Wrapping presents is a love-or-hate task. Some of us slip our fave Christmas movie into the DVD player or crank up holiday tunes, pour the hot chocolate and begin cutting and taping with abandon, making each box a work of art with clever little tie-on decorations or additional bits o’ glitz that whisper “magazine spread.” (Martha would be sooo proud!)
And some of us are the people for whom gift bags were invented: Toss the gift in, cram in a wad of tissue and slap that baby under the tree.
How to find a happy medium? Well, have a wrapping party, of course! Great friends, tasty appetizers and adult beverages can always make something more fun.
Rigging the house up for a wrap-fest is fairly easy. You need lots of clear table space, or a room with enough floor space to accommodate a few folding tables. Stock each table with a basket of tape, scissors and pens (Dollar Store to the rescue!). Invite your friends to bring gifts, a roll or two of paper to share, and whatever random ribbons, decorations or leftover scrapbooking stuff they care to schlep along. Think of this as a fabric swap without the fabric. Instead of wrapping every gift under the tree with that 300-yard roll of red kraft paper you bought on sale, you can pick from a veritable paper smorgasbord. (Surely your sew-pal will let you have some of her tangerine-colored mulberry paper to wrap your sweetie’s new 4G phone.)
Have a decent assortment of treats, and don’t stint on the drinks. Mere soda does not a party make. The time of day you hold your wrap-fest will have something to say about what you pour, but you can’t go wrong with a classic boozy hot chocolate. We always like a twist, though, like this recipe we found a kick of tequila and some south-of-the-border spice.
If you’re not the sweet-sipping kind, how about a cranberry sangria?
Or what about combining two seasonal tastes in one crockpot: hot cider, cranberry juice and a boost of tequila? (Once we started looking, we hit the cocktail jackpot. So many drinks, so little time.)
We’ve got you covered with recipes for all these drinks—we’re just helpful that way—plus a short list of snack ideas to keep everybody cutting straight.
Cue some holiday tunes—whether it’s Bing or Brian Setzer or something from this most modern playlist and have fun. Wrapping might just become your new fave holiday to-do!
In the Bag Sangria
Crunchy Granny Smith apple chunks and fresh cranberries give this a pop of color. Cointreau gives its red and rose wine base a jolt of potency. Drag out the balloon glasses for a little serving drama. (Kinda like those over-sparkled gift bags you like so much.)
For the fruit:
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 Granny Smith apples, large dice
2 to 3 2-inch pieces of pith-free orange peel.
1 cup Spiced Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
3/4 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup ruby port wine
For the sangría:
1 (750-milliliter) bottle Tempranillo rosé (A Grenache could also work here)
1/2 cup ruby port wine
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup cranberry juice
For the fruit:
Use a vegetable peeler to “slice” off pieces of pith-free orange peel. Combine with remaining ingredients in a 3-quart container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
For the sangría:
Remove pieces of orange peel from fruit mixture. Add wines, liqueur and juice to the fruit mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate until chilled; serve over ice.
Spiced Simple Syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
8 allspice berries
3 whole star anise pods
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. Strain syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof airtight container and discard spices.
Cover and chill until ready to use.
Serves 6 to 8. Adapted from http://www.chow.com/recipes/13694-spiced-cranberry-sangria
Give your slow cooker a rest from soup ‘n stew duty, and put some of this tangy toddy on to warm. When you’ve taped enough boxes and are in dire need of a break, dip up a cup and savor.
4 cups apple cider (Fresh-pressed is best. Leave the apple juice for the short people.)
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
½ cup Black Duck Premium Cranberry Liqueur
½ cup tequila
¼ cup Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur
Lime and lemon slices for garnish
In a slow cooker, heat cider, cranberry liqueur and cranberry juice cocktail on low just until hot for 2 hours. (Don’t let this boil!) Just before serving, turn on high for 10 minutes and stir in tequila and liqueur. Serve toddy in mugs, garnished with lime and lemon slices. Recipe easily doubles.
Serves 6 to 8. Adapted from http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/61/CiderAndTequilaHotToddy67185.shtml
Not Your Grandma’s Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate is a great base for so many tasty tipples, but we suggest foregoing the peppermint Schnapps and trying this kicked-up version from the same cuisine that brings us so many delicioso dishes.
1/3 cup tequila (We recommend Hornitos Plata)
2 cups milk
1 disk of Mexican chocolate (We like Abuelita brand)
1/8 teaspoon medium red chile powder
Whipped cream, flavored with powdered sugar
Shaved semi-sweet chocolate
Warm the milk, chile powder and chocolate in a saucepan. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture begins to boil. Remove from the heat and froth the chocolate with a whisk. Serve in individual mugs. Garnish with dollop of whipped cream, shaved chocolate and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Serves 2. Adapted from http://www.drinkoftheweek.com/drink-recipes/mexican-hot-chocolate-2/
Don’t forget the snacks…
Wrapping burns calories. Really. Feed the frenzy with bowls and platters of ready-made snacks found at the grocery store or easily tossed together in your kitchen. There’ll be time later in the season for fancy hors d’ oeuvres. Now, it’s all about convenience (and getting those presents wrapped!)
Lightly salted cashews mixed wth chopped dried apricots
Apple slices and caramel dip
Assorted cheeses, hearty crackers and prepared cranberry chutney
Hummus and vegetable strips
Spiced nuts—either sweet or savory
Dried dates stuffed with cream cheese and walnut halves
Broiled bacon-wrapped pineapple
Warmed brie topped with Kahlua and pecans, served with crackers