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The other day I was updating my calendar for blog and work stuff, and I came to the realization that I am booked every weekend for the rest of 2015 for work and holiday related events.
However, I’m putting up three Christmas trees in our house, and I want to have people over to enjoy my décor and hang out with us. But, to me, weeknight entertaining can be such a chore. I already have super long days at work, so to come home and cook for extra people is not my idea of a fun time. #truestory
But weeknights are my only option for hosting friends right now, so I decided to think of a way to effortlessly host a holiday gathering DURING the workweek for little time, money and prep using tasty Pepperidge Farm cookies and crackers paired with delicious Robert Mondavi Private Selection wine. I put together a party spread that’ll easily serve 4-6 people, costs less than $50 and requires no cooking!
Let me walk you through it. Here are my four no-fail tips to throw a weeknight soiree that won’t cause you stress and will earn you a Fab Weeknight Hostess title.
Tip 1: Host a Gathering After Dinner
Part of the reason dinner parties are overwhelming is feeding everyone a huge/filling meal, but by pushing the gathering to 8 pm, you can save yourself that pressure since most people would have eaten dinner by then (just be upfront with your guests that you'll be providing lighter fare).
This helps keep your prep and overall costs a bit lower. Plus, you know that most people will likely leave between 10 and 11 pm, which is the perfect amount of time for a fun, stress free night.
If you do want to serve dinner, pasta is a crowd pleaser. The new Barilla Pronto Pasta requires no boiling or draining, and it’s made for one-pot recipes. Throw in some sauce, basil and cheeses for an easy gourmet dish that can feed plenty of people.
Tip 2: KISS- Simple is Best!
Keep it simple, sweetie (KISS)! Don’t overwhelm yourself or your guests with a ton of food options. I opted for using the Pepperidge Farm Cracker Trio and Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Cookie Collection which both contain plenty of varieties of crackers and cookies.
I then added one fruit, meat, soft/spreadable cheese and sliced cheese option. So, it looks like I have a ton of variety, but it’s all thanks to picking Pepperidge Farm products that do the curating for me.
The cracker trio comes with three cracker types that are all delicious and would work well with sweet or savory cheeses/spreads.
The chocolate collection includes 6+ cookie varieties that are high quality, tasty and beautiful. It's easier to pick up this Pepperidge Farm product than it is to buy 6+ types of cookies. Remember to make your Walmart shopping list so you stay on track and don't have to make multiple trips.
Tip 3: Pair Up
Wine makes any gathering feel a bit more elegant and upscale, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. Walmart has improved their wine selection, so they have some premium brands at low prices.
I love the way the Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines ($7.97/bottle) pair with the Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookie collection—the red wine balances out the sweet chocolate cookies and also pairs beautifully with the saltiness of the crackers. Plan for about one bottle for every 2-3 guests, and make sure to have other beverage options, too.
Your local Walmart will be hosting some in-store demos with wine tastings and product demos. See if your store is on the list here.
Tip 4: Presentation
Most people love food that is presented beautifully, and that’s half the fun of entertaining (in my opinion). You can prep your platters and trays the night before. I used only two serving dishes in this party set-up, which makes cleanup a breeze. The chip/dip tray is perfect for crackers and cookies, while a cake platter can be used to add height to your set-up. Line platters with parchment paper to cut down on dish washing.
Bottom line-- It all looks beautiful AND serves a purpose. Once you set-up the food, spruce up the area with a few unscented votive candles, flowers or ornaments (if it’s the holiday season), like I did. This whole set-up took me less than 30 minutes to put together and about 20 minutes to clean-up.
I hope these tips help you be less fearful of a weeknight gathering. It's the season to be with those you love and treasure, so PLEASE find ways to make time for people even if it's on a random Tuesday evening. Shopping was a breeze since all of these products were easily available at my local Walmart, as seen below.
What are your tried and true methods for stress free holiday entertaining? Share them in the comments below so we can all become better hostesses!