Easy Dinner Party

Yes – those three words do belong together.

I recently threw a last minute, hassle-free dinner party for 6 girlfriends at my apartment. There was absolutely no stress involved and we all had a blast. What's my secret? Don't sweat the small stuff!

Here's the breakdown:

I sent a casual email mid-week to invite 9 girlfriends, 6 of whom were able to come for the Saturday night dinner. 

I tidied up the apartment for about 20 minutes, the morning of the party, while listening to my favorite iPod playlist (those seven dwarves were on to something – this always helps the chores fly by).

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I then picked up the few simple ingredients for my mother's Cold Chinese Noodles (sorry, secret recipe that can't be divulged), and whipped up the easy one-dish dinner in under an hour. The noodle dish includes ham and chicken, plus tons of veggies so it's still a well-rounded meal. The best part? You're supposed to make it ahead and serve it cold, so it chilled in my fridge for the afternoon while I went out for a bike ride and enjoyed the day. If you don't already have a recipe like this in your repertoire, get one.

To bookend the main dish, I picked up a cherry pie from Bubby's and threw together an easy bruschetta (I roast sliced cherry tomatoes with honey, then drizzle with balsamic – the girls went nuts).

When my guests asked, "What can I bring?" – I answered honestly: "A bottle of wine, thanks." We had plenty to drink and then some, and that was one less errand (and expense) for me to worry about.

Just before the guests arrived, I dressed my dining table simply and without cost – using an old roll of leftover wallpaper as a table runner (which made for easy clean up) and a few colorful votive holders I had on hand. Just those two simple touches – which took all of 4 minutes to put in place – added a this is a special dinner aspect to the night.

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We had the bruschetta as the girls trickled in, relaxing around the coffee table in the "living room" (which, in my NYC apartment, is actually in the same big room as the "dining room" – the space is just divided up by the furniture).

I served the noodles in a large bowl and everyone helped themselves. Serve-yourself-family-style is my favorite way to go when I want the meal to feel relaxed. Everyone poured their own wine – I just opened the bottles and brought them to the table.

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As we were finishing up the main dish, I popped into the kitchen and threw the pie in the oven. It was ready to eat in 15 minutes, giving us a little break between dinner and dessert (crucial so your guests can enjoy their pie without feeling stuffed).

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The best part? We ate on disposable plates – which left very few dishes for me to do the next morning (yes – gasp – sometimes I leave the dishes until the next day). These particular disposable plates (pictured above) are made of bamboo so they look like real plates, and are even biodegradable. They look so good I had to convince my guests that they were indeed supposed to throw them in the trash after we ate.

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All in all, an easy summer dinner party without an ounce of stress. I had way more fun than going out to a restaurant, and the evening was full of good conversation, wine, and laughter. When it comes to entertaining, it doesn't get any better than that.

Do you have any Easy Dinner Party tricks up your sleeve? Share them here.

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