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Have you gazed longingly in a glossy magazine and wished that you too could pull off a dinner party for eight?

You swear only Martha Stewart could produce such a beautiful table with its matching place settings and centerpiece. And what about that scrumptious, mouth-watering meal? Surely, only a Food Network star could accomplish that.

There's good news: You don't need a cooking show or culinary degree to entertain a large dinner party. The following will provide everything you need to make your dinner for eight a resounding success.

The Menu


Tossed salad

Buttered corn

Garlic bread

Ambrosia dessert

Sweetened tea or lemonade


Invite your guests two weeks before the event. This will give them time to rearrange their schedules, plan for a sitter if necessary, and confirm their attendance. Inform them if your dinner is formal, casual, or in-between so they can dress appropriately. Ask if they have any allergies, dietary restrictions, or food preferences.

Make up your grocery list a week before the dinner party. Check the staples in your pantry. Don't take the basics for granted. This will save an unnecessary trip to the store.

This is not the time to try new recipes. But if you can't resist, prepare them beforehand to ensure their success.

Buy your groceries three days before the dinner, thereby ensuring the produce and dairy products will be at their peak condition.

Make a seating chart and design the place cards. It will save confusion when your guests come to the table. Be cognizant of who is left- and right-handed. For spacing's sake, it is still best to seat boy-girl-boy-girl. You should also wash and press the tablecloth and napkins at this time.

Call your guests and confirm their attendance two days prior to the dinner. Don't assume they will remember. Begin cleaning the house. Start with the bedrooms and the hallway and continue cleaning for the next two days until you finish with all the rooms except for the kitchen, which should be done when the food preparation is finished. Cleaning several rooms at a time keeps the workload reasonable as you accomplish the other tasks.

Check the amount of ice on hand. Either make ice cubes, empty the automatic ice maker several times, or purchase a bag of ice. Rearrange the items in the refrigerator to provide room for the dishes you will be preparing.

Confirm the number of serving dishes, utensils, dishes, glasses, coffee cups, silverware, etc. you will need. Borrow or substitute as needed. Wash all the items, making sure the glasses and silverware are spot-free. Fill the salt and pepper shakers and sugar bowl.

Cook and refrigerate the lasagna sauce. Grate the cheeses for the lasagna and the tossed salad. Pick out a CD to use for pleasant background music.

Assemble the lasagna in the pan the day preceding your dinner. Cover it with foil and refrigerate. Prepare the cheesy garlic bread, wrap it in aluminum foil, and refrigerate. Make the tea or lemonade.

Add a table leaf to the dining room table if needed. Set out the serving dishes, utensils, dishes, glasses, coffee cups, silverware, etc.

Pour the corn into a microwave-safe dish, dot with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and refrigerate. Chop the ingredients for the tossed salad and make the dessert. Put the grated cheese for the salad in a glass serving dish. Cover it with plastic wrap. Line the bread basket with aluminum foil and a pretty liner.

Make a quick trip to the store for anything you might have forgotten. Buy a bouquet of flowers to match the dinner plates. Arrange the flowers in a vase. Clean and tidy up the kitchen.

That evening, clean and restock the guest bathroom. Empty the dishwasher so it can be used the following day.

Set the table the morning of the dinner. Combine the salad ingredients (minus the cheese and the salad dressing). Set a timer as a reminder to put the lasagna into the oven.

Warmly greet your guests at the door when they arrive. Ask to take their coats and belongings and offer a glass of tea or lemonade. Make sure one of the guests is responsible for keeping the conversation light and ongoing while you finish preparing the meal.

When the lasagna has five to 10 minutes left to bake, microwave the corn. Leave it inside the microwave to keep it warm. Toss the salad. Place it on the table next to the grated cheese and salad dressings. After the lasagna comes out of the oven, adjust the oven temperature to broil. Loosely cover the lasagna with the aluminum foil and set it on the table. Slip the bread in the oven and set the timer so you won't over-bake it. Put the corn on the table. Remove the bread from the oven, place it in the bread basket, and set the basket on the table. Invite your guests to come and eat.

Some additional reminders:

• Turn on the music before the guests arrive.

• Shake the salad dressing bottles before placing them on the table.

• Ask your guests if they would like to freshen up before dinner.

• Refresh the guests' drinks before they sit to eat.

• Don't forget to remove your apron before sitting at the table.

• Steer the conversations away from controversial subjects (i.e., religion, politics, and such).

• Clear food that needs refrigeration before serving dessert.

• Offer coffee or a drink refill with dessert.

The most important ingredient of a successful dinner party is to make your guests feel welcome and at home. Be sensitive to their needs. Use the above suggestions, but also be flexible and willing to accommodate any situation. If you do, your dinner party of eight will be a success!

The Recipes


1½ lb. ground beef

½ diced onion

1-32 oz. can pureed tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

½ t. pepper

1 T. basil

1 T. parsley

2 T. oregano

1 or 2 c. water (Use two cups of water if you want the sauce to simmer longer.)

Brown the ground beef with the minced onion in a large pan. Drain the grease and blot the ground beef with a paper towel. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for approximately one hour or until the sauce has thickened. Let cool slightly.

Cook a box of lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.

Combine three eggs, a 24-oz. carton of small curd cottage cheese, an 8-oz. package of Mozzarella cheese, and ½ c. of grated Parmesan cheese.

Spray a 13" x 9" pan with cooking spray. Layer noodles, sauce, and cheese mixture 3x. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-45 minutes. After removing from oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil to allow the cheese to set while the oven preheats to broil and the garlic bread is baking (Approximately 10 minutes).

Cheesy Garlic Bread

½ c butter or margarine, softened

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ t. oregano

1 loaf (1 lb.) French bread, sliced diagonally

3 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the butter or margarine, the minced garlic, and the oregano in a small bowl. Spread the mixture on the bread. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Place the bread slices on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Ambrosia Dessert

1 pt. sour cream

1-12 oz. carton Cool Whip

2 c. flaked coconut

2 large cans crushed pineapple, drained

3 small cans mandarin oranges, drained

4 c. mini marshmallows

1 jar maraschino cherries, sliced and drained on a paper towel

Mix all the ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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