Alright, so now that you’ve set the tone and it feels right, you need to feed your guests. There are a few ways you can do this.

1. Potluck. Full disclosure – as a host, I hate potlucks. You have no idea what you’re getting. I’d rather do it all myself. BUT, you can do a potluck if you’d like. If people ask what to bring, give them something simple, while you do the more complicated dishes. Also remember that not everyone will get there at the same time or even on time at all.

2. Catering. This is the more expensive option. If you know you won’t have the time or the inclination to cook, it’s perfectly ok to have it catered. Maybe your favorite restaurant has a few items that would travel well that would work for your party.

3. Cooking. I love to cook. Parties are a high-pressure situation that always add a few grey hairs to my head, but I’m always thrilled with my spread. You can be, too! Pick recipes that aren’t fussy. Ones that you can make ahead and just set out for your party. You don’t have to go crazy with your dishes. Decide just how much cooking you have the time to do well, and do only that.

4. Pre-made lite bites. The freezer section is full of wonderful little yummies that you don’t have to do anything for. You put them on a tray, bake them, and put them on a nice platter. Voila, that’s it! You can get things like mini quiches, brie en croute, crabcakes, etc. Trader Joe’s is really good for things like this.

So now, what do you serve? I recommend: 2 meats (one heavier, one lighter), a salad with 2 dressings, cheese and crackers, something sweet. That’s pretty easy. Here’s a sample menu of what I’d do for a party:

Meats – Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Skewers with some sort of dip

Romaine with dates, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and grape tomatoes. My dressings would be a homemade lemon vinaigrette and an Asian sesame dressing.

For cheese, I would go with Gouda, cheddar, and a mild cheese like Havarti. You can pre-slice and arrange them nicely. Crackers are pretty easy, as they have packs literally called “entertaining crackers”. Lay them out nicely with the cheese and you’re set.

If it was a birthday, then cake would be served. If not, mini cupcakes or brownies are always delicious. And you could put out fresh fruit if you wanted.

You can make this as high end or as plain Jane as you want, just don’t starve your guests!

Next, we’ll talk about drinks!