Tag Archives: baking

The Ultimate Dinner Party Guide

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The Ultimate Dinner Party Guide

From tableware to menus and seating arrangements, throwing a dinner party is never easy. Not only do you have to create the perfect ambient setting to enjoy a meal, but you also have to plan, prepare, cook, and serve the food! It can sound like more trouble than it’s worth but don’t be put off. Dinner parties are an amazing way to get family and friends together.

If you struggle to find the time to catch up with loved ones individually it can be a great way to get everyone in the room for a wonderful evening. It’s also a good test of your organizational skills and hosting abilities! Above everything else, it’s a lot of fun. As long as you have a plan in place, the evening will be a huge success. This dinner party guide takes you from the menu planning process to the dinner table decors, all the way to puddings and party favors:

The Guest List: The first thing that you need to decide is who you’re inviting. If you’re co-hosting the dinner party with a friend, partner, or family member, sit down together and work out a list. You need to work out what you want out of the dinner party. A big celebration with friends, intimate family meal, or perhaps an open-to-all buffet style event. Whatever the occasion is, this will indicate who you should invite.

Of course, the amount of space you have around the table will also dictate the number of guests. If you’re inviting more than eight people, a sit-down meal might not be the best idea. First of all, who has a table big enough for over eight? Also, you might want to consider a more fluid set up. For large numbers open up the garden and kitchen to guests, too. That way people can mingle without feeling cramped and confined to one room.

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Partayyy

Creating The Menu: If you’re having a sit-down soiree you’ll need to prepare a menu. If you’re having six people or under round for dinner you can probably cook individual courses. If you’re having more than six people or over, sharer style dishes and one-pot recipes are the way to go. If you’re having a huge gathering, then a buffet station set up in the garden or kitchen for food is best. You’ll have to determine whether any of the guests have allergies or intolerances before you come up with a menu. Also come up with some vegetarian and vegan options, too.

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     YUM

     For Smaller Groups:

Get your prep done before guests arrive, this goes for all group sizes. If you’re hosting for a smaller group of people you can afford to have more attention to detail and more ambitious dishes. Prawns are a good starter because they’re easy to prepare in advance. Buy prawns which have been cooked, cleaned, and peeled already. This will save time. There are so many different ways to serve prawns. A fail-safe option is a simple grilled prawn with a pre-prepared sauce. Get some char on your prawns to increase the smokey flavors in the dish. This goes particularly well with a romesco sauce.

For the main course, food preferences permitted, herb crusted lamb is a real show stopper. To make the crust, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, mint, and oil. Smear some mustard over the fatty side of the lamb and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Be sure to brown your lamb before cooking. www.StoneFryingPans.com/the-best-stainless-steel-cookware has some great stainless steel cookware, perfect for searing and deglazing to make a jus for the lamb. Finally, make sure you leave your lamb to rest for at least 10 minutes. This will ensure that the meat is nice and tender and the juices won’t leak onto the plate. Dessert needs to be something that can be prepared in advance and left to chill. Cheesecake is a good idea, because you can make one large one and portion it before serving. It’s also a great ‘blank canvas’ dessert, so you can add your own preferences, too. Lemon, chocolate, hazelnut, berries, and basically any topping ever work well with a cheesecake.

     For Larger Groups:

Cooking for larger groups needn’t be challenging, you’ll just need to tweak the menu accordingly. Choose some large platters or boards and arrange some cured meats and cheeses on them. Serve olives over ice and sourdough bread, too. Balsamic vinegar and oil make a great dip to go alongside this sharing starter, as does tapenade. For the main dish, consider doing a one-pot wonder. A homemade curry or a big paella served straight from the pan works really well for larger groups. You can stick these on and leave them to cook with minimal effort, apart from stirring. Serve curries with homemade flatbreads, onion salad, and a yogurt dip. For dessert opt for an easy crowd pleaser like ice cream or mousse. This can also be made ahead of time and left to chill.

     For Vegetarians:

Buy some spelt pasta from a health food store and use this as the base of your dish. Blend spinach and basil in a blender with some oil, seasoning, and pine nuts. This will create a pesto to use as a sauce over your pasta. Cook some courgettes and asparagus, too. Toss the pesto through the pasta and top with the cooked courgettes and asparagus.

Which Drinks To Serve: Setting up a drinks tray is the best idea. Nobody wants to have to make drinks all night for their guests. Prepare a table in the living room or kitchen with a variety of soft drinks and alcohol for guest to pick and choose. Another good idea is to make one signature drink. Making jugs of cocktails is an especially good idea if it’s a summer party which spills out into the garden.

