Loaves and Dishes: Entertaining during the holidays

Wendi Spraker

Let’s face it. When your 20 guests arrive for Christmas dinner, are they going to see the back of your disheveled head as you run from the room in your stained apron hollering, “Sorry, I’ve got to check the beans,” or will they find a spiffy hostess that is serenely handing out appetizers, asking for drink orders and inquiring about New Year’s plans?

Believe me, I’ve been there (the disheveled hair and messy apron – more than once). What makes holiday cooking for a crowd frightening, isn’t really the cooking. It is the absolute volume and coordination of it all. I mean, really, do any of us have a kitchen made to feed 20 people? It isn’t your fault.

I thought I would share a few entertaining tips for your holiday soiree.

1. It’s all about planning. What can you do for you? That is the name of the game! A menu that can be mostly prepared in advance is ideal. Casseroles that can be put together the day before, cooked and then reheated in the last 30 minutes are your friend. Marinated salads that are prepared 2 days ahead and refrigerated – perfect. Only plan on desserts that you can cook at least a day before.

2. Homemade store/bought – some of both. Plan your meal so that some is homemade and some is store bought – Check out your local bakery for rolls, cake, pies and fresh bread. Your local businesses would be so thankful!

3. Use more than just your stove. Crockpots and toaster ovens should be included in your plan. Virtually anything that can be cooked in an oven can be prepared in either of these. (Just don’t overload your circuit breaker).

4. Set the table the day before. A day or more before your event, go ahead and dress the table. Plates, cups, silverware, napkins, serving pieces, trivets and hot pads. Have it all out, ready and planned. No one wants to be last minute trying to find one more clean drinking glass. Make sure that everyone will be able to see over your centerpiece so they can talk.

5. Ice. (Hello tiny ice maker) – make sure to have an extra bag of ice in the freezer. You can make it yourself in the weeks before the holiday and store in ziplock bags in the freezer or purchase some at the store – just don’t run out..

6. Children and pets. You will want to make sure that you have accommodations for children at your table. High chairs? Big Books to sit on? What will you do with pets during the event – both your own or someone else’s?

7. A rest for the clock. In planning how you will cook dinner, allow yourself some down time. Take 30 minutes before guests arrive for yourself. Go lay on the bed. Listen to music. Go outside for a walk. Whatever is your thing. Just do it. You will greet your guests looking and feeling refreshed.

8. Bathrooms. The day before your event, make sure that you have cleaned up and stocked up the bathroom. Put out extra toilet paper and hand towels. Just before guests arrive and the meal is on it’s way – make a final run through the bathrooms to make sure everything is stocked and neat.

9. Smoker. Do smokers have a place to be at your home? Are you aware of who smokes? It’s always good to be prepared for smokers so that you aren’t running around at the last minute trying to find an ashtray or find an appropriate place for them to be.

10. What it’s all about. Finally – holiday meals are really about time spent with friends and family. If the potatoes burn a little, if the gravy is lumpy, if the plates don’t match – it is ok – as long as everyone had a good time and enjoyed each other. That is what matters.

So, I’ve yammed on too much, but I do want you to look like the doll you are this holiday season. No messy hair and dirty aprons!

I would love to hear about your holiday plans. What did you serve? How did you avoid the holiday madness? How did you use the other appliances in your kitchen? You can find me 24/7 at my website, www.loavesanddishes.net or on the email at wendi@loavesanddishes.net


Wendi Spraker