Christmas time often means fun with family and friends, but it can also be the season of ultimate stress for anyone hosting a holiday soiree. So what's a hostess to do? Author, restaurateur, celebrity chef, and Food Network star Donatella Arpaia connected exclusively with Blasting News on Dec. 6 to share some of her best holiday survival tips and to dish on how she celebrates the season with her own loved ones.

Tip #1: Remember what matters

Although it can be easy to get caught up in the details of hosting a holiday gathering, the "Iron Chef America" judge cautioned against forgetting what matters most.

"Food is a huge part of [Christmas for my family], it's how we get together," she explained. "But we can't forget that it's all about spending time [together] and creating memories. And being nice to each other!"

Tip #2: When possible, keep it simple

In order to make sure we have time to create those memories, sticking to the basics is crucial, and Arpaia offered up a practical solution to help hosts whip up super simple side dishes for Christmas dinner. After noting that it can be a challenge to eat healthy when "sweets are everywhere," she suggested using Libby's brand new line of vegetable pouches --which she called "quick, easy, and delicious"-- to make life in the kitchen easier. She shared a trio of recipes using the microwaveable pouches, and said she planned to use her sweet pea crostini as an appetizer for her own family's upcoming Christmas dinner.

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Tip #3: Get the kids involved

In addition to following the adventures of the seemingly ubiquitous Elf on the Shelf (who, in Arpaia's household, recently ziplined across the living room on dental floss because "my husband's gotten really into it," she explained), she encouraged parents to have their children help out with holiday meal prep.

Her five-year old son mashes the peas for the crostini. "If you get your child to cook with you... they feel so proud and may try something they've never had before." As a bonus, you'll know exactly where they are and won't need to worry about them sneaking peeks at the gifts under the tree.

Tip #4: Enjoy traditions

Although Arpaia keeps it simple when she can, she'll still be a busy chef come Christmas Day. So what else is on the menu for the decadent, tradition-laden meal that she'll share with her loved ones this year? Plenty of family-favorites for sure. "We start with meatballs with the ragu... and the homemade pasta, and then we have prime rib and there's tons of vegetables," she explained. "And then we have a salad, and then we have cheeses and fruits, and then a slew of desserts, like my famous ricotta cheesecake."

For more information on Donatella Arpaia, visit her official website located at

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