Graham is a former chef and food stylist with a passion for all things food-related. She has also never been known to decline dessert.
Working as a Caterer
As a caterer, I had collected dozens and dozens of small glass votive holders. I would scatter them around tables, tuck a few among the serving platters and line them along the walkways.
I had a few different shapes. Some were round, some were slightly fluted, and others were short cylinders. They were all about the same size, approximately 2-3 inches high. All were clear glass. New, they cost between $1.50-$3.00.
When I no longer needed so many, I sold them. However, I kept a few dozen and have used them on a variety of occasions for everything except burning a candle.
Their small size and durable glass make them a perfect serving piece for a variety of foods. Here are 10 different ways that I have used votive holders.
1. Beer Tasting
A few years back, my husband and I hosted an Octoberfest party. There is a great little shop in the nearby city of Concord that sells beers from around the world. For this Octoberfest, we definitely wanted to offer our friends a taste of a few different beers.
We lined seven glass votive holders along the top of each table setting. We poured the darkest beers first and the lightest beers last.
The table looked great, and there was plenty of room for all the food that we had prepared. When we had tasted the first few beers, we removed the glass holders to make room for elbows and conversation.
The Octoberfest was a lot of fun. We are certainly planning on hosting another one. Next time, we may buy a few wooden paddles (they sell them at Michael's). Using a 1-inch circle cutter, small indents can be made into the paddle. Each glass votive holder sits neatly within the indent. Each guest can leave with their own beer-tasting glass/paddle kit.
Your guests will want to know what they are drinking. We made tiny tags and placed them in front of each glass. You could write the beer on the paddle, also. I like the idea of painting each paddle with chalkboard paint. Then you can reuse the paddles again.
2. Mini Dessert Bar
I'm a big fan of mini desserts. I like to have a little nibble of a few different sweets rather than a big slice of one. Many stores now sell mini dessert holders, but due to the packaging and marketing, they can be a bit pricey. The glass votive holders are the ideal size for many mini dessert recipes.
I prefer the clear glass holders because mini desserts are typically layered and colorful. Although colored or etched glasses would work nicely, the clear holders let your guests see exactly what they are choosing.
Creating a few mini desserts or a mini dessert bar is really not as difficult or as time-consuming if you plan your desserts beforehand.
Choosing 3 or four desserts that have similar ingredients is the easiest way to plan your dessert bar. Also, you may decide to make a few desserts that can be frozen, allowing you to prepare a few desserts in advance of your party.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Chocolate mousse
- Strawberry shortcake
- Fruit trifle
- Ice creams
- Crustless pies, such as key lime
When thinking about creating your own dessert bar, remember that you do not need to make an abundance. Depending upon the number of guests, 3-4 of one dessert is ample. Offer your guests between 5-6 different desserts. That will give you 15-24 individual desserts.
3. Freezer Jams
For any of you that pick your own berries each season and then make jam, you know it's a lot of work. Freezer jam is much easier, and I can make it in small batches.
When you want to offer neighbors or friends a taste of your homemade jam, this is a nice way to do it. Although small, the votive holders can contain several ounces of jam. That's enough for someone to enjoy it a few times.
Drop off a loaf of fresh bread and one of your votives filled with jam. I'm sure you'll have the glass holder returned to you. Your friends will want it filled the next time you make a jam.
- 2 1/2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen work)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 package of liquid pectin
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- In a freezer-safe bowl, combine the raspberries and the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Add the envelope of pectin and lemon juice to the bowl of raspberries. Stir continuously for 3-4 minutes.
- Place the bowl into the fridge and allow the jam to set. Spoon jam into your glass votive holders and transfer to your freezer.
If you intend to fill many votive holders, it is helpful to place them on a rimmed sheet pan, then transfer them to the freezer. If you do not intend to give the jam as gifts, I suggest you put most of the jam into freezer-safe containers with lids for better storage.
4. Compound Butters
Compound butter is simple to make and is a nice alternative to plain butter. The combination of ingredients is endless and can elevate a bland meal into something much more flavorful.
