Stress free dinner party – Is it a myth? Dinner parties always sound like a great idea in theory but when you’re rushing around the house, vacuuming and throwing your dirty laundry into a cupboard, the glamour tends to wear off. Here are some simple tips for a stress free dinner party that will keep stress levels to a minimum and ensure you have as much fun as your guests. A huge thanks to Anna Lisle – Former My Kitchen Rules Contestant from www.annalisle.com.au
Select a time-conscious menu–You don’t need to be a pro chef to nail the food at a dinner party; it’s all about choosing the right menu. For a stress free dinner party select dishes that you’ve cooked before. This is simply advice but when you have a table of guests, now is not the time to bang out a cheese soufflé that you saw on MasterChef the night before. Opt for dishes that can be made ahead of time and require minimal effort to serve.
Go banquet style – If you get flustered and distracted easily, go for a banquet-style dinner party with shared dishes that can be placed in the middle of the table and guests can help themselves. Not only will you have most of the work before your guests even step in the door but you’ll have most of the washing and cleaning up already done too!
Time management – Once you’ve selected your menu, write down a schedule, breaking it up into “three days before”, “two days before” and “the day of”. If you’re using frozen meats or ingredients, make sure you remember to allow time for defrosting.
Double check – For a stress free dinner party it sounds a little silly but when inviting your guests for dinner, ask them if there is anything they don’t eat. You don’t want to be spend a fortune on a rib eye steak if your guest isn’t eating red meat.
Lists, lists, lists – Write down a detailed shopping list with everything you need for the night – this includes candles, flowers, napkins etc, and do the shopping ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than standing in the queue at Coles on Saturday afternoon when you’re lamb was meant to be in the oven half an hour ago.
Pick up the phone – For any key ingredients, such as the main protein, give your local butcher or fishmonger a call to make sure he has it in stock. This will ensure that you’ll get the right quantity and that the ingredients are fresh.
Ask for help – There’s no shame in asking a guest to bring a salad or pick up a cake for dessert. Your friends are happy to help (and if they aren’t, maybe you need new friends).
Prep work – When you’re writing your time management plan, read through each of your recipes and make of note of things you can do ahead of time. Chopping vegetables and getting out plates/knives and forks are all huge time savers and will help keep stress levels at a minimum.
Dinner parties aren’t all about the food – It’s important to remember why you’re actually having a dinner party; to spend time with your guests. When you think about the most memorable dinners, the food often has nothing to do with them. It is about your company, the mood and atmosphere.
Set the table the night before – The last thing you want to be doing when your guests are about to walk in the door is rushing around putting out napkins and placemats. Despite what many people would presume, setting the table takes time too. Remember to iron your tablecloth beforehand and get vases out for the flowers to be arranged last minute. If you’re super organised like my mum, you can do this a week in advance but just make sure you cover the whole table with a sheet to keep it dust free.
Plan your night – Sure, you’re not having the Queen over for dinner but giving yourself some timeframes really does help to minimise stress. If your guests arrive at 7.30, work towards getting the entree served by 8.45 and the main at 9.30. Once you’ve worked out when you want the dishes served, work backwards by giving yourself times as to when you will start the final prep for the entree, what time you put the meat in the oven and so on. For a stress free dinner party there should be no guesswork on the night!
Keep your benches tidy – Not only does this make you feel as though you’re in control, your guests will be more relaxed too. There’s nothing worse than walking into a house when there’s mess everywhere – it makes your guests feel as though they’ve made you work too hard. Dinner parties should be fun for the host and guests.
Stay focused – You don’t need to be on an army regimen with the night broken up into 15 minute intervals but don’t get so distracted that you forget the chicken in the oven.
Plan your drinks – If you want to make cocktails, pick one simple drink that’s easily prepared and make sure you have an alcoholic and non-alcoholic option. If you’re drinking wine, chill your white wines and open the bottles of red wine before your guests arrive, so that they have time to breathe.
Buy extra ice – Whether it’s for your soft drinks, a cocktail mixer or to keep the meat cool while you wait for your guests to arrive, a party can never have enough ice.
Make sure your cheeses are at room temperature – A cheese or nibbles platter is a dinner party essential. Having food on-hand, as soon as your guests walk in the door is a sure-fire winner. Getting your platter (even if it’s just a bowl of nuts or olives) put out ahead of time will help you avoid those first few chaotic moments when your guests arrive.
Give yourself a break – There are always things you can’t anticipate; like the BBQ running out of gas or forgetting to preheat the oven. The key message for a stress free dinner party is give yourself a break and remember your guests are here to enjoy your company- good food is a bonus!