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The Best 2023 Guide to Holiday Entertaining

Some things come standard with a holiday party: friends, family and good times. But to make your holiday party stand out, especially to make it a stress-free party, consider the following additional steps:
Mom and child holiday baking (1)

We know who the big kids on the block are regarding holiday baking. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before we know it, and at Panhandle Milling, we are already looking forward to the parties, fun, Christmas desserts,  friends, and family the season entails.

One of our three core tenets is people, and we’re counting down the days until we can hold our family, friends, and loved ones close to celebrate the season, get back together, get back to basics, and spend some quality time with our favorite recipes.

Holiday Parties 101

Some things come standard with a holiday party: friends, family, and good times. But to make your holiday party stand out, especially to make it a stress-free party, consider the following additional steps:

Create lists

Being prepared lets you enjoy the party without being stressed. That includes recipes (which we will get to later) but should also incorporate a few things you may not have thought of, such as

  • Who should I invite and how?
  • How do I keep my home smelling nice?
  • What kind of party games will be played?
  • What time of day will the party begin and when does it end?
  • What am I going to do for food?

Decide on a budget.

The holiday can get expensive, and a little decoration here and a couple of replacement bulbs there, and you’ve blown through your budget before you even get halfway through the advent calendar. At Panhandle Milling, we are all about reducing stress — which is why those awesome holiday recipes are on their way — which is why we recommend deciding on a budget and sticking to it. Be sure to provide a little wiggle room for unforeseen expenses,, but you don’t want what is supposed to be a fun gathering to break the bank.

Cook ahead of time.

Less time in the kitchen means more time with guests. And spending time with people is the whole point of a party in the first place. And if you haven’t spotted our theme yet, cooking in advance also helps reduce stress. Prepping in advance gives you time to make memories. So, let’s get to those recipes!

Choosing the right recipes for your holiday party 

When people say goodbye at the end of the night, they first talk about the food. They’ve probably already been discussing it with the other guests all night. Set yourself up for compliments with big flavors and low stress with some recipes you can prepare in advance and take little prep work.

Recipes served at room temperature. 

The last thing you want is somebody coming to you with a cold meatball telling you the Sterno is out. You also don’t want an awesome hot clam dip impressing as soon as it comes out of the oven and then having guests watch it die and become crusty throughout the evening. Seek out food that can stay at room temperature for extended periods without reducing its deliciousness. Oftentimes, that means baked goods!

Mastering Christmas Dessert recipes for that infamous holiday cookie exchange 

The cookie exchange sounds like a great idea until the night before when you still need to decide on a recipe, go to the grocery store, AND cook eight dozen cookies.

Panhandle Milling is here to help — we can save you a trip to the grocery store now; buy some of our amazing baking flours from our online store. And we’ve also got holiday cookie recipes formulated by our in-house chef with our very own flour.

Tailoring your cookies to various tastes, flavors, and dietary restrictions adds a whole level of complexity. Our different flours, grains, and gluten-free products make honing in on a recipe easy. And we are adept at substitutions, such as coconut oil for dairy-free or vegan and alternative flours. We’ve got you covered.

Finding the right holiday baking recipe for any occasion

The holidays are a wonderful time to pay homage to family and long-honored family recipes. It is also a great time to try that new thing you read about on that one blog. Choosing the time and place is key here. 

Holiday parties and eggnog go together like peas and carrots. It just happens. We all know a crazy old lady who goes overboard with the rum in the nog, but that’s part of the season’s hilarity. Even if you don’t particularly like eggnog as a beverage, this dessert will make you beg for more. This is a devilish cheesecake bar with a spiced shortbread crust made with our Panhandle Milling Flour. The crust is topped with a rich, creamy cheesecake layer that is smooth and dense with a hint of tartness. We contrast that with a luscious drizzle of salted caramel sauce after baking. It is a really insanely delicious dessert that can be cut into bite-size pieces or served as a big old slice of happiness.

Caramel Eggnog Cheesecake Bars

Crust

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

1 1/2 cups Panhandle Milling All-Purpose Flour

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

Filling

1/2 cup sugar

2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup eggnog

3 large Eggs

1 Tbsp. Vanilla

1 ½ tsp. rum flavor

1 Tbsp. Panhandle Milling All Purpose Flour

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 jar (11.5 oz.) Smucker’s Simple Delight Salted Caramel Topping

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 350°F.

  • For the Crust: Combine 1/2 cup sugar and butter in a bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 tsp cinnamon; beat at low speed until well mixed. The mixture will be crumbly. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom of the ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake for 15-17 minutes.

  • For the filling: Combine the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add eggnog, vanilla, and rum to the sugar mixture. Beat at medium speed, scraping the bowl often until the mixture is creamy. Spread filling over hot, partially baked crust; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Continue baking for 28-33 minutes or until set. Cool completely in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Cut into bars with a wet knife.

  • Drizzle with the Salted caramel topping and garnish with chocolate curls or fresh berries if desired. Store refrigerated.

