Happy Holiday Party Hosting

Host a holiday party that makes memories with Jorj’s easy holiday party planner, including holiday charcuterie board ideas, how to host a holiday gift exchange and more!

You want to host a holiday dinner, but you don’t want it to break the bank. 

You want to host your holiday party, but you don’t want to quit your day job to do it.

Well, friends, I have a budget-friendly, easy to plan for, holiday party design that will have you Fa-La-Laing right through the season!

Make a holiday hosting plan

First, make a plan. Your plan!

Once you set your menu you can shop for bargains. It’s sale time and you are a savvy shopper. Put items in your cart and the stores will notify you when they go on sale! Don’t hesitate to utilize paper goods instead of china and plastic glasses instead of stemware.

Here’s a plan that will work, but feel free to take inspiration from this plan and substitute with your favorite THINGS!

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Easy Holiday Party Menu

Nibble Boards

This is the perfect way to display your make ahead nibbles. You can use wooden boards, cheese boards, platters, cake stands to vary heights and even rolls of brown paper to display your nibbles. The secret is to make everyTHING bite-sized and pick-up friendly. Choose appys that are best eaten either chilled or at room temperature. I like to cover all food groups by including a cheesy THING, a fishy THING, a veggie THING, and a bread THING. You won’t need to lay out utensils. Your guests will be able to nibble their way through the first course.

Here are some appys I use when I prepare my nibble boards:

  • Deviled Eggs garnished with red pimentos and green dill sprigs
  • Cheese and Sausage Balls
  • Mini Pimento Cheese BLT’s
  • Baby Tomatoes, Celery Sticks and Cucumbers filled with Salmon Mousse
  • Roasted Shrimp with Remoulade Dipping Sauce

Here is a wood cake stand that will make an excellent nibble board!

If boards and platters are hard to come by, roll out some brown paper and use your trusty glitter pens to write the name the appetizer on the paper.

Small Plate Supper Buffet

The plan here is to serve beautifully prepared food that your guests can help themselves to. No utensils needed here either.

All you need is a substantial display of napkins and small plates.

And, because we will prepare everyTHING so that you can pick it up with your fingers, there is no need for your guests to be seated to eat at a table.

Sitting around on the sofa, talking with pals will work out just fine. You want to choose dishes that can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. 

We want to avoid hot plates and chaffing dishes. 

Since we are not trying to break the bank, let’s choose ingredients that are delicious but affordable. In place of beef filet, we can use pork tenderloins.

Prepared the exact same way and thinly sliced, these will work perfectly for our main meal sliders. We’ll ensure a punch of flavor with yummy sauces on the side. In place of a side salad, let’s put our salad ingredients on a skewer.

These are not only affordable and flavorful, but they also add a pretty color on the table. Veggies are inexpensive.

Especially if you purchase the whole veggie and then slice and chop it at home. They are also delicious when roasted. Skewering them makes them even more beautiful and easy to eat.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Caramelized Onions and Peppers, Horseradish Sauce, and Mustard Sauces

  • Roast the tenderloins to medium rare.
  • Slice it right before serving.
  • Serve with a bowl of thinly sliced, caramelized onions and red and green bell peppers.

Roasted Vegetable Skewers

Pesto Marinated Cherry tomatoes, Chunks of Mozzarella, and Tortellini

Bar Cookie Dessert Boards

Our dessert table is made up of bar cookies. I use this approach because you can make brownies from scratch or catch a sale and bring home several boxes of brownie mix. Either way, one pan of brownies can feed a crowd.

When you decorate these bars, your creativity is endless….Think frosting and melting chips and sprinkles and more sprinkles. If you have the time you can add to those bars with blondie bars, pumpkin bars, and layered bars. You can fancy-up your boards with festive candies and fruits like cherries and strawberries. It’s yours to create!

  • My Favorite Brownie Bars
  • Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Sprinkles
  • Chocolate Chip Layer Bars

Holiday Bar Set-Up

One way to ensure that you don’t break the bank here is to serve a specialty drink. A fruit Sangria is perfect for this. You can utilize all the festive fruits and add a reasonably priced Rose wine. You can also ask you guests to bring along a bottle of their favorite libation. You provide mixers and ice. Make THINGS special by preparing ice cubes that hold cranberries, a bit of rosemary and a thin piece of orange peel for an over-the-top yet incredibly affordable touch! Here’s a couple of ice cube trays for you to play with:

Here’s a great way to put these to festive use:

Holiday Tablescape

Let’s bring the outside in. Use what you can gather from around you. Pine cones and tree branches lay a foundation for your table scape. But if you are like me and live in the warm weather for the winter, you can use palm leaves. For authenticity, take a trip to the local Christmas tree tent and ask them for any scraps of evergreen boughs that you can take with you. There are ALWAYS free tree trimmings to be had!

