Posts Tagged ‘entertaining’

This post is sponsored by Fisher & Paykel

The Man and I used to entertain all. the. time. Seriously, we would have friends over for dinner or drinks every week.

Fast forward a few years and The Man has a longer commute and more responsibility at work and I have a business and blog that takes up a lot more time than my previous 9-5 gig.

Our nights and weekends are no longer as free as they once were, but we still love to cook and entertain just as much.

What to do?

Over the years we’ve found ways to still entertain even in the busiest weeks life throws at us. Here are some tips that keep us sane while being good hosts.

easy-entertaining-1

Prepare ahead of time

Friday night dinner party? Get a head start on Thursday evening by getting big things like the cleaning and shopping out of the way. You can even start prepping your food (chopping, measuring dry ingredients, making sauces etc) and setting the table so you don’t have to skip your after work knock-off drinks. Then on the night it’s simply a matter of doing a last-minute tidy and doing the cooking.

Choose your dishes wisely

Most of my go-to entertaining recipes have become favourites because they don’t require me to be chained to the stove. I opt for dishes that can be prepared ahead and cooked in the oven or left to simmer away on its own, such as roasts and casseroles (hint: avoid recipes with the dreaded phrase ‘stir constantly’).

Alternatively, if it’s a weeknight meal and you don’t have time for a slow-cooked dish, choose something that cooks super quickly like a steak, stirfry or pasta.

Fisher & Paykel Dishdrawer in use

Use labour-saving appliances

The single biggest thing that puts us off entertaining when we’re busy is not the planning or the cooking… it’s the dishes. A Dishdrawer (or conventional dishwasher) would alleviate that ‘ugh!’ feeling when you look at the kitchen at the end of a dinner party and means the next day the only after-effects you need to deal with is the sore head.

It’s not just dishwashers though: think roomy refrigerators (so you don’t have to play fridge tetris), multi-burner stoves (so you can be cooking various dishes at once) and double ovens (so your cake doesn’t end up tasting like pork roast).

Don’t try to do it all

If one of your guests offers to bring something, let them! I enjoy planning and cooking a full menu, but if I’m short on time I won’t hesitate to accept a friend’s offer of bringing dessert or nibbles.

Also, there is nothing wrong with store-bought! If you don’t see yourself as much of a cook, pick up some prepared stuffed chicken breasts and a readymade cake.

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Keep it simple

Cooking shows will have you believe that you have to put on a three course meal for it to be considered a proper dinner party. For a mid-week dinner with friends, a yummy main followed by coffee and maybe some biscuits is totally fine. (I admit I generally don’t take my own advice here as I love any excuse to try out a new dessert!)

Oh and unless you’re a confident cook, don’t try something new when you’re having guests over. Stick to your tried-and-true lemon chicken or bolognese so you’re not tearing your hair out when things don’t go as expected.

Lower your standards (just a little)

I would love to be one of those women in adverts swanning around in a red dress in my sparkling clean house and spotless kitchen when guests rock up. Thankfully, here in the real world our friends and family expect nothing more than a relatively tidy entertaining area, a lovingly made meal and some good wine.

Sure, we try our best to have the house looking as nice as possible, but if we have to shut the doors to messy rooms and only have time for a quick once-over of the bathroom then so be it. If having company over stresses you out, remember they’re coming to see you not your house.

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So, if you plan ahead, choose clever appliances and keep things simple, there’ll be no such thing as ‘too busy’ to entertain!

What are your stress-free entertaining tips? Add them in the comments!

Still life photography by me; dishwasher shot provided by Fisher & Paykel. 

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Pie buffet

With the public holiday on Monday this week has simply flown by, which means it’s time for another Polka Dot Bride project.

I’ve already shared the cherry pie and pumpkin pie recipes, so here’s how to pull the whole look together.

Click to read the full post.

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This post is sponsored by Crust Gourmet Pizzas.

Crust Pizza

The Man and I love entertaining (as you may have figured out by now). Sometimes though, during busy times it’s easy to be put off by the time and effort required.

I admit I also have a tendency to get caught up in the menu planning, cooking and cleaning instead of simply focusing on what’s truly important: sharing a meal in our home with friends.

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

So when Crust invited me to host a pizza night I jumped at the chance to try out a new style (for me) of entertaining.

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

In the spirit of the no-fuss entertaining, instead of setting the table I simply placed all of the servingware and drinks on the table for guests to help themselves. It creates a much more relaxed atmosphere, don’t you think?

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

I did pick up a cheap bunch of dried flowers at the supermarket (couldn’t resist) but apart from that I relied on the tried-and-true effect of tealight candles to set the mood.

Crust Pizza

It was kind of strange actually being able to relax and have a drink with our guests instead of fussing around in the kitchen!

Crust Pizza

The food arrived and it looked just as appetising as the pictures – how often can you say that about takeaway food?

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

The salad dressing and pasta garnish were in separate little containers so everything looked fresh (and a bit fancy).

