I am a foodie. I love food. I love to love food. I love to try new things and experience new flavors. I am a foodie. I also love to cook and experiment with new flavors. My husband enjoys the fact and is amazed that I can look in our pantry, sometimes bare by the end of the week with a teenager, and grab this or that and come up with new and interesting dishes from “nothing”. And when I get to do that for others that are not just my husband and son, I am in heaven…eating good food while in the company of good friends is truly perfect.
Food at a holiday party is no different. The combination of good food and good company is amplified in my mind during the holidays especially with all the craziness of the season. But just because the markets and malls are “crazy” doesn’t mean getting ready for your party has to be. Here are some tips I have learned that make it a little easier so you can enjoy the process and not stress.
Share and Share Alike.
When you are planning your holiday meal an assistant in the kitchen is awesome but 5 cooks is so much better. If you are hosting a party consider potluck or potluck-like. Potlucks can mean less work on a lot of fronts. It means less prep, cooking and clean up for you. It also means less spent on food. The fun with a full on potluck is you are never quite sure what you will be getting, well other than what you are providing. You can set general parameters like a dessert or a main dish but the fun is in the surprise of what delectable yummies will arrive.
Potlucks don’t have to be haphazard though. You can assign specific dishes. My suggestion though is know the people on a more intimate and close level. You probably don’t want to ask you boss to please bring the turkey or stuffing but asking your best friend since high school to bring the mashed potatoes is perfectly cool. I would also suggest keeping this option for parties where there are a select number of guests.
Make a List and Check It Twice.
That is before you go shopping. Whether you are doing a full sit down dinner with you as the only cook or you are potlucking it, you will end up shopping for food. And there is nothing worse than getting home and realizing you forgot something and have to schlep back to the store to get it. I highly suggest going over you recipes and writing a list of all the ingredients with quantities needed. When you get to the store, mark off as you go and you will be surprised. You should have not return trips to the market, unless you want to.
Divide and Conquer.
Ingredients. When I plan a meal for a larger group than my husband, son and I, I try to create a menu that uses common ingredients. For a holiday meal, that may mean ham, stuffing, a salad, and gravy. The ham drippings will go into both the gravy and stuffing. The stuffing will have onions and celery. So my salad will also feature those ingredients. What this does for me is help keep it simple when shopping and saves time BUT it also keeps it simple when cooking.
Speaking of simple, I also suggest a simple menu. Have at least one sparkler menu item but keep the rest simple and easy to prep and cook. If every item is complex or intricate, then you will be spending more time in the kitchen than enjoying your guests. But if one dish is the star, you still get to show off your skills while giving guests a feeling that they are indeed special with the special menu item. Plus, because the other dishes are simple and use common ingredients you get more time. After all, what is a party for…slaving in the kitchen cooking…NO. Its about friends and family.