I love having parties. The only reason I donít have more of them is that no one wants to drive to the middle of nowhere and drink and have to drive home. Oh, and also because from about half-an-hour before the party to about two hours into a party, Iíve decided I hate having parties. Thatís when I give up on my shining image of what I wanted, accept whatever has gone haywire, sit down and let the rest of the evening take its course.

So I found this cool book, ďInStyle Parties,Ē which includes 15 parties, fully planned, from concept to invites to recipes, with countdowns and shortcuts and all the details perfectly laid out.

I tried the recipes for the Harvest Dinner chapter ó without really having a party, so I didnít use all the elements that make this book so cool, but the recipes were enough to get me thinking.

Five things I learned:
1. Itís the fashion now, when youíre having a party, to have a single cocktail that pairs well with the food. Thatís awesome for foodies like me and my few foodie friends, but Iíll tell you, by the end of the evening, Iíll be with the rest of my tribe, digging around in the fridge for a plain old beer, or unscrewing the top from a cheap bottle of vino. So consider your audience: Have something popular on hand, or, better yet, ask everyone to bring their own libation.

One of the bookís shortcuts on this party is to replace the cocktail with a trusted wine, so, there you go: Dispensation to decant the Yellow Tail. All that being said, these Ginger-Lemon Hot Toddies look pretty tasty, and Iím plotting when I might be able to partake of them.

2. As for the roast chicken, it might seem intimidating, but itís the easiest dish on the menu, except you have to get up to your elbows in raw chicken. Donít be squeamish. Thatís why God gave us hand soap.

When you roast a chicken, just butter it, (get some under the skin) give it a good dose of salt and pepper and roast it ó in just about any dish itíll fit in ó at 475 F for half an hour, then turn it down to 400 F for another hour or so, depending on how big it is. Mine was about 5 pounds, and it was perfect. Donít forget to take it out of the pan and let it rest at least 10 minutes but maybe up to 20 before carving, to let the juices settle back into the meat.

3. The Pear & Pumpkin Tart is endlessly flexible, and I took advantage of that, subbing butternut squash for the pumpkin (easier to find).

You could sub in apple for the pear, though the pear was wonderful. Itís OK if itís firm. I put mine in a bag with an apple overnight to ripen it a bit, but itíll soften as it bakes as well. Itís easier to cut when itís firm.

If you canít find baby arugula, use frisee or a baby greens mix.

Donít go cheap and skip the pomegranate seeds like I did. They would have provided a nice seasonal color, flavor and foil to the richness of the blue cheese.

4. The idea of a Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad didnít excite me too much, but Iíve found if you put enough walnuts, Pecorino Romano, olive oil, salt and pepper on something, Iíll eat it. Shaving individual Brussels sprouts was a bit tedious. Itís listed on the party ďcountdownĒ to do three hours before the party. I donít know about you, but three hours before a party, Iím usually busy getting cobwebs off the ceiling fans. I might move it back a bit, maybe to the day before. As long as theyíre in the fridge, they should be fine.

I did use my mandoline, which in this case is not a small guitar, but a slanted kitchen tool that you slide food back and forth on and it slices it evenly. You could do it on a box grater, too, but either way, I seriously recommend acquiring a cutting glove for such work. Theyíre tight-fitting gloves with metal woven into them that prevent you from slicing off your finger doing things like shaving Brussels sprouts.

5. ďTruss the chicken.Ē Huh. Well, I used kitchen string to tie the legs together, but thatís only half of the job, according to ďJoy of CookingĒ (which, by the way, said itís rarely necessary). But, for the record, to truss, once you tie the legs together, you take the string back on both sides and wrap it around the wings and tie the ends of the string together in the middle of the neck region so the chicken stays together in a nice bundle while it cooks. What you do about it is between you and your bird.
Ginger-Lemon Hot Toddies
Total 4 hours, 13 minutes; hands-on 13 minutes; serves 8
5 cups water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup honey
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 (3-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup golden rum
1/2 cup brandy
Lemon zest strips (optional)

Place the first 5 ingredients in a 3-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Remove and discard the ginger slices.

Stir in the rum and brandy. Ladle the mixture into mugs, and garnish with the lemon zest, if desired.

ó Excerpted from INSTYLE Parties by the Editors of INSTYLE

Roast Chicken with Vegetables
Total 2 hours, 10 minutes; hands-on 30 minutes; serves 6
1 whole chicken (about 5 pounds)
1 lemon, halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Table salt and black pepper
2 leeks, dark green leaves trimmed, halved lengthwise, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces, thick ends halved
2 small white turnips, peeled and halved
6 small red potatoes, halved
2 shallots, halved
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
ĺ cup low-sodium chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 475 F.

Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Trim the chicken of excess fat. Place the lemon halves inside the cavity. Truss or tie the legs with kitchen string; tuck the wing tips underneath the body. Set the chicken in the center of the roasting pan and rub all over with the butter. Season generously with the salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the leeks, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, shallots, and thyme with the olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken; pour in Ĺ cup of the chicken broth. Roast for 25 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 F. Cook until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 F, 50 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large platter, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Before serving, remove any excess fat from the roasting pan, then place the pan, with the vegetables and pan juices, over medium-high. (If there are not enough pan juices, pour in the remaining ľ cup chicken broth.) Cook, tossing the vegetables, until warmed through, shiny, and glazed, 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover the chicken, surround with the vegetables, and serve warm.

ó Excerpted from INSTYLE Parties by the Editors of INSTYLE

Pear & Pumpkin Tart
Total 50 minutes; hands-on 20 minutes; serves 6 to 8
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1/2 (3-pound) sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 firm Bartlett pear, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Unfold the puff pastry sheets, and place side by side on a baking sheet, overlapping the short sides 1/2 inch. Press the seam to seal. Score a 1/2-inch border on all sides, using a knife. Do not cut through the pastry.

Toss together the pumpkin slices, next 3 ingredients, and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a large bowl. Spread the mixture in a single layer on the prepared pastry sheets, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Bake at 425 F until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes.

Toss together the arugula, next 3 ingredients, and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the mixture over the tart; cut and serve.

ó Excerpted from INSTYLE Parties by the Editors of INSTYLE

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Total 15 minutes; hands-on 15 minutes; serves 6
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
3 tablespoons finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Using a mandoline, thinly slice the leaves of the Brussels sprouts into a medium bowl. Add the walnuts and cheese. Finely grate the lemon zest into the bowl; halve the lemon, and squeeze the juice into the bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil. Season with the kosher salt and black pepper, and toss to combine.

ó Excerpted from INSTYLE Parties by the Editors of INSTYLE

ó Jennie Geisler can be reached on Twitter: @ETNGeisler.