Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tips for Planning Your Holiday Party

About this time every year many a party gets planned. For some, planning a holiday party is pure joy. For others, it can be seen as nothing but a dreaded chore. It doesn't have to be that way! Today we share some of our best tips for planning your holiday party. Opa!

1. Save the right date...

Your friends, family members or coworkers are busy during the holidays. Choosing to have your party earlier in the season will ensure you get a better turn-out. After all, it's not a party without guests!

Be creative with when you have your event. From Sunday brunch to an evening cocktail party with hors D’oeuvres starting at 8:00 pm, the options are only limited by your imagination.

2. Begin with a theme...

Having a theme helps to guide as you make detail decisions. Plus it helps to keep the look and feel of your party on track. When choosing a theme, consider what type of event you would like. Cocktail, buffet, a formal sit down? The most popular themes tend to include anything with a glamorous touch. Think 1950’s holiday-inspired cocktail party, or a glittery Dr. Zhivago snowscape, or even a festive Greek inspired gathering.

3. You'll need a great caterer...

This is high-season for caterers. They may want your business, but if you wait too long to book one you may going it alone. Or worse, getting stuck with a less than reputable version of what you were really wanting. It’s up to you to choose one that will get the job done professionally. With catering from Ziziki's you can rest assured you will have a fabulous party, with delicious Greek cuisine, amazing service and a memorable time too.

No matter who you choose, be sure to check out reviews, customer ratings, photos and detailed menus before committing.

4. Know your guests...

It's in your best interest to take time to know your guests' possible dietary restrictions, food allergies. And always make sure to offer at least one vegetarian dish. Ask your caterer to place a fabulous looking card listing the ingredients next to each dish so your guests know exactly what they’ll be eating. Guests who have to watch others eating without being able to partake themselves, don't make for happy guests.

5. Don't underestimate the power of an RSVP...

Sending invitations is easy. Getting people to respond takes a little special effort. Make responding easy by using an online invite system like Evite. These sites also send reminders to those guests who are taking longer to answer. Having a guest count is especially important when it comes to the food. You definitely want to make sure you have enough (but not too much) to serve everyone.

6. Employ a memorable welcome to set the mood...

Make your guests feel special from the moment they walk in the door with a signature cocktail designed for the season. If it’s cold outside, greet them with a warm-welcome cocktail full of flavor. Apple, orange, clove and cinnamon are holiday favorites.

7. Let a fun attitude lead the way...

A good attitude will always bring good results! Yes, you want things to be perfect, to have a good time with friends, with great food, and fabulous d├ęcor. Have fun planning your party and you'll have fun at your party. Opa!

Ready to talk catering? Give us a call!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Recipe Week: Christopsomo

As we enter the Christmas season, we thought we'd share a recipe for Christopsomo, or 'Christ's Bread.' The preparation of Christopsomo is considered a sacred tradition in many Greek Orthodox homes. The care with which it is made is said to ensure the well-being of the home in the year to come and only the purest and most expensive ingredients are used. The bread is often decorated with pieces of dough formed into representations of the family's life (boats, animals, etc.). We hope you take time to bake and enjoy this delicious bread some time during your holiday season. And make sure you come back next week as we'll be sharing some great tips for entertaining this year. Opa!

Prep Time: 4 hours

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
8 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons of dry yeast
1 cup of warm water (105F, 40C)
1 cup of warm red wine
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of brandy
grated peel of 2 oranges
1 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups of raisins
1 1/2 cups of walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of grated gum mastic or 1 tablespoon of crushed anise seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the Topping
milk
2 whole walnuts in shells
sesame seeds

Preparation:
1. Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of flour, stir until dissolved and set aside for 10 minutes, until it bubbles.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift the salt with 2/3 of the flour. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, the remaining warm water, and the wine. Mix until a soft dough forms, cover with waxed paper and a damp towel, and set aside to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

3. Punch the dough down and knead for several minutes until any air pockets are gone. Sift in the remaining flour, add the oil, orange juice, brandy, and grated orange peel.

4. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, raisins, walnuts, pine nuts, gum mastic or anise, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until blended, and add to the dough.

5. Knead well until the dough is firm and doesn't stick (about 10 minutes), cover, and allow to rise for 1/2 hour.

6. On a lightly buttered baking pan, shape the bread into two circular loaves, about 8 inches in diameter. Cover with a dry cloth and a damp cloth over that, and place in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in size. If you want to decorate your Christopsomo, pull a fistful of dough from each loaf. Pat the dough back into shape to rise. When risen, use the small pieces of dough to create designs: roll them out into strips and coil around whole walnuts pressed into the top in the shape of a cross (like the photo), or make them into the shapes and place on top of the loaves. Continue with the recipe but in step 7, brush with beaten egg instead of milk to get a brighter glaze.

7. Using a floured knife, score a cross into the top of the loaves, and place one whole, unshelled walnut at the center. Brush the bread with milk and scatter with sesame seeds.

8. Place a pan with at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450F (230C). Place the bread in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove the pan with the water, reduce heat to 390F (200C) and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

9. Remove from oven, brush lightly with water, and cool on a rack.

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of About.com

Friday, November 9, 2012

End of Year Holiday Traditions in Greece

Christmas in Athens at Constitution Square
What? The holidays already? It sure is! In a little more than a week most of us will be enjoying our Thanksgiving feast. Within a few days we'll be putting up our Christmas trees and other holiday decor. As we approach the holiday season we have family and feasting on the mind. We know you're making plans for your Thanksgiving holiday to be followed by the ushering in of the Christmas season. So today, we thought we'd give you a taste of what it's like to celebrate end of year holidays in Greece. To that end, here is a list of popular traditions. A couple will be familiar to you and some, maybe you would like to give a try with your families this year.

1. In Greek homes, Christmas tree are not common having only recently become more popular. Rather, most families display the traditional Greek symbol of Christmas: a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. Be sure to add a small amount of water to keep the basil alive and fresh.

2. Take the children to see Santa Claus. Yes, you read that right. We Greeks love Saint Nicholas too! You can usually find him outside shopping areas where he hands out treats to children.

3. On Christmas Eve, keep your ears open for neighborhood children singing "kalanda" (Christmas carols). Have a supply of dried figs, walnuts, almonds and coins to offer the carolers who come to your house.

4. Prepare a holiday feast for Christmas Eve. Serve traditional foods and wine with baklava for dessert.

5. Bake loaves of "Christopsomo" (Christ bread), a sweet bread we form into shapes. Many families opt to decorate the loaves with symbols reflecting their family's trade. Serve the bread with dried figs.

6. A family member, usually mother, immerses the basil and cross in holy water once a day and sprinkles drops in every room of the house to keep sprites, or "kallikantzari," away. According to legend, these sprites are slide down the chimney between Christmas and Epiphany on January 6 to play mischievous pranks on the family. The fire is kept burning everyday to prevent entry to these little tricksters.

7. Traditionally, the 12 days of Christmas begin on Christmas day. Remind your children to hang their socks over the fireplace, where small gifts will appear.

Vasilopita
8. On December 31, serve "vasilopita", or Christmas cake, with a florin (gold coin) baked into the cake. To have good luck during the coming year, be the person to find the coin in your cake.

9. Exchange gifts on January 1, which is St. Basil's Day. The herb basil is connected to this saint and day, and is believed to have both healing and protective powers. On this day, any vessel of water is emptied and filled with fresh water, as a renewal celebration.

While enjoying family and friends this holiday season – keep in mind that Ziziki’s also offers holiday catering for your event, or private dining if you prefer to dine with a private corporate party or your family. Opa!