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The holidays can be a stressful time of year, especially if you are hosting a crowd! Use these holiday dinner tips to help you through the season!
Check out my 12 Holiday Dinner Tips for a Stress-Free Season below or PIN IT for later!
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and for many that means stress filled days getting ready to cater to out of town guests, plan and host the big Thanksgiving dinner, travel and gearing up for the remaining holiday season. However, even though Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner can be a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be!
Over the years I have worked as a professional caterer and event planner, as well as have hosted numerous friendsgivings, traditional Thanksgiving dinners, and many other holiday dinner parties. From all this experience, I have a few tips and tricks that will hopefully help you all get through the holidays as stress free as possible!
12 Holiday Dinner Tips for a Stress-Free Season:
1.Make a list and check it twice: Lists may seem tedious to create but will save you so much time, money and energy in the long run. Make a list of guests you plan on inviting, a menu and a list of dishes you would like to serve, a grocery shopping list, and a schedule of when items need to be prepped and cooked the days leading up to your dinner party or big event. Use these the lists as guides to help ensure no one is left out, no ingredients are forgotten and to help you manage your time.
2. Delegate: This is definitely something I do not struggle with! Asking guests to help contribute by bringing a side dish or dessert will not only help cut down on your stress, but will help ease the financial burden that can often come with hosting a big holiday gathering. I have found that most guests don’t mind contributing and often bring a dish even without being asked.
To make it easier on everyone, assign guests specific dishes to bring. This prevents duplicates, helps you plan as the host to know what to expect and where to fill in, and also guides guests and eliminates any stress for them.
In addition to delegating the menu, give family members chores and specific tasks the days leading up to the holiday party to help get ready. Things such as helping clean the house, picking up out of town guests from the airport, setting the table, etc.
3. Not everything has to be homemade: In my early days of professional catering and hosting personal dinner parties, I thought that I had to make everything from scratch to make the dinner the best and most memorable event ever.
However, I quickly realized that buying pre-made things like rolls, appetizers or dessert, were not only easier and less time consuming than making these items from scratch; it was actually more affordable than buying all the ingredients to make my own.
Over the years I have come to find several brands that make quality products that I use time and time again for my dinner parties. Like, I usually never make homemade dinner rolls, but I buy a favorite brand of dinner rolls and warm them up right before serving.
And while I LOVE to bake desserts, I don’t always have the time or energy to do so, especially when I am doing so many other things like making the turkey and stuffing, cleaning my house to host overnight house guests and taking care of a small baby.
Often times I’ll pick up a few Edwards Crème Pies to have on hand for last minute Sunday supper with family or easy holiday desserts. My family, particularly my in-laws, loves the Edwards Turtle Pie, with a chocolate cookie crumb crust, a rich caramel filling and topped with chocolate, pecans, and whipped crème rosettes. We also really like the Edwards Key Lime Pie, made with a fresh-from-the-oven vanilla cookie crumb crust, real Key West lime juice and topped with whipped crème rosettes.
While either of those pies would be great for the holidays, there is also the limited-edition Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie, that would be a festive addition to any holiday function. The Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie is a fresh-from-the-oven vanilla cookie crumb crust, velvety layers of real cream cheese and pumpkin, and topped off with a double layer of whipped crème rosettes.
4. Set out serving platters and gather containers for leftovers: A day or two before your holiday dinner, set out all your serving platters and utensils, like a cake stand and pie serving utensil for your favorite Edwards Pies. Write down what each serving platter will be used for on a sticky note and place the note on the dish. This helps to see what additional serving dishes you may need to pick up beforehand and will help you stay organized.
Also, don’t forget to gather and set aside containers for leftovers. This will help ease in clean up, when you are the most exhausted, and ensure you have enough containers to store everything. Be sure and have plenty of containers on hand (paper plates, plastic food storage bags, etc.) for guests to take home leftovers as well.
