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Pulling off Easter Dinner– A few tips to keep it simple.

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Hosting a large family dinner can be a daunting task, especially at a holiday. There are a few things you can do to ensure that the day goes smoothly and guarantee that you enjoy the day too. No one signs up to host a family meal saying, “Sure, I’d love to have you come over to a enjoy a stress-filled, resentful, exhausting nightmare together.” But, this is what these days are for some frazzled hosts.

This post was inspired by a hopeful co-worker who popped into my classroom this week to ask for help. She is hosting Easter dinner for her entire family for the first time ever. She was feeling intimidated, but hopeful that with a few suggestions, she could pull it off. I gave her some tips and a sold menu, and she left work on Friday feeling determined and optimistic. After seeing her relief, I thought it would be a good idea to share them with all of you.

1. The Menu

My co-worker had the challenge of incorporating traditional favorites, but accommodating a family member who is vegetarian and a family member who is vegan. Here is what we came up with:

Honey Glazed Spiral Ham— Don’t be afraid to go with a store-bought ham. They are very tasty and easy to make.

Oven Baked Risotto— This is a crowd favorite, and if made with vegetable stock & a butter alternative, it will please both the vegetarian and vegan. Additionally, it’s a sophisticated alternative to potatoes.

Quiche– A quiche is a nice option for vegetarians, and it works for meals throughout the day. Go plain, or add variety with different vegetables.

Clementine Balsamic Glazed Carrots— Roasted whole carrots are a beautiful symbol of the spring season. Not to mention, the flavor is the perfect complement to the sweet ham.

Garlicky Green Beans— Toss some skinny fresh green beans with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh minced garlic. Saute until bright green and slightly tender. Remove from heat, and transfer to a serving bowl quickly so they don’t over cook.

Spinach and Strawberry Quinoa Salad— Adding cooked & cooled quinoa is a great way to add texture and update this classic salad.

2. Appetizers

My advice is to limit appetizers when hosting a large sit-down dinner. The first reason is practical. Since you are spending so much time, energy, and money on this meal, you don’t want your guests to fill up on snacks before dinner. The second reason is procedural. You will be far less stressed as a cook if you are not trying to prepare appetizers when you really need to be devoting your time and energy to the main course. I would suggest a simple cheese and cracker plate and some fresh fruit. Fruit is a great option because if hungry kids ruin their appetites with fruit, is that really such a bad thing?

3. Working Ahead 

The key to sanity and effective kitchen management is to do as much as you can ahead of time.

A few days before:

  • Set the table
  • Clean the house
  • Shop for groceries
  • Make the quiche and freeze
  • Lay out serving pieces and cookware needed
  • Clean the fridge, creating space for prepped ingredients and leftovers

The day before:

  • Wash the fruits & vegetables
  • Do all dishes and run the dishwasher. Be sure to unload it too!
  • Make quinoa and store in the fridge.
  • Pre-slice the cheese.
  • Defrost the quiche in the fridge.

The day of:

** Keep up with dishes and cleaning in the kitchen as you are cooking. Staying on top of things and keeping the kitchen clean as you cook will reduce your stress later.

  • Before guests arrive–
    • Prepare the salad (do not put the dressing on until you are ready to serve it)
    • Make the ham, slice it off the bone, and arrange on a platter.
    • Warm the quiche.
    • Assemble to fruit plate.
    • Measure and prep all ingredients for the green beans, carrots, and risotto.
    • Arrange the drink table. Add ice and cold beverages just prior to guests’ arrival time.
  • About an hour before dinner–
    • Make risotto & carrots.
    • Let guests know that you will be eating in an hour.
  • Fifteen Minutes before dinner–
    • Warm ham and quiche in the oven.
    • Toast rolls or bread.
    • Dress the salad.
    • Make green beans
  • Five minutes before dinner–
    • Put the food on the table.
    • Encourage guests to get a fresh drink
    • Start the dishwasher with any random dishes left over from the prep.
  • Dinner time–
    • LET IT ALL GO!!
    • This is what you have been planning for. Be sure to sit, enjoy dinner, and take time to have good conversation with those you love!
  • After dinner–
    • Let guests help to clear the table.
    • Put away clean prep dishes from the dishwasher.
    • Load the dishwasher with dinner dishes.
    • Sit and enjoy family and your dinner success!
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Positively Perfect Progressive Dinner Party–Roasted Tomato Caprice in Garlic Bread Bowls

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As the Fabulous Food Fairy, two of my favorite words are…DINNER PARTY!! I love the idea of gathering with friends, for adult time, where I actually get to do my make-up, dress in a fun outfit, sip “mommy drinks” and have intellectual conversation without coaxing a few more bites, or imploring my dinner companions to sit down, don’t talk with your mouth full, and KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF!!

However, this dinner party is different. It is entirely virtual, so forget the hair and make-up, stay in your yoga pants (or as I call them “buffet pants”) and come to our table to “feast” your eyes on these spectacular recipes for every course, plus tips for pulling it all together!

Here are the rules:

Use the links below, to click “door to door”, visiting various blogs, and experience all that these fabulous women have to offer. If you find something really great, send it to your friends, pin it to your boards, or share it on your Facebook page. Because unlike an actual dinner party, the more the merrier, there’s plenty to go around.