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Crust Pizza

Our friends (who are quite the foodies I might add) agreed the pizzas were really tasty. The favourites were the pesto chicken and white prosciutto pizzas.

The blackforest crumble dessert pizza with salted caramel ice cream (phwoar!) was the perfect way to end the meal.

Crust Pizza

Thanks to the team at Crust Norwood for our awesome instant dinner party!

I can definitely see takeaway gourmet pizza being an excellent option for simple (yet impressive) weeknight entertaining.

What’s your entertaining style? Does all the cooking and work put you off entertaining?

Disclosure: I was compensated by Crust for writing this review. Opinions are my own.

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Egg cup place cards

Has Easter snuck up on you this year like it has me? It’s quite early this year so it’s well and truly time to be thinking about your plans for the long weekend.

Egg cup place cards

If you’re entertaining at home, why not try this cute decoupaged egg idea?

The bunnies were borrowed from a friend (she bought them from the toy section of a bargain shop and spraypainted them), the egg cups and napkins were bargain finds from Target and the flowers are inexpensive carnations so all-in-all a very budget-friendly setup for your Easter lunch!

Find the tutorial over on Polka Dot Bride.

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Easy lemon curd meringues

The Man and I don’t do Valentine’s Day, but it is a good excuse to have a nicer than usual dinner at home and even indulge in dessert.

Being mid-week though, it needs to be simple, plus it’s really hot this week here so a no-cook dessert is definitely the way to go.

I bought these pre-made mini pavlova nests and filled with lemon curd (I had a homemade batch in the fridge – what, don’t you? – but you can buy it from gourmet supermarkets) then topped with blueberries.

Ready in two minutes flat, it’s the perfect dessert for V-Day tonight or for any summer dinner party where you’re short on time.

Whatever your plans, I hope you have a lovely night!

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green tea ice cream

Keen to get back into socialising after our time away from home, The Man and I invited some friends over for dinner on the weekend. The couple is mad about anything Japanese so it’s become a bit of a tradition to have themed dinner parties.

I’m generally a fairly confident cook but Japanese is definitely a gap in my culinary expertise, so it’s always a fun challenge trying new things. This time, I wanted to concentrate on the main course (I was cooking tuna for the first time) and just have a simple summer dessert.

I used some green tea ice cream from the local Asian grocer, topped with crushed ginger nut biscuits and served with sesame snaps (and sake, naturally). The combination of flavours and textures worked really well. (Although I have to admit to being more excited about using my new Anthropologie bowls than the actual dessert!)

Do you have any store-bought desserts that you tizz up to present to guests?

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I’m off galivanting around the world for a few weeks so I have lined up some some talented ladies to hold the fort while I’m gone. Hope you enjoy!

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It might be cold over here where I am at the moment, but back home I know everyone will be gearing up for hot New Year’s Eve parties by the pool or barbecue. I can’t picture a more appropriate drink for a summer cocktail soiree than this delish pomegranate margarita slushy by Jane from one of my fave online shops and blogs emerald + ella. Show us how it’s done, Jane!  – Alicia

Earlier in the year when I was in Mexico on my honeymoon I discovered a cute restaurant that drew me in with its enormous margarita menu outside. They had mango jalapeno, hibiscus, pineapple chipotle and tamarind flavours to name a few. I loved that they had taken an already awesome drink and somehow made it even more delicious!

So now that summer is upon us I thought I would try my own little variation on this sweet and sour classic – a pomegranate margarita slushy – no slushy machine required!

Pomegranate margarita slushies

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup caster sugar

2 cups pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful from the supermarket)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup tequila

Lime slices and pomegranate seeds to serve

Place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to the boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the pomegranate juice, lime juice and tequila and stir to combine. Pour into a shallow 1.5L baking dish. Freeze for 3 hours. Break up any ice crystals with a fork. Freeze for a further 3 hours or overnight, until frozen. Scrape mixture into a blender and blend quickly until slushy. Pour into glasses and top with lime slices and pomegranate seeds to serve.

Makes 6

pomegranate margarita OTT

Tips

  • If you don’t have a blender you can scrape the mixture into a large jug and blend with a stick mixer, or even break up vigorously with a fork.
  • You can substitute lime juice with lemon juice if you happen to have a glut of them.
  • Freeze any leftover pomegranate seeds in a small container or snaplock bag and use for fruit salads, chicken salads or on pavlova for a jewel-like surprise.

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About the guest poster:

I’m Jane, the girl behind the emerald + ella blog. I’m also a recipe writer, food stylist, shop owner, vintage collector, New Zealander, married to an Aussie boy, aspirational crafter, wine drinker, pulled pork sandwich lover and basically just a girl who likes pretty things.

In my blog I explore a world of beautiful, eclectic things to brighten up your day. We cover everything from lip-smacking recipes to sweet celebration ideas and some crafty little projects in between. I will also be getting input from some peeps that inspire me so hopefully they will give you some inspiration too. Don’t forget to check out my little shop! – www.emeraldandella.com.au.

