The holiday season is quickly approaching. I am looking forward to lots of cooking, prepping, and hosting in style. Each year is special to me but 2021 seems like a year of new beginnings. 2020 was full of fright and the season was a little somber. This year I plan to make up the misgivings of last year’s scary COVID season.
Here is my annual list of tips to get you started and keep you afloat throughout the hosting season.
If the devil is in the details, then god is in the prep! Half of my cooking is done the night before any event. The chopping, peeling, washing, and most of the baking is done on the holiday eve. Check your list (see below) and get the simple stuff out of the way. Also, consider cooking burners and the oven space, you’ll need on the big day.
Make a list
I’m a VIRGO so I can not stress this enough. I make all sorts of lists when party planning. A guest list, a SHOPPING LIST, a list of things to do that don’t involve cooking, and a list of things to cook in ORDER. Think about it and make a list of things that you may have forgotten in previous years to slate in time for this year
Use a (grocery) delivery service
Honestly, there’s so much going on and so many errands to run during the season, why not have it delivered?! For my meals, I need to hit various stores to make sure I get just the effect I want. Consider decor, food, and beverage. I love picking my own produce, but I’m not above having amazon deliver my Whole Foods charcuterie selections. Further than that, I opt in to my wine delivery service a month ahead so I have a nice selection delivered to my door. Think about the time you’d save and the physical strength it takes to lug grocery bags and whatever else you’re picking up for your event.
Hire a cleaning service
Cleaning is AS as important as preparation. I give my apartment a deep clean before I have guests over, and if I don’t time it perfectly, it’s a mad dash to make sure everything is sparkling by dinner time. Consider using a cleaning service. Paying for 3 hours of mopping, sweeping and mirror shining could save your peace of mind. If not before the event, then consider the after. Cleaning up after a huge dinner is a chore that takes me the entire next day. If you can afford the expense it’s worth the effort.
Style your table
Styling your table doesn’t have to be expensive and you can get creative. It’s less about the theme of the event but more about creating a feeling that ties into the food. It could be as simple as picking a color to focus on or picking an accent to design around. Start with tablecloths, candles, and colored napkins. Any of these things can be found in the dollar store, only – stay away from the plastic table cloths. Do purchase cheap tealights, ribbons, and simple candle holders.
Set your menu, cocktails included. Create a signature drink and stick to it. Consider something that you can premix and bottle. Last year this worked well with egg nog and saved loads of time prepping it a day before.
Clean while you cook
I live in NYC, though my kitchen is larger than most – the pots and pans stack up quickly. I try to keep a bowl of soapy water in the sink when I’m not using it to quick wash or rinse utensils and pots and pans. Items that I won’t use again I neatly stack in the dishwasher. This technique is very useful but I somehow always end up with a full sink – I shudder to think about what it would be like if I didn’t cook and wash.
Buy more than you need – napkins & ice
I can’t stress the importance of an abundance of napkins. Again, the dollar store is good enough. For the meal, I actually offer large cotton napkins to my guests. Since I don’t use an actual table for seatings, it’s nice for guests to throw them over their laps. Ice is cheap, better to have more than you need than not enough. No one likes warm egg nog! EASY HOSTING MATH: 4 paper napkins per guest. 1 drink per guest per hour. Keep a cooler in the kitchen on the floor just for ice to save space in the freezer.
Provide a selection of beverages
My guests LOVE my homemade egg nog. I usually provide it as a novelty, but last year there were a few non-alcohol drinking egg nog lovers so I needed to make due. Provide a selection, equal parts, soda or juice for those that don’t drink. A simple (house) white and red wine for cheers-ing, and of course plenty of water. P.S. I always keep a nice bourbon or whiskey for celebratory shots to end the night. (jello shots might be a nice touch as well)
Plate your Platters
As you finish your dishes, plate them and cover them with foil so you can quickly warm them when guests arrive. If I have space I use the microwave, and oven to store the dishes until served.
Provide a playlist
Your party needs a soundtrack! I have a holiday playlist by default but I let my guests take over the iPad with only a few restrictions. Guests should be mingling and chatting creating their own soundtrack anyway.
Have something for everyone
Consider, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options based on your guest list. If your menus are as large as mine, everyone should leave full without feeling forgotten.
Make sure you have enough seating
The holidays are a time to be surrounded by family and friends but no one needs to be right on top of each other especially in COVID times. Consider your guest list and how many you can sit comfortably while eating. I invested in a few simple stools, which can be used for seating or individual mini tables.
Set up a Sanitation Station
Find an area near the door, to place a stool or small table to sanitize. Include antibacterial gel, spray, wipes, and face mace masks. For peace of mind, your guests will be able to prepare after the commute but before greeting and eating.
BONUS* Buy plenty of CHEAP foil – Go to the dollar store and stock up. You will use countless rolls before the day is over and it’s better to have more than less.
These are tips that I actually use and that prevent freakouts during holiday planning. Start with a list!
Have a Happy Holiday Season and stay safe! #therobertashow #tabbtips