(NC)—Whether you’re hosting a chic cocktail party or a casual gathering with family, entertaining is always in season, especially during the holidays. For party-throwing superstars and newbies alike, the last place the host wants to be is in the kitchen.

“A frantic host means tense guests,” says Korey Kealey, a food and entertaining specialist. “Having guests over doesn’t have to be stressful. With a little preparation, and a go-with-the-flow attitude, all your dinner parties can be a great success and fun too.

Be the ‘hostess with the mostest’ at your next get-together with these easy entertaining tips from Korey Kealey:

Plan ahead. Set the menu as early as possible and prepare a shopping list.  It’s best to make two trips to the grocery store; the first a week before the soirée for items that will keep, the second should be the days before the party for the perishable items.  This will ensure you have the freshest ingredients.

Consider portion sizes.  You don’t want your guests to be full before they sit down for the main event.  Do a little appetizer math, and estimate about 4-5 bites per person.  This is enough to give them a taste of what’s to come.

Divide and conquer. Most of the prep work can be done a day or two in advance.  But remember, everything can’t be in the oven at once so consider alternate cooking sources.  I rely on my Crock-Pot Triple Dipper Slow Cooker; it has three separate heating compartments and is great for keeping food, especially dips, warm and ready for my guests.

Relax and enjoy yourself, after all, that’s what parties are all about.

More slow-cooking tips and product information is available online at crock-pot.ca.

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