Cooking Tips: How To Help A Holiday Hostess


Holiday party-throwing can be stressful, to say the least. It is a rare host who can seamlessly pull off a huge holiday feast without enlisting the help of the attendees. We tell you how to be an absolute dream guest:


Be a helper

Save your host the shame of asking, and discuss with him or her several days in advance what their menu will be, and how you can possibly contribute. Often with big meals, the host can find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer length of their grocery list, which they now find packed with obscure ingredients that they don’t typically use; help out with the fine details by providing them with a few of these items. Also, check with your host and see if he or she has all of the necessary pots and pans to create the massive feast they are envisioning (there is nothing worse than mixing Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie batter, only to find yourself one cake pan short). Basically, you can easily lessen the burden for your host by helping them out with the small things that are easily overlooked.

Keep your host calm

Since Thanksgiving is a feast that only happens once a year, be prepared for your host to encounter at least one or two cooking-related snags. Keep them calm by slipping them a drink and their guests a hearty tray of appetizers to distract them from an increased wait time. This will earn your host’s eternal devotion to you once that inevitable delay in the kitchen occurs.


The easiest thing to provide for distraction purposes is cheese and crackers. Soft, spreadable cheeses like Boursin or Alouette are always huge hits, and are best with a thick, crunchy, and savory crackers. Other easy items to contribute are bowls of rice or sesame sticks, or frozen edamame that can be warmed for two minutes, sprinkled with sea salt, and set out.

Bring a dish

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious in the appetizers department, dazzle your host and guests with this easy recipe for Sweet Potato Balls, sweet and savory poppers that actually have some nutritional value and are a more fun take on candied yams. With any dish you choose to provide, make sure it can be entirely prepared at your home, so that your time at the party can be dedicated to socializing, enjoying yourself, and helping your host.


4 large sweet potatoes

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 large marshmallow per potato ball


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Bake the potatoes until tender, then peel and mash them.

3. Stir in the brown sugar, orange juice, zest, and nutmeg.

4. In a separate bowl, toss the coconut with the sugar and cinnamon.

5. Press mashed potatoes around each marshmallow, creating a 2 to 3-inch diameter ball.

6. Roll the balls in the coconut mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

*Remember to watch carefully for the last few minutes of cooking; the expanding marshmallows can cause the potato balls to burst open.


A tray of candied or caramel apples are always a fun, festive dish to bring, plus they are super-economical: kits are under $3 and a bag of apples costs about $3 or $4.

1. Mix the powdered candy with 2 ½ cups sugar, bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, insert the sticks into bottom of about 10 apples, and grease a cookie pan.

3. Once the candy gets hot enough that a drop of it in cold water turns into a brittle thread, begin dipping the apples into the pot. Use a spoon to help with covering the entire surface with the candy.

4. Line on the cookie tray. To cool, do not refrigerate.

Arriving with a hot, perfect pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving gesture. Here’s our favorite recipe:


1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

1 cup half-and-half

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional

1 piece pre-made pie dough

Whipped cream, for topping


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place one piece of pre-made pie dough down into a 9-inch pie pan and press down along the bottom and all sides. Put the pie shell back into the freezer for one hour to firm.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer, gradually adding the pumpkin, sugar and salt, until smooth. Then add eggs mixed, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat. Finish off with the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger.

4. Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

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