It’s your cold-weather wedding (or pre-party)! Guests are arriving chilled. And you want to warm them with a comfort food menu.
Sprinkle your offerings with ingredients that feed the soul and raise spirits. They will have fond memories of your event for years to come.
The beauty of all these recipes is you can make them ahead. Plus, they are scalable. Appropriate for a large reception, intimate holiday party, or rehearsal dinner.
Concerned about the carb factor? I’ve offered ideas under each recipe for adjusting ingredients or offering alternatives. Give yourself plenty of time to tinker and adjust!
Now let’s get started. And be sure to take note of the make-ahead tips after each.
Wedding Comfort Food Appetizers: Cheesy Bites
What better way to set the comfort-food theme than with creamy cheese starters? Ricotta, asiago, mascarpone, and brie all make appearances in these upscale-look appetizers.
Those in many parts of the country have never heard of baked ravioli. Boiling or toasting, if you are St. Louis native like I am, are the go-to options. In this recipe, Lisa bakes filled wontons in the oven.
The special touch is the heart shape. After filling, take a heart cutter to form a cute appetizer for your wedding reception.
Lobster may not be in your budget if you are making for a large group. No worries. Substitute crab or imitation crab for the lobster meat.
Low Carb Inspiration: There are fewer carbs than you may expect in this recipe. 20 large pieces of ravioli have only 14 grams. And just one of those is from sugars.
Experiment with encasing the filling in coconut wraps instead of wonton papers. This can lower that number even more.
Make ahead: Form the ravioli and fridge them ahead of time. The shelf life of your cooked seafood will dictate how long you can keep them. Plan accordingly.
Lobster, crab, and imitation crab meat will generally keep up to three days. Check the brand you are buying for their recommendations.
These colorful bites look and sound intimidating. Don’t stress! Crostini is toast with topping. That’s all.
The sweetness of this appetizer adds variety and contrast to the savory ravioli. As well as a different spin on the use of cheese.
Low Carb Inspiration: Sugar and baguette toast combine to lift the carbohydrate count to 16 grams a slice. I suspect this appetizer needs all the ingredients for the best taste. So I would serve it as-is.
Adding a variation is an option. Those 10 grams of sugars per slice are the main culprits. Try substituting for the sugar or reduce the sweetness. My favorite approach in these situations is to halve the sugar and replace it with stevia. Unsweetened applesauce could be a good option here, too.
You can also increase protein and fat while lowering carb count. Do this by spreading more brie and adding less fruit topping to each toast.
Make ahead: You can make the sauce three to four days in advance. But Courtney recommends making the toasts no more than 24 hours ahead. Store them in Ziplock bags or sealed containers to keep them crisp. Then have a helper assemble them on the day of the reception, to serve at room temperature.
Winter Wedding Drinks: Seasonal Cocktails
A large number of Winter events are near the holiday season. Why not have signature cocktails that reflect the spirit? Red and green are the go-to December party colors. (Because, you know, Christmas.)
Less obvious, but one I love in Winter, is an ice cream drink.
These shooters are versatile. As a signature drink, provide set-ups at the bar to make on request. Or serve as a dessert, with or without Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Special Equipment: A freezer is necessary to keep the ice cream frozen until ready to serve.
Low Carb Inspiration: These little treats contain 16 grams of carbohydrates each. You can lower that a bit by replacing the little cookie straw with a regular one. And add a second layer of whipped heavy cream in the bottom to decrease the amount of ice cream and Bailey’s.
Make ahead: You can construct these ahead of time and keep them frozen. But think about the freezer space needed. That can add a lot of logistics to a simple drink. And it may affect quality.
I would set up a blender and ingredients in a self-serve or staffed station at the event. Or available at the bar.
These shooters are ideal if your event has a Christmas flare. Red grenadine and green Creme de Menthe give these drinks their festive appearance.
Don’t miss their tip about how to use a spoon to get the perfect layered look.
