Create-a-Cocktail: Is one of your friends celebrating a birthday or engagement, or did someone get a promotion? Commemorate the big event by creating a signature cocktail! A little online research will kick up lots of ideas for drinks—try this sangria or print off three or four intriguing recipes then test and tinker with them until you come up with your own special blend. At the party, plan to serve non-alcoholic versions of your drink, but also have a few other choices on hand so that there’s something for everyone.
Fun & Games: Why should kids have all the fun? Grownups love games, too! Invite your friends to bring their favorite board game to the party then spend an evening relaxing and playing in the spirit of friendly competition. Or choose a game that you don’t know (ie., dominoes, mahjong or Bunco®) and teach your friends how to play. There are also several trivia-type games with specific themes (food, wine), or gather round the gaming system for an interactive dancing or singing face-off!
Mommy & Me Spa Night: Bond with your girls and have a great time with mom-friends, too, by hosting a mother-daughter spa night! Hand out matching sets of slippers to moms and daughters then have them rotate through stations, giving each other manicures, pedicures and facials. Serve “spa” foods with a kid-friendly spin: wraps are always a good choice and the ingredients can easily be tailored for fussier palates. Cutting them into bite-size rounds makes them look fancy and is great for little-girl appetites. Finger sandwiches are also fun to make and eat—try egg salad or herbed cream cheese and thinly sliced cucumber layered on slices of Pepperidge Farm® Very Thin 100% Whole Wheat bread (be sure to cut the crusts off!). For drinks, serve a variety of V8 juices—add a splash of chilled lemon-lime or club soda to add spritz and sparkle. For dessert, little girls (and moms as well!) love chocolate fondue with plenty of fresh fruit for dipping.
Food on Film Night: Why not plan an evening around a food-focused movie, serving dishes that connect to the film’s story? Big Night (1996) features classic American-Italian food, so spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, a salad and tiramisu for dessert would be a perfect menu. Or “see” Paris with Julie & Julia (2009) or Ratatouille (2007) then “taste” it with these French-inspired recipes for vegetable tart, beef stew, salad and napoleons.
Book Club: Throw this Asian-inspired party for your book club to give the gathering an exotic air. Start with lettuce wraps, miso soup or egg rolls followed by a sweet-spicy Thai skillet or big salad with oranges and tangy tomato-ginger dressing. Serve a pitcher of green tea and fresh fruit with fortune cookies from an Asian market for dessert. Or, try tying your menu to a particular theme or locale in the book you’ll be discussing.
Try-It Party: Structure your get-together around trying something—whether you’re hosting a “demonstration party” for a particular product, or creating a “try-it” party of your own. For example, you could sample goods from a local coffee house, winery or brewery and offer food to accompany it. Or, ask your friends to bring their favorite spice, vinegar or olive oil (including their favorite recipe using it) and have small containers available for sharing with others. It’s a great way to taste test without investing a lot of money, plus it’s a terrific opportunity to learn!