Since I believe I'm not alone in feeling pulled in a million directions, I thought I'd share a very simple meal plan. (It's 2 p.m. and I'm ready for everything).
Mixed Nuts (buy any kind you like)
Olives & Small Bococcini Antipasto (I like pitted Kalamata - no one has to figure out what to do with the pits)
I make one with meat sauce and pepperoni slices - Jo's favorite, and a vegetarian one with marinara sauce and spinach (made with store bought sauces). I even buy shredded cheeses and pepperoni already sliced. Don't gasp or think ill of me, but I bought oven-ready lasagna noodles, so there'd be no messy pot to clean today either. And, because I needed to make larger trays of lasagna than my lovely baking dishes would hold, I actually bought those disposable ones. The entire prep took less than 20 minutes for two huge trays of lasagna, appetizers, garlic bread, and the vinaigrette.
For the record - layer of sauce, layer of noodles, layer of sauce, layer of ricotta or cottage cheese, layer of pepperoni or spinach, layer of noodles, layer of sauce, layer of grated mozarella cheese, layer of noodles, layer of sauce, pretty slices (I do triangles) of mozarella slices. I prepare it earlier in the day and then just bake at 350F/180C for about 45 minutes (before dinner is scheduled) uncovered, adding some grated parmesan cheese 5 minutes before it's done. How easy is that!
Salad - Torn Romaine Hearts with fresh chopped parsely and oregano and a vinaigrette
Garlic Bread - I used my trusty Cuisinart to mash up 2 large cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of fresh parsley and 1 stick (1/4 cup) of salted butter. Then I sliced 2 ACE Bakery Rosemary Focaccia bread in halve crosswise. Spread both sides with butter - It makes it easier to just broil in the oven when everyone arrives.