Sep 302010

So every Christmas I throw a party. A drop-in, or Open House as I call it. I began it in ’99 as a way to get to know our neighbors and, as I was devouring Food Network almost 24/7, a way to expand my cooking skills and recipe repertoire.

I think that first year I made 10 dishes and we had 2 guests.

Unfortunately, my eagerness to make food still exceeds the number of people attending – last year I think we had 50 people and I made 55 dishes – but I hope to strike a balance one of these days. (My husband says it’ll never happen. Personally, I just think more people need to make my party their priority. So what if your company Christmas party is the same day? My food will be better.)

2009 Open House Party Goers

Guests from last year's OH. That's me on the right in the black opening a gift. Our dog (in her Christmas ruffle and socks for her allergies) is at my feet hoping for tidbits.

What kind of food do I make? It’s usually a 50/50 split between savories and sweets. Savories include dips, crudités, meatballs, chicken nibbles of some kind, italian meats, quiches, crescent roll creations, I’ve even done shrimp, phyllo purses (never again), and homemade wonton dumplings. Sweets include a dozen kinds of cookies, brownies, crumble bars, cakes, tartlets, even little apple pies.

90% of the food is completely from scratch.

And 90% is prepared solely by me, until the day of the party when some unbelievably generous friends of mine come early to help set up and finish. In 11 years, we’ve yet to finish on time, but I still hope.

(At about 11am the day of – party starts at 3 – it turns into triage: Oops, haven’t started this dish, it’s out. No fancy garnish on these cupcakes. People should be happy they’re frosted.)

I thought it would be an interesting experience this year to document my Open House preparation on the blog. Even if you don’t do any parties on this scale (and you’re a smart cookie if you don’t), I think some of the tips and tricks I use to prepare 50+ dishes might help you for your next dinner party or holiday dinner.

Do you have any great party planning tips? I’m always on the lookout for new ideas! Please share in the comments, and good luck with your next party!

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