the best make-ahead party menu

Planning a party can be stressful.  
Having the party should not!  I've put together a foolproof menu to help you plan your next party.

Sticking with my 27 tips on stress-free entertaining, these recipes do not require silverware except for dessert and 99% of your menu can be made the day before.  Remember, if someone offers to help, you say yes!  When they arrive an hour before, set them up somewhere in your kitchen and 
let them assemble one of these dishes. Just click on the links for the detailed recipes.
Here is the menu as promised. :-)

 I believe it's important to not skimp on appetizers or dessert.  The apps set the tone for the rest of the night, and the dessert is what they remember!  If you make nothing else from the menu, try the appetizers and desserts.

This recipe has been made over and over again.  People are starting to expect it and hope for it when they come over!  They look scary, but it will only take one person to try them for word to spread on their amazing-ness.  I usually slice, remove the pit, fill with cream cheese or goat cheese, then store until it's time to bake.  But I'm guessing you could wrap the bacon ahead of time, as well.  I'd put these in the oven 25 minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive.  Just keep your eye on them so the bacon doesn't burn.

The seasoning can be mixed the day before and stored in an air-tight container.  Then, you just throw the unsalted cashews on cookie sheet, bake, and toss with seasoning.  The aroma and unexpected kick will blow people away.  These don't last long.  

*Veggie Cups with homemade ranch 
I used celery and carrots that were already cut from the store then added different peppers for color, one cherry tomato with a toothpick, and cucumber.  You can cut all of these the day before and just throw them in the cups with your ranch. Don't doubt me on the ranch dressing!!  Take the time to make it a few days before your party.  The longer it sits in the fridge the more time the flavors have to meld together. I bought these outdoor cups from Target.  They look like glass but don't break.  Love 'em.

                                       *Pulled Pork Sliders
This is so easy.  I totally cheat.  Nothing homemade about this one.  I like to buy either the pulled pork or pulled chicken, already cooked, from Costco.  I also buy the mini pretzel buns from Costco.  This way you can just throw the package of shredded meat into a large pot or dutch oven, let it warm, and assemble them last minute.  Serve with sides of bbq sauce and mustard.

Here's the trick to making deviled eggs.  You need to buy Eggland's Best bag of boiled eggs, already peeled.  Honestly, it takes so much time to boil the eggs perfectly and peel them.  No need.  Plus, you can make the filling ahead of time and just store the egg shells in a separate ziploc bag.  You can either chop up the shrimp or use them as a garnish.  Either way, be sure to put a sprig of dill on top of each egg.  

*Crostini with Boursin, arugula, and roasted red pepper
This is a recipe I created, inspired by Ina Garten.  Roast the slices of red pepper in the oven at 425 degrees with a dash of olive oil and kosher salt. Roughly 15 minutes.  Let cool.  Store in a ziploc and put in the fridge.  Next, slice a long loaf of a french baguette.  Use the olive oil and kosher salt again to the tops of the slices, and gently toast in the oven.  Let cool and store.  Before the party, spread Boursin cheese (garlic & herb) on each slice.  Top with fresh arugula roasted peppers.  Finally, taste one and see if they have enough seasoning.  If not, add kosher salt and pepper.  They look very pretty and taste great.

*Italian Skewers
Not much to explain with this one.  I used Greek olives, fresh mozzarella, salami, ham, cherry tomatoes, and  cooked three-cheese tortellini.  Marinade all of it in your favorite balsamic dressing the day before.  Assemble on the skewers and serve!

Now for dessert...
*Chocolate Creme Brulee with Raspberries
This recipe has been in our family since I was in high school and I'm not sure the source.  It could be gourmet magazine, but I honestly have no idea.  This sounds fancy, tastes spectacular, and is very simple.  Do not be intimidated by this recipe! I love it for parties because you can make it the day before and store in your fridge. People's eyes will roll back in their head when they taste it--it's that good.  Top with a few raspberries, and homemade whipped cream...or not. 
 Your guests will love it either way.

4 (1-ounce) squares of Baker's semi-sweet chocolate
2 Cups whipping cream
5 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275.
Combine semisweet chocolate and 1/2 Cup whipping cream in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts.  Add remaining 11/2 Cup whipping cream; add 1 teaspoon vanilla.
In a separate large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth.  Pour the chocolate/cream into your mixing bowl to combine.
Place 8-10 raspberries in each ramekin.  Pour egg mixture evenly into ramekins; place dishes in a large roasting pan or jellyroll pan and put into the oven.  Pour room temp water in the pan around the ramekins to make a water bath.  You want the water to come the sides of your ramekins.

Bake at 275 for one hour and 5 minutes.  Try not to eat them all before your company arrives.  This is very difficult so I suggest a game plan before you take them out of the oven!  Let them cool, cover with press-n-seal, and store in the fridge until serving.  If you'd like to re-heat them before serving, feel free.

Send your guests home with these sweet treats.  They are so simple, bit size, and people don't make them for themselves.

Did you find a recipe you're ready to try?  If you have a favorite recipe that can be made ahead of time, I'd love to hear it!  
Please share it on my Facebook page so we
 can keep the conversation going.


  1. This could not have come at a better time. I just went shopping for my weekend 3 year old birthday party, and I am also a huge fan of veggies with dip in cups, fruit with peanut butter/yogurt in cups, deviled eggs of any kind...

    Plus you remembered that the #1 thing is a good drink:)


  2. Love these ideas! I just sent the link to someone I'm hosting a shower with in June! The skewers and veggie cups would be perfect!

  3. Nice!! I'm sitting in an airport wanting a snack so reading this was a bit of torture. :). I want to come to a party you throw! Great inspiring post.

  4. Such great ideas! Yummy post too:-)

  5. Thank you for posting this. It’s exactly what I was looking for!

  6. These are great ideas...I love the sliders and skewers!!! Totally hanging on to this post for future parties!


Abby Manchesky Interiors is a boutique design firm based in Grand Rapids, MI. Combining the new traditional, vintage and a dash of the unexpected is her ideal. Contact Abby Manchesky Interiors for more information on available interior design services for clients near and far. abbyminteriors@gmail.com | 616.719.9400


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Follow by Email