We've got simple strategies for throwing together the world's fastest appetizers, stocking the bar and more, even if you're arriving home an hour before the party starts.
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Deconstruct the Appetizers
Spooning filling into hollowed-out loaves of bread or tiny taco shells, or neatly arranging chopped tomatoes over toasted bread, looks lovely, but it also sucks up valuable I-could-be-sitting-on-the-couch-with-my-feet-up time. Instead, create DIY stations: Put out a bowl of spinach dip with slices of baguette, taco dip with scoop-shaped tortilla chips, or bruschetta with pita chips, and let your guests do the assembling.
Stock Up on Cream Cheese
This must be the world's easiest homemade appetizer: Let a block of cream cheese come to room temperature. (You can even remove it from the refrigerator in the morning and leave it out--wrapped in the original packaging or plastic--all day.) Spread pepper jelly or mango pepper jelly on top and serve with crackers. (If you buy a few bricks, you'll have extra for morning-after bagels.)
Put a Bucket in the Sink
Even if guests are using disposable plates and cups, parties somehow have a way of generating dirty dishes. Set a plastic dishpan in the sink and fill it with warm, soapy water. As empty dip bowls and serving utensils pile up, plunk them into the bucket. They're temporarily out of sight, and even if they remain there overnight, they'll be easier to deal with after a good soak.
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