Planning for a Holiday Dinner

If you're planning a dinner this holiday season, my best piece of advice is to do something that won't cause you to panic. There is enough stress around the year-end holidays without adding the stress that comes from trying to plan a huge meal for your friends and family.  By all means, do not try out new recipes.  If you do, you'll wring your hands until you find out whether or not your guests like what you've cooked.  The exceptions, of course, will be the recipes I'm going to provide at the end of this blog.Maybe you don't need to be told, but as my mother has often told me, people will come to your home for the companionship, and not necessarily for the food.  And if they' re hungry, then they will eat whatever you've cooked.  Hunger dramatically improves the flavor of any food.As I often preach (shades of Martha Stewart) it's best to prepare the meal well ahead of time, which is what I do when I'm entertaining.  The last thing I want to do is to flit between the kitchen and the living room to try to get in on conversation, so preparation is the key to you having a good time.Here is couple of appetizers that are easy to make and you can prepare couple days ahead of your dinner.Black Olives Tapenademakes 3 cups2       cups pitted kalamata olives1       cup walnuts1        medium red onion, chopped1/4  cup lemon juice4       tablespoons olive oil1       tablespoon oreganoskin of 1/2 lemon1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper-In a food processor and using the on-off  key, process until coarsely chopped.  Spoon into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.  You can make this spread couple days ahead of the party.Red Bell Pepper Spreadmakes 3 cups2     red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small pieces1     medium onion, chopped2    cups walnuts4    tablespoons olive oil2    tablespoons Harrisa*2    tablespoons Pomegranate molasses*1    teaspoon freshly ground cumin2    teaspoons freshly ground coiandersalt to taste-In a food processor, process all ingredients into a smooth paste.You can make this spread couple days ahead of the party.*Harrisa: North African hot red pepper paste. *Pomegranate Molasses: Concentrated syruup distilled from pomegranate juice.