5. Shop early and stock up: Even though Thanksgiving is still a month away you should start shopping now for supplies and ingredients. This ensures that you get everything you need before your store runs out and gives you plenty of time to start preparing for the big day.
Also, stocking up on holiday dinner pantry and freezer staples, like paper goods, beverages, chicken broth and Edwards Pies, ahead of time helps spread out the cost over a few weeks. This helps prevent having to spend a lot of money all at one time for your holiday party.
6. Gather your recipes and test them beforehand: Most professional chefs and caters will tell you to never test a new recipe on dinner guests, and I firmly believe in this as well. But that doesn’t have to keep you from experimenting in the kitchen!
With so many wonderful recipes popping up on blogs and in magazines this time of year, you may be tempted to try something new. Trying new recipes is great, but these recipes should be tested well in advance. This ensures you know how to prepare a recipe and that it actually tastes good.
Gathering your recipes ahead of time not only helps you plan your menu and shopping trip, it makes preparation the day of go more smoothly. To make things easier, I like to print off the recipes I will be using or save/bookmark them in a special folder on my phone or tablet, so that I can easily access them when needed.
7. Prep in advance: Many dishes or ingredients can be prepared several days in advance. Chop onions, celery, etc. several days before Thanksgiving and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Even whole dishes, like cranberry sauce and stuffing, can be made ahead of time and served cold, room temperature or finished off in the oven the day of the event. No time to prep? Buy pre-chopped or frozen vegetables to save time and ease in preparation.
8. Think outside the box: Hosting a dinner party or serving a large meal usually requires using a lot of dishes, pots and pans, and serving utensils. However, don’t let only having one oven or twelve plates and fifteen dinner guests stress you out. While many believe using your best china is the only way to go for holiday dinners, paper plates can be easier and more cost effective than renting or buying new, if hosting a large crowd.
In addition, try cooking dishes in disposable containers, for easy clean up, or using non-traditional pots and pans to cook traditional dishes. For instance, free up a casserole dish by cooking stuffing in a muffin tin (trust me, individual stuffing muffins will be a hit) or serve cranberry sauce in small ramekins and have several scattered about the table. And did you know that everything from green bean casserole to mashed potatoes can be cooked in a slow cooker?!?!
9. Store beverages in coolers: Keep the refrigerator free of beverages to save room for all that food. Borrow coolers and use your own to store bottles of water, cans of cola, beer and wine. Also, stock at least one cooler with ice just for drinking.
10. Take some personal time and just breathe: While this time of year can get hectic, it is important to take time for yourself and to de-stress. Take a walk outside and enjoy some fresh air. Do some yoga and sit for ten minutes in total silence. Treat yourself to a pedicure. Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with a good book or magazine.
11. Keep decorations and place settings simple: Growing up my Mom always decorated the house with over the top décor for every single holiday. As kids we LOVED seeing our home transform as the seasons passed and each holiday came and went.
However, every event or holiday doesn’t have to be elaborate or over the top. I’ve found that simple pops of color and seasonal décor can be welcoming, charming and festive. A festive wreath on your front door, fresh, seasonal flowers, and then few other touches like fresh pumpkins, a bowl of ornaments, or a colorful table runner or cloth napkins can really go a long way to making your home festive without requiring a lot of time or money.
12. Don’t stress about the small stuff and remember the reason for the season: Even with careful planning and all these tips, there will be unexpected guests, forgotten ingredients and spilled milk. But all you can do is improvise, laugh it off, embrace precious time spent with friends and family, and grab a fork and dig in!
Just remember when you start to fell stressed, that the reason for the season is love and thankfulness!
If you love Edwards Desserts as much as we do, then you’ll want to share your love of Edwards Desserts on their Facebook page for a chance to win a limited-edition, dessert-inspired prize pack and with an exclusive holiday dinner celebration in your hometown for you and your friends and family! For more information and to enter, click here.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.