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12 hosting tips for putting your best plate forward

It feels like Thanksgiving crept up on me this year, and as fate would have it, my kitchen is going to be swirling in a chaos of renovations on the upcoming long weekend.

I won’t have a functioning cooktop, but I will have an oven, so Maple Pecan Pie is still on the menu. Whew. Actually we are dining with family both Saturday and Sunday, so I won’t have to wrangle any sort of mid-construction holiday dinner in my own kitchen. (PS. Stay tuned for a full kitchen tour coming soon when everything is back in place.)

If you’re welcoming guests on Thanksgiving weekend – or any day, for that matter – then today’s simple entertaining tips are for you. I’m a big believer in details, and know that even small gestures can make a big difference when receiving guests.

apple pie, pumpkins

12 hosting tips for putting your best plate forward

This fall, in a special Cook for the Cure event, KitchenAid is challenging home cooks across Canada to put their best plate forward by doing what they love for the cure: cook! You can learn more about the Culinary Showdown below, but for now, here are my best tips for entertaining as you strive to put your best plate forward:

1. To kick things off, stocking your pantry for success is crucial for surviving the holidays, especially if you entertain frequently.

2. Love to bake?  The Ultimate Holiday Baking Pantry Checklist is a digital list that you can print and bring when on your shopping rounds and you’ll be sure to stay organized for Holiday baking.

3. Plan a do-ahead menu; you can stay on top of things and the food almost always tastes better the next day when the flavors have really had the chance to meld together.

4. Greet guests at the door. No, don’t send your six-year-old while you scramble around the kitchen. Your guests should feel warmly welcomed.

5. Start by offering a drink. Be it hot spiced cider, a pomegranate sparkler, or a glass of wine, this is a great way to help guests feel at ease.

Entertaining tips on www.simplebites.net

6. Set out a few platters of appetizers for guests to nibble on. A generous cheese board, a baked Brie with cranberries and walnuts, or a vegetable crudité and dip are a few of my favorites. Crackers are nice, but don’t overdo the bread, as people can fill up quickly on starches.

7. Add a seasonal decoration on the table. Keep it simple with a bowl of pears or autumnal squash. Don’t fuss over it too much; nature needs little embellishment.

8. Light a few candles. Want an easy way to make it fancier? Make a simple centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars.

Holiday centerpice of tea lights in jars

9. Assign seating. Verbal place assignments is fine, just before the meal begins. Instructing guests where to sit helps them to feel like they were planned for and welcomed.

10. Warm the bread or buns. Ten minutes in a warm oven does wonders for your dinner rolls and makes them taste fresher.

11. Keep room temperature comfortable. Dinner can be miserable if the floors are cold or the place is sweltering hot from the kitchen’s heat. Be aware of the room’s temperature (not just your own) and ask guests if they are comfortable.

12. Finally? Don’t attempt a full cleanup; after all, you’ve already had a full day. The post-party mess can be daunting to face especially when all you really want to do after the guests leave is recline on the sofa with another slice of cake. Enlist an assistant, then roll up your sleeves, and begin with these 8 Steps to a Quick Cleanup.

Bonus!  Vikram Vij’s Best Plate Forward Tip, courtesy of KitchenAid Canada.

“The best way to enjoy a party is to have a glass of vino going all the time and make sure there is enough music, food and wine for everybody. Have a great conversation about life and do not be fake.”

Thanks for the tip, Vikram! I remember you are a former sommelier, so your inclusion of wine does not surprise. I love it!

KitchenAid’s Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation KitchenAid Cook for the Cure is a national fundraising program that has engaged thousands of Canadians raising over $2.3 million through events and contributions from their title sponsor KitchenAid Canada.

This year, with the Cook for the Cure event, KitchenAid is challenging foodies across Canada to put their best plate forward by doing what they love for the cure. Enter….the Culinary Showdown.

CFTC Logo

What is the Culinary Showdown? 

This ingenious event brings together an fantastic lineup of established Canadian chefs (including Food Network’s Lynn Crawford, Chuck Hughes, Vikram Vij and more) who recruit a group of amateur food-forward folks to compete on their team for the first-ever KitchenAid Cook for the Cure Culinary Showdown.

This culinary challenge is hosted by actor Dean McDermott and gives foodies a chance not only to fundraise, but to cook alongside these legendary chefs in a team cooking challenge.

