How to Host a Stress-Free Weeknight Dinner Party

Nothing is better than having close friends over for some food and good conversation, especially mid-week, when you need a little pick-me-up. Also true: nothing is worse than having a bad day, realizing you’ve invited friends over for dinner, and wanting nothing more than a slice of to-go pepperoni pizza in complete silence.

A surefire way to enjoy your own dinner party, regardless of your mood, is to simplify, simplify simplify. Save the three day hummus project and braised shortribs for the weekends. Instead, find a few “cheats” and apply them to two aspects of your meal. Basically, pick and choose where you’ll be focusing your energy — it makes everything MUCH easier.

My current cheats? First up: a bottled caesar salad dressing I discovered after reading this article that tastes convincingly homemade…


(Add freshly grated parmesan and sliced hardboiled eggs and everyone will rave — promise).

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And Ghiradelli brownie mix, the queen of the brownie box grocery store aisle. (Bonus tip from one of my readers: replace the oil with melted butter and they are the BOMB).


With the salad and dessert taken care of, I have time and energy to focus on a killer but easy entree, like pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage or tasty fish cakes.

Getting creative with what you make and what you buy ends up being really fun, once you get the hang of it. Below, I’ve rounded up two more dinner party ideas…

1. Order a few pizza pies, then make a huge tossed greek salad with a lemon-y vinaigrette. For dessert: vanilla ice cream with this absurdly delicious hot fudge.

2. Buy a rotisserie chicken for taco night, make a batch of homemade salsa and serve fresh Paloma’s. Skip appetizers completely, and get your hands on these if you can!

Lastly, A smart tip I’ve learned along the way: always dip into a cheese plate before your guests arrive. Have an olive and put the pit in a little plate, and slice a piece of brie onto a cracker. People will be 100 times more likely to feel less hesitant digging in when you already have.

What are your secrets to doable weeknight dinner parties? Pray tell!

Top image by Gastrodamus, salad image by The Morning Train

4 thoughts on “How to Host a Stress-Free Weeknight Dinner Party

  1. Your dinner plans are always the best! Speaking of dressing, have you tried the Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing yet? It’s pretty much ultra-creamy hummus in vinegar-y dressing form. Delicious with roasted broccoli and garbanzo beans.

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