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tapas banquet

Last Sunday was Father’s Day here in Australia.

The Man and I reckon our dads are pretty tops. They are always so generous with their time and hospitality, so it was definitely time to do something for them.

tapas banquet

My dad, in particular, loves Spain and its food (in fact he even RSVPd to our invitation in Spanish!) so a tapas banquet seemed appropiate. With both sets of parents, The Man’s brother and his partner joining us, there were eight of us all up (my brother and sister-in-law live overseas).

Apart from my killer paella (if I do say so myself) I haven’t really cooked any Spanish food before. But I’m always up for a good challenge in the kitchen.

tapas banquet

Quite a spread, you say? Well that’s not even including the hot food and dessert! There may or may not have also been copious amounts of wine.

Here’s the full menu:

Cold tapas

Marinated olives

Pickled calamari

Tapenades (eggplant and capsicum)

Anchovies

Tuna-stuffed peppers*

Manchego cheese

Herbed goat’s milk cheese

Jamon

Vienna loaf

Olive sourdough loaf

Hot tapas

Potato and chorizo tortilla*

Lamb meatballs with romesco sauce*

Croquettes with bechamel sauce*

Chorizo and mushrooms*

Dessert

Crema Catalana

Drinks

Sangria*

Tempranillo

Sauvignon Blanc

The dishes that I made are the ones marked with an asterisk. My brother-in-law and his partner made the delish crema catalana – with a blowtorch no less! The croquettes and meatballs seemed to be crowd favourites.

tapas banquet

This type of menu is a lot of work because instead of having one dish for each of three courses, you have to prepare a dozen smaller dishes. You also have to keep jumping up and into the kitchen to cook and serve the hot food.

I don’t want to put you off, though, it’s definitely do-able. You can keep it manageable by buying items that don’t need any preparation (like the cheese, jamon, bread, olives etc), starting with all the cold food laid out and limiting the amount of hot food. I also prepared as much as possible ahead of time, going so far as cooking the meatballs and sauces so I just had to heat them up.

tapas banquet

I don’t normally buy new servingware for a particular occasion but it was time to freshen up my collection with a few new versatile pieces that were not more white platters. I picked up the stoneware for as little as $1 each from Ikea after realising it perfectly matched another you-wouldn’t-guess-how-cheap-it-was recent purchase: the itty bitty black bottle you can see also on the table. The rustic timber chopping boards (a set of 3 from Target) were another steal – $14 down from $35 thank-you-very-much.

Oh, and the branches with the berry-looking things? Totally picked them up off the side of the road the day before.

tapas banquet

Because I’ve been so busy with the business, we haven’t entertained much this year. Actually, I haven’t even cooked much decent food at all this year! I’ve really missed cooking, especially for family and friends, so I enjoyed this a lot. Most importantly, the Dads and everyone seemed to have a great day.

Local readers, how did you spoil your dad? And US friends, tell us how did you celebrate your Labor Day?

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Entertaining supplies closet
BHG

As we gear up to Christmas – and summer here too – chances are you’re doing more entertaining at home.

If you’re like me, you have your platters piled up precariously in a kitchen cupboard, your spare glasses in your office closet, your tablecloths in the upstairs linen closet and your table decorations in the living room cabinet. Having party supplies scattered all over the house is unsurprisingly not the most efficient or relaxing way to set up for a party. Unfortunately, however, we don’t really have any other options due to lack of space.

If you have the room though, consider setting up a party supplies closet so you have everything on hand to set up in record time with minimum stress. Don’t have room to dedicate a whole armoire or sideboard to the task? Even repurposing a spare laundry shelf or underutilised kitchen cupboard would do the trick.

I’d love to know: how do you store your entertaining accessories?

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purl bee partyPurl Bee

It was my birthday last week and it’s The Man’s birthday today (he’s my toyboy by all of six days). And you know what that means? Party time!

I often hear people say that their homes are too small to have parties. Our townhouse is very small but we’ve had parties of over forty people. Sure it was squashy but that just gave it fantastic atmosphere!

Here are some things I’ve learned and will keep in mind when preparing for our party this weekend:

Place decorations overhead and on walls rather than take up valuable surface space with table arrangements.

Rearrange your furniture to open up the space. We’ll be moving our couch and dining table up against the wall to ease congestion.

Use decorations that are also functional such as attractive buffets and menus.

Place food platters throughout the space so guests can spread out instead of all congregating around the snack table.

Don’t clutter up the entryway with coats and handbags – designate an out-of-the-way spot such as under the stairs or on your bed.

Think outside the fridge. A small home usually means a small fridge, so you may need to fill your laundry tub or bath with ice to chill drinks.

Accept that guests will spread outside the living room, so make sure the rest of the house is tidy too. We always end up with people in the courtyard, the kitchen, even the laundry.

Put away breakables as people are more likely to bump into things in a crowded space. I know this from experience.

Have you got a tip for entertaining in a small space?

Akimbo birthday sale

Check out examples of my work or drop me a line to enquire or place your order.

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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