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10 Dinner Party Hacks For The Host That Hates To Cook

Posted on Jun 02, 2017
Guest Contributor

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For someone who *LOVES* cooking so much, you'd think I would be jumping for joy at the thought of hosting a dinner party. Well, think again. Throwing a dinner party, even for a small group, is not the same as a last minute spontaneous invite for one of your besties. There’s planning leading up to and all throughout the event, and you really can’t take a breath until your last guest leaves for the night.

To make dinner parties less intimidating, I put together a list of tips that anyone can do -  even if their greatest creation in the kitchen is ramen noodles!

1. A simple starter

Pair a piece of Brie or Goat cheese with a good store-bought jam and a side of any cheese crackers. I like raspberry or apricot jam, but you can go with whatever you like!

Tip: Warm the jam for a few seconds to make it easy to pour over your cheese.

2. Ditch the bottled water

Add citrus slices and fresh herbs to your beverage pitchers. Slice your favorite citrus and freeze them on a baking sheet. Your garnish now doubles as ice cubes and won’t water down your drinks.

3. Sophisticated Snacks

Make your own hors d’oeuvres platter that will make all your guests want to whip out their phones for a picture! Arrange 2-3 cheeses, mixed nuts, and fruit on a platter or, my personal favorite, a beautiful wood cutting board (hey, even if you don’t use that cutting board for cooking, your guests don't need to know!). Use bowls to add dimension and, even if you buy your fruit pre-cut, arranging it this way makes it look like you did it all yourself!

4. The magic equation for an amazing salad: Green + Cheese + Fruit + Nut 

Adding together these different texture and flavor profiles will elevate your salad game. My personal favorite is mixed greens, blue cheese, granny smith apples, and walnuts. But you can mix and match and come up with some amazing combinations. How about spinach, strawberries, goat cheese, and almonds? Just top with a simple vinaigrette when you’re ready to serve and you’re all set!

5. Cook a vegetarian meal

Cooking a vegetarian meal saves you the pressure of perfectly cooking meat and is accommodating to everyone. My go-to is and always will be pasta. Even if you use a jarred sauce, you can easily make your pasta stand out. Swap out the red sauce for pesto, add in fresh mozzarella and/or your favorite veggies or herbs. It definitely won’t be your average spaghetti and meatballs!

6. Garnish, garnish, garnish!

Ever wonder why your dishes don’t look the ones you see on Instagram or at a restaurant? Plating, and especially garnishing goes a long way. A fresh lemon wedge in the beverage glasses, fresh basil leaves on the pasta, and fresh mint on the dessert will make your guests feel like they’re eating at a five-star restaurant.

7. Don’t stress about sweets

Make a mix of dessert options without baking up a storm. If you like making desserts, make (or semi-make) one dish and supplement the rest of your dessert offerings with store-bought goodies, like mochi ice cream, cookies, and candies to snack on throughout the night. Make sure to add some fruit for guests that don’t have a huge sweet tooth, and finish off the meal with a nice strong pot of coffee or tea.

Your guests are not just coming to eat, but to spend time with you in your home. So when planning your dinner party, it's important to also think about the experience. What else will your guests remember after they leave?

8. Save on flower arrangements

Don’t be intimidated to make your own flower arrangements. Repurpose unconventional glasses or jars as vases to display your flowers in. Buy one type of flower to fill your vases with for a clean and impactful look. 

Tip: If you want to get fancy, add some greens to your arrangements - but remember, simplicity is key.

9. Background music

You might not be used to playing music at a dinner party, but trust me, everyone will remember it. The right music sets a tone, fills the void when things get silent, and is a great conversation starter. Take the time to create a playlist that fits the mood of the night and just set it to shuffle when your party starts.

10. Set a mood

A good tablecloth, cloth napkins, and serve-ware show your guests you went the extra mile. Paper plates and napkins are fine for BBQs and picnics, but pass on that for a dinner party. Candles and flowers add the extra touch of flair for your table to shine!

Abeer Najjar is a self-taught chef, food blogger, and professional late-night snacker. Born on the south side of Chicago to Palestinian immigrants, Abeer's food is inspired by her mother's traditional recipes as well as the different cultures she grew up with. She believes the best meals are the simplest and those that are shared amongst others. You can follow Abeer's work on her blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and watch her cooking show, Abeer's Day Off on Youtube.

Enjoyed this post? Share with your friends and let us know if you have any dinner party hacks of your own in the comments below!


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