Easy Entertaining

People often ask me what I serve when I entertain. They wonder if it’s all sprouts and veggies, if I let people have seconds, and of course whether I serve dessert. Given the intrigue, I thought, why not share here how I approach holiday entertaining and how I embrace the season altogether?

The Best Way to Entertain a Large Group

When I host a holiday party, there is one thing you can be sure of . . . there won’t be dinner. I promise that my guests don’t leave hungry, but they don’t have a traditional meal either. Since in most cases, appetizers are nourishing (and caloric) enough to be a meal, I just go ahead and turn them into one. The key is to have an array of appetizers that extend beyond a beautifully crafted cheese plate to include vegetables, additional proteins like chicken satay or shrimp cocktail, and maybe something unexpected. For example, you might put thin breads, fillers (thinly sliced meats, jams, greens) and a panini maker by the cheese board to turn it into a panini bar. Or, if you like the idea of allowing guests to serve themselves, do a mashed potato bar, small “street” tacos, or even a rich soup. These heartier bites will satisfy and have no one looking for “dinner.” The best part? You get to be a guest at your own party rather than busily working the kitchen to serve dinner.


When I have a houseful of guests, I also always have a water jug with fresh, flavorful water that attracts my guests (big and small). The water may have citrus, berries, cucumbers and mint, or sometimes frozen fruit. Fun, flavorful water helps me avoid high-calorie sodas and fruit juices that my youngest guests don’t need (and keeps my older guests well hydrated).

Petite Desserts

It’s one thing to skip dinner, but if I didn’t serve dessert my guests would protest. I have an approach to this as well. I seek variety and at least one decadent dessert (usually chocolate). However, everything is petite. Petite desserts not only let people try an assortment, they naturally help with portion control. Look for “two bite” desserts in the Hannaford bakery or bake and cut some to “tiny” size on your own.

Last Thing . . . Keep It simple

The last thing I keep in mind when I entertain is simplicity. The holidays are stressful enough . . . don’t add to it. When you have a house full of people, it’s not the best time to try a new cooking technique or a recipe that you saw someone make online in just 45 seconds. (I promise it will take you longer.) The bottom line is that your friends are coming to see you and catch up – not watch you run around your kitchen.

As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit www.hannaford.com/dietitians for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours or call (845) 855-0553 for more information.


Walnut-Squash Crostini (2 Guiding Stars)

The recipe is delicious, flexible, and perfect for simple entertaining. You can try canned pumpkin puree for a faster preparation, use your favorite nuts to change up the flavor, and feel free to mix up your choice of fresh herbs. Please visit GuidingStars.com online for more on the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program.


2 pounds Hubbard squash, roasted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 medium onion, minced

2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and minced

1/3 cup Asiago cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 whole-wheat baguette, thinly sliced


Puree squash.

Over medium heat, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon oil until lightly caramelized.

Add the cooked onion, mint, nutmeg, walnuts, cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil to squash and puree.

Spread mix over baguette slices. Garnish with additional fresh mint and serve warm.