Yomim Tovim season is invariably a busy time that involves much preparation, cooking, and hosting guests. But don’t panic! With these tips, you will sail through those preparations with ease. Rather than stressing out, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy hosting your guests.
1) Planning is everything. Write a to-do list, a shopping list, and plan your menus in advance. Trying to prepare a dish at the eleventh hour on Erev Yom Tov, only to realize that an essential ingredient is missing and the shops are already closed, is a disaster.
2) Experimenting with new recipes at the last minute is a bad idea and a guarantee for unknown results and added stress. Use familiar dishes or test new recipes well in advance of the festivities.
3) Ask your guests to provide details of food allergies or special diets (like vegetarian) to ensure suitable menu items for them.
4) ‘KISS’ or keep it simple, sweetie! Avoid the pressure to prepare extravagant dishes. (There are so many meals to prepare for the two days of Yom Tov.) Wholesome, tasty, simple food always works best.
5) Think of your family first and cook what your family likes best. Your family might not enjoy dining on exotic cuisine meant to impress guests. Prepare an extra special dish or two that you think your guests might enjoy.
6) Remember: it is okay to ask for help. Let your family contribute to the preparations. Guests will feel more comfortable if they can help out in small ways, so let them.
7) Make fridge space by clearing out all non-essentials. Challah, cake, soup, kugel, and meatballs can be frozen in advance. Simply defrost and heat up on Yom Tov.
8) Consider leaving a crock pot on a time switch to cook lunch for the second day of Yom Tov. Cut up fresh salad ingredients quickly before each meal.
9) Serve buffet style for the main course. This will cut down your serving and prep time and your guests will feel more comfortable taking what they like.
10) Serve iced water with slices of lemon and orange in beautiful glass carafes as a substitute for soft drinks.
11) Plan ahead before your guests arrive. Guests showing up at the door when you’re still running around in a panic, starts out the meal on a stressful note. Before going to shul, lay the table in advance by making sure to place any food requiring heating onto the hot plate. Make up some salad dressings while chatting to your guests. Advanced preparation means that you’ll know exactly what needs to be done and when, without forgetting anything.
12) Create a beautiful, non-floral centerpiece. For Rosh Hashana, try a long, thin, rustic wooden tray to fill with green apples. The golden rule for centerpiece is to keep it low so that guests can see each other across the table.
13) Make introductions between new-to-them guests. Think of common interests to use as conversation starters.
14) Clean smarter not harder. If you’re hosting sleepover guests and you don’t have time to clean the whole house, focus your energy on two areas: the guest room (or wherever they’ll be sleeping) and the bathroom. Meanwhile, no one will be the wiser if you temporarily stash some clutter in your own bedroom.
15) Don’t feel like you need to entertain your guests every hour of the day; they’d likely be thankful for some quiet time. This is especially true for overnight guests.
Written by: Sara Ansbacher