12/08/2014 05:34 EST | Updated 02/07/2015 05:59 EST

Christmas entertaining: 5 ways to add sparkle to the season

'Tis the season for hosting friends and family at home — but how best to provide all that food, drink and merriment?

The Early Edition's Elaine Chau got a few party planning tips from Beaucoup Bakery's Jackie Kai Ellis. She's thrown her share of parties over the years, and has the process down to a science.

1. Make dishes that are meant to be eaten at room temperature. Try a roasted vegetable salad, or a hearty side like a wild mushroom stuffing.

2. Don't fret about fancy appetizers. It's much easier to just purchase cheeses and charcuterie meats and let your guests have at it.

3. Make a shopping list. It may sound dead simple, but it is a true time saver. You can take it one step further by planning when you are going to cook your food too.

Oven space is at a premium when you have a party, so if you want to be extra organized, create a schedule for your oven on the day of the party.

4. Create an atmosphere that's comfortable. That means not being afraid to be who you are, which might mean making a mistake or two. Remember that your guests are more forgiving than you think.

5. Make a really good dessert. It's the last thing your guests will eat, so that's what they'll remember! Try something simple like a brownie, which can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated or frozen.

Dress it up with some berries, shortbread cookies, and a scoop of ice cream — and you're set!

To hear more from Jackie Kai-Ellis, click on the audio clip labelled: Christmas Entertaining Tips