Everyone knows that hosting the holidays can take your stress level from 0 to 60. But, worry not, with careful planning and some tips, this year will be the holiday entertaining season that you actually enjoy just as much as your guests.
Make a List - Perhaps the ultimate way to create a stress-free holiday is to live by a list. Plan ahead, and don't be afraid to delegate. Asking guests to help with a party-related task makes them feel more involved, so never be afraid to ask.
Cook Ahead- Do as much ahead of time as possible. Soups and stews are the ultimate winter and holiday food — they'll feed a crowd. If you’re famous for a recipe, make it. Knowing you’re serving a sure thing will take some pressure off. And there’s nothing wrong with trying a new recipe, just give it a trial run before serving it to a crowd.
Stock Up- You'll never run out of nibbles if you shop with an aim to entertain. Stock your pantry with a selection of cookies and crackers. Consider purchasing nuts in bulk — which can be mixed together. Serve them with drinks or chop and scatter around a cheese platter. Long-lasting jarred tapanades and pestos make an impressive dip when mixed with fresh sour cream.
Keep Drinks on Hand- As far as beverages go, it's always smart to stock up on soda and mixers. Make sure to have coffee (regular and decaf), cocoa, cider and a basket of teas handy. Keep your bar stocked with vodka, rum and a few choices of wine.
Create Comfort- For a casual holiday party, don't feel compelled to seat guests around a dinner table. If you've got a lot of company, a buffet may be a better way. Buffets are the most efficient way to serve a lot of people, but be sure to pull the table away from the wall so that there are four sides available to people, otherwise lines form and people can't get to the food easily.
Be a Graceful Giver- Store a few extra gifts in a closet and you'll never be caught off-guard when a friend springs an unexpected gift-exchange; try to collect items for all ages and a few gift bags in holiday colors. If you make a practice of picking up items as you stumble upon them throughout the year, it'll be easier when the season comes around. Consider buying in bulk — divide one case of good red wine or champagne or prettily wrapped portions of quality tea or coffee. Or do some extra baking. Double that cake recipe or cookie confection and you'll have freshly baked gifts ready to go.