Tips for holiday tablescapes, dinners, cookie exchanges

Thanksgiving dinner is just the start of the holiday celebrations. In the coming weeks, there will be holiday cookie exchanges, office parties and open houses. Now is the time to plan your menu — and your table decorations.

"It's the time of year to utilize your treasures," such as antiques and family heirlooms, says Richard Nix Jr., president of Butler's Pantry catering company in St. Louis. "You'd be surprised how an old urn or vessel will pop as a centerpiece on your holiday table."

Joan Long, owner of Patty Long Catering in Soulard, Mo., says: "And don't forget to pull out your holiday ornaments, garland and holly. It's all about presentation."

Creating the perfect tablescape can be effortless, as long as you are prepared. First, get a head count. Once you've determined the guest list, choose your tables. Nix recommends mixing it up with different shapes and sizes, maybe a square table and a round table.

"Next comes the color scheme," says Sherry Nungesser of Roy-el Catering in Belleville, Ill. "People eat with their eyes, and if it looks good, it's going to taste good."

Nix suggests mixing gold, silver and white accessories to achieve a timeless, elegant setting. Jewel tones such as emerald green, purple, pink and chartreuse can provide a vibrant splash of color. Or go for metallics, such as copper and gold, mixed with chocolate accents to create a rich palette.

"The traditional red, green and plaid holiday colors are overdone," he says.

Holiday dinner

1. Set up a dessert-coffee-cordials station away from the dining room. After a big holiday meal, it's nice to be able to move about and eat dessert at your discretion.

2. Place cards are an easy way to personalize your table. Use something creative that goes with your meal or decor, such as a personalized ornament.

3. Unique favors are a great way for your friends and family to remember the evening. For example, send guests home with individually boxed coffee cakes for breakfast the next morning.

4. Choose a wine that pairs nicely with your meal. It does not have to be expensive. If you need help, ask at a wine shop.

5. Start (or continue) a family tradition. You'll create memories for years to come.

Open house

1. Prepare most of the food ahead of time. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Arrange risers under the tablecloth to elevate some of the serving dishes and add dimension. Use items you already own, such as pots, bowls or milk crates turned upside down.

3. For added color and texture, drape a variety of fabrics over the risers.

4. An open house can last for hours. Put out small amounts of food at a time, and freshen the table when needed.

5. Enjoy your own party. Consider hiring a friend or acquaintance to keep your table stocked.

6. Keep your guests mingling and moving. Standing cocktail tables are a good idea. Consider placing the desserts in another room.

Cookie exchange

1. Make sure guests bring a variety of cookies with different textures. Include kid-friendly cookies like decorated Rice Krispies treats and M&M cookies. Make sure everyone brings the same number of cookies so they will go home with as many as they brought.

2. Stick with your comfort level. If you're not a professional baker, don't stress out trying to prepare a complex cookie. If you don't bake, head to a bakery.

3. Add dimension to your serving table with large reusable decorative boxes and tins. Placing them in the center of the table creates an eye-catching centerpiece.

4. Decorate with a theme. For example, mixing and matching winter-white serving pieces will create a classic style. Colorful cookies will pop on a white serving plate. Continue your white theme with an all-white centerpiece consisting of candles, snowflakes and icicles.

5. Provide your guests with take-away containers. Baskets, tins and boxes are an easy find at the dollar store.

6. Label the cookies and place recipe cards next to each platter.

Tips for holiday tablescapes, dinners, cookie exchanges 11/20/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:22pm]

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