Tiffani Thiessen Talks Holiday Party Planning, Cooking With Coffee

Clueless about how to plan parties this holiday season? Tiffani Thiessen has your back

Tiffani Thiessen provided us with tips for White Elephant, cooking with coffee, and throwing the best holiday party this December!

Tiffani Thiessen has grown from everyone’s favorite ‘90s teen idol to a bona fide food celebrity. As the host of the Cooking Channel show Dinner at Tiffani’s and the owner of her own lifestyle blog, Thiessen sure knows how to throw a party, no matter what the circumstances may be.

This holiday season, the mother of two has teamed up with Keurig to spread holiday party planning tips and infuse this winter with the beloved flavors of coffee. Thiessen took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with The Daily Meal about her holiday party plans, how to make Christmas perfect for young children, and, of course, coffee. 

The Daily Meal: For people who have never thrown a holiday party before, what are some of the first steps they should take to pull off the best event possible?

Tiffani Thiessen:
I think preparation is key. I believe in having an idea of what you need to do every day leading up to your actual event. I call it Type A. I love actually writing out a timeline of what I do three days before, two days before, one day before, the morning of [my party]. It really helps me and allows me to not be as stressed and keep myself on track of everything that needs to be checked off.

It allows me to actually enjoy the event without feeling like, “Oh my gosh! I forgot five things, and now I have to do them last minute!” Because if you’re stressed as the hostess or host, your guests aren’t going to have as much fun, seeing that you’re not enjoying it. You’re the face of the party. So you want to be relaxed and having fun, and be as prepared as possible in order to have a spectacular holiday event.

A lot of the events you throw have a really fun theme. How do you settle upon your themes?

I’ve always been a bit of a theme girl, it might be the actress in me. I don’t know. I even do the show Dinner at Tiffani’s the same way. My episodes are really geared toward the guests that I’m going to have, if I know the guests ahead of time, to really pick out that theme and come up with a menu to go with that theme.

What sort of holiday party stereotypes are you sick of seeing?

That’s hard for me to pinpoint, because I feel like the holidays are very personal. I will say I’ve never been a very traditional red and green type person when it comes to the holidays, just because we celebrate Christmas. Our tree usually has a lot of turquoise and pink and things like that. We’re just more colorful in that sense.

But we also love tradition, too, because I think tradition makes you feel very much at home. It’s family. So we go and get the traditional funny picture with Santa before Christmas. My daughter [Harper] writes her own letter to Santa now. We put up our stockings and do traditional things like that, too.

What are some of your favorite uses for coffee in cooking and entertaining?

I love the taste of it, the smell of it, and the aroma. I use different aspects of coffee in my cooking. Whether its cacao nibs in my smoothies or I’m using espresso powder in some of my brownies for dessert, I’m using coffee in many different forms. I just love the flavor of it. It’s very aromatic.

One of the biggest holiday struggles, at least for me, is the White Elephant gift exchange.

We do it too. Why is it so difficult?

In my family, we have people who range from 18 years old to 80 years old. Finding a gift that can appeal to anyone is a little hard! What’s your advice for that?

You don’t have to find a gift for everyone! That’s the thing that’s kind of fun about White Elephant is that you can get whatever you want. Sometimes when you’re stuck with something that doesn’t really appeal to you, when you want to give it up and grab something else, just know you can’t please everyone. There’s absolutely no way! Someone told me a long time ago just to get something you want, because you might just end up with it!

You’re a mom of two young children. What tips do you have for other parents who want to make sure those early holidays are as memorable as possible?

I think it’s all about time. It’s not about the gifts or all that stuff, it’s really just about the time. For me especially, I have two pretty different ages. I have a young one, and this will literally be his second Christmas. So he’s now of age where he gets it a little bit more. He can look at the tree and think how pretty it is with all of the lights. He doesn’t grasp Santa so much yet, but he’ll be interested to see everything Christmas morning.

Then we have our daughter who’s on the other side of it. She’s at an age where luckily she still believes in Santa, which is so sweet. I’m trying to hone in on that and keep it as long as possible. Because I know once it goes, she jumps to the next level of age. But she’s very much into giving. A cute story is that she asked me, “What do you think we should get Holt [her brother ] for Christmas?” That was just very sweet.

But, it’s those kinds of things, those moments, that time. She’s in school now, so it’s nice with the holiday break that we get more time with our daughter. We’ll be spending time down in Texas — which is where my husband is from — so we’re always with the cousins. It’s all about building those memories, seeing those kids together, and spending time with each other. We all have busy lives, and it can be hard sometimes, so it’s important for us to slow down.

Why do you think a Keurig is a good Christmas gift?

I’m a coffee-lover and have been for many, many years. I’ve been a fan of Keurig and had a Keurig in my house and dressing rooms for over 10, 15 years. We’ve always had one. For me being busy and being a mom, the effect of having a coffee in a matter of minutes speaks volumes to me. The fact that you have endless options for coffee or hot chocolate or tea and you don’t have to brew a huge pot for one person is a huge time-saver. If it gives me an extra 20 or 30 minutes in the morning, I’ll take it!

I actually think that’s the perfect gift for Christmas. I have it as one of the top items on my holiday gift guide. I’m kind of obsessed with Keurig, I have to say. If you’re a coffee- or tea-lover and are busy, it’s one of those life-saving type things. It’s the perfect gift for someone that you cherish.