Comments : 43

Hello friends! Well, I penned my first installment of the Entertaining Diaries, and apparently it was something many of you wanted, as the response was fantastic,  so the series has officially begun. I had said then that with each post, I will ask you to ask me questions that many of you email me about and I will do my best to address as many as possible in the next post. So today I am going to answer many of the questions you asked from chapter 1 (some of you asked the same questions and others will be addressed in a future post.

I also said I will include a few recipes, my tried and true tips and of course many visuals. So let’s get started, and here are some of the questions that were asked more than once. Sit down with an extra cup of coffee (or wine) as there is a lot to share today-



One thing MANY of you asked about was timing/scheduling and how to execute meals while playing hostess? Excellent question. So I normally do have a woman who helps me behind the scenes. She is in the kitchen and I will have gone over with her what needs to be done as we begin a sit down to dinner.

I have not always had someone and there are times I am doing this solo, if we are a small group as an example.  In that case, I will curtail my meal to be one that requires minimal fussing. It might be a dish that bakes in the oven and that can easily be kept warm as opposed to something like a piece of delicate fish that has to be cooked minutes before serving.

So, when I do not have a helper, I will plan for appetizers that are room temp, so that I can sit and enjoy the hour or so before dinner with my guests. I will of course have to. make a few trips to the kitchen to check on things but again, I will be preparing something that has cooked and is being kept warm in the oven. Meals that require last minute tending do not ideally work well as it would mean me being back and forth non stop.

Plus I like my kitchen to look spic and span and let’s face it, when you are putting a meal together for several people, things are going to be well…….all over the place!

A lot of you asked how to handle yourself when other people offer to get up and help or actually follow you into the kitchen. Full disclosure? This is my pet peeve. I cannot stand when people follow me into the kitchen. Sorry, I know it sounds harsh and like I am a meanie (I am not I promise)  but I have a method as to how things get done and any interruption throws me off.

Suddenly you are forced to put on a smile and socialize while trying to put your dinner together. No thanks. I politely tell my guests I would “much rather you sit and enjoy yourself” and if needed I give my husband the evil eye which means “pour them another glass of wine NOW”!!!! I have found that having a small set up designated area for drinks tends to pull people in that direction (works like a charm).

If the weather is nice, we will set up drinks/appetizers outside and if not it’s inside. I really think if you say it firmly enough (with a smile) you can get your point across. You can say what I said above or even “I have it all covered and honestly work best on my own, but thank you, please sit and enjoy another glass of wine”. At that point you excuse yourself and get busy! I know not everyone will agree but this is just how I operate best:)

I do not use a table pad. I use either place mats or a tablecloth. Not a fan of pads honestly, I have been lucky as my table (almost 10 years old) still looks great. Occasionally I might find a small scratch, and will try to buff it out, but nothing I cannot live without. I don’t personally like the look of a table pad. If I am placing a hot dish I will use a pretty and decorative trivet  sometimes with a linen napkin draped over it.

Sometimes I will use a tablecloth and place mats there are no hard and fast rules-

And sometimes the occasion calls for a beautiful print of some sort-

But my usual is a crisp white linen place mat on the gleaming wood table:)

I mostly will plate the salads in the kitchen then serve. It is easier this way. If we are outside and having a casual meal, I will normally bring the salad bowl outside and dress it out there as well then serve but for more formal dining, when we are indoors I will plate the salad or whatever we are having as an appetizer (often soup in colder months) in the kitchen and bring out right before I call my guests in.

Many of you also asked if I tend to do a sit down dinner or a buffet. Really depends. Let’s say I am having 6-8 over for dinner and I have someone to help me. I will do a plated salad and a sit down dinner where we will plate the dinner in the kitchen and bring it out. If I do not have help, I likely won’t do that and will set up a buffet of some sort.

I will either have a few dishes that will be placed on the dining table or sometimes I will pull over a smaller round table we have in the foyer and put a tablecloth on it, and have that as as small serving table. I like both honestly, buffet to me is a little easier in that people can get up and easily help themselves to more and it’s less back and forth. That said, I must say, I do love the look and elegance ofa sit down dinner and come to think of it, have not done on in a long time. Humm……..maybe it’s time:)

So many ways! I love using them for individual crudites, maybe a spinach dip or hummus with vegetables and/or pita chips on top. Not only does it look very “cater-ish” (a new word)! but makes serving easy peasy.

