Host the Perfect Christmas Dinner With This Plan
The holiday season is always busy, whether you're hosting the Christmas festivities or simply attending them. For the holiday host, however, the pre-dinner stress can be overwhelming. They have to plan a menu, do the shopping, and cook the food. And when they're not searching Pinterest for inspiration and racing to the grocery store, they also have to find time to enjoy the holidays. To make sure they're not overwhelmed by their responsibilities, hosts need to make a game plan. If they start prepping their holiday dinner weeks in advance, they're less likely to run into trouble on Christmas day.
To ensure the holiday festivities run smoothly, hosts should stick to simple dishes, enlist the help of others, and prep food as early as possible. If they create a Christmas To Do List, they can minimize the holiday chaos, ensuring that everyone—hosts and guests alike—have time to enjoy the holiday.
7 Steps for Planning the Perfect Christmas Dinner
- Finalize the Guest List
- Consider Dietary Restrictions
- Plan the Menu
- Make the Shopping List
- Set the Scene
- If a Dish Can Be Made in Advance, Do It
- Enjoy Yourself
The Steps Explained
Before you can begin to plan your Christmas dinner, you need to know how many people will be in attendance. Cooking a dinner for six people, for example, is much different than cooking a dinner for two dozen. Get in contact with your invited guests several weeks before Christmas, so that you know who to expect. Once you know how many people you need to feed, you can start the planning process.
When you contact your guests, make sure to ask about dietary restrictions. While you may know your immediate family's food preferences, your niece's new boyfriend may be a vegetarian. A good hosts always tries to accommodate any food preferences and restrictions, and to do so, you need to know if anyone is vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or allergic to nuts. If so, you should make sure that there are a few dishes on your menu to accommodate picky eaters. On the other hand, you can also encourage guests with dietary restrictions to bring dishes of their own.
Once you know how many people are coming and what they can and can't eat, it's time to plan the menu. When you've still got weeks before Christmas, you may be tempted to plan a complicated menu filled with epicurean delights. It's always better to stick to what you know, however. If you've never made a roast before, Christmas Day isn't the time to experiment. Choose festive dishes you know you can cook, and don't forget to plan a few pre-dinner snacks. You can also ask guests to bring their favorite holiday dishes—just find out what they're bringing ahead of time, so that you can coordinate. You don't want three different guests bringing a green bean casserole!
While your menu shouldn't be overambitious, you should make sure to include a few holiday staples. Traditional main courses include roast turkey and glazed ham, essential side dishes include stuffing, vegetable casseroles, and mashed potatoes. For dessert, you could opt for seasonal classics like toffee pudding and Yule logs, or you could simply put out a platter of Christmas cookies.
Once your menu is set, it's time to start shopping. Compile a list of everything you'll need to make your meal, and then arrange the list in the order you plan to cook each dish. Some items can be cooked far in advance, so you can purchase those items first. Other dishes need to be cooked on Christmas day, so you can defer those purchases until the holiday gets closer. Always carry your list with you when you go to the grocery store; it not only serves as a helpful reminder, it also prevents you from exceeding your budget.
The holiday table should be festive. When you're hosting Christmas dinner, make sure to decorate with Christmas décor. You don't have to go overboard, but a red centerpiece, a vase of poinsettias, and festive place settings will help to set the scene.
There are plenty of dishes that can be cooked weeks and days in advance of Christmas. This includes gravy, which can last for weeks in the freezer. Uncooked stuffing also freezes well; prep your stuffing, place it in an oven dish, stick it in the freezer, and then just place it in the oven on Christmas. Other dishes that can be made in advance: blanched vegetables, cranberry sauce, pudding, and mousse.
If you've put in the prep work, Christmas Day cooking should be a breeze. When you're not cooking, make sure to enjoy yourself! Christmas only comes once a year, and after all your careful planning, you deserve to sit back, relax, and bask in the glow of a job well done.