Friday, September 26, 2008

Hosting a Dinner Party

Hosting a Dinner Party

by Fine Living

We all love attending dinner parties with friends, but being the host or hostess for such a gathering can come with the pressure of meeting your guests' expectations of good food and good times.

Well, there's no need to stress. A few hints and a little forethought can help guarantee that your next dinner party is a big hit with everyone you invite.

Katrina Szish is a style editor at GQ magazine, and a woman who loves to entertain friends. Here she gives us her tips and advice for throwing successful dinner parties at home:

Plan in advance. According to Szish, the most important part of throwing a perfect dinner party is planning ahead. Making decisions and preparations ahead of time will allow you to relax, enjoy yourself and be an attentive host. Planning well in advance and getting invitations out early will also guarantee that fewer of your guests will have made previous commitments.

Written invitations. These days, it's common to invite guests by using a mass e-mail or making a set of phone calls, but Szish prefers the old fashioned way. Hand written, mailed invitations are charming, and will let your friends know that they're in for a special evening.

The menu. The food you serve is of primary importance, and Szish suggests considering a number of factors when planning your dinner menu. First of all, think about your guests, and what foods they might enjoy. Next consider whether the party is formal or relaxed, and about the time of year. A menu for a casual summer dinner, for example, should be considerably different from one for a more formal evening in autumn or winter.

The table. Presentation is as important for the table as it is for the food, and you should consider a theme when laying out and decorating the surface. Whatever the theme, you'll want a table that's beautiful and inviting.

Seating. Finally, Szish suggests you think about a planned seating chart, especially for a formal evening. You can help direct the flow of conversation by choosing who sits next to whom, and place markers will add an exciting element to the dinner by encouraging new friendships, and helping each guest feel like part of the group.

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Easy Chicken Pasta

Easy Chicken Pasta

What's For Supper Ya'll?

White Beans, Pasta and Chicken
8 ounces dried cavatappi, fusilli, rotini, ditaloni, or other short pasta tubes
1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded
1/4 cup snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional - I usually skip it)
Olive oil (optional - but I recommend at least a little for moisture)
1. In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and set aside.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine 3/4 cup of the beans and the chicken broth. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Place bean puree in pan used for cooking the pasta; bring to boiling. Return pasta to pan.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook garlic in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil for 1 minute. Add tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining beans, shredded chicken, snipped parsley, pepper and salt. Heat through.
4. Add the tomato mixture to hot pasta; toss to cost. Top with parsley sprigs and additional olive oil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Posted by Stacy Nelson, Easy Dinner

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