Tag Archives: dinner

The Ultimate Dinner Party Guide

Standard
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.

dinner2

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.

dinner3

     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.

dinner4

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.

dinner6

Cheers!!

Featured Image By: Pixabay

Advertisements

Asian Food? Give It A Thai

Standard
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

Hodge Podge Weekend Dinner

Standard
Hodge Podge Weekend Dinner

Hey everyone and happy weekend! So yesterday I slaved away for the afternoon creating a hodge podge feast for dinner. We had a lot of odds and ends in the fridge and pantries that needed rid of so our meal consisted of a Minestrone soup compliments of our beloved Moosewood cookbook and then, I freestyled an avocado and black bean salad and a mozzarella ciabatta sandwich. Take a look at the finished products and then I will share my secret recipe for the avocado salad:

wkendwkend2wkend1

In the fridge, I had a leftover avocado and lime from when I made guacamole last week. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with these, so I Googled avocado recipes to see if I could get some inspiration. I saw a recipe for an avocado and black bean salad but it looked incredibly lackluster, so I decided to just whip together something from my imagination and came up with the first picture seen above.

I was so pleased with the final result of my salad that, for once in my life, I actually wrote down how I made it so that I could share it with all of you. In my opinion, it looks like something that you could buy from the store and I was incredibly impressed with both its taste and overall appearance. This salad is perfect for eating plain, scooped up with tortilla chips, wrapped in a tortilla, or as a filling for fish tacos. Here is the recipe for my avocado and black bean salad creation:

  • 1/2 of a large avocado (if you go for a huge avocado like what was in my fridge, 1/2 is really all you need)
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup cooked corn kernels (so happy to be rid of a leftover in my fridge!)
  • 1/2 of a tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, finely chopped
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • A few shakes of Morton Kosher salt
  • A few shakes of cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now, bear in mind that all of the above amounts are approximations and you can really add as much or as little of an ingredient as you want. Love tomato? Use the whole thing! Want it spicier? Add some chili powder and cumin. It’s totally up to you to personalize the salad and turn it into something that you and your whole family enjoys!

Interested in my recipe for mozzarella ciabatta sandwiches? Let me know in the comment section and I’ll publish that, too!

Overall, I am so happy with how my Hodge Podge Weekend Dinner turned out and the leftovers for days is definitely going to be nice! What dishes have you cooked or baked recently? Who is going to be making my avocado and black bean salad soon? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Mexican Sunday Dinner

Standard
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:

dinnerdinner1

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

The Advanced Guide To Christmas – Let’s Get It Right This Year!

Standard

For most people, Christmas is a magical and wonderful time, full of celebration, presents, and good will. Unless you are the one that has to organize and pay for it all! Then, it can be a bit of a nightmare. But with a little careful planning, you too can have a perfect Christmas with a minimum amount of stress. Just read on to find out how:

Parties: One of the great joys of Christmas is sharing a drink and holiday treats with your friends and neighbors – unless it is your house that they are coming to this time. In which case, it is very easy to reach panic stations pretty quickly. Avoid the hassle and stress of entertaining at Christmas, not by hiding behind the curtains with the lights out but by being as prepared as possible.

A week or two before the party, make a list of everything that needs doing. The last thing on your list should be the decorations that you need to finish putting up on the day. If possible, get in food that is ready prepared so you just have to warm it up. Or, if you are cooking for the party yourself, make things that can be baked well ahead of time and frozen or stored until they are needed.

xmas4.jpg

YUM!!!

Presents: One of the most essential parts of Christmas is the gift giving. But Christmas shopping is so time-consuming and expensive. To lighten the load why not buy a joint gift for the families or households that you know? Consider something like a Christmas hamper delivery as a gift for an entire family. Then you can add in items that you know that everyone will like. Or you could choose to do secret Santa? Then you only have to buy one gift so it can save you both time and money.

Food: What Christmas day is complete without the traditional Christmas lunch? If you are dreading waking up at 5.30 am to get the turkey stuffed and in the oven, then read on. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as all that! If you can get away with it, choose a turkey crown or a smaller bird like a duck or goose. These won’t take as long to cook, so you won’t have to get up at some ungodly hour to ensure that it is ready by 1 pm. You can also make your life a great deal easier by choosing ready prepared vegetables and trimmings. They taste delicious and who is to know that you didn’t wrap that pig in its blanket personally?

Entertainment: One of the most dire thing that can happen is that you put a lot of time and effort into making Christmas wonderful and then boredom kicks in. After the presents are open and the turkey has been eaten, everyone just sits around doing nothing and feeling blah as can be. Pop out for a walk, or dust off a board game or two to keep people interested and feeling festive well past lunch time.

How do you prepare for the holiday season? Who is done with their shopping already? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Delicious Baked Ziti Recipe

Standard
Delicious Baked Ziti Recipe

Hiii everyone and happy Tuesday! So in yesterday’s Monday Update I mentioned that I made my boyfriend a baked ziti dish for our six month anniversary. It turned out amazing and my beau and family really enjoyed it. The recipe I found on allrecipes was way too good not to share so I thought that I would post it for your super cheesy pleasure today! You’re welcome! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups ziti pasta, uncooked
  • 1 (26) oz jar marinara sauce (Instead of plain old Ragu, I used a specialty sauce with extra garlic and herb flavoring to kick things up a little)
  • 1 (14.5) oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used a can that had additional oregano and Italian herb seasoning)
  • 6 oz cream cheese, cubed (The blocked cream cheese usually comes in 8 oz packaging so I just used the whole thing)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Ingredients That I Added:

  • 8 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • Italian seasoning

Ingredients I Will Use Next Time:

  • More seasoning
  • Onions
  • Green pepper
  • Zuchinni
  • Yellow squash

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta, using the directions on the packaging. Once the pasta is done cooking, remove and drain.
  3. After you have removed the pasta, turn the burner down to medium heat. Add the rest of your ingredients in the pan and let it cook for about 5 min. or until the cheese is completely melted.
  4. Add the pasta into the sauce and mix thoroughly.
  5. Layer the pasta into a 13×9 in. baking pan and then top with extra mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake for 20 min. or until heated through.