To make a mojito simply mix lime juice, mint, and sugar in a large jug or bowl. Mash these gently to let the flavors start to seep out and sugar dissolve. Top with rum, soda, and plenty of ice. Put slices of mint and lime to garnish in little bowls next to the jug.

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My kind of party!

Setting The Scene: Whenever you go to a great dinner party, the atmosphere is one of the things that makes it so special. Creating the perfect atmosphere is partly down to planning. If you are having a sit-down meal you’ll need to dress the table. It can be tempting to go overboard with accessories and cram the table but try to avoid this. Guests want to be able to talk, share food, and relax without having to navigate lots of decorative pieces. A few tea light candles with lantern-style covers are a pared back but sophisticated touch. Fresh flowers are also a great centerpiece, but if you have a small table don’t clutter it. Station a drinks table with an ice bucket nearby so that you don’t have to keep rushing backward and forwards.

A seating plan shouldn’t be necessary and can feel a bit too formal. Adding a little gift for each person is a nice touch, too. They don’t have to be expensive, in fact, the more whimsical the better. Masks or joke shop presents are a great idea for a group of friends. Family members may appreciate birthstones or small bags of truffles. These tokens will help to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, plus they’ll lift your guest’s mood!

After Party? Some dinner parties can continue long into the night and become a party as well as dinner. Make it clear to guests on the invite whether you’re open to that. There’s nothing worse than wanting to go to bed but still having a few guests. If you’re having people stay over, set up the guest bedroom early on in the day. By the end of the night, you won’t feel like changing bed linen and arranging flowers!

Nobody wants to clean up after a party, either, but facing all the debris in the morning is probably worse. Compromise and go around with a bin liner and chuck in any bottles or plastic cups. Wash up your plates and cutlery and leave them to dry. Leave larger pans to soak overnight, and head to bed. That way there will be a manageable amount to tackle in the morning.

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Cheers!!

Featured Image By: Pixabay

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Your Kitchen Has Only One Boss: You

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In our day and age, it’s not uncommon for people to spend only the minimum amount of time possible in their kitchen. After all, all you need at the end of the day is to order a nice meal from your favorite takeaway place. Or is it really? As more and more young generations are moving back into the kitchen, they start a journey of discoveries with apprehension. In some families, young adults have never seen their parents cook besides using the microwave oven or the traditional oven to warm up pre-made dishes.

So, needless to say, it can be a little overwhelming at first to adjust to the idea of becoming a perfect little cook. But don’t let fear blind you: You can easily manage the flow of the operations in your kitchen. All you need is to ensure that the room has all you need, give it some personality with confidence-boosting gadgets, and learn all of the simple tricks that can save the meal. Ready, steady, cook.

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Revive your kitchen and your skills

Get the design of the room right:

Unless you have designed your kitchen specifically for your needs, it’s likely that it doesn’t completely suit you. Whether it looks dated or isn’t truly functional, there are a few tips that you can borrow from professional designers to improve your kitchen for good. For a start, your workplace needs to clean, clear, and roomy. This is the area where you will be preparing your food, so it’s worth considering a looksee into a new counter top.

Light is also important in your kitchen; you need it as part of your cooking process – cooking in a half dark room isn’t the guarantee of a successful meal. The easiest solution is to add lights underneath your cupboards. This will change the way you approach food! Finally, you can’t cook without electricity. Some recipes need a few sockets to plug your food processor, mixer, electric whisk, etc. In short, you need a kitchen with plenty of power sources for a power cooking sesh.

Give yourself a little boost of confidence:

Remember, the best way to make friends with your kitchen again is to begin to like it. Turning a functional space into a peaceful and loving area can seem a little difficult, but all you need is to surround yourself with things that you love. If pink is your favorite color, why not use it to paint the kitchen? Or maybe you could hang photos of your loved ones on the walls, as a silent word of encouragement. If you are looking for ways to engage positively with cooking, you could check the apron collection on https://www.chefworks.com. They are cute and bring a touch of originality to the room. When you begin to love your kitchen again, you will feel a lot more confident with the idea of cooking in it.

Impress effortlessly… but don’t let them know:

If you are not an experienced cook, you may want to start with simple recipes. There’s no shame in it! http://www.marthastewart.com has plenty of impressive looking dishes that are dead simple to prepare. From a steak with a wine sauce and a dauphinoise recipe to a yummy asparagus risotto, there are plenty of easy recipes that look amazing. You’ll never say no to a night of cooking at home or entertaining friends and family again. Just be sure to invite us to your next dinner party!

Recipes For A Happier Life

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Recipes For A Happier Life

Okay, so this isn’t a usual recipe post. There isn’t one particular set of instructions for you to create an amazing meal. Instead, it is a post which links to a few different recipes that we love.  Ones that are going to make you happy if you are feeling a bit blue, maybe after your holiday or because you are fed up with the weather. But, no matter how you’re feeling, we can all agree that food is awesome.

There is a lot of focus on our health and physical fitness. Some of us work towards our holidays by going for the ultimate bikini body whilst others pack a few self improvement books and read our way to a better place. However, what we fail to do is focus on regularly consuming a variety of nutrient rich, wholesome foods. You know, improving our diet to improve our life. It isn’t going to give you instant results, but eating good quality foods consistently will improve your mental function, mood, and energy levels. Now, let’s get cooking:

So! What should you be eating and where are the recipes?

First of all, let’s talk about fat.  You may have been told that fat is the enemy, but that isn’t true.  Trans fats are the enemy. You find this fat in processed foods like sausages and ready made meals. Unsaturated fat is really good for you. In fact, our brains are made up from 40% fat and we need plenty of it to ensure that our brain stays healthy. Healthy oils can be found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds. So, our first recipe is this fantastic Quinoa and Sprouted Sunflower Seed Salad & Avocado Dressing from the fantastic Food Spa blog. A delicious way of boosting your healthy fats.

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Love, love, love avocado!

In addition to these healthy fats, you also need essential fatty acids, AKA the Omega 3 Oils.  Research has shown that these improve mood and reduce depressive symptoms. The best sources of essential fatty acids are oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and trout and you should aim to eat a couple of portions per week. So, here is an amazing recipe for Wild Salmon and Black Rice which will have you topping up on plenty of Omega 3s and a fabulous mood.

Next up is whole grains, fruits, and vegetables:

The best food is whole food – food in its most natural state. Think wholegrain cereals, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. They provide us with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need to function their best. So if you want to get fit fast, eat plenty of whole foods. Serotonin, Vitamin B, and Zinc are all really helpful at managing depression.  Eating complex carbohydrates such as oats, grains, brown rice, and vegetables such as squash will release serotonin into the brain. Marmite is a fabulous source of B vitamins or you could also buy fortified wholefoods.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Freekeh is a perfect way of ticking all of the things on this list. Give it a go, because Freekeh is super delicious and the new Quinoa. You know the deal with fruits and veggies: 5 servings a day, okay? If you struggle with that, then buy a juicer or Nutribullet and blitz your 5 a day for breakfast. While it is better to maintain a steady supply rather than take them all in one hit, at least you know you are getting the recommended amount!

Protein, please (for vegetarians and carnivores alike!):

Protein is required for our bodies’ growth, maintenance, and repair. A lack of protein in our diets can lead to irritability, fatigue, and a lack of concentration. Most of us will think of steak or chicken when protein is mentioned. However, you can get plenty of protein in plant based foods like lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds. Soy beans, peas, and broccoli are also excellent sources of protein.

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Pexels Image

But, if you want a protein kick, then you can’t get better than Steak Frites. A delicious fillet steak, served on a bed of spinach with some sweet potato straw fries on the side. Perfecto! We also ought to add that eating dark chocolate, with 75% cocoa content, can improve your mood because of the protein in it. You’re welcome!

To wrap this post up, let’s talk about water – which we don’t have a recipe for! Water plays a huge role in our brain function. You need to be drinking around 2 liters of water a day to avoid effects like addled concentration, memory, and learning ability. Now, fill up a glass and drink up!

Delicious Featured Image By: Pexels

Mexican Sunday Dinner

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Mexican Sunday Dinner

Hi everyone and happy Monday! I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend. So during the week at my household, we eat easy to prepare dinners – pasta, pizza, stir fry, and the likes. But over the weekends, my mom and I go hard when it comes to cooking an evening feast – soups, homemade pizzas, pasta salads, bread, frittatas, and oh so much more. This Sunday, I prepared a meal that I was particularly proud of that I just had to share on here. Seriously, it was that delicious.

My family loves Mexican food and as a primarily vegetarian household, it is always something that all of us can eat and enjoy. And enjoy, we did. For Sunday dinner I prepared homemade guacamole paired with vegetarian black bean enchiladas compliments of the fantastic website Cookie + Kate. Kate’s website specializes in vegetarian cuisine while her pup, Cookie, cheers from the sidelines. My mom actually found that website and was instantly drawn in by the delicious recipes but most importantly, that it was in some ways dog related (lol). Anyways, here’s the finished product:

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For the enchiladas, I followed the recipe pretty closely because I had never made it before but I did change a few things up to accommodate my cooking style:

  • I added a healthy amount of chili powder and cayenne pepper to the dish.
  • I added cilantro into the mixture as opposed to just using it to garnish.
  • I lessened the amount of broccoli in the recipe as a family preference.
  • I squirted fresh lime juice into the mixture and topped the finished product with it.
  • I used store bought enchilada sauce instead of making it myself because ain’t nobody got time for that.