To get the full Progressively Perfect Virtual Dinner Party blog hop experience, click the links below in order:

Appetizers

Salad

Drinks

Entrees

Coffee, Tea & Dessert

Late Night

Decorations, Outfits and Music

Hope you have as much fun reading through the party as we did planning it!

Roasted Tomato Caprice in Garlic Bread Bowls

Have you ever had an idea that you knew, from the moment it popped into your head, that it was brilliance? That is this recipe for me. I was charged with the task of creating an original appetizer recipe and this little goodie came seemingly out of nowhere!

I LOVE roasted tomatoes.

I LOVE basil.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE balsamic vinegar.

I REALLY REALLY LOVE garlic.

And bread…INFATUATED!

In one stroke of creative genus, all of my loves came together into one amazing appetizer that just may cause you to skip dinner.

Wanna peek?

Here it is…

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So, wanna know how to make it?

Ok. Here goes.

Ingredients:

Roasted tomatoes (click here for the recipe)

4 large dinner rolls

3 Tbsp. of melted butter

1 tsp. of garlic season all

1 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese– I used the small beads of mozzarella

3/4 cup of basil leaves

2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar

4 tsp. of parmesan cheese

Balsamic glaze

Preparation:

1. Prepare roasted tomatoes according to the recipe. (this can be done up to a day ahead)

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2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

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3. Use a knife to cut a circular divot out of the center of each roll, leaving the bottom intact, creating a mini bread bowl.

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4. Mix the melted butter and garlic seasoning and brush each bread bowl inside and out with the mixture.

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5. Place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake until crispy with slightly brown edges.

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6. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

7. Meanwhile, toss the roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar.

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8. Once the bread bowls cool a bit (you want them a little bit warm, but not warm enough to melt the cheese) place each one on a small plate.

9. Spoon the caprice salad neatly into each bowl.

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10. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and drizzle with the balsamic glaze in a side to side sweeping motion.

Serve immediately!

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I take no responsibility if your dinner guests scarf down this appetizer, ask for seconds, and don’t have room for the main course ๐Ÿ™‚ At least, that’s what happened at my house when I made them for the first time ๐Ÿ™‚

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Savory Pot Roast

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Pot roast, your perfect post pool day dish!

I know, you’re thinking “What kind of crazy loon makes pot roast in the middle of a heat wave in June??

Me!

While this does not seem like summer fare, I find myself juggling early mornings at swim team practice, then long activity filled summer days. I need slow cooker meals that will fill the starving bellies of my hungry monsters who are often “dying” and “starving” as they stagger around the kitchen whining for food at 4:30 on a Wednesday. And who wants to fire up the stove after a day of kid crazy??

This week was “Clean the Freezer Week” at my house, and I happened to have a big ol’ chuck roast in the freezer threatening to slip out and crush the tiny toes of a Popsicle seeking rummager. I figured I might as well pop it in the slow cooker and feed them a hearty meal. The result was well fed, happy kids who marched their satisfied tummies upstairs and slept well all night! SCORE!!

As for the recipe, This is an old family favorite, courtesy of my mother. Over the years, I have tweaked it a bit, but it still remains very much like the recipe of my childhood.

Savory Pot Roast

1 3lb beef roast

Oil for frying

Salt

ยผ cup balsamic vinegar

1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes OR ยผ cup catsup

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire

1 sprig of fresh rosemary OR 1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary

4 fresh garlic cloves OR ยฝ tsp. garlic powder

ยฝ tsp. dry mustard

In a Dutch oven or large oven safe pot, brown meat on the stovetop in small amount of oil. Sprinkle meat with a little salt. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover tightly, roast at 350 for 2 hours or until tender. Remove meat to heated platter. Skim excess fat from sauce. Spoon sauce over meat.

*** You can also cook it on low in a slow cooker for about 8 hours. I also add carrots and potatoes to cook in the sauce with the meat ๐Ÿ™‚

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Strawberry Spinach Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts in a Balsamic Honey Ginger Vinaigrette

4-photo 4โ€˜Tis the season for salad. As the reality sets in that bathing suit, tank top, and shorts weather has arrived, we are all feeling the need to eat a little healthier and we are a bit more body conscious. But one needs to be cautious when eating salads not to fall intoโ€ lettuce limboโ€, or โ€œdressing death-trapsโ€. This salad is a simple recipe for a well rounded meal, that wonโ€™t trick you into five extra pounds.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of fresh baby spinach
  • ยฝ- ยพ cup of fresh sliced strawberries
  • 20 toasted hazelnuts
  • 1Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of honey
  • A few shavings of fresh ginger (2-3 swipes across a micro-plane)

 

Preparation:

  1. Toast hazelnuts on the stove top by placing them in a small skillet over medium heat and swirling them in the pan until they start to brown. Keep them moving, otherwise they will burn. Allow them to cool. 5-photo 3
  2. Slice the strawberries.3-photo 5
  3. Mix with the spinach in a bowl.2-spinach
  4. While hazelnuts are cooling, combine the oil, vinegar, honey, & ginger. Whisk until well combined.6-photo 2
  5. Once hazelnuts are cool, toss into the salad with the dressing and enjoy immediately.

Prep time: 8 minutes Serves: 1 Calories: Approx 383

 

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