When it comes to holiday entertaining, it feels like the pressure is on, doesn’t it? I mentioned this a little bit in my Friendsgiving post, but I have the tendency to get super stressed out in these situations because I want every last detail to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t. #virgo
Practice makes perfect when it comes to playing hostess… The more parties you have, the more comfortable you become, and the more you learn to expect the unexpected. You can never be too prepared! If you’re planning for a party, I’ve come up with five tips for entertaining with ease this holiday season (and beyond!).
1. Please all Palettes
Keep all appetites happy with a charcuterie board by gathering an assortment of your favorite cheeses—perhaps cheeses from around the world or locally! Mix with an array of meats, crackers and mustards which pair nicely with something more acidic, like dried fruit, pickles or olives. I love using Johnsonville summer sausage because it’s smoked over real hardwoods, making it a delicious hero of the platter. Display on a tray with character—even an old mirror—to make even the most basic meat and cheese display festive and amp up your serving platter with natural accents, like herbs or festive holly. I also like to have some honey and fig spread on hand to add a little something sweet to the saltier meats and cheeses.
I like to include fruits and nuts alongside my cheeses and meats, too. It’s the perfect touch for someone who wants to nibble on something on the lighter side. Plus, you never know who is vegetarian, dairy-free, or gluten-free!
2. Leave the Cold at the Door
Make your guests feel at home by lighting a fire or some holiday scented candles throughout your space—just be sure to keep them away from food so as to not sour the taste or smell of your hors d’oeuvres! Create a playlist that sets the mood you want your party to embody; from festive Christmas carols to classic jazz to this year’s top 50 countdown, your music will set the pace and make your guests feel welcomed. (This is my favorite bluetooth speaker to control the music right from your phone!)
3. Capture the Moment
Invest in an old-school polaroid camera to create your own throwback photo booth and the quickly developed photos will make for great parting gifts! (Don’t forget to pick up extra film cartridges!) You can make cute signs that include holiday slogans with a little cardboard paper, glitter and sticks that your guests can use as easy DIY props, and a simple holiday wall banner or sparkly wall tinsel will create the perfect backdrop. You can also purchase disposable cameras to leave around the party to capture all of the fun moments you may have missed playing host. It’s a fun surprise to develop them after the party!
4. Signature Sips
Creating a custom cocktail is an easy way to add something festive and personalized to toast your guests. This time of year, I like to include traditional holiday flavors like cranberry, peppermint, cinnamon, fig or champagne. (You can never go wrong with champagne!) Prepare a few pitchers beforehand so guests can pour themselves and you can have time to enjoy your company. For a fancy touch, type up a drink recipe card and place the print out in a fun frame to include at the bar.
I’ll be sharing one of my favorite holiday drink recipes before the holidays so stay tuned!
5. Expect the Unexpected
The key to a happy host is a stress-free host. Be sure to leave yourself with plenty of prep time and have your house cleaned and the bar cart stocked with plenty of clean glasses the day before your event. Purchase backup food items that can easily be passed around during the party without the extra prep time, such as nuts, popcorn, pretzels and peppermint bark. And don’t forget that you can never have too much ice on hand!
When it comes to hors d’oeuvres, easy to eat is an absolute must. There’s nothing I dislike more than being at an event and trying to juggle an appetizer plate, my drink, and a conversation. Throw a fork or utensil in there and it’s game over! I always feel self-concious because I’m trying to eat quickly to get the plate out of the way, and then I feel like I’m eating like an animal. I’m sure you can relate to the struggle! Because of this, I rarely ever take a passed appetizer. It’s just too difficult sometimes!
But when I’m hosting, I don’t want any hangry guests. I want everyone to feel comfortable enough to eat, drink, and eat and drink some more. Because what’s the point of taking time to prepare food if no one is gong to eat it? It’s simple… When food is easy to eat, it’s going to get eaten. Ever notice how pretzels, m&m’s, and any other easy to grab and much on snacks are always the things getting eaten at events?
Growing up, my mom always made these meatballs for all of our holiday get-togethers. I remember scoffing watching her make them (just wait until I tell you the recipe!), but there was a reason they were at every single family gathering. They are SO EASY to make. They actually taste really good! And they are so easy to eat during the party. Set out a dish of meatballs, place a jar of toothpicks next to them, and you’re good to go! They’re substantial enough to fill you up a bit, but they don’t require utensils. Game on!
Now for the recipe… It’s so easy that it makes you feel like you’re missing a step! I actually called my mom at the grocery store when I was picking up ingredients because I was SURE that I was forgetting something. I couldn’t be that easy. Even the most cooking-challenged chefs-in-training can whip these up, promise. Heck, I think my three-year-old niece could make these.
Here’s what you’ll need: one bag of Johnsonville Meatballs (find them in the frozen section!), one jar of red sauce with meat flavor, and one jar of grape jelly. And then you put all of it in a crock pot and let it cook for a few hours. That’s it!
When I was making these, I realized that I don’t have a crock pot and I didn’t have time to go buy one. So I put the red sauce and grape jelly in a large high-sided pan over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. Then, I added the meatballs and cooked for about 25-30 minutes. They tasted just as good!
If you’re anything like me, you worry about flexible cooking times. Well, which is it?! 10 or 15 minutes?! Don’t worry too much about the cooking times… You just want to make sure that the meatballs are nice and tender when you’re serving them. Do a taste test to find out, you’ll know!
Do you have any other go-to tips for entertaining with ease? Or any easy recipes that are easy to eat at cocktail parties? I’d love to hear!
Created in partnership with Johnsonville