So this Memorial Day weekend I was all about HOSTING! That Sunday I had both a brunch guest and dinner guests and it was a very busy day in the kitchen. I did try to KISS the menus (KISS = keep it simple stupid). If you drive yourself crazy trying to match everything to your theme or make your dishes overly complicated you’ll hate yourself and never want to host again. Make sure you set yourself up with prep so you can hang out with your guests and make it easier on yourself. They came to the event to see you, not watch you Tasmanian devil around the kitchen and be exhausted.
My friend Samantha came over for “brunch” (aka post work out snacks and drinks). She was the one who helped me starting my blog (check her out at http://sheissparkling.com/). She is still a “new” friend so I had to step my game up a little bit. I know she loves lavender drinks, has a few food allergies and generally is not a high carb kinda lady. I started out with my favorite: melon, prosciutto and mozzarella. This is so easy, looks great, low on carbs and you can whip it up a few hours ahead of time.
Photo by: @sheissparkling on IG / sheissparkling.com
1 melon (cantaloupe) cut into slices
1 package of good quality prosciutto
1 cup of mozzarella divided
2 tablespoons (or more) of good quality olive oil
3 mint leaves and 3 basil leaves finely chopped (less or more to taste)
A few twists of fresh cracked pepper and salt
Arrange on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and ENJOY!
The drink was my favorite part, a lovely lavender and blackberry syrup with Prosecco. Making simple syrup is very easy and you can use all your favorite ingredients to make it very sweet or even herby/savory. Don’t get to expensive on the champs/prosecco because the syrup changes the flavor (way to save some $$…but make sure it’s in a pretty glass…it makes all the difference – DETAILS PEOPLE DETAILS!)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
In a small sauce pan bring mixture to a boil to and stir frequently to make sure everything is incorporated and let cook.
Before it boils add your “flavoring” ingredients. Today this was 1 tablespoon of dried lavender flowers and about 6 black berries. I muddled them as everything came to a boil and then let it sit to cool. It only need to boil for a short minute. It made the house smell great! Once cooled, strain into vessel that you can easily pour into the glass or shaker (even a small squeeze bottle will do). Once room temp, put in the fridge to chill (can also be made a few days ahead of time).
To prepare drinks: 1 tablespoon or more to taste and top with chilled prosecco. Add a blackberry for garnish.
Some other great combinations for simple syrup to add to drinks, but feel free to get creative!
Strawberry and basil, add ice, vodka and seltzer water or just prosecco
Ginger and lemon
Ginger and lime, great in a Moscow mule
Jalapeno, lime and parsley
Cumber and mint (very refreshing)
I also made a very healthy “red white and blue” chia pudding. The recipe I use is from Protein Cakery via Pintrest. Very easy to follow – http://www.proteincakery.com/chocolate-chia-protein-pudding/ Then I just topped with red (raspberries) white (banana) and blue (blueberries). See there is a THEME here (also see recipes below).
A lot of hosting is having a theme. You don’t have to have EVERYTHING match the theme but it makes your guests feel special, like you took a moment to think about it. You certainly would not have queso dip for a starter and Ginger Beef with peapods over lo mein as a main, right…you tend to keep things going in the same direction. Chips and salsa to start and fajitas for a main and Caprese salad to start and eggplant rollatini for a main. Think of easy but creative themes, can you incorporate a color or a flavor that brings everything together. Maybe it’s a pop of color from napkins, plates or a centerpiece.
That evening we had an easy BBQ are the neighbors and Ginger’s dog-bestie Pippa (I cook, but use their deck and grill). I did an easy starter of Mexican Corn dip and Bright Bites (see below). A side salad with arugula, tomatoes, black beans and cheese (cojita…like Mexican feta) and a simple EVOO and lime dressing. The main was a “make your own taco” with chorizo or chicken. Went store bought ‘Merica mini cupcakes. To amp it up I had some red white and blue tablewear and cupcakes added some extra flare.
It was a long day that started with a workout and then ended lounging on the coach with a small bowl of fritos. Life is about balance!
More Red White and Blue Recipes
Here are some great ideas to make your (picnic) table FRESH and FESTIVE over this Memorial Day week:
Sweet & Savory Watermelon Salad
1 Watermelon, deseeded and cut into half inch chunks
1 cup of crumbled Feta
2 or more cups of fresh blueberries
A few sprigs of mint, chopped fine
2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
Fresh ground pepper and sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a pretty serving bowl and chill for a bit before serving. This is a great side or even dessert. See options below for ways to amp up the flavors
Add additional herbs like chives, lemon balm or basil to the mix (remember a little goes a long way)
Add some red pepper flakes or a few dashes of cayenne (great twist on sweet, savory, spicy and salty…I love it)
You can make this into individual servings by placing them on skewers or toothpicks: 1 chunk of watermelon, 1-2blueberries, a “crumble of feta” (works best if you chop your own off of a large block versus the pre-crumbled in a box) and 1 small leaf of mint, lay on a tray and drizzle with oil and salt & pepper
Side note…this is a #latergram….photos from Memorial Day 2016
1 box black berries
1 box strawberries
1 box triscuits (or other salty cracker….LOW CARB & LOW CAL OPTION – use a cucumber slice!)
1 wheel of Boursin cheese
2 tablespoons of good local honey
Fresh sea salt & cracked pepper
Optional: slices of spicy salami cut into small 1 inch squares
On each “vehicle” (cracker or cucumber) place a small amount (about ½ tablespoon) of Boursin and top with either a blackberry or strawberry (and alternate the salami if you want). When arranged on a plate, drizzle the honey and sprinkle on salt and pepper.
Tips and Tricks at the BBQ:
Use a high-fiber whole wheat pita as your burger “bun” and stuff it full of veggies and meat minus all those sugar laden condiments and nutritionally void white bun. Or use fresh lettuce leaves to make yourself at “burger taco”
Fill your plate with veggies and salad FIRST before adding your protein and the “optional” treat. I always try to take a small plate so I can only fill it so much
Take a first pass on the BBQ without taking anything so you can decide what is REALLY worth it versus just taking one of everything. Was that over-cooked, dried out fried chicken really worth it or would you rather have had a small slice of that friends famous chocolate cake…
By Emaly Hunt / @grapesandgarlic on the Instagram / grapesandgarlic.com