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Throw a Harry Potter-themed holiday party with these treats

Just once, I'd like to have a Hogwarts Christmas. Is it too much to ask for enchanted snow to fall from the ceiling of a Great Hall while we all feast on flaming Christmas pudding and mince pies? When will my suits of armor come to life and sing carols? And how long must I wait for Mrs. Weasley's homemade fudge and mince pies?

Unless our Hogwarts acceptance letters arrive by owl, it looks like we'll be celebrating yet another Christmas in the Muggle world. But we can still re-create the magic of a Hogwarts Christmas by celebrating the season, Harry Potter-style. Invite your closest friends, budding wizards and witches, and all the house-elves you know to a party that features Harry and Co.'s favorite holiday treats.

How to cook the main course (without the assistance of house-elves)

Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce . . . — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Don't worry, you won't need a hundred roast turkeys for your Christmas dinner. Since you aren't feeding an entire school full of hungry young wizards and witches, one will do just fine. But what are "platters of fat chipolatas"? Turns out, they are small savory sausages favored by the British as a side dish. We've found a recipe for chipolatas drizzled in a honey mustard glaze that's so easy to make, you won't even need a house-elf to help you.

We can't forget Harry's favorite part of the meal: the flaming Christmas pudding. (It's traditional to hide a silver sickle in the pudding, but for your dental safety — Ron's brother Percy nearly chipped a tooth — our recipe doesn't include any coins.) Topped with creme fraiche, it's no wonder Harry and Ron devoured helping after helping.

Finally, since we can't make it over to the Three Broomsticks for some butterbeer, we'll have to content ourselves with Hogwarts eggnog. Spiked with bourbon, this drink is practically bewitched. (No wonder Hagrid loves it so much.)

How to decorate (without the help of a wand)

The Great Hall looked magnificent. Not only were there a dozen frost-covered Christmas trees and thick streamers of holly and mistletoe criss-crossing the ceiling, but enchanted snow was falling, warm and dry, from the ceiling. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12

Since it's a bit hard to find magical snow at your local craft store, string up plenty of mistletoe instead. (That is how Harry received his first kiss from Cho Chang, after all.) To reproduce the picturesque atmosphere of Hogsmeade, hang a holly wreath on your door and line your dining table with lit candles. They may not be floating in enchanted trees, but they'll still add a warm glow to your gathering.

Before your guests arrive, set a Christmas cracker at each place. A traditional British party favor, these crackers are stuffed with small trinkets. You and a friend each pull one side of the cracker, until — with a loud bang! — the contents burst out for your enjoyment. Channel your inner Dumbledore and don whatever silly hat your cracker contains. (Unlike Harry, yours probably won't be filled with live mice. There are some advantages to a Muggle Christmas, after all.)

How to treat your guests (without the aid of Mrs. Weasley)

Harry had torn open the parcel to find a thick, hand-knitted sweater in emerald green and a large box of home-made fudge. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Every Christmas morning, Harry wakes up to find his gifts appearing magically at the end of his bed. Would it be a Hogwarts Christmas without Mrs. Weasley's holiday parcels? Her handmade sweaters, painstakingly knitted for each of her loved ones, are a way of including Harry in the Weasley family. And each packet always contains some delightful sweet, like homemade fudge or mince pies. Mince pies are almost like small fruit tarts: They're made with mincemeat, which is a sweetened dried fruit mixture, and wrapped in flaky pastry. Serve the fudge and mince pies for dessert, or wrap them in brown paper parcels and give them, Mrs. Weasley-style, to your guests. Just like Harry, they'll feel extra loved.

How to keep your guests entertained (without caroling suits of armor)

Harry and the Weasleys spent a happy afternoon having a furious snowball fight in the grounds. Then, cold, wet and gasping for breath, they returned to the fire in the Gryffindor common room, where Harry broke in his new chess set by losing spectacularly to Ron. — J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 12

Although we can't duplicate the enchantments of Hogwarts, we can still conjure up the cozy atmosphere. Since you can't take your guests outside for a snowball fight, head for a walk along the sugar sand beaches. Toast marshmallows over a fire. Play chess. Sing Christmas carols with as much merriment as Dumbledore. Open mysterious parcels that end up being magical invisibility cloaks, Firebolts or Marauder's Maps.

And if you're really lucky, maybe you'll find a Hogwarts acceptance letter under the tree.

>>EASY

Christmas Pudding

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, divided

1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar

1 cup golden raisins

½ cup raisins

cup currants (or use more raisins)

cup chopped dates

3 tablespoons chopped candied peel: lemon, orange and citron

10 glace (candied) cherries, quartered

Scant ½ cup flour

1 cup soft bread crumbs, from about 2 slices white bread

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

2 eggs

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup apple juice, apple cider or applesauce

2 tablespoons orange juice

Creme fraiche or heavy cream, for serving

Put 3 tablespoons of the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the remaining ingredients, except creme fraiche, and mix very well into a loose, chunky batter. Let it rest for a few hours, or refrigerate overnight.

