Tips on Effortless Entertaining for the Holidays

The Spirit of the season is upon us and many will have loved ones descend upon their homes, during the holidays.  So how can you entertain effortlessly, while still keeping your cool and serving up delicious food?  Easy!  It my take a little bit of initial of planning and prep, but worth it in the long run. Entertaining should be fun and stress-free. 

Think about your guests and their preferences.  These days, entertaining can be a little tricky with the variety of diets and lifestyles many people choose to live.  Whether plant-based, gluten-free, or vegetarian many of us choose to eat in a while that resonates with our lifestyle.  Create a theme that suits all of your guests, by knowing what people are into and serve a little bit for everyone.

1. Make a plan :  What to serve (food and beverages) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Shop prior to guests arriving and try to prep as much as possible, so when guests arrive, you can have things on hand ready to serve.  Having a menu planned out can help provide you with a road map and can reduce stress with the last minute question of what to cook?  Shopping at the farmers market can provide your guests with the freshest food coming out of the farm, while giving them a taste of the local terroir (taste of soil).

2. It’s a potluck! Request that your guests contribute to the feast with their favorite seasonal dish.  No sense in having everything land on your shoulders.  These days, most people are more than happy to contribute in any way.  Having a theme for brunch, lunch or dinner can help orient your guests in what direction to go.  If you are more spontaneous, be open to what your guests bring! 

3. Appetizers, anyone?  Have simple appetizers that suit various diets. It’s a simple way to keep hungry bellies happy and an easy way to bridge between meals.  Think cheese plates, fruit plates, nut bowls, fresh jams, local honey, winter fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh bread, etc.  Get creative and think outside the box.  What are local specialties?  Guests always enjoy eating local fare.  Refresh the appetizer station throughout the day.

4. All you can eat.  Create a buffet for everything being served.  You can make it as simple or elegant as you want it to look.  Use local foliage to spruce it up.  Keep all your cutlery, plates and napkins, so guests can immediately feel at home and serve themselves.  Storing cutlery in Mason jars will keep them easily organized.  Place your appetizers, sides, main dishes and desserts and allow for the fluidity, so your guests can choose when to eat.  Set a bar for cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, on the opposite side of the room, to avoid a cluster at the buffet.  You can prepare cocktails and place it in a beautiful carafe and make it easier for guests to jump in and feel at home.  Don't want to bother with mixing cocktails prior?  Have all the ingredients necessary in a self-serve station.  Think about having fresh herbs, a shaker, an ice bucket and a range of possibilities. Remember to keep a carafe of water available to keep your guests hydrated.  The more you can do to keep your guests "on their own" the easier it will be on the host!  Opt of ugly wasteful disposable cutlery and plates and instead keep a soapy bin in the sink to inspire guests to chip in.  Cloth napkins, take any meal up a notch or two.  Mix and matched napkin rings keeps everyone's napkin, in order, for use during multiple meals. Its a fun and creative way to set the table and makes it stylish too!

5. Set the Tone.  There is nothing better than music to set the mood ... to anything!  Love making party mixes?  Do it at least a few days in advance, so you can enjoy the process.  Think of the ebbs and flows of short and long visits and make play lists that will fit the various moods.

For overnight guests, have linens and towels stocked up in the guest bedroom and kindly ask for the bed(s) to be stripped in the morning and for linens to be placed in the laundry basket.  The more you can engage your guests in the process, the less that you will have to do.  Most guests would be more than happy to contribute, in any way they can.

Don't expect to do everything yourself.  Ask for help and don't be shy to delegate, if your guests offer to help.  Being a host can offer an opportunity to let go of perfectionism and embrace fluidity.  It is an honor to host our loved ones, might as well do it from the heart and enjoy the process!