BIG Dinner Tips

That is, the dinner is big, not necessarily the tips. Think Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. These ideas are by April from Missouri, who wrote an article for the website and won a prize for her suggestions. She does a nice job of simplifying what can become so overwhelming, that the fun we’re supposed to experience, is lost.

Now my personal caveat: I know very well our Cook’n readers are the savviest group of cooks on the planet. So you may already know and be doing these things. But in the off-chance we have some novice cooks in our readerhood, I share April’s tips. See what you think:

First, be realistic. If you don’t have enough entertaining space, or you don't have the proper equipment or enough parking space, then see about renting a facility to house for your dinner, or let someone else host it. With that being said...

A week before my dinner, start baking, since cookies, pies and cakes can be made ahead of time and frozen. The day before your dinner, remove them from the freezer. Also, contact guests and ask them to bring a covered dish (especially if they are local). If inviting a special guest, or someone from out of town, don't ask them to bring a dish. Do ask everyone to let you know what they’re bringing however (to avoid having 7 green bean casseroles).

The day before your dinner, set up your tables and chairs and place settings. Make sure you have enough ice on hand. It's perfectly fine to use good quality foam or paper plates, if not for the entire dinner, than for at least dessert. And you can simplify dinner even more, by going the buffet approach.

If there are young children attending, then consider covering the "kids table" with blank newspaper or butcher paper. Set out cups of crayons, along with some coloring books. Or you could plan on them simply drawing on their table topper. This helps keep little ones entertained while their plates are being prepared.

Some foods you can start the day before, such as peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes (store in salted water in the fridge), fixing relish, fruit and veggie trays, bake your turkey or ham and pre-slice it.

The day of your dinner, use crock-pots where you can. Crock-pots work great for gravy, noodles, yams, and keeping mashed potatoes warm. Check a day or two beforehand to make sure you have proper extension cords.

Also consider setting out some board games, a cheese tray and snack tray. If you end up waiting on a last minute guest or have a kitchen emergency, you don't have to worry about people being hungry (especially important in a family with diabetics and lots of children).

After our blessing, consider asking those over 60 and the parents of young children to go through the line first, if it is a buffet. If it is not a buffet, ask the moms if they want to fill their children's plates before the blessing is said. Then, as soon as the prayer is over, they are handed their plates.

You might also find it fun to ask those who brought a special dish to also bring the recipe. Either have plenty of index cards and pens on hand so others can copy them or offer to copy them on your printer, if you have one. This way everyone has a chance to get a copy of Aunt Deloris’ pecan pie and Grandma Edna's cherry cobbler recipe.

Also, it’s smart to be prepared for bad weather. In some parts of the country, ice and snow can hit quickly. So, make sure the flashlights, candles, lanterns and extra blankets are on hand. If you need to have had guests stay over due to the weather, or someone needs to borrow a blanket for the trip home, it’s extra hospitable to be ready to share.

Finally, on the day of your dinner, keep your phone charged, turned on, and handy so any lost guest can call for directions.


    Alice Osborne
    DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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