My mom is an entertainer extraordinaire. Whether faced with a perfectly planned party or a surprise visit from friends, she is unfailingly prepared with a delicious snack, a glass of wine (or freshly brewed tea), and a welcoming smile for her guests. It’s an ability that I admire, and one that I always hope I am able to emulate.
In a spur-of-the-moment decision this week, I decided to invite a few friends over to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday. It wasn’t until after I hit “send” that I remembered I had offered to cover a friend’s shift at work the same afternoon—I’d have less than an hour to get home, prepare snacks, and straighten up before my friends arrived. I took a deep breath, assuming that my last-minute email (sent out late Wednesday night) would result in only one or two yeses and a low-key evening. Of course, almost everyone was able to come, and I was faced with putting together a comfortable, entertaining, and satisfying party with 60 minutes of preparation time.
Instead of panicking, I decided to channel my mother. Here’s my advice, inspired by her, for throwing a casual party when you’re short on time to prepare:
- Make it a potluck-style party. Ask everyone to chip in and bring their favorite dish or snack. Most guests will be happy to bring at least a small something, and others will be excited to show off their cooking prowess. This way, everyone is sure to have something they like, and you’ll get to learn a bit more about your friends’ favorite things. Bonus: All the preparation—and stress—isn’t left to you.
- Serve food that can be made ahead of time and served at room-temperature or quickly heated up. If you’re able to do all the prep-work the night before, you’ll save yourself the stress of throwing something together at the last minute. My go-to favorites are homemade Chex Mix (look for the recipe on the side of Chex or Crispix boxes) and oatmeal Nutella cookies, which are surprisingly easy to throw together and are always a big hit.
- Keep it simple. Some of the best and most crowd-pleasing recipes are the easiest to throw together. This classic southern recipe for meatballs does double duty: not only does it only call for three easy-to-find ingredients, but you can just throw them all in the Crockpot, let it heat for a few hours, and enjoy them at your party. Bonus: Leave them in the Crockpot and they’ll stay warm (and delicious) all night.
2 12 ounce jars Heinz chili sauce
1 32 ounce jar grape jelly
1 bag frozen meatballs (80 count)
Directions: Mix chili sauce and jelly. Add meatballs, heat until warm.
If all else fails, and you absolutely don’t have time to make something home-made (or even heat something up), there is no shame in running to the grocery store and buying a veggie tray, fruit tray, or other pre-made party platter. Bring it home, rearrange on a serving dish of your choosing, and no one will be at all the wiser. Plus, you may get bonus points for cutting up all the vegetables/fruit/cheese yourself, earning yourself the title of entertainer extraordinaire.
For the recipe for Nutella oatmeal cookies, click here.