SOURCE: Starbucks K-Cups

January 19, 2012 05:00 ET

Hosting a Party? Get the Guests Involved

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Jan 19, 2012) - (Family Features) Hosting dinner parties, brunches and events should be fun, but there's often so much to do that fun goes off the menu. By getting the guests involved, you can host a gathering and still have a good time.

Here are some tips for creating your own enjoyable and unforgettable gathering.

Make it potluck
Keep things simple and cut down on party prep time by asking guests to contribute a dish. Assign appetizers, salads and sides to your guests so that all you will need to prepare is the main dish. Perhaps ask some guests to contribute to the beverage selection as well.

Ensure that guests can reach food items on the buffet by propping up dishes with elevated platforms like tiered platters or cake stands. For an inexpensive solution, place a bowl upside down and cover with a vibrant or patterned cloth napkin before setting the food on top.

Stock the beverage bar
Be sure to designate an area for beverages and refreshments. Place pitchers of ice water flavored with strawberries or cucumbers for guests to enjoy throughout the event. Set out a Keurig Single-Cup Brewer with an assortment of Starbucks Coffee K-Cup Packs so guests can brew their favorite premium coffee. (To learn more, visit www.starbucks.com/coffee/k-cup.)

"Make sure your guests have everything they need to 'personalize' their after-dinner coffee by providing creative mix-ins for their individual cup. Flavored syrups like vanilla, hazelnut, and peppermint are always a hit, as well as fun toppings like ground cinnamon, chocolate shavings, caramel and whipped cream," says Jenn Sbranti, Founder of Hostess with the Mostess. "For the finishing touch, include a few clever 'stir stick' garnishes -- such as cinnamon sticks, rock candy, and tall pirouette cookies."

Set up interactive desserts
Create a self-serve station with ingredients for do-it-yourself desserts. Update a classic idea like an ice cream sundae bar by offering guests frozen yogurt and fresh fruit instead so they can create healthy parfaits. Another creative idea would be setting up a sweet and savory popcorn station, where guests can fill up small lunch sacks or gift bags with their favorite flavored popcorn and personal toppings. Prepare the sugary and savory popcorn bases (recipes available online) or buy premade sweetened and buttery popcorn. Then set out assorted toppings for the choosing -- savory options could include truffle oil, grated Parmesan, sea salt, dried herbs, and dry ranch or taco seasoning; for the sweet tooth, offer cocoa mix, apple pie spice, chocolate or peanut butter candies, and toffee-coated peanuts.

Send guests home with leftovers
Finally make post-party cleanup easier on yourself by offering guests leftovers at the end of the night. Purchase paper food containers beforehand so everyone can help themselves to their favorite foods to take home.

So whether you're planning a big dinner party or an intimate brunch, remember that sharing the host responsibilities and introducing DIY aspects to the occasion lets you reduce your own stress and enjoy more time with your guests.

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