Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Effortless Holiday Entertaining

Like many newly married couples we usually we spend holidays at our parent’s houses. This year we spent Thanksgiving at my Mom’s and Christmas with my in-laws in Portland. We really haven’t hosted many holidays at our house. I did host a father’s day luncheon last year and we occasionally have our parents and/or grandparents over for Sunday dinner and things like that.

But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post we have started an Easter tradition of having our friends from church over for a dinner party. Last year was the first year we did this and I can honestly day that the end of the day last Easter was the most tired I have ever been. I spent the entire day before Easter on my feet grocery shopping, cleaning house and making pies. The morning of Easter I woke up early to make scalloped potatoes for the Easter pot luck brunch at Church. Once we were home from that I cooked all afternoon for the dinner party. I also had to set the table. And since we had so many people we had to completely re-arrange the living room furniture in order to extend the table into the living room with card tables to seat the our 15 guests. When ever thing was finally ready it was eclectic to say the least. Miss-matched table clothes covered the table and were topped with miss-matched dishes, silverware and glasses. The apartment was crowded with people, chairs and generally chaotic, not exactly how I envisioned my first foray into holiday entertaining. The food was good and we were with wonderful friends so it was a good day despite the miss-matching and chaos.

When planning this years Easter festivities I new I did not want a repeat of last year. So I planned more carefully. Not only was there the rabbit dinner to plan and prepare for but this year I was elected to organize the church pot luck brunch. During the week prior to Easter I not only planned my menu for Sunday’s dinner but I made calls to the congregation to organize the church dinner. To ensure we were not short on food for the church brunch I planned to make a pie, mashed sweet potatoes, wild rice salad and pickled beets for the pot luck. Then I needed to make stewed rabbit, salad, dressing and a pie for our dinner party. All of the planning paid off because the day went smoothly and while I was definitely tired after many days of preparation I was able to relax and enjoy Easter and have a clean house by 9pm Sunday night.

The first thing I did was make my menu and grocery list early, as in Tuesday night. I also planned out what days I would do what things. Then I thought about what kind of short cuts I could take to save time. I had all day Friday and Saturday to prepare before Sunday’s festivities. My time table looked like this:

grocery shopping
iron napkins
clean house

Make pies
make wild rice salad
pickle beets
set table
set our serving dishes
arrange flowers
stew rabbit

make mashed sweet potatoes
pick up bread from bakery
make salad dressing
slice bread
re-heat rabbit on stove

To save time I took some shortcuts that really paid off. First, I bought pre-made pie crust. I normally like to make my own crust but I knew this would be a huge time saver and it was. I buy the Pillsbury crust that you unroll into your own pie plate. I also made two strawberry rubarb pies instead of two different types. This is a huge time saver because you can just mix up a double batch of filling and divide it into the two plates. While I did make homemade salad dressing because I love it, I saved time by buying pre washed and mixed salad greens. This way I didn’t have to buy an assortment of lettuces and wash and dry all of them. I simply dressed the greens with cider vinaigrette and called it good. Another huge time saver was using my everyday dishes rather than my good dishes since my good dishes can’t go in the dishwasher. Hand washing 10 dishes at the end of a dinner party is not fun. I also made sure the kitchen was clean before we served dinner and the dishwasher was empty. This way all I had to do was load the dinner dishes and wash a few serving dishes and wine glasses.

What are your tips for easy entertaining?

1 comment:

  1. Oooh I love this post! Hubs and I hosted my family Christmas one year and it was sit down dinner for 18! In a townhouse! Like you - lots of planning. Also purhcasing non-perishable items weeks in advance to spread out the cost. Setting the table and furniture the day before. Precooking as much as can be done. My only failing was not having enough clean kitchen towels so when all the cousins pitched in to do the dishes after the meal I was mortified! Live and learn.