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Non-Turkey Holiday Meal Alternatives

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Non-Turkey Holiday Meal Alternatives

Sorry to say it, but Christmas is less than two weeks away. Of course, you probably knew that already. That ever-ticking time bomb is the main reason why we’re all going crazy for gift ideas and last-minute preparations at the moment. If you don’t know what you’re doing on the day yet, it’s past time you decided. The holiday season waits for no one!

Somewhere among all of this preparation madness, most of us turn our attention to food. If you’re hosting the big meal this year, it’s likely that this is the only thing you are thinking about. At few other times of the year are we expected to prepare so much food for so many people. Lucky for you, there are plenty of guides out there about how to make this task a little easier. But, there’s no getting around the fact that there’s still an immense amount of pressure when the time comes.

On top of which, some of us can’t stomach the traditional option. Turkey is an acquired taste. And, for those of us who most definitely haven’t acquired it, the holiday season can be stressful at best. If you’ve only just managed to push the Thanksgiving turkey from your mind, the last thing that you want to do is eat it again at Christmas. As such, your job becomes even harder.

You’ll be glad to know that, while turkey has become a holiday staple, this is down to nothing more than convenience. While it’s difficult to say exactly when this tradition started, it was fast in place by 1863, when Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as a national holiday. This is thought to be primarily due to the size of the things. There were few other types of meat available in the past that were large enough. In fact, beef wasn’t readily available until the late 19th century. So, the only alternative was chicken. For obvious reasons, it wasn’t the best for large meals, and turkeys took center stage. They were a cheap way to feed a lot of people.

We’ve taken up the tradition, and now pay more and more for turkey each year. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re hosting dinner this year, why not try something a little different? To keep everyone happy, you may want to prepare a turkey crown on the side. Chances are, though, that you’re not the only one fed up with turkey. So, before the big event, ask your guests if they’d be interested in the following alternatives:

A few different types of meat:

Turkey may have been the only 19th century choice, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, you have anything to choose from. For some families, a mixture of Christmas meats is standard. You can place your meats in the middle of the table, and leave guests to take what they fancy.

To make this work, consider meats which are relatively different from each other. It wouldn’t be any good serving chicken alongside turkey. Instead, you could opt for a mixture of beef, pork, and turkey. These all offer different taste sensations, which are sure to go down well. And, this way, you can ensure that you get a decent dinner without having to turn to the turkey.

Salmon as an alternative:

You may not realize it, but turkey isn’t the only traditional option open to you. Salmon has also found its place in the holiday hall of fame. Admittedly, most people opt for this as a starter or breakfast treat on the day. But, there’s no reason you can’t make it work as an alternative primary meal. By buying a whole salmon, like those found at Citarella gourmet market, you can ensure that you have enough to go around. These fish are huge!

Bear in mind that, if offering this alternative, you may want to provide a sauce other than gravy. While most meats would work with a standard turkey gravy, your salmon certainly wouldn’t. Instead, offer a creamy sauce or a honey mustard alternative. Other than that, you can serve your salmon alongside the turkey and again, ensure everyone’s happy.

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^^^ Another turkey alternative.

A nut roast alternative:

If you have vegetarians coming, you may already be planning a nut roast. Why not stick with that yourself? By incorporating orange peel and cranberries, you can have plenty of Christmas flavors. And, you can still enjoy all the trimmings which make a Christmas dinner what it is. As a non-veggie, you could even get stuck into pigs in blankets without worry! Still, you’ll be able to steer clear of the turkey.

While it is a traditional vegetarian option, a decent nut roast is more challenging to come by than you might think. They’re nearly impossible to find in shops nowadays, and there are a lot of dodgy recipes out there. Make sure to try this out before the event to make sure that your choice is the right one. It wouldn’t be unusual to have to try a few before settling on your winner.

Often, there are warning signs about whether a recipe will work or not. Look out for the binding ingredient, the vegetables used, and the seasonings. All of these work together to make a huge difference. You may end up having to mix a few recipes to achieve the right effect, and that’s okay. This is very much a practice makes perfect situation. By the time you reach an end result, you can be sure that your vegetarian guests will be glad for your dislike of turkey!

