So you’ve decided to open up your home to guests for a holiday gathering for the first time? The first rule: don’t panic! Hosting during the holidays doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated, despite what the internet may have us believe. It just takes a little planning ahead — and a few tricks up your sleeve — so you can spend more time with your guests. Here are some tips to make your first time hosting a total breeze.
1. Save a little time on prep
Even though it doesn’t seem like it, prep time in the kitchen can really add up — and you don’t want to be stuck on kitchen duty in the precious minutes before guests arrive. Save yourself (and your hands) the last-minute chopping, slicing, and dicing with Whole Foods Market Pre-Cut produce to use for salads or entrées. Bonus: they can also pull double-duty for a crudités.
2. Have something for guests to snack on right when they arrive
There are a million recipes out there for homemade hors d’oeuvres, but there are easier ways to keep your guests satisfied. A few salty, crunchy snacks will tide over guests when they arrive — and give them a place to congregate if you need to finish up kitchen duty.
With six varieties in the box, our 365 by Whole Foods Market Entertainment Crackers have something for everyone. We love the simplicity of a bowl of our 365 by Whole Foods Market Nuts: pick three or four types of nuts for variety, and try to have a good mix of roasted, unroasted, salted, and plain. And Divina olives are a tried-and-true party snack, from bright-green and firm Castelvetranos to thick, juicy Kalamatas to green olives stuffed with blue cheese. Pro tip: either purchase your olives pitted or offer a small bowl so guests have a place to put their pits.
3. Keep beverages flowing
You don’t want to get stuck behind the bar mixing drinks while your guests mingle (and your dishes simmer unattended). Instead of concocting each person’s drink, make it simple for guests to pour their own: beer, wine and pre-batched punches are ideal for this, as are beverages like Waterloo Sparkling Water which can double as simple mixers and as alcohol-free drinks for those who choose not to imbibe. (PS: It’s always nice to have an option for non-drinkers, aside from water.)
4. Say “cheese”
Is there any appetizer that’s as easy to assemble — and as impressive — as a top-notch cheese board? Just pick a few cheeses, add in one or two additions like olives or cornichons, put it all on a plate and let guests do the rest — it truly couldn’t be easier. (You don’t even have to do the cutting.) A good cheese board doesn’t have to be over-the-top, but variety in texture and taste is key.
Our go-tos include: a sharp, tangy aged cheddar, like Black Creek; a soft, creamy BUF mozzarella; and something on the sweeter side, like the Wellspring Cranberry Orange Goat Cheese Log. (It’s rolled in tangy dried cranberries and orange zest, which is extra festive). Make sure to include one or two cracker options: Rustic Bakery’s Gourmet Flatbread Crackers are neutral in flavor to allow bolder cheeses, like that aged cheddar, to take the spotlight, while Lesley Stowe’s Cranberry and Hazelnut Raincoast Crisps are perfect for a soft goat cheese or Brie. And with all that creamy richness on one plate, salty, crunchy little cornichons make for a killer contrast.
5. Call in a sidekick
Having your party catered sounds decadent, but it doesn’t have to be: Our in-house catering team offers small orders like party-ready entrées, side dishes and appetizers that can save you a lot of time. Seafood, for instance, has that “special occasion” vibe, yet the prospect of assembling a platter of it can seem intimidating. (Not to mention all that cooking and peeling.) But a beautifully arranged platter of shrimp with cocktail sauce is an impressive crowd-pleaser that couldn’t be simpler to put together — just put in an order online, and let your guests think you did all that hard work yourself. Your secret’s safe with us.
6. End things on a sweet note
Dessert is everyone’s favorite part, but it doesn’t mean you need to spend hours up to your elbows in pie dough beforehand. Keep it sweet and simple: a bar of dark chocolate broken up on a cutting board, a plate of fresh berries with ricotta, or a bowl of chocolate truffles, like our perfectly bite-sized Whole Foods Market Organic Chocolate Truffles. Presentation couldn’t be easier: Just pour them into a serving bowl and pass them around at the end of the meal with dessert drinks or coffee. Not only are they delicious; their finger food status means minimal dishware for you to clean later.