Holiday entertaining can be a daunting task; and unless you have endless hours of time to prep and plan for the descent of family and friends, you may feel as though you’ll never be able to pull off the holiday gathering that so merrily springs to mind when you envision a card-worthy Christmas. But just because you fall short of being Martha Stewart doesn’t mean your efforts don’t count—this is a season of love and joy, so learn to love and take joy in the simple fact that the people you adore (and a few that you don’t) are going to be near and that you’ll have time to spend creating memories together—even if they include a few imperfections here and there. After all, you never know what may start a new tradition—whether you have to make a last-minute switch-up for a side dish that’s gone awry or find out the “fun” way that take-out Chinese food and fortune cookies taste much better than a Christmas turkey, and we should do this every year…right? The important thing is the people around you and the fact that you’ve taken time out of your busy lives to celebrate and be with one another.
That said, you still need to get ready for all the festivities, whether you’re hosting the main event or just having a holiday cocktail party, and we’ve got a few ideas to help keep you on track.
Having out-of-town guests stay at your house? Make a list of dinner dishes to keep your company fed during their stay at Chez Holiday. Buy all the groceries the week before so that you’re not scrambling around at the last minute, and you’ll have enough time to get some other things done…
Like cleaning and getting the guest room ready. Make sure the guest beds have fresh sheets, and make your guests feel even more welcome by setting out a bottle of water and a glass on the nightstand along with some fresh flowers. If you know what they like to read, add a magazine or two to the mix.
If you’re playing hostess (or host) with the mostest, clean up the house a little at a time, starting the week before. That way you won’t get overwhelmed in the midst of everything else you have to do just to keep your normal life in order. Do one room at a time and concentrate on the areas of your home that will actually be used.
Decorate! Show off your Santa spirit in whatever way you want—this is the season of Ugly Sweaters, so if you love to get kitschy, celebrate it without shame!
For any gathering you’re hosting, make sure you have plenty of dishes, flatware, and serving vessels to accommodate the crowd—and all of the food you’re serving. It may help things run more smoothly to take stock of your serving vessels and mark out which dish is for which item by tagging them with Post-Its notes.
You’ll also want to prepare everything as much in advance as you can, in regards to the food you’re planning to serve at your holiday soiree. Make sure that your Christmas turkey is thawed, and assemble casseroles and dips so that you have to only slide them in for baking or transfer to the table on the day of the event.
1 bunch trimmed fresh mint (roughly 1 cup)
1 cup white sugar
14 oz. cups light rum
10 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
6 oz. frozen cranberry juice concentrate (thawed)
2 10-oz. chilled bottles of sparkling water or club soda
6 cups ice
In a large drink pitcher, muddle together mint and sugar. Add rum and lime juice, stirring mixture until sugar has dissolved. Add cranberry juice and water and stir together, then add ice. Pour into festive stemware and sip the sparking flavors of the season!
Bake Brie in Puffed Pastry with Carmelized Pecans
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
14-16 oz. wheel of Brie cheese
2/3 cup whole shelled pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
Crackers (for serving)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove one sheet of puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to thaw for 20 minutes before unfolding. On a lightly floured surface, unfold pastry sheet and roll out to flatten and smooth seams. Place Brie in the center of the pastry and top with butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Fold the sides of the pastry over the topped cheese and press each side together so that the entire wheel of cheese is completely covered in the pastry. In a small bowl, crack the egg and beat together the white and the yolk to create an egg wash. Lightly brush the egg wash over the outside of the pastry, using only enough to moisten the surface. Place the wrapped cheese on a large baking sheet, using a silicone mat or parchment paper lining to avoid sticking and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the pastry has become puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve.