An intimate dinner party of just six guests is barely more work than cooking for your own family, especially if you plan a menu that you can prepare in your spare moments over a day or two. Your dinner guests will be impressed with a three-course meal, and you can honestly say that it was hardly any work at all.
Serving a soup before the main meal gives you more time to linger at the table with your dinner guests. Plus, most kids enjoy soups, giving even picky eaters something to eat. Choose a simple recipe that you can puree in the blender rather than having to chop everything carefully. Make an autumn soup with cooked onions and garlic, canned pumpkin, canned coconut milk and chicken broth. Or combine steamed broccoli, sauteed onions and celery, chicken broth, cheddar cheese and buttermilk for a hearty broccoli soup. Prepare the soup a day or two before the dinner party, refrigerate it and heat it up just before serving.
Roasted chicken breasts are one of the simplest types of meat to prepare. Plus, because they cook in the oven for at least 30 minutes, this gives you plenty of time for other last-minute tasks before guests arrive, like tidying up the living area. Flavor the chicken breasts with just about anything, from fresh lemon slices to a can of cream of chicken soup, ranch seasoning mix, a bottled marinade or olive oil with fresh herbs from your garden.
While you are cooking the meat, put a tray of chopped mixed vegetables on the rack below it to roast. Carrots, broccoli, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, summer squash and asparagus are just a few options to choose from, and they are all hearty enough that you can chop them the day before you cook them. Salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil are all the seasonings you need. For a grain, cook a pot of white or brown rice.
Rather than serving a dessert packed with sugar and fat, opt for a lighter option that uses fruit for most of the sweetness. Fresh berries pair well with vanilla yogurt and granola for a crunchy parfait. Or, after you take the chicken out of the oven, bake pear halves with cinnamon and serve them with a small scoop of low-fat vanilla ice cream.
- "Cooking for a Crowd"; Susan Wyler; 2005
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