I like to entertain casually and my definition of the word “casual” has gotten even more loose since I had kids. Gone are the days when I can spend weeks pouring over recipe ideas and table-scape plans. And you know what? I sort of love keeping it loose and relaxed. I have more fun preparing because I’m not stressed and in turn, my guests get a more focused, less frazzled host. Everyone is happy and well fed regardless of how many days it took me to prepare or how many courses I serve.
In the interest of keeping things simple, my go-to meal plan goes like this:
This plan is foolproof and so easy yet it still feels special and even luxurious. No matter how much time I have to spend on preparations, I always want my guests to feel special and welcome in my home and the above strategy always does the trick, allowing you to actually enjoy your guests, and after all, isn’t that what really matters?
We recently moved into a new home and have been entertaining family and friends and I’ve already managed to have two separate dinner parties in the midst of unpacking boxes and exploring our new town. ANyone whose ever moved knows it ain’t easy and entertaining while unpacking seems insane. And it kinda is, but we loved having people over to break us from the packing insanity and it made our house feel that much more homey. Best of all, I did it without feeling stressed or anxious. A good time was had by all and the food was delicious if I do say so myself.
Like good Italians, we schlepped our fig tree all the way from our previous home in Brooklyn to New Jersey Using our figs in an appetizer to serve to our first house guests seemed only natural. The sweet tender fig set atop a crusty piece of bread with melty cheddar is one of my favorite appetizers to make and it’s always a hit. I love how the salty sharpness of the cheddar pairs with the sweetness of the fig, top that off with a drizzle of flowery honey and you have yourself one divine appetizer in less time than it takes to bake up frozen ones out of a box. . It goes perfectly with any beverage and is a nice nibble before the main course.
Fig and Cheddar Crostini
1 baguette cut on the bias into 16 (1/2-inch) slices
16 thin slices of sharp cheddar
8 ripe figs cut into quarters
1/4 cup honey
1. Set oven to broiler setting. Place slices of baguette onto a large baking sheet and cook under the broiler for 30-60 seconds or until bread is slightly golden. Keep an eye on them because they burn quickly.
2. Remove baking sheet from oven. Using tongs, flip slices of bread over so the toasted sides are facing down. Place a slice of cheese onto each piece of bread and place back into the oven for another 30-60 seconds or until cheese begins to bubble. Remove baking sheet from the oven one last time. Top each crostini with two fig wedges and drizzle with honey. Serve warm.
Christina Stanley-Salerno is a mama, recipe developer, food stylist, photographer and blogger atTakeBackYourTable.com. She loves cooking for and with her family. Life is hectic, but Christina is passionate about mealtime because she believes that family meals are the glue that holds everyone together. Creating simple, quick and healthy meals is her specialty and her trick to keeping the family meal a reality, even on busy weeknights.
Follow her on Twitter @TakeBackTables