Hosting for the Holidays, with balance.

It's official, we have entered in to the holiday season! Prepare yourselves for shopping, gift giving, being with friends, family and a LOT of food!

My holiday get togethers consist of kids, adults, drinkers, foodies and those that immediately ask what time is dinner served. Add in four children under the age of 10, and the excitement for presents start to over rule any pre scheduled activities for the evening. After many years of hosting, I've curated a few tips and tricks on how to balance your holiday gatherings to appease even the most difficult of crowds.

  1. Plan your menu! Seems simple enough, but I find that writing everything down ahead of time helps my mental state on the day of. I plan appetizers, cocktails, the main meal and dessert! Planning your menu will also help you create your shopping list. I will choose the food item and write that down on my "menu list", then look up the ingredients for that item and add to my "shopping list".

  2. Prep your food ahead of time! If there is anything you can prepare ahead of time, DO IT! This saves so much time on the day of your get together. I typically prepare any appetizers and finger foods the night before. I also choose the platters that will be used for each food item and use post-its to label each one so I don't forget why I selected them. Food is not all you can prep ahead of time! I've set the table the night before and if you you brine your turkey, you will want to prepare that the night before as well. The more you can do ahead of time, the more time you will have to spend with your family and friends on the day of.

  3. Organize your cooking time! Ok, this might be for the "A" type personalities but I can't tell you how many times this has saved me. When you're cooking a turkey, sides and possibly dessert, how can you get everything to the table at the same time when you only have one oven!? Obviously the turkey goes in first, assuming you are cooking it in the oven. I have chosen the frying method before and didn't mind it considering it freed up so much prep time! Depending on the timing your sides take, I usually always leave room under the turkey for an additional rack. I can typically place two trays of sides in the oven at the same time while the turkey is finishing up cooking. With those in the oven, I prepare all cold food items like salad for the table. Once those items are removed from the oven, I will throw the rolls in so they're nice a warm as we sit at the table to eat. If you need to bake your dessert, place this in the oven once the other hot items are out. This way, it can cook while you eat and you can serve it fresh from the oven once everyone is ready!

  4. Keep them busy! This may be difficult if you are the chef preparing one of the biggest meals of the year. In my experience, if I have these three things readily available when my guests arrive, I'm left alone to complete my culinary tasks! First, have appetizers ready a accessible when people arrive. This will keep your foodies at bay until dinner time. Second, have simple cocktails available. Fortunately, I never had to go too fancy with this one. A simple ice bucket with white wine and beer has gotten me by, as well as a bottle of red whine already uncorked and glasses available. Third, gifts and goodies! With kids, I find that food will only occupy them for so long, if at all. Mine in particular get too excited to eat right away. This is why I've made it a tradition to have cute little goodie bags set up and ready when all the kids are together. This can be something as simple as a small toy, a puzzle or activity. Whatever keeps them busy!

  5. Be present. Don't forget, this holiday is for you as well. Take time to converse with your guests, poor yourself a drink, taste test those yummy appetizers! I guarantee something will go wrong or your timing may be off. Roll with whatever the day throws at you. Most importantly, enjoy the day!

There you have it! I hope this strategy helps you host your holiday gatherings with as little stress as possible. Happy Holidays everyone!

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