The top 50 fundraisers across Canada will win the opportunity to work alongside renowned chefs and put their own culinary skills to the test. Fundraisers who raise at least $2,500 will participate in the Culinary Showdown’s Celebrity Chefs School, where they’ll learn tips and techniques from the top chefs. Finally, participants who raise a minimum of $1,000 will watch the culinary battle as a member of the event’s audience.

This is truly creative fundraising at it’s best. Now, time to get cooking and put your best plate forward. Food lovers can register and begin their CBCF fundraising by visiting the Culinary Showdown website.

Psst. Look for a fun giveaway from Kitchen Aid coming soon in honor of Cook for the Cure!

How do YOU put your best plate forward when entertaining?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. Aimee, I know exactly what you are going through. Part two of my kitchen remodel was around Thanksgiving and I did have my range, but no countertops. And you know what the countertops look like at holiday time!

    It was all good though, and the remodel came out great. You just gave me an idea of a post on the whole thing. It was worth it in the end!

    Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Bookmarking for sure! Great tips for any hostess :)
    jenny Flake’s last post: Cherry and Cream Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  3. I grew up with two grandmothers known for their extensive party-throwing skills, and I am so grateful for it. Everything you mention was always on their list of to-do. The only thing I would add, and this may just be a requirement for my overly musical family, but we always make sure there is soft music playing. Whether it’s instrumental or soft ballads playing every so lightly, it seems to help the “party” atmosphere and get people talking (and awkward silences seem less awkward).
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: October is Fair Trade Month!

    • That is so true!! Especially if there are few to no kids running around. They are always our background noise, so I don’t always think of music. ;)

  4. Fantastic post as we head into the crazy holiday season! Thank you and happy thanksgiving!

  5. Amen on the drinks and the telling people where to sit! As a guest, I hate having nothing to keep my hands busy and I hate the dance of “oh, uh, where, um” when it comes time to sit down. I’m definitely guilty about not meeting people at the door. Thank you for the great tips :)

  6. Thank you for putting together a really thoughtful list that is extremely helpful for entertaining at home. I think sometimes in our busy lives we forget why were are throwing a party in the first place, when we just need to focus on being together and making everyone feel welcome and special. Your list ensures guest will feel that way

  7. Now I am totally craving pie!!

  8. We are convinced our terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad range/oven is going to bite the bullet a few days before Thanksgiving. If it does, we’ll just crank up the tunes and the wine and muddle through!
    Casey@Good. Food. Stories.’s last post: Who Needs Cronuts? Make Classic Croissants

  9. What a great list! I love the candles. Also, a trick I’ve learned . . . appetizers and drinks ahead of time help give me a time “buffer”. I can plan for the meal to be done 30-45 minutes after guests arrive and then I don’t have to fret about food getting cold if someone is a few minutes late!

    ~Emily
    http://www.theorangeslate.com
    @emilyamccord
    Emily’s last post: Meal 3 – Brown Sugar and Ginger Chicken

  10. Nice holiday tips!
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking’s last post: Pumpkin Goat Cheese Fettuccine Alfredo with Crispy Fried Sage

  11. What a lovely post full of great tips what with coming up on the Holidays! I put my best foot forward by always meeting my guests at the door with a drink :)

  12. Hi Aimee,
    I like your centerpiece with fall vegetables as the focal point. Great and inexpensive idea.
    Happy thanksgiving and enjoy !

  13. Great tips, Aimee! I try to put my best foot forward by prepping as much as possible in advance so I’m relaxed and not running around like crazy when guests arrive!
    Sommer @ ASpicyPerspective’s last post: Portland, Oregon: A Culinary Adventure

  14. Great tips! I adore the simple centerpiece/decorating ideas. Warm bread and good drinks do wonders for a meal. Happy Thanksgiving!
    Katie’s last post: How to make a better loaf of bread and other baking lessons from King Arthur Flour

  15. this is my favorite time of year to read and use Simple Bites!
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s last post: The Byzantine Catholic Inferiority Complex

  16. What lovely tips! I like to entertain, but I do get a little stressed in advance. A do-ahead menu is extremely helpful for keeping my stress in balance, but I also like to do-ahead other things as well . . . sometimes I’ll set the table several days in advance just for ease of mind on the day of the event. I love tip 12 too – definitely keeping that in mind this holiday season.
    Allison’s last post: Chicken Soup with Rice: A Recipe for Comfort and Food

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