Hosting a dinner party for people you work with can be stressful simply because of an overwhelming desire to impress them. Then you have all the added anxiety over the actual meal and the work behind it. Just know it doesn’t have to be this way, hosting anything in your home can be fun if you change your outlook and get organised.
The first thing you need to do is find out if anyone on your guest list has any food allergies or special dietary needs. Don’t go crazy with it, you aren’t a restaurant and there’s no need to make a different dish for everyone. Simply find out the important restrictions and let them guide you. The last thing you want to do is serve a vegan roast beef or have to take a trip to the emergency room after an accidental shell fish encounter. Once you have that information you can start planning your menu.
Planning Your Menu:
Appetizers, dinner, dessert and drinks are what you need to have covered. It sounds like a lot, but it’s completely doable so just breathe. Remember two things; home cooked is best and simplicity is paramount. What I mean by that is pick a simple dinner you already know how to make, don’t try to learn new tricks for the occasion. Anything in your arsenal of recipes that can be made a day early should be on your list of contenders. You want to spend the least amount of time possible in the kitchen. We’ll call your game plan, “Operation get yourself to the table and relax”.
Some food ideas that can be made the day before:
- Jalapeno poppers
- Mini quiches
- Home made breads or bread bowls
- Pasta salads
- Salad dressings, dips or pesto
- Meatballs or meatloaf
- Chicken pot pies
- Pork chops
- Any soups or slow cooker stews
- Any sauces for spaghetti or stroganoff (just boil the pasta the day of)
Even dishes that can’t be cooked the day before can still be prepped. Steaks and chicken breast can be stored overnight in a marinade. Kabobs can be assembled and vegetables can be skinned, chopped and stored in the refrigerator until needed.
When shopping, keep in mind it never hurts to have a little extra. You want to be generous with serving sizes without having to worry about there being enough. Invest in a few bottles of scrumptious wine (red and white) and focus on creating one signature drink for the evening. There is no reason to supply a full bar to your guests, this isn’t a frat party.
Tips on Décor:
Simplicity translates over to the table’s décor as well. Large centerpieces block conversations and floral arrangements could cause allergies to flare up. You’re better off using short, unscented candles near the food. The tablecloth should be solid, busy patterns will disrupt the presentation. Neutral colors like beige or cream are perfect. Any embellishments can be saved for the cloth napkins and napkin holders you choose. Don’t limit the candlelit ambiance to the dinning room; spread the warmth into other areas of the house like the sitting room or even out on the patio. Get all the cleaning and decorating finished a day or two early, lighting the candles should be all you have left to do.
The Day of the Dinner:
The best thing to still have cooking when your guests arrive is dessert. Nothing is more inviting than the smell of something sweet baking away. If you time it just right, it’ll be done after the appetizer portion of the evening and you can leave it on the warm setting during dinner (if it’s served warm). It’ll be “Goldilocks approved” by the time you’re ready to serve it: Not too hot, not too cold, just right.
After dinner, throw on a pot of coffee to offer with dessert, you may want to brew another pot while the “after dinner drinks” are taking place. Once your guests leave, pat yourself on the back. You hosted a successful dinner and kept your co-workers from getting embarrassingly drunk by stuffing them full of food and coffee while limiting the alcohol supply.
As you can see, hosting a dinner party doesn’t have to run you ragged. With the proper planning and spacing of tasks you can pull it off easily and may find you actually enjoy yourself in the process. So loosen up and go get started.