Chef Jo's Top Tips for Holiday Entertaining

From kitchen disasters to pulling off the perfect party, chef Joanne Lusted answers your most burning questions on surviving the holidays.
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What's your top tip for holiday entertaining?
Prepare a schedule or timeline to organize your shopping and prep. Chances are that most of your cooking can be done a couple of days ahead.

A lot of cooks have trouble picking a turkey. Do you have any tips for selecting the ideal bird?
The general rule of thumb is one pound of turkey per person you're serving, or one-and-a-half pounds per person if you want leftovers. If you're choosing a frozen bird, be sure to buy it at least five days in advance so it has time to thaw.

What's the simplest way to plan a holiday meal that involves guests with several dietary restrictions?
Instead of trying to create multiple versions of the same dish to suit vegetarians, gluten-free diets and various food allergies, I skip the stress and simply create the menu with all restrictions in mind. This is especially important with food allergies, because it eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination.

Which do you prefer, turkey or roast?
Turkey all the way! There's nothing more festive than the aroma of a turkey roasting in the oven. Plus, I adore stuffing (aka dressing). My mom's stuffing is the best - it's made with lean turkey sausage, onion, celery and sage.

Fess up - what's your biggest holiday kitchen mishap?
My mom will never let me live this one down: A few holidays ago, I tried to cook a big batch of brown rice in a stockpot. Too much rice plus the wrong pot, an old stove and inconsistent heat equaled a giant gooey glob. This story still gets told at my family dinners.

The holidays often involve parties with less-than-clean dinner options. how do you navigate these events while sticking to your clean-eating lifestyle?
Eat four ounces of protein and once serving of vegetables before the party. That way, if the clean offerings are slim, you won't be starting and tempted by unhealthy snacks. If you'r eon the spot for a sit-down dinner, talk to your host ahead of time and offer to bring some clean dishes of your own - he or she will appreciate your help!

What do you do with all of your holiday leftovers?
I make the best leftover mashups! Toss leftover Brussels sprouts, roasted root veggies and turkey with whole-grain pasta, or mash sweet potatoes to use as a topping for shepherd's pie.