Dinner Parties 101

I love to host a good party. What’s better than inviting friends and family into your home for great food, drinks and conversation?! As much fun as a party is, it can be quite stressful to plan and prepare for. I have 6 “game changer” hostess tips that can help you throw a party with ease! Okay, I will give you tip number 1 now as it’s a theme throughout this post- PLAN AHEAD. Plan your appetizers, and dishes ahead of time.  Do your research and have some fun with it! You don’t want to spend your whole evening with your head in a cookbook instead of spending time with your guests. Figure out your cooking timeline and how long each dish needs to cook. I selected my menu gradually throughout the week and looked up the best way to cook each dish, while jotting down some notes. Figure out what you can prep ahead of time to make the evening that much smoother.  Check out the rest of my 5 dinner party tips below! Continue reading to the bottom and you’ll see what dishes I served and how I was able to get ahead on them!

Tip number 2: Have an appetizer to hold your guests over and serve as a conversation starter. My menu started with a tomato and mozzarella crustini appetizer.  It included colorful grape tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil, mozzarella cheese and a french baguette.  I was able to prep some of this in advance! The night before I cut my tomatoes in half and tossed them with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. I covered this combination and let it marinate.  All that was left for me to do on party day was to cut the bread and toast it in the oven with some olive oil, and add a slice of mozzarella cheese with a spoonful of my (already made) tomato mixture!

Tip number 3: Delegate what guests can bring wisely. Many times, guests will offer to bring a side dish, drinks or even a simple dessert to help out. This can be a huge help when you want to focus on making the main components of the meal. I let my guests take over some easy, non time consuming parts to the meal.  Someone brought the wine, another brought the salad and someone brought dessert. Each of these can be super simple (you cant go wrong with a fresh salad, and who doesn’t love sweets and wine??) , but each component allows the guests to get creative if they choose to!

Tip number 4: Clean and tidy ahead of time! Two days before the party, my husband and I cranked up the record player and got cleaning! We scrubbed and organized, did laundry and ran the dish washer so it would be empty for all of the dirty dishes to come during “party clean up”. Who wants to worry about a dirty house on the day of the party? All you need to do is maintain your newly cleaned home and it’s ready to host!

Tip number 5: Set up an aesthetically pleasing party environment. I chose my table setting ahead of time and made sure to set the table with glasses, plates, utensils, fun napkins and fresh flowers. I also set aside a spot where my appetizer would be displayed and laid out some plates and disposable napkins nearby. I lit the candles, chose my favorite music playlist and cracked the porch door open so guests felt welcomed to wonder onto the porch to enjoy a cocktail. Lastly, I set out my serving dishes and utensils that I wanted to use for each dish component so I could simply transfer it onto a plate and have it ready to go!

My Menu (and time saving tips)!

-Appetizer: Listed above^ under tip 2.

-Fruit: Watermelon pizza (see my last blog post for this beautiful picture). I simply cut a whole watermelon into discs. From here, I cut it like a pie- ending with triangular pieces that fit together and end up looking like a pizza. Remove any black seeds you can find and then top it with feta, mint and balsamic vinegar. This was all done right before guests arrived.

-Veggies: Roasted rainbow vegetables. I precut ALL of my veggies the night before and bagged them individually with a squeeze of lemon juice to preserve the color of the vegetables. So that evening I simply laid them out onto a pan and roasted them at 400 for about 25 minutes with some fresh time, garlic salt and pepper. I chose my vegetables so I would have (almost) every color of the rainbow (radishes, carrots, yellow peppers, zucchini, red onion). I served it in this order once finished to catch the eyes of my guests! I also cooked down some mushrooms stovetop with garlic, butter and thyme for depth of flavor and an added side component that works well with the steak. 

-Starch: Roasted potatoes. I diced all of my potatoes ahead of time. PRO TIP- submerge them in water and refrigerate to keep them from browning.  On the day of, I just tossed them with some olive oil, paprika, fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper. I cooked them at the same temperature as my veggies, except I stuck them in the oven to roast for 15 or so minutes longer. I served these on a nice white dish with some freshly chopped chives and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Meat: Flank steak. I marinated this a day before. This is a great meat to serve for a party! It cooks quickly, and doesn’t break the bank! Two pounds of this meat can easily feed six people. I marinated this beautiful steak in soy sauce, worchester sauce, garlic, lemon juice, sweet onion, pepper, red pepper flakes, dijon mustard, and red wine vinegar. This meat needs about 4 minutes per side (or until the thermometer reaches 130 degrees for a tender medium rare) and it needs 15 minutes to rest, so plan accordingly-do not skip the resting! This allows the juices in the meat to settle, creating an evenly cooked, juicy meat. Hit it with a bit of sea salt as it comes off of the grill to amp up the flavor. Once properly rested, cut the mean in slices against the grain and display it nicely. I laid the steak on a bed of arugula with some chopped chives on top for added color.

Sauce: Chimichurri sauce. I made this the day before and the flavors really settled in and became even more delicious the next day! This sauce was for the steak and included: fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, garlic, olive oil, cumin, oregano, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. This sauce was to die for and really elevated the dish. I would dip pretty much anything into this sauce….It was a huge hit! AND we made enough for the rest of the week! (Cue happy dance)

Enjoy these 6 tips and meal ideas, and go throw a rockin’, stress free party!

Homemade, Restaurant Quality Food- Whole 30 Style

My husband and I have recently started The Whole 30. For 30 days, the goal is to cut out ALL artificial foods, added sugars, GMOs, MSG, grains, dairy, and yes, alcohol…in hopes to have a better quality of life. They preach that they are not a diet, but a lifestyle. The creator of this plan does not want participants to count calories or even weigh themselves while on this plan. Many people have claimed that by the end of 30 days their usual headaches subside, skin clears, energy levels are more consistent throughout the day, sleep improves, knowledge of day to day foods increases… and that’s only the half of it. 

The first couple of days have been hard, but I must say, this Whole 30 thing ain’t bad if I can make meals like this 🤗😋 We have organic top sirloin steak that was cooked stove top with some olive oil and rubbed with generous salt and pepper. I got the pan nice and hot before cooking the steak 3 minutes on each side to result in a perfect medium rare (more on the rare side 😊) After you take the meat out of the pan, lightly cover it with some foil and let it rest. This part is more important than it seems! If the meat does not have the proper time to rest, it can result in inconsistently cooked meat. Give it some time and let its juices distribute throughout the steak. It’s worth the wait! Moving to the right, we have mushrooms and onions that were cooked down in a pot with some garlic, coconut aminos. Next we have roasted colorful carrots that were simply dressed with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and cooked in the oven for 30 min at 400 degrees. For these golden potatoes, I cooked them stove top at high heat until they got nice and crispy! They cooked with some olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and I added garlic for the last two minutes of cooking time. I made sure to toss these often so they could get crispy on all sides. AND lastly, I cooked a Anaheim pepper over the open flame until it blistered and became soft (I’m in love with the smokey, spicy flavor). A bite of steak with that spicy pepper and some mushrooms… just wow. Bon Appetit! 

Hopefully there will be some noticeable change at the end of these 30 days (onto day 3! We got this). If anything, the Whole 30 will be a great learning experience for us. We will most likely introduce foods back in slowly, but hopefully we will become more educated about what’s in our food. This will help us know what is best to eat and what to avoid, allowing us to adapt this information into a realistic lifestyle for us.