’Tis the season for easy and elegant holiday entertaining

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once again.

It’s said to be the most wonderful time of the year, though the busy holiday host often feels far from wonderful when pondering menus, motifs and more for the impending festivities.

The good news is that entertaining experts are urging this year’s holiday hosts to keep gatherings simple and stress-free to bring joy to guests and hosts alike. Culinary experts suggest an easy, yet elegant, menu of finger foods and other basics.

• Implement an open- door policy. Instead of scheduling a sit- down dinner, encourage friends and family to drop by your holiday party at their convenience. An “open house” atmosphere means you won’t be overwhelmed by receiving all guests at one time.

• No spoons, no forks, no problem. A menu of finger foods and appetizers, served buffetstyle, is sure to please any crowd. Not only will there be something for everyone, but the less formal setup also promotes more relaxed conversation. Additionally, you may consider going potluck to help ease your hosting load.

• Less mess equals less stress. Minimize your time in the kitchen by sticking to menu items that can be enjoyed right out of the package. For example, an array of crackers and crudites, served with your favorite packaged dips, spreads and cheeses, can be set out at the beginning of a holiday party and simply replenished as needed. Seafood cheese balls are another “set it and forget it” holiday favorite.

• Pack your secret weapons. One or two winning recipes are all it takes to keep your guests raving for weeks to come — and you don’t have to be a world-class chef to pull it off. Instead, take help from store-bought items by incorporating them with fresh ingredients to create a completely original masterpiece.

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2011-12-22 digital edition

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