Use store bought foods that you can dress up with fresh ingredients
“I love serving a huge cheese and charcuterie board at dinner parties,” says Kertzner. “They can sit out for hours and guests can graze as they wish.” For these items, she suggests hitting up your local grocery store and quickly grabbing an assortment of cheeses, deli meats (like salami and prosciutto), olives, nuts, fruit (fresh and dried), and crackers.
“You can get super creative when it comes to serving,” she adds. “You can use cutting boards, platters, wood crates, and whatever else you can find at home that will prevent you from having to purchase something new.”
Make it a pizza party
“The easiest thing you can serve for dinner—without requiring any major prep or cooking—is homemade pizza,” Kertzner explains. “Go to your local pizzeria and pick up ready-made dough (figure one dough will feed four people, plus side dishes).”
Flour your surface and hands, and roll out the dough into a rectangle or circle depending on the type of baking sheet that you have. Slather the dough with tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and top with veggies, pepperoni, or whatever else you’d like. Bake at 400F degrees for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
Make dessert sweet and simple
According to Kertzner, no matter what your time frame is, you should keep dessert simple and sweet. “Contrary to popular belief, dessert doesn’t need to be complicated.” Instead of worrying about baking an elaborate pie or cake, she suggests picking out sweets that get your guests involved.
“We love a good old-fashioned ice cream bar for a dinner party. Just set out small tubs of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), scoops, and a variety of toppings—chocolate chips, sprinkles, whip cream, and cherries—and voila: Your guests can make their own desserts.”
Kertzner recommends not wasting any time running around town for something as simple as table décor. “Make it easy on yourself and just use the leftover herbs from your pizza to decorate,” she explains. “Basil is a great herb for pizza so buy a bunch at the grocery store, and then stick whatever you don’t use as pizza garnish into a glass jar or pretty vase of water.”
Serve a fun cocktail
If you ask Kertzner, any type of wine or mimosa—sparkling wine mixed with fruit juice—will work wonders for your party in a pinch. “You can dress up a simple sparkling wine with garnishes in no time,” she says. “Just thread some fresh fruit (such as raspberries) onto a skewer and drop them into the glass or place a slice of lemon on the rim and sprinkle in a sprig of mint. Either way, your guests are going to be super impressed.”
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