snowballs

I have been using this recipe for nearly 30 years!


1 Cup butter, softened 1/2 cup sugar 2 tsp. vanilla 1/2 tsp salt 2 cups all-purpose flour (I use kamut flour) 2 cups finely chopped walnuts or pecans ( I use pecans) (more of a coarse flour consistency) Confectioner’s Sugar Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and blend well. Add in the finely chopped nuts. Shape into 1 inch balls. Bake 325° F for 30 minutes. Do not brown! Roll in confectioner’s sugar while still warm and place on cooling racks.


Red and green makes these colorful and tasty for the Christmas holidays


2 packages of cream cheese (8oz) softened, 1 package ranch salad dressing mix (dry mix) 1/2 cup minced sweet red pepper 1/2 cup minced celery 1/4 cup minced green onions 1/4 cup minced black olives (optional) 3-4 flour tortillas (10 inch) In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese and dressing mix until smooth. Add the red peppers, celery, onion, and olives; mix well. Spread about 3/4 cup on each tortilla. Roll up tightly; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Yield: 15-20 servings (Double or triple as needed) Make ahead!

Chili/Cheese Dip

My children and their friends absolutely adore this dip and request it often. So easy they can make it themselves. Double the amounts for a crowd.


8 oz cream cheese 1 cup cheddar cheese 1 can chili Tortilla Chips or Fritos Optional Garnishes: sliced green onion or chopped cilantro Cut up cream cheese and lay on the bottom of an 8 inch baking pan. Pour chili on top of cream cheese. Sprinkle the cheese over the chili. Bake at 375 until heated through, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Double or triple as needed. Serving Idea: To make this into an entrée, serve with baked potatoes. Cut cooked potatoes open and spread the dip over the potatoes. Add some onions or chives.

Hummus and Pita Chips

Hummus is traditionally a creamy puree of seasoned chickpeas. Hummus is VERY inexpensive to make and really helps fill up tummies.


2 cloves roasted garlic for best flavor or raw-roughly chopped 14 cup lemon juice 14 cup drained bean liquid to make it creamy (optional) 14 oz (400g) canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)-rinsed and drained 1/2 tsp cumin or more to taste 2TB olive oil 1/2 – 1 tsp Real salt Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with a variety of vegetables.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip


2 cups of mayo 1 (14oz) jar of artichoke hearts (NOT marinated, just plain), drained and chopped 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained 1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 2 cloves minced garlic Mix all together and bake in a pie plate for 20-25 minutes in 350 degree oven or until warmed. Serve with party rye bread and wheat crackers.

Apple Brickle Dip Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese 1/2 C brown sugar 1/4 c sugar 1 t vanilla 1 pkg. toffee chips 3 tart apples, sliced Blend sugar into softened cream cheese. Slice up the apples. If you are not serving the apples immediately they may be held with lemon juice water or a bit of water with vitamin C crystals to prevent browning. Rinse off apples before serving.

Marilyn Moll (1 Posts)

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