Unless you have a dedicated dining room in your home like Glensheen, if you plan on having several guests for the holidays the best way to serve your goodies is with a buffet table.  The Christmas holiday makes for an easy buffet table with both foods and decoration.

My mother use to have holiday parties and went as far as ordering dry ice that would go into the punch bowl so it had a fog-like vapor around it. (not sure if you can buy that anymore).  Or, she would make a batch of punch ahead of time and freeze it in ice cube trays.  The night of the party she would use the punch ice cubes in the punch so when they melted it just made more punch and didn't water it down. [Icy Holiday Punch]

Taste of Home

It is best to keep your beverages on a separate table from your food.  People need to set their plates down to get their beverage, maybe put sugar or cream in their coffee and that will upset the flow of your food buffet table. While we're on the subject of placement, make sure you place your plates and napkins at the start of your buffet line but the cutlery or silverware at the end.  How many times have you watch someone juggling their silverware only to drop it onto a tray of food and then touch everything on the tray to retrieve it.  I've seen people holding them in their mouth, stick them in their pocket and that could all be avoided by putting them at the end of the buffet table.

If you're doing a brunch buffet, try to have equal amount of choices that encompass breakfast and lunch.  I have an egg bake recipe from the 1995 cookbook of the Moose Lake United Methodist Church that I use because it's made the night before.  I get up and pop it in the oven and that gives me time to tend to the other foods that need to be prepared.  It's super easy too!

Breakfast Hot Dish (Irene Schlee)

  • 12 egg, beaten
  • 6 slices of white bread, cubed
  • 1lb breakfast sausage, cooked & drained (I use Jimmy Dean hot sausage)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 C. milk
  • 1 C. Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Grease a 9X13 pan, place cubed bread in bottom of pan and spread evenly.  Mix all remaining ingredients and pour over the cubes of bread. Shake the pan to distribute egg mixture evenly.  Refrigerate over night.  Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.

Arrangement of the food on your buffet table is essential too.  Put what you have an abundance of at the beginning.  Usually the cold foods such as salads, deviled eggs and veggies and dip come first with the main dishes, which are usually hot, come last.  You can really have fun with your veggies and fruits.  An artistic platter makes your buffet table spring to life!

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

I'm still on the fence when serving sandwiches.  Should you set out a tray of meat and cheese, buns and condiments separately?  Or, make the sandwiches ahead of time with just the condiments out?  If you do the latter, it will make your buffet line move quicker.  The other thing to consider is WHAT you put out.  Consider your guests.  If they are use to home style food or you don't know them well, keeping it simple is best.  If they are adventuresome or you know that they like to try new things when you're out with them, then sunflower seeds on your buns and eclectic meats and cheese become a conversation piece on your table.

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Of course, you should have some snacks out for guests to munch on while you are getting the main staples on your buffet table.  I have a perfect placebo gardetto pretzel recipe that people rave about.  WARNING:  You need to start this a couple days in advance of your party, however it is easy to whip together and you only need to stop and stir during those two days.  The results will have your guests asking for the recipe.  Just tell them to check out my webpage at kkcb.com and search pretzels.  [placebo gardetto pretzel recipe]

Cathy Kates

Lastly, desserts.  A variety of bars and cookies always work nicely, especially during the holidays since you can utilize the theme.  That way you hit the likes of many.  I shy away from anything that needs to be frozen, that's just a melting disaster waiting to happen.  Something colorful and extravagant looking will grab the attention of your guests.  Try placing this elegant Cranberry Coconut Cake with Marshmallow Cream Frosting from Taste of Home in the middle and holiday cookies around it to please the eye and the palate. [get the recipe]

Taste of Home

Those are some of the major things I think about when setting up a buffet for a decent amount of people. What would you add?  Do you have a buffet table tip to share?

  •  Some recipes courtesy of:  Taste of Home
  • Breakfast Hot Dish from Irene Schlee, Moose Lake United Methodist Church