This is a sponsored post on behalf of Hood. All opinions are my own.
This time of year is so busy for our family, with sports, school, work, and theater. Sometimes it's essential to schedule time with friends and family to make sure that we actually spend time with them. A dinner party is a great way to spend time together, because you always have to eat, so it's not too hard to carve out a time that your guests can attend. You can serve your meal at a leisure pace, so that you have plenty of time for catching up. Dinner parties are also great for any time of year – whether it's for a special occasion, holiday, or just because you want to have a good time. We recently hosted a fall-themed dinner party, with some delicious food, beautiful decor, and great company. If you are planning to host a dinner party, here are some dinner party planning tips.
Dinner Party Planning Tips
Find the Perfect Time
Busy families may find it difficult to find the absolutely “perfect” time, but plan well in advance to make sure that your guests can attend. Just make sure that you have enough free time before the party to clean the house and prepare all of the food. You'll want to have most of the food done before your guests arrive, so that you can enjoy their company. You won't want to spend your time in the kitchen while everyone else is sitting at the table.
Create a Pretty Tablescape
One of my favorite parts of the dinner party we planned was creating the tablescape. I wanted my dinner party to have a fall theme, so I stopped at my local craft store and picked up a few glass bowls, glass scatters, string lights, fake fall leaves, and tea lights. I plan to save these supplies every season so that I can reuse them, and mix and match them. For instance, for a winter party, I can switch out the colors and the leaves for something more appropriate for the season.
My 13-year old daughter also enjoyed this part of the party planning, so if your kids are old enough, it's a great idea to get them involved.
Choose a Menu That Will Appeal to Everyone
Ask what food restrictions your guests have before choosing your menu. Food allergies were a consideration when we chose our menu, so I avoided anything with those ingredients. Make sure you choose a good balance of vegetables, proteins, and carbs (as well as dessert), and select foods that are in season. For our fall-themed dinner party, I wanted more hearty foods that were appropriate for the cooler weather.
I selected four fabulous dishes from the recipes that Chef Chris Coombs has created specifically for Hood Cream. All four items were absolutely delicious, and the Hood Cream was a wonderful addition to each item.
We started with the Blue Cheese Wedge salad, which is loaded with vegetables, herbs, eggs, pancetta, and a delicious blue cheese dressing. This was the perfect start to our meal, and was very easy to assemble.
As a side dish, we had a “wow” dish – this Sugar Pumpkin with Sausage Stuffing that you actually serve in a hollowed out sugar pumpkin. I was initially a bit intimidated by this dish, but it wasn't too difficult to make. It was the best stuffing that I've ever had – it's hearty and just a bit sweet. We had some leftovers from our dinner party, which I happily ate the next day.
Our main dish was a New York Strip with Madeira Cream Sauce. The recipe for this was so easy to follow, and the steak was perfectly cooked. I couldn't believe how delicious the sauce is – it perfectly complemented the steak. I love recipes like this because each diner can choose how much of the sauce they want, depending upon their tastes. My kids especially loved the steak.
For dessert, we had a tres leches cake. I've never made a cake like this, but I do love to bake. My daughter helped me, and we had so much fun making it. I was especially interested in learning how to whip egg whites – I'd never done that before in my baking. We were both amazed at how easy it was, and how lightweight it made the cake.
My guests really enjoyed the cake. My husband, who doesn't typically enjoy dessert, got himself a second piece. We all agreed that it had a great texture and a nice, sweet (but not too sweet) flavor. The mint garnish on the top is a great added touch.
Shop for the Best Ingredients
I went to the grocery store early in the morning to shop, because it was less crowded and gave me more opportunity to choose each specific ingredient. Before I left, I made a list of what I needed, sorted by area of the grocery store (produce, meat counter, dairy, etc). That made the shopping much easier. Of course, there were a few things that I already had in my pantry, so I made sure that I had that stuff before I headed out shopping. Luckily, my local grocery store had the sugar pumpkins in stock, so I didn't have to search multiple stores for that particular ingredient.
Hood Cream is an essential item in all four of the recipes. I picked up half and half, whipping cream, heavy cream, and light cream. I found it so smooth and easy to blend, and it made all of the recipes rich and creamy but not heavy at all. The texture definitely elevated the quality of the recipes that I made.
Prep As Much As You Can in Advance
Because you don't want to do too much once your guests arrive, it's best to try to do as much as possible in advance. For our dinner party, I made the cake (with the exception of the whipping cream and garnishes), hollowed out the pumpkin, hardboiled the eggs, made the dressing, and cooked the pancetta all the night before our party.
Then, I plotted out my schedule for the next day, making sure I had a good flow of when the oven was being used and when the dishes would be ready.
Get Ready in the Morning
The morning of my party, I made sure that I had all of the ingredients that I needed. I also reviewed my plans for cooking so that I knew exactly what time I needed to start. Because we don't have too many extra plates and utensils, I also ran our dishwasher first thing so that everything was clean. That also left us with an empty dishwasher, which made cleanup so much easier.
Recruit Your Family To Help
My daughter was eager to help, and I happily accepted her assistance. Even if you have younger kids, there are still some tasks that you can delegate to them. It's a great way to get things done quicker, and make your kids feel like they are part of the dinner.
Enjoy Your Dinner
This is the most important part. Set things up so that you are able to sit and enjoy your dinner. The food was absolutely delicious, so I'm glad that I was able to sit down during most of the meal and eat with everyone else.
Hood Cream is the perfect complement to all of your dinner party recipes, especially with the upcoming holidays. For the recipes mentioned here, as well as many more, check out HoodCream.com.
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