Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Ceci Carmichael of Good Food Fast with Family Circle magazine, and former host of Simplify Your Life on the Fine Living Network and Calling All Cooks on the Food Network on how to plan the perfect holiday party!
Candace Rose: Do you have any favorite tips for staying calm while prepping for a dinner party?
Ceci Carmichael: "Some of my favorite tips for staying calm when you throw a dinner party is get as much done ahead of time as you can. I can't tell you how many holidays I've just been in the kitchen running around cooking. I now stay completely organized and have as much done ahead of time as I can and I also go with the familiar things that I know will taste good, things I know will come out really well, for instance after dinner I like serving a really nice fresh brewed hot cup of coffee and I happen to love Dunkin' Donuts coffee it's delicious. What's really great is it's available at grocery stores so I don't have to go far afield, I just go around the corner and grab a handful of it, buy a few extras to give as hostess gifts when you get invited to parties. People will love you for it and invite you back next year and top that off with Land O'Lakes Half & Half which is an all natural milk and cream combination that adds just a creamy smooth deliciousness to your Dunkin' Donuts coffee. It's basically then I take a french vanilla coffee and put Land O'Lakes half and half in it, put a little vanilla bean in that, sometimes you don't even need dessert, that will taste like dessert. It's absolutely delicious."
CR: What are your favorite days for planning parties?
CC: "I'm cooking Thanksgiving of course, that's the thing with being a cook is everybody goes "Ceci's coming, she's cooking," so fortunately the shopping is being done for me. I'm going down to Washington so it's going to be done for me, but I've already got my list of what needs to be done first, what could be pre-done, which is really important and again I'm serving stuff. I'm doing a couple things that are new, just because I want to throw some little surprises in there, but I'm going with my classics as well which is the green bean casserole. I grew up with this and it's easy, it's inexpensive, most of the ingredients we already have in our cupboards. Basically you get some nice fresh green beans with some Campbells cream of mushroom soup and then I like to sort of personalize it a little bit with red peppers, some grated cheddar cheese, some bacon on top which is delicious and of course the fried onions. If you go to Campbellskitchen.com, you get some great recipe ideas on that website."
TIDBIT: Ceci recommends planning holiday parties on Thursday's as it's the new Friday and because more people will be likely to attend!
CR: Do you have any tips for prepping meals for guests who have health restrictions or food allergies?
CC: "It's good to find out from people ahead of time, some people have shellfish allergies, nut allergies or they're vegetarian, to make sure that you have good alternatives for those people because you want everyone to have a good time and be able to eat and again stay really organized.
There's this great Amana jot refrigerator, it's covered with a dry erase board, okay how genius is that? I don't know about you but my refrigerator at home has all these fluttering papers on it. Basically you write right on the refrigerator and you can put your to do list, your shopping list, your recipes on here, on the day of you could do your menu, so people could come see what they're having for that day. And an added benefit is you can hand dry erase markers to the kids and let them doodle, so it keeps them occupied while you're getting dinner on the table."
CR: What's the best way to have fun and stay out of the kitchen at your own dinner party?
CC: "Well, get someone else to cook and again keep it as simple as possible and try to get as much cooked ahead of time as possible and that's the best way. If you're throwing a dinner, you can't avoid the kitchen, that's just all there is to it. You've got get in there but it doesn't have to be painful, you don't have to sweat, never let them see you sweat just present a beautiful, beautiful meal."
CR: Do you have any last minute tips on decorating and getting things ready for a party?
CC: "A lot of people think, "oh how am I going to make this table look holiday like" and it really doesn't take that much, a beautiful colored table cloth in a really beautiful bold color with a runner, a beautiful bouquet of poinsettias or any kind of holiday flowers that you want. If you're feeling ambitious go outside, get some pine boughs or some twigs and put them in a nice vase. It doesn't have to be expensive. A lot of people have all their stuff that's in boxes that they use for holiday decorations that's perfect bit if you don't, you can do it yourself and make it really easy."
CR: Where can we go for more information?
CC: "Go to Stylewhiz.com, you can get all these recipes and product ideas and they have wonderful ideas for making your holiday as stress free and beautiful as possible."
Many thanks to Ceci Carmichael for her wonderful tips! Happy early Thanksgiving!!!