Hosting a dinner party can be daunting, especially when you don’t have a ton of time (read: you have kids) or you haven’t done it in a while (also: kids). Fall is the perfect time to give it a try, because there’s an abundance of amazing fruit and vegetables available from the farmers market (which makes simple dishes taste even better) and fall evenings outside (bring out a heat lamp or two and some cozy blankets if it gets chilly!) are the perfect venue for a festive get together. We love these five tips from Megan Sullivan of The Local Moms Network that will get you started:
Curate a Guest List
Putting together a guest list filled with people from different parts of your life and different backgrounds is the starting place for a lively night. “It keeps the conversation lively and will give the opportunity for you to catch up with many different people,” says Megan.
Keep the Menu Simple
“Nowadays, with everyone’s dietary restrictions, coming up with a menu might be difficult – but stick to basics and don’t try new recipes for the first time!” says Megan. Here is her menu for a recent dinner party for a large group of friends:
Grilled Salmon (rubbed with olive oil, salt pepper, fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon and tossed on the Big Green Egg for 8 to 10 minutes on medium heat; if cooking in the oven, 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees)
Roasted Potatoes – (small potatoes from the farmers market, cut in half and tossed with salt, pepper and olive oil, before being cooked on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until bottom is brown and crispy). “The key is to resist tossing and turning,” says Megan. “Make some aioli but putting siracha, mayo, garlic powder and salt in a dish, mix it up and serve with the potatoes.”
Colorful, Easy Salad (spring mix, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese and walnuts with apple cider vinaigrette)
Grilled or Roasted Veggie (asparagus and/or Brussel sprouts)
Flourless Chocolate Cake (Megan makes with homemade whipped cream. “This is a great option because Flourless Chocolate Cake is Gluten Free and easy to make. But we have so many amazing local bakeries, I also sometimes save time by just picking one up!”)
Prep Ahead of Time
“I prep everything ahead of time so everything is ready to be cooked when guests arrive or just quickly reheated,” says Megan. This step includes setting the table and prepping the appetizers.
Megan says this basil margarita is a go-to for her. ‘I once read an article about hosting from Martha Stewart (love her!) and she said that the host/hostess sets the mood for the event when guests enter. One of her keys: have a cocktail/wine in hand!” Setting up a tequila bar (“guests love mixing and matching their own cocktails”), as well as having a premixed cocktail pitcher, wine and mocktails, makes sure that everyone gets what they like.
It is a party after all, right? Megan suggests using place cards so people aren’t sitting next to spouses, and meet someone new. “Sometimes I do girls on one side and boys on the other, sometimes I totally mix everyone up. When doing this it’s always fun to have an “ice breaker”, so on the back of each place card I have a funny question or fact. We go around the table and answer – it’s fun,” says Megan. “At the end of the meal we often play games as we move to dessert.”
Every party needs a playlist. Says Megan: “My go-to for a dinner party is Mumford and Sons playlist on Pandora!”
This story originally appeared on The Local Moms Network.