Fast and fun party foods

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Punched-up drinks

A big bowl of punch gets the party started-and stops you from playing bartender rather than hostess. Try juicy melon-ball punch, which looks as festive as it tastes. Or make a giant pitcher of strawberry-basil lemonade, a refreshing nonalcoholic sipper that can easily be spiked with vodka.

Amazing apps

The trick to entertaining is to make foods that look like a lot of work and pack plenty of punch but require minimal effort. Sausage corn puppies are just that-surprisingly simple and shamelessly delicious. Just be sure to make more than you think you'll need, because you're likely to do a lot of "quality control" tastes before guests arrive. Or go with a classic crowd-pleaser, homemade guacamole with chips-another snack that's hard to resist while you're making it.

Easy entrees

If a full-blown dinner is part of the night's menu, skip the stress and expense by serving pasta with exquisitely simple sauces. Easy and elegant penne alla vodka maximizes summer's fresh, juicy tomatoes and has an intoxicating name. Or take a turn from traditional pesto with this broccoli pesto and fusilli recipe, made with healthy whole-wheat pasta.

Piece of Cake

A gorgeous cake is not only an eye-catching way to end a meal, it requires minimal serving efforts. For summer sumptuousness, we vote for a stunning plum upside-down cake , which balances sweet and tart with ripe in-season stone fruit. For a more retro dessert, go with a classic sour-cream cake-and top it with fresh berries and whipped cream. Now on to more challenging decisions, like what to wear!

For more fun, easy ideas log on to