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Most Feared Holiday Prep Questions Answered

Preparing for the upcoming holiday festivities can be stressful. Balancing all the preparations with work, shopping, friends and family holiday parties and everything else is too often an overwhelming experience. Even more true when you’re the one hosting a cocktail hour, a dinner, even a weekend, or a partridge in a pear tree…

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Adrienne Whitson, Sharp’s home economist and food scientist has a few tips and tricks to help you not only survive holiday hosting, but really shine this holiday season.

Q: Nothing causes anxiety like unexpected guests, are there any tricks to making food stretch or making a room look more spacious?

During the holidays, more really is merrier! Although it may be seen as rude to come to a holiday party with unannounced guests, once it happens, the host has to think on their feet to accommodate. Rearranging furniture and serving slightly smaller portions can help a host make more room for guests. After food is through cooking the microwave can be used to keep it warm, and also reheat it (and Sharp’s “Easy Open” 24 In. Microwave Drawer is a perfect size for storing extra dishes). Steaming fresh vegetable’s – don’t even add water, just put in a bowl, saran wrap, cook for 30 seconds, add some sauce and voila! You can always make popcorn as an extra healthy party treat, and it adds heavenly great smells to your kitchen.

Q: Diets can be pretty restricting these days and there’s a good chance someone at your holiday party is going to have some sort elective or health related dietary restriction. What are the best treats to accommodate our vegan, dairy free and gluten free friends?

There are so many gluten-free and vegan ingredient alternatives to traditional holiday recipes, it’s not so hard to make it work anymore. The key here is advance planning! It’s completely acceptable to ask if there are any food allergies when inviting your guests. Then you can be sure to stock up on gluten free flour or a vegetarian main to compliment that lovely lamb or ham for the rest of the group. That last point is key too! Don’t feel obligated to make all dishes work for all guest! We hope that most will be open to trying a little of everything, but have options and clearly note (with fun cursive place cards) which dishes may have ingredients to be cautious of (nuts, dairy, gluten). You can also find dishes that incorporate everyone instead of singling out people with dietary restrictions. Ask the guests with the restrictions for their opinions on acceptable dishes. Try to spare gluten-free and vegan frozen entrees for unexpected dietary restricted guests. For high blood pressure – watch the salt, do not add salt when cooking and provide that on the table for people to add afterwards.

Q: Decorating can be a daunting task – regardless of if you’re in a new home or pulling out the trusty “Christmas Box” that has your annual favorites. How can we avoid tangled lights, misplaced ornaments and over decorating?

Before the holidays, go through all your decorations and section them out into keep, donate and replace bins. This will help you not feel overwhelmed and disorganized when the holidays arrive. Keep what is working, donate anything that is unnecessary, and throw away and replace what is broken or unusable. Remember less is more! And when the holidays are wrapping up and you’re cleaning up, it’s a great time to again assess these categories and take action for each designation. Holiday decorations are super discounted this time of year too – so it’s a great time to snag things you’ll be needing next year!

Q: What is the most important part of gift giving? What are some tips on giving the perfect gift?

Aside from making a gift personal for the receiver, always remember to include a little bit of yourself. Adding a personal flare can make a gift a memorable one. Not only will they love that you thought of them, but they’ll think of you when they use it ☺ Find novelties, new useful things you think they won’t have. The best gift is something that relaxes you and them. Don’t stress out over just the gifts, the holidays are more about the act of giving not, what’s being given.

Q: After the party is over, cleaning up a big mess is overwhelming. Any advice on what to have on hand and methods to cut cleaning time down so that we can spend more time with our loved ones?

Most hosts make the mistake of taking on cleaning all by themselves. Everyone knows cleaning up after a large dinner party or holiday celebration is a huge undertaking, don’t be afraid to enlist for help and take guests up on offers to assist. Many hands make light work and more holiday cheer! Planning ahead is part of the process. Figure out a methodology that works for you. For example you can ask guests to bring the dirty dishes to the sink, or assign a dishwasher loader, dish dryer, etc. Plan on not leaving messes. If people are coming in and out of doors a lot, get in the habit of slipping off shoes. Be proactive in avoiding bringing the mess into the house.