I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It bears repeating:
Entertaining need not be stressful.
It can (and should) be as much fun for you to experience at the time as it is to hear accolades later on the delicious food.
How, you ask?Easy. Of course.
Me & my love. Yes, I'm wearing an apron.
My dad & my dog.
My mom & my daughter. With the world's first environmentally friend H3.
As my dad puts it - use the KISS system -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. (I substitute with Silly, for my self-esteem.)
Here's how I do KISS.
Step 1: Menu plan wisely.
My strategy is to choose one stand-out item or two. For the rest, low maintenance. (Related post: Nothing to Brag About. From LAST year! :) See, I am well aware that I repeat myself.)
I don't want a whole meal catered or store-bought, but I don't' have the time to spend 2 days in the kitchen.
Step 2: People like to help. Let them.
Yes, it's your party. You have a certain idea of what things should "look like." If you don't want a hodgepodge, that's okay! Ask for something you can always use - such as booze.
I usually run short on tortilla chips and ice. I ask for these. (And, yes - I always serve something that requires tortilla chips.)
If there's still prep to do when guests arrive, give jobs to the askers. Nothing too strenuous; they're still guests!
This past weekend my Aunt was visiting from Nebraska. She & her husband and my parents came over to our house Saturday night. Everyone stayed over, so there was also breakfast Sunday.
Step 2 came in right away. My mom offered to help. I thought it would be easier to each take a meal. I took dinner; she took breakfast. She also offered to BYOB for Saturday, so sure - thanks.
Step 1 was, as always, a heavy-hitter for me. I decided I wanted to do grilled chicken wings. I wanted to use "my" BBQ sauce but also wanted some hot ones but also wanted some my daughter would be sure to eat. SO ... 3 types of wings? There's your star! All the wings were grilled over about 350F, turned every few minutes till done.
- I rubbed them with salt & pepper & put them in a zippie with lemon, EVOO & red wine vinegar for a couple hours. Then tossed them on the grill.
- The only alteration I made was to add a bit of hot sauce to the rub. I happened to have some from a local Fresh-Mex joint, but Tabasco or Louisiana or whatnot would work just fine.
- That is all. Because how do you improve upon it? If you didn't know about my Caesar obsession before, you do know.
- This was the one for the little one, and I marinated drummies for her, on the correct assumption she'd have fun eating them.
The sides hit the back burner ... or, in this case? The deli & produce sections. I am lucky enough to LOVE my grocery store, Publix. And their red potato salad? To. Die. For. And? cheaper than I could make it. I threw in a bag'o'slaw (the yummy "Asian" kind)
AND? I had so much time leftover, I decided to make an awesome black bean dip/salad for appetizer time. You know the one - black beans, tomatoes, whatever else you have and/or like.
The below-the-titles there? Cheese & crackers, almonds, cherry tomatoes. HUGE hits, especially the tomatoes - served with just salt - complete awesome with a light beer. I kid you not.
This may not be the way to entertain for something formal. But I can't imagine myself ever doing that. I got to be out with my family, playing bocce ball, watching my daughter "drive," BS-ing and relaxing. I even tweeted & FB'ed a bit. I wasn't stuck slaving, nor was I exhausted from doing so earlier in the day.
I hope you'll try it.