Can you believe that there are only 49 days until Thanksgiving and 50 until Christmas and Hanukkah? I don’t know about you, but this year has absolutely flown by!
Whether this year will be your first time hosting or your thirtieth, planning and producing a holiday extravaganza can be intimidating–but it doesn’t have to be with our 7 steps for stress-free hosting and entertaining.
1. Plan Ahead
Planning ahead is the key to a stress-free event. Select your menu in advanced and take photocopies of your recipes so your originals don't get ruined by kitchen mess. Take note of what you already have in your pantry, clear out your fridge ensuring you have enough room for perishables (remember that turkey, ham and goose take up a fair amount of room) and have your shopping list ready the day before shopping. Clean your dishes and silverware a week in advance. If you're in a cat-free household, you can set your table a day or two prior! Get a firm number of guests attending to be certain you have the correct quantities of food (figure a pound of meat per person) and beverages. If anyone has any dietary restrictions, it's best to know before you begin cooking. Order your wine ahead of time from wine.com (take 10% off your first order using NEW10) or another online retailer and arrange to have it delivered or picked up with enough time to chill or replace any broken bottles.
2. Keep Valuables Safe
To ensure Grandma’s favorite tablecloth remains pristine, buy inexpensive pieces of fabric from JoAnn’s in festive, seasonal colors. Just make sure you bring your table’s measurements along with you and add another 8-inches to the length and width to hide the base of your table, unless it’s pretty.
3. Delegate Tasks
Doing everything on your own might seem like a noble task, but you’ll likely be stressed out about something which will prevent you from completely enjoying the event. If you have a guest coming that makes really great salads or desserts, don’t be afraid to ask as they’d most likely love to contribute. At the end of the night, hand your husband a trash bag or two—he can do the cleaning for once.
4. Prep In Advanced
Pies and pie crust can be made a day a couple of days in advance (except apple or pecan–they’re soft and will become soggy). Vegetables can be diced the day before; simply store them in zip-lock bags or sealable bowls to keep things fresh. If you’re making soup or stock, feel free to cook up what you need a week ahead of time and keep in the freezer. For Thanksgiving or Christmas, prepare the brine two days before you plan to brine your turkey. You can prepare casseroles and stuffing a day in advance and cook them the day of.
5. Self-Entertain Guests
Keep unwanted visitors out of the kitchen by putting board games, a set of cards and even dice out on a table. If you are expecting children, set up a crafts table where they can make holiday-themed crafts, just designate an adult or child-friendly teenager to supervise. And for children of every age, there are always family-friendly, family-favorite movies on DVD to screen. Ask guests to bring their favorite DVDs or holiday music.
6. Open and Decant Wine Early
Before your guests are scheduled to arrive, open and decant any wine you plan on serving. White wine is best served cold at 50-60º; red wine should be room temperature at 60-70º and sparkling wine should be ice cold and only opened just prior to serving and un-decanted. White wines and sparkling wines should be stored in the refrigerator a few days to be served at optimal serving temperatures. After decanting red wine, place it in the refrigerator for about twenty minutes or more–if it burns your nasal passage when you sip it, it’s too warm!
7. Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in the day and forget to eat. Consider preparing a breakfast strata the night before and simply pop it into the oven first thing in the morning. The kids will be fed and so will you. Put on some music and shake your tail around the kitchen, keeping yourself nice and relaxed as you move through the day.