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Easy and Cozy Entertaining at Home

In the summer, entertaining friends who’ve popped by for a visit is a piece of cake: just light up the BBQ! In the winter, we put our barbecues away and head inside, where spontaneous entertaining is a little more complicated, and keeping your freezer stocked for when friends drop by requires an upfront plan .To help figure out the best strategy for entertaining friends at the drop of a hat, we recruited lifestyle bloggers and hostesses with the mostestesses, Gina Bell, Jo-Anna Rooney, Janet Villeneuve and Joy Vandermeer Zacyk.  We got them to reveal all their best tips for simple and low-key entertaining! Here’s what we learned:

 AGB: Thanks for joining us everyone! What should we have on hand so we can invite friends to hang out at a moment’s notice?

 Joy Vandermeer Zaczyk: I like to have cheese, meat and great crackers on hand as well as coffee and specialty creamers. Deep ‘n Delicious cake doesn’t hurt either!

 Jo-Anna Rooney: Ooooh, I love entertaining! I like to have easy-to-make snacks, cheese and crackers, and some music.

Gina Bell: At this point in my life most of my entertaining revolves around my kids (7,6, and 4). When I have kids and their parents over I always try to have coffee and something sweet.

Janet Villeneuve: We love to keep our pantries stocked with entertaining essentials – like candles, napkins and great serving pieces.

JVK: So… when is everybody coming over?

AGB: What McCain products would you use to pull together a spontaneous lunch or dinner for friends? How would you “accessorize” the food?

JVZ: I love using whipped cream on Deep ‘n Delicious cakes!

JR: Pizza! You can add your own toppings, make a pizza bar; or use Superfries and have a DIY poutine night!

AGB: A pizza or poutine bar sounds just plain awesome!

JVZ: I like adding garlic and chopped onion to the Red Skin Chunks and pan-frying them up that way.

JV: For kids and teens we definitely pull out a pizza or Pizza Pockets with some Superfries. I always have pizza on hand – you never know when the teenagers are going to bring home a whole bunch of their friends!

GB: Because I often entertain parents and their kids, pizza is always a winner. Everybody likes pizza.

JV: I love interesting dips for fries like garlic aioli, mayonnaise (it’s a Dutch thing) and even hummus!

GB: Pizza is good the way it is, but it’s always fun to accessorize with a fun dessert. Maybe a Deep ‘n Delicious cake with fun decorations. I made one into a graveyard cake for my boys for Halloween.

JV: Great idea Gina!

JVZ: Presentation is everything!

JR: I agree, presentation! Pretty dishes, candles, adding strawberries to Deep ‘n Delicious cakes or more toppings to pizza.

AGB: So everyone’s got a lot of entertaining experience here – we’ve got to ask, what’s your ultimate party fail?

JV: How about the time I turned on the wrong burner and burnt the whole bottom of the entire HUGE pot of mashed potatoes. On Christmas Day. With 23 guests. So yeah… out came the fries.

JR: Ultimate fail… not having enough food! Luckily I only did that once and it was for my son’s family birthday party… but I was pregnant so that’s my excuse LOL!

GB: I always worry about not having enough food, and then I always end up having too much. I also stress out a lot before a party.

JVZ: I always like to have too much rather than too little. You can always eat leftovers, I say!

JV: I totally agree Joy, guests love taking home leftovers. Doggy bags rule!

AGB: Do you ever decorate for a party on the fly? What are your tips for quickly and easily jazzing up your home for guests?

JR: Flowers and candles!

JVZ: Flowers on the table help. I like to split up bouquets into smaller bunches and that way I can add some to the table, kitchen island, bathroom, etc.

GB: I try to never have a party on the fly. I am definitely a planner. If I have people over unexpectedly the “jazzing up” will consist of putting the toys away.

JV: When guests pop in unexpectedly I don’t feel right if I don’t make an effort to ready up the joint a little while they’re there! Things from my entertaining stash come in really handy: candles, linens, napkins and great serving pieces.

JR: And put out a bowl of chips and no one notices anything!

JVZ: Sometimes last-minute parties can be the best because you don’t have time to stress

AGB: Thanks for the ideas everyone. We’re feeling a lot better about last minute entertaining. And we’re excited to turn this conversation over to our readers! I bet they have some great tips, too!

So tell us: What do you stock in your freezer and pantry for when friends drop by? Do you have any secret tips or tricks for last minute entertaining at home? And what’s your biggest party fail? It’s all good – we won’t judge!