Be easy on yourself!

By Judith Yamada, Kitchen Maven
When planning a party this holiday season, or any season, organize your time and choose foods that require simple preparation. Keep the following tips in mind, and you’ll be able to enjoy the celebration along with your guests.

1. Think “variety of flavor.” Everything shouldn’t taste the same. No matter how much you love curry or garlic, the food will be boring if everything tastes like curry or garlic.
2. Offer foods with different textures, particularly if they’re being served together. A creamy dip goes well with crunchy dippers like raw vegetables, mini breadsticks or crisply toasted slices of French bread.
3. Serve both light foods and some richer foods, and pair them together when possible. Celery stuffed with a buttery pate’ or hollowed out cherry tomatoes filled with a dab of whipped cream cheese and a smoked oyster are good examples.
4. Arrange foods appealingly. Garnish single-colored foods with bright accents such as chopped green onions, olives, parsley, tomato slices or wedges, lemon slices, chili powder or smoked paprika. Consider not only the attractiveness of each party treat, but how it’s displayed on the party table as well. When arranging food on the table, make sure the colors and textures complement each other.
5. To avoid traffic jams, allow room on all sides of the food table for guests to eat and mingle. Provide food that can be eaten with minimal effort if guests will be standing or balancing plates on their laps.
6. Most importantly, choose food you can prepare in advance as much as possible. And don’t experiment with new recipes – you’ll be sorry. If you’re relaxed and available when your guests begin arriving, you’ll all be happy and your party is bound to be a success.
7. Provide marker pens for guests to write their names on disposable cups and glasses. Saves a lot of cups and a lot of searching.

2 Days before party – pick up everything that’s lying around and put it away: magazines, shoes, newspapers and coffee cups need to find a home out of view. Make ice.
1 Day before party – Dust and sweep today- if that’s in your plan. Clear your serving area, and arrange plates, spoons, napkins, bowls, etc. on the table. Also, prep all raw fruits and vegetables.
Morning of party – Bake whatever you haven’t already baked. Complete any last minute preparation. Don’t kill yourself; things will just get messy again from the party.
Lastly – Get yourself ready. Take some time to relax and refresh. Take a deep breath and chill. Even sitting quietly for 15 minutes can make a difference. Enjoy that nice warm cup of tea or bubbly glass of Prosecco that you so richly deserve. The guests will be arriving soon. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!