Friday, November 1, 2013

Casual Entertaining Ideas

When we think of entertaining, most think of the more formal and elaborate Martha Stewart-esque settings such as the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with gorgeous dinnerware, sparkling wine glasses, shiny silverware, freshly pressed linens and a beautiful centerpiece complete with place card settings atop a table set for a delicious meal. This is certainly a recipe for an elegant affair however, not all gatherings need to be quite so formal.

In the summer months BBQ's, pool parties and neighborhood block parties are the norm with hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks on the grill along with potato salad and mixed greens salads on the side. Somehow when those summer months end and the temperature drops so does the casual side of entertaining. I think the beauty of a more relaxed atmosphere at any point in the year is that it allows guests to truly relax, feel cozy in your space and there's just a feeling of less fuss for the host(s) when things are kept simple and the focus is on the experience for the guests.

Today, I'm sharing some easy, casual fare ideas for events such as game day when you don't feel like preparing everything from scratch. Life is busy and for those who work outside of the home, are always on-the-go, don't consider themselves to be a good cook or who have a few young children in tow, sometimes it's easier to order in or simply buy prepared items that you can jazz up to still provide healthy options that are enjoyed by all but won't break the bank either.

Some casual events you might host may be a child's sleepover, guy's game day event, bible study, book club, post-game gathering for a child's sporting event, lunch/dinner for those who help you move into a new home or paint your home, etc.

5 Easy Ideas for Casual Entertaining

1. A Series of Appetizers- Instead of an actual meal, for those who wish to graze at a gathering such as a book club or girl's night in, some healthy and easier options are a caprese salad platter with mozzarella, fresh basil & tomato topped with a balsamic glaze as an option. Hummus with crudites (veggies), a fruit platter, sweets plate with cookies, chocolates or cupcakes for dessert, chicken or beef skewer satay with peanut sauce (these can be purchased pre-made and heated during the event or before), tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole (why not make it blue corn chips and use a fun salsa like mango or pineapple to switch things up?) , oven sliders (mini hamburgers with buns) using only ketchup an mustard as toppings to keep things simple, shrimp on a bed of lettuce over ice with a zesty cocktail sauce or chicken & cheese quesadillas (if you're making them, using the chicken from a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Select as many or as few as you like but be sure to round it out with some savory, sweet and something with protein that will be a bit more substantial and filling. Typically a minimum of 4 options is best for a small group or up to 7 for a slightly larger gathering.

2. Assorted Deli Subs- Whether you wish to prepare your own sandwich platters with assorted meats, cheeses and veggies or wish to have it catered in from a shop like Subway or pick it up from your local grocery store deli, this is a great way to provide variety for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Mix things up a bit by using white, whole wheat or another bread such as herb-parmesan etc. When cut up into 4-5" in length, guests can try a few different flavors of sandwiches. You may also wish to provide the ingredients on serving platters and simply have your guests create their own sandwich with pre-cut tomatoes, cheese, sliced meats and small dishes of condiments such as dijon mustard and mayonnaise.

3. Gourmet Pizza- Sure, you could order in from your favorite local pizzeria but why not pick up a few frozen pizzas as a base and add your own toppings? A barbecue chicken pizza could have caramelized onions added along with goat cheese, a margherita pizza could be topped with some fresh basil and a balsamic glaze or pick up a plain cheese pizza and add all the veggies you like. Fresh garlic added to any pizza always ups the ante!

4. Homemade Chili-For cooler months, chili-either a regular stove top or a crock pot version are perfect for gatherings. Since it's made ahead of time, it means more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen. Have a side of salad pre-made with a simple vinaigrette dressing and some garlic bread or nice quality bread from your bakery and you have a great meal, this is a crowd-pleaser for the guys especially. If you want to make it a bit more fancy, set out a 4 bowls of toppings: one with freshly grated cheese, another with chopped parsley or cilantro, a bowl with either fresh jalapeno/hot sauce/chili pepper flakes, and the last one with sour cream. Guests can top their chili anyway they like for a more custom effect.

5. Meatballs & Mashed Potatoes- Personally I like the crock pot for cooking meatballs. If you buy them frozen in a large quantity from a warehouse club then add your favorite sauce (honey-garlic is always a winner), you can have a batch of mashed (or garlic mashed) potatoes whipped up and a side of field greens salad to get some veggies in. This option is for those who love comfort food. Instead of mashed potatoes you could substitute a homemade macaroni & cheese which you can bake in the oven and cover with a breadcrumb and parmesan crust, top it with parsley when it's done.

What are your favorites to serve while entertaining during a casual atmosphere?

Thanks for Reading!


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*This was a sponsored post however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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