Tag

Wine

How to host a simple fall dinner party

Guys! I have this secret obsession with starting a dinner club. It’s not a secret anymore since I just told you about it, ha. Seriously, anyone who knows me, knows I love to host gatherings. I mostly love hosting when it involves food (which is always). Also, you probably know I have an obsession with all things fall. So, of course I had to put those two things together! Recently, I co-hosted a fall inspired dinner party with my co-worker and I think it was a huge success. Here are some of our tips and pics!

Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
Our guests enjoying their dinner on a crisp fall night
  • Pick a location – We wanted to have the party outside so we had to decide between backyards. When doing a party outside make sure you have a fairly flat yard if you want to put a table on the grass. Know where your electrical outlets are if you want to use any sort of lighting or music. HAVE A RAIN PLAN! We live in Pittsburgh and we have our fair share of rain, make sure your location allows for flexibility if you have rain or snow. (It did start pouring an hour before our dinner but we waited it out and luckily our guests were more than happy to help us get things set up when it was dry.)

    Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
    Simple can still be elegant! Candles and flowers go a long way.
  • Sketch out a menu before you send the invite – This was a really crucial step. We actually made some pretty good decisions on the theme of the menu and number of dishes before we sent out the invite. We decided to focus on a Mediterranean feeling menu but wanted to make sure there were fall elements in each dish. We also decided on our protein early on because we knew that would drive a lot of the expense. Chicken is always a cost-effective way to go and there are plenty of ways to make it sexy! Also – remember your veg friends; they appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they don’t have to just eat salad.

    Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
    Carrots are a great side dish for any fall dinner! We found this recipe on Pinterest which includes a lemon tahini sauce!
  • Make a Pinterest board – Shortly after menu planning we set up a Pinterest board where we could both pin things that inspired us and dishes that looked yummy. Ultimately, most of the recipes we chose came from Pinterest. This is also a good way to focus in on specific elements of the party that you want to make sure you capture (i.e., I was committed to having a blanket bench and luckily she had a bench so I brought the blankets!)

    Appetizers can be simple - bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
    Appetizers can be simple – bread with different olive oils, olives, and cheese!
  • When it comes to decor, simple can still be elegant – I subscribe to the notion that when you want something to look really classy, just add candles! We kept the decor very simple, the tables were covered in butcher paper (a roll from Michaels cost $7.00) and we used mason jars with tea lights as decoration along with two vases of dried flowers (see picture below). A simple accent of burlap and twine helped to keep the rustic fall look. The food was all served family style which means you need plenty of room for your dishes on the table. A strand or two of lights can also make a huge difference. Don’t fuss with fancy dishes or glassware! If you want to spend money, spend it on more candles!!!! Fun platters can also serve as a great way to bring color or detail to your table.

    A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
    A simple centerpiece with dried flowers, burlap, twine, and mason jars.
  • Buy in bulk – We made a Costco run a week before the dinner to pick up ingredients that were non-perishable or had a long shelf life (nuts, cheeses, dried fruits). Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on the cost, we had also planned dishes that had similar ingredients so things could be used in multiple dishes.

    Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
    Appetizers can be as simples as dried fruits, nuts, and cheese. Filling your platter to the brim can make an impressive statement.
  • Full bar vs. wine or beer – We talked about this a good deal. Do you go with specialty cocktails? Do you get a bunch of wine and beer? Ultimately, you should do whatever you think your guests will like. We had a feeling a lot of our guests would bring some wine so we decided it would be easier to just have wine (we ended up going through lots of wine!!). To save on money, encourage your guests to bring their favorite wine or beer. Most people want to bring something as a token of appreciation so let them!
  • Time out cooking so that you don’t have to stand in the kitchen the whole time – We did some prep work the night before (mostly sauces and cutting). Make sure you pick recipes that are simple enough that you can execute in a few hours. Time everything out based on prep time and cook time. If you want to pre-bake anything make sure you don’t overcook it. Your guests wont know what things are supposed to look like so you get to be the judge before things go out!

    Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with a series of fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guest the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
    Chicken can be sexy! We served a simple roasted chicken with some fun sauces (pesto, harissa, hummus). This allowed our guests the option to jazz up their chicken however they wanted!
  • Don’t Stress! – I have had my fair share of kitchen meltdowns but I have learned that the biggest part of entertaining is the time spent with your guests. Unlike a restaurant, your guests usually don’t come in with a lot of expectations (unless you have hosted before and then of course, you have to live up that haha) so just roll with it! If it rains, it rains. As long as you have plenty of wine I am sure it will still be a great time!

