Let's be honest, parties take work. But if you do it right, the cooking can be the least of your worries. In fact, you can sometimes get away with no cooking at all. With just a few simple ingredients and minimal effort you really can throw an elegant affair that meets the culinary mark.
So we've assembled dozens of easy-to-execute party bites from cookbook authors and chefs to get you off to a good start. As for doing the dishes after the party, you're on your own.
JOSE GARCES, Philadelphia chef and author of "The Latin Road Home":
Smoky almonds: Dust roasted marcona almonds with smoked paprika and Maldon sea salt.
Spoon snack: Combine good quality canned Spanish tuna, quartered cherry tomatoes, sliced green Spanish olives like arbequina or manzanilla, chopped chives, a splash of sherry vinegar and a bit of olive oil. Serve on miso spoons for an impressive and pretty one-bite snack.
JAMIE BISSONNETTE, chef and owner of Boston's Coppa and Toro restaurants:
Cheese and apples: Serve Epoisse cheese at room temperature on a decorative spoon topped with a slice of apple and some toasted walnuts.
Mortadella rolls: Buy sliced mortadella and roll it up stuffed with olives and oozy robiola due latte cheese.
Asian dip: Take onion dip to Chinatown. Instead of instant onion soup, spike your sour cream with a ramen noodle flavoring packet and spicy kimchi. Add a little cream cheese for texture. Serve with rice crackers.
TOM DOUGLAS, Seattle chef and restaurateur:
Salty-sweet spread: Puree equal amounts of dried figs and pitted Kalamata olives for a delicious smear for pita.
Wide-awake shrimp cocktail: Turn your shrimp cocktail into a "red eye" by spiking 1 cup of cocktail sauce with five finely ground espresso beans.
Lox and cukes: Top cucumber slices with lox (smoked salmon) for a healthy, crunchy appetizer or finger snack.
MICHAEL ROMANO, James Beard award-winning chef with New York's Union Square Hospitality Group:
Mediterranean dip: Drain a jar of prepared baby artichokes and toss with good quality canned tuna (packed in olive oil). Add a squeeze of lemon, chopped black olives, Aleppo pepper and chopped parsley. Serve with crackers.
Crunchy caviar: Slice celery into very thin strips, then lightly salt them. Top with grated bottarga caviar and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Peppers and toast: Toast focaccia or garlic bread slices and top with good quality prepared roasted peppers.
KEVIN GILLESPIE, executive chef of Atlanta's Woodfire Grill and author of "Fire in my Belly":
Smoky sweet apples: Wrap thick apple wedges in smoked bacon and sprinkle with brown sugar. Broil until the bacon is crisp.
Baked brie, 2012: Spread store-bought puff pastry or croissant dough into an "X." Put a wheel of brie or camembert in the center and cover in truffle honey. Tuck a few toasted walnuts inside for crunch, if you like. Pull up the sides of the dough like you're wrapping a present. Bake until golden brown.
Smoked fish dip: Buy hot-smoked salmon or trout. Blend in a food processor with room temperature cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and fresh chives. Use as a dip for crackers or spread onto slices of toasted baguette.
Fruit and cheese bites: Buy brioche and punch out bite-size rounds or cut into squares. Top with sliced pears, cooked smoked bacon and sharp cheddar cheese. Put on baking sheet and bake at 350° until the cheese melts.
SEAMUS MULLEN, chef and owner of New York's Tertulia and author of "Hero Food":