I recommend that you make a few different kinds of compound butter for yourself. Keep them in your freezer, where they'll keep for months. Fill a few of your glass holders, and be sure to bring them to your next party with a loaf of crusty bread or to your next BBQ, where your host can spread a little of the butter onto ears of corn.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations
Chipotle and Lime Butter
- 1 stick butter (the better the butter, the better the compound butter)
- 1 can of chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped*
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
- Pinch of salt (can be omitted)
*When working with peppers, wear gloves or take care. Do not rub your eyes or touch your lips.
Bacon and Bourbon Butter
- 1 stick butter
- 1 slice crisply cooked bacon strip
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- pinch of smoky sea salt (can be omitted)
Herb and Shallot Butter
- 1 stick butter
- 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, finely minced
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- pinch of salt (can be omitted)
5. Individual Nutella Jars
I recently made a few glass jars of homemade Nutella for some friends. A few told me they spread it on toast; another friend said she just ate it with a spoon.
Like the freezer jam and compound butter, homemade Nutella will last in your freezer for several months.
I covered the top of my Nutella with a parchment circle. You could also cut a circle from a paper bag and do the same. Wrap a ribbon around the entire votive holder to secure it. You could also wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap. It won't last long once you've given it away. Your friends are going to want more.
6. Individual Crudité
Rather than serve a large platter of raw vegetables with dip, try serving an individual glass to each guest. Spoon the dip into the bottom of each glass. Cut short strips of vegetables, such as carrots, celery, asparagus and daikon radishes. Stand the strips in the glass and top each one with a small broccoli floret.
By making your crudité this way, you could also make a few different dips and offer your guests a selection.
- Sour cream and dill
- Blue cheese
- Wasabi mayonnaise
- Green goddess dressing
- Roasted red pepper dip
- Baba ganoush
7. Mixed Toasted Nuts
Sometimes it is nice when you can take your cocktail and hors d’oeuvres and wander the party. You don’t want to hover around the table of food, but you certainly want to enjoy it.
This is another way glass votive holders come in handy. Have a large bowl of mixed, toasted nuts on the table. Line a few of the votive holders in front or around the bowl and place one inside the bowl, as if you were scooping some of the nuts into it. By doing that, your guest will know how to use the glass holders and not feel shy about filling them up to sample.
Mix nuts can be a formal-looking snack or a casual one depending on the recipe and how you serve them. Here are two simple recipes.
Rosemary Toasted Nuts
This recipe is nice for any party but especially nice for something a bit more festive.
- 1 pound unsalted mixed nuts
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons minced rosemary, plus a few whole sprigs for garnish
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Spread the nuts onto a rimmed sheet pan.
- Roast the nuts in the preheated oven for 10 minutes (you will start to notice the nut oils, and the nuts will become fragrant).
- Remove the nuts from the oven and gently shake the sheet pan in order to toast as much of the nut surfaces as possible. When the nuts are golden-brown remove them from the oven.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter and brown it slightly. Remove from heat. Add the rosemary and brown sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves.
- Drizzle butter mixture over nuts and toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts with sea salt and toss again. Spread nuts on a clean sheet pan and allow to cool. Serve in a decorative glass bowl or a silver bowl, along with your glass votives.
Honey Roasted Almonds
- 4 cups whole almonds, skins on
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 4 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil works also)
- Spread the almonds onto a rimmed sheet pan. Place in the 350-degree oven. Roast almonds until they are golden and fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Mix the sugar and the salt together. Stir the honey, water and oil together. Pour the honey mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a boil. Stir in the almonds and continue to stir. The almonds will eventually absorb the liquid. This step will take 5-10 minutes.
- When all the liquid has been absorbed, immediately transfer the almonds to a bowl and sprinkle with salt mixture. Toss well to coat. Spread on wax paper and allow to cool. Serve in a small tin bucket or wooden bowl. Perfect for the football game.
8. Oyster Shooters
This can be either an appetizer or a great little brunch addition. We have served them as a replacement for the traditional Bloody Mary.
