By Julie Hartigan of Cooking w/Julie

November 15, 2018

6 Tips for No Stress Holiday Entertaining

The busy holiday season is here and with it comes shopping, parties, and possibly hosting duties, too. No need to stress! Whether you’re a seasoned party pro or a reluctant host these easy tips and tricks will help you entertain with ease and (gasp!) relax and feel like a guest at your own party.

1) Stock up on Essentials

Well before the holidays really kick in pick up plenty of paper goods, sodas, mixers, party skewers, crackers, charcuterie, cheeses, dips, condiments and other items that will keep for several weeks. Stores only get more crowded as the holidays hit and with a few items on hand you’ll be ready to host guests on the fly, too.

 2) Have a Party Plan

Jot down a basic plan of action at least a week in advance. List the menu items you’d like to serve, any serving pieces or folding tables you need to buy, borrow, or dig out from last year, and any additional setup you need to do. Take friends and family up on their offers to help! But try to designate one part of the menu for them to contribute to such as wine, desserts, or party apps so you can plan appropriately for the rest of the menu. Write a shopping list for all the items you’ll need and buy as much in advance as you can. Online grocery deliveries are a huge time-saver too! Also, list out the tasks you need to get done in the days leading up to the party including when you’ll make each dish, when you’ll setup, etc. Without a plan hosting can feel more daunting than it really is! And with a plan you won’t forget any important details and be stuck scrambling last minute.

3) Make Ahead Dishes

The holidays are definitely not the time to make that fussy soufflé or dish that will keep you trapped in the kitchen when your guests arrive! Incorporate as many make-ahead items as you can into your menu. Most soups, dips, punch, and desserts can be put together up to 2 days before your party. Our Cranberry Pecan Holiday Cheeseball (pictured below) is a fun and festive party app that can be made up to a week ahead! Slow cookers are also wonderful for hands-off, make ahead dishes. You can even store the food in the insert and use your slow cooker to rewarm it a few hours before your party!

4) Help Your Guests Help Themselves

Create fun self-service stations at your party – it gives everyone a chance to mingle and really eases your workload! It’s also a great way to put unused corners of your home to work to spread out the crowd. No need for any fancy gear; a folding table or several tv trays in a row with a table cloth on top will do the trick. This works wonderfully for an impromptu home bar -you can even set it up a day or two before your party…just add ice and you’re done!. Another unique twist is to create an after dinner Coffee and Dessert station – when guests bring cookies or candy you can just ask them to add them to the other treats. Serving your main meal as a buffet will also make it easier to serve a crowd and let guests customize their plates. A few pro tips: Lay out all the serving pieces and serving utensils the night before and label them for each dish, roll up silverware in napkins to make it easier for guests to grab, and use tiers or small gift wrapped boxes with platters on them to create height and add interest to your buffet.

5) Room Temperature Dishes

As you plan your menu, try to include several dishes that don’t need to be served piping hot. Carved meats like ham or turkey, roasted vegetables, salads, dips, and many party apps like our Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple, and Onion Galette with Roquefort Cheese or Pear and Gruyere Tart with Thyme (pictured below) are perfect choices. A gorgeous holiday cheeseboard with a mix of imported cheeses, meats, olives, and accompaniments will be a sure fire hit. And remember, cheeses are best enjoyed at room temperature, which makes them ideal for parties! Cheeseboards can be assembled the morning of your party and put out for guests an hour before they arrive. To learn how to assemble a well-rounded cheeseboard, check out our “International Cheeseboard to Love” post.

6) No Fuss Holiday Apps

It’s a great idea to have a few easy party bite recipes in your repertoire to welcome unexpected guests. Our Apple Harvest Bites with imported Blue Cheese, Walnuts, and Pomegranate can be made in 5 minutes flat with ingredients you can easily keep on hand. Or whip up a batch of Antipasto Skewers with things like olives, rolled cured meat, cubed imported cheese such as Pecorino Romano, Aged Cheddar, Gouda, or Swiss, grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms or pepperoncini. They’re colorful, fun, and easy for guests to eat. Pre-made mini filo shells are another speedy yet upscale option – they’re found in your grocer’s freezer by the puff pastry and pie crusts and are the perfect vehicle for all kinds of party apps. Just fill them with your favorite soft imported cheese such as Brie, Camembert, Delice de Bourgogne, or Chèvre and top with a dollop of fig jam or a drizzle of honey. Or try our recipe for Spanish Manchego and Serrano Bites for an easy app that wows!

Remember! If you’re having fun, your guests will have more fun too. With our tips and tricks you’ll have more time to relax with family and friends and enjoy the party too. Happy Holidays!