Saturday, November 23, 2013

Organize Your Holiday Dinner or Party...

Hi everyone! This is a very busy holiday season coming up and I wanted to share a few tips that I use all the time when I host holiday parties. Many of you have emailed from Thursday's post and asked how we serve 35-40 people for thanksgiving and this is my secret!

Whether you have a dinner party for 4 or 40, the key to everything is…lists, lists and more lists. If you write things down and check things off, any party or dinner you have will run smoothly. Another favorite of mine is the clipboard. Keeps all those list in one place and handy to write on. I actually file last year's list underneath on the same clip board to remind me of things.

organized holiday or party

Come on in and see if these tips and lists will work for you too!

I have 2 parties that I plan for right now…Thanksgiving for up to 40 and a big Christmas party for 50-60 people.

To keep the clip boards separated, I tie a brown ribbon on the Thanksgiving clipboard...

organized holiday or party

 and a red ribbon on the Christmas board.

organized holiday or party

 Here are the lists I have for each party…

  • Guest List
  • Room Layout
  • Menu
  • Shopping List
  • Cooking Times

organized holiday or party

The Room Layout Chart really helps to figure out in advance, where everyone will be sitting or where the food and drinks will be served.

Our house has an open floor plan, so it's divided into family room, kitchen, dining room and living room.

We have 35-40 people for Thanksgiving, so we have a very casual dinner. It's served buffet style and seating is at the dining room table, card tables, the kitchen island and the couches in the family room and living room. Perfect for anyone who wants to watch football while eating or sit at the table for family conversation!

organized holiday or party

The Menu and Shopping Lists are critical.

Know what you are serving…right down to the cream in your coffee.

Once you have your menu, pull out your recipe cards and then put your shopping list together with each and every item you will need.

Go through your cupboards and pantry first to see what you already have before you shop.

organized holiday or party

The Cooking Times List is very helpful too. This will save your sanity when food is coming in and out of the oven at different times.

I have several casserole dishes that I make the day before, but they all need to go in the oven at different times. If you keep this list, you will know which one needs to go in at what time and temperature. Have them all timed to come out at the same time when dinner will be served.

Don't forget to take into consideration the time your turkey comes out. It needs to rest, then you have to carve it. It's probably 20-30 minutes of extra time when the turkey actually comes out of the oven.

I have 2 ovens in my kitchen and because my dad lives with us, he has an oven on his side of the house too. I also have 2 of those portable roaster ovens that I use for cooking the casserole dishes.

organized holiday or party

It doesn't matter how organized you are, those last minutes when all the different foods are coming out and going on the table is crazy. My family is the best. We have it down to a science now.

My husband and his 2 brothers cut the 2 turkeys and the ham and all the ladies move out all the food to the buffet table. The last crazy thing is heating the rolls without forgetting them in the oven and burning the tops.

I serve all the food in buffet servers that I purchased at Job Lot. They are about $4.00 for the rack, $1.20 for the water pan and less than a dollar for the pans the food goes in. The sterno cups that keep the water hot are 80 cents a piece and you will need 2 per rack. Well worth the investment. This system keeps the food hot while you are bringing out all the other food and keeps it hot when your guests are going back for another serving!

One year I set up the buffet of the racks in a spare room on my dad's side. I made a "U" shaped buffet table along 3 walls with MDF board I had cut at Home Depot. I stacked them on low bookcases my dad had in there. It worked great, except the room was about 10' x 10' and the sterno cups steaming up all the water made that room hotter the heck. It was like a steam sauna! Lol  This year I'll set up all the racks in my dad's kitchen.

organized holiday or party

On a smaller scale, I did a post on how to organize your serving dishes ahead of time…click HERE for that post!

organized holiday or party

I hope even one of these tips will be helpful for your holiday party, dinner or any function you have throughout the year.

Thanks for stopping by,

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  1. I put post its in the dishes too! LOL!

  2. These planning tips can be used for any party one may be hosting. It would eliminate unnecessary stress. I was considering hosting a Christmas tea lunch and now I have the planning tools.

  3. I agree, making lists and planning ahead is key to pulling off a party. Great tips! BTW something I do when using those type of buffet food servers is to put a couple of metal canning jar rings in the pan with the hot water. That way the food pan can sit on top without actually sitting down in the water. Keeps the bottom of the pan from burning. Thanks for sharing and Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Loved this post...I would wander aimlessly if I didn't have lists!! Keeps me focused and on task!! AND I had no idea I could heat up/bake casserole dishes in electric roasters!! Who knew!?
    Thanks for all these tips!! But...ummm Karen...I didn't see my name on your list? Slight...oversight??

  5. Wonderful post! Thank you for taking the time to share all of this with us. Our crowd has never been as large as yours(it sounds like such a fun gathering) but your great tips make any gathering easier on the host.

  6. Thanks Karen! I am only hosting a small family group for Christmas. In Jan, however, we are hosting the media/production team from church. Could be 20 could be over 50. Time to start planning is NOW! Thanks for some great tools to get me started.

  7. We also have had 35-40 for Thanksgiving in the past with more than half of them being International university students. This summer we moved from IL to AL, so we will only have 10-11. Two of them will be Chinese university grad students. Anyway, when we were having the large gatherings, I also make lists. I even tagged the table cloths so I would know what cloth went on what table. The schedule listed the times to turn on the oven and to start putting recipies together, when to plug the coffee pot in, etc. Lists are very helpful, and I have them all saved. We started cooking two turkeys on Wednesday and slicing the meat off the bone. Then on Thursday we put the meat in the electric roaster, poured hot broth over it, and warmed it up. I also started doing the stuffing in the crock pots. It did help that my sister brought the pies:) The Internationals really liked to be involved so I had lots of help. Such good memories! Now I have to rethink everything:) (I think I would rather be planning for 40 again:) Nancy:

  8. I am impressed ... and really glad it's just my son and I! That being said, I have post-it notes on the cupboards so I remember to do certain things at certain times. My son lives in Massachusetts (I live in NH and work in Boston), so normally I'm home alone - and I do very little cooking - cooking for one, when it isn't something one particularly likes to do in the first place... But Thanksgiving and Christmas as special. New notes will go up on Saturday to keep track of the baking - I do love to bake!

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  10. These are fantastic tips thanks for posting these! Dinner parties are something I hold frequently as my husband has a huge friend circle and they keep meeting at once in a while. I will definitely use these when planning my next dinner party!


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