What are the holidays for if not to bring everyone together and enjoy good food? Well, I guess it’s actually for a lot more than that, but this is definitely one thing that’s incredibly important in our home. We live in an area that most people have lived here their whole lives. That means that for the holidays they are with their family members. Unfortunately for us, we aren’t from Utah so our family members are spread out across the US. That means that we especially are fond of bringing our friends together as they have become our second family. Bertolli® and I have teamed up to talk about how to host a stress free dinner party.
You may remember our Balsamic and Caramelized Onion Chicken Parmesan that we contributed to our Bertolli® Gold Label Dinner Party last week and now I get to share all of the beautiful details of the party. This one I hosted just for the ladies. We were planning on hosting couples but I decided that it’s the women who are usually hustling around to make the holidays perfect (Men, I know you do as well, but let’s be honest most women really go crazy during the holidays with preparations) and so who better to sit down and celebrate with than those who could use a little relaxation?
I was especially smart and asked my good friends, Sue and Vanetta to help me decorate as they do such a stunning job with parties and weddings here in Utah so I knew that it would turn out perfect. In fact, feel free to email me for their info if you want to use them too! One thing that was important for the dinner party, above all else was the feel. If the food didn’t turn out, or the decorations weren’t perfect I knew that all would be well as long as we all felt comfortable. Which is why we went for a soft, seasonal feel and kept the numbers small so that good conversation was more important than anything else.
In fact, we even played a little game which was so fun and one that I learned from Sandy at Reluctant Entertainer years ago. We ran off to the bank and snagged pennies with years stamped on them that would fit with our ages. Once everyone sat down we took turns telling stories about funny or significant events that happened during the year that was on the penny under each person’s glass. It was such a fun game and one that didn’t take anything over the top. But let’s get on to my real tips!
1. Start with the food~
I always prefer to start with the food instead of the guests. What do we normally do that makes a dinner party stressful before we even start cooking? We invite a handful or more of our favorite people and then suddenly realize that there’s a vegetarian, a dairy free, a vegan, a picky eater, and one with a nursing baby. Shoot. What in the world are you going to make for all of these different people?! Always start with the food in mind, then choose guests that would appreciate that food. Don’t stress if you aren’t sure they are going to love it, just think about allergies etc so you aren’t making anyone leave the party starving and you crying in your napkin because you failed.
2. Invite friends to bring a favorite dish~
I think food says so much about a person. Just the smell alone can bring back wonderful memories and those are where the real conversations start. Plus, it’s taking a little stress off of you. I know it’s fun to sometimes tackle it all yourselves, but especially during the holidays I’d rather go a little nontraditional and let my guests help out. I already have a lot on my plate and this way we can try each other’s food and learn more about our favorite dishes. And who doesn’t need another awesome recipe in the recipe box anyway? Win-win situation for sure.
3. Pick decor with accents from your main dish~
I love a beautiful party, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming to decorate. I love to take accents from the food to help me decorate. If I’m planning a holiday party that’s serving a large roast with fresh herbs, butternut squash soup and white chocolate truffles for dessert then my decorations should feel earthy, warm, and comforting versus sparkly and bright. Or in the summer if we are grilling with fresh citrus then I can brighten things up and pull some of the ingredients for decorations like lemons, fresh thyme and pops of bright color. It brings the whole party together.
4. Invite Friends~
Now that your food, decorations and ideas are all together and planned, invite your friends. Think about who would get a long well together, as well as who you can count on. There’s nothing worse than the flaky friend who cancels last minute or always shows up late. Always. I hate waiting while the food gets cold and no one likes an uncomfortable party where no one chats. The last thing to do is invite your guests and then everything will run smoothly and you wont be panicked about making menus or people work together.
And in case you wanted recipes from our party, head to my chicken parmesan post for what we brought to Bertolli as well as our Pumpkin Roll Cake.