 

Your own concoction:

Of course, you could do away with tradition altogether, and concoct your own dish for the day. While guests may be surprised at first, this is sure to be a standout dinner for them. And, again, as long as you offer a small amount of turkey, too, this is sure to work well. Alternatives worth considering include beef wellington, roast duck, or something like a sausage and stuffing plate. Have a look through your cookbooks and decide which recipes sound most appealing. Then, think about ways to make them festive. Staple flavorings, such as stuffing, cranberries, and orange peel, could all help to get your concoction cooking.

Focus on the veggies:

You could argue that the trimmings are the best thing about the meal. For proof, consider that many vegetarians don’t even opt for an alternative (I don’t!). Instead, they’re quite happy to make do with all the lovely veggies and some fluffy roast potatoes. So, why don’t you just get rid of your turkey, and enjoy everything else?

To ensure a turkeyless dinner works well, go all out with your additions. Make sure your stuffing is extra good and roast those parsnips in honey so they have an extra something special. You could also make cauliflower cheese, which would form an alternative centerpiece of its own. And, of course, don’t forget all of your traditional festive veggies. Brussel sprouts may divide the crowd, but they need to feature on there somewhere. Rich greens, such as curly kale, can also provide a fantastic Christmas taste sensation. You might even want to go all out with your gravy. Adding spices and herbs while cooking this can make a massive difference to the taste.

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Mmmmm

A final word:

You don’t have to eat turkey if you don’t want to. But, if you are going all out with something different, you may want to warn your guests. We are creatures of habit, after all, and a last minute change of plan might not go down well. Instead, let them know what you’re going to do. As mentioned above, turkey is rarely a favorite. The chances are that your guests will surprise you with how willing they are to try other things. And, of course; that small turkey crown will please those who simply can’t go without tradition.

Featured Image By: Pixabay

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Tricks & Treats! Season & Serve Style Halloween Bash

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Tricks & Treats! Season & Serve Style Halloween Bash

Hi everyone and welcome to the final post in my Halloween Heaven guest bloggers series by the amazing Melissa of Season & Serve. You might remember this lovely lady from a previous guest post on my blog that showed you all of the fixings for a perfect fall themed dinner party. This time around, Melissa is here to wrap up my series with a how to guide to creating a spooky chic Halloween bash – costume ideas not included! Check it out and enjoy:

Tricks & Treats! Season & Serve Style Halloween Bash

Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins galore! Halloween is just around the corner and I cannot wait to celebrate! This year, I am hosting a spooky soirée at our apartment and I am bringing a few elegant touches and a fabulously retro menu to my Halloween party to set the perfect mood. Read on to see how you can throw a classy yet spooky Halloween party of your own… if you dare! Mwahaha!

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This year, I decided to aim for a more elegant vibe for my Halloween party in terms of decor. If you remember back to when you were a kid, Halloween was all about the blood, guts, and gore. While I can definitely appreciate gory decorations on Halloween, it is a bit more fitting to do this outside of your home since it can be complicated and messy (I mean fake blood is cool and all, but I don’t want to be scrubbing it off of my walls and mirrors the next day!). But what we are lacking in blood and guts, we are making up with some classy, yet scary Halloween decor. I used a combination of every day decor pieces that I had around my home, and tied them together with some cheap (But reusable!) dollar store items that I found. I then did a wonderfully simple DIY that you can keep in storage for next year’s bash. So, without further adieu, here is what I did:

For my table, I decided to decorate with mainly black pieces (Because obviously black is the color for Halloween and is timelessly elegant.) along with some gold and silver accents for a bit of shine. I used my everyday black dinner table as the base (You can always throw a black tablecloth over your table if it is not black.) and added a few tasteful pieces for decoration. I anchored the left corner of my table with my thrifted gold candlestick holders in which I placed some tall black candles… because obviously we need some spooky candlelight for Halloween!

On the opposite side, I wanted another tall piece to balance the table out, so I went for a nice, tall vase of sunflowers. These sunflowers had a dark orange color on the flowers and leaves that were almost purple – something that is not typical of this cheery flower. I found out that the florist that I went to actually made the sunflowers this darker orange color by keeping them in a tub of water mixed with red dye. If you have red food coloring, you can simply add it to your vase of regular yellow sunflowers and in two days, you will have these delightfully dark sunflowers for your table. I loved the deep moody vibe that it brought to the table scape! I also went ahead and placed my white “Casper” pumpkin next to my candles along with my dark green Kabocha squash for a bit of color.

