By Mackenzie Dunn

Published on December 23, 2017

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Photography by WOLF GOURMET

`Tis the season to embrace your inner hostess by gathering family and friends for the ultimate holiday soiree. But between deciding what to make, who to invite, and how to decorate, it can seem like a hassle to enjoy the most wonderful time of year. Don’t fret: if the thought of hosting a houseful of guests makes you feel more bah humbug than ho ho ho, take some time to slow down and simplify your entertaining plan in three easy steps.

1. Have a guest list and ask people to RSVP.

It’s the most basic of advice: have a plan, and stick to it. This includes setting the guest list and choosing a menu at least a week in advance so you know how many people are coming, and how much food you’ll be making. This will cut down on the time spent frantically wondering if you have enough plates, napkins, or wine glasses to go around.

2. Keep the menu simple.

Selecting classic dishes you know everyone will enjoy and adding a fresh or unique twist on them is a surefire way of hitting the spot for all hungry houseguests. Plus, if you’re inviting over friends and family, it’s totally okay to ask them to bring something too.

Our go-to for an elevated, but casual party? A variety of appetizers that guests can snack on throughout the night. And thanks to the convenience of the Wolf Gourmet Countertop oven, making easy hors d’oeuvres that get your festive fete off to a successful start has never been easier. This holiday season, we’ll be making an unbelievably easy (and tasty) baked feta—all you need is a block of feta, some fresh herbs, and tomatoes—and savory baked meatballs (recipes below!). With a little preparation, they’ll be ready before your earliest guest arrives. Dig in, and don’t stress. These crowd-pleasing bites will have you conquering the holidays.

3. Make a prep schedule and stick to it.

Prepping as much as you can before your guests arrive is key to being able to actually enjoy their company. After all, if they are coming to your house they are coming to see you. After you finalize the menu, map out the week leading up to the party. What can you do four, five, or six days in advance? The more you do ahead of time, the less you’ll have to do day-of, which means spending less time in the kitchen, and more time mingling with those you love.

 
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Broiled Feta With Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 pita breads
  • 8 ounces feta cheese patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Slow-Roasted Tomatoes coarsely chopped (see recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Crumble the feta into a shallow baking dish, add the toppings (see variations for olives or shrimp listed below) and broil for 8 minutes.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds plum tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small shallots thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar or honey
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to CONVECTION/ROAST 375°F. Place the tomatoes, oil, shallots, garlic, thyme, brown sugar (or honey), salt, and pepper on a baking pan and toss to combine. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer and roast until very soft and the pan juices begin to caramelize, 1 to 1 1⁄4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Variations of Toppings

VARIATION: OLIVES AND PEPPERS

Substitute 1⁄2 cup chopped roasted bell peppers and 1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives for the tomatoes.

VARIATION: SHRIMP AND DILL

Substitute 8 small peeled deveined shrimp for the tomatoes. Substitute 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill for the rosemary and oregano. Use a shallow 4-cup baking dish.

Recipe Notes: Pita rounds aren’t the only breads that you can heat up in the oven. You can also wrap tortillas or slices of good country-style bread in foil, and bake or broil until heated through.

 
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Broiled Lamb Meatball Pitas with Tzatziki

Serve the meatballs with toothpicks for an easy finger food.

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium shallot roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • Pita breads cut into triangles or bibb lettuce leaves for serving

Instructions for meatballs

Position the oven rack in the highest position. Preheat the oven to Broil/Hi.

Place salt, all the seeds, crushed red pepper and black pepper in the blender. Select Manual/Hi and pulse until seeds are coarsely ground and mixture is well-combined. Add shallot, garlic, egg and yogurt. Pulse briefly, stopping to scrape jar if necessary, until mixture is well-blended but not completely smooth.

Place the lamb in a large bowl. Add the yogurt mixture, parsley and lemon zest. Mix together with your hands until well-combined.

Shape the lamb mixture into medium meatballs, about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking pan and brush tops of meatballs with olive oil. Take care not to crowd the meatballs. For well-done meatballs, broil until centers reach 160°F, 12-14 minutes. For medium meatballs, broil until centers reach 140°F, 8-10 minutes.

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Tzatziki

  • 1 English cucumber peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Instructions for  tzatziki:

Grate the cucumber into a medium bowl and toss with salt.

Transfer grated cucumber to a colander and allow to drain, pressing down on the cucumber to extract as much liquid as possible.

Add drained cucumber back to the bowl, along with yogurt, lemon juice, parsley and garlic. Mix well.