Why Go Out? Go In!
Your Guide to Entertaining at Home
By: Courtenay Patterson
Picture this: it’s a Friday afternoon. You’re sitting at your desk at work, staring at your computer screen, the little clock in the corner seemingly at a standstill, trying to finish one last project before the weekend. Your mind starts to wander to what new, exciting, entertaining things you can do with your friends during your 2-day respite from the 8-5 grind. You send out a text to your girlfriends: “Hey Gals! Let’s go check out (insert name of hot new club/bar/restaurant) tonight! Meet at my place at 7 to get ready and pre-party!” Now, some of you may be thinking, “I love those nights! Getting done up and checking out the latest scene is my ideal Friday/Saturday night with my girls.”
But if you’re like me, receiving such a text immediately conjures up images in your head of putting on skimpy clothes and uncomfortable, too-high heels, traffic, no parking, long lines, and expensive drinks, not to mention way-too-loud music and way-too-drunk guys, both of which ruin the chances of having any sort of meaningful conversations with your friends. No thank you.
So the next time you get one of those texts, or perhaps even before you do, why not message your friends: “Hey Ladies! Why go out? Let’s go in!” Wait, what? What do you mean, go in?
Rather than deal with the traffic, crowds, and expense of going out with your girlfriends, invite them over and entertain at home. While it may sound like a lot of work, it is actually quite fun, cost-effective, low-effort, and allows you the opportunity to spend time sitting around and chatting with your friends in a relaxed environment, without having to yell over blaring music or avoid people bumping into and/or spilling their drinks on you.
Summer is the perfect time to round up your girlfriends and have them over for a casual get-together. Here is your guide to at-home entertaining. We’ve even included a few recipes (and some easy alternatives for those of you who are already too short on time) that are sure to be a hit amongst your friends:
1. Make it a theme night
If you want to spice things up a bit, pick a theme for your at-home get-together. Have a Mexican fiesta one night, complete with margaritas and build-your-own taco bar, and a good ol’ fashioned bar-b-que when a friend hosts the next time. You can even top if off with cute decorations that go with your theme, or little take-home favors for your friends!
2. Spread out the work and make it a potluck
One of the first things that probably goes through most people’s heads when they think of hosting a party or entertaining at home is the amount of work associated with it, between buying the food and drinks, all of the prep work, cooking, cleaning up…it can certainly seem overwhelming. So don’t try and take on all of the tasks yourself. By having a potluck, you only have to deal with cooking one dish and the rest of the food is everyone else’s responsibility. For example, if you’re having a bar-b-que, let everyone know you’ll cook the chicken or burgers, and ask your guests to bring all the associated side dishes. It will cut down on the amount of time (and money) you personally have to spend on the get-together, especially since you’ve already graciously opened up your home as the venue.
3. Skip dinner! Stick with heavy hors d’oeuvres
There’s no requirement that you have a full-blown dinner when hosting a gathering at your home. A popular alternative is cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres, such as shrimp dip and bread or cocktail meatballs. Typically if you’re sitting around chatting and snacking on heartier appetizers, your guests won’t be hungry enough for a complete dinner anyway. Plus, asking each guest to bring their favorite appetizer gets your guests involved (again saving you time and money) and will result in a much larger variety of food in which everyone can indulge.
4. No backyard? No problem!
Do you live in an apartment or someplace that doesn’t have a backyard suitable for entertaining? No big deal…just head to a nearby park instead. Most parks have small charcoal BBQs and picnic tables, so all you need to bring is the food and your friends. Just remember, though, that on the weekends in the summer, parks often get reserved in advance by people having summer birthdays and other gatherings, so if you’re thinking of having a get-together at a park, plan ahead!
Drink: Mango-Peach Fizz
– 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed (1 ½ cups)
– 1 large ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and cubed (1 cup)
– ½ cup unsweetened mango, peach, or orange juice
– 1+ tablespoon sugar (add more if you want it sweeter)
– Peach schnapps or peach-flavored seltzer water
– Cold club soda or champagne
1. In a blender, puree mango, peach, fruit juice (mango peach or orange), and sugar (adding more sugar if puree is too tart). Puree can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated.
2. For each fizz, fill tall glasses with ice cubes. Pour 2 tablespoons each of puree and peach schnapps or peach-flavored seltzer into each glass and top with cold club soda or champagne.
(Click on the following link to see the original recipe featured on Delish.com: http://www.delish.com/entertaining-ideas/parties/cocktail-parties/summer-cocktails
Easy alternative ~ A bottle of wine or mimosas are always a hit!
Dip: Healthy Spinach Dip
– 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
– 16 ounces fat free or light sour cream
– 3/4 cup light mayonnaise (made with canola or olive oil)
– 1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
– 8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (1 cup finely chopped jicama can be substituted)
– 3 green onions, chopped
– 1 large whole wheat sourdough round
1. In large mixing bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
2. Remove top and interior of whole wheat sourdough bread round making a bowl. Fill the bread bowl with the spinach dip mixture.
3. Cut the carved out bread into bite-sized cubes for dipping. You will probably need some additional whole wheat sourdough for 4 cups of dip. Serve the spinach dip-filled bread bowl with bread cubes.
(Click on the following link to see the original recipe featured on webmd.com: http://blogs.webmd.com/healthy-recipe-doctor/2010/12/spinach-dip-makeover.html
Easy alternative ~ Spicy Cheese Dip
– 1 can of Ro Tel tomatoes with green chilies, drained
– 1 package of Velveeta cheese (in a block, not slices), cut into cubes
– Microwave the drained tomatoes and cubed cheese until bubbly. Stir and serve with tortilla chips and/or sliced veggies
Salad: Chinese Chicken Salad
– 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
– 1 can mandarin oranges (11 oz.), drained
– About 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
– 4 fresh wonton wrappers, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips (To save time, you can use store-bought crispy wontons instead of frying your own, or substitute crunchy chow mein noodles)
– 6 cups finely shredded cabbage
– 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
– 1 large avocado, cubed
– 4 green onions (including green tops), sliced diagonally
– 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
– Spicy soy-ginger dressing * (recipe follows)
1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 quart water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, then plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
2. Pour the vegetable oil into a 3- to 4-quart pan (the oil should be about 1/2 inch deep) and set over medium-high heat. When oil reaches 350°, add wonton strips and fry, stirring, until golden brown on both sides, about 30 seconds total. Lift out with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. (Skip this step if using store-bought wontons or chow mein noodles.)
3. In a large serving bowl, toss the cabbage, chicken, and asparagus with the dressing (recipe, below). Top with avocado, mandarin oranges, and wonton strips, then garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
* Spicy soy-ginger dressing:
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Asian red chile sauce (such as Sriracha), and 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt to taste.
(Click on the following link to see the original recipe featured on myrecipes.com:http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/best-ever-chinese-chicken-salad-10000001194614/
Easy alternative ~ Costco sells a packaged Chinese chicken salad (lettuce not included) by Okami for $8.99 that is fantastic! It comes with two packages of cooked chicken, fried wonton strips, crunchy chow mein noodles, slivered almonds, and a slightly spicy peanut dressing. Pick up a bag of lettuce (Costco sells a 3-pound bag for $1.99!) and you’ve got yourself enough salad to easily feed 8-10 people.
Remember, Ladies…entertaining isn’t about impressing people, it’s about having fun! So the next time your friends suggest a night out on the town, why not save some money, spend quality time with your friends and just stay in!