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easy does it how to entertain without stressing yourself out by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
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5 easy mains
Speaking of real food, remember that good eats don't have to be complicated. Those dishes that seem boring because you can throw them together with your eyes closed? They're often the ones that folks like best. Think about it and it's no great mystery why: it's easy for you to cook that dish because you've made it a gazillion times. And the reason you've cooked it so often is generally because you really like the way it tastes.

For me, pasta with sautéed garlic and veggies is one of those no-recipe-needed, 30-minute meals that always goes over well. The key is simple: use good seasonal veggies, and serve with freshly grated real parmesan cheese (i.e. not the stuff that comes out of the canister). If that seems too pedestrian, just add a spice or flavoring like crushed red pepper (excellent with zucchini, broccoli, or really anything), lemon zest (perfect with asparagus, artichoke hearts, and green beans) and fresh herbs (basil and parsley are almost always welcome additions). No-cook sauces, meanwhile, offer a good choice for hot summer days, and can generally be thrown together -- in a nice, semi-cool spot in the kitchen that's far, far from the stove -- while the pasta cooks.

For more of a protein fix, try shrimp, which is super speedy to cook up, and guaranteed to be gobbled up by guests. Sprinkle with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper (add cayenne for kick) and grill it up in the summer, or sauté it with olive oil and plenty of sliced garlic when outdoor cooking isn't an option. Broiled or grilled fish is another easy eat; brush with olive oil or melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook. To pep things up, serve with salsa -- fresh tomato salsa, avocado salsa, fruit salsa, whatever you like. And if seafood isn't your thing, you can't go wrong with a classic roast chicken (a dish that should be in every quasi-adult's cooking repertoire, as it's ridiculously easy, thoroughly delectable, and very easy on the wallet).

6 easy desserts
Though I've started to come around to it these days, for a long time, I hated baking. Never knowing whether that cake I had labored over would turn out to be edible until I sliced into it with guests already gathered round -- way too much pressure. The solution? Dressed-up ice cream, of course. Using good vanilla ice cream as a nice neutral base, it's easy to build an ice cream concoction that's the perfect complement to any meal. For a traditional American menu, your roast chicken or burgers on the grill, for instance, make banana splits. Go Italian by adding ripe strawberries and a chocolate-covered biscotti, a sprinkle of pine nuts or crushed hazelnuts perhaps; for a Mexican meal, pair with chile-cinnamon-spiked chocolate sauce and crushed peanuts. Want something tropical? Add mango chunks, chopped macadamia nuts, and a sprig of fresh mint. Ice cream desserts are simple to prep, and infinitely flexible in their variations. And best of all, no surprises; this is one sweet that can always be relied on to go over well.

7 easy drinks
The easiest of easy drink options is, of course, the old beer or wine. But for only three minutes more work, you can play schmancy bartender with barely a fuss at all. Just choose one cocktail and make it the evening's signature drink. Mix up a big pitcher ahead of time and chill (minus any carbonated ingredients, which should be stirred in just before serving). Once the guests arrive, just pour and go. Stir well and pour over ice if you're serving on the rocks; if you're serving drinks up (no ice), shake with fresh ice before pouring. Voila, instant cocktails. Cheers! Now kick back and enjoy your party.


check out these related articles:
easy party foods | dinner party a-go-go
last-minute dinner party | kick back easy summer parties | last minute party food

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