In her new cookbook, Easy Entertaining at Home, Sandra says, “I learned how to throw a great bash two ways, the hard way and the easy way. I can assure you that the easy way is more enjoyable.” Your guests won’t notice the tablescape or playlist you’re stressing out about—what they’ll notice is that you’re stressing. Hosting a party can be as easy as picking a date, sending out invites, and letting the rest of the pieces fall into place. Just stay organized and calm, and don’t let the pressure get to you.
Take inspiration from the season, whether you’re throwing a football-themed beer-and-sliders shindig in February, a summertime fete with mojitos and strawberry shortcake, or a Halloween party featuring pumpkin cookies and mulled wine. Cocktails and appetizers are a natural pairing, and a way to bring people together that’s much more casual than a sit-down dinner.
When deciding on a menu, serve finger food. Not only does it save you (the host) from having to dish out individual plates, finger foods are also easier for guests to eat while they’re standing and chatting. But not all finger foods are appropriate for a party—avoid things like buffalo wings or ribs, which can be gooey and messy, not to mention awkward to eat in front of other people. Stick to items that can be eaten in a few quick (mess-free) bites.
At the last minute before guests arrive, you should be loosening your apron and pouring a cocktail, not frantically setting out plates or vacuuming the floor. Do big housecleaning tasks and make decorations a week in advance, and do your shopping a few days ahead of time. Decorating and setup can happen the night before.
Party mixes, desserts, and sauces can often be made ahead of time, so don’t be afraid to get those out of the way and into the fridge or freezer, thawing as needed. Also chop vegetables and fruit, dice cheese, and do as much other food prep as possible to ensure that when you’re cooking, all the components of a dish are ready to go.
While designing her new kitchenware lines for Sears and Kmart, Sandra insisted that the products be useful in more than one way, or at least solve other common kitchen problems. That’s why her pans have handles on both sides (so much easier to maneuver) and nearly everything is dishwasher-safe (who wants to hand-wash after a party?). Sandra’s Indoor Flat Grill is perfect for grilling burgers or skewers, and breaks own to go into the dishwasher. Her Dispensing Blender doesn’t just make smoothies or frozen cocktails—it also has a nozzle to make pouring drinks a breeze.
For a party, do cooking in pots and pans that are pretty enough to go from stovetop to tabletop, and for those pre-made mixes and snacks, use storage bowls that are attractive enough to serve from. Less fuss, less cleanup.
If there’s one thing that Sandra Lee is known for, it’s her love of cocktails. Whether it’s Sorbet Shooters, Strawberry Licious Daiquiris, Meringe Margaritas, or Star-tinis, serving a signature drink doesn’t just make the party feel more festive—it also makes serving a whole lot simpler.
“Parties should be a pleasure for all, including the host,” Sandra says. “The food and drinks are important, but not as important as the mood your guests are greeted with, the fun and festive atmosphere you provide, and the energy of the room.” How many times have you been to a party, only to see the host sweating in the kitchen while the guests enjoyed themselves? Don’t forget to come out from in front of the stove, enjoy a drink, and mingle with your guests. As Sandra says, “Enjoy life…it’s delicious!”