Easy entertaining, take the headache and stress out of a social gathering. The way TV cooking shows make it look, entertaining is easy anyway but most people find entertaining can be very stressful. If you are like me and hate cooking you will need some simple entertaining strategies to take out that stress and make the occasion enjoyable.
In general terms, entertaining means looking after a group of people brought together for a social gathering. A birthday party for a child, a barbecue, a formal dinner, end of year drinks etc. are all gatherings that require catering, the food and drink. Easy entertaining could be as simple as out sourcing the catering, but that is expensive, and still has it’s headaches.
Planning is the key
any time you spend planning and organizing will pay dividends later. Write lists, don’t try to keep it all in your head; lists will free you up to concentrate on the more important stuff.
No matter what sort of occasion your planning, try to nail down the number of guests, this is very important since you must have a figure to work with. Make sure the venue is suitable.
- Will there be enough room?
- Is there enough seating?
- If it’s outside do you have a fall back plan if the weather turns bad?
- Have you got enough plates, cutlery and glassware?
Once you feel confident that you can deal with the number of guests, move on to menu planning. Unless you are an experienced cook not fazed by producing large amounts of yummy food without raising a sweat, I suggest you keep it simple! In fact simple is very important when it comes to easy entertainment.
Be aware that if some of your guests are strangers you will need to consider dietary requirements such as, allergies, gluten free or vegetarian. It’s not necessary to plan the whole menu around these requirements, just make sure you have something suitable on hand. Ready made from the deli are ideal for this type of situation.
When choosing the menu
look at options that can be prepared in advance. For instance:
- Fresh vegetables can be peeled and cut and kept in the refrigerator.
- Pasta can be cooked in advance.
- Some sauces can be made the day before.
- Cold desserts can be made beforehand.
Butchers and poultry shops now offer a huge selection of ready prepared food ideal for entertaining, just make sure what you need is available and order beforehand.
Take advantage of all the modern conveniences such as:
- Frozen pastry.
- Pastry cases.
- Frozen vegetables.
- Ready made sauces.
- Grated cheese.
- Pizza bases.
- Ready made fresh desserts.
Remember this is the millennium when no one slaves over a hot stove anymore!
Lists are an organisers number one tool.
When you have worked out the menu, start at the beginning and list all the ingredients you will need, don’t leave anything out.
Next make a list of all the drinks you will need. Try and choose wine that will complement the food. Make sure you supply non alcoholic drinks such as fruit juice or punch and water. Get drinks in advance so they have time to chill. Check whether you will need more ice or an ice box.
The real secret of easy entertaining is presentation. People eat with their eyes; a dish may be simple but if it looks great, it will win hands down every time.
Here are a few tips.
- Organize a colour scheme or theme and plan around it.
- All napery such as tablecloths or napkins should be crisp and clean.
- Cutlery should shine and glassware should sparkle.
- Use centerpieces or flowers but avoid a cluttered or overpowered look.
- For a formal dinner make sure tableware is correctly aligned.
- Use dishes or serving ware that will show food to best advantage. Do not use green or fussy patterned crockery.
- A crisp tossed salad in a glass bowl looks great from all angles.
- If it’s an occasion for gifts organize a table or somewhere to put them. Guests like to see their presents on show.
Make sure food is arranged or displayed properly. For ideas on how to present and garnish dishes look at cookery books where food is always shown to its best advantage.
When you buy ready made food personalize it with your own garnish.
Outdoor tableware is available in bright colors and clear plastic and looks great with coordinated napkins, cloths or placemats. Fruit drinks or punches are shown to best advantage in clear jugs with garnish. Make sure food looks appetizing, salads and vegetables should look bright and fresh.
Get it Together
On the day make sure you have a strategy in place for getting it all together, put together a timetable and write it down.
Easy entertaining really is all about organization once you’ve got a plan in place and write it down it’s just a matter of ticking things off the list. If you use these strategies it really will take a lot of stress out of entertaining.
The victuals are only a part of the occasion. The venue should be right in both size and ambiance for the gathering. Intimate or large, alfresco or around the kitchen table; plan early then stay with it, don’t chop and change. If it is alfresco, is there a plan b?
Lighting, music, cloakrooms, car parking. Make more lists! Do let guests know what you are planning, should they bring “welly boots” to get to the venue or bathers for a dip in the pool. If the guests arrive in the right attire, they will feel comfortable and that is your main aim in easy entertaining.