tips for dressing up holiday dinners

Last week I mentioned that I was challenged to come up with some tips to help bring special occasion dinners – like Easter dinner – to a new level. And Easter? It’s right around the corner.

Like in…oh, four days.

If you’re not quite ready – and seriously, who is? – maybe I can help you out with these tips. Now, they won’t plan out your four course dinner menu, and they won’t bake your ham for you. And don’t expect them to help you with the clean up. Seriously – you made the mess, you clean it up. What they might do, though, is help you turn an ordinary holiday dinner into a more extraordinary one.

Tip 1:

To transform your every-day dinner table for special occasions, simply add a white tablecloth and cloth napkins. Be sure they are machine-washable. When Uncle Jim leaves bits of glazed ham and stray cheese-covered macaroni over his corner of the table, you don’t want to stress out about it.

Tip 2:

A pretty white or blue bowl filled with fresh lemons makes an easy centerpiece that doesn’t go to waste when the meal is over. You can put those lemons to use later when you make a batch of my lemon bars.

Tip 3:

When you don’t have time to bake the dinner rolls yourself, serve Stone Baked Artisan Rolls from Pepperidge Farm to your guests. The flavor and texture of these French rolls rival any homemade dinner roll, and you can have them in your bread basket in about ten minutes after taking them out of the freezer.

And, thanks to all the tips I collected from all of YOU very wise readers – both here and on Facebook and Twitter – here are several more that can help to jazz up your holiday dinner.

  • Make as much as possible in advance – and even set the table the day before – so that you can enjoy the quality time with your family instead of doing last minute prep.
  • Recruit family members to help, whether by bringing a favorite dish, setting the table, pouring the drinks, or helping with clean-up.
  • Start a tradition. Pull out heirloom china or table linens, start a special holiday toast, or make a new holiday dish that will be destined to become a favorite and always associated with that holiday.
  • Honor your family’s culture and heritage in a special, traditional way. Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover (or neither!), whether your family comes from Italy, Greece, Eastern Europe, or Alabama, your heritage is worth passing on and sharing with younger generations. Holiday meal times are great opportunities to do this.


{Disclaimer: Pepperidge Farm provided me with compensation for this project and this post as part of their Ready, Set, Elevate! Campaign. My opinions, however, are completely my own and always will be.}

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7 Responses to “tips for dressing up holiday dinners”

  1. 1
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 21, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    All are fantastic ideas! Now I want to throw a dinner party!

  2. 2
    Flavia — April 22, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    Great post, Merry! Going to try your lemon bars this spring. Happy Easter!

  3. 3

    Heirloom china might be a thing of the past for many people, and the good stuff far too pricey. But an affordable way to build a collection is to buy place settings through e-Bay — look for Wedgwood, Lenox, whatever fine brands you love — by next Easter for very little money you can set your table with an eclectic variety of beautiful china and porcelain — and your family and guests will love choosing where to sit based on their favorites.

    • 3.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 23, 2011 @ 8:22 am

      That is a fabulous idea. Plus, it’s terribly fun shopping on EBay. 🙂

  4. 4
    Megan'sCookin' — April 28, 2011 @ 10:07 am

    And candles! A few candles on the table can elevate to it special for very little money.

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