Super cook Rachael Ray has risen to the top of the food chain with her home-cooked meals in less than 30 minutes
. Now the queen of quick is offering a simple, foolproof party plan for the holidays. Start working on your guest list because here's the step-by-step guide to throwing your own stress-free bash!
When it comes to entertaining, Rachael has a few ground rules:
- Less is more.
- Keep it simple.
- Have a small guest list.
- Don't buy a lot of stuff—use things you already have!
A Party for Real People
Oprah Show producer Jill has a full-time job and is a mother of two—if she can pull off a holiday party, anybody can! "I thought Jill should throw a holiday party for all those friends that she loves so much," Oprah says. "I want a party that real people can do."
"That's all I do!" Rachael says.
Get Your Theme
Rachael says a great way to organize your efforts, especially when you are short on time is to pick a theme. You'll make sure everything from the food and drinks to decorations will look fabulous together!
After some brainstorming, Jill, Rachael and Oprah decided that this party's theme would be "metro retro," a mixture of classic Americana themes and urban hipness. "This is one of my favorite kind of parties to have," Rachael says.
"If you've seen my house, I love retro," Jill agrees.
As Rachael says, keep things simple and under control. One way you can do this is to think creatively about potential party supplies you already own. "Before you go shopping, go through the whole house," Rachael says. "You own more than you think you do when it comes to needing stuff to throw a party."
For Jill's party, Rachael removed an elaborate decorative mirror from the wall and turned it into a lazy-susan fondue server!
Rachael has another great tip: All of the extras you need are usually available at restaurant supply stores. Jill and Rachael found martini glasses for under $2 and flatware for 75 cents!
The Spirits of Christmas Present
Everyone knows the most important part of any good holiday party is the holiday cheer.
Instead of fully stocking your bar, Rachael suggests serving one special drink in addition to wine and beer. This not only saves you time and money, it saves you from having strange alcohol taking up space in your house forever!
Oprah shares her martini of the moment: Pomegranate Martinis
! They were a huge hit at her last party. You just want to make sure no one who will be driving has one!
For the designated drivers, add a little nonalcoholic holiday fizz to the occasion with retro sodas in fun glass bottles.
The Killer Apps
Here's a new twist on cheeseballs! It's no sweat. Just roll a third of a wheel of good quality blue cheese in chopped toasted hazelnuts and fresh herbs. "It's better than a cheeseball because it's not 'cheese food.' It's real cheese," Rachael says. Serve this treat with slices of green apple.
For a fancy communal appetizer, Rachael recommends her Classic Swiss Fondue
, also known as "fun-due." It takes about five minutes to prepare and sets a festive party mood. Guests dip all kinds of veggies in the melted cheese mixture, including carrots, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. "What a healthy party!" Oprah says.
The next appetizer recipe comes courtesy of Rachael's mom, Elsa. The rich Chicken Liver Spread with the Works
served on toast will make any guest happy.
The Main Course
After a few of those pomegranate martinis and some appetizers, it's time to get serious about eating. Rachael's plan for the main course? Minimize serving time and maximize mingling, of course! How? Guests serve themselves right from the simmering pots on the stove whenever they're hungry.
For tonight's soiree, a couple of classic comfort foods perfect for a chilly winter night: Beef and Burgundy
and Chicken and Biscuits
Rachael Ray's philosophy on food is always about eliminating the hassles. What could be less of a hassle than spending five minutes making a homemade dessert?
The variations on her Five-Minute Fudge Wreaths
can be fancy, impressive or beautiful…but they're all incredibly easy. "Once you learn the trick, you can make it a thousand ways," Rachael says.
This dessert isn't only for parties. On a pretty plate and wrapped in festive cellophane, the fudge wows as a gift, too!
Setting the Mood
Rachael has a few decorating tips to set a holly-jolly mood right away. Create a festive bar by covering a side table in wrapping paper and decorate it with a strand of Charlie Brown Christmas-style lights. Move the furniture around to "let your house have fun," Rachael says. "Then you're not going to be uptight about it all night, wandering around after people fluffing pillows." Rachael took full advantage of Jill's collection of decorative bowls. "She took Christmas balls and fruit and put them together throughout my whole house," Jill says.
Plus, to maintain the fun, funky retro theme, Rachael put classic holiday movies—with the sound on mute—on all of Jill's televisions. This, she says, gets people talking about their favorite scenes from those heart-warming classics like It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street!