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Next, I added my serving-ware. I placed my wooden cake pedestal to the center/back of the table to give my food some height (I’m all about varying heights on buffet-style tables.) and then placed a round, brushed gold tray and silver place mat in front of the pedestal. I loved the silver place mat for Halloween – it totally reminded me of a spider web! And, of course, where there is a spider web, there are spiders! So I picked up some sparkly plastic black spiders from the Dollar Store and placed them all over my table. I also added a few sparkly black pumpkins to the table, as well (Another great reuseable Dollar Store find!), to fill in the empty spaces.

I also discovered these fabulously cool, yet elegant black glass skull cups from Homesense (A home goods store in Canada.) that I knew needed to be a part of my Halloween table scape. I added these to the table and made sure to back-light them with some tea lights to make them look extra creepy for when my guests arrived. I originally placed the tea lights in short glass jars (For safety reasons.), but I found these plain jars to be fairly boring, so I did a quick and easy DIY! I simply wrapped each glass jar with black lacey ribbon and used a hot glue gun to secure the lace around the jar. I love the sexy, sultry look that it brought to the table – perfectly elegant and spooky, if you ask me!

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Now for the good stuff… THE FOOD! When I was planning this Halloween party, I was thinking of a combination of elegant, retro, and (Of course!) spooky. Kind of like something from around the 1920’s to the 1950’s – so I decided to borrow some throw back food ideas from those eras to fit this theme and give it a Halloween twist. I chose to stick to appetizers and small snacks that people can nibble on throughout the party while they mingle. I also opted to make the majority of the recipes myself, but also improvised with some store-bought foods just to make things a bit easier for the host (Because hey, you gotta get your Halloween costume on too!). And, of course, as every good host knows, one of the key tricks to entertaining is to not make everything yourself!

So those are the tricks… here are the treats! First up on the menu is Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Cockroaches… I mean dates. The look of dates always freaked me out as a kid because I thought that they looked like cockroaches. But once you get past their questionable appearance and take a bite, you will fall in love with their sweet and soft taste. It’s almost like eating candy! The recipe for Blue Cheese and Walnut Stuffed Dates is a play on the retro recipe, Devils On Horseback, which is traditionally made with prunes stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. I wanted to go for a healthier, vegetarian recipe so I swapped out the prunes for the dates and the bacon for a toasted walnut. And do they ever look spooky! Oh, and if the thought of blue cheese in this recipe is enough to scare you alone, simply change it out for a smoked cheddar or Gouda. These cheeses also taste delicious with dates and walnuts!

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Now, with it being Halloween, there are going to be many vampires around, so we are going to keep them at bay with my homemade French Onion Dip. This recipe is inspired by the old school French Onion dip made from those French Onion soup packets and sour cream. Super retro, right!? Rather than using a soup packet, you can make this dip yourself, and it won’t have any nasty preservatives or additives in it! You simply have to fry onions and garlic until they are nice and caramelized, then toss them with sour cream and Greek yogurt as well as a few other secret ingredients to lighten it up. Serve with classic ruffled potato chips or fancy vegetable chips and you have got yourself a great party dip!

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My next recipe is a play on the classic tea sandwich: Mrs. Frankenstein’s Tea Sandwiches. In other words, Cucumber-Dill Tea Sandwiches. This is definitely an old school dish, because it has been served at many fancy tea parties over the past century or so. You simply layer butter, an elevated homemade cream cheese spread, and slices of cucumber on top of pumpernickel bread and slice it into wedges. I really like the fresh, cool cucumber and dill in this recipe as many appetizers can be heavy, but this one is light and refreshing (And it will freshen up your breath from the French Onion Dip!). If you can make a sandwich, you can easily make these Cucumber-Dill Tea Sandwiches for your party!

