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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.
Is it a recipe or is it a craft? It’s both! I just loved the idea for showing off your cupcakes in such a unique way. It’s THE perfect centerpiece for Easter or for an upcoming baby shower.
While I was checking out the recipes on her site, I found this recipe for Angry Bird Cake Pops. Now you can literally feed your obsession. I LOVE it! My kids were so psyched to see this! As she says in the post, it’s a little complicated to make so I’m just going to look at the picture and drool.
If you have a kid-friendly recipe or craft idea for Easter that you’d like us to share, please send it in! We’d love to feature your creativity and if you have a blog site, we’re happy to give a link back. If you can, take a second and vote for us in the Leading Moms in Business contest. It only takes a click!
Now that Spring Break is over, are you feeling a little down in the dumps? Looking for a reason to organize a little family fun? Here’s a unique party idea that will be a big hit with adults and kids alike. Host a Post Spring Break Party. Invite family and friends over to see pictures and learn about everyone’s Spring Break travel fun. Or, if guests didn’t travel for Spring Break, this is the perfect opportunity to host a “Wish I Went on Spring Break” theme party. This party theme is a great way to entertain the kids and let the adults have some fun sharing or pretending, as well.
Get all of my ideas for food, decorations, games, and even goodie bag gifts in the Post Spring Break Family Party Plan I wrote for my friends at MemorableEntertaining.com. This is a free site, but you do need to register to access the party plans. While you are there, check out all of the kids’ party ideas I have contributed to this wonderful site with recipes, decorating and ideas to make your entertaining memorable. My friend Debra, the site founder, is THE Hostess with the Mostest!
Looking for something a little different and very fun to do this weekend with the family? Why not host an Oscar Party? Whether you invite another family over to help celebrate or keep the fun to yourselves, read my Family Friendly Oscar Party Ideas over at Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA)’s blog.
So, which movie would get your vote for Best Animated Movie this year? Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, or The Illusionist? I’m sticking with dragons.
Would you rather skip the Oscars and just watch a movie? Then check out my video on how to make movie night more fun.
There are some amazing recipes out there for Valentine’s Day treats for the kids. I went looking for the ones that would intrigue my kids (and me) the most. Make them ahead of time to surprise the kids when they come home from school on Valentine’s Day or you can prepare any of these recipes WITH the kids for even more fun on Valentine’s Day.
Sprinklebakes.com is a very cool baking site and I just love these flaming Chocolate Cupcakes. While she is pushing them as romantic, I would push them as worthy of amazing the kids. I would definitely keep the liquor and the flame out of the kids’ hands, but having them gaze upon a cupcake that is on fire would heat up Mom’s coolness factor. (Note: Although you need to add liquor to make the flame, the heat burns away the alcohol so kids can still eat it. Or, light some on fire but keep some liquor free cupcakes on the side to serve the kids after the “show.”)
This Box of Chocolates Cake from AmazingMoms.com is pretty cool as well.
Here’s an idea for some family fun. Does your family like to play games? Do you know other “gaming” families? Why not start a Game Night Club? I have been trying to start a Gourmet Club with some friends in my area where we would get together every other month to cook, gnosh, and have fun over fabulous food. It would be a great excuse to actually start making those recipes I pull out of my food “porn” magazines. But it got me thinking about a Game Night Club as well. It would save you money since you wouldn’t be going out, you can include the kids so no sitter needed, and you can use the games you already have in your closet. Well, put like that, what are you waiting for?
Here’s how it would work:
Find 2 or 3 other families to join and pick a consistent date to get together like the third Sunday of every month or the first Saturday of every quarter so that it is easier for people to keep their calendars clear. Consistency makes it easier to plan and creates anticipation.
Choose a host for the first Game Night. You can rotate houses going forward so you only have to clean your house every now and then. The host family provides drinks and a snack. Other families bring a snack to share, as well. Set up a kids game table and an adult game table, if you want, especially if you have big age gaps in the attendees where you need more age-appropriate games. You can also have several tables set up around the house with different games and adults and kids alike can travel from table to table as the games are completed. Try to make sure that no one is sitting out at any time. That leads to boredom which leads to unruliness which leads to a ruined evening. (You know I’m talking about the adults here, right?)
Get some prizes for the winners or inexpensive little trinkets for everyone to get in a festive mood. Candy bars, ribbons or medals, and small drink umbrellas seem to make everyone feel like a winner.
Finally, the host family gets to pick the games. Not everyone will like every game but that is part of the experience – trying new games or playing a game you never would have chosen yourself. When you host, it’s your choice. However, the guests do get some veto power. Anyone can ask to stop a game, but at least one or two others have to agree that the game is lame and then you can move on. Over time you’ll start to recognize the types of games that work well for the personalities and preferences of the group.
