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Help for a rookie hostess

Posted by auntlaura (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 17, 06 at 20:50

My husband and I own a small business, and are hosting a holiday party for our employees at our home. I am not a born hostess, and fret over this responsibility. I would like an easy menu, with many make ahead, tried and true, fool-proof, menu items as possible. Even a time-table (2 days before, day before, etc.) I have two small children, and I have to work around their demanding schedules of eating/playing/napping.

My mother did not enjoy entertaining, and almost never did. Therefore, I never "witnessed" the basics of hostessing. Perhaps I can prove a different example for my own daughter!

How about (in addition to the menu...) a Top 5 Hostess Musts...

Thank you!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

The top hostess MUST is relax and enjoy!
The second is KISS...Keep It Simple, Stupid! LOL!
You don't say what sort of a "do" you will be hosting....dinner? Cocktails, lunch? Cocktail buffet?
And for how many people will come.
But I would do as simple a manu as possible...simple like a spiral sliced ham....or that make ahead Italian beef for sandwiches...just heat and serve with hard rolls.
Have one kind of starch...potatoes OR pasta and a salad or veggie casserole....and then finger stuff...like mini hot dogs in BBQ sayce with tooth picks, cut up veggies and one dip...curry is good...and a few cheeses on a platter with some crackers.
If you are having a bar and not more than 25 people, let them serve themselves. Make your coffee ahead and keep it hot in those pump pots and carafes, serve as erve your self dessert...like cookies or bars...not something you will have to cut and plate.....
And enjoy your guests.
Linda C


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I realized as I was lying in bed last night...I didn't give much for details. There's not alot decided yet...because I just don't know what/how to do my "do". It will be on a Friday evening. Between 20-30 people.

I have a great house for entertaining (just need to "learn" the basics). Huge kitchen 9'x9' island in kitchen, huge formal dining room, huge formal living room...(remodeled farm house).

I was thinking buffet from one side of the kitchen island. Bar & Beverages from other side. Don't know where to put desserts...just squeeze in at end of food?

My dining room table seats 8, my kitchen dinnette seats 4/6. Should I bring out card tables? Or, just let people "wonder" to find a seat? I have seating for 12 or more in my formal living/and 5 in my family room...and these are all adjacent rooms.

Do I have everything ready at the party start time...or wait 1 hour (or some other amount of time) to set out food?

We will have a bar...one of our businesses is a liquor store. I like the idea of serve yourself desserts/drinks...that's OK, huh?

I like the menu you suggest. What is the Italian beef? Is that something served in a crock pot?

OK...that's probably overkill on the details. Anyone want to come to my house and teach me Hostessing 101?


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

If you don't mind people eating in all those places, I think that's a nice idea. They can mix and mingle and get to know one another better. Do you have a buffet in your formal dining room? You can set up the desserts and/or drinks there, depending on the size. I'm sure others will have some excellent suggestions for you. There are some wonderful people on this board!


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I would do the main island in the kitchen for food only.

Do drinks on a buffet or set up a table in another section of the house. That way you will not have grid lock plus you don't have to worry about getting food out while someone is pouring a drink.

Then do desserts on the main buffet later or do you have a built in desk in your kitchen? Or a long table in a living room? I like setting up food stations all over the house. It makes it perfect for mingling.

Fo the menu:
I'd make a HUGE salad. Something like greens, with strawberries, goat cheese, candied pecans and a vinager type dressing. That is easy to do ahead. The color is good. Plus, it gives a good option for a veggie eater.

Then do a chafing dish main entree. Like lasagna or chicken breasts in a sauce with pasta under it.

I just attended a party on Friday that had: a maple sugared ham sliced in set in a chafing dish, three cheese marinara pasta in a chafing dish, salad, breads with herbed butters, stuffed mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes. It was perfect.

Desserts: key lime tartlets, chocolate puddings in expresso cups, and little petit fours and cheesecakes. Coffee station.

The key are chafing dishes if you are doing this alone. It keeps everything warm and you don't have to worry.

Rent them today. Pick them up on Thursday if you can so you can make your dishes ahead and put them in the pans.

Or call a caterer today. :) Sometimes that best way to host is just have help. I know I love it when I have help!


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I agree that you need three stations, use the island for the buffet , set desserts up in your dining room and have a third station for nibblies and drinks. This way you reduce congestion and people can mingle.

I am a firm believer in only doing a plated type meal if you can offer everyone a proper seat. If people are going to have to eat with plates on their laps then I suggest all foods be fork friendly. ie they either are bite size or can be cut just with a fork.

I did a Greek themes buffet for a goup of about 40 last year and it was great. I served a greek salad. greek meatballs, roasted veggies and chiken souvlaki but I took the meat off the skewers.

As ilovepink mentions, Lasagna works well. So you could do an Italian theme with salad, lasagna, meatballs etc.

