Easy Entertaining

You ask, Rach answers ... about how to throw a party where everyone has a great time.


Q: While dating, my fiance and I cooked your recipes. For our wedding, we're having 30-Minute Meals recipe place cards. Which are your picks? -Tamara Mann, Concord, CA
A: Congratulations! You should definitely include Montalcino Chicken with Figs and Buttered Gnocchi, That's Shallotta Flavor Spaghetti and 7-Layer Sliders.

Montalcino Chicken with Figs and Buttered Gnocchi

That's Shallotta Flavor Spaghetti

7-Layer Sliders

Q: What impressive -- but easy -- dishes can I make for my first dinner party? I want to be able to get out of the kitchen and mingle with my guests! -Lauren Russell, Hyde Park, MA
A: Go with no-brainer starters: Dress up store-bought hummus or serve ready-made pâté or soft cheese. Pastas are an easy first course, and an entrée of roast chicken and vegetables is a cinch!

Q: I'm a fellow Italian girl about to get married, and I'd love to serve an Italian cookie at my reception. Any favorites? -Denise Welsh, Boardman, OH
A: I love pignoli cookies, made with pine nuts. Also try ricotta-and-citrus stuffed pastries called sfogliatelle.

Q: What do you love to cook for a crowd? -Bailey Cunningham, Yuma, AZ
A: Lots of things are great for groups: chili, roasts, stew, curry, baked pasta -- and grilled anything!

Q: I'm not allowed to use the stove or oven by myself, but I want to make my mom a Valentine's Day surprise. Any ideas? -Rachel, Age 12, Dallas
A: Get a large heart-shaped cookie cutter and make your mom's favorite sandwich. Cut the sandwich with the cookie cutter and you'll have a sandwich shaped like a heart! Ask another adult to make some tea, and you and your mom can have heart-shaped sandwiches and tea.


Q: Do you ever have game nights? What are your favorites to play? -Tiffany Satcher, Lynnwood, WA
A: Though I don't have a ton of time to play, I've always been a Boggle fan. (Growing up, I was all about Boggle, Life and Monopoly.) We have poker night a couple times a year, too.

Q: I'm throwing a 13th birthday party for my son. Do you have any awesome tips about the food? I want his friends to leave saying how cool it was. -Aren Spiers, Columbus, OH
A: It depends on what he likes. If he's into baseball, make hot dogs and popcorn -- or if he likes football, do a tailgate party in your driveway. If he's into music, serve the food on old vinyl records and do karaoke. And mocktails and pizza are always fun!

Q: I get great ideas from the magazine's "Get Together" section. What's your favorite party game? -Jennifer Bertram, Holt, MI
A: I love all games! I'm very competitive.


Q: What happens when you find yourself cooking for picky eaters? -Tiffany Krause, Independence, MO
A: I'm pretty picky about picky eaters -- I don't invite them over!

Q: When your friends cook for you, are they nervous? -Lindsey Allen, Cedar City, UT
A: I guess so, 'cause no one ever invites me over!

Q: I love your pet-friendly recipes. Do you celebrate Isaboo's birthday with her own birthday cake? -Sarah Kollasch, Hampshire, IL
A: Yup, with lactose-free ice cream on top -- John and I help her out with the candles!

Q: Did you ever have a dinner party go horribly wrong? -Savannah Hughes, Argyle, TX
A: Yup. I was cooking a 30-Minute Meal and burned it. So I made it again.