Busy? Yeah tell us about it. And in an unfortunate Catch 22, our favorite antidote to that problem, dinner with friends and family, is also the cause of additional stress. If you'd love to throw a great dinner party but never seem to have enough time, take some inspiration from one of the busiest human beings we know, R29 creative director Piera Gelardi, who somehow manages to work twelve hours a day and still make home-cooked meals that turn into epic evening ragers.
I am notorious for running out of the office at the very last second before a dinner party. "I gotta run, I have guests coming over in 45!" People are confused... "How are you going to get it all done? Have you shopped yet?" My answer: "Nope!"
Hence, my cheat sheet to busy-girl entertaining. While I love to cook and source great local ingredients, make handmade pasta, etc. etc., the reality is that I have a crazy schedule (as I'm sure you do, too), and usually don't have time to go to such great lengths. But, I never want that to stop me from having friends and family over to share a meal at the last minute. So, here's my guide to entertaining well without spending a lot of time. No planning ahead, no sous chef, no Gwyneth Paltrow on speed dial… no stress required!
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Tip 5: Keep a few quality ingredients on hand. I'm usually stocked with a piece of good parmesan, a bottle of good olive oil, and some quality olives. I think having a few nice ingredients means you can pick everything else up at your regular supermarket (or souped-up deli). While it's amazing to have the best farmers' market ingredients and artisanal bread, if you're in a rush, that's sometimes just not possible.
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Tip 6: First stop: snacks. This is the best trick in the book because it buys you time. If you have snacks out as soon as guests arrive, they won't be famished and you won't feel as much pressure to finish cooking in a hurry. Plus, it draws out the dinner party and creates stages without your having to serve proper courses! And remember: Wine counts as a snack.
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Tip 7: Make a great playlist (or just download ours). You don't want to have to worry about DJing, so make a trusted playlist of great music that's fun but that guests can talk over. We suggest putting it on right when you get home to get you in the mood.
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Tip 12: Don't skip dessert! But don't make dessert either. You can't do it all, so plan for a dessert that's easy as, well, store-bought pie. My go-to is ice cream with berries and a little liqueur poured on top. It's pretty, super-easy, and a crowd pleaser. I'm also a fan of grapes, strawberries, and dark chocolate or regular old cookies and milk.