Tag Archives: yummy

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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Iced Coffee Obsession

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Iced Coffee Obsession

Hiii everyone and happy Tuesday! I hope everyone is having a fabulous week so far. So, if there’s one thing that a Lil Red loves, it’s her coffee! I’m a caffeine fiend, so a smooth, strong, hot cup of coffee is a must for me when I am working, lounging, doing nothing, and doing everything. I am a hot, black coffee drinker through and through and I will be a monkey’s uncle before I succumb to putting cream or sugar in my cup. But, when the warm weather hits, which has happened this past week in Ohio, my tastes change to absolutely craving a good cup of iced coffee.

One of my favorite things to treat myself with is an iced coffee from Starbucks. A venti iced coffee with cream and vanilla, to be exact! “But wait! I thought you don’t believe in cream in your coffee!” You might say? I DON’T. But, iced coffee is a totally different story. I hate iced, black coffee more than anything and I just need that little splash of cream to turn the beverage into a drinkable delight. So, yeah.

Anyways, it’s a rare occasion that I get Starbucks now that I don’t work at the mall, so I always really enjoy it when I get it. But as you all know, I am constantly balling on a budget and it’s not like I love spending three dollars for a drink that I could totally make at home. So, make it at home I did. I have been making my own iced coffee every day for the past week and it has been an absolutely delicious experience. My coffee concoction has tasted great every time, and not shelling out the dough for basically the exact same thing at Starbucks has been a freaking blessing, lol.

An iced coffee recipe may seem self explanatory, but mine has turned out really freaking good so I’m going to share it on here, anyways:

Sarah’s Iced Coffee Masterpiece

  • Make yourself the amount of coffee that you plan on drinking.
  • Once complete, let the coffee sit for about an hour so that it can cool.
  • Add 4 to 5 ice cubes to a glass and pour the now room temperature coffee over it.
  • Add a splash of flavor. I have been totally obsessed with Coffee Mate’s Natural Bliss Vanilla creamer.
  • Drink and enjoy!

If you aren’t hip to the Coffee Mate Natural Bliss creamer collection, then you need to get on it ASAP. It is the purest, richest vanilla creamer that I have ever tasted and it literally will transform your iced coffee. I do not say this lightly, because it makes my coffee creation taste one million times better than what I used to get at Starbucks. AND it costed like two dollars for a bottle, which is awesome!

My iced coffee revelation may seem like a simple thing, because it really is pretty simple. BUT, I am so excited that I’ve made myself something that 1) saves money and 2) doesn’t sacrifice the taste, just in time for the warm summer weather ahead! GO ME!!

So there you have it, my Iced Coffee Obsession! Who else makes their own coffee creations at home? What is your caffeine beverage of choice? I want to hear from all of you, so leave me a comment and let’s chat! Much love. -Sarah

Recipes For A Happier Life

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Recipes For A Happier Life

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

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

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

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

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Love, love, love avocado!

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

Next up is whole grains, fruits, and vegetables:

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

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

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

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

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Pexels Image

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

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

Delicious Featured Image By: Pexels

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

Hodge Podge Weekend Dinner

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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:

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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

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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

Tasty Recipes That Can Help You Stick To Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

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Tasty Recipes That Can Help You Stick To Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution

Are you planning on getting fit and losing some weight as part of your new year’s resolution? If so, you might already be worried about being tempted by some of your favorite foods! So how exactly do you change your diet without feeling so hungry all the time? It’s easy really; you just need to start making homemade versions of your favorite dishes. Here are some super easy recipes that will show you healthy alternatives aren’t too hard at all:

Cauliflower-Topped Shepherd’s Pie: Do you love hearty comfort food during the winter, such as shepherd’s pie? Comfort food is the Achilles heel for many people when it comes to dieting. Thankfully, there is a way that you can enjoy a delicious shepherd’s pie without worrying about piling on lots of extra pounds. You just need to swap the potato topping for one made from cauliflower! That way, you are cutting down on a lot of carbs. This is very easy to do, you just need to boil the cauliflower until it is super soft. Then mash it up with an egg. It should now be the consistency of mashed potato! Top your shepherd’s pie with this, and you will forget that you didn’t make it the original way!

Spiralized Pasta: Spiralizers were a very big deal in 2016 and they are set to be even bigger next year! These cool contraptions allow you to make spaghetti and noodles out of hard vegetables, such as courgettes and sweet potatoes. You simply attach the vegetable to one end of the spiralizer, turn the handle, and watch the noodles and spaghetti form before your very eyes! This is a great low-carb alternative to regular pasta. Then all you need to do is boil the spaghetti or noodles much like you would regular pasta and serve it with your favorite pasta sauce!

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 Pixabay Image

Spelt Bread: Are you thinking of going gluten-free next year? Well, one way to cut out so much gluten from your diet is to start eating spelt bread. This is a lot healthier than bread that is made from wheat. Spelt contains no gluten and is a carbohydrate that our body can easily digest. Unlike wheat! Spelt bread can be very expensive in the supermarket so you may prefer to make your own. This isn’t too difficult to do, even for beginners. If you want to make things even easier for yourself, you could treat yourself to a bread maker: breadmachinemom.com.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse: Did you think that eating healthy meant that you could no longer enjoy some of your favorite foods? Nope, that’s not the case! In fact, you can still tuck into chocolate mousse! Just make sure that it is made from avocado, though. Avocado is packed full of essential minerals, and you won’t be able to taste it once you add all the yummy chocolate!!!! There are plenty of recipes for this quirky dish online, including this one: chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2015/10/15/avocado-chocolate-mousse-vegan-healthy/

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 Looove avocado!

Looks like you will be able to have a delicious 2017 and still lose weight! Here’s to the New Year!

Featured Image By: Pixabay