 

August Instagram Bites

I take lots of pictures of food and post them to Instagram. If you follow me then you already get to see these yummy dishes but for those of you who don’t,  I decided that it might be a good idea to share them here so you can see what I am eating when I am not in the kitchen. Here is a monthly recap of the delicious things I ate or drank  in August and where you can find them!

  1. Brunch Plate – Grand Concourse 
  2. Chicago Imposter – Franktuary 
  3. Beef Empanadas and Plantains – Conflict Kitchen  
  4. Lemon Berry Pancakes – Square Cafe 
  5. Villa Mt. Eden Pinot Noir 
  6. Rootbeer Shaved Ice – Little Italy Days 
  7. Grape Leaves, Chickpea Salad and Hummus – Greek Gourmet 
  8. Americano – Julius Meinl Chicago 

Bow Tie Pasta with Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Bow Tie with Sausage II

I hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing weekend. I know that many of you might be lamenting the fact that spring has yet to arrive. I am right there with you. I cannot wait for spring to get here. I have been trying to convince myself that spring is close by making spring inspired dishes or hosting spring themed gatherings.

Speaking of hosting! I wanted to share a picture that my friend Caroline took of the brunch we did this morning. I so desperately wanted to host some sort of food related gathering and it just happened that we had something to celebrate as her and her husband are expecting their first child. Our friend Victoria also joined us and she is in the midst of planning her fall wedding which is also cause for celebration. Brunch turned out wonderfully and I was so glad we could get together and celebrate all the good news.

Caroline's Brunch

Caroline’s picture is just so cute!!

(I made challah french toast and the girls brought delicious fresh fruit and yogurt)

Anyhow, back to the pasta…

I made this pasta dish a few nights ago but I knew it would be perfect for the blog. This dish also has a spring flare to it with the white wine sauce and the peas. I generally like light pasta dishes so you wont see too many dishes that are laden with heavy tomato sauces or tons of ingredients. My baked ziti is the closest thing to a heavy pasta dish but even that is made with turkey and a homemade sauce.

bow tie

I like this  pasta dish because it gives me the chance to use Farfalle which is one of my favorite pastas, mostly because it’s so cute! I think Farfalle works well for hot and cold dishes but either preparation seem to best when done with a light sauce. No need to drown in ladles of sauce since you really want to get the visual of eating those little bow ties.

peasIMG_7100

I made this dish with some of my favorite ingredients, peas and sun-dried tomatoes. I ended up using frozen peas but I promise you they will work just fine. Using the tomatoes in oil is the best way to go because they have a lot more flavor and you can use the oil when you make the sauce. It can get a little messy trying to cut up the tomatoes but it is so worth it!

IMG_7112

The trick to pasta dishes can be about the timing. You have to know which ingredients need longer to cook and which ones need to just a kiss of the heat before they are done. I wanted the flavors to be rich in this dish so I sautéed the meat with the shallots for a while before adding the other layers. I feel that ultimately each ingredient gets a moment in the sun before you combine it all together to make the perfect bite.

Bow Tie Pasta with Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1/2 Box (14 oz) Farfalle Pasta
1/2 Cup Reserved Water from Pasta Cooking
1 Pkg. Smoked Turkey Sausage (Sliced)
1/4 Cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil (Sliced)
1 Tbsp. Oil from Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 Cup Peas (Fresh or Frozen)
1 Shallot Diced
1/2 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/3 – 3/4 Cup Dry White Wine

Instructions:

Boil your pasta according to instructions, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to use later. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add your butter and oil from the tomatoes. Add your shallots and cook for 2 minutes or until they become soft, add your red pepper flakes and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the slice smoked sausage to the pan and saute everything until the sausage starts to get a little sear. * please note that I am using a sausage that is already cooked so there is no need to brown or cook the meat. Add your slice sun-dried tomatoes to the pan and continue to cook for 2-4 minutes. Finally you can add your peas and wine and allow everything to simmer on low until the wine reduces to about half. When you add the wine make sure to scrape any bits that are sticking to the pan those will help build flavor. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and then your cooked and drained bow tie noodles. Stir everything together on low until the liquid has been absorbed by the noodles and sauce. Season everything with salt and pepper at the end and top off with your favorite Italian cheese.