There is nothing more cozy than gathering around a table with friends in the winter. But the thought of throwing a dinner party can be daunting. I wanted to share this make-ahead menu with you all, because I really think entertaining can be fun...if you get everything made ahead. This way, you too get to enjoy your company. Here is one of my favorite casual, festive make-ahead dinner party menus:
Assorted Salsas, Guacamole, Chips and Veggies to dip
Beef or Chicken Taquitos (from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's frozen section)
Trader Joe's Chimichurri Rice (as is, let TJ's do the work on this side)
All of the cooking can be done up to 2 days before you host your gathering. Store everything in oven-proof serving dishes in your fridge. The day of your party, set the table and make sure the dishwasher is empty.
The only things that need to happen right before the guests arrive: light a fire, turn on some music, and put the casual appetizers out. Assuming my guests are arriving at 7pm, here's how I would back into the timing to ensure success and a smooth experience as hostess:
- 1-2 days beforehand, get the cooking done
- 5:00-6:00 pm - set the table; get platters/bowls for the hors d'oeuvres out; make sure the dishwasher has been run and is emptied; pull all of the dishes for your meal out of the fridge; get kid's dinner ready
- 6:00-6:30pm - feed kids; preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the taquitos
- 6:30-7:00pm - clean up the kid's plates; get them in the tub and into PJs before guests arrive; turn on music; light a fire; pop the taquitos in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 and cover them with foil to keep them warm; set all dips/chips/veggies out, adding taquitos just before guests arrive so they're warm; put enchiladas (uncovered), rice (covered with foil) and beans (covered with foil) into the 350 degree oven just before 7:00
- 7:00pm - grab a cocktail and enjoy your company!
- 7:30pm - assemble salads (this should be quick b/c everything is chopped and ready to go); turn oven down to 250 degrees; put veggies into oven uncovered (they are already cooked, you just want to warm them and they won't take as long as the enchiladas, rice and beans...); serve salad
- 7:45-8:00pm - dinner should be cooked/warmed through and is ready to be served!