Consider your comfort level when thinking about the menu and recipes, where you want to gather, and how many guests you'll invite. It's important to have everything well thought out, for a relaxed host or hostess means relaxed and happy guests!
One of the best things about these menus is that all of the food is make-ahead. Whether you're letting soups and stews simmer away in crockpots, or have dessert fully made and tucked in the fridge or freezer, these recipes are all easy on you. You can also buy a lot of the food for these parties. For instance, in today's supermarkets, you can usually find all the ingredients for a salad buffet, fully prepared! The deli, of course, is a fabulous resource for soups and sandwiches. If you like, you can buy fully prepared soups or sandwiches and add your own touches: fresh basil, a dollop or two of cream, or some extra sauteed onion for the soups; and more fresh herbs, special cheeses, or dippers for sandwiches.
Food safety is a concern with this type of party. Every single piece of food should be removed after it's been sitting out for two hours, one hour in really hot weather. If you also offer an assortment of snack foods (we're talking chips and dip here), this shouldn't be a problem. Just keep an eye on the clock - better yet, set a timer so you don't forget.
Pick the party you like from these menus, plan ahead carefully using my tips and recipes, and relax. You're going to have a fabulous party!