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We tend to look upon the holidays as the most magical time of year, but it doesn’t always feel that way. When we are getting pulled in different directions and feel compelled to fit everything and everyone into our holiday plans, the added pressure can make it hard to actually live in the moment, let alone enjoy it.

PC executive chef Tom Filippou has honed his hosting skills through years of holiday get-togethers. Here are his top tips for helping you spend less time prepping and more time enjoying this holiday season.

Have a great plan

“Planning is key,” says Filippou. “Take the time to make a really good list of the things you need to do, your shopping list and prep list, with a timeline of what to do when.” The more organized you are beforehand, the easier it will be to get everything done as you get closer to party time.

Rely on tried-and-true

holiday favourites

“Create your menu based on what you know your guests already love. You can’t go wrong if you feature the big winners from past parties,” says Filippou. But build on those traditional favourites with a few additions that will keep everyone’s interest. “Keep things simple with any new additions. Trying to do too much or be too elaborate can easily backfire.”

Be part of the party

Filippou considers this his single most important tip for holiday entertaining. “Be present, have fun,” he says. “If you are still in the kitchen when guests start to arrive, bring them in to help. Get them to finish assembling the cheese platter, add the jellies, add the olives,” he says, noting this is also a great way to help break the ice for guests who may not already know each other.

Have ready-to-go

items on hand

“Sometimes people drop in unexpectedly during the holidays. You want to be able to enjoy their visit without being stressed about what to give them to eat,” says Filippou.

Don’t expect perfection

There will always be unexpected glitches with entertaining, so roll with them. Delays are sometimes unavoidable. Filippou notes the oven is your best friend in these instances. Just keep it turned on at the lowest temperature, even if you don’t think you’re going to need it. You then have a ready-made warming oven if guests get stuck in traffic and dinner is ready before they arrive.

Filippou will be in Halifax for the PC Cooking School’s Holiday Survival Series at the Joseph Howe Atlantic Superstore on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 29. People can stop by the PC Cooking School upstairs at the Joseph Howe store anytime between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to see Filippou and the cooking school team in action. Sample new holiday treats and get practical tips on creating a charcuterie board, cooking a turkey and more. The event is free and people can bring their kids. You can drop them off at the supervised kids’ activity area and they’ll be entertained while the adults learn all the essentials for surviving the holidays in style.

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