Boston-based author Kate Bowler has been whipping up home-cooked recipes, entertaining tips and DIY projects for her readers for almost a decade on her blog, Domestikated Life. Just last month, Bowler published her first entertaining cookbook (which we covered), “New England Invite: Fresh Feasts to Savor the Seasons,” chock-full of original meals and party decor ideas.
As an avid hostess, Bowler knows more than anyone that planning a get-together, especially around the holiday season, can get really hectic. It usually involves dealing with tricky personalities or competing food preferences, and having to juggle your to-do list.
And, while you may be throwing the party, don’t feel like you’re in it alone. “I’m all about asking for help when it comes to hosting a big event, but make sure you’re only delegating tasks that aren’t essential to the outcome of your meal,” says Bowler. “I always think asking guests to bring an appetizer or a dessert is the safest bet. You can stick to preparing the main course on your own. If someone backs out last minute, it won’t be the end of the world if you’re missing a baked brie or an extra apple pie.”
As this holiday season kicks off, we caught up with Bowler and she shared with us some of her entertaining wisdom so we can all celebrate with ease.
Exhale: How far in advance should you start planning a holiday party?
Kate Bowler:I like to plan out my menu a week or so in advance, so I have time to shop and prepare as much as I can before the event. I write down everything on the menu and then break down my to-do list into a timeline so I know what needs to be done on the day of the party, and what I can mark off the list beforehand — like making pie dough, cleaning glassware, etc. I’m more at ease on the day of an event when I’m prepared and organized.
How do you deal with guests’ dietary restrictions?
Ask about restrictions in advance. If you have close family members with dietary needs you probably know about them, but if someone new is joining you for a holiday dinner it’s a good idea to ask so you can be prepared. There are so many ways to make modifications to your recipes — like swapping out regular breadcrumbs for gluten free alternatives — to make them feel included. If you’re unsure of guests’ dietary needs, the best bet is to serve a varied menu and ensure there are a few items that are free of common dietary restrictions.
What are some of your go-to holiday party recipes?
Some of my favorite holiday recipes have to do with mashed potatoes. I think they’re the best. I have a recipe on my blog with roasted garlic and caramelized onions. From my cookbook, I love to make mac-and-cheese-stuffed apples, which is a beautiful presentation. It is always a real crowd pleaser. Apple with cheddar is a good combination of sweet and savory.
Where in Boston do you get unique materials for decor, arrangements and cutlery?
One of my favorite stores in Boston is in Southie, called Neatly Nested. It’s actually where I held my book launch party. It has beautiful seasonal decor, kitchenware and cookbooks. They have a lot of platters and appetizer cutlery to dress up your everyday plate. And, they have an awesome selection of cocktail napkins. I can’t go in there without coming out with some sort of cute napkins.
How do you make sure that children of guests are entertained while the grown-ups mingle?
If there are going to be kids at the party, I think about something fun for the kids to focus on so that they’re not running wild. It can be having them color in placemats at the table or a fun DIY project to focus on, like a paper garland ornament for a Christmas party. [Children] get so excited around the holidays, so it’s good to direct their energy toward something.
Bowler has a schedule of upcoming book signing events across New England, through Dec. 13.