Party planning should be fun and easy, so get things done in 15 minutes or less.

The 15-Minute Party Planner's blog breaks down basic party-planning tasks into simple actions that take 15 minutes or less. We're not here to make you the next Martha, we're here to help you be crafty quickly!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fake out with takeout: How to dress up dishes in 15 minutes or less

Cooking a meal from scratch can take hours. Doctoring takeout with a few homemade touches, however, takes mere minutes, and allows you to spend more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen.

Here are some ideas that will help you put a personal touch on takeout in fifteen minutes or less.

  • Have cheese pizzas delivered to your house half-baked. When they arrive, top them with the veggies or meats of your choice and pop them into your own oven at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes. This saves time and money on toppings! Even easier? Have fully-cooked pizzas delivered uncut, then cut them yourself using fancy designs and top slices with fresh herbs or grated Parmesan cheese.

  • Need some fancy appetizers? Plan ahead by buying large-leaf lettuce, then order your favorite stir-fried rice and stuff the lettuce leaves with spoonfuls of rice. Using a pretty cup-like lettuce like romaine or radicchio? Leave the leaf open and filled with the rice. Using a flatter kind of lettuce like iceberg or butter lettuce? Wrap the rice inside and stick with a toothpick to hold it together. Serve with soy sauce.

  • Buy a party-size sandwich (we call them "grinders" in my neck of the woods, but "subs", "hogies", "heroes", and a number of other terms mean the same thing). Slice the sandwich into individual servings, poke a fancy toothpick into each serving (to hold it together), and serve with sides of fresh veggies and a variety of spreads. You can even spruce up mayonnaise by adding herbs or spices; try a tarragon or smokey chipotle mayo just by stirring in the spices.|

  • Order finger-foods like egg rolls, crab rangoon, beef teriyaki, and fried wontons from a local Chinese restaurant, then simply arrange in pretty bowls (ditch the takeout containers!) and serve with a variety of dipping sauces.

  • Everything looks gourmet in a bread bowl. Pick up a few round loaves of bread at the bakery or grocery store and cut a "bowl" into the bread. You can fill bread bowls with store-bought dip or hummus and present them with chunks of bread or veggies for an appetizer. You can also buy sandwich rolls, hollow out the middles, and fill them with a local restaurant's best soup or chowder.

  • Serve a store-bought cake on fancy plates with sliced fruit, whipped cream, chopped nuts, or small candies. Better yet? Cut the cake with a round cookie cutter and stack rounds of cake and layers of fruit into parfait glasses, garnishing with toppings.
Have some ideas of your own? Share them with readers in the comments.

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