Entertaining company is frequently a pleasure for everyone except the host, but if you keep these tips in mind -- your guests will love it and you'll be relaxed enough to enjoy yourself, too.
Entertaining Made Easy: Although the food is the main attraction, spectacular table settings can make a holiday meal complete -- and they don't have to cost a fortune or take hours or days to prepare!
- Tie each napkin with sheer, shimmery ribbon. Tuck in sprigs of fresh herbs, greenery or a candy cane for added color.
- Make fun and festive place card holders for the table: bake extra gingerbread cookies and write guests' names in red or white icing (prop the cookies up against a glass); purchase inexpensive small picture frames to hold guests' names and/or photos; cut slits in the sides of apples and insert place cards (alternate green and red apples and tie ribbon around each one).
- Arrange an instant centerpiece by filling a large glass bowl with Christmas balls or red and green apples, then surround the bowl with small votives. Or float flowers and star candles in a glass bowl.
- Stretch what you have to work for a crowd: mix and match good china with inexpensive glass plates, adding a tiny vase of flowers or small bowl of red and green mints (or other goodies) at each place.
Let Them Eat Bread: If you throw your party during the holidays, a loaf of homemade bread makes a great gift -- especially when it's given in a new loaf pan. Just add a wooden spoon and the recipe, wrap it all up in a festive towel and tie it with ribbon.
No Bones About It: Try boneless turkey breasts and tenderloins for a change of pace -- and added convenience -- next time you throw a party. These boneless cuts offer the advantages of reduced (or no) thawing time, shorter cooking times and enough white meat for everyone. In addition, white turkey meat has significantly less fat than a traditional dark meat portion. Count on about 1/3 pound per serving for most boneless cuts.
Food as Art: A whole bird, a roast or any large cut of meat can be part of a beautiful platter. The meat can be left whole and surrounded by colorful vegetables or fruit, then sliced at the table. Or, slice the meat ahead of time, arrange the slices overlapping around the outer portion of the platter and fill the center with vegetables. Garnish either presentation with plenty of fresh herbs on the platter, or evergreens or other decorative greens around the platter.
It's sometimes difficult to maintain a healthy diet between Thanksgiving and New Year, but it's not impossible. Learn more about healthy holiday eating on the next page of this article.