My final savory appetizer that I made for this party was inspired by the retro pinwheel sandwiches made with tortilla wraps and deli meat/cheese. I never really liked these as a kid (I found them to get super soggy and gross). But I took this idea and made it much better with my recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Cheddar Pinwheels. Rather than using tortilla wraps to hold everything in, I used a sheet of store-bought puff pastry. All you need to do is sprinkle it with the roasted red peppers and cheese, roll it up, slice it up, and bake! It’s so simple and easy – and it looks impressive, too! Your guests will think that you spent hours making these!

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Now, onto my favorite course: dessert. As we all know, with Halloween comes tons of sugary candy and chocolates, which is a great treat in small doses. But rather than making an overly sugary dessert or placing a bunch of candy on the table, I decided to keep things more on the healthier side with a Healthy Dessert Board. On this dessert board, I mixed store-bought and homemade treats. From the store, I picked up some maple flavored mixed nuts, coconut macaroons (I thought they looked like little ghosts.), and some crazy spooky Moon Drop grapes. I loved the deep purple color of the grapes and the elongated shape (Almost like fingers!).

The homemade treats that I made are simple and can likely be made with ingredients that you have in your pantry right now! Bonus! First up, I made my Autumn-Inspired White Chocolate Bark. What’s a dessert board without some chocolate? I made it a bit healthier by adding vitamin rich cranberries and apricots and oil-rich walnuts and pumpkin seeds. Just the colors alone look gorgeous. It’s truly perfect for fall/Halloween!

Last but not least, I had to made something with Pumpkin Spice. And what’s a better treat than Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls?!? The basic white girl inside of me literally can’t even right now. You have all of the delicious warm flavors of pumpkin spice combined with healthy dates, almonds, and oats – such a great and healthy treat!

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And there you have it ghosts and ghouls! A fully planned and designed Halloween party. All you need is some spooky music and a great costume and you will be ready to have an amazing time! For all of the recipes featured in this post, simply click on the links or head over to my blog!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

^^^ Yum, yum, freaking YUM! Many thanks to Melissa for concluding my Halloween Heaven guest bloggers series by sharing such amazing party recipes, tricks, and treats with my readers! Which recipes from this post are you going to try out? Where do you go for the best seasonal decor? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Falling For Food! Season & Serve Style Dinner Party

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Falling For Food! Season & Serve Style Dinner Party

Hello everyone and happy Tuesday! I have a really special treat for all of you today, compliments of the absolutely amazing Melissa of Season & Serve. Melissa reached out to me in mid August with the idea of creating an incredible fall themed dinner party menu just for my readers. Food is something that I am extremely passionate about. I am a vegetarian who loves cooking, baking, and of course – EATING!! Obviously, Melissa offered me a pitch that I couldn’t pass up and a menu, recipes, and pics that are going to make you drool buckets.

Melissa has kindly linked to all of her recipes in this post, so if you are interested in learning more about her dishes or making it for yourself, then do check it out! Now, take a look at an absolutely delicious guest post:

Falling For Food! Season & Serve Style Dinner Party

Out of all the four seasons, fall is definitely my favorite. Not only do I enjoy wearing my cozy sweaters in the cooler temperatures, drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, and watching the leaves turn a rainbow of colors, I love it because of all the delicious, seasonal foods that come along with it. Fall harvests bring us countless varieties of apples, squash, brussel sprouts, carrots, and parsnips…the list goes on…all from which we can make hearty and comforting foods. And what better way to enjoy these delicious seasonal foods than with a celebratory fall dinner party?!

When you think about it, fall is the perfect season to entertain at home. It’s not too hot, meaning that you can have your stove and oven going all day and you won’t be dying of heat in the kitchen, and it’s not too cold, meaning that outdoor entertaining is still possible. Whenever weather permits, I like to serve fun fall-inspired cocktails outside early in the evening so that my guests can enjoy the crisp fall air before it gets too cold. Once the temperature drops or the sun sets, they really enjoy coming inside and warming up by the fireplace, and maybe with another cocktail before dinner.

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Speaking of cocktails, I chose to serve one of my favorite fall cocktails for this dinner party, Whiskey & Spice Apple Cider. This cocktail will warm you from the inside out and totally get you into that fall mood. I also like to have a little snack to go along with the cocktail, just so your guests don’t get too tipsy before dinner. One really great idea that I recycle over and over again for parties is a cheeseboard. Because, really, who doesn’t like cheese?! I serve a traditional soft goat cheese, an aged cheddar, hearty Gouda, and powerful blue cheese along with whole-grain or seed crackers, nuts, dates, and red grapes to give it a fall twist. Plus, cheese is extremely portable, allowing your guests to move outdoors to enjoy the fall colors and back indoors again as they mingle.

