5 more days to go!  ‘Tis the season of parties; why not go the simple, yet delicious route this year – with a dessert and drink party.  I hosted a segment on WGN last week with countless ideas and inspirations for getting creative this holiday season in your home.  In case you missed it, below are some ideas and simple guidelines.

Holiday entertaining tips with Carlyn Berghoff on WGN-TV

Use things you already have in your home as decorations. Remember it should be easy and inviting. That means use a variety of colors, textures, and heights.

  • Place garland on the table with ornaments from your own Christmas tree
  • Use a mini tree and make homemade cookie ornaments and candy canes to hang
  • Fill your leftover flower vases with candy or extra ornaments
  • Pull décor from your shelves and display in central location: candles, nutcrackers, etc.

Food should be fun and easy as well.

  • Chocolate and caramel dipped pretzels
  • Brownies in the shape of a Christmas tree (use cookie cutter) with candy canes as stems
  • Use Sugar Garnished Trays for a pop of color
  • Croque en Bouche is a fun and delicious project to do with the kids
  • Red velvet cupcakes (on a 3 tier cupcake platter for height)
  • Sugar cookies (let the kids decorate them)
  • Pudding or Panna Cotta served in your Christmas tea cups (using what you already have)
  • Peppermint Bark

Drinks should also be fun and both adult and kid friendly.

  • Use holiday coffee
  • Cran-Pomegranate Bellini

Remember have fun, provide treats for both the adults and kids, and reuse what you already have! ‘Tis the season to make your life a bit easier.

Blood Orange Vanilla Panna Cotta

Yield: Makes 4 servings


    For Panna Cotta:
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 ½ oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 oz warm water
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon gelatin powder
  • For Blood Orange Vanilla Syrup:
  • 1 cup CelloVia Blood Orange Vanilla Liquor
  • 2 oz sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice from one blood orange
  • Blood orange zest, for garnish


To Make the Panna Cotta: Heat cream, sugar and vanilla in 8-quart pot, over medium-high heat. Do not boil. In a separate, small bowl mix the warm water and gelatin until the gelatin is dissolved.

Add water/gelatin to pot with the cream mixture and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until it reaches room temperature. Pour mixture into desired serving glasses and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To Make Syrup: Place all ingredients into 8-quart pot. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring periodically until mixture comes to a boil and eventually the liquid is reduced down to half, giving it a syrup consistency.

Chill to room temperature, pour over panna cotta.


Note: Panna cotta should be consistency of flan or custard; garnish with zest of blood orange and mint sprig.