* If you’re not hip to vegetarian eating, then I would recommend sauteing stripes of chicken, steak, or shrimp (or all three!) in a mixture of olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chili powder (you could also go crazy and add in some lime juice and a tablespoon or two of enchilada sauce). Then, you could add it into the enchiladas or just eat it on the side.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much my dish looked like the pictures that Kate posted on her website but most importantly, my entire family loved it. For an additional topping, I free-styled some guacamole and here’s what I used in my makeshift recipe:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • About 3 tbsp of super finely chopped red onion
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • Cilantro!!
  • A couple shakes of cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper
  • Morton Kosher salt
  • 3-4 tbsp of small tomato chunks that I wish I added but forgot to get from the grocery store!

I really really love guac and I thought that the above concoction turned out amazing. It was bold and flavorful and although it turned out chunkier than what I normally like, I think that it just added to the deliciousness considering you could eat it by the forkful – which we did!

My mom described my Mexican Sunday Dinner as “going out to eat in our own house” which I thought was super precious and we will definitely be making the above recipes again! What is your favorite meal for Sunday dinner? What kinds of food do you love to cook? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Three Techniques Every Home Cook Should Know

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Three Techniques Every Home Cook Should Know

All the best chefs in the world have their own unique style of doing things. From dicing an onion to roasting potatoes and making a popular sauce, there are always little nuances and tricks which set the pros aside from us amateurs. However, long before these masters found their own style, they were learning some of those basic techniques which are essential for countless dishes. Here are some of the big ones every cook should know:

Blanching Vegetables: This is a method of cooking veggies quickly in boiling water, then plunging them into ice cold water to halt the cooking process and lock in all that vibrant color. The trick to good blanching is using a lot of salty water in the first boiling pot. Use about one cup. If it smells like the ocean, that’s great. Don’t worry – it won’t taste like that!

To blanch, say, one pound of green beans to serve four, prepare a bowl of ice water, keep it near your cooker, and then bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add beans to the boiling water in small batches and cook them for three to four minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer them to the ice water bowl until all the beans are thoroughly cooked and cooled. Drain the beans, glaze with a little butter and olive oil, and dig in.

Sear a Steak: This is a method that happens in restaurants every day, all over the world. There’s a good reason for this, so try to bring it into your kitchen! If you know that your steak cooking game is a little below-par, you should start practicing using high heat under a pan. The pros sear their steaks in a heavy, scorching hot skillet over a high flame.

To serve two, you’ll need to start with about a pound of skirt steak. Slice it into sizes of your choice and cook them two at a time. Once they’re looking done, leave them for around 15 minutes to let the juices really soak through the meat. Then, slice the pieces again, this time against the grain, and serve in a good pan sauce. Searing may call for a good steak knife if your steaks have been coming out nearly black so far, so check out some reviews on a blog like Cut it Fine.

Dice an Onion: This is one of the basic steps in so many different recipes, so make sure you’re not stumped by it! After peeling the onion, halve it through the root and set the two halves flat-side down on a chopping board. Then, keeping the root end intact, make a series of cuts parallel to the root, roughly a quarter of an inch apart. After this, hold it by the root end, turn it ninety degrees, and make another series of cuts cross-hatching the cuts that you already made. You may not get it right the first time, but stick at it and soon you’ll be able to get those perfect little cubes on demand!

What is your favorite meal to cook at home? What are some of your cooking pro tips? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Featured Image By: Pixabay

Joy Of Garlic

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Joy Of Garlic

I am sure that you guys gathered by now that I love food. I feel like I am constantly talking about cooking, baking, eating, or Taco Bell to someone! But one thing that I really love is garlic. I remember the first time that I had a super garlic-y food. My mom made my brother a snack of spaghetti and pesto when he came home from work about ten years ago and after trying a taste of the garlic filled sauce, I was hooked.

After my revelation of how freaking amazing garlic is, I began seeking out foods and recipes that would be filled with the stuff. When I cook, I use no less than an entire bulb of garlic in my meals despite the recipes only calling for about three cloves! When it comes to garlic, I mean bid-ness so when I was at a farmers market in Asheville, North Carolina at the beginning of summer and discovered the Joy Of Garlic stand, I truly believe that I died and went to heaven.

