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Planning your party can be a challenge in this busy season.

You'll need good logistics, so make lists. Make sure you have all your ingredients on hand and if people are bringing food, know what everyone will offer. Have serving dishes and utensils laid out well before the party so there is no last minute search for the gravy ladle. Set and decorate the table and don't be afraid to ask for help from your family and friends. Decorations are a good way to involve children. Be sure to buy some garnishes such as radishes, curly parsley or curly kale, and lemon or orange wedges. Make those platters look pretty! By the time guests are to arrive, you should be relaxed enough to enjoy their company.

We have some cooking tips. If you are doing baked dishes and want to fix them in advance, many things can be frozen and reheated. Bake your casserole or quiche in container lined with foil. Place the entire casserole in the freezer until frozen solid. Remove the foil wrapped contents from the dish and place the frozen casserole in a freezer bag. When ready to thaw and reheat, simply remove the foil wrapping and place the still frozen food into the same dish you baked it in. Thaw it in the refrigerator the day before, then the day of the party put it into the oven to finish. Avoid things that have to be cooked at the last minute, such as pasta.

Whether you're fixing an array of appetizers, or a more complete meal, if you follow these tips you'll develop a reputation of a great host. Giving a party doesn't have to be a stressful, rushed situation.

When giving a party you have a lot more control over what you'll eat yourself. In recent blogs we've offered some nice party foods and we'll do that again today. You want your table to look attractive and appetizing. Avoid foil trays of food in favor of nice platters and serving dishes. You don't have to mention to guests that what you have prepared is low fat or low calorie. If it's good, they won't ask.

entertaining

Serving a variety of delicious, tempting appetizers at holiday parties is a good way to feed your guests while still having time to enjoy the party yourself. Finger foods and one-bite appetizers can often be assembled and frozen ahead of time making your party prep easier. Or if you are short on time, have each guest bring an appetizer — possibly their holiday favorite.

For a twist, serve them in different sized shot glasses. Cocktails, soups, salads, satay, pate, tartare, and desserts can all be served in shot glasses to keep with the bite sized theme.

Check out our recipes for great coctail and appetizers for your party

Invest in or rent a home karaoke set and rock out to the holiday's best jams. A complete Christmas playlist may take all night, so consider sticking to a theme. Classics are fun for the whole family, but you may enjoy an opportunity to bust out Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" or other pop holiday hits.

Re-gifting — the act of handing off one of your previously received unwanted gifts to someone else — may be considered tacky in some circles, but when its the theme of the party, it can't be that bad, right? Have all of your friends come over with one of last Christmas' cast-offs — a leopard-print Snuggie, an automatic-twirling spaghetti fork, or a hot-pink clip-on tie. Make sure everyone's gifts are wrapped and then play a version of "White Elephant," where people can pick from the pile or steal someone else's new acquisition. One person's trash is another's recycling!

Wrapping gifts may be the single most frustrating activity of the season. Not only do you inflict paper cuts and nervous breakdowns (from inaccurately cutting the paper too small), but you inevitably watch the recipient of your wrapped masterpiece brutally tear it to shreds without a second thought. Throw a support-group style gathering for friends — where everyone brings some basic supplies and their bundle of gifts — to wrap together.

 

Cocktail recipes

  • Martini

    Cracked ice
    2 measures gin
    1/2 measure dry vermouth
    Olives

    Put ice in a mixing glass. Pour gin and vermouth over ice. Stir. Strain mixture into cocktail glass. Garnish with olives.

  • Manhattan

    Cracked ice
    2 measures rye whiskey
    1 measure sweet vermouth
    Dash Angostura bitters
    Maraschino cherry

    Pour whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass. Add ice to a cocktail glass. Pour mixture over ice. Garnish with cherry.

  • B-52

    1 measure coffee liqueur
    1 measure Irish cream liqueur
    2 teaspoons Grand Marnier

    In a shot glass, pour in coffee liqueur. Next, over the back of a spoon, carefully pour in Irish cream so it floats on top of the coffee liqueur. Finally, carefully add the Grand Marnier so it sits on top of the Irish cream.

  • Old Fashioned

    1 sugar cube
    1-2 drops Angostura bitters
    4-5 ice cubes
    1 measure Scotch whiskey

    Add sugar cube to glass. Shake bitters over sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved. Add ice to glass and stir to coat with liquid. Pour in whiskey and stir.