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by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3

So it’s the long, long Friday afternoon of a dull, dull work week and on a whim, you send out an email to your best buds to invite them all over to hang out chez vous that evening. Or it’s 6:30 pm Wednesday and you’re just leaving the office, stressing out on the drive home because you’re supposed to play host to your book club at 7:30 that evening. Or maybe it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon, and you and your longtime sweetie are sitting around the house realizing you need a break from your usual quiet quasi-married Saturday night home alone, and so you call up your friends for a last-minute movie or game night. Whatever the case may be, you somehow come to find that you have a dozen friends arriving at your door in an hour or two, and no food yet prepared to feed the crowd. Panic time? Of course not – check out our tips on how to put together a tasty spread that can be thrown together at a moment’s notice.

if you’re feeding them a meal ...
Dinner doesn’t have to mean a fancy, sit-down, multi-course affair. A casual, impromptu dinner shared with good friends can make for just as enjoyable a party as an elaborately-prepped formal feast. Here are a few ideas for easy ways to put together a last-minute dinner for the masses …

1 Make it a do-it-yourself type deal, and invite your friends to come over to cook dinner with you. A pizza bar works well – just buy some pre-baked pizza crusts, some marinara sauce, mozzarella, and an assortment of toppings, then let everyone pitch in to top and bake the pizzas when they come over.  Or ask everyone to bring along one topping that they’d like to have on their pizza.

In warmer weather, grill-it-yourself gatherings are great– just ask each of your friends to bring over something they’d like to grill.  You fire up the grill, and everybody throws whatever goodies they like on top.  As the host(ess), it’s nice if you prep a side dish or two, say a big bowl of salad greens, maybe a potato salad, some fresh fruit.

2 Quickie pasta: many of the best pasta sauces can be whipped together in the same amount of time it takes to boil some water, toss in some penne, and cook it to al dente perfection. Basically, thirty minutes or less. For a very simple, very easy tomato sauce, all you’ll need are some canned tomatoes – crushed or diced, or a combination thereof – fresh basil, garlic and onion. You can add in whatever other veggies you like, though it isn’t necessary – mushrooms, spinach, and bell peppers are all good – or toss in some Italian sausage if you’re looking for something heartier. Pick up a bag of ready-to-serve salad greens while you’re at the supermarket, a loaf of bread and some wine perhaps, and you can have a tasty, completely homemade meal on the table in no time.

3 Order out. There’s no reason in the world anyone should expect you to feed a horde of hungry pals without sufficient advance notice. Not every gathering has to involve you slaving over a hot stove, so get over the guilt factor. In the end, a party isn’t about the food, but about the fun.

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