Tips for Easy and Quick Dinner Party Ideas
Do you have some friends and family who will be stopping by for a visit? Perhaps you have a few coworkers who are going to come over to socialise and you are responsible for the food and the entertainment. To follow is our guide on cooking for family and friends.
Cooking For Family And Friends
Whenever you have a dinner party that you have to plan, whether it is a large affair or a simple gathering of some of your favourite people, it can feel overwhelming.
You are suddenly at a loss for what you can do and what you can make to keep people happy, and before you know it, the big day arrives and you are left ordering pizza rather than cooking for family and friends.
It does not have to be that way though, and you can do far better than ordering some pizza. In this guide, we will provide you with some tips that you can use to ensure you have some great meals and a great time with your guests without needing to spend too much time in the planning stages or cooking.
After all, you do not want to be just the chef hiding out and working in the kitchen. You want to be able to enjoy the dinner, the entertainment, and the experience of being around your family and friends just as much as everyone else.
Get an Idea of What People Like
Whether you are developing a casual dinner party menu for some friends, or you are planning your holiday get together with some picky family members, you need to have an idea of what everyone likes. You can’t just assume that everything you like is going to be a hit with your guests. Not only do different people have different tastes, but there are some people who have dietary restrictions in place either for health reasons or for their lifestyle choice.
For example, you might love homemade bread sticks, but you might have a sibling who is gluten intolerant. Perhaps you love spicy food, but others can’t stand it. Maybe someone has a nut allergy, or they are a vegan. There are countless potential mishaps that you can make when it comes to planning what should be an easy dinner for friends.
Find Out Your Guests Likes And Dislikes
Always take the time to get just a quick survey of some likes and dislikes, as well as allergies and things that people just won’t eat. This way, you do not run into the embarrassing and problematic mistake of having seafood for dinner when half of your guests have allergies to shellfish.
Once you understand more about your guests, it will become much easier to start planning your menu. However, we’re still not quite ready to start thinking about recipes and cooking quite yet.
Now, you might be wondering if you should simply ask your guests what they want to eat. While this might sound very nice and accommodating, it is prone to cause problems. If you have 10 people coming to the dinner party, you will have 10 different answers. It’s best to get a general idea of the type of food they might enjoy and then make what feels appropriate and what they enjoy. You are not running a restaurant, after all.
Once You Start To Get Menu Ideas
When you are getting an idea of the types of food people like, you should also ask about drinks. Some people want to have soda with every meal. Others want water. Some of your guests might be expecting some wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages. Depending on your budget, you can provide them with everything they need, or you can have them bring their own beverages.
Seating for All
When cooking for family and friends, you also have to think about where everyone is going to be sitting and eating. If you have a dining room table that is capable of accommodating everyone who is coming, that’s great. However, that’s simply not the reality for most people. Most of the time, you will have enough seating at the table for four to six people comfortably.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to remedy this. Get an extra table and some chairs by borrowing them if you do not have them already, bring folks into the living room, or have everything set up like a buffet. There are many options, and you will want to figure out just how you plan to accommodate everyone now so you do not have to do it in the heat of the moment, when you will have the cooking and entertaining to worry about.
Of course, if possible, make sure you do not invite too many guests. This is the simplest option, but we understand that it might not always be the most practical choice. After all, you do not want to leave some people out just because you don’t think you have enough chairs.
In addition to planning your casual dinner party menu, you might want to think about your décor. Most of the time, when you are just having family and friends over, this is not going to matter too much. After all, they know you well and you don’t have to go out of your way too much to impress everyone. However, if you are planning a holiday get together, or you are throwing a themed dinner party, a little bit of interesting décor could help.
If you feel that you do need to have some décor, it will generally be based around a theme, such as Christmas, Halloween, or the return of your favourite show on television. Have décor and food items (we will get to that in a bit) that match. These little touches can turn a boring meal into something that’s memorable.
Make Easy Meals
Now, we will be getting a bit more into the “nuts and bolts” of the event and helping you to come up with your casual dinner party menu. One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make when they are throwing a dinner party, particularly if they are new at it, is to go overboard and to try to do too much.
