A few tips for party hosts and attendees:

– To cut down on expenses and work, make it a potluck! Assign specific dishes or food groups. For the friends who don’t cook, ask them to bring ice, drinks or a roll of paper towels.

– Make sure you have enough utensils and plates for everyone. If you don’t want to buy disposable, consider asking one or two friends (preferably friends who drive and/or live close by) to bring a set of silverware, plates and glasses to supplement your supply.

– You’ll feel better about life if you are as cleaned up as possible before everyone arrives; don’t keep a pile of just-used dishes in the sink to clean up later, when every surface of your kitchen is inevitably filled with more dirty dishes.

– Build your food spread around finger foods and small bites to cut down on utensil requirements.

– If you run out of bowls for your soups and chilis, use mugs.

Think about where you’ll spread out your array of dishes – the kitchen counters? Your table? On a board balanced on two boxes and covered with a sheet to mimic a tablecloth? You’ve got options.

People are going to bring beer, and you’re going to need room to keep it cold; if you don’t have room in your refrigerator, fill something else with ice and stick the beer in there.

Things we have used: A cooler, bucket, Christmas tree stand, large plastic storage tub, the snow outside.

Things we have seen people on the internet and in movies use: A washing machine, bathtub, empty plant pots (?), buried in the ground outside (??), an icy flowing stream near a haunted house in Iceland (!).

Note: When using an uninsulated vessel to pour ice into and stash your beverages, it is wise to wrap a few towels around and under said vessel, to help with condensation.

Any ol’ person can order pizza. Make your party something special by getting a little more creative with the food.


– Joan’s Chicken Wings. The recipe, from Stanley Tucci’s mother, is a two-for-one, chicken with a side of vegetables special. It all bakes on a single sheet pan.

– Coconut Chicken Fingers. The scallion, cornmeal, coconut and sesame seed coating makes these nice and crunchy (and gluten-free!). Serve with honey-spiked mustard for dipping.

– Irresistible wings. The name doesn’t lie. A sauce that combines hoisin, ketchup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard and gochujang hits all the right notes.

 – Maple and Cranberry Drumsticks. These meaty pops are ideal for those who just aren’t that into chicken wings.


– Seafood Chowder. This chowdah is a simple affair of vegetables, bacon, milk and seafood. We used chunks of cod and a handful of shrimp, but feel free to swap in any type of seafood you like or have on hand.

– Meats and Foods Chili. Eat it topped with corn chips, spoon it over a hot dog, use a funnel to siphon it into your mouth . . . there’s not really a wrong way to eat this.

– Red Lentil Chili. It’s meatless, but we’re betting you won’t miss the beef. For you last-minute types, this can be made in less than an hour.

 – Everybody’s Chili Verde. With plenty of chiles and lots of customizable toppings that should please any eater and diet.


– Sweet Onion, Scallion and Chive Dip. The classic onion dip you know and love, but made with fresh onions, scallions and chives rather than a packaged mix. For something a little heavier on the herbs, go for Dill and Mint Yogurt Dip.

– El Rey Nachos. This is all about the sauce: It’s creamy, cheesy and slightly spicy, thanks to poblano peppers. The recipe also includes directions for making your own tortilla chips from corn tortillas – do so, and you’ll be rewarded with sturdy nachos that can handle a party.

– Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip. The classic dip, slimmed down by upping the amount of vegetables and using yogurt and whipped cream cheese instead of loads of sour cream.

– Baked Jalapeño Poppers. Easier to make than the fried version, and healthful, too. Best of all, you can make these up to two days in advance; when you’re ready to serve, reheat them for about 20 minutes in a 325-degree oven.


– Fast Focaccia. Turns out it’s really easy to make this chewy, crisped bread. The recipe makes enough for two, so you’ll have plenty to share. For a party, we’d use this to dip into oil or one of the spreads above; we would also cut it in half horizontally, fill it with sliced meats, mustard and pickles, then cut the resulting giant sandwich into slider-sized portions.

– Hummus, Pepper and Gorgonzola Flatbread. This is a strange-seeming combination of ingredients that go shockingly well together.

– Roast Broccoli Hero Sandwiches. A meat-free option packed with flavour, thanks in no small part to pickle brine, spicy chili sauce and store-bought fried onions.

[Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in The Washington Post Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes.]

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