Large family gatherings may elicit excitement for some, but they can cause anxiety for people hosting a party. If that’s you, and you have visions of burned or undercooked food dancing in your head instead of sugarplums, remember that you can pull off a memorable holiday dinner, without the migraine.
Follow these stress-relief tips:
1. Plan ahead.
Procrastination can lead to stress. If you have a tendency to wait until the last minute to start projects, keep yourself on track by using this task list and its timelines and by enlisting help from guests to plan a menu that accounts for any dietary needs or allergies.
2. Have guests bring a dish.
Who says you have to do it all? Ask each guest to bring a dish or dessert to share. This will take some of the pressure off of you while allowing your friends and family to show-off their culinary skills. You can even turn the dinner into a conversation piece by creating labels with the names of each dish and the chef, along with recipe cards for guests to take home.
3. Solicit help from your guests.
Does one of your friends have a knack for planning? Call in an IOU from a friend, such as when you picked him or her up at the airport before 5 a.m. Invite your friend to come to your home days before the party to help prepare side dishes that can be made in advance, such as this olive bread stuffing with fennel.
4. Pay attention to cooking times and temperatures.
There’s probably nothing worse than having to re-do a main dish that you burned or overcooked. Read instructions carefully and follow them exactly, setting timers to alert you when a dish is done. The United States Department of Agriculture has a helpful chart for cooking times and temperatures for various holiday meats.
5. Don’t cook anything on the day of the party.
Why miss your own party? Start warming up dishes and, when possible, setting them out hours before the event. Then kick back, relax and wait until the guests arrive.
6. Turn clean-up into a friendly competition.
If children will be in attendance, consider having a post-party “clean-up competition.” To prepare, buy gallon-size trash bags as well as prizes to give to the team that collects the most trash. Select prizes that can be shared among team members, such as individually-wrapped chocolate. Divide the kids into two teams by having them draw a team name out of a hat. After the dinner, start the competition and award the winners with the prizes.
With a little planning, you can orchestrate the perfect holiday party and actually get to enjoy it yourself.