Some asked if I put something like plastic  in them first. No, I do not. Just wash them out well right after use and they will be just fine. I normally use the small size for serving appetizers. I will also sometimes use the larger sizes to make a big appetizer tray and fill hem with everything from chips to nuts, to pretzels and dips. They also make great “holders” for everything from utensils to make up brushes.  People always ooh and ahh over the presentation:)

Loved this setup, we were having friends over to watch the US Open finals- used assorted sizes and styles of the mint juleps to hold hummus, nuts, pretzel mixes, veges for dipping, guacamole the sky is the limit! Shown here on my favorite Chippendale serving tray

Always elegant to serve as an individual appetizer

Love them to hold utensils too!

Another luncheon where I served these with a spinach dip and veges

Yes, a dish you can prepare ahead of time is a lifesaver. It will also be a “go to” if I do not have any back up help. One dish  I like making ahead of time,  that is so easy is the dill salmon. I will marinate this either the night before or that morning. You literally keep it in the fridge until you are ready to put it in the oven. About 10 minutes from the finish time, I turn the oven off, cover it really well with aluminum and let it rest until ready to serve. Even at room temp, it is delicious. (also great for a luncheon). Super easy and quite pretty!

Also if you want a side that is not only pretty but one that can be prepared ahead of time and kept at room temp, it is the scalloped potatoes below. Looks very pretty and elegant and come on, who doesn’t love a scalloped potato! Once again this can be fully cooked, then covered really well until time of serving, it is one of those no fuss kinds of dishes.

I will be focusing on good menu/dinner ideas for small groups for the  next post, so will include recipes for both of these at that time…….promise!

You need music plain and simple, it just sets a tone. I love so many different genres, and listen to almost all. When we are having people over, though I want something subtle, that has a “feel good” vibe. For indoors, always some kind of jazz, smooth jazz and a few favorites are from our Pandora radio,  Also. love a great flamenco soundtrack, something so soothing about the guitar. Pandora has a station I think called Worldbeat that is fantastic.

For outdoors we tend to play something slightly more upbeat, like a bossa nova which is a favorite and we enjoy reggae.  We play this kind of music outside all summer long, guests or no guests.  I also love Brazilian music and Spanish, it’s so warm and upbeat. There are several  International stations on Pandora , one being Worldbeat and many reggae stations.  Another on Pandora is called Beach Bar lounge is fun

As I alluded to last time, organization is really key here. Everything is laid out the morning of for a dinner, small or large. My table is set and I will put out all my empty dishes, sometimes with small sticky’s handwritten with what will go on that platter.

I like no fuss appetizers, things you can set out, do not need to worry about. I will occasionally make something that requires going in the oven and serve right when done, but honestly i do it less and less. Who needs the extra aggravation. My brushetta is a year round hit, everyone always loves it. When people come to my home in the fall or winter, my baked brie is expected. So I am including both of these super easy to make appetizers below.

My brushetta (this recipe would be good to serve about 6-8 guests) if you have another appetizer

  • 7-8 very ripe tomatoes (if out of season- buy ahead of time, keep in sunny spot or on windowsill to allow a full ripen
  • 2 cloves of garlic very finely minced
  • A good sized handful of fresh basil (must be fresh)!
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 an onion finely minced
  • Olive oil
  • Baguette sliced on the diagonal

In a bowl add finely chopped tomato, 3/4 of your basil (finely chopped, I add a lot), the onion and garlic. Season well with sea salt and ground pepper. Add your olive oil. You can marinate this a few hours in advance, but not more than 2-3 as it could get soggy.

Take your sliced baguette, and drizzle with olive oil once laid in a baking pan. Put in preheated oven (set st 350) and bake for about 6-7 minutes. Do not fret if its too crunchy, once you add the brushetta, it instantly softens the bread.  Carefully scoop the brushetta mixture over each slice, once done I add thinly sliced fresh basil over each. Sometimes I mix in fresh mozzarella as well, or may do half this way. So good!  **You can make ahead of time ( same day, would not do it the day before)

Always an elegant crowd pleaser

  • 1.5 lbs of fresh extra large or jumbo shrimp (peeled and de veined)
  • A fresh lemon sliced in several wedges
  • Sea salt
  • Store bought cocktail sauce * I like Bookbinders and Hoffman House
  • Horseradish sauce
  • A dash of chili powder
  • Olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Throw in about 5 lemon slices with your shrimp once boiling. Cook for about 4-5 minutes to until pink and slightly firm to the touch (remember they will cook a bit once you put them through the colander) Put aside in a dish and add fresh lemon, lightly toss.

In a separate bowl add the container of cocktail sauce, add about 1-2 TBSP (depends how much tang you want) to the sauce and squeeze fresh lemon, add a dash of chili powder and dash of saltl. Mix well and refrigerate. Add crushed ice to your favorite large bowl or serving dish. Don’t have crushed ice? Use a blender or chopper, easy! Only put this out right as you are ready to serve as no one likes warm shrimp and cocktail sauce!