You should have some drinks and nibblies ready for your guests and allow them to mingle a bit before dinner. An hour is good. I would suggest three , maybe four choices of appetizers. Cheese selection , shrimps and sauce and a hot finger food as an example.

Tips to remember

Plan your menu out two weeks before, include appetizers, main buffet, desserts, beverages

Make a detailed list of everything you need and from that complete a shopping list.

Buy all non perishibles a week before

Buy perishibles a day or two before.

Make or prep as much as you can the two days before the party. By prep I mean chop, cut, partially cook...as much as you can

Set out the glasses , dishes , napkins , cutlery ,serving dishes, a day or two before.

Do not leave any house cleaning for the day of the party.

Make a detailed list of every thing you have to make or do the day of and sort the list by time. This will force you to make sure you have thought of everything and will help you understand if you have left your self enough time.

8:00 empty dishwasher
8:30 Prepare casserole
9:00 ......

3:30 casserole in the oven
4:30 casserole out of the oven

Don't be rushed at the last minute. Leave at least 2 hours before your guests arrive take a bath, and get yourself ready, have a glass of wine in the tub.

Most important be relaxed and enjoy yourself. Your guest will remember you more than your food.

Oh and don't forget music!

Best tip....when you think you know sorta what you want to do then post your menu here, even if it;s a rough cut, we'll help with additiong deletions, tips....and recipes.

Entertaining can be very easy if you are well prepared and relaxed.


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

At this point, it might be too late to contract with a caterer, but you might want to consider it for next year! But there are plenty of other options for you to take advantage of: Costco and Sams can provide absolutely terrific food (desserts, yum), cheeses, shrimp, etc. Perhaps you have a gourmet grocery where you can go and become inspired....and order some food. Purchase good condiments! Seek out the best bread you can find.

Do you have a trademark dish that you make? Are you a baker? One of my favorite appetizers is mini creampuffs stuffed with chicken or shrimp salad.

If you don't overburden your guests with food that must be cut with a knife for each bite, they will feel comfortable roaming around and sitting anywhere to eat. I like parties that end up that way.

Remember: cold food needs to be kept cold and hot food, hot. That where the rental companies come in handy....again, I hope you're not too late! I sure wish you lived near me...I'd help out in a second! I'm not having my own party this year, and I miss it.

Best tips? Well, be SURE that no one gets behind the wheel of a car if they've had too much to drink. Arrange for a guest room, a cab, or a designated driver.

Turn the TV off, and keep the music low enough so that people don't have to raise their voices to speak to each other.


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I would not serve food in your kitchen. you have a huge diningroom...push the table to one end and make that a buffet....serve a "lap dinner"...things that can be eaten with a fork and don't need to be cut on the plate.
That could be an assortment of stuff for build your own sandwiches, or something like a ziti casserole with salad and garlic bread or a stuffed meatloaf, or ham balls and creamed dilled potatoes and a non sauced veggie...like steamed broccoli with lemon butter and fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Stack your plates on one end of the table along with forks and napkins.
Have your bar in the kitchen and the horsdouvres....and find a 3rd space for desserts and coffee....perhaps the family room.
20 or 30 people will easily eat in their laps...no need to set tables. Don't use paper plates or plastic forks...there are more spills with them.
Have the bar set up.,.and the cocktail snacks out, and after about 45 minutes to an hour set out the "real food"....and as they are eating that make coffee and set out the desserts in the family room.
Fix a basket and wrap up a knife and a fork in napkins and stack them in th ebasket...tiedw ith a ribbon is nice.
Ande veryone serves them self when they are ready....and wanters back to the diningroom for seconds...and perhaps stops on the way to talk with someone they hadn't seen before...
It's a nice kind of a party....and very easy!
Linda C


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

Linda makes a great point on using the dining room for the food. The kitchen can get pretty hectic even for the most organized hostess. USe the kitchen for the bar and snackies, people will mingle there leaving the food area nice and clear.


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I realized as I was lying in bed last night...I didn't give much for details. There's not alot decided yet...because I just don't know what/how to do my "do". It will be on a Friday evening. Between 20-30 people.

I have a great house for entertaining (just need to "learn" the basics). Huge kitchen 9'x9' island in kitchen, huge formal dining room, huge formal living room...(remodeled farm house).

I was thinking buffet from one side of the kitchen island. Bar & Beverages from other side. Don't know where to put desserts...just squeeze in at end of food?

My dining room table seats 8, my kitchen dinnette seats 4/6. Should I bring out card tables? Or, just let people "wonder" to find a seat? I have seating for 12 or more in my formal living/and 5 in my family room...and these are all adjacent rooms.

Do I have everything ready at the party start time...or wait 1 hour (or some other amount of time) to set out food?

We will have a bar...one of our businesses is a liquor store. I like the idea of serve yourself desserts/drinks...that's OK, huh?

