For this Grow with Nutrition post, I’m featuring Guest Blogger Donna Bottrell, who is a colleague, friend and fellow dietitian. An expert in the Foodservice Industry, Donna is contributing a three part Culinary Series to my Grow with Nutrition site. It’s that time of year with Thanksgiving and Halloween to focus on indoor entertaining. I know you will enjoy Donna’s third and final post about her five tips for hosting a dinner party.

apples and latern_fall_smallIt’s fall! My favourite colour is orange and my favourite pie is pumpkin – so this is my season! We will have friends and family over for dinner often this autumn season with Thanksgiving and Halloween. In fact, my daughters and I are planning a Halloween party. Large tapioca pearls for the eyeball punch, veggies to make the veggie platter in the shape of a skeleton and gummy worms for the dirt brownies.

I think this is all loads of fun! However, I know many people who would rather have a root canal than have people over for dinner. They find it all too stressful for a variety of reasons! This is why I want to share with you my five simple tips for hosting a dinner party to make it less stressful and easier for you!

My Five Simple Tips

  1. Do keep it simple and do what you can manage. Make it a combination of scratch-made, ready-made and foods your guests offer to bring. Ideally create a plan and do what you can a day or two in advance.
  2. Do include good-for-you options. Provide indulgent foods in smaller portion sizes along with veggie and fruit options to create a nice balance and allow people to enjoy all foods.
  3. Don’t wait until the house is perfectly decorated, spotless, decluttered and you have a free week to get it all ready – it will never happen, at least not at my house. Some of our best low stress dinners have been the ones pulled together the same day.
  4. Do try the recipe before you make it for your guests. A new recipe may take longer to make than you think or not turn out like it should. I do tend to break this rule…depends on who is coming for dinner.
  5. Do allow for customization. Picky eaters? Children? Guests with dietary restrictions? It can be tricky to meet everyone’s needs. Choose some ‘deconstructed’ menu items so your guests can decide what they want on their plate. A taco bar is a great example of this approach.


Taco Bar Themed Dinner Party

fish tacos_smallCreating a taco ‘bar’ is still one of my much loved dinner parties. We did this on many occasions when the kids were younger. Also, it’s perfect during Thanksgiving weekend to use up the leftovers for a late lunch before your relatives and friends travel back home.

It can be simple to elaborate. Most of the food prep can be done in advance or as an option for leftovers from a large meal. You can also ask guests to bring ingredients to a “Taco Bar Potluck” to share in the food prep and cost. Here are two suggested menus for hosting a harvest themed taco dinner party. And don’t forget my favourite kitchen gadget to help you prep!

Simple Menu (perfect post Thanksgiving)

  • 6” Tortillas Shells, Diced Turkey, Black Beans, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Shredded Romaine Lettuce, Diced Tomato, Diced Mango, Sliced Avocado,Plain Greek Yogurt, Ranch Dressing, Salsa, Chopped Cilantro, and Hot Sauce

Elaborate Menu (perfect for an Autumn Harvest Dinner Party)

  • 6” Corn & Flour Tortillas, Lettuce Cups, Cooked Barley Shredded Turkey, Pan Seared Pickerel, Sliced BBQ Steak, Black Beans, Coleslaw, Shredded Romaine Lettuce, Diced Tomato, Diced Mango, Grated Carrot, Julienned Roasted Poblano Peppers Guacamole, Lime Wedges, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Shredded Queso Fresco & Cheddar Cheese, Plain Greek Yogurt, Ranch Dressing, Salsa Verde, Mango Salsa, Fresh Chopped Cilantro, and Hot Sauce

DBottrell_headshotSo open your calendar and pick a date to host an autumn dinner party. Decide on the menu and how elaborate you want to make it. Then enjoy a festive meal at home with family and friends. Happy Fall!

Donna Bottrell has been a Registered Dietitian since 1994. She attended Brescia University in London and completed her internship with Aramark (Versa Foods). Donna has years of diversified experience in the foodservice industry, providing strategic direction to a variety of initiatives relating to wellness. She is a food consultant who connects nutrition, culinary and sustainability in her holistic approach to smarter food choices, marketing and the customer’s experience.