It’s officially holiday season, and if you’re like me, visions of green bean casserole, sweet potato soufflé and pumpkin pie have been dancing in your head. This time of year, I’m always itching to entertain–I spend my spare time planning what to bake and take to Thanksgiving dinner, and conjuring up a few seasonal parties of my own.
While I like to joke that food is often the main event in my family, celebrating the holidays is about setting aside time with the people that make life grand. Whether family members, neighbors or friends, spending quality time with the ones we love can often take a back seat to the busyness of life. This season, don’t let limited resources and little time squelch your efforts. On the big day and beyond, entertaining doesn’t have to mean white tablecloths and candlelight or expensive decorations and elaborate menus.
One of my best shin digs yet was a party I like to call my “Bonfire in the Sticks” featuring a tailgate buffet. The get together worked because all of the elements for a good time were in place: good music, good food and good company. I’ve got some party tips that are budget friendly and fun, and I’ll use my “Bonfire in the Sticks” to explain. With a little delegation and some semi-homemade dishes, you’ll be entertaining with ease throughout the season and year ‘round.
Don’t do everything yourself. Ask your guests to pitch in, whether that means bringing their favorite beverages and snacks, or putting together a party playlist. One of my trusted friends offered to create a themed playlist to accompany my “Bonfire in the Sticks,” and the songs, including Craig Morgan’s Bonfire and Brantley Gilbert’s Kick It in the Sticks helped set the tone and energy for the party.
Take a Cue from Sandra Lee
Food Network personality Sandra Lee has built an empire around semi-homemade dishes. It’s wonderful to make things from scratch if you have the time and talent but every moment counts, especially during the holidays. When you can combine ready-made ingredients with a few made from scratch items without sacrificing flavor, that’s winning. During the bonfire, I made pigs in a blanket with store bought crescent rolls and miniature hot dogs. To take it up a notch, I served the pigs in a blanket with two bottled condiments and one homemade barbecue sauce. I also purchased honey roasted peanuts, some chips and salsa and made a favorite batch of marshmallow brownies and surprise mint cookies using store bought cookie dough.
Keep it Simple
Instead of bringing a table and chairs outdoors, I asked my friend to back his truck in near the fire. We let the tailgate down, and I covered it with burlap. Who says tailgates are only for sitting? It made the perfect sideboard for my platters and the cooler, filled with seasonal drinks. You can also keep things simple by decorating with natural elements. Gather pinecones and berries or fall foliage and tuck them into a pretty basket for an instant and timeless look.
Use What You Have
That tent in your garage isn’t just for tailgating. Set it up in your backyard, wrap it with clear lights and use it as a covered area option for serving drinks or food. For extra seating, don’t worry if everything doesn’t match, pull chairs from various rooms in your home. At my event, I asked everyone to bring a camping chair if they had one. The same goes for dishes. Mixing various patterns and textures usually results in an eclectic, comfortable look and feel.
How do you stay sane and entertain during the holidays? Leave me a comment below.
This article originally appeared in the Statesboro Herald on Sunday, November 2, 2013.
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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of SKG-TV on YouTube. A public relations graduate of Georgia Southern University, Rebekah also attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.