Rise and shine: Early morning guests
If you have overnight guests or family arriving early, have a few easy things on hand to help keep everyone satisfied while cooking the big holiday meal.
Your guests will love to wake up to a hot, home-cooked breakfast. There's no better way to make them feel at-home, no matter how far they've traveled.
Don't want to cook a big breakfast that morning? Try a make-ahead breakfast casserole you can throw together when you have the time. We suggest a hash brown casserole, that can be made the night before and refrigerated and popped in the oven in the morning to happily feed a large group of people.
Muffins, bagels, cereals, instant oatmeal and fruit are also good items to have on hand for easy breakfast ideas.
Light lunchtime ideas
When you have a large dinner coming up, lunch should be a light meal that keeps guests' energy high, but will leave everyone hungry for the big meal coming up.
You'll be busy preparing the main meal, so think ahead to save yourself the hassle of preparing two meals at once. Fill your fridge with pasta salads and soups that can be reheated. This way, guests can help themselves or you can easily set out lunch without much effort.
Set up a sandwich station, with a variety of meats, cheeses and flavorful spreads where friends can make their own sandwich to their liking — and, as a bonus, no cooking for you.
Appetizers perfect for grazing
As the countdown for the big meal moves closer, have some easy appetizers laid out that are perfect for guests to graze on.
You can bet your guests will arrive hungry, especially if your party is at meal time. Make sure you have plenty of appetizers ready to keep guests from going hungry or digging on to the main dishes before you're ready.
To make it easy on yourself, use appetizers that can be made ahead and can and can be served cold or at room temperature.
Look for dips that can be whipped up in a flash. Hidden Valley has an array of gourmet dips in addition to their classic ranch. Serve in a decorative bowl with crackers, pita chips or veggies.
Food blogger Marcia Kellogg shared her favorite easy appetizer recipe. "Top a wheel of brie cheese with chopped walnuts and Craisins. Drizzle with honey and microwave for one minute until soft. Serve with crackers," she says. "It's easy, festive and delicious."
Don't feel like baking? Order a few appetizers from your favorite restaurant (we won't tell anyone it's not homemade) or take a tip from personal chef Elizabeth Prewitt. "I love setting out a platter of grapes, cheese, toasted almonds and crackers as a holiday appetizer. It's gorgeous, reasonably healthy and easy for everyone to take what they want."
This post was sponsored by Hidden Valley Ranch.