A blog by ordinary people about living an extraordinary life

Easy holiday planning


Tis the season for stressing out.  The holiday season is fast approaching if it has not already landed in your lap.  With Thanksgiving just over a week away, and then a December full of family, friend and work parties, it is easy to get overwhelmed.  Well, there are ways to help take some stress out of preparing a meal and I am here to give you some pointers that I use.  In fact, Meg and I followed many of these steps (and included recipes) last weekend when we celebrated our godson’s first birthday at a party of about 20 friends, families and children.

1. Prepare a menu: I have talked about this as a great tip for preparing healthy dinners during the week and it certainly helps when planning for a party.

2. Ask for help: When you are hosting a party most guests are willing to bring along something to help out.  And even those who tend to burn toast can lend a hand, I mean you can always use another bottle of wine or some crackers to go with that homemade dip.

3. Make a plan and plan ahead: Don’t leave all the meal preparations for the night before or the morning of the party.  Prepare some of the dishes ahead of time and check them off your list.  There really isn’t a better feeling than checking things off your list of stuff to do.

OK, so with those tips in mind, here is a look back at how we prepared for the party.

Thursday: Finalize the menu.  With the menu finalized the week before the party it would leave plenty of time to do the grocery shopping and get the dishes prepared.  Here is what our menu looked like.

  • Appetizers: guacamole, hummus, sliced vegetables, crackers, a baked brie
  • Main dish: Drip beef sliders (drip beef, caramelized onions, whipped blue cheese, slider rolls)
  • Side dish: potato and fennel dish, and a big salad
  • Dessert: birthday cake with ice cream (cookies&cream and Nutella)

Saturday morning: Grocery shopping.  Since I knew I had to prepare some food over the weekend I knew I had to get my shopping done early.  I headed to the store armed with a detailed list of what I needed.  Since I went in the morning I could even relax a bit when I got back home before starting to make some food.

Saturday afternoon: Make the cookies and cream ice cream.  Making homemade ice cream takes a little time, but the results are delicious, much more so than any packaged iced cream.  By making one version on Saturday I would be able to make the second flavor on Sunday and not have to stay up until 1AM.

Sunday afternoon: Make the Nutella ice cream.  This was my own homemade creation, so there were some nerves as I started to make this one.  Thankfully it turned out to be super delicious!

Tuesday evening: Since I had some extra time, I decided to make some strawberry ice cream 🙂

Thursday night: Bake the cake.  Since you can’t frost a warm cake it is best to prepare the cake a day ahead of frosting, especially if you are making it during the week.  We made a homemade cake batter (no box mixes here) but even if you used a box mix I recommend making it early.  Allow the cake to cool, then cover it with foil and put it in the fridge.

Friday during the day: Make the drip beef in the slow cooker.  Thankfully Meg works from home on Fridays so she was able to put the roast in the slow cooker for 7 hours and prepare the drip beef.  When I got home from work I simply had to shred the beef and put it back into the slow cooker.  We allowed it to cool down, skimmed off some of the fat, and left it in the fridge over night.



Friday night: Frost the cake and prepare the whipped blue cheese.  Below is the recipe for the whipped blue cheese (equal parts blue cheese crumbles and cream cheese, some salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil and a dash of milk to adjust the consistency of the cheese).

Saturday morning: Prepare the caramelized onions and potato-fennel dish.  Took about an hour to get the dishes put together.  We packed up the car and headed to the party.  With a cooler full of food we were ready to get things setup as soon as we arrived.  The ice cream went into the freezer.  The blue cheese and onions went into the fridge.  The slow cooker was plugged in, set to high and the beef allowed to warm back up.  We sliced up the slider buns. Preheated the oven to about 350F so we could heat the brie and warm up the potato dish.  Put the brie in the oven about 30 minutes before the guests started to arrive.


Saturday at noon: The guests began to arrive and the party was on.  The appetizers were laid out on the table, a few bottles of wine were opened and no one was stressing out.  We put the potatoes in the oven for about 20 minutes to warm up.

Before we started opening gifts we took the ice cream out of the freezer to soften up a bit.

The party was great, low stress, and the menu will be used again, I am sure of it.

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