Quick Tips for Holiday Entertaining
February 12th, 2013 posted by Mary Jo Rulnick
by Mary Jo Rulnick
The extra commitments and responsibilities brought on by the winter holidays can make the most organized person frantic. Then, there’s what seems like the never-ending expense of holiday giving to add more stress. And add in holiday entertaining to the jam-packed schedule and who wouldn’t be ready to skip Christmas. However, mix in a dash of preplanning and a pinch of preparation to create a gathering you can easily host and enjoy, too.
To start, plan your menu by making as much of it self-serve as possible.
Set up a drink station so guests can help themselves. Mix up trendy dishes with traditional ones for your menu. And be sure to watch the advertisements for loss leaders that are plentiful this time of year. Include one or two hot dishes and fill in the rest with raw veggies, seasonal fresh fruit and make-ahead cold side dishes. Be sure to offer a low-cal choice and vegetarian dishes, too. For hot dishes, use the slow cooker or a roaster to keep food warm.
Consider a cheese get-together.
Chunks of cheese with spiced nuts, fresh or dried fruits and a variety of breads can make a great munchies table. Be sure to include three different types of cheese for a smaller group and five or six varieties for a larger group. Serve each cheese on a separate plate with its own knife. Or try hors d’oeuvre party for simplicity. For appetizers, make bite-size nibbles in a variety of colors, textures or flavors. Serve small bite-size hors d’oeuvre so you can eliminate the need for utensils and spills on your carpeting when guests are trying to cut something in half and the piece of kielbasa lands on your carpeting. A favorite club sandwich cut into quarters makes an easy appetizer. Add a garnish on top with a toothpick.
A dessert theme works for an afternoon or after-dinner hour get-together.
Serve three or four desserts, such as seasonal fresh fruit, holiday cookies, and miniature cupcakes for smaller crowd and five to six items for a larger group. Offer coffee and tea; however, make it self serve. Using foam and paper plates will cut down on after-party clean-up; however, use holiday-themed colors in the paper products to add pizzazz to the table. You can find these at dollar or discount stores. Don’t forget music and match it to the gathering and the crowd. Borrow additional CDs from friends or the library.
Now you’re ready to write a shopping list using your preplanned menu.
Post the menu on refrigerator so you don’t forget anything in the frenetic pace to get everything on the table.
Create a preparation and cooking schedule.
Note the designated times that particular dishes must go into the oven or slow cooker so they’re ready in time for the bash. Make as many dishes a day ahead as possible. Or mix dry ingredients together, adding wet ingredients on cooking day.
Pull out your serving trays and dishes several days beforehand.
Use grandma’s bowls and heirloom pieces to hold paper products, cookies, breads and more. Don’t keep them hidden. Decide if you need to buy or borrow additional pieces. Again, look to dollar & discount stores for possibilities.
Set your dining table or buffet table a day or two prior to the party.
Include everything from dishes to utensils to serving pieces. Cover the “set table” with a sheet to avoid dust collecting and uncover prior to guests’ arrival.
Keep garbage cans throughout the party area
so guests can dump their own plates and not leave them on your coffee tables or another other flat surface they find. Assign tasks to family members or early bird guests. Include everything from lighting candles to hanging coats to refilling the relish tray. Now, take a deep breath and enjoy mingling with your guests.