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2005 Holiday Party Planning

I’ve decided that I’m going to do a couple of different posts about my annual Holiday Party, as there are a few recipes I’d like to share with you.  So for this post I’m really just going to whet your appetite by talking a bit about the party planning and posting the menu! :-)
This year was a jam packed year and with my furnace being replaced and my laptop crashing the week before; and with my family in town the weekend before the party I didn’t actually start planning until Monday morning (the 19th) and the party was on Wedensday the 21st.  I follow a similar menu from year to year, so it wasn’t that hard to put the menu together, although I had planned on trying a few new items this year.  The way things were going I decided that I’d better scrap that idea and just do things that I was sure would turn out and that I knew how long they took to prepare. 
For me the key to a larger party like this (I had about 30 guests) is supreme organization!  Once I set the menu, seen both in its rough form (with lots of symbols that track certain things) and in its finished form above, the next thing I do is make lists.  Lots of lists!  There is a shopping list divided by subsection based on where and when I will purchase the items.  Most years I try to purchase all the non-perishables well ahead of time and then get the perishables a day or two ahead.  This year nearly everything was purchased on Monday with a few things like bread purchased on Wednesday morning.  But, I still had things divided by where I was getting them:  Costco; grocery store; specialty market. 
Besides the shopping list I have lists of tasks.  The first list is just a giant list of everything that needs to be accomplished – cooking, housecleaning, shopping, organization (picking out serving pieces, arranging the furniture, etc).  The next list is broken out by day – which things can I do five days prior, three days prior, etc.  Whenever possible I do things like rearrange the furniture and pick out all the serving pieces up to a week before party time – it’s just a couple things that I can get off the list early! 
This year it was all divided between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  For the days prior to party day the lists are arranged in sort of a chronological order but I don’t worry too much about that, other than if something needs marinating time or chilling time or something like that.  The party day list is actually broken out by hour or half hour so that I can do all tasks in an orderly and sensible order and know if I am behind or ahead of schedule.  You can see some list samples in the photo below.   
One key to the lists is to make sure you break your tasks into small enough pieces so that you have a realistic idea of what you need to accomplish and so that you can do early preparation wherever possible.  For instance, for the Turkey Tea Sandwiches I had four tasks that spanned all three days: bake break (Monday); make the cream cheese mixture (Tuesday); assemble the sandwiches and, finally, slice and plate them (Wednesday). 
The final list I make is for any items that I plan to serve hot.  This list may contain a start time (depending on how long the final heating/baking time is) but always has the oven temperature and the baking/cooking time.  I may also indicate which of my two ovens will be used. 
I know this sounds like I’m a bit anal.  Well, yes I am, however the lists really help me glide through the whole thing in a much smoother, more relaxed (although I’m generally working quickly) manner.  For this last party I ended up trapped in the kitchen for a little while – not because of my preparation work though.  It was because I used a different layout for the beverage table which turned out to be a bad idea. Oh well, I won’t do that again next time!  Other than pulling a few items out of the oven during the early part of the party I was completely ready to go by the time the first guests arrived.  I love that! 
Here is the menu: 

2005 Holiday Party

December 21, 2005


Chinese BBQ Pork

Pecan Chicken Salad on Cucumbers

Onion Tart

Prosciutto-wrapped Roasted Asparagus


Smoked Salmon w/ Onion & Caper

Cream Cheese

Turkey Tea Sandwiches

Marinated Mozzarella

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

Parmesan and Poppy Gougére

Spinach Pinwheels


Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms

Warm Brie with Caramel & Toasted Walnuts

Pickled Vegetables

Pork Pate


Assorted Cookies, Fruitcake & Bread

Almond Clusters & Fudge

Mocha Panna Cotta





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