Christmas Dining Room 2019 and Tips for Easy Entertaining

This year’s dining room is probably my favorite.  I lined up a collection of trees on the buffet and most of them light up, which adds a warm ambiance at night. 

When I use a lot of decorations for the buffet, I like to have a simple center piece on the dinner table.  I used my favorite table runner and lined the center with a variety of sizes of candles.  It’s so simple but I absolutely love the way it came out.

I love to entertain during the holidays.  There’s something wonderful about being surrounded by friends, family, and good food.  But hosting can also be overwhelming and stressful. I’ve learned a few things over the years to make entertaining easier and not as scary. My goal is to host a dinner party where everyone has a great time and I don’t go crazy. Honestly, if it weren’t for my husband talking me off the ledge over and over I’m not sure I’d host at all.

Here are my favorite tips for easy entertaining that I live by:

Plan, plan, plan.  This is probably my #1 tip.  If you can plan it ahead of time, then do it.  Set the table days before, make the hummus the day before, taste the cookies the night before, you get the idea.  The goal is to do whatever you can ahead of time. That means the day before and in the morning before the guests arrive.  For me, this is the key to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. Plus, this allows you to be a guest at your own party. You’ll see that most of my tips involve doing tasks ahead of time so that you’re not doing everything on the day of the party. 

Set the dinner table ahead of time.  I create one centerpiece for the dinner table that lasts the entire holiday season.  If I’m using fresh flowers for the centerpiece, then I make the arrangements the day before the party. That obviously has to be done on a regular basis to keep everything fresh. Which is another reason for going with candles and non-perishable things.

Also, I recommend setting the place settings a day or two before the party to spread out the work. Although, don’t do this too much ahead of time if you’re using your every day plates and utensils otherwise you’ll be using plastic forks for dinners before you host, and that’s just silly.

Plan the menu and go food shopping.  Make a shopping list based on the menu. Double check your list, recipes, and inventory so there are no surprises where you discover you have a spice, but not enough of it. My husband always says, bring a pen to the grocery store because a list is useless if you have no way to know you’ve gotten everything on it. In case it wasn’t obvious, go grocery shopping before the day you are hosting. Most things keep for a couple days at least without issue, and this keeps you from running out when you could be preparing something else.

Sometimes I like to try new recipes out on my friends and family and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. However, if you do want to try something new, then make sure that you have a plan B lined up in case the recipe is a flop. Even if that means ordering pizza, no one likes being hungry at an event where they thought there would be food.

Some recipes can be mostly made ahead of time and then finished while the guests are around. Other things can be made ahead and warmed up without any bad side effects. Use your judgement because of course the timing (and how far you take a recipe ahead of time) depends on what the food is. Sometimes things just taste better right after being cooked. Don’t provide bad food to guests just for the sake of trying to prepare too much ahead.

Don’t make every meal on the menu complicated.  Use your time wisely. I don’t tend to make complicated appetizers anymore because a charcuterie (aka cheese and crackers platter) is always loved by guests and takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Maximum.  If Ina Garten says cheese boards are fantastic then I must be doing something right. 

If you prefer fancier appetizers you could try to save time on the dessert by grabbing something from a bakery or grocery store instead. Grocery store bakeries have come a long way and you can find great options for a great price.

Lay out the platters and serving dishes ahead of time.  I like to lay out all the platters and serving dishes ahead of time too.  This may sound like a lame tip, but gathering platters and things that I don’t keep in the kitchen all the time takes time (usually in the form of multiple trips to the basement).

I hope that you find these tips helpful.  Are there any tips for easy hosting that you live by?

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