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A Holiday Helping Hand

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A few weeks ago I was contacted by Carolyn from the Blog Content Guild. She asked me me if I was interested in sharing one of her articles on The Deep Dish about meal planning.  I thought it was a brilliant idea considering the holidays are upon us and that means parties, parties, parties!  She’s got some great tips on how to wow your guests without breaking your back 🙂

Easy Meals for the Holiday Hostess
Everybody loves to eat a nice home cooked meal with family and friends. With holiday cheer in the air, it’s the perfect time to host a dinner party. If you’re not exactly a culinary genius, that’s okay! There are plenty of easy meals that you can prepare for your guests.
An ideal meal begins with the right menu. Use the menu of a much-loved restaurant as a guide to plan out your own evening. You know how it goes: normally, an aperitif starts the meal, followed by the hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, the main course, and then dessert.
Pre-dinner drink
Aperitifs – These are usually alcoholic drinks that are served pre-dinner in order to stimulate the appetite of your guests.  You can serve wine or champagne, depending on your personal preferences.  Other choices include cocktail drinks such as vodka, gin and tonic, etc.  The secret in choosing the right aperitif is to pick out something crisp and fresh.  Stay away from something heavy (like overpowering red wine) when it comes to meal-starters.

How about some nibblies?
Appetizer – These are also known as hors d’oeuvres.  Appetizers can fill your guests while you put the final touches on the main course.  Try a cheese and jelly combination on some artisan crackers or a baguette from your favorite bakery served with cheese, butter, and chorizo sausage on the side. Cream cheese’sthick, smooth texture compliments a fruity jelly. Brie tastes great with red pepper jelly or a tomato puree.
Bread, side, meat & seafood yummies


Main Dish – The main course, unlike your aperitifs or appetizers, can be very challenging.  You need to prepare and plan ahead based on the number of guests that you will be serving. This information will help you decide whether to serve a simple or ornate dish. Elaborate dishes should be reserved for that romantic dinner for two, while more simple meals are great when you’re having a lot of people over. Don’t overwhelm yourself!
The season could also help you select the right kind of dish to prepare.  Acquire the best and freshest ingredients that are fresh-picked and in their seasonal prime — a great dish starts with fresh ingredients. There are seasonal ingredient mapsavailable that can help you dictate which foods are in season in your area.  The Food Networkalso offers an archive of seasonal recipes that could help give you some inspiration.

A Caymanian classic
Dessert – Your guests may be stuffed to the brim, but people always leave a little room for some sweets.  For convenience, prepare your dessert ahead of time, then serve after the main course is completed.  There are a lot of easy to prepare desserts to choose from, such as chocolate tart or apple crisp.

Nightcap, anyone?
Digestif – Serving digestifs allow your guests to wrap up the meal as their stomachs settle.  Coffee is the most common digestif and is usually served away from the dining area, in a separate room such as the library, patio, or living room.
See? That wasn’t so hard! Planning, cooking, and serving a meal is not only fun, but rewarding to. 
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  1. This is a great tutorial for holiday (or anyday) entertaining! I love to entertain but rarely serve this many courses, you've made it appear easy if you do it right and plan ahead.

  2. awesome tips! I love hosting but I always end up saying I want to do something easy but then going over board to my crazy culinary mind and making so much stuff. oh well. thanks for sharing!

  3. great ideas!! I am loving the nightcap, lol. This year we are hosting little/big parties. small parties with lots of apps and dricks and a huge party for the family!! thanks for the links,

  4. I can surely use a helping hand…I always want too much. Well it starts with too much and then end up with something that we usually eat. We've had the same menu for 2 years now. Time for something fresh.
    This year I'm doing all appetizers. Not making anything easy cuz there are so many jummie stuff and you can only eat so much…
    Need to narow it down and get the menu going! Can't wait to see your christmas menu.

  5. all meal planning and party tips are very gratefully accepted!
    Mary x

  6. I'm completely guilty of trying to pull off elaborate dishes for huge dinner parties. I like how simply this was all broken down.

    Plus you learn something new everyday 😛 I always just called them after dinner drinks lol, I'd never heard of a digestif

  7. That's true. Often I get nervous and worried because I keep thinking of what to cook for the party – but once the menu is settled then all we need to do is to focus on one dish at a time! I love your selections here and everything looks delicious. Wait, maybe it is hard to even narrow down to 1-2 recipes when the food looks all so yummy!

  8. Thank you for this!!! So helpful.

  9. What a great planning guide…fantastic post!

  10. What a wonderful and delicious roundup for your Holiday table! Love the cocktail, so cute with the little gingerbread hanging on the side of the glass, (or am I just imagining it hanging?)

  11. Great menu. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wonderful menu! I'll bring the alcohol that is served post-digestif. 🙂

  13. All of this looks so yummy! Love the hot gala shot!! Definitely up my alley! Well, any alcoholic drink is 😉 hehe

    Also, the mango couscous….heaven!

  14. Great advice and lots of ideas for a successful partyyyyy! Glad to see the Irish coffee, one of my favs and if your ever in San Francisco there's a place called The Buena Vista which is famous for it's Irish coffee…GO THERE and have a few 😉
    Take care.

  15. I must admit, when it comes to parties, there are always last minute changes and unplanned menu may suddenly pop up! This is a wonderful read! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Holiday entertaining is an art and a science and we love this post for laying it out so clearly; makes throwing a party properly enjoyable. One thing on our next party menu will definitely be that mango couscous, too good!

  17. What a great collaboration! I love both of your blogs and what a fantastic way to get together for a little holiday mingling. The hostess advice you give here is absolutely wonderful. I am such a hot mess as my holiday parties; this will definitely come in handy. 🙂 Happy holiday season!

  18. Great tips! And, I love wraps. So handy and tasty.

  19. love your apertif suggestions!

  20. I am a fan of the apertif! Makes me miss Italy. 🙁

  21. I love this hostess advice 🙂

  22. This is wonderful. I have been hearing a lot about digestifs too!

  23. Excellent advice and recipe ideas! I need to remember to add a digestif to my menus 🙂

  24. This is really good advice–I am hosting a big dinner for my cast and crew this weekend and will definitely bear these tips in mind!

  25. These are some great tips and ideas for the holidays! Every little bit helps, especially when time seems to be flying faster than you can plan!

  26. YUM..what great ideas 🙂

  27. nice recipe idea's “_)

  28. What a great post; you really put a lot of work in this and it came out with grat tips and ideas. I appreciate this; my entertaining starts this weekend.

  29. Love all your ideas…can we discuss over an aperitif? 😉

  30. Lovely ideas and I would love to try that Irish coffee!

  31. Wowow!!! Super cool ideas! Thanks for sharing. I love the Mango Couscous!

  32. Wow, the heavy tart looks beyond delicious! 🙂
    Great collection of suggestions!

  33. Very interesting sharing on enjoying a lovely meal with family members or friends. Thanks also for letting me that red wine does not do that well as meal starter though I tend to do this quite often.

  34. Had to pin that one love the gingerboys?/girls!

  35. lovely photos. I need a shot in my coffee right now… island style~

  36. Super cool tips, let's get this party started!

  37. Nice meal planning guide – always a helpful tool. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Great meal planning guide! I may be the “chef” of the family, but I don't plan on being in charge of being any of the big get-togethers any time soon =)

  39. It's also fun to see the different way you refer to the courses in America – I'm always confused between our entrée or starter which is your hors d'oeuvres or appetizer. Have fun with all the menu planning. Great simple guide.

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