Thickly grease a ceramic bowl with the remaining butter. Line the bottom of the bowl with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Spoon in the batter.

Cut 2 circles of parchment to fit the top and rest them on the batter. Cook the pudding in a microwave oven, preferably at medium power, for 8 minutes. Insert a skewer or tester into the center. If batter is still wet, continue cooking, 1 minute at a time, until just done.

Turn onto a plate. Serve with creme fraiche or heavy cream.

Serves 12.

Source: New York Times, adapted from Marguerite Patten

>>MODERATE

Classic Eggnog

2 quarts whole milk

2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

16 large egg yolks

2 cups cold heavy cream

½ cup bourbon

½ cup dark rum

Freshly grated nutmeg, for sprinkling

Heat milk, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking until sugar has dissolved. Whisk yolks in a large bowl. Pour hot milk mixture into yolks in a slow, steady stream, whisking.

Return milk-yolk mixture to pan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking often, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes (do not let simmer). Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard bean. Whisk in cream, bourbon and rum. Let cool completely.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour (up to 1 day). Serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

Serves 12.

Source: Martha Stewart

>>MODERATE

Foolproof Holiday Fudge

Traditional fudge recipes require a candy thermometer and a fair amount of precision to get the texture just right; this simple fudge recipe is easy enough for children to make (with supervision, of course). The addition of mini marshmallows gives this fudge a smooth silkiness.

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

3 ½ cups mini marshmallows

3 cups semisweet or white chocolate chips

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup crushed peppermint candy

Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with 2 sheets of waxed or parchment paper in a crisscross manner (one lengthwise, one crosswise) so ends overhang sides of pan; coat evenly with cooking spray.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, cook sugar, salt, butter, cream and marshmallows, stirring until butter and marshmallows are almost melted, 5 to 6 minutes.

Bring mixture to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chips and vanilla and stir until chips are melted. Pour mixture into lined pan.

Let fudge cool in the pan at room temperature for 3 hours. Use edges of paper to lift out fudge; place on cutting board and remove paper. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, or cut fudge into bars. Sprinkle evenly with crushed candy.

Fudge can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 24 (2-inch) pieces

Source: Martha Stewart

>>EASY

Easy Traditional Mince Pie

12 ounces all-purpose flour

8 ounces cubed butter

Pinch of salt

1 beaten egg, plus cold water as needed to bind the pastry

1 jar of mincemeat, store-bought or homemade

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make the pastry: Place the flour, butter and salt into a large clean bowl (or you can make this in a food processor). Rub the butter quickly into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles rough sand.Stir the egg into the mixture using a cold knife, then add cold water a teaspoon at a time and stir until the mixture binds but is not sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes and as long as 30 minutes.

Assemble the pies: Use a standard 12-cup muffin tin. Dust a work surface lightly with a little flour and roll out two-thirds of the pastry to ⅛ inch thick. Cut circles to line the cups of your tin; don't worry if the pastry doesn't come to the top. Fill the pastry-lined tins ⅔ full with mincemeat.

Roll out the remaining pastry to the same thickness and cut smaller circles to fit as lids on the tarts. Or, to be decorative, cut stars or other fancy shapes.

Dampen the edges of the tart bases with a little cold water and press the lids on. Make a small hole in the surface of each pie with a small sharp knife to allow the steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the icing sugar. Mince pies are delicious served hot or cold. They will keep well if placed in an airtight tin, up to 7 days. Sometimes they benefit from a gentle warming in the oven before serving.

Makes 12 individual tarts.

Source: Elaine Lemm, about.com

>>EASY

Sticky Chipolatas

These mini sausages with honey mustard glaze work as a roast accompaniment, canape or on a party buffet

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

2 teaspoons yellow mustard

1 pack cocktail sausages

Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking tray with foil. Mix honey and both of the mustards in a bowl. You can make the glaze 2 or 3 days ahead.

Add the sausages and toss well to coat them. Arrange the sausages, spaced apart, on the baking tray. Smooth any remaining glaze left in the bowl on top of the sausages to make them extra sticky. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 8.

Source: Good Food Magazine, January 2012

.Fast Facts

What's it about?

First published 17 years ago, J.K. Rowling's bestselling fantasy series is still a beloved classic. Young Harry Potter has spent the first 11 years of his life living in a cupboard under the stairs, with relatives who despise him. But on his 11th birthday, he learns that he's a wizard — just like his long-lost parents. He arrives at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, makes friends for the first time in his life and discovers that he is marked as the Chosen One who will redeem his magical world.

The Harry Potter series has spawned film adaptations, but fans are still eager for more. An upcoming movie called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in the Harry Potter universe, and a new play by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will open in summer 2016.

Throw a Harry Potter-themed holiday party with these treats 12/18/15 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2015 10:30am]
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