The Elegant Salad

April 25th 2010

nasturtiums small The Elegant SaladThere is nothing more refreshing than the first salads of the season. After being pent up inside the house with warm stews and possibly more Swiss chard than one can or should consume, new veggies are definitely a requirement.

Salad becomes my default meal in the summer once it’s too hot to bear turning on the stove. In spring it seems more like a privilege to have a salad for my main course. Especially when I’m harvesting the lettuce from my own home garden. I have several varieties such as iceburg, Romain, deer tongue, red oak leaf, red romaine, mesclun mix, and spicy baby Asian green mix. If you don’t have any space to grow your own, a quick trip to your local farmers market will give you even more choices. Try as many heirloom varieties as you can. You won’t find them in your supermarket because they don’t ship well and some are only available for a short time in the spring and fall.

One way to dress up your salad is to serve it on Noritake colorwave plates. My favorites are the accent plates. Make sure to garnish the salad with a few surprises such as fresh strawberries and goat cheese, or toasted nuts and dried berries.

My favorite way to elevate a salad is by adding edible flowers. Make sure you are buying culinary grade or eating ones you grow yourself. If they were not grown as food, they may be sprayed with chemicals that you do not want to ingest. I grow nasturtiums which is a beautiful vining plant with edible leaves and flowers. The leaves add a peppery taste to the salad and the petals add so much color that you can even make a side salad out of just lettuce and nasturtiums.

Don’t underestimate what you can add to a salad. Use leftover steak, chicken, even steamed asparagus to make it a heartier meal. A salad doesn’t have to always be dainty. You can serve black beans, pulled chicken, avocado and salsa on top of a crunchy lettuce and even the biggest working man can fill up on it!

One thing I love to do is serve a salad that I toss in a dressing, rather than serve the dressing on the side. I find you can use so much less dressing that way and it allows the flavors to meld in a magical way when each lettuce leaf is perfectly coated. It’s great for dieters too, since you can easily triple the amount of calories with extra dressing.

Posted by Myriam under Garden & Hostessing & Party Food & Spring Entertaining & Summer Entertaining | 5 Comments »

Have a Hot Dog Party

April 22nd 2010

cookout 002 Have a Hot Dog PartyHot dogs are the perfect cookout foods and they work great for parties too. I always plan a few parties a year around them. I like to have campy parties and weenies scream campy!

Have your friends wear their best touristy gear for a fun costume party addition. It’s easy to forget the stress of your week once you’re in plaid Bermuda shorts, sandals with socks and have binoculars or a camera around your neck.

Make sure to have a tropical fruity drink to accompany your festive fare. Something that looks good with an umbrella straw tucked away in it. I usually choose a pina colada or strawberry daiquiri. They may be predictable, but everyone loves them.

You could even go red-neck gourmet and make a hot dog enchilada casserole. Spread about 2 cups of pre-made chili over the bottom of a greased rectangle baking dish. Wrap a tortilla around each hot dog and arrange on top of chili. Top with the rest of the chili and shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven between 30 – 40 minutes. Serve topped with crumbled Fritos.

If you go for the traditional hot dog feast, make sure to have tons of toppings for your guests. Ketchup, mustard, and pickle relish are requirements. Make a Carolina dog by topping it with cole slaw and chili. You could also make a Greek salad dog with feta, olives, chopped tomatoes, red onion, and touch of Greek dressing. Feel free to add gourmet extras like roasted garlic, red peppers, goat cheese or even nacho cheese.

If it’s raining or you just don’t feel like cooking outside, use your slow cooker. I have a Crockpot trio that has 3 small slow cookers on one base. If you have lots of time you can heat the hot dogs up in the slow cooker. Personally I like to heat them on the stove and keep them warm in the slow cookers. I put veggie dogs in one, turkey dogs in another, and veggie chili in the last one. This way everything’s ready for people as they drop in.

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Hostessing & Party Food & Spring Entertaining & Summer Entertaining | 5 Comments »

Noritake Colorwave, Modern and Elegant

April 5th 2010

squaredinnerware Noritake Colorwave, Modern and ElegantColorwave is one of my favorite sets of dinnerware. Noritake is a brand that you might see stamped on your Grandmother’s china. It has a long history, as well as being a modern choice for your household.

The color selections are very contemporary. Choose from a blue, chocolate, cream, graphite, green, lilac, mint, mustard, peach, raspberry, sky or suede. You can buy them in a complete 16 piece set, 4 piece place setting, or as individual pieces.

Personally, I bought mine as individual pieces. One reason is I can mix and match colors. This really breathes new life into an otherwise boring week night dinner. No need to run to the store for flowers when you are using your dinnerware as a decorative accent.

