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Entertaining on the fly - 3 hacks for real life

Posted on March 21 2019

Entertaining on the fly - 3 hacks for real life

Every neighborhood has one. The mom who hosts impromptu soirees and throws the best dinner parties, like a boss. While we would love to hate her, it’s impossible (after all, she’s just too much fun and those cheese-stuffed dates she makes are SO good!).

Liz Vernon of Des Moines, Washington is one such consummate entertainer. The marketing manager and mother to Greacen (7) and Oscar (4) was good enough to let us in on some pro tips.

I’d like to host an evening holiday party. Where should I start?

It’s never too early to think about when you would like to host your special soiree and send out a save the date. You don’t need to know all the details at this point. I like to give people as much heads up as possible (at least a month in advance) as it’s a busy time of year.

My family and I have typically hosted our annual Christmas parties on a Friday night and start around 6 p.m. We can get up to 60 people coming through the door. There’s always a great mix of neighbors, coworkers and friends old and new.

What kind of prep should I do, specifically for food?

Frozen food is your best friend! You can pick it up ahead of time and have it on hand to prepare throughout the night as guests arrive. Head to Trader Joe’s or the frozen food section of your favorite store. Things like frozen cheese pastry puffs are easy to rip out of the box and throw in the oven. But they look like you spent a lot of time on them! Have a stack of precut foil ready for your cookie sheets so you don’t need to wash the sheets each time.

Other easy favorites are crackers and cheese, a charcuterie plate, veggies and, grapes. These require very little prep as well.

How do you serve the food?

You can’t go wrong with a spread of finger foods on white serving plates. I usually put small plates out as well but everything should be easy to eat. At a party everyone wants to chat and no one wants to have to sit and eat with a fork. A bonus is there’s no clean up and no silverware needed!

What beverages do I need on hand?

Pelegrino, red wine, white wine, and beer are necessities. For large parties, a signature cocktail is a nice touch. Serve in clear cups -- they look good and your guests can see what’s in them.

Do you set up a designated beverage or food area?

People gravitate toward the kitchen so I set up the beverage station outside the kitchen. Here, you can have a tub full of drinks chilling on ice, garnishes and extra ice for drinks. Place a recycling bin right there and guests will know what to do with their empties.

As far as food goes, I set up a spread on the dining table and then put appies in the different seating areas people might gather.

Apart from food, is there anything we can prep beforehand?

Yes. The less stressed you can be as a host, the better! Think about where you want people to put their coats and other things. Then designate a few close friends who can help people and know where things are.

As far as cleaning goes, clean the part of the house where guests will spend most of their time. Don’t feel you have to do the whole thing!

Liz, thanks for graciously sharing your hosting skills with us. Cheers!

Liz’s Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ingredients: Dates, Bacon, Blue Cheese


  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Remove the pit from each date.
  • Stuff the indentations with blue cheese.
  • Wrap each date with a piece of bacon.
  • Place on a cookie sheet and cook 15 to 18 minutes, turning dates halfway through.

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