Stress-Free Tips for Holiday Entertaining

By Nadine Hughes

With the holiday season around the corner, Nadine Hughes- hostess, caterer, cook and entertainer extraordinaire- suggests you take stress out of party planning and live it up by following her tips. “Making the most of your holiday entertaining,” says Hughes, “means keeping it simple by not trying to do too much.” Here are her Top 5 Tips for stylish, stress-free fun this holiday season (and that especially means You, if you’re hosting):

  1. Make a List and Check it Twice!  There’s so much to do during the holidays on top of your everyday responsibilities- so it’s a great idea to keep track of what you have to do, from shopping to decorating to cooking.  Whether it’s a day-timer, a free online resource like Google Calendar or a piece of paper taped to your fridge – making lists, schedules and timelines will help keep your head clear for other more important tasks like stocking the bar!
  2. Do Ahead.  When making your list, make sure that you plan your holiday menus around recipes that can be prepared in advance and add them to your calendar.  Hors d’oeurves or cookie dough that freeze well and can be popped into the oven at a moments notice or sauces and side dishes that keep for a few days in the refrigerator are time and sanity savers.  For great do-ahead recipes and ideas, check out the recipe section of
  3. Keep It Simple.  Keeping your holiday parties simple will put the focus back on spending time with your loved ones and not spending it alone in the kitchen.  Don’t feel that you have to host a cast of thousands and make a 7 course meal to keep everyone happy.  Instead, have friends over for a specialty drink and a cheese tray or welcome them in from the winter’s cold with a buffet of piping hot soup tureens and an assortment of artisan breads.
  4. Chose One Signature Cocktail.  Don’t blow your holiday budget on trying to stock a full bar.  Instead have some fun and wow your guests with a sexy seasonal cocktail (see below for Nadine’s Apple Nog recipe).  Don’t forget to prepare your bar ahead of time with the ingredients for the cocktail, lots of ice, glasses and non-alcoholic drinks for the drivers in the room.
  5. The ice but more importantly, you!  The key to being a great host is making your guests feel comfortable and you can’t do that if you’re not relaxed.  So take sometime before the party (put it on your list if you need to!) and do whatever it is that relaxes you.  Maybe it’s dancing to your favourite song, relaxing in a scented bubble bath or curled up with a book and a glass of wine, just remember to take a deep breath and enjoy!

Apple NoG Recipe

Preparation Time:    5 minutes


Cooking time:         0 minutes

Cook’s Notes:
A fabulous specialty cocktail that can get your party started off on the right track.  To appeal to all guests, there is an alcohol free version as well.  Keeping your glasses in the freezer or set in buckets of ice at the bar will help keep the drinks cold without watering them down with ice cubes.

One Drink Ingredients:
Serves 1
•    125ml (½ cup) fresh apple cider
•    125ml (½ cup) eggnog (regular or light)
•    Option:    30ml (1 ounce) amber rum
•    Cinnamon or nutmeg for dusting
•    Candy cane or cinnamon stick for garnish

1.    Pour the cider, eggnog and rum, if using, into a shaker.  Shake and pour into an iced highball glass.  Dust with cinnamon or nutmeg and serve immediately.  Garnish with a candy cane or cinnamon stick if desired.

Pitcher Ingredients:
Serves 6
•    1 litre (4 cups) fresh apple cider
•    1 litre (4 cups) eggnog (regular or light)
•    Option:    125ml (½ cup) amber rum
•    Cinnamon or nutmeg for dusting
•    6 Candy canes or cinnamon sticks for garnish

  1. Pour the cider and eggnog (and rum if using) into a large pitcher.  Stir vigorously until well combined.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve – you may need to stir the mixture again prior to serving.
  2. Pour into iced highball glasses.  Dust with cinnamon or nutmeg and garnish each glass with a candy cane or cinnamon stick.


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