It’s Christmas Eve, so naturally you are scrambling to wrap presents, maybe even still making one last stop at the mall, and you are cooking Christmas dinner for 12. Or at least this is what my life usually looks like. While I can’t wrap your presents or make a last minute run to Target for you, I can help make your Christmas dinner a success. For many of you, this might be the first year you are hosting a large holiday meal for friends and family and now that you are down to the wire you are feeling a little panic. For the last five years, I have spearheaded all our large family meals and I have definitely left the path of a tornado in my kitchen learned a thing or two. Here are six quick tips that are sure to make sure your dinner is memorable and enjoyable to make.

1. Timing: Write it out
I started this last Thanksgiving and it has changed my life. I literally broke the day down into half hour intervals and timed everything out. What time the turkey or roast goes in the oven, when I would blanch the green beans, what time to pull the cheese out of the fridge for appetizers so the could come to room temperature. Yep, it sounds insane and very Type A but when you are cooking for large numbers and have so many moving pieces it is a lifesaver. For the first time we ate dinner on time because you see, we have this thing called Tori Time in my family, which is definitely in full effect when it comes to cooking.


2. Set your Table Now

Seriously, stop reading and go set the table now. You can do it days ahead of time because it will make your home nice and bright and cheery and it is one less thing to do the day of. Are you still reading? Set the table!

3. Plan and Label your Serving Plates and Utensils

I give all credit to my wonderful aunt for this tip. A few years ago she was having a dinner party and I saw her get out all her serving plates and utensils and literally take post it notes and label what each would be used for. I laughed at first until I realized it was genius. One of the toughest things about large meals served buffet style is keeping all the food warm. The last thing you want to be doing when everything is piping hot and ready to be eaten is rifling through that kitchen drawer you have been meaning to organize for months looking for a slotted spoon. Another advantage to planning plate ware is that you can easily preheat the chosen plates to help keep your food warm in the oven or microwave (just make sure they are oven or microwave safe first).

4. Say Yes to Help! Enlist help!

Don’t be a martyr and try to do it all yourself. The first few dinner parties started out with me being a perfectionist and trying to do everything. I believe dinner was served at 10pm as a result. Say yes to help, even if it is just a hand with dishes. Guests want to help and feel a part of the meal. Make them happy and say yes! Even better, ask for help. Let your loved ones bring a side dish. I hate showing up empty handed to a home and so do your friends and family. Say yes!

5. Don’t be Afraid to be a Little Adventurous

There is a piece of fairly universal dinner party advice that says don’t try anything new on guests. Ummm, how many of us have extra hours lying around to test out new Christmas menu ideas? Any takers? I really believe if you see a recipe that sparks your interest or inspires you that you should go for it. Keep in mind a few things however: 1. Know your ability. If your cooking repertoire includes mac and cheese (from a box) and scrambled eggs, start with the basics. 2. Pick a side or dish that if ruined does not destroy your whole meal. Try making two desserts, something risky and something tried and true. 3. Don’t despair if you fail. I’m assuming the people you’re having for Christmas love you already, and they’ll still love you if you burn the chocolate for your hot cocoa affogato dessert. (I made this last year. It’s amazing and not difficult!!)

6. Remember to Eat

Chefs don’t have an appetite for their own cooking. Countless times, I have spent hours on a meal and when it comes time to sit down I’m not even hungry. The problem with cooking all day is that you are often tasting and having a bite here and there as you cook. I have found that making sure I eat breakfast and lunch while sitting down really helps me to have an appetite come dinner time. And you have to sit down or it doesn’t work. And you have to have a glass of wine too.

I hope these few tidbits aid in a successful Christmas feast. Let me know how your celebrations go and if you cook something amazing, share the recipe with me.

Happy Christmas!

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