Mix-and-match salad ingredients

Photo: Ditte Isager

The Ultimate Salad Bar
You don't need to serve a five-course meal when you entertain. Instead, borrow the concept from choose-your-own-salad spots like Washington, D.C.–based Sweetgreen. "The secret to a satisfying salad is balance," says Nicolas Jammet, cofounder of Sweetgreen. "For example, combine an interesting protein, like spicy shrimp, and a crunchy topping, like crushed tortilla chips, with avocado and lettuce for a 'guacamole' salad." To serve eight, you'll need about two pounds of greens and two cups each of the other ingredients you offer.

Step 1: Shop for your choice of greens and add-ins.

Lettuce: Chopped romaine, mesclun, mizuna, arugula, Bibb

Vegetables and Fruit: Asparagus, snap peas, green beans, red onion, shallots, beets, radishes, corn, bell pepper, carrots, avocado, grape tomatoes, broccoli, basil, mint, cilantro, apple, grapefruit, grapes, watermelon, balsamic strawberries

Grains and Beans: Quinoa, chickpeas, black beans, shelled edamame

Cheese: Feta, goat cheese, Cheddar, Parmesan

Meat and Protein: Spicy shrimp, baked falafel, roasted portobello mushrooms, roasted chicken, hard-boiled egg

Crunch: Roughly crushed tortilla chips, pita chips, and crackers; wasabi peas; roasted nuts, like almonds, walnuts, and macadamia; seeds, like pumpkin and sunflower; toasted whole spices, like cumin, coriander, and fennel

Step 2: Make dressings.

Ginger-Scallion Vinaigrette Recipe

Lime-Cilantro Dressing Recipe

Balsamic Yogurt Dressing Recipe

Miso Dressing Recipe

Master Mixes

Fruit and Goat Cheese
Bibb + balsamic strawberries + basil + shallots + goat cheese + roasted almonds + balsamic yogurt dressing

Guacamole Salad
Mesclun + avocado chunks + grape tomatoes + red onion + cilantro + spicy shrimp + crushed tortilla chips + lime-cilantro dressing

Bibb + apple + asparagus + green beans + quinoa + goat cheese + roasted portobellos + crushed crackers + ginger-scallion vinaigrette

Chopped romaine + cilantro + shallots + edamame + carrots + spicy shrimp + wasabi peas + miso dressing

Arugula + roasted broccoli + basil + shaved white Cheddar + roasted portobello mushrooms + macadamia nuts + balsamic yogurt dressing

Romaine + grape tomatoes + sweet corn + shaved strips of sharp cheddar + black beans + tortilla chips + lime-cilantro vinaigrette

Shrimp and Feta
Mizuna + carrots + radishes + red onion + Feta + spicy shrimp + ginger-scallion vinaigrette

Next: Build customized cookies
Custom cookies

Photo: Ditte Isager

Custom Cookies
At Tina Casaceli's Milk & Cookies Bakery in New York City, customers can design their own flavors—say, marshmallow-macadamia cookies, which are then baked fresh on the spot. Here, Casaceli shares a dough recipe from her cookbook, Milk & Cookies. Prep the dough before the party, then use it as the base for the combinations she suggests, or anything you and your friends can imagine.

Step 1: Make the oatmeal-vanilla cookie dough.

Step 2: Mix in flavorings.

Chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, milk or bittersweet chocolate chunks, caramel chips, M&M's, chocolate-covered pretzels, broken candy bars, toffee bits, marshmallows, peppermints

Chopped macadamia nuts, pecans, sliced almonds, peanuts, and walnuts (or nut butters); coconut flakes

Dried candied pineapple, dried papaya, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, dried cherries, candied ginger, golden raisins, dried apricots

Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, sanding sugar, walnut or orange liqueur, coffee extract, peppermint extract, jam, citrus zest, almond paste, sea salt, cream cheese

Perfect Pairings

Walnut liqueur + walnuts

Ginger Snap
Ginger + cinnamon + clove

Mint Chocolate Chip
Peppermint extract + chocolate chips

Ginger + cloves + nutmeg + cardamom + cinnamon

Papaya + coconut + macadamia nuts

Coffee extract + milk chocolate

Chocolate chips + caramel chips

Orange liqueur + grated orange zest + chocolate chunks + pecans

White chocolate chips + chopped macadamia nuts

Fruit and Nut
White chocolate chips + dried cherries + pecans

Candy Bar
Bittersweet chocolate chunks + toffee bits

Cinnamon + sanding sugar + sliced almonds

Milk chocolate chunks + sliced almonds

Chocolate chips + coconut flakes

Next: Design your own cocktails
Fruity designer cocktails

Photo: Ditte Isager

Designer Drinks
Mixologist Julie Reiner is known for creating inventive cocktails at bars like Lani Kai, her recently opened tropical-themed lounge in New York City. But at home, she'll set up a simple make-your-own cocktail station, complete with a variety of fruits: "That way, I don't have to play bartender all night." For the best results, Reiner recommends using one kind of fruit in each glass. To serve eight, you'll need six or seven cups of fruit total.

Step 1: Prepare drink base.

Mojitos Recipe

Fruity Tom Collins Recipe

Step 2: Add fruit

As desired, peeled and diced (about ⅓ cup fruit per drink)

Blood oranges
Red grapes
Cherries (pitted)

More Simple Entertaining Ideas