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S9 2017

5 Kitchen Shortcuts for Stress-Free Hosting

Treat friends to a delicious evening without breaking a sweat
S9 2017 S9 2017 SS savory Hosting Kitchen Hacks 2024 Stress free Feb March Kitchen Shortcuts

During the chilliest, grayest time of year, inviting friends over for a hot, homemade meal is a surefire way to brighten spirits. You don’t need to spend a fortune or spend hours in the kitchen to pull off a memorable evening. With a strategic plan of attack that includes a few shortcuts, serving an impressive spread is easier than you might think. Once you’ve got the guest list, set the table and follow these six tips for hosting a delicious, stress-free get-together.  

1. Upgrade store-bought items 

Getting a little help from the store to jumpstart cooking is always a smart strategy, especially if it’s your first dinner party. Baking mixes, salad kits, and pre-chopped veggies are all time-savers that let you serve something homemade without the effort of prepping from scratch. For a casual, cozy breakfast guests will love, try this shortcut to Southern comfort. With the ease of store-bought frozen biscuits, you can easily gather friends around the table for a satisfying meal.  

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole

2. Open a container of flavor 

To crank up the flavor on soups, stews, braises, and more, think inside the jar.  Your grocery store offers a wide array of sauces, dips, and spreads – including many artisanal products crafted with high quality ingredients – to instantly and effortlessly add more oomph to homemade meals. Don’t be afraid to get creative. “Buffalo wings are my husband’s favorite food, but they’re more game day snack than dinner party fare,” says writer Brooks Halliday. “I wanted to incorporate that flavor into a main course, so we were both excited when I discovered this Buffalo gnocchi. Everybody loves it. I’ve had more than one person ask me for the recipe.” A container of refrigerated Buffalo chicken dip is the shining star that turns frozen gnocchi into a pub grub-inspired baked pasta.  

Buffalo Chicken Gnocchi Dip

3. Let the slow cooker do most of the work 

When you invite guests into your home, you’re sharing good company, not just a good meal. You don’t want to be stuck stirring at the stove all night. A main course that cooks in the slow cooker frees you up to chat, top off glasses, and make sure everyone is having a good time. This effort-saving strategy can also save money when you choose budget-friendly proteins, like pork shoulder. Our version of green chili pork comes together in the slow cooker for a fuss-free meal that feels like a fiesta. 

Green Chili Pork

4. Shop your pantry and freezer 

Pantry staples and frozen items are affordable, easy building blocks for all kinds of meals. They’re an especially useful go-to during the colder months when certain produce is out of season. When planning a dinner party menu, take a quick inventory of the groceries you already have to save time and money at the store. “I like to keep a few frozen snacks on hand for movie nights or when the kids have friends over,” explains Brooks. “I thought frozen pierogis could be a quick and easy appetizer. I never thought about turning them into dinner.” This stick-to-your-ribs skillet starring potato and onion pierogies comes together in a snap. Bagged slaw mix lets you bypass some of the prep work, and you can swap in pre-cooked bacon for even more speed.  

Pierogi and Cabbage Stir-Fry

 5. Enlist help 

Serving as host doesn’t have to mean taking on the task of cooking alone. Consider making your event a potluck to minimize cost and effort while still treating everyone to a delicious meal. Encourage guests to bring a homemade dish, and don’t be afraid to offer suggestions or request a specific course (so you don’t end up with multiples). Another way to help divide and conquer the meal: turn your dinner party into a cooking party. Invite friends over early and choose a menu that everyone can help make together. You’ll cut down on the work and multiply the fun.

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