I LOVE the holidays and I love to share them with family and friends. Hosting holiday dinners and parties should be a time of celebration- not a stressful, budget-busting nightmare. I’ve learned a lot over the past 25 years of hosting family celebrations. So, if you’re the host…and the chef…here are some helpful hints, so you don’t get SO wrapped up in preparation that you’re too tired to enjoy the celebration!
1. Plan your menu carefully! Think about your schedule and your budget the week prior to your party, and only put things on the menu that you can handle. No one is going to know if that appetizer took hours or minutes! Consider making things ahead of time and freezing them. I start baking my holiday cookies the week after Thanksgiving, and Christmas breakfast cinnamon buns are in the freezer 2 weeks in advance. Make lists – sort them by stores and schedule your menu right down to the times you take them out of the oven. This helps if you have other helpers in the kitchen, too.
2. Think buffet/food stations! Yes, we all like to have a sit-down dinner. But if it means you have to set up 5 tables with serving platters on each, consider putting all the food on the buffet! This means 1 serving dish for each item and a lot easier to clean up. If you’re having a dinner, you still want to make sure you have a place for everyone to sit and a table to put their plate on. Heavy hors d’oevres and “cocktail party” food is easier to balance if you don’t have a seat for everyone.
3. Ambiance means lighting and music! Set the queue on your iPod to run the night. Remember to crank up the beat for cocktails and temper down the volume for dinner! Drip-less candles and battery-operated candles are great if you have a really large crowd and don’t have time to keep an eye on things. Now is the time to use the dimmers on those overhead lights!
4. Think easy clean-up! We all want to be “green” but sometimes disposable is actually better than all the water it takes to wash all those dishes. There are amazing products available that are hard to tell that they aren’t fine china!
5. Most important – Have fun! As my friend Colleen says, “This is no one’s last meal”. The celebration and the company are why they are there. We all want the food to be perfect but things happen. Here’s a true story about an office party I hosted…
I really wanted to try a spectacular chocolate raspberry torte. It took hours. When it was almost finished, the last step was to cover it with whipped cream. At this point I was out of time and running out of steam. I grabbed the “whipped cream in a can” covered the cake and put in the fridge. Serving time comes and into the fridge I go…only to find the “whipped cream in a can” had deflated and ran down the torte and down every shelf in my refrigerator. I couldn’t stop laughing – OMG what do I do?? I went back to the party and enlisted the help of a dear friend. Once we stopped laughing we cleaned off the cream, plated it from the kitchen and added an extra squirt of cream on its way out of the kitchen. After all the “oohs” and “ahhs” over the dessert (which was AMAZING!) we told our story. To this day I think about that and what I learned. Your guests are there for your company…they are very forgiving. And your response to unexpected surprises is infectious. If you shrug it off and laugh, they will, too!
So, do yourself a favor and RELAX! (And a glass of wine for the cook doesn’t hurt, either!)
To spruce up your decor, try one of these! You can never have too much glitz over the holidays!
This is a great idea for a cocktail party! Now you can eat, drink, talk, and walk….
And how fun are these?!! I guarantee that camera will turn a few heads! So, grab your glass and fill it to the rim, you’re going to need it! Happy Entertaining!
I love any new hints for party planning! Please share yours in the comments section!