My husband and I love to entertain. We enjoying cooking, throwing parties, and spending time with our friends … both with and without kids. Entertaining gives us the motivation to clean up the house once in a blue moon, as well. But, every now and then we get frustrated because it seems like we never get invited to anyone else’s house. We finally asked some of our friends about it. Are we bad guests? Do we smell weird? Do we plug the toilet? Do we bring bad wine?
The majority of them told us, no (phew!), it was because they are intimidated about entertaining people at their house. They want to be hospitable and see friends more often, but they are afraid to invite anyone over. It means they have to clean and they don’t know how to cook a big, fancy meal. While we understand and emphathize with the sentiment, my husband and I need to get out of our house every now and then! We want to socialize with friends … in a different setting. I read all of the time that cocktail parties are popular again, people are coccooning and staying in more, and that intimate gatherings are all the social rage. Really? I also heard a comedian one time do a bit about how Americans spend an obscene amount of money on our houses and then never let anyone see them.
So, I have put together 5 fun and easy ideas on ways to entertain friends (ie. invite us over) at your house, without a lot of hassle. Before we get into the ideas, though, get over the fear of cleaning up your house. As long as there isn’t mold growing out of your guest bathroom toilet, your friends won’t judge you. They just want to spend time with you. Your other parent friends are incredibly forgiving. We have piles of toys, papers and other gear laying around our house just like you do. We are also sleep deprived so we don’t even notice what we are sitting on most days.
1. Soup Recipe Party - Make a soup. Your favorite, fail proof soup recipe. Or your Mom’s recipe. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Then, ask your friends to bring their favorite soup and to bring a copy of the recipe to share. Buy some French bread or corn bread as a side. Buy a ready made salad and some bottles of salad dressing. Throw it in a large bowl. Buy some styrofoam cups. Everyone can then use the styrofoam cups as their soup bowls to take a sample serving of each soup at the party. The styrofoam cups sit on a strong paper plate fairly nicely. Pass out the recipes to all guests. Viola! You have dinner served and you only had to make one soup. (You can also do this with chili. Everyone makes chili differently.)
2. Burger Bar - We have these burger bar parties all summer with our neighbors, friends, and family because it is easy. Get some ready made burger patties and buns. Then, buy some wild toppings and set them out on the counter so people can build their own burger. Pepper jack cheese, white cheddar, blue cheese, and smoked provolone are all good. Add bacon (buy ready made), grilled or raw onions, and even avocado slices. Then add sauces – BBQ, chipotle mayo, steak sauce, and salsa. See what you can find at your grocery store. The only cooking you’ll do is throwing the burgers on the grill. Buy some prepared cole slaw, chips, and brownies. You’re done. Low fuss but maximum impact. You’ll seem like a gourmet cook, when all you did was not burn the burgers.
3. Order In - When we have invited friends over and then were too tired to pull off cooking a big meal, we order in from a favorite restaurant. We usually provide the appetizer and dessert ourselves. You can buy some great prepared ones at Costco. Then, we order in the main meal. It’s less expensive than meeting friends at the restaurant because you’ll save money on the drinks, appetizers, and dessert. Nobody cares whether you cooked the meal or not. It’s all about the getting together.
4. Cocktail or Dessert Party – It’s easier to host a cocktail party or dessert party than to plan and cook a full dinner. So, invite people over after 7:30 p.m. for drinks and/or dessert. Bake a cake or a few different cookies, add coffee, and you’re done. Make or buy 3 or 4 different appetizers, whip up a pitcher of cosmos, and you have a cocktail party. Put out some small napkins and you’ll look like a pro. Prep time and clean-up for these parties is a lot easier than full dinners. It’s also easy to buy great tasting appetizers and desserts, if you don’t want to cook.
5. Parties. They’re not just for dinner anymore – - Host an afternoon tea party or cookie exchange. No dinner necessary, just some light snacks. Have a wine tasting party in the late evening and just provide cheese and crackers. Host a card party and provide nuts, pretzels, chex mix, and brownies on the tables. Invite another family over on Sunday afternoon for an ice cream sundae. Entertaining doesn’t always mean dinner, so be creative with your time and theme.
I hope these ideas have given you the confidence to go pick up the phone and invite someone over. Don’t forget about us. Have any other ideas on simple ways to entertain? We’d love to hear it.