They want to try out some interesting and complicated recipes that they’ve never attempted before, for example. They end up needing to buy a list of new spices, and they need to learn how to multitask better than a busy five-star restaurant. This isn’t easy, nor is it fun.
You should instead work with what you know. There’s a good chance that you have some recipes that you are already quite good at making. Consider the allergies and the likes and dislikes we mentioned earlier, and incorporate that when you are planning the menu. Consider which dishes would work best with the guests who are coming to the dinner.
What Are The Easy Meals That Work Best
There are many types of easy meals for entertaining that can work quite well. Most people enjoy Italian food, and having lasagna is generally going to please just about everyone. You could even make two – one vegetarian and one with meat – to make sure everyone is happy.
Another great way to build a casual dinner party menu would simply be to get some items to grill, as long as it is not snowing or raining, of course. Even a fall cookout would be nice – you do not have to wait until summer. Burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, and grilled veggies are always a treat. However, if there is a chance of bad weather, rather than cancelling the dinner party, you might want to consider having a backup ready. A casserole or lasagna that you’ve already made will work quite well in this case, or you could just cook all of the grill items inside if needed.
Can I Set Up A Finger Food Buffet
Another option for an easy dinner for friends would be to make finger foods and to serve them all on trays. While it might be tempting to include only some snacks, such as cheese, crackers, and sliced meats, you can do a bit better. Let’s look at some fun and easy meals for entertaining with finger foods.
Consider Making Sliders For Your Dinner Party
First, consider making some sliders. You can make a wide range of sliders, not just mini burgers and cheeseburgers. For example, you can make some cheesesteak sliders, chicken sliders, breakfast sandwich sliders, BBQ pork sliders, sausage and pepper sliders… in fact, you can turn just about any hot sandwich into a slider if you are thinking small scale! Get the meat and the toppings that you want, and then some small buns and you are good to go.
Consider Mini Pizzas For Your Dinner Party
Another option would be to make some mini pizzas. These can be made in a variety of ways, and they can easily be customized to work for your guests. You could use pizza dough, but it tends to be easier to use some bagels or some sliced French or Italian bread, or even split English muffins for your base.
Have a wide range of toppings available, as well as sauces and cheeses. You could even let people prepare their own and then you can just put them in the oven. This way, you can get your guests to do some of the work for you, which is always nice.
Remember, this is a casual dinner party. You aren’t trying to impress the Queen, and you don’t need to go overboard with too many fancy dishes. Keep it simple and keep it fun.
Unique and Quick Dinner Party Ideas
Now, let’s think about some fun and quick dinner party ideas that you might want to throw. Even though it will still be a casual affair, you can make your easy dinner for friends a bit more entertaining. It is easy to do this by developing some type of a theme before the party. In fact, the theme should be created before you start to invite people. It could even help you narrow down your guest list to family and friends who would be interested in a themed party.
For example, you might want to have a holiday-themed dinner party. It might be centred around Hanukah or Christmas, for example. You might have some friends who do not celebrate and who would not want to come based on the theme.
You might want to throw a Halloween themed party complete with costumes and some horror movies to watch after dinner and dessert. Again, some of your family or friends might not be “into” that type of party. That’s okay. You can always alter your plans, or have a different casual dinner party for friends that are not themed.
Another type of dinner party idea that you might want to consider is a potluck, simply because it tends to make your life much easier. You can tell everyone to make a side dish, for example, and then you can focus on the main dish and provide the drinks. This way, you are not stuck in the kitchen for too long preparing everything. All you will likely have to do is make sure everything is heated up that needs heating before you serve it.
Why Would You Want To Throw A Themed Dinner Party?
Why would you want to throw a themed dinner party? For starters, they are not much more difficult to set up than other simple types of dinner parties, and they have the potential to be even more fun and entertaining. In fact, you can even have foods centred around the theme.
For example, friends and family will often have the same taste in television shows or at least some shows. Perhaps everyone loves Game of Thrones or Supernatural, and you are excited for the latest season or the new episode that airs tonight. Perhaps you all love the same books, such as Harry Potter or films, such as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. The subject you choose doesn’t matter, as long as you are cooking for friends and family who also enjoy it.