The better your Bloody Mary recipe, the tastier the shooter. My mom taught me how to make a flavorful Bloody Mary mix, and over the years, I have added ingredients to the already lengthy list. Here is the one rule to a great mix: If in doubt, add the ingredient and add all ingredients that you can find.
Bloody Mary Recipe
Have a container available that is large enough to hold two quarts of V-8 juice (I like to make extra for anyone that would like a cocktail with brunch.
- 2 quarts V-8 juice
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 5 Tablespoons fresh horseradish
- 3-4 dashes of green Tabasco sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
- 1 half jalapeno pepper, seeded and deveined
- 1 teaspoon olive juice
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1-2 strips of very crisp bacon
- Quality vodka
- celery salt for the rim
- smoky sea salt for the rim
- Pour V-8 into a large container. In a food processor, combine the celery, garlic clove and bacon. Pulse until the ingredients are super fine. Add too V-8 juice. Add all other ingredients (except the vodka) to the juice, secure the cap and shake vigorously. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least overnight. A half-hour before your guest arrives, take Bloody Mary mix from the fridge and allow to warm slightly. The flavors are more pronounced and complex when the mix is not icy cold.
- Wet a paper towel and place it onto a small plate. On another small plate, pour celery salt and smoky sea salt (about 2 Tablespoons worth). Place the votive rim on a damp paper towel and then onto the celery salt mix. This will create a nicely salted glass rim.
- Have your freshly shucked oysters ready. Drop one into the bottom of each glass votive holder. Fill the holder to the brim with Bloody Mary mix and serve.
9. Appetizer Soups
It's nice to serve soups, but I never want my guests to be too full at the end of the meal. There's dessert to come, remember. I like to serve soups as almost a teaser. During colder months, I love this cream of mushroom soup. It's quite rich and is another reason why I'd rather not serve it in a bowl.
With a little garnish, it's beautiful and satisfying. The glass votive holder strong glass makes it easy to hold the warm soup in hand.
During the summer months, chilled soups are another easy item to serve. Cold avocado soup is yummy with a Mexican menu.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
1 hour 15 min
You will have ample for your guests.
- 1 ounce dried mixed mushrooms, including porcini, morels, and shitakes
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (I use stems too)
- 1 pound shitake mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 6 cups chicken stock chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- white truffle oil
- parmesan cheese
- crusty bread
- Soak the dry mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes until plump.
- Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter to remove grit and reserve, along with the reconstituted mushrooms, until needed.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the herbs and sizzle for a few minutes on both sides to infuse the oil. Remove herbs.
- Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown.
- On high heat, add the white mushrooms and shitakes.
- Cook for 10 minutes and allow the mushroom liquids to evaporate and also be absorbed back into the mushrooms. Stir occasionally.
- Add the chicken stock and the dried mushrooms along with the soaking water that you had reserved.
- Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cream and butter. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Ladle into your votive holders. Drizzle a scant amount of truffle oil on top of each serving. Add a curl of Parmesan cheese or dust a little over the soup.
- Serve with a thin stick of crusty bread.
10. Individual S'mores Burner
If you search the web, you will find some great ideas on how to create your own s'mores bar. This individual-sized cast iron grill, in particular, is one of my favorites because it's for each guest. However, it was $16.99. Really, how often are you going to use it with so many other fabulous ideas to try? I'd prefer to spend my money on food.
That's when I tried the votive holder. Sure they are a bit slower, but they work, and they are charming. Set a new candle in one of the holders. Set it on each guest's dessert plate with s'mores ingredients, along with a few fondue forks, skewers or sticks.
Another idea that takes more time to prepare but allows your guests to still have fun making their own S'mores is to prepare a plate of s'mores on a stick.
You could have a large platter in the center of the table, or you could put five s'more sticks on each plate, along with the votive.
Provided that there is an adult around, this would be fun for kids at the next birthday party celebration.
I could easily be one of those people that collects every imaginable kitchen item and serving dish, but I try to restrain myself. Why spend hundreds of dollars on things I may only use once? Then there is the problem of storage.
These votive holders are inexpensive, durable, and readily available, and if one breaks, I know just where to find a replacement. Give a few of these ideas a try if you haven't already.