I love entertaining during the winter. The mad rush of the holidays has ended and there just seems to be more time for getting together with friends and loved ones. Plus, putting together an elegant party can be simple and easy with the right planning!
All December I wanted to invite friends over for a little shindig, but it truly is the busiest time of year for our family, with holidays and birthdays galore. I decided to keep myself sane and wait for January to pull the trigger and I’m so glad I did. We invited a few families over for a low-key afternoon that was lovely, fun and, of course, delicious!
My goal with this party was to make it easy, relaxed and NOT stressful. I planned a menu that could be almost completely prepped ahead of time so that the food was just waiting in my KitchenAid® French Door Refrigerator for when the guests arrived. I embraced the naturally sparse feel of winter and decorated accordingly. Here are a few tips to help you throw the same kind of relaxing event. I promise you’ll be able to enjoy time with your guests with no stress!
Keep the Decorating Simple and Seasonal
Color Scheme: Stick with a winter-themed color scheme, using only whites and greys. I used a grey tablecloth and then all the plates, napkins, cups, plastic ware and serving dishes were either white or clear. (I found new square plates from Chinet at the grocery store and they were perfect!)
Use Seasonal Greenery for a Centerpiece: Everything you need for decorations is right outside! Plan a nice but simple centerpiece using greenery from the great outdoors. I live in Southern California and the camellias in my yard are in full bloom, so I did a simple bouquet using just that flower. The pop of color contrasted nicely with the otherwise neutral color scheme. If you live in a climate where most everything is dormant during the winter, cut evergreen boughs for a simple centerpiece or simply use sticks with winter berries for a “winter bouquet.” Embrace the season!
Plan a Menu That Uses Make-Ahead Recipes
Food is central to almost every social event and can really make or break your party! The trick is to pick foods that taste wonderful but don’t require a ton of work the day of the party. Here are a few tips based on the menu I used at my party. I swear to you that the day of the party I was completely relaxed and ready to go when everyone walked through the door!
- Serve a Large Dinner Salad: Make a large dinner salad with ingredients that can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge until assembly right before the party. I served an Oriental Chicken Salad because I could chop all the veggies, cook the chicken and make the salad dressing 1-3 days before the party. All I had to do the day of the party was toss the salad and put it in a serving bowl. The result – filling food to feed a crowd with almost zero effort the day of the party!
- Serve 2 Simple Appetizers: Serve 2 simple appetizers to go along with the salad. Again, think about things that can be made ahead of time and pulled out of the fridge at the last minute. Here are the two that I picked for our party!
- Hummus Guacamole Dip: This dip is always a crowd pleaser, can feed a lot of people, and is healthy as well as delicious. You can make this dip the day before and store it in the fridge. Just pour the dip into a pretty bowl right before party time along with a bowl of corn chips and you’re all set!
- BOBs: BOBs (a.k.a. brie on bread) are my favorite little appetizers to serve at parties. They are really easy to throw together, classic and delicious. For my party, I bought a baguette the day before, sliced the baguette into pieces and stored them in a Ziploc bag. The day of the party I simply had to assemble the BOBs (which takes 5 minutes tops) and broil them just before serving.
- Serve 1 Elegant White Dessert: To go along with the color scheme, pick one dessert that is white in color and, you guessed it, that you can make ahead of time! I chose to serve a Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, a simple 2-layer cake that I made the day before the party. Just take it out of the fridge about an hour before serving and that’s it!
Keep the drinks simple! Along with a pitcher of ice water serve just one signature drink for the party. That’s it, you’re done! Here are a few ideas at varying levels of difficulty:
- Buy pretty soda from the store! You know, the Italian sodas and sparkling lemonades that come in beautiful bottles. This is by far the easiest option – the drinks are delicious, the bottles look pretty on the table, and you don’t have to do anything except pull them out of the fridge and twist the cap! I chose sparkling lemonade because the color of the soda matched everything else on the table.
- Make a big bowl of punch with wintery flavors, like this pomegranate punch with oranges. This is the second easiest drink option – you just need to make one big batch of punch at the beginning of the party and you’re done.
- Serve a signature cocktail/mocktail to your guests, such as the Frost Bite. This option is a bit more work than the other two, but still not hard and can be fun with your guests!
Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy!
The day of the party you’ll need about 30-60 minutes to put everything in serving dishes and set the table. As your guests arrive you’ll be the epitome of grace and calm and you’ll have as much fun as your guests!