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When your guests decide to move back inside, I like to bring the outdoor feeling with them, and my main avenue for doing so is through my table setting. The table setting really sets the mood for the party, and for fall I like to keep it relatively rustic and casual. I used a tan linen table runner down the center of my table as my base (This one happened to have pumpkins embroidered on both ends – so fall!) and I continue to build from there. I used some tree branches that still had healthy, plump, green leaves down the middle and added in some bright red and lime green Honey Crisp apples to make it pop (these happened to look the best at the farmer’s market that day). I dotted a few tea lights throughout the leaves and apples to add some sparkle and then anchored the table with a short emerald green vase filled with coffee beans and a tea candle. Of course, you can fill the vase with flowers, grasses, or anything that looks pretty to you!

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As for serving ware, I always think that simple is best. Plain large white plates for the main course, with smaller appetizer white plates placed on top is all you need. I added in my every day cutlery, silver forks and knives, to keep it simple but I went for some statement wine glasses. These wine glasses have been one of my greatest purchases to date. I am in love with the gold rims and the fact that they are stemless makes it even better – it’s so in style right now! I also added a personal touch to each table setting by writing my guests names on some extra leaves using a gold marker. It’s the little touches that make your guests feel warm and fuzzy inside!

Now, let’s get to the star of the dinner party, the main dish(es)! While there is a meat component to this fall dinner party, I also designed the menu keeping vegetarians in mind. For the appetizer, I chose to serve a simple Arugula Salad topped with sliced grapes, Parmesan cheese shavings and Maple Spice Candied Pecans. The salad dressing is very simple and is made from olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. With those tasty candied pecans, you definitely want to keep the dressing minimal. This recipe can be enjoyed by both your omnivore and herbivore friends. For vegans, simply omit the Parmesan cheese and add more grapes and pecans!

I also chose to serve a white wine with this salad, particularly a Gewurztraminer as it has a slightly sweeter flavor. This one is from one of my favorite wineries in Summerland, British Columbia – Dirty Laundry.

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For the main dish, I have two variations – both of which will make your appetite skyrocket. The first is for the meat-eaters, with my recipe for Red-Wine Braised Beef. While this dish looks complicated, it is actually extremely easy, relatively affordable, and looks incredibly elegant when plated (an entertaining trifecta for hosts!). For the Red Wine Braised Beef, simply brown the meat and vegetables, add the red wine, beef stock, and seasonings to the pot and bake in the oven for 4 hours. The slow baking process will tenderize this cheap, tough cut of meat (blade roast) so much that you can cut the meat with a butter knife. You can even do this the night before and simply reheat the meat before serving. How easy is that?!

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For vegetarians, I have a great substitute: Braised Mushrooms with White Wine and Garlic. I clearly have a braising theme going on here, but braised mushrooms are delicious and very satisfying! In this recipe, I use fresh oyster, trumpet, and cremini mushrooms and saute them in a mixture of olive oil and garlic until browned. I then add the white wine and butter, and cook them on the stove top for 5 minutes, or until the wine has reduced down a bit and then serve immediately. I mean, I eat meat and I know that Red Wine Braised Beef is delicious, but I would totally go for this, and vegans would too (minus the butter)!

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I chose to serve a red wine along with both of these recipes since I was looking for a more robust and bold flavor – it is fall, after all! I chose a Cabernet-Merlot mix for its spice and currant notes and for a slightly dry finish. I really enjoy this Cabernet Merlot from Sandhill Estate Vineyard in Oliver, British Columbia. This is definitely going to be my go-to wine for the season. ❤

Finally, for the grand finale, I present my Apple Coffee Cake with Maple Glaze. This is actually my mom’s recipe, but it is so good and so perfect for fall that I had to make it myself. The batter is very simple to make and the cake always comes out incredibly moist due to the sliced apples inside and on top of the cake. Again, you can make this a day in advance BUT if you make it the morning or afternoon of the dinner party, your home will smell absolutely amazing. I like to serve this with coffee (hence why it’s a coffee cake) or tea. No dessert wine here!

