Quick Buffet Tips

The buffet is a casual, easy style of entertaining that seems especially well suited to summer. Guests particularly enjoy the unstructured feeling that a buffet creates. Here are some tips for hassle-free buffet entertaining:

The food

You can have an elaborate smorgasbord of dishes, or build the menu around a central dish supported by complementary dishes that won’t overwhelm it.

Choose foods that will not suffer if eaten warm rather than hot, or slightly chilled rather than cold.

If you’re not planning to have your guests sit down at tables, don’t serve foods that need to be cut with a knife. Instead, choose fingerfood or precut bite-sized food. Remember your guests will already have a full plate of food, a napkin and a wineglass to juggle.

Make up a prep sheet for the meal, including all the shopping information, which day you will prepare the dish, and what it will be served on. Check everything off as you go.


The main centerpiece on the table is the food — especially when it is displayed attractively and garnished with colorful, edible flowers and herb blossoms. Think of it as a still life.

A basket of simply arranged flowers always is welcome, but make sure it is not too tall.

You may want to have small vases of flowering herbs placed next to a dish that features the same herb.

Imagine what the colors of the various dishes will be and what type of arrangement would best complement them. Baskets of bright vegetables, such as red and golden peppers, orange and red tomatoes, and different shapes of green and yellow squashes make a striking presentation.

Shallow bowls of freshly picked flowers floating in water along with floating candles also are very attractive.

Assorted shapes and sizes of seashells scattered in the center of the table and interspersed with flowers make an unusual arrangement.

The buffet table

An important point to keep in mind is that there is no “right” way for the table to look. It is a matter of your own personal taste and what feels right to you.

Mixing and matching old and new, complementary — not matching — napkins and tablecloths, dishes and serving pieces will create a warm and informal atmosphere.

Plates and silverware

Matching plates are not any more necessary than matching table linens. Alternate the dishes to create an interesting pattern of color.

If you want to invest in a set of buffet plates, I recommend large, plain white plates or clear glass ones because they adapt to any occasion and are inexpensive.

Paper plates are sometimes more appropriate for a casual buffet. Choose a sturdy, attractive, quality plate that can handle a full meal.

Present the cutlery by wrapping it in a napkin and then tying a bow around it with either ribbon or jute. A fresh herb blossom or flower can be tucked into the bow.


Mix and match whatever glasses you have on hand.

For a large party, you might consider renting all-purpose wineglasses. Figure that you should double the number of guests to arrive at the correct number of glasses.

If you’re serving champagne, use the right glasses, champagne flutes. Buy them, rent them, or use plastic ones, but the shape is essential.


Quick Bundt Cake Tips

  • Use a lightweight nonstick Bundt pan for even cooking. If you use a heavyweight dark pan make sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees for even cooking and a moist result.
  • Use a baker’s spray which contains both oil and flour. There are a number of brands available in the baking section of your market. This will help in releasing the cake after baking.
  • Fill the pan about 3/4 full to avoid overflow.
  • Cool the cake for at least 30 minute and then gently shake the pan from side to side listening for thumping. This indicates that the cake is loose and ready to invert. Carefully loosen the cake with a flexible knife( plastic or rubber) around the center tube and sides if sticking persists.
  • Invert on a cooling rack; continue to cool. Dust with powdered sugar using a sifter or drizzle your favorite glaze on top.

Quick Fried Rice Tips

  • Chilled, cooked rice is essential for the correct texture. If it is warm rice there will be too much moisture and the end-result will be mushy.
  • Have all ingredients cut up ahead and set out next to the cooktop.
  • Cook this in a wok; the wok must be very hot so that all will cook quickly.
  • Don’t skimp on the oil since you want the rice to fry rather than just be heated through.
  • Don’t crowd the pan. You can cook ingredients separately and then add back to the wok for the final cooking.
  • Let the each ingredient sear in the wok and do not touch it for at least 20 seconds before tossing it. This is important to develop the best color and texture.
  • For spicier flavor add some hot chili paste or hot sauce like Sriracha.

Quick Leek Tips

  • Leeks are very dirty, so make sure to clean them thoroughly.
  • When cleaning leeks, split them down the middle, making sure that the root is intact, and place under cold water to clean out any excess dirt.
  • Garnish the leeks with ½ pound cooked shrimp or crabmeat, then drizzle on the sauce.
  • Serve as a side with any grilled dish.
  • Serve as a first course, sprinkled with chopped egg and garnished with red and yellow cherry tomatoes or tiny pear tomatoes.

For more quick leek tips, check out this video.

Quick Bread Tips

  • Replace old (more than 6 months) baking powder and baking soda for proper rising.
  • Don’t overmix or the texture will be tough.
  • Bake the batter as soon as you have prepared it because the leavening strength will weaken if it is not exposed to heat promptly.
  • Test that the bread is done by sticking a wooden skewer in the center; it should come out clean or just a few moist crumbs attached.
  • Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes and then unmold on a wire rack to finish cooling.