Although they’re more work for you than for your guests, dinner parties can be a lot of fun to throw. Successful dinner parties are full of great food and lively conversation -- and yes, you can show off cooking skills, as well. To make large tasks like a dinner party easier, break them down into smaller goals and write everything down.
Busy Parents Party
As a busy parent, you value anything that can help you feed your family in ways that are quick and easy. Chances are that you know other busy parents who feel the same way. Get your busy parent friends together and plan a pot-luck, busy parent dinner party. Each parent should bring ingredients for their favorite easy dish that’s a hit with their family. Then, each parent can show the other parents at the party how to prepare the dish. At the end, all the parents try each other’s food. Gather recipes beforehand so you can make a handout for each parent to take home; you’ll have the most important test out of the way -- each recipe is family-tested and approved for taste before it enters your kitchen.
Miniature Meal Party
Many people like to graze on a lot of smaller foods instead of filling up on big plates of food -- a miniature meal party is the perfect solution. Break out the mini-quiches, slider-style hamburgers and petit fours. Make miniature pizzas using toasted English muffins for crusts. Carve bowls into dinner rolls and fill them with a small amount of soup, if you're serving it. A platter of fancy-cut veggies and creamy dip will help round out the meal. There's a reason miniature candy bars are usually sold as "fun size."
If all your guests are teenagers and older, throw a mystery dinner party that combines food and a game. Write your own murder mystery script, or use one from a book or website devoted to mystery party themes. Suit the food to the script, then play the game as you eat. For example, if your murder mystery takes place at a picnic, serve the types of food you’d find at a picnic: deviled eggs, fruit salad and cold chicken or creamy chicken salad are some options.
Parents-Only Dinner Party
Every once in awhile, you need a night away from your kids -- your busy parent friends do, too. Once everyone has found a babysitter, throw a fancy dinner party filled with foods you love, but that your kids may not like very much. Include adult favorites like stuffed olives, pate, salmon mousse with toast points or an antipasto platter with exotic cured meats. Poll the other parents you’re inviting and create a menu based on things you all miss. For example, many adults love liver and sauteed onions or a steamed whole fish, but they're not necessarily big hits with kids. Use your fine tableware and linens and have everyone dress nicely for the meal.
- "The Professional Chef," The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
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