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After this big, comforting, delicious meal, your guests will be completely satisfied and will be in a cheerful fall mood. And, of course, while these are just my tips for throwing a fall dinner party, just know that when you mix good people and good food together, you are guaranteed to have a successful dinner party – no matter what the season.

Have a happy fall, everyone! And thank you to Sarah for letting me guest blog for you!

Yum, yum, FREAKING YUM. Thank you infinitely to the author of Season & Serve, Melissa, for creating such a beautiful bounty for my readers. I want in on her next dinner party, and you guys can be, too! Melissa will be back on lifewithlilred in October with a how to guide for a spooky fun Halloween themed party. What would you like to see Melissa cook next? Would you consider yourself a picky eater? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe

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Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe

Hi everyone and happy Monday! Today’s post for my Falling For Fall guest bloggers series is a delicious Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe by the darling Elle from Make It Blaine. Please be sure to check out her page and give it all the lovin! A huge steaming mug of hot chocolate is a fall favorite for many so let’s get to Elle’s recipe so that you can make some of your own the next time you get the autumn evening chills:

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Recipe

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (or however much you want)
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks or cinnamon bark
  • whipped cream (optional)

First, pour your milk into a pot to heat on the stove and stir on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in your cocoa powder until it’s completely dissolved. Next, pop in your cinnamon sticks and let the mixture simmer for 5-7 minutes. Take out the cinnamon sticks and pour into a mug (A cute one, if possible!).

Now it’s time for toppings! I personally like whipped cream with cocoa powder or cinnamon sprinkled on top but you can add whatever you want. I also like to make my own whipped cream by whisking whipping cream because then it doesn’t melt and tastes way better! Adorable mugs in autumnal colors doesn’t hurt and, last but not least, a straw to sip through.

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I hope you enjoyed reading!

-Elle xoxo

Thank you so much to Elle for teaching us her favorite fall hot chocolate recipe! Freaking yummm. What is your favorite fall beverage? What is your favorite fall flavor? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Creative Summer Cooking Ideas That Are Simple And Scrumptious

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Creative Summer Cooking Ideas That Are Simple And Scrumptious

As soon as the weather warms up and the days get brighter, we all want to change our eating habits. There’s just something about an increase in heat that makes you want to go for fresher, lighter, and less indulgent food choices. But, at the same time, you still want to be able to enjoy a delicious dinner that’s full of flavor. To find that perfect balance, you’re going to want to get your creative summer cook on.

So where should you start? When you’re busy, you definitely want your summer cooking ideas to be super easy to make. But at the same time, they have to taste good and look like a small slice of summer, too. To give you the ultimate inspiration for your light evening meals and tasty long lunches, here are a few ideas to get your taste buds tingling:

One-Tray Bakes: When you want something super easy, balanced, but incredibly tasty, always turn to a one-tray bake. During the summer months, you want to be outside with your family and not slaving over a hot oven, so the tray bake is perfect for that reason. By throwing all of your ingredients into one tray and baking it all at once, your meal is done. More often than not, you’ll have veggies in the mix, but you can also serve a salad on the side if you’re feeling saucy!

Summer Pasta: For something super filling but also light, you’re going to want to pull together the perfect summer pasta. Pasta is a great ingredient to play around with. Not only can you choose from a range of different styles, but you can mix up your sauces and ingredients to create completely different dishes. For summer, try using fresh shrimp and crunchy veggies to create healthy but delicious meals.

Low Carb Favorites: Sometimes you want a really light meal that is easy to snack on and won’t make you feel bloated in the heat (Which is the literal worst.). Summer is the perfect time to go for low-carb versions of your favorite dishes. Hello, beach body. Craving pizza? Build your ingredients on a tortilla base, instead. If you want fajitas, why not go for lettuce wraps? And if you want tacos (who doesn’t?), fill them with fresh fish and shredded salad for a lighter alternative.

Rainbow Salads: Then, we get to the salads, because a summer menu wouldn’t be complete without a bunch of them! Don’t think about the kind of diet food you’d usually expect, oh no – these salads should be big, bold, bright, and beautiful. Rainbow salads packed with exciting, crunchy, and flavorful veggies are the best. Create your own dressing and serve with a protein source for a colorful and complete meal.

