Sun | Nov 29, 2015


Published:Sunday | December 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Cupcakes can be a great cherry on top for your dinner party.
Fruit parfait

Melissa Douse, Contributor

Coming up with a menu for a dinner party can be a bit challenging. There are so many things to consider - from the availability of ingredients to your guests' dietary restrictions. But it can also be a lot of fun.

The starting point is usually dependent on what's available, favourite recipe or a particular cuisine you want to feature. This is the anchor to creating your menu; you also need to take these six tips into consideration.

1. Style - Is it buffet or a sit down dinner? Indoor/outdoor? Casual or a little fancy?

2. Availability - It's best to use ingredients that are in season, especially fruits and vegetables.

3. Cost - It's easy to get lost daydreaming about a menu, but unless you have unlimited funds, keep an eye out for inexpensive ingredients.

4. Repetition - Avoid using the same ingredient in every course.

5. Colour - It's very easy to accidentally create a one-colour meal. Example: chicken, potatoes and cauliflower. So think about how your meal will look on the plate and add some colour.

6. Balance - Don't overload your meal with too much of one flavour or texture. So if your meal is spicy then be sure to have a cooling element.

After considering all the factors above, here is a three-course menu that you can try at your next dinner party. Don't forget that in order to pull it off smoothly pre-preparation is key!


• Caprese skewers

• Tuna salad bites

Do not slave over appetisers. When making appetisers, I use no more than three to five ingredients. Bread and crackers are good bases that you can use with multiple toppings, and skewers are just as flexible as you simply stack on what you have.

Caprese skewers - mozzarella cheese balls, cherry tomatoes, basil leaves.

Tuna salad bites - tuna in water, chopped onions, light mayonnaise, cherry tomatoes, crackers.


• Chicken vegetable stir-fry served with jasmine rice

• Lasagne served with vegetables.

In order to be the perfect host and not miss out on conversations with your friends, you need to select a main course that can be done in 15-20 minutes, or choose a meal that won't need constant attention - something you can pop in the oven is an easy option.

Chicken vegetable stir-fry - chicken breasts cubed and seasoned, broccoli, string beans, red and yellow bell peppers, carrots julienne.

Lasagne - lasagne noodles, ground beef, onions, spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil.

Lasagne can be served with some of your vegetables from your stir-fry, in addition to shredded lettuce and cabbage.


• Choco party cupcakes

• Fruit parfait

Hot Chocolate, Cocktails and Good Times

Desserts are a great way to end a wonderful dinner. After eating, you may not be in the mood to share and plate your desserts, so opt to prepare cute delicious cupcakes that can be made from the night before. Fruit parfaits can be made and stored in your fridge until serving.

A few minutes before your guests arrive; have some hot chocolate ready and store it in your coffee maker so you have a hot beverage available. To jazz up your hot chocolate, have some whipped cream and powdered cinnamon for topping.

An age-old party drink is a punch. If you want something different, you can serve sangrias instead. For the non-alcoholic beverages, you can serve fruit juice or water.

Don't forget the reason you decided to have a party - for the good food, great conversation, and a great time with all your friends. So if something goes wrong, don't panic, and remember, your friends will understand and be there to help you.

Eat well!

Send questions or comments to Melissa Douse at Email Full recipe available on website.