These are sooooo good. Very savory inside of a delicious, buttery light puff pastry. Always a hit!

  • ¾ cup brioche bread, diced (I used much less)
  • ½ cup Hood® Heavy Cream
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 8 oz. crab meat
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. Cape Cod seasoning (can
  • substitute Old Bay seasoning)
  • 2 Tbsp. red bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chives, sliced
  • 12 pre-baked puff pastry cups


  • Follow the instructions on your puff pastry cups and prebake, about 18-20 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. (If you just prebaked your puff pastry shells, you’ll be bringing your oven temperature down to 300 degrees, as they will be prebaking at a higher temperature)
  • In a small bowl, combine your brioche bread cubes and Hood® Heavy Cream. Let mixtuire sit for 10 minutes at room temperature. Add hot sauce and mix thoroughly.
  • In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients including the brioche bread mixture. Make sure to check the crab meat for bits of shell or cartilage.
  • Mound the crab mixture into the prebaked puff pastry cups on a baking sheet. Cook for 5-10 minutes to warm the filling.



I also like the idea of a signature cocktail. Some may not go for it and opt for a glass of wine but most do, and they normally love it. It is a nice way to welcome guests when they come in to have a round of s special drink on a pretty silver tray.  Even if something simple like champagne with a splash of cranberry and berries with mint, it is an extra added detail plus it looks pretty! Then you can continue with wine for dinner…..

****An impromptu unannounced special for readers of this post! For every 4 chargers, mini table lamps, mint juleps or flatware you purchase you will get one free (no code necessary)****

Click here for chargers

Click here for mini table lamps

Click here for mint juleps

Click here for flatware


And that is a wrap on this second chapter of The Entertaining Diaries. Hope you enjoyed it, putting this together was a lot of fun as it allowed me to go down memory lane and reminisce about past enjoyable and memorable gatherings. The next chapter I will focus on great dinner ideas/menus for smaller groups.

So,  now you get to ask your questions for next time, I will do my best to get to those still unanswered as well as address new ones. You can ask your question in the comment section. Thanks for stopping in and sharing this fun new series with me. Your ideas and tried and true tips are also welcome so please by all means, share!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day, until next time………

Miss this party animal:)

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Gloria on

Awwwwwh your darling “party animal” so adorable!! I deeply feel for you!
Love your wonderful Entertaining Blog today – stunning table settings and absolutely fabulous recipes! Warms my heart to receive! We love the same china – Spode Woodland Pheasant – Beautiful and so elegantly presented!! You truly have that “magic touch”!
A special thank you .. you make my day, every day!

Lynn on

I am LOVING this series!!! Thank you, Tina.

Roxanne N. on

This is so much fun! Thank you, Tina!

Cindy McDonald on

While living in France I learned, when having dinner with French friends guests are not wanted in their kitchen. Une bonne idée .

Barb on

Have no words how to thank you! This is SO good! I will be printing this out. You must come out with a book! You have such style, taste and so many great ideas! I will be your first customer.

Mary Anne on

What a beautiful post you have today! I enjoy entertaining as well, and have tried and true recipes. I also can’t have too many in the kitchen to “help” either!! I love seeing your table settings!!

Laurie M on

This is wonderful! I’m printing it to save in my “Entertaining” folder! Could you please share your recipes for the dill salmon and scalloped potatoes? Thanks. I can’t wait for your next Entertaining Diaries post!

Adrienne on

Would love that Baked Brie recipe!

christine on

Loved this post! Thank you.

Peggy Thal on

Loved your post!

Bonnie G. on

This was such a useful post and the photos are beautiful. I thought this was an announcement to introduce a book!
My question is: Do you keep a guestbook and/or a journal to remember what menu was served on each occasion?

11542 on

This is an amazing post, THANK YOU!! Every recipe I have made from you comes out perfect! you MUST come out with a book, talk show, etc.

Betty Coco on

I love your recipes. Thank you.

Jo Shafer on

Thank you! I am printing out today’s blog and making an entertaining (yes, that’s a pun) notebook for myself.

Chris on

Love this !!

Eileen on

This is wonderful. I love all the ideas. Thanks so much.

Norina on

What a wonderful and informative post. I, like you do not want anyone in my kitchen when entertaining. It interrupts my concentration. So, I have no qualms saying aloud, “thanks for the offer, but, please stay out of my kitchen !” I look forward to reading more of your entertaining blogs.

BP on

Love this post! So happy you are taking questions. Here are my questions-

How do you know how much to serve or allot for one person for appetizers and entrees?

How do you handle guests that overstay their welcome? We have had this happen more than once!

What is your favorite hostess gift that you ever received?