Add fresh fruits like red apples and pomegranates and green veggies like artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Choose fresh items that do not need refrigeration so that you can lay your table a couple days in advance.

Add small vases of fresh flowers. You can use small jars or short drinking glasses in place of vases. Find flowers that are on special sale at the grocery store and that will last for several days or even a week!
Gather tea lights and candles to add sparkle. Small ornaments like gold and silver balls will add to the festive feel of your table. Leave room for your platters, bowls, and baskets.

Holiday Gift Exchange Game

Stage a FUN game for a small gift exchange. Whether you ask your guests to bring a white elephant (a treasure from the past), re-gifted gift (someTHING given but not needed), or an under $20 gift, make sure they wrap it.

Have everyone select a number. The guest with number 1 chooses the first gift. He unwraps it and displays it to everyone. The guest with number 2 may choose an unwrapped gift or he can steal the gift from Guest #1.

If the gift is stolen, the guest with number 1 gets to select a different gift from under the tree. The guest with number 3 can choose from the previous guests’ gifts or select a new unwrapped gift from under the tree.

This continues until all the gifts are unwrapped and everyone has a gift to take home.

Easy Holiday Gift Bags

As an over-the-top goodbye gift for your guests, you can send them home with a morning-after favor bag. Decorate brown lunch bags using your best craft skills. (It’s FUN to get kiddos involved here.)

Fill the bags with either home baked muffins or cookies. You can add a tea bag or coffee pod to the bag. Hand out your party favors as your guests depart.

If brown paper bags and glitter pens stress you out, go for these red and greens bags instead:


Easy Holiday Party Recipes

Salmon Mousse

  • Serves a Crowd

Time To Prepare

  • About 20 minutes to prepare and a bit longer to chill


  • 2 cups leftover salmon, flaked (substitute with 1-15 oz can salmon)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 green onions chopped, about 3 tablespoons
  • Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled and minced, about 1 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper


If using canned salmon, drain it through a colander and remove all the bones and skin from the fish.

Combine the cream cheese, salad dressing mix, green onion, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the salmon, parsley, and dill to the bowl and pulse again. Season with salt and pepper and mix ne last time until everything is combined and the mixture is light and fluffy.

Use the salmon to fill hollowed out cherry tomatoes, celery sticks and cucumber rounds.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro Vinaigrette,

  • Serves 6 to 8

Time To Prepare

  • About 20 minutes to prepare and a bit longer to chill


For Pork

    • 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
    • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
    • ¼ cup soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (see THING to Know to make your own)

For onions and peppers

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced, about 2 cups
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and deveined and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and deveined and thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

For vinaigrette (optional)

  • Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil


Place the tenderloins into a resealable plastic bag. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and season with steak seasoning. Seal the bag and marinate for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet (I use a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and peppers. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the veggies are brown and syrupy, about 5 to 10 minutes more.
Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 tablespoon garlic and mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season with just a bit of salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 375°. Remove the pork from the marinade and place onto a rack in a roasting pan. Easom with salt and pepper. Roast the pork in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 145°. When you push down on the tenderloin, the flesh should have some resistance and not give into to your touch, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the tenderloins to the cutting board and cover with aluminum foil to rest for 5 minutes. This will allow the pork to absorb the herb and garlic flavors.

Cut the pork into thin slices. Pour about half of the vinaigrette over the meat. Place the onions and peppers into a bowl. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top. Serve with slider buns and sauces.

THING to Know:
Score another notch on the cook’s gold star chart by making your own steak seasoning, using the spices your family enjoys the most. Here’s my favorite blend: 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons coarse black pepper, 1 tablespoon dried minced onion, 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic, ½ tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes, ½ tablespoon dried thyme, ½ tablespoon dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon ground mustard. Store the seasoning mix in an airtight container in the pantry.


Double Chocolate Chili Brownies

  • Makes about 16 brownies bars

Time To Prepare

  • 40 Minutes ‘til brownie time


    • 1 cup any neutral oil
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • ⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon chili powder
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and coat with vegetable oil spray.

Pour the oil into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and baking powder and stir until smooth.

Fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.

Tried it? Tell us!

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