I spent the last week in Madison, Wisconsin, house hunting. After we had selected the area we wanted to live in, all we needed to do was find the perfect house. Easy, right? Well, not so much. Can you guess which room is the most important one for me?
I spend most of my time in my kitchen. It’s where I cook, where my family gathers for meals, where my husband and I sit and talk as he flips through the mail after coming home from work, and this is where I entertain.
I think the layout of a kitchen is the most important. It determines how much space you have and how functional it can be for its various daily needs, as well as special occasions. I love my kitchen because of the open layout and island. The open layout, which also leads out to the backyard and the living room, is great because it also allows us to have more room when entertaining as well. Our guests can grab a plate and sit outside, or inside on the couch. I think a kitchen like this is very adaptable for working, cooking, and entertaining.
While that work/cook/entertain trio means my kitchen is really versatile, it also means that the first two can take over — especially the work part. My kitchen island is my main workspace. If you’re like me and use your kitchen a lot, on an average day, it’s a mess.
This won’t stop me from entertaining, though. It just means that de-cluttering and making the space pretty for guests is my first priority.
De-cluttering and Cleaning
No one likes a messy kitchen. When you are having guests over, stow away some of those extra appliances. I make sure that everything that makes my island the perfect workspace is out of sight and put away for the party. This means the laptop, the mail — basically anything work-related.
Besides the island, clean off the countertops, the kitchen table — anywhere clutter can accumulate. Clean surfaces are more inviting and mean more room for food and drinks, and that’s always a good thing.
Making It Pretty
Once things are de-cluttered, you’re ready to party. Don’t be afraid to break out the good plates. Yes, use the real ones. I don’t mind using paper or plastic plates for the kids, especially when there are a lot of them there for a party, but I absolutely encourage you to use plates for your grown-up guests. All of the dishes can go into the dishwasher afterwards anyway. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough matching dinnerware. Using plates and dishes that are all in the same color family works just fine, too.
I’m all about the extras, too. I love a pretty set-up with fresh flowers and candles. It always makes me feel at home and welcome. Take the time to pick out the perfect ones and again, use the nice vase. I’m no Martha Stewart but I think choosing the right vase and trimming your flowers to the right size makes all the difference.
Make it Self-Service
When I arrange my food platters and drink service, I always have everything out and set-up before our guests arrive. The serving utensils are already there next to the platters, and glasses next to the drinks. When your guests arrive, you just want to relax and enjoy yourself too, and last minute scrambling for serving pieces and the right glasses will eat up time and create stress.
Arrange everything in a way that will make it easy for your friends to get food and pour themselves a drink. You’ve already done all the prep work for the main event, so you may as well make it easy for them to help themselves when they get there.
When entertaining, it’s all about making my guests feel at home. I plan ahead, create my menu (whether it’s cooking myself or picking up some food from Whole Foods) and get all of my dishes party-ready.
I like to cook, so I will always prepare a few dishes. My rule is to keep it simple, and delicious. If you’re planning to cook more elaborate dishes, plan accordingly. Set an order in which you plan to cook them. Make sure you know when things are going into the oven, and in what order. If the party is more casual, I serve a lot of finger foods or appetizers.
I’ve always loved entertaining in my kitchen. Having our friends standing around the island, with beverages in hand, eating, talking and enjoying each other’s company. I love this. This is my happy place. Remember, I get my hosting and entertaining gene from my father.
Here are some of my absolute favorite recipes when entertaining.
For more recipe ideas, feel free to visit my Recipe Index. Cheers to entertaining this Fall!
This post is part of BlogHer’s Kitchen Entertaining editorial series, made possible by KitchenAid.