When it comes to planning holiday dinners, getting caught up in the details is easy. Delicious food, wall decor and carefully selected napkin rings take centre stage during the holidays— at least according to Pinterest. But often overlooked among these specifics are significant household essentials that could take your holiday dinner from ordinary to extraordinary.
Investing in bigger items, like a high-quality oven and a comfortable couch, will help ensure your holiday entertaining plans go off without a hitch. Not to mention these items are incredibly useful on a daily basis as well. So even when the first guest arrives an hour early and you’re still in your PJs, you’ll have everything under control and won’t even bat an eyelash.
Table for 12, Please
Your guests are bound to spend at least half their time sitting at the dining table so why not give them a comfortable place to lounge? A solid wood kitchen table offers a sturdy place to rest plates piled high with turkey and all the fixin’s. An extendable table can be pared down to a smaller size for daily meals or expanded to fit your entire family (and then some).
Complete the set with robust, padded chairs so your dinner companions can munch on snacks, sip wine and wolf down grandma’s famous stuffing in comfort. Chairs with stain-resistant seat covers like microfibre or faux leather will ward off wine stains even when Aunt Sally gets a little tipsy.
Cook Up a Storm
Appliances may be one of the easiest things to overlook, yet will determine whether you can cook all thirteen of your family’s favourite dishes or if you’ll spend hours cleaning up after supper.
Some people can effortlessly cook multiple dishes requiring different temperatures and various times in a single oven. But for those who struggle with this (myself included), a double oven will change your life. Even cooking chicken fingers and fries becomes enormously simpler. Cook more dishes at once without actually spending more time cooking. Now you can focus on catching up with your Great Uncle Jim (while surreptitiously keeping an eye on his pre-dinner dessert-eating habits) instead of running back and forth to swap dishes in and out of the oven.
Warm and Toasty like a Roasted Marshmallow
If you don’t have the space for a double oven or if a single oven is more proportionate to your wallet, try a range with an extra-large capacity (look for something with six to eight cubic feet of oven space). An additional baking drawer, warming drawer or stovetop with a warming element will also work wonders. Keeping dishes warm with these features is easy, and you won’t have to coordinate stuffing six things into the oven at once so everything is ready — and still warm — at the same time.
Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Everywhere
The last thing you want to do when you go to someone’s house for dinner is help cleanup (although you’ll offer anyway because it’s polite and you’re Canadian). And the last thing a host wants to do after cooking a huge meal is wash dishes. I don’t think I even have to stress how important (re: useful) a dishwasher is when it comes to cleaning up after large dinner parties. Find yourself one that fits a large number of place settings (15 is excellent) and you’re golden. You’ll spend less time cleaning when your dishwasher can accommodate pots and pans and scale away stuck-on foods with the intensity of an overenthusiastic dental hygienist. Don’t forget to check your dishwasher’s manual for the best way to load dirty dishes for the most efficient use of space (that’s less time washing extra dishes by hand for you).
Let the Drinks Flow
Give guests a destination when they walk into your home for a sure-fire way to keep them out of your hair while you’re frantically trying to get it together in the kitchen. Have someone greet friends and family, then usher them off to the “bar” you’ve set up. Stock a bar table with glasses, utensils, corkscrews, bottle openers, wine, juice, whatever you fancy. Make sure you have some non-alcoholic options for kids and non-drinkers. You could even add an ice bucket with those fancy miniature tongs to keep people from crowding into the kitchen in search of ice cubes.
A bar console with wheels makes it easy to move entertaining essentials from room to room based on your needs: drinks can be easily moved from the living room to the
dining room and back again. After supper, desserts can be set out alongside the beverages in the living room so your guests can relax in comfort while you tidy the kitchen.
As an added bonus, you could park your bar table next to a wine fridge or beverage centre. This frees up space for food in your regular refrigerator and keeps unnecessary people out of your way. Then people can easily mix drinks, add ice and enjoy a delicious glass of rum and eggnog without placing a toe in your kitchen.
Put Your Feet Up
Comfortable seating is key to hosting a successful holiday get-together. When people come in, they’ll want a place to sit. After they’ve loaded themselves down with mashed potatoes, turkey, a litre of gravy, and then dessert, they’ll want a place to sit and digest. I can guarantee that the majority of your guests are likely past the age of being content with a spot on the floor or perching on the fireplace hearth. So give your friends and family a soft spot to relax, and they will thank you ten-fold by giving you the space you need to tidy up.
No, Seriously. Put Your Feet Up
Remember that holidays are time for relaxation with the ones you love (and the ones you tolerate). Don’t get caught up in making every minuscule detail perfect, and remember that the dishes you couldn’t quite get to today can wait until tomorrow (just give them an overnight soak). Pour yourself a drink — better yet, have someone pour it for you — and ease yourself into your favourite chair to enjoy the day.