by Pat La Jeunesse
In a moment of weakness, you just sent an e-invite to four couples on your cul-de-sac inviting them to an evening of entertainment to celebrate the completion of your kitchen remodeling project. Now the truth sinks in and you feel a real sense of anxiety. Take a deep breath, count to five and read these simple tips to help make throwing a dinner party in your home a “hassle-free entertaining” event.
The Better the Plan …the Better Your Party
It’s important to plan the menu and be strategic about it. Keep in mind that your kitchen and your appliances are not set up to be a Chef’s Battle Station on the latest cooking reality TV show. Don’t choose to serve broiled asparagus, twice baked potatoes, cauliflower soufflé, caramelized onions, pan-fried pierogies, freshly baked dinner rolls and a standing rib roast with gravy if you only have four burners and one oven. Choose foods that would work for your kitchen and your stove. Also, choose recipes that can be made in advance, this will help you with not being overtired the day of the party.
Know Your Audience
Keep in mind that people have certain foods that they need to avoid because of food allergies, dietary restrictions or because they simply don’t like to eat them. Is there a vegan or two on the guest list, or someone with a gluten intolerance? Have you invited a guest who is forbidden from eating pork or shellfish for religious reasons? Don’t make them uncomfortable or feel forgotten. There are plenty of vegan recipes any guest would enjoy so let the vegan know which foods are safe and which need to be avoided and don’t mention it to the others…it’s just good food. If one of the main dinner ingredients is let's say, a roast pork, be certain to also serve a beef or chicken entrée that the pork restricted quests would enjoy.
Good Preparation Pays Huge Dividends
Pull out your recipe box or list out what you plan to serve and Google the recipes. Read the ingredient list and directions thoroughly. Perhaps you've made this recipe dozens of times. It's still a good idea to remind yourself of its specifics--like the fresh chives you forgot to buy. On the day of the event have all the ingredients out and ready to go before you start cooking. This is a great way to discover you are out of garlic powder in time to buy more.
There is a Good Time to Try New Recipes
You may be dying to try a new recipe that you found on someone’s Pinterest page, but this is not the time to be experimenting with something new. Stick to the basics and make what you are good at. Your friends will love your homemade recipes. Experiment with your spouse and kids, they will always love you no matter what.
Set the table the day before the party
Yes, it only takes ten minutes but doing it a night before really helps on the day of the party. Free up needed space in the kitchen by moving your appetizers to the table as they get prepared. Already your stress level is going down and you are beginning to feel in control.
Make ahead where possible
Make as much as far in advance as you can. Bake the pie and bread the day before. Cut the fruit and cheese and make up the cold appetizer tray a day ahead. Anything that you prepare prior to G-Day (guests day) and can check off the to-do list will greatly reduce your stress level.
If You Have Indentured Servants (teenage kids) Secure Their Help
Give them general direction and then ask them to put together a music playlist. Background music can add to the festivities. Be certain, however, that your music director understands that it’s intended to be background only. No one wants to be shouting over the music.
Other Kid Friendly Tasks
If you have very young children ask them to help out by making decorations to honor the guests like self-portraits or pictures of their pets. It keeps them out of your way for a while and makes them feel part of the excitement of entertaining guests. Older children can set out needed chairs, put out the good cloth napkins, and light dinner candles. This lets everyone know it’s a special occasion, no paper towels for napkins or eating on the floor of the family room watching TV. When setting the table put out salt and pepper. Even if you're sure your food doesn't need it. It's just courteous and you don’t want to make a guest feel guilty asking for it.
Decide What Outside Help (if any) You Want
This can be a tricky area if not handles correctly. One quick way to take some of the pressure off you is to solicit or accept help from some of the guests. However, don’t rely too heavily on someone else. However, don’t be caught off guard. If a guest asks if they could bring something, be certain you can manage without it. Sometimes people forget things at home or arrive later than you expected them. Ask them to bring a dessert rather than an appetizer.
Enhance Dinner Conversation
If you've invited eight or fewer guests, allow them to seat themselves. Larger groups mean getting every leaf out for the dining room table and often that’s still not enough space and a few well-placed card tables may be in order. You should give direction to more than eight guests. Seat folks who mix well near each other. This will to make the meal pleasant for all.
Now it’s time to sit down and enjoy your quests and a good meal shared with friends and family. You deserve a chance to experience hassle-free entertaining and remember no one wants to be at a dinner party where the host or hostess spends most of the evening urging people to eat while he or she keeps busy in the kitchen.