Quick Tips for Planning the Perfect Dinner Party

Dinner Party Tip #1: Don’t get too creative

When you’re planning vegetable side dishes for a meal, consider both the style and flavor of the main dish, and the nutritional balance of the meal as a whole. Stick to a single type of cuisine, such as Mediterranean or Asian, unless you’re familiar with the flavors of all the recipes you’re using. Choose side dishes that are varied in color and texture. If one side dish features a green vegetable, complement it with other dishes that include orange, red, yellow or white vegetables. If one dish is soft and smooth, pick another that is crisp or crunchy. A little forethought helps to ensure a pleasant, satisfying, and well-rounded meal.

Dinner Party Tip #2: Save money by buying the cheaper fish for your party

Almost any dish made with shellfish can also be made with a firm-fleshed fish. Fillet of monkfish, cut into bite-size chunks, is a great substitute for shrimp, scallops, lobster, and/or crabmeat because it has a taste reminiscent of shellfish. Halibut, mahi-mahi, salmon, shark, swordfish, and tuna can all be used as substitutes in recipes calling for shellfish.

Dinner Party Tip #3: If the weather doesn’t cooperate for the party, broil instead of grilling

Any dish that can be grilled can also be broiled. Preheat the broiler and adjust the rack and broiler pan so the food will be 3 to 4 inches from the heat source. Follow the same directions and times as for grilling.

Dinner Party Tip #4: Make your soup ahead of time

Most soups will thicken if they are made ahead, refrigerated, and reheated before serving. If a soup gets too thick, simply stir in enough extra broth or water to get the desired consistency.

Dinner Party Tip #5: Ditto on the party dip

Always make dips well ahead of time. Sitting in the refrigerator an hour or more not only allows a dip to chill properly, but it also allows the flavors to develop more fully and better complement each other.

Dinner Party Tip #6: Cookies can be a great party dessert for anytime

To freeze the dough for drop cookies, dispense dough as directed onto baking sheets and place sheets in freezer until dough is frozen solid. Then transfer the dough drops to a freezer bag or container. To bake, transfer frozen drops to prepared baking sheets. Thaw completely at room temperature before baking as directed in recipe.

Dinner Party Tip #7: Keep ice cream scoopable for an easy party dessert

To soften ice cream enough to scoop it out easily, transfer the container from the freezer to a plate in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before you plan to serve it. A minute in the microwave can also help.

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