Monday, May 2, 2016

10 Ways to Make a Dinner Party Simple, Special and Scrumptious

Most people that know me well understand that I'm not really a spur of the moment "drop by" and order takeout kind of girl when it comes to entertainment and hospitality (although my husband with his over the top extroverted, spontaneity-driven personality has helped me to be a bit more ok with it haha).  The hardcore introvert in me just can't seem to handle all the excitement and adventure lol. But this overly-anal, need-to-know everything ahead. Of. Time girl L O V E S to put on planned and carefully executed dinner parties for people I love.  Around the holidays I will usually go all out and spend weeks meticulously organizing every small detail of the coming evening. But if it's not a holiday or birthday, I go for simple, special and scrumptious (emphasis on SIMPLE since I have two small ladies who, on occasion, can hinder the hospitality process haha).  I've learned that the night can still be elegant, yet relatively effortless.  It can be fun but not over the top fancy.  Your guests' experience can engage all of their senses in all the right ways without you losing your ever-living mind in the process. So without further a due, let me share 10 of my tricks to a simple, special and scrumptious dinner party. I'll be using pictures from a special dinner we had with my husband's wonderful grandparents the other night for visuals.

1. Floral Arrangments- Flowers help give a dinner table that x-factor! It can take a simple dinner into the realm of elegance.  I like to get my flowers from Trader Joes because they always have a great selection for even better prices.  You don't have to be a florist to get it right! Just grab a pretty vase, mason jar, or water pitcher (pictured below) and fill it with gorgeous flowers.

Hydrangeas are my absolute favorite flower right now!

Lately I've been using an old water pitcher (that has a slight crack in it) as a "vase" for flowers.

2.  Use Pretty Plates- Visually appealing, people.  Paper plates just won't cut it.  I got this set (which also came with bowls) for my wedding nearly 6 years ago. If these plates could speak, they would laughingly tell you of the many tragic dinners I made as a new bride and how thankful they are for my family...annnnd Pinterest...annnnd Barefoot Contessa...annnnnd The Pioneer Woman for enabling me to adorn them with half-way descent food nowadays.  These plates have been through thick and thin with me. I guess you could say they are my ride or die.

3.  Serve a Nice Wine-  I'm not a huge wine lover, but overtime my hunny and I have discovered 2-3 that we really love to serve when we have people over.

4. Spruce up Your Water Pitchers-  It's obviously important to offer water (the poor souls shall not die of thirst) when guest are in the house but when I'm serving a nice dinner I like to add sliced fruit and even occasional herbs to the water to add a layer of flavor and sophistication. You will look so. much. more. like Martha Stewart if you do this.

5. Serve a Simple Salad- I love to just buy pre-packaged greens (saves time on prep) and add my go to veggies (red onion, Roma tomato, and sliced cucumber).  It literally takes just minutes to throw together but when served in a nice salad bowl it looks like a labored over it for hours which is, of course, THE. GOAL.  It also serves as a "filler" when I'm seemingly unable to come up with another side dish lol.

6.  Make a Homemade Salad Dressing-  They are more cost effective and ridiculously easy. I tend to make a lot of vinaigrettes and follow the basic pattern of acidity(some type of vinegar), oil (olive, coconut, grapeseed etc.), possible herb (oregano, parsley, etc.), sweetness (honey is my go to), and salt and pepper.   Lately I've also been adding fresh squeezed citrus of some sort as well. Play with the ratios until you find a blend that makes your heart sing.

7. Include One of Your Own Personal Recipes- this kind of goes along with number 6 in the "special" department.  I LOVE pinterest and my cookbooks and use recipes from both places all the time.  But whenever I have people over for dinner I try to make at least one dish that's unique to me and my family like my homemade Dutch Oven Bourbon Mashed Potatoes (pictured below). Click here for the recipe!

8.  Don't Be Afraid to Cook Something New- This is my introverted way of "living a little" hahaha.  Normally, trying something new when people are coming over would be a HUGE no-no for me.  But I'm learning to take a few more risks while entertaining. Even if it's a major fail, make a joke out if it and throw some humor into the mix of the evening. I made these bacon wrapped veggie bundles (found recipe on Pinterest) and they actually turned out pretty good! Im going to tweak a few things when I make them next time but nonetheless it was fun for me to branch out instead of sticking to what I know.

9. Tag Team with Your Hunny-Love- My amazing husband grilled THE. BEST. STEAKS in the West the other night and looked so scrumptious doing it. There's just something about my man grilling! Maybe it's the flames? The outdoors? I could't tell you but it just works.  Not having to worry about preparing the meat took some weight off my shoulders and allowed me to really focus on the rest of the evening.  Plus, it was extra special for his grandparents to eat something that the two of us cooked together.

10. Cook With All the Love You Have to Give- Sometimes my kids are swinging from chandeliers while I'm trying to make a nice dinner.  Other times my toddler is hysterically crying at my feet.  I've even occasionally dreaded the fact that I have a dinner party on the calendar because of exhaustion and have had to dig deep to find my inner hostess.  But as long as I think about the people I will be serving and the love I want them to feel in our home, I can throw my favorite "This Mama Cooks" apron on and mentally prepare myself to "throw down" in the kitchen!

Well there you have it.  Any other dinner party tips? Please comment and share:)!

Happy cooking, y'all!

Bryt xoxo

Dutch Oven Bourbon Mashed Potatoes


I N G R E D I E N T S 

• 2 1/2-3 pounds red potatoes
•whole stick of butter
•2/3 cup chicken stock
•2/3 cup Bourbon
•2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
•half a block (give or take) of cream cheese
•3 Tbsp chopped green onion
•12 whole cloves garlic
•salt & Pepper
•1/2 Tbsp chicken bouillon 

I N S T R U C T I O N S: 

Put half stick of butter into Dutch oven and heat on medium/low. Sauté whole garlic cloves in butter until they become SLIGHTLY brown, then add chicken stock and bourbon to Dutch oven, season with a fair amount of salt and pepper, and allow to cook for about 30 minutes over moderately low heat (it's crucial that you don't allow anything to burn because it will RUIN the dish). You want to simultaneously be boiling the red potatoes in a separate pot until they are tender. If you get lucky, the potatoes will be just the right texture, and your Dutch oven mixture would have cooked out all of the alcohol and become slightly syrupy at the same time!  Once this happens, you can spoon out the whole cloves of garlic and discard (the garlic cloves flavor the mixture nicely, but I don't always leave them in the dish) or just leave them in to be mashed with other ingredients. Next, strain your potatoes and dump them (skin and all!) straight into the Dutch oven full of the yummy bourbon "sauce".  Add in the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, remaining butter and mash together. SLOWLY add chicken bouillon, regularly testing, to ensure that they are not too salty. You want the potatoes to be mashed, but still have some texture.  Finish by sprinkling chopped green onion over the top. Serve right away or cover Dutch oven and leave over LOW heat until ready to serve! Enjoy!