Timing is everything: Follow our detailed timeline to host a memorable party.

Dinner Is Ready
Credit: Beth Dreiling Hontzas / Styling Lisa Powell Bailey / Food Styling Marian Cooper Cairns

Celebrate With Friends
Serves 6 to 8

You have to try this menu. It's one sit-down dinner that's dressy enough to impress yet comfortable to enjoy. Pull it off by following our timeline and make-ahead tips, such as freezing pork tenderloin in marinade up to one month before the party and making Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes two days ahead. Budget watchers, we give you less expensive ingredient and decoration options. Dress the table with grocery store flowers, votive candles, and big glass bowls for huge impact without the fuss. Ask a guest or two to come early to light candles, make the Pink Lemonade Cocktail, and toss the salad. You'll be relaxed and ready for fun.

Schedule for Success
1 Month Before:

  1. Freeze pork in prepared marinade.

2 Days Before:

  1. Prepare vinaigrette, and toast walnuts for salad.
  2. Prepare mashed potatoes, and refrigerate.
  3. Defrost pork in the refrigerator.

1 Day Before:

  1. Cut peppers, shallots, and garlic for green bean recipe, and place in a zip-top plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  2. Wash salad greens, and store in a damp paper towel in a zip-top plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  3. Prepare Marinated Mozzarella.
  4. Mix together Brandy-Vanilla Cheesecake Dip. Ask guests to bring fruit and cookies to serve with this dessert dip.

1 ½ Hours Before:

  1. Reheat potatoes. Remove from oven, and cover with foil to keep warm. Turn oven to broil.
  2. Sauté mushrooms for salad. Slice apples, and toss with lemon-lime soda to prevent darkening.
  3. Stir together ingredients for Pink Lemonade Cocktail in pitcher.

50 Minutes Before:

  1. Remove pork from marinade, coat with flour, and season as directed. Broil. Remove from oven; turn oven off. Return potatoes to oven until serving time.
  2. Transfer Marinated Mozzarella to serving dish.

20 Minutes Before:

  1. Cook Green Bean-and-Red Bell Pepper Toss.
  2. Assemble salad.
  3. Enjoy!

"Dinner Is Ready" is from the Home for the Holidays 2007 issue of Southern Living.