Lower Carb Inspiration: Even without the candy pieces you are looking at around 50 grams of carbs in a 1.5 oz shot, the large majority from sugars. You could cut down a tad by going heavier on the alcohol and lighter on the grenadine. But this is a drink that’s meant to be indulgent.
Instead, point any concerned guests toward the milkshake shooters. Or add a simple third shooter to the menu. A full shot of schnapps contains 12 carb grams. Mix 1/2 peppermint and 1/2 cinnamon flavors.
Make Ahead: Making the layered peppermint shooters anywhere but at the venue is impractical. But if you are garnishing the rims, crush and store candy pieces in the weeks ahead.
Cold Weather Soup Dinner Recipes
Nothing shakes off a chill like a wonderful, hot soup. And you cannot go wrong with these filling recipes. They work whether you want to rely on a soup station as your main course or complement it with a specialty entree.
Sweet potatoes and roasted apples. A unique and yummy combination for a Winter soup. And the cream drizzle with chive garnish makes this a beautiful dish.
Lower Carb Inspiration: Sweet potatoes and apples are great choices for getting nutrition from your carbs. But you can shift the macronutrients more toward fat or protein by adding canned coconut milk or tofu to the mix.
Make Ahead: The creamy ingredients in this soup freeze well. Cooked sweet potatoes and apples both keep a good 10-12 months frozen. But I would want to store the soup no more than six months to make sure there’s no freezer burn or flavor loss.
Make the croutons the day before. You could do them at the same time as the previously-mentioned crostini toasts. Seal them so they stay crunchy.
Because it’s packed full of beans and vegetables, this is a hearty, filling soup.
The instant-pot recipe has a short 6-minute cook time. It is much quicker to make this way than using the stove-top method.
Lower Carb Inspiration: Omit the pasta and you have the ultimate low-carb soup.
Make Ahead: Plan well and you will finish making this dish well before the big day.
You can freeze this soup if you leave out the pasta. Begin making batches three months ahead of time for thawing and heating the day of the reception.
You may be a diehard minestrone fan. If you feel it must include pasta, cook the shells the day before and add them in when heating the soup.
Comfort Sides: Macaroni and Cheese and Mashed Potato Bar
Let’s face it, the “C” in “comfort” is carbs. As a bonus, they are also inexpensive and filling. Why not marry two popular versions: mashed potato bar + macaroni & cheese station?
Versatility and ease are the key benefits of this station. I’ve categorized it as a side dish, but do this one right and it could be the main course.
As a side dish, include toppings like chives, sour cream, shredded cheese, and bacon bits. As an entree, add chili, taco meat, steamed vegetables, or any other proteins you can think of to pile on.
Lower Carb Inspiration: A main selling point of the mashed potato bar is the potato’s starchy goodness. You will not want to mess with perfection. So go a different route to make sure all guests have enough. Provide plenty of toppings that can stand on their own. Like broccoli and cheese sauce or a pot of chili. Plan your quantities to expect some to skip the potatoes and load up on these types of dishes.
Make Ahead: You can freeze mashed potatoes up to six months ahead of time. For five ideas on appliances and temperatures to use when reheating yours, take a look at Lisa’s Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes, Reheated Five Ways.
There are a few keys to high quality reheated potatoes.
- Use low-starch potatoes. They will remain creamy after freezing. Choose varieties meant for boiling, not baking. In essence, skip the russets and go for the reds.
- Make sure you use plenty of butter and cream. Mel and Lisa both have you covered with their recipes.
- Freeze flat in bags, without air, for quick reheating.
- If the reheated potatoes are watery, revive them with cream cheese or sour cream.
Keep the carb train rolling. Add macaroni and cheese to your comforting sides station. Cristy’s is a baked version with a homemade multi-cheese sauce. Yum!
The recipe has a crumb topping, which makes for a wonderful presentation. Your guests can add other ingredients on top for a to-die-for experience.
Lower Carb Inspiration: The best you will be able to do with any pasta is to choose a brand with high fiber. Every gram of fiber brings down the net carb count a point. But each brand tastes different. And none will taste exactly like the traditional wheat flour variety.
