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Katie Lee's holiday entertaining tips

Karen Miner is the Associate Editor for SheKnows Food. She is a freelance writer, recipe developer and is also the cook, author and photographer behind the food blog, Tasty Trials, a collection of original recipes and stories. She and he...

How to entertain like a pro

Entertaining during the holidays can be stressful, but with a little advance preparation and some practical tips, you'll be entertaining like a pro in no time. Find out how Katie Lee makes holiday entertaining a breeze.
Entertaining tips from Katie Lee
Katie Lee

Entertaining expert and best-selling author, Katie Lee, knows a thing or two about throwing parties. In her cookbook series, The Comfort Table, she makes cooking and entertaining look easy and shows us that whether the occasion is big or small, being a "hostess with the mostess" is easier than you think. This year, Katie has partnered with P&G to provide her tips and tricks to help get us through the height of the holiday entertaining season. From the small details to the overall feel of your party, she's got great advice for it all.

SheKnows: What does being a good hostess mean to you?

Katie Lee: Being a good hostess means putting the comfort and happiness of your guests above all else. For example, if I'm hosting overnight guests, I make sure that my linens are fresh and bright, I put fresh flowers in their room, and, most importantly, I stock the bathroom with any products they may have forgotten. P&G actually makes holiday gift sets filled with products like shampoo, conditioner, bodywash and more that work perfectly and also serve as a little gift for my guest. Also, at my dinner parties I like to ensure that I keep a fully stocked powder room with little touches like Tide to Go pens for any guests who inadvertently spill during the evening.

SK: What advice would you give for those that are cooking their first big holiday dinner?

KL: I believe that planning and preparation are truly the secrets to a successful holiday dinner. This means everything from stocking up on nonperishables and household staples like paper towels and cleaning supplies well before the holiday season sets in to creating a detailed plan for how your meal will come together. I often make a timeline for myself of when each dish can be prepped and when it needs to go into the oven so that every part of the meal comes to the table at the proper time. Also, don't forget to leave enough time to get yourself ready before guests arrive.

SK: What tips and tricks can you offer for quick and easy ways to impress your guests?

KL: I think place cards make a huge impression on guests and really elevate the feel of the event. I love using small potted herbs like rosemary as place cards, either by writing on the pot or attaching a small tag to the plant. They work beautifully as fragrant table decor and also serve as a lovely take-home gift. Speaking of fragrance, during the holiday season, I think first impressions are very important, and I always take special care to fill my home with a holiday scent so guests are instantly put into the spirit when they walk through my door. I really like the Febreze Cranberries & Frost collection because I'm able to spray my doormat with the Fabric Refresher, light the Candle and use the Air Effects to layer the scent.

SK: How do you stay relaxed if the casserole burns or the roast isn't done on time? Do you have any quick fixes for kitchen disasters?

KL: I remind myself that the most important ingredient to a successful party is not what's on the menu — it's how you make your guests feel. Try not to worry if something goes awry, your guests are way more likely to notice you stressing than a burnt crust or underdone roast on their plates. I'm all for breaking out more wine and appetizers to keep your guests entertained if you need a little extra time in the kitchen.

SK: What is your favorite part of entertaining?

KL: Simply put, my favorite part of entertaining is enjoying quality time with my friends and family. There's nothing more joyous than sharing good food and beautiful decor with the people you love most.

You can't have a cocktail party without cocktails! Check out the 12 days of Christmas cocktails >>

Looking for a delicious appetizer to serve during the holidays? Check out this recipe from Katie Lee.

Wild mushroom–Parmesan grits cakes recipe

Wild mushroom–Parmesan grits cakes

Makes about 15

Ingredients:

For the grits cakes:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced white button mushrooms
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 cups regular grits (not instant or quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

For the mushroom ragout:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 cups mixed wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, porcini, oyster, or shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Directions:

For the grits cakes:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes, until all of the liquid is released and they are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chicken stock, milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a gentle boil. Stir in the saffron threads until dissolved, about 2 minutes.
  3. Slowly whisk in the grits and reduce the heat to a very low simmer, stirring occasionally to keep the grits from scorching. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has been absorbed and the grits are thick, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the reserved mushrooms, and the cheese, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  5. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Pour in the grits and smooth out into an even layer. Let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight.
  6. Use a 2-1/2 inch biscuit cutter to cut out 15 cakes. Place on a baking sheet in one layer, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.

For the mushroom ragout:

  1. Melt the butter with garlic and rosemary in a medium skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add mushrooms and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the liquid is released and the mushrooms are golden brown.
  3. Add salt and pepper and stir in lemon juice and heavy cream. Cook about 2 more minutes, until cream is absorbed. Remove rosemary.

To finish:

  1. Add the remaining olive oil to a nonstick griddle over medium heat. Gently blot the grits cakes with paper towels to make sure they are not damp.
  2. Cook the cakes 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Garnish with the mushroom ragout.

More holiday entertaining tips

Tips and tricks for holiday food presentation
Setting an unforgettable holiday table
Holiday cocktail party: Food and entertaining ideas

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