The second thing that I love about Colorwave is that you can get round and square plates. You can use one shape as serving dishes and the other for dinner plates. Imagine mixing shapes and colors too. The possibilities are truly endless. I like to use a large round plate and top with a square salad plate.

And my very favorite part about this Noritake dinnerware is that you also have accent plates for each color. The accent plates match the color scheme, but are different than the rest of the plates. For instance, the sky has a blue poppy flower on a barely there blue background while the suede has a tan daisy.  Don’t like flowers? Take a look at the other colors that are available, not all accent plates have flowers or images on them. However they all add to the ambiance that Colorwave provides. The accent plates are great for serving appetizers on or to set the table with. It really makes this dinnerware unique.

There are white plates with a thin rim of color or ones with a thick rim of color that are round. Matching salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl, and other serving dishes. I like to take a rice bowl, fill it with water and place a few flowers or floating candles in it as a centerpiece.

I love the matching pitcher. It’s perfect for putting in ice water and topping with fresh mint, lemon balm, or even basil. You and your friends will find yourself actually drinking enough water because it tastes so good!

Make sure to check out the Dinnerware Center website while Colorwave is on sale. The sale ends May 31, 2010.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & dinnerware | 2 Comments »

Throw a Seed Starting Party for Kids

March 16th 2010

sm missyredboots139 Throw a Seed Starting Party for Kids

It’s finally the beginning of Spring. Everyone has a little bit of cabin fever and wants to get outside in the sun. A great activity for kids is growing some flowers and veggies. Even if you don’t have a yard or place for a garden, try planting a few things in containers. Your kids will be amazed at how things grow and they might just eat more veggies because of it!

Starting seeds is easy enough for kids to do, but you’ll want to make sure to supervise. After all, you may be surprised at what children will put in their mouths when left to their own devices. This is a good reason to get organic potting soil or organic seed starting medium. You can get seed starting trays that have soil disks that get big when water is added to them. Kids love to watch that!

First make a few invitations and make sure to invite the parents too. You can never have too much help at a crafty party like this. You’ll want to plan out a few treats for snacks. Try to include some of the fruit or veggies that you will be planting that day. Dress up a salad with fresh strawberries, blueberries and nuts. Then serve it on a unique square dinnerware plate to get the kids even more interested. Make lemonade with pureed blueberries. It’s just as colorful as the sugary drinks you can buy, plus you control how much goes in it.

You can buy peat pots and seed starting medium or get seed starting kits. The kits will cost more, but can be used again next year with new refills for the soil. If you are having a slew of children, peat pots will be the most cost effective. Have boxes or waxed paper bags to send the planted seed pots in so the plants actually make it home in the car.

Lettuce is a great plant to grow and can help kids like salad more. Don’t forget tomatoes, basil, pumpkins and fun flowers. One of my first gardening memories is plating a petunia plant in a milk carton in the first grade. This party is the fancier version, plus in a few weeks, everyone can re-pot the seedlings into their own container garden.

Posted by Myriam under Children & Spring Entertaining | 1 Comment »

Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting Party

February 21st 2010

coffee grains 8314 10 Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting PartyWith winter still hanging on these days and my time to garden still weeks away, my thoughts turn to more ways to entertain my friends indoors. Instead of a traditional dinner party, I decided to try a weekend Coffee Tasting Party. If you’ve ever wondered what those different roasts or all those different flavors available at the coffee shop taste like, here’s your chance to taste them.

I love everything about coffee, and these mugs from CasaModa are no exception. With such adorable retro coffee images, they are perfect for a coffee tasting party. Set your party up like a potluck and have a few friends bring over other necessary supplies. Have each guest bring a coffee to try and an extra coffeepot. Try to get whole beans if a grinder or a coffeepot with a built in grinder is available. The flavor of whole bean coffee is fresher and stronger than already ground and vacuum-packed varieties. Coffee is at its best within the first twenty minutes of brewing, so you won’t want to have too many pots brewed at once. Between each cup of coffee, have unsalted crackers available to clear everyone’s palate. Have a coffee station with creamer and sugar and spoons for guests who don’t like black coffee.

coffee Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting Party

I also like to provide some sweet treats with coffee as well. It also gives me a great reason to bring out my CasaModa retro coffeehouse plates which match the mugs. Biscotti, scones, chocolate covered rolled wafers or shortbread cookies are favorites with my friends, especially those who like to dip their treats into their coffee.

After a weekend brunch or weekend dinner out would be the best time to hold your party if you are concerned about caffeine consumption. A nighttime party might keep everyone awake late into the night, so it may not be a good idea to do on a night where everyone has to be at work early in the morning the next day.

A Coffee Tasting can be a welcome addition to any event that might last a long time. We have friends who come over to play games that sometimes can last for hours. The losers of each round has to brew and fix the next coffee to taste for the winners. If you are having a movie or TV show marathon party, a coffee tasting would be a great way to take a break in between shows. Have fun with ways to present your coffee tasting and your friends will no doubt have fun as well.