Thanks, can’t wait till chapter 3!

Molly Ellis on

Write a book Tina!!

Patti on

What a terrific post! I need to make that salmon and those potatoes! Can you please share the recipes?

Suzanne on

Love the Entertaining blog!! Thanks for sharing

Rose Lee on

Hi Tina,
Thank you for the terrific appetizers. I copied them and plan to make each soon. What a gift! Rose Lee

Marilyn Holliday on

Thank you for sharing. I loved this post.

Susan on

Loved today’s post!! Wish you could do the Entertaining Blog once a week. Would love to see you write a book.

Sharon Muncey on

Fabulous Post, Tina!!
How do you handle clean up? How do handle the guests who insist on helping with the ‘clean up’?
Do you have your guests leave their plates on the table??……OR…….do you move plates to the kitchen (My dog will get ON the table, so I MUST move the plates, and all food, to the kitchen)
Excited at the thought of you writing/publishing books on entertaining—-this Q and A would be a perfect addition to your books!

Barbara Morris on

I will print Chapter 1 and 2 as I love the ideas, photos and the recipes. I do not entertain a lot now, but always love to use my china, flatware, crystal and special serving dishes. I try to keep those “special helpers” out of the kitchen and always begin with an empty dishwasher. I saved your Christmas party that was catered and will print out and save these chapters as well. In my opinion, I think there is just nothing nicer than treating friends to a nice party with great food and shared fellowship. My problem is I have to have days prior to get it all ready to “execute”………thank you for these chapters!!

AlexandraT on

One of the best posts ever!!! I also do not want helpers in the kitchen?

Cathy on

Great tips, Tina! I try to have as much prepared ahead of time when hosting a dinner party, and my best tip of all? Have a glass of wine one hour before your guests arrive!

Leslie Huff on

Absolutely love this post!! Such good ideas. You covered every aspect of a fun dinner!! Thanks

Kate on

Great Post at the perfect time !
Thank you. So much useful information!

Audrey on

Quite a wonderful and informative post, Tina. I was noticing your beautiful monogrammed paper cocktail napkins. Where do you order them? I would love to have them for our guests!

Marilyn Cole on

Thank you!
I truly appreciate your wisdom!

Kathy on

Tina, this series is a winner! Loving all the gorgeous pictures and tempting recipes. You really get the inspiration stirring! Thank you so much for your beautiful work, which uplifts us all!

Alisonalden on

Would love your recipe for your scalloped potatoes! Funny we just made those three nights ago for the same reasons that you pinpoint but I thought they were a little dry. Would love to try yours!

Bond Moore on

I loved this post!! Now I want to have a dinner party!!! Can’t wait until your next post!!

Janet Vendetti on

Love the entertaining blog and you make hosting look easy. Two questions: do you always have floral centerpieces and do you always serve coffee or tea with dessert?

Joyjc on

Is it permissible to eat the fruit that is in the cocktail stemware? And if it is, how does one access the fruit if it is at the bottom of the stemware and your drink is finished??

Linda Primeaux on

Wow! I feel like I have just been to one of your parties. You are such a gracious hostess and thank you for sharing your “plan of action”, tips, and recipes.
Question: Would you please share the details of your tablesettings, China patterns, stemware makers. Also, your dining room table & chairs makers. They are stunning! ?

Anne Marie O'Connor on

You mentioned “Organization”, and yes I agree. I too want to enjoy my evening and our guests. Cleaning the house the day before, groceries, Setting the table the night before also helps. Also, I too want my kitchen to myself and totally understand when I am a guest at someone else’s home to stay out of the kitchen. Lol.
You have a beautiful way of entertaining and making your guests feel special with your decor and food presentation! Love your inspiration! Enjoy what you LOVE doing! FANTASTIC POST!!?

Linda Ewald on

Where to order them please!

Jane on

On people offering to help, and even following into the kitchen. I know exactly how you feel and what you are saying. I have tried to make peace with it though, and now intentionally leave some small, relatively mindless jobs at the end for just those offers. Filling water pitchers, putting flowers that someone has brought in a vase/water, (I can “fix” it later!) adding a last-minute garnish, or just taking the saran off a serving bowl from the frig or whatever.
Just a thought.

Donna on

Love all of your suggestions, please keep them coming .So helpful, I will definitely try all of them

Deborah paul on

I love this post Everything is exactly how my mother taught me to entertain
I always feel it is important to have the cocktail hour with your guests and not spend every minute in the kitchen
The one comment with your recipes that surprised me was the idea of serving scallop potatoes at room temp I am cooking for 20 for thanksgiving and they want my scallop potatoes I have been wondering how I am going to serve them hot along with everything else
Love your posts

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