‘Tis the season to deck those halls!
And trim those trees; dust off those ornaments and set that table: we’re in full holiday season prep mode. This year, we’re taking the guesswork out of gathering and curbing the chaos of hosting. If the idea of hosting friends and family at the holidays is particularly triggering, we’re here to help. We get it; it’s a lot of work. It’s a fickle thing, hosting. We want to celebrate the warm fuzzies of the winter months with those near and dear, but it can be intimidating and exhausting, full stop.
What follows are some ways to unlock a stress-free holiday season. We wish we could come over and do that wrapping for you, alas no. What we can offer is a list of helpful tips to minimize the dread and allow you, the host, to feel like the prepared, confident queen (or king) of Christmas, the high hostess of Hannukah, et cetera et cetera. Let’s hack holiday hosting together.
Clean Slate Cooking
Before cooking begins, consider this notion we invented, called Clean Slate Cooking. It’s the practice of cleaning up before you start – so there’s less to do later and you are overwhelmed with a massive mess at the end. Nobody likes a gooey batter bowl soaking in a full sink, am I right? Be sure and clear your kitchen sink of dirty dishes, and empty the dishwasher. Pull out a “Garbage bowl” for food scraps and empty your trash can just so you can fill it again. Doing all these tasks beforehand will keep the focus on the cooking and prevent you from getting derailed from the main task.
Make Ahead to Get Ahead
The key to stress-free holiday hosting is preparation, so let’s talk about the merits of making menu elements ahead of the party. You have plenty to do on the day of. From setting a beautiful tablescape to curating the perfect cocktail list, save your day-of-to-do's for the final touches. Trying to cook, clean and set up all in one day is a surefire recipe for burnout, and nobody likes a hurried, huffy host. Also, pro-tip: feed yourself first. Nothing good can come from a hungry host.
There are things that can be made weeks, hell, months in advance of the big day. Take pie crust and cookie dough – whip that up on some slow fall day and pop it in the freezer for a later date. Frozen ingredients are like money in the bank. When you’re ready to party, just defrost, roll out and poof- you're halfway to dessert town. Check out our favorite holiday menu, here.
Befriend Your Freezer
We covered the value of making ahead, but don’t forget to shop ahead as well. With food prices on the rise, and never-ending product shortages abound, it’s a good idea to stock your freezer with holiday cooking and baking essentials. Take butter for example, one can never have enough butter during the holidays. If the holidays are the car, butter is the gasoline. Cultured butter in particular, can make a dull baked good sing, a lackluster dish delicious, you get the idea. Buy it early, buy it often, freeze, freeze, freeze. Butter can be stored frozen for up to six months! Don’t find yourself stooped in front of an empty dairy case in December, consider yourself warned. Looking for more ways to incorporate cultured butter into your recipe repertoire? Check out our favorite recipes, here.
Prepare the Perfect Playlist
Did you know that Mariah Carey has made $72 million to date from the royalties on “All I want for Christmas is you?” That’s something to celebrate. While holiday music is very polarizing, we’re team “Timely tunes” when it comes to holiday party prep. Set a festive mood with fun holiday music and make that playlist ahead. Defrost that Mariah Carey from last year and let her impressive pipes welcome your guests into your holiday haven. Check out our favorite holiday playlist this season.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
If you’re doing the cooking, make all other concerned parties in the house do the cleaning. The old saying “If you can lean, you can clean” comes to mind here. No idle hands allowed, there’s plenty to do. Engage your partner, spouse or kids in the process: ask them to help clean the kitchen slate by emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, or emptying the compost. It’s a group effort, so let’s go.
Never, Ever Show Up Empty Handed
Maybe you’re not hosting a holiday gathering this year, good for you. If you’re attending one, best not to show up empty handed. You should know how much behind-the-scenes work it takes to pull off a good party. Bring some wine (ask the store folks what’s tasting good right now) or perhaps a more classic hostess gift like a fancy kitchen soap or scented candle. We like to put in a little effort on this one; consider making your hostess a compound lemon herb butter (Easy! Delicious! Impressive!). Bring a roll of homemade frozen cookie dough, so all your host has to do is slice off cookies and bake. Better yet, bring them breakfast fixins’ for the day after. A loaf of crusty bread, a dozen eggs and a stick of cultured butter go a long way after an even longer night.
We hope your holiday season is smooth and carefree, just like your new attitude about hosting. As always, check out our website for holiday inspo, recipes, playlists and gifting ideas.