The extended family brunch

The extended family brunch is a great opportunity to pull out a long-forgotten recipe, dress it up with some modern techniques, and make it your own when somebody asks where you got the recipe to mention the family connection for extra brownie points. 

The neighborhood cocktail party

We recommend the family recipe, but not how it has been handed down from generation to generation. Take a few creative chances. If it doesn’t work, you can laugh it off, and you don’t have to worry about mean Aunt Karen complaining it wasn’t just like Grandma’s.

The office holiday party

Just like workplaces vary, our recommendation is going to vary. Are you trying to impress that stuffy boss for a promotion? Go for the traditional family recipe to show you have been around for a while and can execute. Are you looking to let loose with your happy hour co-workers? Go for something fun and funny; they’ll enjoy wolfing down after the drinks have been flowing. A decadent Christmas dessert would be a great choice here. 

The Christmas morning breakfast

Goes without saying: traditional all the way. Christmas morning is one of those times when the old standbys make us feel warm and cozy. Feel free to add in new recipes and maybe create new traditions, but don’t forget: play the classics. Why not try this make-ahead breakfast casserole? It is one of our Chef’s favorites. It sits in the fridge covered overnight and can easily be popped into the oven in the morning. It is full of homemade (or store-purchased) French Bread. The custard mixture is rich with caramel, vanilla, and orange flavors. Before it is baked, the casserole is topped with a spiced crumble mixture, giving the finished dish a lovely texture. We serve ours with butter and a maple or caramel syrup drizzle.

Spiced Caramel French Toast Casserole

1 (1lb) loaf of crusty sourdough or French bread

8 whole eggs

1 ½ cups half and half

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. orange zest

For the Topping:

1 cup Panhandle Milling All Purpose Flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp. Pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 sticks) butter, melted

Maple or Caramel Syrup for serving

Butter, for serving

Directions

  • Grease the baking pan with butter. Slice the bread and evenly distribute it in the pan. Crack the eggs in a big bowl. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest. Pour the egg batter evenly over the bread in the pan. Cover the pan and store in the fridge overnight.

  • For the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Melt the butter. Mix it all together until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.

  • When you’re ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350° F. Remove the casserole from the fridge and sprinkle the topping over the top. Bake 1 hour.

  • Scoop out portions and top with butter, drizzle with warm pancake syrup or caramel syrup.

Panhandle Milling’s Best Holiday Cookie Exchange Recipes

Best Ever Organic Rolled Sugar Cookies

1 ½ C organic butter, softened

1 ½ C organic granulated sugar

4 organic, pasture-raised eggs

2 tsp organic vanilla bean paste or high-grade extract

½ tsp organic almond extract

½ tsp organic ground nutmeg

5 ½ Cup Panhandle Milling  All Purpose Flour

2 tsp baking powder, aluminum-free

1 tsp salt

Directions: 

  1. Wash and sanitize all work surfaces and tools before baking.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and nutmeg. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix well. The dough should be stiff.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out dough on a well-floured surface ¼ to ½ inch thick. Roll thicker for softer cookies.
  5. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely. Frost if desired. Enjoy! 

Long tray of cookies with sugar crystals on top

Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies

¾ cup butter softened

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

¼ Cup blackstrap molasses

1 tsp Vanilla

2 ½ Cup Panhandle Milling  All Purpose Flour

2 tsp freshly grated ginger root (or 1 tsp dry, ground ginger)

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup  Raw Demerara sugar to garnish

Directions:

  1. Wash and sanitize all work surfaces and tools before baking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, molasses, and vanilla. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Gradually add in the creamed mixture and mix well.
  3. Roll into 1-½ inch balls. Then, roll in the raw sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  4. Bake 350 degrees until puffy and lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool. Enjoy!

chocolate chip cookies on fabric with wood background

Chef’s Best Ever Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

2  3/4 cups Panhandle Milling Gluten-Free All-Purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. Salt

1 cup butter, slightly melted

2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

3 lg. eggs

1 Tbsp. vanilla

2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and slightly fluffy.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture. Once the flour is incorporated, add the chocolate chips.
  • Drop a rounded Tablespoon of batter onto a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 9-12 minutes until golden. Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Fluffy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 Tbsps. molasses

1 can (15 oz solid pack) pumpkin

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

5 ½ cups Panhandle Milling All Purpose Flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Pumpkin pie spice

2 cups mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Wash and sanitize hands, tools, and all work surfaces.
  • Preheat oven to 375° degrees. Cream the softened butter, sugars, and molasses in a large mixing bowl. Scrape down the bowl.
  • Add the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and spice. Stir well and add chocolate chips. Never eat raw cookie dough.
  • Drop a rounded Tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. Wash and sanitize any work surfaces that come in contact with raw dough or flour, and don’t allow baked cookies to come in contact with those surfaces.
  • Remove from the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Yield about four dozen pumpkin cookies.

Grandma’s Wheat & Oatmeal Cookies

1 1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup Panhandle Milling Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups Specialty Grains Rolled Oats
1 cup Raisins

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  • Mix the dry ingredients with the wet, just until combined.
  • Drop a rounded tablespoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 375°F for 10-11 minutes.