Relax, It's Just a Holiday Open House
Don't stress out over a formal sit-down dinner. Instead, connect with friends and family in a relaxed atmosphere where everyone can share a drink and something good to eat, and guests can come and go as they please.
Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
Photo By: Tara Donne ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.
Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
A Win-Win for All
Date & Time
Think in terms of bite-sized options, since all the food will be served at once. You may decide that all the food should be served as finger food, or at least in individually sized portions. Make a hot dip the day before, and heat it as guests arrive. Or, use your slow cooker to make savory meatballs. (You could even serve them and keep them warm in the slow cooker.) Old-school pigs in a blanket are always a safe bet. Make them ahead, freeze and heat in batches as your guests roll in.
See: Make-Ahead Appetizer Ideas
The Main Course
Choose a main course (or two) that can sit happily for a while, and not lose its stage presence or taste appeal as it cools, like a juicy pork loin or a serious muffuletta sandwich. Serve it in batches and replenish as needed, so that it doesn’t sit for too long.
Crowd-Pleasing Mains: Muffuletta
Salads & Sides
Salad is a host’s best friend, whether it's a mix of fresh greens, hearty vegetables, pasta or grains. Make more than just one — people are always happy to have a few varieties to choose from.
Get the Recipe: Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Passing It Along
You can have a dessert area, or you might want to just make it a dessert party, either afternoon (starting at 2-ish) or late night (8 to 11, for instance). This is easier to manage in terms of make-ahead-ability (yes, that’s a word). And if you choose to make this a potluck, you can assign specific items, or give people categories like Pies & Tarts, Cakes & Cupcakes, Cookies, Bar Cookies, Chocolate and Fruit Dessert.
Satisfying Sweets: Caramel Apple Cake
1: Lists of what to buy (and when — shop for nonperishables, including all drinks, as far in advance as you can).
2: Lists of tasks that need accomplishing — everything from buying and arranging flowers, to ironing linens, to setting up the bar, to figuring out where people will hang their coats, to stocking the bathroom with towels and soap, to buying and putting out candles. Plan out what can be made ahead, and especially what can be frozen.
3: A timeline for the day of: what needs to happen and what gets served when, so nothing gets lost (and name who is responsible for each item!).
If you’re not so clear about how much food to buy and serve, check out this helpful guide.