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04.13.2000

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hosting a divine Dinner party
without losing your mind
 |  13
continued from page 1

3 Ask guests ahead of time about any food restrictions.
Thereís nothing worse than slaving all day over a beautiful roast chicken only to discover that half your guests are vegetarian and wonít touch your food. When in doubt, go vegetarian. Still Iíd recommend checking on dietary quirks, just to be safe; you may discover that one of your guests is vegan, another allergic to garlic Ö all considerations that should be taken into account when preparing your feast.

4 Choose dishes that can largely be prepared ahead of time.
Wash, peel and chop up ingredients ahead of time; prepare sauces in advance, if the sauce so allows. Blanche slower-cooking veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc. Ė youíll just need to sautť them for a minute or two in the final sauce to reheat. Avoid anything that requires hours of roasting Ö the hot oven will turn the kitchen into a boiler room, and thereís nothing like sweltering heat to make you feel even more frazzled than you already are.

5 Make enough for 2 more than the number of people you expect.
Itís always better to have leftovers (you can enjoy them for lunch the next day) than to be faced with skimping on portions because your guests have bigger appetites than you anticipated. On the other hand, you donít want to grossly overestimate your required quantities, either, since no matter how tasty your dishes may be, you donít want to be eating them twice a day for the next week.

6 Do the dishes/load them in the dishwasher as youíre going along with the prep work. 
Whenever you have a spare moment from cooking, wash the dirty dishes or rinse and load them into the dishwasher. Itíll prevent them from piling up unattractively on the countertops, and itíll help you work more efficiently by keeping your workspace navigable.

7 Set out something tasty for guests to nibble on when they arrive.
No doubt youíll still be in the kitchen, fussing around with the final cooking and preparation of your food, when the first guests start appearing on your doorstep. Set out some snacks before everyone shows up -- give your guests something to munch on, so that they wonít just be standing around idly, waiting for you to finish up what youíre doing. A plate of antipasti, chips and salsa, raw veggies and dip, hummus and pita, assorted nuts, will all work fine -- Iíd avoid serving anything too heavy, however, as you donít want your guests to spoil their appetites.

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