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Easy home entertaining

Posted: May 25, 2010 3:46 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Bruschetta bar with toppings trio Toast slices of baguette in the oven. Toppings can be added to bruschetta before serving or can be displayed in bowls for guests to top themselves.

Hosting get-togethers at home can often be stressful with all of the elements to consider — the invitation, the décor, and most importantly, the food and beverages. Planning the perfect party can overwhelm even the most seasoned hostess, but there are easy solutions for making your event memorable without becoming inundated.

Jen Isham, entertaining expert and finalist on “The Next Food Network Star,” offers her suggestions for hosting a hassle-free social gathering.

  • Chances are that your guests won’t recall the design of your invitations or the color of your cocktail napkins, so use an eco-friendly electronic invitation with an appropriate theme and stick with matching monochrome plates and flatware. That leaves you time to focus on the factors that will stick in their minds most — the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

  • If you’re not exactly a master mixologist but still want to wow your guests with drinks, try serving Godiva liqueur on the rocks. Isham notes, “This simple drink can be pre-poured before guests arrive so that they have a beverage in hand within minutes of arriving. Try chilling the bottle before­hand, then just add ice when they enter the party.” Your visitors will undoubtedly be grateful for the warm (or cool) welcome.

Once guests have arrived and mingling has com­menced, you’ll have a bit of time to use your creativity behind the bar. Your arrival drink can easily become the beverage du jour with some festive garnishes.

“Try using melted chocolate or different-colored sugars to rim glasses of Godiva liqueur over ice,” suggests Isham.

  • Moisten the rim of the glass and fill a shallow bowl or plate with your garnish of choice.

  • Hold the glass sideways and dab the rim into the garnish while slowly turning so that only the outer edge is covered.

  • Then simply add ice, using tongs, and pour Godiva Liqueur into the glass for a tempting and festive drink!

  • Consider stocking up on all varieties so your guests can have their pick of chocolate, white chocolate, mocha and caramel flavors. For those who are looking to go above and beyond in delivering the perfect cock­tail presentation, use different forms of ice and glass­ware to provide variety.

  • When it comes to planning party food, the trick is to keep it simple.

  • No-cook appetizers are a perfect no-fuss option for entertaining, which leaves more time for socializ­ing with guests. Isham says, “Assorted nuts, cheeses, olives and preserved fruits in silver or gold bowls make for a lovely and chic appetizer spread with no time wasted slaving away in the kitchen.” For an upscale hors d’oeuvres that still saves time, try Isham’s Bruschetta bar with toppings trio recipes.

  • Rather than serving buffet-style in your dining room, Isham suggests utilizing all areas of the house with food and beverage stations. This will lead to your guests mingling and moving about so no one has the chance to be a wallflower.

    Kalamata tapenade topping
        1     jar kalamata olives
            (drained and pitted)
        1     jar capers (drained)
        2     cloves of garlic
        3     anchovies

    1.    Blend to a rough paste.

    2.    Top toasted baguette slices with mixture and serve on decorative plate.

    Herbed mushroom topping
        1/2     tablespoon butter
        1     tablespoon olive oil
        2     cups sliced
            mushrooms (any
            variety will work)
        2     garlic cloves,
        1     small shallot,
        3     sprigs fresh thyme
            Crumbled goat
            Salt and pepper to

    1.    Heat butter and olive oil in sauté pan and sear sliced mushroom, garlic, shallots and thyme sprigs until browned on each side.

    2.    Top toasted baguette slices with warm mushrooms and crumble goat cheese on top.

    Balsamic red onion topping
        2     tablespoons olive oil
        2     red onions, sliced    
        1/4     cup balsamic
        1/2     cup granulated
            Coarse black pepper
    1.    Heat olive oil in sauté pan and cook onions down over medium high heat until soft.

    2.    Turn down heat to medium, add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Stir constantly until vinegar is thickened.

    3.    Top toasted baguettes with onion mixture and garnish with coarse ground black pepper.


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