Hello friends! Well this series has started off with a bang and everyone seems very excited about it. It’s all about entertaining and a place where I can take your questions and answer them on the next “chapter”. If you missed the last chapter, click here. I will address many questions that some of you asked and tie it into this post about various aspects of entertaining. I think for many, the idea of entertaining at home can feel overwhelming. The execution of the meal, presentation, how to seat, how to serve, etc….all of these elements of entertaining require some finesse, planning and mostly organization. I am not pro but have certainly learned a lot through the years so passing my tips onto you. I also enjoy hearing form you about your own advice and tricks of the trade! I said we will focus on a particular aspect of entertaining with each post and this one is somewhat of a continuation on hosting a small dinner party at home, here to answer the rest of your questions. Next time, I will start talking about planning/throwing a larger home party (which will be covered over a few “chapters”). So get your questions ready. So let’s delve right in……. ______________________________________ I do not mostly for one reason- I do not entertain enough to do that lol. Maybe that means I need to do it more! I think in this day and age, with our cell phones that do record keeping of their own via pictures, I can always look back to a previous dinner or party and see exactly what was served. For luncheons I do repeat certain things often simply because they are tried and true, and always a sure thing. Like a quiche, or the best chicken salad, the kale Caesar …all winners! Many of you asked for these recipes, so here they are. Honestly both are quite easy and really delicious and flavorful. I will often prepare the salmon and marinate it overnight, tightly cover it with saran wrap and refrigerate until I am ready to bake it the next day. It can be served room temp as well and is equally delicious, also a good luncheon option. The potatoes are decadent and really good. To me one of the keys is pouring a tiny bit of milk over the entire dish and adding a few pats of butter just minutes before serving (while it’s still very hot). You can modify according to your liking with different cheeses, etc….. DILL LEMON SALMON 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice Zest of 1 lemon 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon dried dill Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 2 pounds salmon 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill Wash the salmon and pat dry. Mix in butter, lemon juice, garlic, dill salt and pepper. I also use McCormicks Lemon/dill sauce (about 1/2 cup) with 1/4 cup of orange juice. Whisk all together. Sprinkle dry fish with salt and pepper liberally. Pour sauce (except for 3 TBSP, put aside) over entire piece of fish , add fresh thinly sliced lemon slices on top and sprinkle with freshly cut dill. Cover, this can be refrigerated overnight (which I often do but not necessary). When ready to bake, cover with aluminum and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven. TIP- I always put a piece of wax paper under fish which makes removing it from banking pan onto pretty platter a cinch! It practically slides right onto the plate Depends on size of fish but it takes about 20-25 minutes to cook. I remove the aluminum 5 minutes before done and let it crisp a bit on top. When ready to serve pour the remaining 3 TBSP of sauce over the fish and serve either hot or room temp! SCALLOPED POTATOES These are very tasty and somewhat decadent. The thing is even if you are one who likes to watch it, you can have just a small amount and be satisfied! These can be prepared in one long Pyrex or done in small tart pans and served individually like above (looks very elegant on a plate) 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 teaspoon ground mustard 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 2 cups whole milk 3 blocks (4 ounces each) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided 1 block (4 ounces) Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs Minced chives, optional TIP- I think Yukon potatoes are the only potato to use, their rich creamy flavor is perfect for this recipe! Preheat oven to 350°. In a large non stick pan/pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, mustard, salt and pepper; cook until onion is tender, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant. Whisk in flour; continue whisking 3-5 minutes. Whisk in milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened slightly, 8-10 minutes. Gradually stir in 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese; stir in Monterey Jack cheese then parmesean. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer potato mixture to a greased 13×9-in. baking dish. Top with remaining cheddar cheese. Bake, uncovered, for about 45 min to 1 hour. Top with bread crumbs; return to oven until potatoes are tender, 10 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. If desired, sprinkle with chives and/or extra Parmesan. TIP- Right when they come out I take about 1/4 cup of milk and a few pats of butter whisked together and pour it over the potatoes. The heat wil instantly melt and absorb this and it just adds an extra dose of rich creaminess to this already yummy dish! I have not used them in many years but did for one luncheon. I think they can be fun, its a fun way to change things up and to allow others to get to speak to people they might not. know or get the chance to get to. know. You can also be strategic in your planning:) I think it’s a great idea personally. I think unfortunately dinner parties are not thrown the way they used to be and generally speaking, things have gotten really causal (but not for me)! I say- if you have a crowd that you think will not object, go for it! If I were to host something and do place cards, I would most definitely steal one of these ideas below! Oh boy, well I think most who. know me know that I kind of start expiring much past 11pm. I also have gotten quite good at politely announcing when I am ready to call it a night. It rarely happens that someone does not have the common sense to recognize the night is coming to a close but on those rare occasions