Patty Roper's book Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations | Madison County Herald Madison Ms
Make holiday buffets memorable
Kara Kimbrough • December 5, 2009 • Madison County Herald
It's the first weekend after Thanksgiving, which means holiday
party invitations have begun arriving in the mail. The holidays are
a time to deck the halls and prepare special foods often enjoyed
just once a year.
The thought of holiday entertaining should generate excitement,
not cause extra stress and anxiety. And Patty Roper has hundreds
of recipes and decorating ideas to prove her point.
"Some of the most enjoyable times of our lives are special
occasions spent with families and friends," said Roper, editorial
director of Mississippi Magazine and editor of three popular
entertaining cookbooks. "The holidays call for celebrations and
gatherings with those we love. Everything is festive and friends
have a chance to slow down and share time with each other."
Madison County hostesses in need of a simple, low-key party plan this holiday season should
consider hosting a holiday buffet at home, said Roper. Such a party is intimate and encourages
interaction among guests. Best of all, buffets are less rigid in format but at the same time can be
very elegant, she said.
Roper said many people feel that a great deal of expense, time and trouble is necessary for a party's
decoration and food to be impressive. She disagrees, believing instead that when you go to the
trouble of bringing people into your most precious space, that alone makes it very special and
"When you invite people into your home, you are telling them they are special to you," said Roper,
who is busy planning a Christmas Sunday School party for 50 couples. "It's a treasured gift of your
time, talents and effort."
Party hosts should take care not to overload themselves, a goal that can be accomplished by
preparing just a few really simple, but hearty dishes everyone will enjoy.
For her upcoming party, Roper is planning shrimp pasta and pork tenderloin with apricot sauce,
two of the main dishes requested by her friends. Both are delicious during colder months, but pork
tenderloin served with a delicious sauce and small rolls works well for almost any party, she said.
"People expect to make little sandwiches at a party and this is a delicious, easy way to accomplish
that," she said. "Another option is grilled chicken tenderloins served with Comeback Sauce. Both
are filling and are dishes your guests will enjoy."
When planning a buffet, Roper selects food that can be made in large quantities and will stay warm
so she can enjoy her guests without the need to replenish platters.
"Your guests are there to visit with you," she said. "If you are constantly running into the kitchen,
they won't enjoy the party and neither will you. I plan to serve the shrimp pasta in a large dish and
place it on a mirror with three votives underneath. This will keep the food warm and I can visit
with my guests without any worries."
Other recurring favorites on Roper's entertaining menu are mini tomato tarts and a dish simply
called great green beans. Both are simple recipes with only a few ingredients. However, Roper said
they are two of the proven favorites from her most recent cookbook, Easy Parties and Wedding
Desserts are also an essential element of the holiday buffet and Roper prepares and presents them
in a variety of creative, fun ways.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without sugar cookies, which Roper said most guests expect to
see on any holiday table, no matter how formal. Small, bite-size pastries or tarts are preferable to
large slices of cake or pie, she said.
"People love desserts they can pick up and sugar cookies are perfect, especially during the
holidays," Roper said. "For my party, I plan to make lots of snowflake sugar cookies, along with
bread pudding in small individual bowls and brownie truffles. Each of these desserts is easy to
make and present."
Roper said the key to dessert is using simple recipes, but presenting them in a charming, unusual
For instance, cutting brownies into small, unusual shapes and placing them on an antique platter
can transform this simple treat into something unique and special.
Likewise, lemon meringue pie is an ordinary dessert, but guests don't mention this when it's baked
in small shells or tart pans. It's all in the presentation, a skill for which Roper is famous.
"When it's evident you've prepared something your guests will enjoy and serve it in a special way,
they will feel treasured," said Roper. "Little things like serving cheesecake in small pieces or
placing bananas foster in tiny bowls will provide the special touch that tells your guests you went
to extra trouble, just for them."
A host can make the buffet visually appealing by using a variety of serve ware, ranging from
antiques to "finds" picked up a discount or even secondhand stores. Roper said the rule that china
must match no longer holds true. As long as the colors are appealing and the pieces enhance the
table's appeal, that's really all that matters, she said.
For decorations, holiday red and green are traditionally used, but that is not a set rule, Roper said.
She enjoys using all-white centerpieces and linens during winter months. The effect is visually
stunning and presents a table that's unique from so many decorated in red and green.
What's most important, Roper said, is that from invitations to decorations, the minute guests enter
the door, the stage is set for a "delightful evening with friends."
"So many people are intimidated when it comes to holiday entertaining and there's just no reason
for it," said Roper. "With a little planning and creativity, anyone can give a memorable party.
Treating your friends to an evening filled with food and fellowship is a wonderful gift to all."
The recipes for the following dishes are found in Roper's newest cookbook, which is on sale at
area bookstores and at Everyday Gourmet in Ridgeland and Jackson.
1-1/2 sticks margarine
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
l/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning
1-1/2 pounds fresh medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (12-ounce) package fettuccini, cooked al dente and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (16-ounce) package processed cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
1/2 cup half-and-half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, melt margarine over medium-high heat. Add onion
and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, mushrooms, salt, peppers, garlic powder, and Tony's
seasoning. Pour mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and stir in shrimp, tossing gently to coat.
Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook fettuccini al dente. Add olive oil, cheese, green
chiles, and half-and-half. Stir until melted and combined. Reÿmove shrimp from oven; stir in
fettuccini and cheese mixture until combined. Cover with foil and warm for 5 minutes. Yield: 20
2 pork tenderloins
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot jam
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine apricot jam and mustard in saucepan on low heat until
melted. Salt, pepper, and oil tenderloins; brush with the jam and mustard glaze. Roast tenderloins
for 45-60 minutes, glazing with the sauce and pan juices every 20 minutes until temperature
reaches 180 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest. Serve with rolls, Apricot Sauce, and Basil
Mayonnaise. Yield: 24 servings
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot jam
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
Mix ingredients and heat on low until blended. Cool. Yield: 1-3/4 cups.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. Cream butter and
sugar. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture. Roll dough into 2 balls,
wrap in wax paper; chill. Roll out dough on a floured surface 1/4 inch thick, and cut into desired
shapes. Bake 10-15 minutes; do not brown. Cool on a wire rack and brush with Icing. Yield: 16-24
1/4 stick margarine, melted
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients together and brush over cookies.
Patty Roper's latest book, Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations, focuses on presentation.
(Special to The Herald)
NOTE: Easy Parties and Wedding Celebrations is available for purchase from Quail Ridge Press