Tag Archives: cooking

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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College Kid Essentials

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College Kid Essentials

Whether you are packing up your cases for your first semester or your last one, there are some things that you just can’t do without when you head off to college. Some of these are practical, some are fun, and some are downright luxurious, but all are simply essential. Read on to find out what they are and then get back to studying:

A Decent Bag: One of the major rules of college is that you will spend half of your time lugging your laptop and a boat load of big thick textbooks around with you. That is why you need a bag like a sturdy backpack for heavy books and all of your lecture notes. If you think that you are going to be able to work it out Legally Blonde style with a trendy backpack, then you are just setting yourself up for a world of pain. I’m not saying don’t take a cute handbag or two (or ten), because you can always use them on your nights out. Just make sure that you have something a bit more sensible for the day time when you’re hauling all of your homework.

Shower Shoes: Okay, things are going to get a little gross here, but that’s what a dormitory bathroom is! Sharing bathrooms and showers is a hazard in college that most people cannot avoid. Yes, dodging dirty underwear left in there by mistake just might happen. But you just don’t know who has walked on the floor in their bare feet. That is why it is a genius idea to take some thongs with you to wear in the bathroom! Not today, athlete’s foot. Not today.

A Frying Pan: Did you know that you can pretty much cook all meals in a frying pan? Get one deep enough like a wok, and you can boil vegetables and make sauces in it, too. In fact, it’s the most useful piece of kitchen equipment that you should have apart from a tin opener and corkscrew! So make sure to pack yours when you head back for the first day of term.

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Your Laptop: Obviously, the only time that you hand write anything at college these days is in exams, the rest of the time you will want to be taking notes and writing up your essays on your computer. For security and portability reasons it’s best to invest in a laptop. Then, you can take it home during the holidays as well as along to lectures. It really is the college essential that you can’t do without.

Pictures From Home: Obviously, you’ll have pics of your family on your phone and computer. But, it is always nice to have paper copies, as well. Get some prints of your favorite images done, so when homesickness hits, you can glance over and remember that you’ll be back with them soon. You can display them in a frame or with mini pegs on a string for a cute boho look.

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^^^ Kind of like this!

A Scented Candle: Lastly, just because you are a student does not mean that you can’t have a little luxury in your life. Why not treat yourself to a nice scented candle. Not only will this relax you when you have a test or a deadline to study for, but it will also stop you from having to smell the scents of everyone else’s cooking in your accommodation. Which can be a total godsend!

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And don’t forget coffee or tea for binge studying sessions!

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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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

Change These 3 Things For A New Kitchen Today

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Change These 3 Things For A New Kitchen Today

Of all the rooms in the house, the kitchen is often the one which people care about the most. Even when you are selling a property, you will find that people tend to go straight to the kitchen to see what it is like. For this reason, it also adds a lot of value to a home, particularly if it has been renovated. If you are looking to improve your kitchen, then there are a great number of things that you can do towards that end. Fortunately, many of them are not too expensive, so you can easily give yourself a brand new kitchen even if you are on a tight budget. Let’s take a look at three things that you can change to give yourself the look and feel of a fresh and new kitchen today:

Appliances: Although they might be strictly practical, it must be said that the appliances in any kitchen do also add to the overall look and feel of the room. There are many great styles which you can choose from these days and it is worth bearing that in mind when you are thinking about changing around your kitchen. Changing the appliances is especially worthwhile if you have had the current ones for a long time. Doing so will also mean that you have a more effective kitchen in practical terms. There is nothing better than a brand new oven for baking, after all. Change your appliances, and you should find that the whole room looks much different in no time at all.

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Very nice!

Flooring: There is practically no limit to what you can do with your kitchen floor. If you are looking for a change, then your only real problem will be that you are spoiled for choice. However, that being said, there are some particular favorites which do seem to come around time and again, so it might be worth keeping them in mind. For example, you might want to think about getting some laminate flooring installed, which looks especially nice in kitchen areas. When you update your flooring in this way, the whole room can seem to take on a new life altogether. This is definitely worthwhile if you are looking for a change which is inexpensive and fast.

Counters: The counter tops, where you do most of your cooking, are an important part of the overall look of the kitchen. If you are a fan of the old and rustic feel, then going for some dark, deep mahogany or oak might be a fun way to add fresh life to your kitchen. Or more practically, and no less attractively, you could consider using marble or granite for those counter tops. Whatever you go for, you have that brand new feeling to look forward to. It doesn’t come around that often, so make the most of it and enjoy it! With any luck, your kitchen will be looking like a whole different space in no time at all.

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Treat yourself to new tools, too!

Featured Image By: Pexels

Asian Food? Give It A Thai

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Asian Food? Give It A Thai

Did you know that the average household uses a range of five or six main ingredients in their diet. This doesn’t include seasoning and herbs but focuses on the main features such as one or two types of meat, a source of carbohydrate such as potatoes or rice, and three main vegetables. That’s about it.

With busy lives we tend to scale down how adventurous we are in the kitchen and spend less time creating exciting meals than we do sitting down to eat. It’s kind of sad. There are so many great recipes out there that are quick, easy, and above all tasty so if your taste buds need a little treat at home, try including one, out of the safety zone, meal every week (and try to enjoy the cooking as much as the eating!).

Asia is the largest continent in the world and has such a diverse range of cuisine. There are flavors that will suit every palette, from Freekeh which is a gentle, smoked grain from Palestine to the complicated layers of spice and herbs that you would find in India. Asian food, on the whole, is healthy and boosts longevity which makes it a great addition to any household that is trying to get healthy but doesn’t want to spend their weeks eating salad and poached chicken. There are loads of recipes that are based around quick cooking and high flavor, which you can recreate at home.

When was the last time you bought any shellfish?  If it has been a while then you are really missing out. Steamed crabs offer a delicious meat and because of the delicate flavor, they only get better with a little bit of creativity. So check out this brilliant Thai Crab Cake recipe and see if you can add a little spice to your life:

Place about a half pound of crab meat, onion, lime zest (or kaffir lime leaf), chili powder, fish sauce, oyster sauce, 1 egg, and ¾ of a cup of panko (or polenta) into a food processor and blitz to combine all of the ingredients. Add another ¼ cup of panko (or polenta) and stir to combine. The mixture should be moist enough for you to create a cake but not so moist that it sticks to your hands and falls apart. You are better off if you find yourself in a situation where you need to add more panko, than trying to moisten things down.

Create your cakes, which should be about 3 inches in diameter, then place aside.  Add garlic salt into ¾ cup of your panko or polenta and set into a bowl. In another bowl whisk 2 small eggs. Dip your cakes into the egg first, then roll in the panko/polenta mix until completely coated.

In a sizzling hot pan, drop your cakes into the oil and cook for 2 minutes on each side.  Serve with a squeeze of lime, a little coriander salad, and some Thai sweet chili sauce. Simple as that – a delicious meal in under twenty minutes!

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