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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Party Food Made Quick and Easy

Store bought cupcakes. Cheap and delicious.Image via Wikipedia
By Anya Shiela Richards

When we make parties, receptions, or gatherings, we like to serve some kind of light refreshment. Ideally, if we had a lot of time and money at our disposal, the menu would be very elaborate, with all manner of gateaux, desserts, fancy mousses, tortes, and other culinary works of art. But for most of us, this is way out of reach. Who has the time and energy to make all of these masterpieces, or the money to buy them?

When you are juggling work, raising children, and then entertaining guests, you will not have enough time in the kitchen. The trick here is to make the most out of the time you do have and work smarter, not harder.

The key here is to look for recipes of foods that are easy to make and still look and taste great. If the dish is inexpensive and can accommodate a lot of guests, that is also a welcome bonus. Here are some ideas to get you started:

- If you are making a family gathering, such as a birthday party or a celebration of a personal event, such as a leaving party or welcoming Uncle Bill who is visiting from Australia, you don't need to set up a whole table for a sit-down meal. Make a buffet. That way, you can put out a range of foods and let people eat what they want. It is more relaxed and much easier.

- Make a colorful table with vegetable dips. Slice vertically carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers. Then put out a selection of dips, such as Thousand Island dressing, garlic sauce, avocado salad, and homemade tahini. All of these are easy to make, don't cost a lot, and make the dinner table look very vivid. For some more variety and as a filler, put out a selection of cheeses, with crackers and rolls. This makes a light, delicious, and beautiful buffet table.

- If you are interested in cakes, the simplest kind to make is cupcakes. These involve a one-bowl batter that can be spooned into the cases and put into the oven. But that doesn't have to be the end of the story. These days, cupcakes (or fairy cakes or patty cakes, depending on where you come from) are no longer simple little bakery items in paper cases. You can find a wealth of ideas, from the inventive snowman cupcake to roses, bluebirds and more. With a little creativity, confectioner's sugar, some fondant icing, and glace cherries, you can let your imagination take free rein without too much money and at very little cost.

- Disposable items give you a lot of benefits. If you are entertaining for many people, it is such a hassle to take out the nice china and silverware, wash it, take care not to break any during dinner, wash and dry it after eating, and then put everything away. You can avoid all this by going the disposable route. There are many designs to choose from today and many disposables are now elegant and not appear cheap. You just have to look a little bit harder and maybe pay a hair more. These drawbacks are tiny compared to the effort that you must exert for you to use "proper" utensils.

You don't have to worry too much about getting everything just perfect. Entertaining is supposed to be fun and whatever food you serve, if you are with family and friends, it should not even matter.

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