when a guest is looking to extend the night, I will politely say something along the lines of “well this was fun” (emphasis on was)! And then get up and start picking up plates, glasses, cleaning something, fluffing up a pillow whatever action might indicate that I am closing out the night. If my getting up and doing that does not signify that the night is over, then I may have to resort to being polity blunt with a “would love the night to continue but i have an early start to a full day tomorrow, but let’s do this again soon”….thankfully have not had to do that but maybe once:) Guess it means I am hanging out with the right crowd, lol Well fresh flowers always make me happy and most who know me know this. I also love when a guest might have flowers sent to me the day of the party/dinner, it is so nice to get them during the day when I can take a few minutes to find a perfect spot for them. Sometimes its hard when multiple people are coming at the same time and handing you flowers and you scramble to find a spot for them or a vase for fresh cut flowers I have learned to always have a vase or two waiting for those occasions. I also love a great book or candle. Both things you can never have too much of in my opinion! As I said in my last post, I don’t like my guests in my kitchen when I am entertaining unless its a really casual get together (like the Superbowl or something along that line). I will ask my guests to leave their plates at the table and usher everyone (with help of my husband) into the living room. If I have a helper that night she will clear the table. If not, then I will pile all the dinner plates on a big tray (I always have a big serving tray set aside) put them in the kitchen sink and deal with them later in the night. We are fortunate to have a plethora of excellent bakeries around here and normally I simply drop by and pick something up which I serve alongside a platter of fruit (fruit is a mainstay for me, it looks pretty and is a healthy option)! However let’s just say you forgot to pick up dessert or someone is stopping by last minute, well this dessert hack is as easy as it gets. I always keep a container of berries in my fridge, whether its blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc…they are always a good last minute garnish for a whole host of things. Simply place them on an elegant tray, add berries (any kind you have on hand will do). Another reason i always keep frozen fresh berries on hand for times like this. Add sprinkled confectioners sugar and you are done! So easy and each is only a few bites so no one feels like they are having to be too decadent! So you can buy any ready made cake of any kind in this case i bought Entemanns french crumb. Get a cookie cutter or even a small glass (I used a glass my cookie cutters were larger) and make litle mini cake Simply place them on an elegant tray, add berries (any kind you have on hand will do) The short answer is yes! I love flowers as you might know and they to me, just add that special little touch. Even if it’s not a big fancy arrangement, I will at the very least pick up fresh flowers from Whole Foods, find a pretty container and have some kind of centerpiece. One time I just cut fresh greens from my yard, put them in a ginger jar and that was it! Flanked it with two glass hurricanes with candles and it actually looked quite pretty. But yes, flowers to me are a need little extra touch that makes the difference. Do not underestimate the power of fresh greens on a table, especially around the holidays! Short answer….yes. Do I always feel like offering coffee or tea after a lot of work when it’s getting late fearing it might entice my guests to stay even longer? Lol, no not always. But I truly think its something that needs to be offered. Many will not take you up on it, but many will:) I feel like if you are serving dessert you need to be equipped to offer tea or coffee (ideally decaf) as most do not want the extra caffeine late at night. One of my pet peeves is having to put everything together for it, so I always have everything set up on a tray first. I put out a coffee pot, small dishes with various sweeteners/sugar, two little pitchers one with milk and the other cream. And if my guests are really lucky maybe some sliced lemon for the tea. That way, its on the tray ready to roll. Honestly, almost all of it. I love the process and do about 90% of the work. I have a housekeeper who works with me, she is not always here for when I entertain. If I having a formal dinner I will absolutely have her to help me prep and serve. I do all the cooking, table setting, flower arranging, etc. She will be my wing person to help. me execute. If we are having a few friends over for dinner casually I will do it on my own. For big parties, obviously it’s a team of people from the catering company. I have entertained for so many years, I feel in some ways i have it down to a science (for smaller groups). i also am good at knowing how much I can do on my own and when you need to be able to hire or delegate certain aspects of entertaining to insure things are done as you had planned! Make no mistake, when we have a big party it is really nice to be able to sit back and be a guest at my own party though! Even with any party we throw i always do the flowers, it’s often my favorite part of the entire process! There are no rules so sure why not! I would say there should be forks or spoons around since you are serving some kind of appetizer or if you want to be really snazzy you will have served drink with one of our sensational new sizzle sticks and those make the perfect little doo dads to fish out the fruit. Click here to see the fabulous collection of holiday swizzle sticks! _________________________________________ Well this was fun! Every time I do one of these, it puts me in the mood to entertain! I have to be in the mood but boy, when that mood strikes there’s no stopping me! I hope yo enjoyed this and got some useful info out of it, I welcome your entertaining tips and tried and true secrets. Part of the fun of doing these is the exchange of information and ideas….so your turn to chime in. Now its your turn to ask questions for next time and share any tired and true tips here in the comment section if you have something to share. Thanks for stopping in, until next time…….