March 11, 2006 | Episode 10

Simple, stunning snacks will impress your guests
Simple, stunning snacks will impress your guests
Real Simple Television Productions Inc.


More Tips for Stress-Free Entertaining

No-fail tricks to ensure you enjoy your party, too

“The more organized you are, the more you do ahead of time, the less likely you are to be caught up in the stress-causing minutiae of entertaining,” says Kathy Gunst, author of Relax, Company’s Coming!: 150 Recipes for Stress-Free Entertaining. Here are her suggestions for saving time — and sanity.

Set the table the night before. “Not being able to find the serving spoon can completely flip me out,” admits Gunst. “The little things are what trip you up and cause you to ruin something.”

Figure out what utensils and serving platters you’re going to use for which dishes. “Organizational planning like this is simple,” says Gunst, “but it makes the final act of serving the food stress-free.”

Prechop onions or herbs, along with other things that will keep in the refrigerator.

When planning your menu, consider where the dishes need to be cooked. Does everything have to go into the oven at once? They probably won’t fit. And if you only have four burners on your stove, make sure you don’t have five things on your menu that need to be sautéed at the last minute.

Don’t be overly ambitious. “Doing a few dishes really well is so much better than multiple dishes done not so well,” says Gunst.

When you’re entertaining, especially during holidays, don’t try unfamiliar recipes. It may be stressful to work with a recipe you’ve never done before, and you don’t even know if you’re going to like the dish. It’s better to rely on things you know you enjoy and that you’ve successfully prepared before.

If someone asks, “Can I bring something?” Gunst says she never hesitates to say yes. “If you know your friends are busy,” she adds, “just ask them for a loaf of bread or a bottle of wine.”

Consider your amount of free time, your skill level, and the effort you’re willing to put into the preparation. For example, if you’re not up to the task of cooking your own chicken, pick up a premade rotisserie one and pair it with two homemade salads instead. It’ll still be delicious, and you’ll be more relaxed.

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