The holidays are a great time to impress friends or family with an unforgettable dinner spread. Hosting any kind of gathering means there are a lot variables to consider. To aid in the party planning process, we’ve supplied a variety of tips to kick your meal up a notch while you fuss over the details. We hope with our favorite recipes you can go forth and tackle the next big holiday gathering with confidence and flair!
Even if this isn’t your first rodeo, the holiday season gets hectic making it easy to overlook the basics. Here are some of our favorite party planning tips:
- Label everything. Not only does this allow you to add a creative touch to your spread, but it also help appease food allergies, dietary restrictions or picky eaters. Pro Tip: You can also allow guests to mark their drink glasses and if you want to get really organized, have a pre-set table with place settings.
- Make it a buffet. You want time to mix and mingle with your guests without having to worry about serving them. Strategically organize the buffet area with drinks in one spot, appetizers in another, and desserts somewhere else. The main course can grace the dinner table as a centerpiece.
- Pass the plastic. Unless you want to break out the fancy china, plastic plates, silverware and cups will save you a lot of time doing dishes. It’s less work and we promise, your guests won’t mind.
With any party come guests with a slew of appetites. A good hostess always take inventory of who is attending and what their food preferences may be. Below we’ve outlined some of our favorite starters sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Our Overall Favorite – Bacon Wrapped Dates
Makes: 25-30 bacon-wrapped dates
Time: 30-40 minutes
This is a great recipe that is easy to make with the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Prep is simple and all you need is a toothpick to enjoy these bite-sized starters.
Vegetarian – Crispy Kale with Lemon-Yogurt Dip
Makes: Depends how you break up the leaves, but 1 lb. goes a long way.
Time: 30 minutes or less
Not only will your veggie-friendly guests love this recipe, but it’s a great way to introduce others to a power green. It’s healthy and virtually guilt-free.
Gluten Free – Spinach Artichoke Dip
Makes: 6 servings
Time: 25-30 minutes
Both this recipe and kale chips are great for vegetarians and/or those who are gluten free. This warm dip can be served with veggies, gluten-free crackers or chips. It’s a classic that doesn’t take much prep or stress.
While great food is a necessity for any gathering, it’s not a party without something to wash the meal down with. A good rule of thumb is to always have at least one non-alcoholic option on the table, so everyone (even the kids) can feel festive. Below are a few tasty single-serving drink recipes that can be easily be doubled to make by the pitcher for groups.
Non-Alcoholic/Low-Cal – American Virgin
A fruity concoction with peach juice, club soda, and a splash of orange juice and lemonade, this chilled beverage is not only alcohol free, but less than 40 calories. We call that a win.
The Cult Classic – Moscow Mule
Vodka, ginger beer and lime, this classic recipe has a light and bubbly taste that’s easy to drink. If you’d like to add your own touch, try muddling in some holiday flavors like cranberry juice to give it a winter spin.
Seasonal Favorites – Hot Spiced Cider or Egg Nog
If pumpkin is the flavor of fall, apple cider and egg nog scream winter. Either can be made spiked or virgin so the whole family can feel spirited.
If variety is needed with apps and cocktails, the same holds true for dessert. Here are a few delicious bite-sized treats that will serve as a grand finale to your spread.
Gluten Free – Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites
Makes: Depends on ball size
Time: Freeze overnight
This recipe combines sweet coconut with bitter dark chocolate for a perfectly balanced indulgence. Quick to assembly, you’ll want to save this recipe for whenever a chocolate craving hits.
A Sweet Treat – Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Makes: About 20 strawberries
Time: 35 minutes
Fruit is a great closer as it’s still a sweet endnote without being overly heavy and rich. This classic recipe uses semisweet chocolate and suggests pistachios on top, but you can get creative with your patterns and decorations
The Guilty Pleasure – Mini Samoa Doughnuts
Makes: 30 mini doughnuts
Time: Less than 30 minutes
This decadent treat showcases Girl Scout cookies in all their glory. The undeniable fluff is topped with caramel glaze, chocolate and coconut flakes for a dessert to remember.