So ask the people who will be eating it what brand they prefer. And take a look at what’s available to buy. Here’s my affiliate link to the low carb elbow noodles sold on Amazon. (That means if you click and buy I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
Make Ahead: Cristy loves fresh-made macaroni and cheese best, but she also gives tips for making ahead. Boil the pasta and toss in butter. Make the cheese sauce at the same time but do not combine. Then store all the components in the refrigerator until ready to assemble and bake. She has more tips in her post for assuring the quality of the finished dish.
To-Die-for Sweets: Decadent Desserts
It’s almost redundant to use “comfort food” and “desserts” in the same sentence. What dessert is NOT comforting?
Two ingredients, chocolate and cheese, do make frequent appearances. With that in mind, here are a couple of meal-enders for the sweets station.
Riz uses a special ingredient to give this cheesecake extra zing. As well as a blueberry compote to boost the beauty factor to the next level.
And if you worry about those cracks? He has several tips for avoiding, fixing, and hiding them in your cheesecakes.
Lower Carb Inspiration: There is a chemistry to baked sweets. Adjusting any ingredient will likely change its consistency. And it may not taste as you expected. The best route would be to set out fresh berries for those who prefer to avoid sugary desserts. Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are the best choices, followed by blueberries.
Make Ahead: As a rule of thumb, cheesecake will last five to six days covered in the refrigerator. In the freezer, it will hold its greatest freshness for two to three months. After the cheesecake cools, carefully remove it from the pan and freeze on a baking sheet. Then store in an air-free Ziplock. Thaw in the refrigerator for several hours up to overnight.
Marci made these chocolate-dipped peanut butter treats as favors for her own wedding. And they are super easy. The no-bake recipe has only five ingredients. You can even roll the balls during downtime while watching TV.
Lower Carb Inspiration: Each buckeye has 4 grams of carbs, three from sugar. Reduce that by adding less confectioner’s sugar to the peanut butter and butter mixture.
Make Ahead: Marci recommends freezing the finished buckeyes in a sealed container for up to three months.
Winter Wedding Beverages: Hot Chocolate and Apple Cider
What comes to mind when you think of easy hot drinks for Winter? Okay, coffee. But expand your horizons a bit.
Stock the warm beverage station with hot chocolate and apple cider. These diverse drinks are sure to please most guests looking for a non-alcohol pick me up.
Assembling this decadent drink is half the fun. Display cinnamon syrup, caramel sauce, and whipped cream with warmed apple cider. Prop a framed sign with instructions nearby.
Or staff your beverage bar for an entertaining made-to-order presentation.
Lower Carb Inspiration: This one is too perfect to change. You’ll have to go the “offer an alternative” route instead. Brew coffee as a third hot beverage choice.
Make Ahead: This is a beverage intended for assembling by the cup. So there is not a lot of making involved. Assemble your ingredients and supplies in a box when your schedule allows. Make sure your helpers grab the whipped cream out of the refrigerator before delivering to the reception venue.
Your Winter wedding menu must include a hot chocolate bar. Lisa gives you some ideas about the logistics. Her tips will help you make sure the right finishing touches happen at your reception.
A big key to success is your station’s appearance. Look for the link to the pictured labels in Lisa’s post. If you want a different look, check out Kim’s Hot Chocolate Bar Template. She sells an instant download. (That’s my affiliate link. If you click and buy, I get a commission at no charge to you.) Her design is a snowy scene featuring silhouette evergreen trees.
Lower Carb Inspiration: Much lower carb options are out there. Use sweetener instead of sugar. And unsweetened coconut or almond milk instead of regular milk. Begin by Googling “low carb hot cocoa” for potential recipes.
What is Your Favorite Comfort Food?
The definition of comfort food is different depending on who you are. Science suggests we may associate comfort with memories. It’s the food we had at celebrations and family gatherings while growing up.
So tell me in the comments. What is your favorite comforting family dish to bring to big events?