*** A word to the wise: This recipe made a GIGANTIC amount of food so be prepared for left overs! Here is the link to the recipe that I used, if you would like to reference it for any reason! Special thanks to whomever posted it, it was delicious! 🙂

The baked ziti was a hit for my family and my boyfriend so I hope all of you enjoy it as much as we did! What is your favorite food to make? What is your favorite food to eat? I wanna hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Monday Update: Six Month Anniversary Edition

Standard
Monday Update: Six Month Anniversary Edition

Hey everyone and welcome to a new week here on lifewithlilred! On Saturday it was me and Kyle’s six month anniversary so we had a lovely day together to celebrate! We had the best time during our date day and I can’t wait to relive it as I type this out. But before I get started on how we spent our six month, here’s a friendly reminder of how cute we are:

kyle10

^^^ What a stud! The red head isn’t too bad either…

Kyle picked me up around two o’clock on Saturday afternoon to get our festivities started. We live about a half hour away from each other so during our drive back to his place we made a game plan for how we would like to spend the day. We decided on afternoon drinks while video gaming or watching Netflix, dinner, and then a night out at the movies to wrap it up!

 To start the afternoon drinks portion of our agenda, Kyle and I stopped at the Giant Eagle on the way home for some booze. I got Kyle a drink shaker as one of his Valentine’s Day gifts so we thought it would be fun to put it to use today. We had a bit of a hard time deciding on a drink that we could make because the only hard liquor that I really “do” is vodka, which Kyle isn’t a huge fan of. However, a bottle of sour berry and lemon vodka spoke to me and Kyle thought it sounded alright so we went for it. We then got some fruit punch and lemonade to mix with it as well as a back up pack of hard apple cider in case our concoction was sub par.

With our alcohol haul bagged up and ready to go, we headed back to Kyle’s house to have some quality time with the TV. But before we started our session of “Netflix and chill” we had a drink to make! Kyle broke out his new shaker (which he loved) and mixed up our berry beverage. It wasn’t bad except for the fact that the vodka was blue, the lemonade was a pale yellow, and the fruit punch was a raspberry red so when it was all mixed together it made the most disgusting dish water grey color. The drink tasted like a liquefied version of SweetTarts but it definitely tasted better if you avoided looking at the color of it. -_-

Once our drinks were made, we began our marathon of Wentworth, our latest TV obsession. When Kyle and I binge watch shows, we are SO serious about it. If we can’t knock out at least two episodes of it at once, we don’t even bother putting it on to begin with. This high focused level of Netflix watching calls for comfortable clothes so it was a must to change into our pajamas until our evening out at the movies. Kyle and I knocked out two episodes of Wentworth, at least ten games of Super Smash Bros., and a rousing tournament of Mario Kart Double Dash before we decided we were hungry.

Lucky for us, I prepared dinner for the occasion the previous day so all we had to do was let it heat in the oven. I love cooking for Kyle so I wanted to make a special dinner for him so that we didn’t have to bother dining out. I made a super cheesy dish of baked ziti, a pan of ficaccia bread, and cupcakes for dessert. At my house we have never really had ziti so I was a bit wary of how it would turn out. I also have never made ficaccia without my mom’s help so I was relived that they both turned out great! Kyle loved it and so did my family who I test drove the meal for when I prepared it at home. The ziti was rich, the bread was baked to a perfect crisp, and the cupcakes were so decadent so needless to say, we were stuffed silly!

After dinner we had an hour or so to kill before it was time for our movie so we knocked out another episode of Wentworth before we left. I told Kyle a few days ago that I wanted to see the latest horror flick that came out, The Witch. We rarely go to the movies so I thought it would be a good way to wrap up our anniversary day. There’s a theater that Kyle lives by called TinselTown and it’s the biggest movie theater I’ve ever seen so I was really excited when he picked out a movie time for that location!

Our show started at 7:40 and we made it in time to examine all of the movie posters that are hanging up in the hallways to promote upcoming films. I had a minor freak out when I saw that a new movie for The Little Prince (my favorite book) is coming out in March! After I calmed down, we got settled in the theater to wait for the movie to start. I had heard excellent reviews for The Witch and I love horror films so I was eager for the movie to begin.

But unfortunately…The Witch really missed the mark for basically everyone in the theater. I personally didn’t mind it too much because it was more of a period piece and very artistic but Kyle didn’t care for it at all. It was one of those movies that we were probably better off waiting for to come out on DVD but it was still fun to go! I felt bad that Kyle didn’t like it but I still enjoyed the flick well enough because I’m a big wierdo. 🙂

By the time we got home it was around ten o’clock and we were both exhausted so we popped in a movie and went to bed. Kyle and I had such a wonderful time celebrating our day together, despite the fact that he didn’t care too much for the movie! I’m so lucky to have had the best boyfriend on the planet for six whole months and I can’t wait for many more! I love you, Kyle Kyle! ❤

So there you have it, this week’s Monday Update: Six Month Anniversary Edition! I hope all of you had just as great of a weekend as I did! What was your favorite part of your weekend? What did you think of The Witch if you saw it? I wanna hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah