It's always been easier to eat out when getting together with friends, but in the last couple of years as we've improved our cooking skills, we've been enjoying entertaining and "eating in" at home. We used to be afraid of preparing food for guests, but entertaining doesn't have to be scary, in fact we actually love doing it now. Not only can we relax in the comfort of our home, but we can also control what's going into our food and prepare for special requests like food sensitivities, gluten-free foods and organics. With #JustCook by Club House we are helping to inspire a generation of busy foodies by re-discovering cooking and eating in at the next best restaurant – your very own kitchen.
When you entertain you want it to be impressive, and make people feel special. We used to worry about things like matching napkins and plates, or even not having enough utensils. But the important thing is entertaining should be fun and doesn't have to be complicated. Not having matching plates shouldn't keep you from doing it.
When we prepare for entertaining we like to keep it simple, so we're not spending the entire time in the kitchen when guests arrive. So planning ahead is key and to help, we've created 9 steps for preparing a dinner party at home that we always use as a guide.
1. Create a Theme
Whether it's a birthday, or just because, make a basic theme from food to decor. Guests will feel special if you make that extra effort to entertain them. Even if the theme is the food, if you're serving Mexican for example, then decorate with colourful flowers.
2. Send out Invites
A couple weeks before, be sure to send out invites to make sure everyone invited can make it. Plus it just makes the party that much more special.
3. Prepare the Menu
Tackle this with ease in mind. You don't want to be preparing Salmon Wellington or a Chateau Briand unless it's old hat to you. Find something simple, maybe a twist on an old favorite, test out the recipe beforehand (if you've never made it before) and make sure it's something you'll feel confident preparing for friends. For inspiring ideas for simple home-cooked recipes visit justcookcanada.com. Try a simple roast beef, a pasta dish or a one pot dish you can prepare the day before. Make a shopping list and cooking schedule. Shop for food approximately 3 days before and remember great recipes start with authentic and quality ingredients like Club House herbs and spices. Do as much of the cooking as you can one day before.
4. Pick the Decor
We've always loved flowers and when we first began entertaining we found it was one of the easiest and cheapest ways of decorating our dinner table. It's really simple to put together a floral runner with fresh cut flowers from your grocer. Look for bright, in-season varieties. Mums and carnations have been given a bad rap in the past, but we actually love the almost fluorescent versions! Pick up flowers the day before the party. Then arrange and set the table the night before.
5. Setting the Table
About a week before do an inventory on your table set up. If you don't enough matching linens for all your guests and don't want to spend a heap of money buying a new set, one of our favorite things we like to do is pick up some cheap bandanas to use as runners or napkins. Another idea is to make your own napkins out of a pair of old jeans (like we did below). If you don't have a sewing machine, no worries; leave the denim to fray. Wash and iron all linens.
Don't worry if you don't have matching plates. Sometimes the prettiest tables are the ones where things are mismatched. Mix them together with same colours, or balance them by placing them in opposite place settings (like below).
Also, when it comes to having friends over for a casual dinner, don't worry too much about where the salad fork should be placed. This is a fun dinner party and maybe switch things around to make the setting interesting.
Create a seating plan if needed.
6. Make a Playlist
Create something that will last long enough for the entire party, blends in and won't disrupt the conversation. Do this a week or two before the party.
7. Clean the House
A week before the party, do a deep cleaning of the entire house (or where the guests will see), and a day before, do a touch-up to make sure all is well.
8. Organize the Entertaining Area
Check the flow of your entertaining space and if you need to, re-arrange furniture to create conversation areas in your living areas; if you're hosting a bar, create and restock all beverage items and build the bar, assess lighting and candle placement.
9. Stop and Smell the Roses
Literally. Stop to enjoy your party! No one has fun if the hostess is hung up in the kitchen all night cooking and doing dishes. Prepare well in advance, and never, ever let your guests do the dishes. Leave the mess be in the kitchen until everyone has left.