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Host a stress-free gathering for the holidays with 9 top tips

Here are some tips for hosting dinner for the holidays. There are many things you can do ahead so you have more time to enjoy with family and friends. Get started at least a week before.

It’s already been a long day at the oven (you’ve been up for hours), the guests are arriving and you’re still cooking. As you greet your guests, you hope that nothing is burning on the stove and wonder if you’ll have the time to enjoy your company and the meal you’ve worked so hard to prepare.

If this sounds like a familiar holidays experience, it’s time to make some changes. Skip the Thanksgiving chaos and have a stress-free holiday with these time-saving tips from restaurateur Rosalynn Daniels.

“Having a hassle-free holidays has become as important to me as serving a delicious meal,” says Daniels. “I want everyone, including myself, to enjoy each other’s company, and that is hard to do that when you’re still cooking!” Enjoy the day, serve a memorable meal and stay sane with these time-saving tips:

Here are some tips for hosting dinner for the holidays. There are many things you can do ahead so you have more time to enjoy with family and friends. Get started at least a week before.

  1. Plan Your Meal. Get your recipes and grocery list together a few weeks in advance. If you’re buying a fresh bird, you’ll want to order several weeks in advance to ensure availability for the big day.
  2. Make Space. Get ready for holiday food prep items and leftovers by cleaning out your fridge and freezer. Get rid of the things you don’t need or have forgotten about (like last year’s frozen Thanksgiving leftovers) by making space for the leftover goodies to come. “The leftovers are part of the joy, but not so much if your freezer and fridge are filled to the brim and there is no place to put them,” says Daniels. “I leave a whole refrigerator shelf empty for my prep items.”
  3. Don’t be Dull, Sharpen Your Knives. One of the most important tools in the kitchen is a sharp knife—especially around the holidays. Keep the knives sharp all year long to keep them up to the task.
  4. Prep. Get baggies and storage containers ready. Pre-plan sizes and shapes so everything fits inside. “A few days before I am ready to start cooking, I start prepping—and this is a big timesaver.  Start peeling, slicing and seasoning vegetables and place in zip lock bags. Portion out seasonings for day of cooking and put in bags as well,” says Daniels.
  5. Set the Table. About a week in advance, wash your linens, lay out the place settings and serving dishes and set the table. Not only will it save you time, but it helps with making sure you have the right dishes for all your menu items. “I place post-it notes on each dish to remind myself what goes in it so I’m not scrambling as I’m trying to serve the meal,” says Daniels. “It also gives me time to decorate and get creative when I can see how it all looks in advance.”
  6. Make It A Family Affair. It’s a special day and a special meal—make it even more special by giving loved ones a dish to prepare or a task to do. “The whole family pitches in–from helping to prep vegetables to setting the table–we share in the joy, it’s just how we roll,” says Daniels.
  7. Holidays Breakfast. “Keep the veggie scraps for next-day breakfast hash. Brussel sprout leaves, onions, celery and all the unused items from prepping can be mixed with potatoes for a delicious fuss-free hash and festive next-day morning meal,” says Daniels.
  8. Dressing and Serving the bird. “Once my bird is cooked, I make sure to let it rest before serving or carving. This allows the juices to flow,” says Daniels. “In my family, we make the first few cuts (against the grain) and then guests are welcome to take from what was carved or slice their own. The key to keep it looking beautiful whether you are carving or going self-serve, is to decorate around the bird. Much like I accessorize an outfit, I accessorize my turkey by stuffing the cavity with citrus and fruits like red pears and cranberries. I then decorate around the perimeter–kale leaves are a beautiful accent.”
  9. Keep it tasty but simple. By planning ahead, you will have stress-free delicious meal, and more time to share with family and friends.
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