Today in Part III of How to Entertain with Ease, I’m going to chat with you about some food ideas for making entertaining easy!
Casual Entertaining Food
I always have a few items in the pantry, fridge and freezer for those “just in case” occasions. Casual entertaining should be just that, casual and the food should be easy breezy.
- Popcorn is quick and easy and can store forever in the pantry
- Nuts – I typically have almonds on hand at all times
- Crackers – We keep crackers in our snack bin and replace them when they get a little old
- Cheese – We are a cheese loving family so I almost always have bricks of cheese. Chunk cheese that is partially used, can be cut into slices, no one will be the wiser.
- I always have baby carrots & celery in my fridge and I always keep an extra pack of ranch dip mix in the pantry.
- Apple slices or grapes, if you have them are great to nibble on.
- A frozen pizza can be both a meal or cut up into bite sizes pieces for nibbling
- There is nothing wrong with chips and dip. “Handy” would be happy with just that at every single party we have ever had 🙂
Formal Entertaining Food
My idea of formal is just elevating it to a different level. Real plates and napkins instead of paper. Your food doesn’t have to be terribly fussy or hard to prepare just upgraded from hot dogs & burgers to a roast or turkey. Appetizers for a cocktail party will be more extensive.
Example of a easy, make ahead dinner menu:
- Marinated Flank Steak – Marinate 24 hours before and then grill right before serving
- Twice Baked Potatoes – I make these sometimes a week before and freeze. Take them out the day before to thaw and then just pop in the oven to heat through
- Tossed Salad – I cut up all of my veggies and chop my lettuce the day before. I then dress my salad right before serving. I use something universal like Italian dressing or Ranch.
- Rolls – The Bakery is your friend here. I order my rolls so that I don’t have to worry about the store not having them and I send “Handy” out the morning of to pick-up.
- Dessert – Since I’m not a baker, I do the same thing as the Rolls. There is no shame in ordering your dessert from the bakery. This would also be a great dish to let someone bring, if they ask. I for one love it if someone asks if they can bring dessert because I know that this isn’t my strong suit.
- Appetizers – If we are having a whole dinner, I will prep everything the day before and even put it on a tray or board, cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Again, if someone is offering to bring things, have them bring their favorite hors d’oeuvre.
Bar & Beverage
For most events, I try to keep it simple with wine, beer, bottled water, and maybe a signature drink (Sangria, Margarita, Moscow Mule). I also will usually have some Diet Coke on hand as well. If it’s a more formal event I use a guide to stock the bar. This article from Epicurious outlines what you need if you are stocking a full bar and it also calculates the number of appetizers you should have for a cocktail party.
Our local liquor store will take back any unopened bottles which is a great option. I believe Costco will also do that as well. Don’t forget to have extra ice on hand. We always have coolers outside with extra ice.
Other Food Ideas for Entertaining
- Make Your Own Pizza – Trader Joes has amazing pizza dough. We also love their pizza sauce – So easy! Just provide some assorted toppings
- Salad Bar – Lettuce with toppings and two proteins along with a few different dressings. Add some nice crusty French bread from the bakery
- Taco Bar – Super simple! Prep the meat and provide shells and different toppings. Add Corn Chips and someone can even make nachos.
- Pasta Bar – Two different noodles with three sauces and a protein or two.
- Chili with assorted toppings – I always make two pots one just has beans added in and then provide toppings
- Large Sub Sandwiches – I put together the sandwich with meats and cheese and let everyone put their own toppings (tomato, lettuce, pickles and condiments) on themselves.
- Make Your Own Sundaes – Vanilla ice cream with two different sauces and then you could go crazy with toppings (very fun for a birthday bash)
- Pot Luck – So easy, everyone brings a dish to pass and you just provide the main dish. I would also do BYOB
- Taste of Your Town – Order a different items from local eateries. This is so timely right now when our local restaurants are struggling to stay in business.
How to Entertain with Ease
- Keep it simple
- Make Things ahead of Time
- Entertain for your comfort level
- If asked, accept help
- Always remember that your guests won’t remember what you served or the spot on the floor; they will remember the good times had with friends & family.
I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. My wheels are already spinning about all the people that I want to have over to my house. We also have a few weddings this summer (our daughter is getting married in June and my niece in October) so there will be lots of merriment going on at this small house!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I know lots of you had very small gatherings. Ours was just the three of us but we had an amazing day!