Entertaining Tips for a Casual Holiday Party

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 (Family Features)  It’s the most wonderful, and hectic, time of year. Everyone loves to get together with family and friends during the holidays. Want to make your holiday gathering both beautiful and memorable without all the fuss? Gather things you already have around the house to create a festive tablescape. Here are a few tips to get you started:

 Keep things simple with white dinnerware, like Mikasa American Countryside, and dress up the table with festive touches of color and texture

  • Add to the fun holiday atmosphere with bright red chargers under the white dinnerware. If you don’t have chargers, tuck one end of a red linen napkin under each plate and drape the other end over the edge of the table.
  • Place Mikasa’s French Countryside flatware on top of a folded napkin, tie them up like a package with red ribbon, and tuck in a sprig of holly or other greenery.
  • There’s no need to buy an expensive table runner. Find beautiful fabric at your local craft store, drape it down the center of the table, and you’re all set.
  • Add an extra splash of color to the holiday table by dropping a few raspberries into wine glasses filled with sparkling wine or club soda. Always keep frozen berries in the freezer during the holiday season. They are a pretty garnish for desserts and make even the simplest cocktails look more festive.
  • Scatter candles and pinecones down the center of the table and pop some colorful flowers into a white vase or pitcher. The look is perfect for a casual gathering of friends and family. For more holiday decorating and entertaining ideas, visit www.mikasa.com.

A beautiful holiday table lets your guests know they are in for an evening of fun and good food as soon as they arrive. End the evening with a show-stopping dessert like Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl & Gingersnap Crust. The gingersnap crust and easy cranberry swirl add a festive touch to this crowd-pleasing confection.

Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl & Gingersnap Crust

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake

2             cups fresh or frozen cranberries

3/4             cup sugar

1/2             cup orange juice

1/2             cup water

24-32             purchased gingersnap cookies (to make 1 cup crumbs)

1/3             cup graham cracker crumbs

4             tablespoons butter, melted

3            (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1             cup sugar

2             eggs

1/4             cup sour cream

1/4             cup heavy cream

1             tablespoon vanilla extract

1             tablespoon orange juice

Simmer cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice and water in saucepan over medium-high heat until berries burst and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then purée in blender or food processor until smooth. Set sauce aside.

Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in center. Coat 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Process gingersnaps in food processor until fine; add graham cracker crumbs. With machine running, drizzle in melted butter. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared springform pan and about 1 inch up sides of pan. Set aside.


Blend cream cheese and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and 1 tablespoon orange juice, then pour into prepared pan. Drizzle top of cheesecake with 1/4 cup of prepared cranberry sauce, then drag skewer, toothpick or knife tip through sauce to create marbled swirl pattern on top. Place cheesecake on baking sheet and bake until edges are set and puffed but center is slightly jiggly, about 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Turn oven off, crack door open slightly, and allow cheesecake to cool inside for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely at room temperature, then cover cheesecake with tea towel and refrigerate overnight.


Run knife around sides of cheesecake, then release and remove side of the pan. To cut, dip blade of thin, sharp knife into hot water (do not wipe dry) and slice into wedges, cleaning blade between each cut to prevent smearing. Serve with remaining cranberry sauce.

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