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Winter Entertaining | 1 Comment »

Have a Healthy Valentine’s Day

February 10th 2010

heart Have a Healthy Valentines DayInstead of braving the crowds out at the finest restaurants, try making dinner at home. You know that it’s not a romantic to be in a huge crowd of people all trying to woo their spouse at the same time.

Long waits and rushed service makes this day one of the worst to eat out on anyhow. At home you have complete control over what goes into your special meal.

Instead of wine or alcoholic cocktails buy a flavored sparkling water. Make a mock-tail using organic juices and fresh herbs. Try a mock mojito using lime sparkling water, lime juice, and fresh mint. It’s just as good as the original.

Start out with a low calorie shrimp cocktail. You can  buy some pre-cooked frozen ones, and it’s as simple as thawing them out in the fridge. Fancy it up by placing them around the rim of a Noritake Kona footed bowl. Add a dollop of cocktail sauce and your appetizer is ready to go.

Get some bagged field greens and top with dried cranberries, goat cheese, and slivered almonds. This makes a beautiful salad and really dresses up your table. Serve with a low fat balsamic dressing and a whole wheat dinner roll.

Pasta always has a part in a romantic meal. In stores it’s becoming easier to find whole wheat pasta. At my local Whole Foods store they have a low fat whole wheat cheese ravioli that’s amazing. Warm up a bottle of organic marinara. Toss in some veggies to make this another pretty plate. You can even use a frozen bag of California mix that contains broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Of course, any fresh veggies you have on hand will work. The veggies add great nutrition and fill you up, so try to have extra veggies whenever you can.

You can cheat a little on dessert and get a couple of individual flour-less chocolate cakes. Trader Joe’s has them. They aren’t expensive and you can pop them in the oven at any time during your meal. My favorite option is fresh berries. They are a special treat in the winter. Fresh raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries make a colorful dessert all by themselves. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and elevate them to a perfect Valentine treat. Make it from scratch and add a few drop of vanilla extract.

After a candle lit dinner at home, you may find yourself staying in more often for special occasions. It will save you money and keep you healthier all through the year!

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Healthier Fondue Party

January 27th 2010

fondue Healthier Fondue PartyNow is the time to get your fondue pot out of hiding. If you don’t have a fondue pot, go to your local thrift store. You’ll usually see a few inexpensive ones there. Mine gets packed up and trekked off to the shed, a friend of mine puts hers in the attic. I’d be interested in hearing form any of you that manage to store it were you can easily get to it. Maybe you could change my ways. One of the reasons I have fondue less often is that it’s so inconvenient to go and get it.

Another reason you may be avoiding fondue night is your cholesterol. You know your doctor doesn’t want a big pot of steaming cheese on your table for dinner. But there is another way! A non-traditional way, but I always love twists on the original.

White beans are the new main addition. Once they are pureed they actually create a perfect fondue every time. The other change is to use low fat or 2% cheese instead of full fat. Combined with the beans it still creates a richly textured fondue. No one will know the difference. Try a porter beer cheddar version, or the more traditional white wine and Gruyere and emmental. Set the table with a colorful array of dinnerware. My favorite for fondue is Sengware blueberry for the place settings with the white bistro ones to hold the food waiting to be dunked into the cheese. In addition to lightly toasted bread, try steamed broccoli and cauliflower, whole baby carrots, even thickly sliced baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Make sure to save room for a little chocolate fondue too. I make mine when I start the cheese fondue and keep it warm in a small Crockpot until I’m ready for it. Cut up some cheesecake, vanilla cake, and an assortment of fresh fruit. Try pineapple – it’s one of my favorites.

This is a good opportunity to have a period themed party. You could do the 60′s with smoking jackets and cocktail dresses. Or even the 70′s with polyester outfits complete with clashing colors. Pick the one your friends will have the most fun with.

Posted by Myriam under Party Food & Recipes & Winter Entertaining | 2 Comments »

It’s a Great Year to Start a Dinner Club

January 13th 2010

fork Its a Great Year to Start a Dinner Club If you’re like me, you’re trying to recover from all the holiday spending. I went out to dinner so much that I was excited to finally eat at home again. And, of course, my waist was glad too!

It’s time to re-group and make monthly plans with friends to get back on the social track you enjoy. I love the holidays, but I end up doing to many things because I have to or I should. This year I want to bring in people that I enjoy spending time with and do less of the obligatory visits.

Last year six of us began a monthly dinner club that didn’t quite make it through the holidays. I think the last time we met was October. Now it’s 2010 and time to rev that puppy back up.

