Be RealisticYour Shopping List:
Look over each item on your menu and if not hiring a caterer list everything you'll need to make it happen. Note each ingredient (including garnishes), then check your pantry and your spice rack. Nothing's more annoying than thinking "I'm sure I have that" only to find out that you don't when it's time to add it to the recipe.
Now is also the time to be sure that you have the equipment all the dishes on your menu call for -- whether it's a food processor or a particular size roasting pan. Whatever you don't have, borrow from friends or buy cheaply at a local restaurant-supply store. If you entertain often, the right equipment is worth the investment. Keep in mind that it takes twice as long to make cookies if you have only one baking sheet instead of the two required, and ten times as long to chop some ingredients by hand than by food processor.
In addition, count up the plates and platters, serving utensils, glasses, silverware, cocktail and dinner napkins and even tablecloths you'll need. Don't forget serving trays, punch bowls, coffee urns and folding chairs. If you're short, call your local party-rental place and reserve what you need now. The holiday season in particular is one of the biggest times of the year for party rentals and you don't want to be scrambling to find essentials at the last moment. Many people would rather borrow from friends and family than rent. But why risk Mother's fine china, when most party rentals have a breakage allowance built into the cost? Contact me for some great rental places that handle everything from chargers (plates) to stages..
2. Appeal to The Eye As Well As The Taste Buds
Step outside the box of chicken wings, meatballs and other "regular" food. try large platters of raw vegetables and dip, add salsa to an oversized martini glass with a decorative platter for the chips. In all this have a beautiful centerpiece to your buffet. Why? Because with their wonderful colors and textures, they look gorgeous, whether they get eaten or not! In planning your menu, take time to make sure you have as many colors and textures as possible. Think red peppers, tangerines, yellow squash and green beans to brighten up all-brown, or otherwise bland-looking dishes.
Garnishes are another great way to add color. As professional chefs know, most garnishes only look difficult to create, yet they have the power to make even a simple dish look special. And if radish roses and cucumber fans seem too fancy, you can get that restaurant look with a few well-placed sprigs of fresh herbs.
3. Make Sure Your Kitchen Can Get the Job Done
It's quite pointless to plan a party that your kitchen can't handle. Every kitchen has space constraints; make sure you know yours. For example, can your refrigerator fit all those platters of cold hors d'oeuvres? Can your stove handle heating the five dishes you plan to serve hot at the same time? If not, now's the time to make adjustments and substitutions. You can avoid kitchen crunch by choosing a menu of foods served at a variety of temperatures and preparing as many dishes in advance as possible (some can be made as much as a month ahead). The one catch: Don't forget to allow enough time for defrosting and reheating on party day.
If you run out of storage space, be creative. Stow food in the microwave and warm bread on top of the dryer in the laundry room. If it's really cold outside, the porch or garage can serve as a second refrigerator. And speaking of the fridge, now's a good time to clean it out. You can reclaim lots of space by removing any items that can be stored elsewhere or that should have been tossed long ago.
4. Shop Smart
The sanest way to shop for a party is in stages. Divide your shopping list by store and buy all the nonperishables you need as early as possible.
Consider some alternate resources for what you need. Read the ads in the newspaper to see what's on sale at the supermarkets in your area. It may be worth the trip to an unfamiliar store to save money on the big-ticket items on your menu, such as fillet of beef, turkey, ham or shrimp. And don't forget the local beverage warehouse, where soft drinks and beer are often priced substantially below supermarkets.
Finally, thrift shops can yield wonderful finds for entertaining. Extra glasses, tableware, silver and candlesticks can often be had at a fraction of what new ones would cost.
more to come....
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Sharon Patrice, Simple Perfect Peace/Designs by Shay