Monday, December 24, 2012

How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Dinner

No matter how you slice it, holiday dinners are stressful. However, there is a way to plan it in a way that, on the day of, all you would have to do is throw everything together and they will be ready in no time.

While this blog entry is about our Christmas-and-housewarming party, the principles are to be applied to all events. They are not even strictly for holiday-related parties, but for any gathering in which a meal hosted at your house is involved.

Last night, Sean and I hosted our very first grown-up dinner in our home, and it was so much fun! Here was how we did it:

Before you go any further, get out a pen and notepad.

Step 1: How many people will be there, including you and your immediate family? Set a budget. Now, I added in $30 worth of "wiggle room," in case something happened.

Step 2: Plan the menu in four categories -- Cocktail/starters, side dishes, main dishes, and desserts. Now, write down the foods that you want to serve for each category. Then, next to each food item, write down how much you will need, how much will the cost for that item be, and which plate or bowl will you serve it in.

Step 3: What utensils, tablecloths, etc., etc., will you use?

Step 4: How will you set up your dinner? Will this be a buffet set up, or will everything be on the table?

Step 5: How much time will you need to prepare everything?

Step 6: Create a shopping list. What do you already have? What do you still need?

I decided to host a buffet dinner, but left the bread and spreads, along with different types of wines, on the table. Also, the table had your usual nice place settings, champagne glasses, etc.

Then, I came up with the master menu; this was for me to follow along as I prepared for our dinner. I baked all of the desserts, and made the sangria, the night before.

So, here was my menu, which was a mixture of gluten-free and "regular" fares.

Cocktail & starters:

  • Sangria
  • Deviled eggs
  • Blue corn chips and salsa.
  • Potato Casserole -- the recipe is here; I skipped using pumpkin this time.
  • Spicy turkey ziti.
  • Brown sugar glazed baby carrots
Main Dish: 
  • Spicy BBQ ribs
  • Funfetti cake with bubblegum frosting.
  • Sugar cookies, topped with caramel and chopped roasted peanuts.
I decided to serve mine buffet style, but still set up the dining table nicely. Sean and I wanted our guests to feel special. After all, this was our Christmas-and-housewarming party; we recently moved and hadn't had the chance to celebrate with our friends.

1. The cocktail-and-appetizer station. Sean and I had enough sangria in the fridge to refill that pitcher at least 10 times! Also, we put out the paper plates and napkins for the guests who arrived early. In fact, this really was what the station was for; it was to keep people busy until everybody had arrived at the party.

The flowers and the cute little vase that looks like Santa's stocking were from my mother-in-law; she also sent Sean the paper plates and napkins years and years ago, and we didn't even know that he had them until we packed things up to move.

2. The side-and-main-dishes station. Just for clarification, my stove was not dusty; the camera caused certain places to look shinier than others. The flowers in the picture are from Sean; I loved them!

3. The dessert station. My friend Kerri brought the chocolate mousse cake, along with the treats to the left of it. She brought a lot, but this picture was taken after a few people had been snacking on them.

4. Me, in my favorite apron. :-)

5. For privacy reasons, I do not want to post pictures of my friends on this blog, so here's a picture of Sean and me. Ignore the things draping over the seat; our guests left their things there and we did not even notice them! Lol.

Overall, the party was a huge success, and everything was a breeze, from setting up to cleaning up.

Please feel free to comment with your favorite time-or-money-saving tips for hosting a dinner!

Have a happy Christmas!

Tammy and Sean

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