I like the menu you suggest. What is the Italian beef? Is that something served in a crock pot?

OK...that's probably overkill on the details. Anyone want to come to my house and teach me Hostessing 101?


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

I see everyone has given you great ideas for entertaining. I thought I would post a couple of easy appetizer ideas that you could prepare. Do as much as you can ahead of time. That way you can enjoy the party.

Pinecone Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
2 cups Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Four Cheese Mexican Style Cheese
2 Tbsp. Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp. chopped canned green chilies
1/3 cup Planters Sliced Almonds, toasted
RITZ Crackers

PLACE cream cheese, shredded cheese and mustard in food processor or blender container; cover. Process until well blended. Stir in chilies.
PLACE on sheet of wax paper; shape into 4-inch oval to resemble a "pinecone." Insert almonds in rows to completely cover cream cheese mixture. Cover.
REFRIGERATE at least 2 hours or until firm. Let stand at room temperature 15 min. before serving. Serve as a spread with crackers.

Cream Cheese Bacon Crescents

1 tub (8 oz.) Philoadelphhia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread
3 slices Oocar Meyer Bacon, cooked, crumbled
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

PREHEAT oven to 375F. Mix cream cheese spread and bacon in small bowl until well blended.
SEPARATE each can of dough into 8 triangles each. Cut each triangle in half lengthwise. Spread each dough triangle with 1 generous tsp. cream cheese mixture. Roll up, starting at shortest side of triangle and rolling to opposite point. Place, point sides down, on ungreased baking sheet.
BAKE 12 to 15 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Hot Holiday Broccoli Dip

1 cup Miracle Whip Light Dressing
1 cup Kraft 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, well drained
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimientos, drained


PREHEAT oven to 350F. Combine dressing, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, the Parmesan cheese, broccoli and pimientos.
SPREAD into baking dish or 9-inch pie plate.
BAKE 20 to 25 min. or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Continue baking 5 min. or until mozzarella cheese is melted. Serve with the crackers.



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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

Claudia , one of the things we all love about this forum is that it is all about real people sharing ideas and dilemas to do with entertaining, cooking etc.

I love Kraft products but don't want to see blatant advertising, masked as real folk, on this site. Kraft can pay for advertising if they wish but trying to mix in is insulting.


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

Sorry for the double post (above).

OK, let's see if I'm getting a clear picture...

Bar/beverage/appetizers: at kitchen island, self serve
cheese & crackers, shrimp & cocktail sauce, roasted cashews

Main Meal: dining room, buffet style
______________________(can't decide...2 kinds of skewers (chicken & shrimp) OR spiral ham w/ rolls (for sandwiches)
veggie tray w/dip (my preferance over a salad)
some kind of dip with chips (if go sandwich route) OR with bread (if go skewer route)

Dessert/Coffee: third location (undecided), self serve
bars
cookies
biscotti

I'm going off of the advise given here, and some recipes (with pictures) in the Dec/Jan '07 Taste of Home magazine.
I do have 30 plates (Christmas tree design). And, mugs/glasses to accomodate everyone. I don't own a chafing dish...and I'm trying to decide if I should go buy one, or not.

Any adivse on setting up the beverage area? Seems like 20-30 mug/glasses setting out on the counter is very "busy/messy" looking.

I really appreciate all of your posts....what I don't use for this event (Jan. 5th), I'll use at the next event I'm hosting (Jan. 7th)....am I crazy??


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

Don't buy a chafing dish....I know of none big enough to serve 30 people anything but perhaps a hot crab dip.
If you need to keep things warm, go with pne of those buffet servers with the Sterno burners underneath.
Yes, a lot of glasses on the bar is "busy"...but that's the way it is....for very large parties, I have used disposable plastic glasses and stacked them....but I much prefer "real" glasses.
Why do you need a chafing dish?
I think you have a handle on the party! Go for it!
Linda C


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RE: Help for a rookie hostess

Buy a chafing dish ONLY if it's 8 qt. size. Beware they cost about $250.00 Unless you find one at a restaurant supply for cheaper. I have three that I own but I was able to buy at cost.

You can rent them though for about $40 to 60 dollars. Sometimes cheaper. Remember ask for the food tray. You have to pay extra for that.

I still think you need to seperate the beverages from the food. The food on the kitchen island is the best in my opinion. Alcohol needs to be located either in a different room or at the very least a few feet away from the food.

Disposables will be fine for plates and napkins. I would do real glass for the beverages. I just had a party and used silverware and heavy clear plastic plates. Nobody was the wiser and nobody cared. I find that if you serve drinks out of 'real' glassware that is perfect.

Do not do paper plates though. Clear plastic!

I know people on here like to push the real. I typically use it myself. But, if you are a new hostess then stick with easy clean up for now. As you become a Martha in your own right you can upgrage. :)


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