One of the biggest secrets when it comes to simple home entertaining is this: always try to plan a meal where most of the menu items can be made in advance. In fact, I feel so strongly about this statement it was the second point in a long list of ‘rules’ that I included in my recent book, Gatherings.
What I really want to emphasize though, is that the entire menu also includes drinks, something that is easily overlooked. When I have people over, I make sure my ice supply is strong, the drinks are chilled, my coffee pot is ready to go with the press of button, the sugar bowl and creamer are full (and in the fridge) and any specialty items, like straws, garnishes, lemons and limes, are prepped and waiting to be served.
This winter I’ve added these frozen whipped cream dollops to my list. I spotted the idea on Pinterest ages ago and thought it was totally brilliant. We have a large family, with a lot of frequent visits from our nieces and nephews, and hot chocolate is constantly in demand. Instead of whipping cream every time I pull out the kettle and steam the milk, I grab these pre-made frozen dollops from the freezer and plop them into the mugs once the chocolate is stirred. For the adults, I like to add them to specialty coffees at the end of the evening. They look pretty and add an element of elegance to an otherwise simple drink.
To make them, whip 2 cups of whipping cream with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Spoon dollops of the whipped cream onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and transfer to the freezer. Freeze until solid then store in an air-tight container. To make them look a little fancier, transfer the whip cream to piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe them onto the baking sheet before freezing.
What is one of your secrets for easy home entertaining?