Late last month, I got up the nerve to peek at December’s calendar. The page turn revealed what I already knew — this is going to be a fun and crazy month packed full of basketball games, concerts, programs and, best of all, preparing for holiday gatherings with friends and family.
Once the holidays are past and I turn the calendar page once again, I want to look back and reflect on the special times spent with special people. I don’t want to only remember how much time I spent in the kitchen and how exhausted I was once it was over. That being said, my approach to holiday entertaining is to keep it simple but festive.
One way to keep a gathering relatively stress-free is to offer a variety of appetizers, especially those that can be made in advance, and forgo a large sit-down meal. Large meals can require hours of preparation and even more hours of cleanup. During a season when big, heavy meals can be frequent, a lighter menu is often a welcome thing, and socializing around a table of appetizers can be a lot of fun.
I love the idea of making some slider-style sandwiches like the roast beef ones I’m sharing below (I made them for my family recently and they were a hit) or a slow cooker full of meatballs and accompanying them with a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, dips, and a variety of cheeses and crackers. I’ve seen some photos recently of beautiful cheese, fruit, sausage and cracker arrangements. The ingredients are simple, but arranging them all on an extra-large platter with a candle in the middle makes it stunning.
Don’t forget a couple of sweet treats to round out the menu. Maybe they are something you already have baked and stored in your freezer.
Several appetizers can be made in advance, and they travel well. These come in handy when traveling across the street or, like the song says, over the river and through the woods. I think the Mini Italian Skewers will make the two-hour trip to a family gathering later this month.
To make cleanup easy, consider using paper plates. This not only cuts down on dishwashing but encourages guests to get a clean plate anytime they wish. The same holds true for glassware. Use plastic when possible and appropriate. As a parent with once-small children, I always relaxed a bit if I didn’t have to worry about special dishes or glasses hitting the floor.
Choosing a simpler, lighter meal may also give you a little extra time to work on your home’s holiday decor. Think lights and greenery scattered throughout the entertaining area. Some soft seasonal music in the background is a great finishing touch to a gathering that is sure to be perfect.
Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.