Most importantly, have a good time.
Stay tuned, on Friday, we are going to announce a Family Game Night Giveaway. It will be the perfect prize to get your Family Game Night Club started.
To make your Family Game Night extra special, you need to add some great food. Really, that rule applies to anything but there are some special considerations for choosing the best Game Night food offerings. Are you eating dinner while playing or just looking for some snacks? Are you going to take breaks during game play to eat or gnosh while playing? If you are eating while playing, make sure your food offerings are easy to eat with your hands and are non-greasy. The last thing you want is to get grease stains all over the cards or have your favorite game smell like buffalo sauce for the next 12 years. If you are going to take a break between games to eat, then anything goes.
Here are some suggestions for spicing up your Game Night with the perfect food pairings.
Keep it Simple
If Family Game Night is on Friday after a long work week and you are just looking to unwind, keep it low maintenance by ordering in pizza, making chocolate chip cookie bars, or setting up an ice cream sundae bar. (Read my post on how to set up an awe-inspiring ice cream sundae bar.) Indulge in your favorite munchies like popcorn, Chex Mix, or movie theater style candy boxes. Grab some of those gourmet popcorn toppings to literally spice up your snacks.
If I am out and about on Game Night day I like to stop by my favorite Mexican restaurant and get some guacamole and chips and salsa to go. Nothing says Fiesta! like chips and salsa.
If you are inviting friends over, keep it simple by having everyone bring either a dessert or snack to share.
A Little Extra Effort
If you are feeling more inspired, try out some of those appetizer recipes you keep marking in food magazines and then never making. Game Night is the perfect excuse. Here are some recipes I’m dying to try:
Do you have a killer appetizer recipe that you always make when you are invited to a party where you need to bring a dish? It’s easy, everyone raves about it and asks for the recipe but you only get to make it once a year because NO ONE EVER INVITES YOU ANYWHERE! (Hint, hint people!) Well, Game Night is the perfect excuse to make it just for yourself. Here’s my “Go To” appetizer recipe that people always rave about.
Don’t Forget the Drinks
For the adults, have some beer in the fridge, make a pitcher of margaritas, or try out that new drink recipe you’ve been oogling. (See Rachel Ray’s site for some great drink recipes.) Don’t leave the kids out, though. Make non-alcoholic versions of the new drink recipes for the kids. Or, let them have a special drink they don’t normally get. My kids rarely get juice boxes or soda so Game Night is special to them because they can have these high-calorie drinks. Or, make homemade milk shakes. Always a kid pleaser.
Have a “Go To” appetizer recipe that you make all the time because it’s easy, travels well, but most importantly is super tasty? I wanted to share mine because I think it would be perfect for any upcoming Super Bowl, Oscar, or “Winter Blah” Family Game Night Parties.
Goat Cheese and Spinach Pesto Spread
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1 3-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar (7 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped
Crackers or french bread
To make the pesto: Place garlic in food processor fitted with metal blade and process to mince. Add basil, spinach, parsley and pine nuts and puree. Pour oil slowly into processor through feed tube with machine running. Process until combined. Add Parmesan cheese and combine. Add pepper to taste.
Mix goat cheese and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer or with a hand mixer until smooth. Spread cheese mixture on bottom of 10-inch quiche pan or glass pie pan. Spread pesto on top. Sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Refrigerate, covered for 3 hours or until set. Serve with crackers (I prefer Rosemary crackers) or crostini. Note: To make this recipe even easier, you can buy store bought pesto. But the flavor of this pesto as well as the deep green color provided by the spinach makes it worth the extra effort.
I love to entertain! Whether it is a small dinner party, a casual pizza party with the neighbors, a family celebration, or cool kids party, I love to plan, host and most importantly have some party fun. But I’m a busy Mom so although I want my party preparations to be memorable, I want them easy as well. I want to spend more time having fun at the party than planning it!
So, I was thrilled when my friend Debra Delaney-Kavalos announced that her fabulous site MemorableEntertaining.com was now free to all. I have had a subscription for her home entertaining site for over a year now and it is my Go-To source for ideas on recipes, party themes, or simple, but Wow! decorations. She has some wonderful recipe contributions from local and national chefs. I was excited when she asked me to submit some Kids’ Parties last year because it challenged me to come up with some unique ideas.
Head on over to MemorableEntertaining.com and register to become a user. It’s now a free resource site, but you do need to register. Then check out my Kids’ Sledding Party here.