Quick Dinner Party Themes
These are fun and quick dinner party themes that might suit your family or friends. In fact, you can even have some foods based around the themes. For example, some butterbeer might make a nice dessert drink for a Harry Potter themed dinner party.
You would certainly want some burgers and some desserts around for those who love Supernatural. Even if the show or the books don’t have specific foods they are known for, you can still have the overall theme of the dinner party be dedicated to that property.
Your Favourite Sport
You could have a dinner party based around your favourite sport, as well, such as on the big games. However, you don’t have to wait for the big game to host your dinner party. Any day will work. Just let people know the theme so they can wear their shirts!
There are countless ideas for some truly entertaining dinner parties, and when you have a theme, it tends to make the rest of the planning easier because you have something to base your décor and your menu items around.
The Mood Of The Dinner Party
Always think about the mood that you are trying to set whether you are planning a themed dinner party, or you are just cooking for friends and family. Let the mood you want dictate not only the dishes you make, but also your décor, and the overall setting.
If you are going to a casual dinner party menu, then a buffet might work well. If you were going for a gourmet dinner menu, buffet style would probably not work.
Reduce Your Stress With These Simple and Effective Tips
Do you want to know one of the best ways to make your life easier and to keep your stress levels down to a minimum when you are planning the dinner? All you need to do is make as much of the food as you can ahead of time, so the only thing you have to do when the day of the dinner arrives is throw it in the oven and let it cook. There are plenty of great entertaining recipes to make ahead that will taste just as good – and perhaps better – when you make them in advance.
Some dishes that work quite well include lasagna, aubergine parmesan, meatballs, sweet potato casserole, chicken pies or chicken casserole, enchiladas, crab cakes, chilli, stew, jambalaya, chicken Kiev, and baked ham to name just a few.
Prepare Vegetarian Dishes Ahead Of Time
If you are making vegetable dishes, you might want to take care of all of the prep work for the veggies the night before and then just put them in the fridge until you are ready for them. Taking care of as many preparations as possible as early as possible – days in advance when you can – will make your life much easier.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t just have to be the main dishes that you are making ahead of time. You can do the same thing with many of the side dishes you want to make, as well as appetizers and desserts, such as cookies, cakes, pies, or brownies. Have a little ice cream in the freezer to go along with it and everyone should be happy.
A quick side note about ice cream – everyone has a favourite flavour, and you can’t please them all. If you have chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, most people should be able to find something they enjoy.
The Cleanup After A Dinner Party
One of the other big stresses that come with cooking for family and friends tends to be the cleanup. Everyone is having a great time talking with one another and feasting on the food that you made, but you know that cleanup is ahead, and you are already dreading it. There are some ways to make this a bit easier on yourself.
First, if someone says, “Hey, let me help with the cleanup,” accept the help. It is tempting to be a good host or hostess and say that you can do it on your own, but these are your family and friends. They can help.
If you still find that you have some cleanup left after everyone has left, you will be tempted to put it off until later, or until the next day. Do not give in to this temptation! You will find that you will be much happier if you just power through and take care of the dishes, putting everything away, and cleaning the counter.
The last thing you need is to wake up in the morning knowing that you have a messy kitchen awaiting you.
You Can Succeed With These Dinner Party Plans for Cooking for Family and Friends.
Conclusion When Cooking For Family And Friends
As you can see, if you have a good plan in place, and you start to prepare your menu and your recipes as early as possible, cooking for family and friends do not have to be quite as much of a challenge. Take the advice here and start to plan your casual dinner party menu.
That said, you still need to be ready for things to go wrong. Even with the best plans and preparation, there is always a chance for a disaster, or at least a mini-disaster to rear its ugly head. Perhaps you put your main dish in the oven to bake and you return to your friends.
After half an hour, you realize that you don’t smell anything cooking and head to the kitchen only to find out that you forgot to turn on the oven. Perhaps some people are suddenly unable to attend the party, which means you are going to have a lot of extra food on hand.
There are countless things that could potentially go wrong. Do not worry about them. Do your best, laugh at the mistakes and chalk them up to simply being a part of life and a learning experience. Let cooking for family and friends be the simple joy that it should be and don’t stress about the small stuff… or the big stuff for that matter.