A last-minute change in the game plan can throw off even the best of planners. With Easter weekend just around the corner, you’ve probably already got a lot on your plate, between going to church and planning the annual egg hunt. And now you’ve been asked to host Easter dinner at the very last minute. Uh oh, what can you do short of backing out? Well, with these six easy tips and tricks, you can actually throw a stress-free holiday dinner. Your guests will never have to know how you pulled it off on such short notice. Even better, they’ll never believe such a grand feast only took a couple of hours to prepare.
1. Keep it small with bite-size appetizers and desserts.
You need quick starters and mini desserts that will keep you out of the kitchen—and allow you to spend more time entertaining your guests. Of course every Southern hostess knows that deviled eggs should be part of the menu, but you can get even more creative with fresh, seasonal appetizers and sweets, such as pasta salad served on a stick and citrus cupcakes topped with buttercream frosting. Not only do small, individually-portioned apps and desserts help you to achieve a lot with very little, including serving a large crowd, but they're also great for keeping guests satisfied while the mains and side dishes are still warming in the oven.
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2. Choose make-ahead recipes.
Who says you have to have a dinner table laden with complicated dishes that are made on Easter morning? Instead, opt for one or two recipes that can be made in advance, like casseroles, fruit salads, or big-batch punches and cocktails. That way, you don't have to compete for space in the oven on the day of or be frazzled with last-minute prep moments before the guests arrive. From potatoes and green beans to carrot cake and Easter cookies, here are a few tasty make-ahead ideas to get your meal planning started. Simply prep and bake the night before and then pop most of these recipes in the oven just before serving on Easter Day.
3. Save time with a store-bought spiral ham.
If anyone knows how important a ham is for Easter, it's us. But when there's no time to pick out a good one, not to mention cook it and carve it, a pre-cooked spiral-cut ham will do just fine. Where you can really add your own touch to impress guests is with the glaze. Toss the packet that comes with the store-bought ham, and baste your ham with a homemade glaze. Just be sure to follow Southern tradition, making sure there's at least some Coca Cola and brown sugar involved.
Related: Ham-and-Bean Soup Recipe
4. Take it outside for a more casual Easter affair.
If there’s no time or space for a formal, sit-down dinner, throw an outdoor Easter celebration to usher in spring. We love the idea of hosting a barbecue or seafood boil that doesn’t require a lot of planning or difficult recipes. Any meat or veggies you’d normally cook in the oven can also be cooked outside. So fire up the grill and smoker for a more laid-back approach to the holiday. Your guests will thank you for more fun spent in the sun this Easter.
5. Let dessert double as table décor.
No time to make your own decorations? No problem. When you need something cute yet simple to show off your dinner table, look no further than dessert to serve as a unique centerpiece. You'll already be baking anyway, so let your sweets pull double duty as decadent eats and tabletop décor. Cheap glass jars filled with colorful candies or springtime treats stacked on pretty cake stands and tiered towers are just as eye-catching as any floral arrangement or Easter tree.
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6. Splurge on a kitchen-appropriate, fashionable cover up.
Even though it’s a last-minute Easter dinner, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style in the process. To avoid guests arriving and seeing you in your Sunday pajamas, spend the last few hours getting ready and throw a pretty complementary apron over your fancy Easter Sunday dress to protect it from splatters in the kitchen or when serving guests.