The Joy Of Garlic boasts, sauces, dressings, salsas, and spreads that are all dedicated to giving you the biggest blast of garlic imaginable. Their salsa is superb but after taste testing their Chipotle and sun dried tomato spread, I had discovered what it means to be alive – they are that good. Take a look on their website and you’ll see what I mean!

Upon returning to Asheville in October, my family bought three of each of our favorite spread flavors which will probably last about a month at most considering we put it on everything! Sandwiches, pizza, French bread, crackers, pretzels, you name it. The reason why it dawned on me to even write this post to begin with is because I had some for lunch today over top a microwave pizza! This spread literally transforms everything that you put on it and it turned my somewhat crappy pizza into instant deliciousness.

I also did promise the lovely woman who sold my family our garlic spreads both times that I would write a post about it on my blog. So if you’re reading this: THANK YOU!!

You can shop online for all things garlic at the Joy Of Garlic’s website and you can also learn how to sell the products in your area! If there are any local farmers markets in your neck of the woods, I cannot recommend starting a stand enough because I one hundred and ten percent believe that it would be a hit!

Thank you so much to the Joy Of Garlic for introducing me to my new favorite topping for literally any food and for also helping me keep vampires away with my breath! What is your favorite topping to put on your meals? Is anyone else super obsessed with garlic like me? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

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Not-So-Obvious Items You Need To Buy For Your Kitchen (Make It The Best Room In The House!)

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Not-So-Obvious Items You Need To Buy For Your Kitchen (Make It The Best Room In The House!)

Now a days there are SO many amazing items that you can purchase for your kitchen. From carnival style popcorn and cotton candy makers to ice cream machines and fruit juicers, your kitchen could become the ultimate utopia of the coolest treats and decor. Check it out:

Not-So-Obvious Items You Need To Buy For Your Kitchen (Make It The Best Room In The House!)

When you are designing your kitchen, you will be busy picking out the essential appliances you need for the room. However, as much as it’s important to get items such as a great fridge freezer for your kitchen, there are some other things you do need to make it a fun environment. Here are some not-obvious-items you need to buy for your kitchen to make it the best room in the house:

Crepe Maker: Okay, a crepe maker is not an essential item for your kitchen. But it will definitely make the room a lot more fun! This quirky item is a great thing to add to make breakfasts much easier in the morning. All you need to do is make the mixture and then pour it onto the machine. You can then move the mixture around until you create good sized pancakes which you can enjoy as a breakfast treat. The crepe maker will definitely be a hit if you have young kids in your home! It’s also something that you can get out at parties to make your guests a tasty dessert after the main meal! YUM. ❤

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 I’ll take ten!

Toasted Sandwich Maker: Grilled cheese sandwiches are my ultimate favorite food and nothing answers my desire to be fat and happy like a toasted sandwich maker. It’s such a luxury item because standing at the stove and flipping is a thing, but still, who doesn’t want delicious food quickly at the press of a lid?

All you do is butter two slices of bread and then fill your chosen ingredients inside the bread. Then you put it in the machine and pop the lid down for a few moments. Instantly, you will have a delicious toastie to enjoy for a lunchtime snack. It’s perfect for adults and children alike as it turns a boring sandwich into something fun that they will want to eat! And the best thing about toastie makers is that you can find many darling designed machines which will look fantastic in the kitchen!

Wine Cooler: An obvious MUST for every classy man or lady’s kitchen is a wine cooler. It’s ideal for your growing collection of your favorite “adult beverages”. It will also ensure that they stay at the right temperature so that you can enjoy a glass or two in the evening! A wine cooler is a must-have for when you have dinner parties, too. It can easily fit in your kitchen if you have space on one of your cabinets. You can just try one of these freestanding wine coolers which are perfect for showing off your collection while keeping them cool!

A Unique Set of Knives: It is so important to make your kitchen look unique so it stands out from the crowd and becomes a cool and comfortable environment for cooking and entertaining. One way that you can do this is by getting a staple set of knives for your kitchen. You probably are in need of one anyways, so why not make it fun? You can find some great colorful blocks with all the knives you need for preparing food. And you can even embrace your inner ninja with a Samurai set! You can see other cool knife sets you will love for your kitchen in this article!

A microwave and other large appliances is also a must for your kitchen. But I promise that it doesn’t have to be boring! Check out my previous blog where I talk about the most precious pink lemonade microwave and other vintage kitchen gear. Quirky conversation starters for your kitchen that are also incredibly handy will make your place the talk of the town and the obvious choice for all things entertainment!

Featured Image By: Pixabay