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February 2004 Issue
Ideas for Quick Entertaining
by J. Sinclair
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I love to have parties. Well, not exactly parties -- I tend to think of parties as events that require a lot of planning and end up being very "official". The gatherings I have are casual and often are pulled together during the last hours of the workday when some friends at work start musing about getting together soon. Then I'll pop my head up and say, "Hey, why not make quesadillas at my place tonight?"

Before you know it, I've got one friend bring strawberries and tequila for the margaritas, another bringing three kinds of cheese and yet another offering to pick up some salsa and guacamole on the way over. Add to that a couple of pizza stones, some flour tortillas and other ingredients I've got on hand and we're going south of the border with little effort at all! We'll pop in a Latin CD and we're busy salsa-ing while we're putting together four or five quesadillas. It's really fun and low stress -- that's my idea of entertaining.

Just in case you're thinking that this is the sort of thing that's reserved for the bold, I'm going to share some of my favorite last-minute entertaining ideas. If you've got a little more time, feel free to expand on menus, add decorations and give a little more thought to music and beverages. My main rule, though, is to get your friends involved. When someone asks if they can bring something, say yes and give them a list. If someone wants to help out in the kitchen, let them. Better yet, get them all involved. That's half the fun.

Mexican in Minutes

I always have a variety of ingredients on hand at my home to satisfy my cravings for Mexican food. These become incredibly handy when it comes time to have a last minute gathering at my place with friends. Here's a partial list that will keep you south of the border whenever the mood hits:
  • flour tortillas
  • canned beans -- I'm especially fond of black beans
  • bottled salsa
  • bottled lime juice
  • a variety of cheeses
  • sour cream
  • green onions
  • black olives
  • tequila
  • frozen strawberries
  • bottled margarita mix
  • tortilla chips
  • canned diced tomatoes -- I like the varieties that come mixed with green chilies
With items like these around, it's easy to sauté some onions and peppers and add some spicy deli beef to make wonderful quesadilla fillings and layer pureed black beans, salsa, store-bought guacamole and sour cream for a dip to be enjoyed with chips. Add a blender with the makings for margaritas and you've got a party happening before you know it. If you're really lucky, you'll have some brightly colored plates to serve everything on and a CD filled with hot Latin music to get everyone in the spirit. It's time to salsa -- on the dance floor and with some chips!
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