Photo Credit: moriza

 What Do You Need to Set Up a Dinner Party?

  •  Decide how big you want the party to be. My suggestion? Try 6-10 guests for your first outing. Afterwards,decide if hving more guests is right for you. 
  • Decide who you want to have over. Don’t just invite your same circle of friends. Introduce different people and personalities. 
  •   Plan out a basic meal. Try to get a really easy menu planned out. If you’re not a good cook, make something easy or even buy something.
  • Consider asking others to bring something. It’s a great way to reduce your workload and get to know your friends. If you feel bad asking up front; wait to see if they ask if they could bring anything, take them up. They wouldn’t offer to help if they didn’t want to.

When Should Food Be Served?

Debrett’s, publishers of guides on taste and etiquette since 1769, suggests that food is served within an hour of guests arriving, which means that most of the preparation for the meal should be done before they turn up.


How to Find Easy and Quick Meal Ideas

 I use Food Network’s site as a big reference guide. I love how you can break it down by meat type (or vegetarian) and how easy it is to make. They have a section just for 30 minute recipes. I don’t try make things harder on myself. The recipes also have fan reviews, so you can check out how others feel about the recipe. 

Easy Salads To Make


Quick and Easy Meal Recipes

 I looked for some easy and affordable meals on Food Network. I chose chicken for the meat as it’s one of the cheapest to purchase. 

Rustic Mexican Stew

  •  3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  •  2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  •    4 cloves garlic, minced
  •   2 scallions, sliced, white and green parts divided
  •   1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  •     1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  •    1/4 teaspoon salt
  •   1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  •     2 teaspoons ground cumin
  •  1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  •   2 plum tomatoes, diced
  •   1 ear of corn, husked and cut into 4 pieces
  •  1 tablespoon lime juice
  •   2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro



Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, scallion whites, carrot, jalapeno, salt and pepper to the pot and stir to combine. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Uncover, add cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes, corn and the cooked chicken; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in scallion greens, lime juice and cilantro.

Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce


  •  3 tablespoons lime juice
  •  3 tablespoons canola oil
  •    2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  •   2 teaspoons fish sauce (see Ingredient note)
  •     1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  •     1 pound chicken tenders

 Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)


To marinate chicken: Whisk lime juice, oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and crushed red pepper in a shallow baking dish until combined; add chicken and turn to coat. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Preheat grill to high.

To grill chicken and serve: Thread each chicken tender onto a wooden skewer (see Tip). Grill the chicken skewers until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, about 3 minutes per side. Serve warm or chilled with Spicy Peanut Sauce for dipping.

To prevent wooden skewers from burning on the grill, wrap the exposed portion in foil before grilling. (Contrary to popular wisdom, soaking them in water doesn’t prevent them from burning.)Ingredient note: Fish sauce is a pungent Southeast Asian sauce made from salted, fermented fish. You can find it in the Asian section of large supermarkets and in Asian specialty markets.

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

  •    2 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter
  •     2 tablespoons “lite” coconut milk
  •   1 tablespoon lime juice
  •    2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  •  1 teaspoon brown sugar
  •    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

Whisk together peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, sugar and crushed red pepper in a small bowl until smooth.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Brown Rice


  •   2 cups instant brown rice
  •   1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  •   2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  •   2 tablespoons cornstarch
  •    2 tablespoons apricot preserves
  •      2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  •  1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
  •   4 cloves garlic, minced
  •    2 teaspoons finely grated or minced ginger
  •   1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  •    6 cups bite-size pieces of vegetables, such as snow peas, broccoli and bell peppers
  •    1 5-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained


Prepare rice according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and apricot preserves in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink on the outside and just starting to brown in spots, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add vegetables, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in water chestnuts and the chicken. Whisk the reserved sauce and add to the pan. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with the rice.


Seared Ahi Tuna and Salad of Mixed Greens with Wasabi Vinaigrette


  •   1 ahi tuna steak, 6 ounces
  •   2 teaspoons five-spice powder, available on spice aisle
  •   1 teaspoon grill seasoning, such as Montreal Steak Seasoning, or salt and coarse pepper
  •  Cooking spray or vegetable oil, for brushing the grill pan
  •   5 ounces, half a sack, mixed prewashed baby salad greens
  •    2 radishes, sliced
  •   1/4 European cucumber, thinly sliced
  •   1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
  •  1 tablespoon rice vinegar or rice vinegar
  •   1 tablespoon soy sauce
  •   3 tablespoons -virgin olive oil
  •     Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Coat your steak with a combination of five-spice powder and grill seasoning or salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan or griddle over high heat. Spray grill surface or wipe with a thin layer of oil. Add tuna steak to the hot cooking surface and sear tuna 2 minutes on each side. Remove tuna from heat.

Combine greens, radishes and cucumber in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk wasabi, vinegar and soy sauce. Whisk in oil to combine dressing. Drizzle dressing over your salad and toss to coat evenly. Slice tuna on an angle and arrange on the salad.

 Parting Thoughts

Try and remember to keep the dinner party planning easy, classy, and affordable. The company and host make it memorable. Focus on the people and it’ll be a success. 


What meal do you like to serve at your dinner party? What works and what doesn’t?

Check out the whole Dinner Party Series

  • Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Drinks
  • Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Appetizers
  • Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Meals
  • Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Desserts
  • Throwing a Classy and Easy Dinner Party: Conversations and Networking


    Laura Martinez

    Laura Martinez