Stress-Free Holiday Entertaining Tips and Recipes

Gingerbread Christmas

For a stress-free celebration, we have compiled our best holiday entertaining tips and recipes to keep it simpleyet fabulous.

Holiday entertaining is one of those arts in which shades of gray truly do not apply; depending on your hosting skills, the evening can only go extremely well or very, very wrong. One of the best pieces of advice that my mom ever gave me was to learn from the professionals. Every time I was curious about a new thing, she urged me to find an expert in the field and try to understand her or his point of view.  That is why we have enlisted the help of a professional chef, an event planner, two professional restaurateurs, and yours truly to share some of the best tips for a successful holiday gathering.

Tips and recipes for stress-free holiday entertaining at home

1. Trust The Dip

Dips and sauces

If you are hosting a holiday gathering, chances are your guests will have different food preferences. And since it’s virtually impossible to cater to everyone’s whims, dips are a very popular option to fill an appetizer spread. Just make sure to have mild and spicy options to cover all your bases. I am one of those few people who cannot tolerate spices so it is always much appreciated when there is a bit of pesto waiting for me on the table.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of the cheese and charcuterie board

Holiday gifts for foodies

Chef Vincent Olivieri, Director of Culinary Development and Chef de Cuisine at Fairway Cafe and Steakhouse, swears by the power of a cheese and meat platter to bring people together. “It’s not only easy to put together, but it’s guaranteed to impress your guests. Whether you fancy paper-thin slices of aged prosciutto or Manchegos or Comtés, there’s no shortage of stunners to choose from,” explains.

3. Make sure to add some healthy and lighter bites

Fruits and veggies platter for stress-free holiday entertaining

Chef Vincent Olivieri shows that common sense is the best approach to holiday gatherings. “We’re inundated by indulgent foods all season long, so a few alternatives are always appreciated. You should be able to find plenty of pre-washed greens and pre-chopped veggies that’ll make tossing together a salad or crudité plate easy-peasy. You can also grab some ingredients for making veg-based dishes, like stuffed mushrooms or bruschetta. A nice big bag of in-season citrus can also be a welcome diversion from all the excess.”

4. Presentation Is Everything

Table with flowers and dessert

Event planners know the holidays are stressful and often resort to external help, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything from scratch. Purchasing pre-made entrees and sides can alleviate a big part of the stress, and still make a fab meal! Kristina Spiropoulos,  Event Guru at Northern Lights Events, explains that “the biggest recommendation I give when doing this is to arrange the food on your own plates and to have fun with it! Don’t be afraid to make a holiday tree-shaped vegetable tray or a Santa-faced hors d’oeuvre arrangement. The possibilities are endless!”

5. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Cookies All The Way!

Festive cookie platter

Cookies are one of the most popular desserts in America, and I am a true cookie monster. However, and no matter how tempted you feel to spend the day before your big gathering baking cookies, just don’t. Pick a few ready-made treats from a professional baker and invest that time in prepping for the day ahead. Cookies take time to bake and space in the oven, so for a stress-free experience just go ahead and trust the experts.

6. If in Doubt, Go Green

Fireplace with christmas stockings

You have the food but your non-crafty self fears the moment of setting the table with barely any decor. Linden Ellis and Sara Raffa, founders of soon-to-be-launched party supplies site Coterie, recommend setting the mood with festive scents. “Candles are always a great easy option but you can also get creative by filling bowls with items you have around the kitchen – think sliced fruits, cinnamon sticks and spices. Have a fireplace? Cinnamon sticks and pine cones can also be burned to give off a holiday scent.”

7. Organize Your Kitchen Like A Pro

Andrew Maturana, owner at RAPT Hospitality and co-creator at Secret Summer, has kindly shared with us his secrets for an impeccable service (which totally applies to your festive meal planning): “Prep two days ahead of time. Get your sauces, soups and cocktails made two days prior and refrigerate; these items tend to develop depth of flavor with extra time so no harm in knocking these out a couple days prior and having a more relaxed prep-day before or early day-of.”

BONUS: Two Easy But Effective Holiday Recipes

Did you think we would only give you a few tips and that’s it? Well, we like to do it right, so we contacted Chef Vincent Olivieri to ask for his favorite holiday recipes to treat the whole family. So, without further ado, here are the chef’s top secrets to cook to perfection a Prime rib and olive oil mashed potatoes holiday meal.

How To Cook The Perfect Prime Rib

Perfect prime rib recipe for holiday entertaining at home

Adulting is hard, but cooking isn’t that bad. I promise. The secret to a glorious prime rib dish is to find the right ingredients and follow the steps on the recipe below, as Nicole from Nailed It! repeats over and over (it truly is one of my favorite shows on Netflix!)

Prepping Tips:

According to Chef Vincent Olivieri, you need to plan ahead and follow a general rule of thumb of approximately two people per bone. If you have an odd number, always round up. Another glorious tip is to ask your butcher to “French” the rib, because “it makes for a nicer presentation, cooks faster, creates less liquid on your pan, and makes it easier to carve. Always tell your butcher that you want the scraps from the French. You’re paying for it anyway!”, adds Olivieri.

At this point, you should look up for a supermarket that offers you an in-house butcher. Fairway is one of those rare places in New York City that trains its staff to do all sorts of cuts, so if you have found your butcher, avoid prepackaged meat at all costs. Foodies like it fresh!


  • Large roasting pan with high sides to use for keeping anything from spilling out.
  • Oven space. In order to achieve a medium rare temperature all the way through, you’ll need to cook it low and slow.  By doing that it will be hard to use your oven for anything else.
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • 1 medium Spanish onion
  • 1 full bulb of garlic
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Meat Thermometer


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 500
  2. Rub your rib with a very generous amount of salt and pepper – almost a half cup. It seems like a lot but that is what is going to give you that nice crust.
  3. Place your rib, all the trimmings, and your vegetables (rough chop) in the pan with the meat.
  4. Place roasting pan with meat and vegetables in pre-heated oven uncovered for 25 minutes.
  5. After 25 minutes drop the temperature down as low as you can go.
  6. Leave it for up to 4 hours, checking occasionally.
  7. Check the most middle piece of the roast. You want the temperature at 120 degrees.
  8. Pull the roast and let it rest.
  9. Try to drain the fat and leave as much of the brown liquids possible.  That is going to be your jus. Add about 3 cups of water to your pan that has the scraps and vegetable, add the herbs and bring to a low simmer.
  10. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain into a small sauce pot.
  11. By this time your roast has rested, you’ve made your jus and now you’re ready to serve.
  12. Once portions are plated ladle on a bit of jus per plate.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Peeled potatoes on a table

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 small sprigs rosemary or thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ⅓ cup Fairway extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Peel the potatoes, then cut into evenly-sized chunks. Place in a large pot and add enough cool water to cover by 2 inches. Season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender, 12-15 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain.
  2. While the potatoes cook, strip the rosemary or thyme leaves from their stems. Discard the stems and finely mince the leaves. Peel and mince the garlic.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the minced herbs and garlic and fry until fragrant and just starting to brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove from heat.
  4. Return the potatoes to your empty pot. Add the garlic herb oil and a small splash of the reserved cooking water. Mash to desired consistency, adding more water if they seem stiff. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
We hope you liked these recipes! The New York For Beginners team wishes you a very merry holiday season. If you wouldn’t mind sharing your favorite festive recipes for a holiday gathering, please leave a comment below so we can benefit from your wisdom.

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