How to Plan a Christmas Dinner

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Planning a Christmas dinner, holiday dinner or other large gathering isn't complicated, but the more forethought you give it the easier it will be. The key is to do as much work ahead of time as you can, so you and your guests can enjoy yourselves the day of the party.

Things You'll Need

  • Holiday Baking Books
  • Holiday Cookbooks
  • Low-fat Cookbooks
  • Candleholders
  • Dinner Candles
  • Holiday Decorations
  • Cake Pans
  • Cookie Sheets
  • Napkin Rings
  • Napkins
  • Peelers
  • Roasting Pans
  • Table Centerpieces
  • Tablecloths
  • Cookie sheets
  • Decide how many guests you'll have at least two weeks beforehand, and assess how much space you have, both at the table and in your home.

  • Compose your menu at least two weeks ahead of time as well. Plan for each person to eat between one and two pounds of food.

  • Organize the menu into to-do lists, including all preparation steps.

  • Clean out as much of the refrigerator as possible one week ahead. Be ruthless in your decisions about what to toss. The more free space in the fridge, the better.

  • Make the big trip to the grocery store a week ahead as well. Most items, with the exception of salad greens and some fruit, will keep for a week.

  • If you're baking cookies for the party, prepare the cookie dough in advance and freeze it. If you're serving a decorated cake, make and bake the cake parts a week or more ahead of time, wrap them well in plastic wrap and freeze them until the day before. Frozen cakes are easier to decorate than thawed ones anyway.

  • Set the table and ready your home two days ahead, if seating people at a table for dinner. This will give you enough time to buy or borrow things you may need.

  • Consider serving the meal as a buffet if you want to serve more guests than your table will seat. Set the table against a wall near the kitchen and use it as the serving area. For buffet service, make sure to divide all the food into small portions.

  • Peel and cut all vegetables two days before. Carrots and potatoes can be stored in ice water in the fridge; onions, celery and other vegetables must be kept dry and wrapped well.

  • Make as many dishes the day before as you can. Prepare and chill desserts, make seasoning mixes and make or start accompanying sauces.

  • Trim and ready your roast beef or turkey for the oven, if applicable. Place it in the roasting pan and chill until needed. Don't season it ahead of time, though.

  • Plan your guests' arrival to give you enough time to cook.

Tips & Warnings

  • Buffet service is easier to manage than seating everyone at the same table.
  • Plan on serving some food that doesn't need to be cooked, like salad, cheese and crackers, and fresh fruit. This will save valuable oven and counter space.
  • Don't worry about having too little; most people's eyes are larger than their stomachs. Don't worry about having too much, either - leftovers are good.
  • You cannot be too organized, but you can let it affect how much fun you have. Remember to enjoy yourself.

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