What’s a dinner club? It’s a less expensive way to get fancy night out. Only it’s in your or your friend’s house. It’s a great place to try out new recipes, drinks, or to show off your sengware dishes.

We limited our group to three couples. You can always have other dinner parties to accommodate your other friends, but this is a group planning effort. Pick your club members carefully. Do they love food and cooking? Show up when expected? If they hate cooking or are picky eaters it could cause too much drama in this kind of setting. You will also need to get input from any other members of the group before you add the next person. It’s important for the group to jell together for the long run.

Mine started up at my 2009 New Year’s Eve dinner party. Six of us complained that we didn’t see each other enough and were praising each other’s cooking. We decided to meet one Saturday night a month. The host would rotate through each couple so everyone got to be a guest as well.

We each bring a dish or two from a pre-determined menu. In our group the host determines the theme, and guests decide what they would like to bring. We do this at the end of the current dinner club for the next month. Usually we have a main dish, some sides, salad, dessert, and a special drink of the night.

In my next post I’ll talk more about creating your dinner club and give you some sample menus. So make sure to check back later in the week!

Posted by Myriam under Dinner Club & Hostessing & Party Food | 1 Comment »

A Get Fit Game Party

January 10th 2010

huls A Get Fit Game PartyWe’re getting closer to the middle of January. How are your resolutions coming? I bet you’ve gone full steam ahead the past 10 days. To make sure you keep your healthy goals, plan a few parties that support your efforts.

Last year we got a Wii, and of course, the Wii fit. It caught on and most of our friends followed. When it was new, we broke it out after every dinner party, but lately it hasn’t been used much. Knowing that we were going to make a point to exercise more, we bought the new biggest loser game for Wii. My friends and I all have some weight lose goals this year and we have agreed to support one another. In this game you set goals for 4, 8, or 12 weeks, so if you want to do this with your friends you’ll need to make at least a weekly date to play and weigh in.

If you don’t have a Wii, maybe you are you friends have an Xbox or other type of gaming system. On these you can still play Dance Dance Revolution to get your exercise in. This dancing game uses a special pad that you step on to register your score as you go along. Most allow at least 4 players at a time. I can promise you all your friends will be laughing within the first 10 minutes. You might not even notice the workout you’re getting, and it’s a fun time for everyone.

The games that come with the Wii fit are also fun to play in a group, even though you have to play one at a time. Trust me, there is nothing funnier than seeing your friend hulu hoop on the balance board with no hoop. There are some fit games that don’t work in a crowd, but I like the ski jump, bubble navigating, and hulu hoop for a party workout.

I like to do this after a healthy home cooked dinner. Try making a lentil soup with a nutrient rich green like spinach or kale and serve with some homemade whole wheat rolls. Another easy option is pasta and a salad. Try some of the new whole grain pasta that has lentils and flax seeds to really get you ready for some after dinner exercising. No matter what you decide, it will look beautiful on your Noritake dinnerware.

Make sure to check out new Wii games that will get you and your friends moving. In addition to the sports games, take a look at Raving Rabbids. It has a variety of games and its own version of Dance Dance Revolution that’s not to be missed. It’s one of the silliest and most fun games I’ve ever played.

Posted by Myriam under Hostessing & Party Food & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Have a Healthy Dinner Party

January 6th 2010

veggies Have a Healthy Dinner PartyEveryone needs a break from rich artery clogging fare after the holidays.  So have your friends over for a healthy dinner. Keep it simple and you’ll find yourself having a dinner party every week. It doesn’t have to be stressful at all.

The house may not be as decorated as it was last month, but you don’t need to go all out. A beautiful house plant that you can enjoy the rest of the dark, winter season is well worth the investment. I go to Trader Joe’s to get fresh flowers. They are inexpensive and I separate the flowers in the bouquet into smaller arrangements I put throughout the house. Try putting Asiatic lilies in a small bathroom, they scent the room while they beauty it up.

You don’t need to have the house spotless. It can be an excuse to clean a few things that you tend to put off. For me having a weekly dinner keeps my table cleared of the daily pile of papers it can collect and the rug vacuumed. It works perfect for me, since I procrastinate on my daily chores.

You don’t need to make a meal out of a food magazine. If your friends have a favorite dish of yours you can always make a healthy version of it. I make a version of biscuits and gravy that my friends always ask for. I make whole wheat biscuits and gravy with no fat, vegetarian sausage and fat free milk. You get all of the comfort but don’t regret the indulgence later.

One of my favorite mid-week dinners is slow cooker full of veggie chili or of split pea soup. Be sure to put in dry beans the night before since they take so long to cook, add veggies and seasonings in the morning before you go to work.

Try having veggie burgers and baked sweet potato fires instead of the normal beef and greasy fries. Making a healthy meal is easier than you may think.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Hostessing & Party Food & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

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