Entertaining Italian-Style

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I think we sometimes shy away from hosting people in our homes because we find the idea overwhelming and our talents underwhelming.  We often find reasons to not make more of an effort…we feel our homes aren’t entertainment worthy …we don’t think we have the resources or creativity to make it special…we underestimate our skills in the kitchen. Can i hear an amen? i will admit that i still feel that way sometimes!

On the flip side, when i’m invited to someone’s home for dinner, i’m fairly stoked. My eyes don’t see the “flaws” and they aren’t keeping marks on each design element…rather i’m thrilled to be hosted. It is such a treat! Time with friends and food is the best and it encourages me to entertain more and worry less.

In that vein, Scott and I hosted a birthday dinner for two of my besties…i’m including the hubby’s name because we decided to make the dinner together. What a concept! We recently took a cooking class at the Dirty Apron and wanted to see if we could re-create the meal. Scott and i did the salad and main courses, while Pam did the appetizer and dessert.

A simple, rustic theme was my idea. What could i put together using items that were, for the most part, already in my home?And what inexpensive add-ons could complete it?

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I actually already had the Ikea metal pots in my basement which are great to keep in your “inventory”…they get used multiple times a year!  Instead of making a bouquet, i chose to get some lavender. The back story to this is that i had an empty outdoor planter i needed to fill so i bought these to re-plant outside after! Double duty.  I cut a couple roses from my yard and done!

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The kraft paper was from the Dollar Store…and cost a mere $1.25

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Appetizers are maybe my favourite part of a dinner party…it’s fun to pick at some finger food and ease into the evening. A platter of fresh tomatoes, goat cheese, basil and a balsamic drizzle is literally put together in 5 minutes…serve with “picks” so guests can stab at their favourites.  Pam also brought a charcuterie platter.  i could make a dinner out of picking off that platter! Cheeses, cured meats, toasted crostini and olives are so delicious and easy to assemble.

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If you want to add a special touch, create a cocktail to serve when your guests arrive.  I came up with mine minutes beforehand…looking in fridge, i grabbed my cold brewed tea and made an Earl Grey Lavender cocktail, similar to this one. The tea mixed with gin, honey simple syrup.and some fresh mint created a fresh drink to slip into the hands of our friends.

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Scott and i, with the help of the Dirty Apron cookbook (which is awesome, i might add!) made a caramelized fennel and goat cheese salad…a great recipe because you can prep everything in advance and then just plate it before serving.

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For the main course, Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi was my department and Grilled Lamb was Scott’s. i have been intimidated to make pasta until we learned how to make this gnocchi with ricotta cheese, rather than the traditional potato gnocchi. It is SUPER easy and can be made in minutes. i prepared them earlier in the day, froze them and then cooked them once we were ready to eat.

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Pam made a Lemon Panna Cotta for dessert that was so good i forgot to take a pic until i was staring at the empty ramekins… again, this is something she made earlier in the day. Can you sense a pattern here?? Finding great dishes that can be prepped in advance takes a lot of stress off you and allows you to spend more time visiting versus fretting in the kitchen.

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This was the first time that Scott and i tag teamed in the kitchen and i know it won’t be the last… it also won’t be so long before i entertain again. Certainly the elements will change, more grilling in the next months and probably more spontaneous dinners out on the patio with paper plates and cups but this one got me revved up again. It felt great to host friends and i hope they left feeling special!