Wednesday, June 10, 2015


One of my favorite things in the world is having people over for dinner. I admit, sometimes I like to be a bit of a show-off (acknowledging the problem is the first step, right?), but mostly I love to find great recipes and share them with others to make for a special evening.

You know that age-old advice of never try a new recipe on guests? I'm the worst at that! I almost exclusively try new things whenever we have company - I guess I like the gamble? Sometimes you totally win, and sometimes it’s a huge flop, but at least then you all have something to laugh about!

But if you don't feel like being as risky as me (probably wise), or if you just want to get some great ideas, I'm going to be pulling together some weekend dinner party guides for you all - a little menu, and maybe some tips, playlists, or decoration ideas! These recipes have all be tried by yours truly (I wouldn't send you out there to fail!) and are guaranteed to make your guests happy and your night awesome. Lots of people ask me how I got good at cooking, but I'm telling you - it's not about the skills, it's all about the internet. Anyone can learn to cook from the internet! (Or how to do anything for that matter….things Dr. Google has taught me: how to change oil on the car, how to beat box, how to fishtail braid, how to replace a broken iPhone screen…it's amazing!)

Without further ado, we'll start off with a menu that I shared with some friends just this past weekend!

Starter: Cheese Plate

You can almost never go wrong with a classic cheese plate to start off the meal and to entertain people while you sometimes run around like a crazy person. What's Gaby Cooking puts together some of the most beautiful cheese plates of all time, so I look at her pictures for inspiration, and then go to Trader Joe's to find affordable and amazing cheese. When making a cheese plate, you've always got to have at least three options (a blue, a soft cheese, and a hard salty cheese), and here are some of my favorite things to include: fontina cheese, gorgonzola (softer for those who don't like blue cheeses), cornichons, jalapeño jelly, fig preserves, dried unsulphured apricots (TJ's again), and obviously cute little cheese knives!

Salad: Watermelon Salad

The theme of our party was going to be summer (more on that later), so obviously watermelon had to be involved. This slightly savory take on watermelon from Cup of Jo was a total hit - I changed it a little by subbing pecans for walnuts, using a basil-infused olive oil, and adding balsamic vinegar as well. Get creative with what you've got!

Main: Grilled Salmon

Like I said, it was supposed to be a summer theme, which of course means GRILLING, but then an hour before the party, it started to POUR and HAIL and FLOOD OUR STREET! Yeah, so the grilling situation was out. But I had already marinated the salmon using this recipe from All Recipes, so I just used my old standby, all-time favorite way of cooking salmon from The Pioneer Woman, and it turned out amazing. Use this recipe for non-fish lovers, and you may convert them!

Side: Garlicky Spinach

Another classic from The Pioneer Woman - when I look for sides, I want something I can either prep in advance, or put together in less than five minutes. This one was of the latter, and it was good. It was a little too garlicky for some guests, so use you own judgment :)

Dessert: Brownies with Fresh Strawberries

Okay, I had to beg for this recipe, since its from my friend Jessica, who in my book, is the ultimate QUEEN of brownies. In the past, I have been strictly a "brownies-from-the-box" kind of girl, and homemade brownies sucked, but THESE CHANGED EVERYTHING. Add some fresh macerated strawberries on top or vanilla bean ice cream, and it’s a classic end to any meal.


1/2 cup butter
1 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons softened butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Stir until smooth. Frost brownies while they are still warm.
** She doubles the recipe and puts it in a 9x13 pan, and you should too. 

(Top photo from Domaine Home)


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