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YUM

Smoked Meats: When you love meats, you want to make sure that they’re packed full of flavor and are served super succulent in the summer. There’s just something about a lighter version of the tastiest meats that screams summer. And when you want to go tender and melt-in-your-mouth, you smoke. You can read the pros and cons of the Brinkmann electric smoker to see if it’s a cooking method that you can work with. If so, throw in your meats and even a few veggies and prepare for a flavor overload.

Mixed Rice: Rice is a great grain that we don’t give enough credit to. It’s always tasty and it’s a super light carb source, too. As a part of your summer meal frenzy, try making a bunch of rice based meals. Stir in your favorite meats, serve with crunchy veggies, and dress with delicious sauces to create some of the most exciting dishes around.

Ultimate Burgers: Summertime is all about the burgers. When you love a good burger, you’ll take one all year round, but there’s nothing like a hot summer day with a burger in hand to make you feel happy (Any food in my hand makes me feel happy!). But don’t just stick to a standard beef patty – pimp them up! There are so many amazing burger recipes here, just take a look. If the chipotle turkey, chicken Caesar, or even the taco burger doesn’t tempt you, you’re not a true burger fan! And if you’re a vegetarian, like me, the veggie burger is a thing!! 😀

Asian Anything: If there’s one kind of cuisine that works the best with summer meals, it’s got to be Asian. Asian cooking is full of those incredibly fresh favors that just work so well when its warm. Whether you decide to whip up a noodle dish or create a crunchy salad, sticking to Asian ingredients and flavors will always serve you well in the summer months.

Garden parties, picnics, and BBQs are essential summer activities. Create the perfect menu with the above ideas, invite your friends, and have yourself a backyard bash!

Featured Image By: Pexels

Cooking The Perfect Coq Au Vin

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Cooking The Perfect Coq Au Vin

We should all cook to suit our individual tastes, but there are certain dishes where the cook simply needs to stay true to the dish; its reputation, its history and, for lack of a better word, its soul. If there’s one meal that falls into this category, it’s coq au vin. The chicken, the garlic, and the bottle of wine all need to be prepared in a certain way, even if it is just a chicken stew with a fancy name! Here are some pointers on how to prepare the perfect coq au vin:

The Chicken: The older the chicken, the richer the sauce will turn out. Talk to your butcher ahead of time to ensure that you get the perfect bird for the job. Tell them that you want a chicken that will be good for some long, slow cooking, and they may be able to order an extra-mature bird for you. The best places to look for these are generally farmer’s markets, traditional butchers, and online stores. You should always go free-range, as well. With regular access to fresh air, free-range birds develop stronger, thicker bones than any chickens kept indoors, and will therefore make for a better sauce.

The Wine: Many people think that the wine used in coq au vin is a negligible detail. Don’t believe them! Using a good quality wine in your cooking can make all of the difference to the taste, so go for a full-flavored, fruity wine rather than anything thin and lackluster. You don’t need to really push the boat out, even though some chefs will insist that you can only use a wine from Burgundy in this particular dish. If you can’t make heads or tails of wine in general, then do your homework before you run to the liquor store and buy a bottle! Here’s how you can open wine without a corkscrew in case you’ve forgotten this crucial detail! Yikes!

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YUM!

The Aromatics: The aromatics that go into your coq au vin are another very important detail that will hold a considerable sway over the overall taste. A lot of recipes that you’ll come across online will only call for onions and carrots, but we recommend adding celeriac and celery for their potent, earthy notes. Large French onions are an essential foundation for the actual stew. You can add little, tight-skinned onions near the end, but this ups the risk of you putting in too much or too little. A few bay leaves and some fresh thyme are the only herbs you’ll really need, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

The Bacon: Your coq au vin simply wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t have some strips of thick, juicy bacon to complement the chicken. The thin, common rashers you use in a fry-up will be way too thin. If you don’t manage to burn them when you’re preparing your stew, the meat will disintegrate in too much heat. Ideally, you should source a tough, solid lump that you can easily cut up into thicker strips. Most brands of pancetta will do nicely.

Bon appetit!

Featured Image By: Wikimedia

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