Having friends and family over for a casual weekend get-together, but you’re not super confident in your cooking skills? Or hosting a dinner party, but short on time or inspiration? We’ve got 4 amazing globally inspired gourmet menus that will help you create an impressive, exciting, delicious (and healthy!) spread that will make anyone look like a kitchen rock star, and make your guests list the best list to be on!
These meal ideas are great whether you’re serving 4 friends, or 24, enjoying dinner on the back porch, or a beautiful seated seaside dinner for a special occasion. Having the new neighbors over, or cooking for a friend’s intimate, casual wedding? You’ll find recipes, menu ideas, and – of course – help from Mesa de Vida here!
As a private chef for professional athletes and high profile clients, as well as someone who loves to cook for family and friends, I’ve cooked for my fair share of casual, as well as over-the-top, intimate dinner parties. I have to say, the easy going, beautifully – yet simply – decorated parties, with great people, great drinks, and inviting food have always been the most fun. I thought I’d share some of the menus I’ve created over the years to help inspire you! (I’m even sharing my top-secret “famous” margarita recipe with you!)
Mesa de Vida healthy cooking sauces & flavor bases make it easy to cook from-scratch, gourmet, globally-inspired meals. If you’re not confident in your ability to create the bold, flavorful, complex flavors that will wow your guests, or if you’re a fantastic gourmet cook but short on time, we’ve got you covered. Our complex flavor bases are made with vegetables, fruit, chef-blended whole ground spices and herbs. We make it easy for the new or not-so-confident cook to create impressive gourmet meals, but are also a trusted go-to shortcut sauce for the experienced gourmet cook that is short on time, and needs premium flavor bases just like they would make themselves, if they had the time.
Having friends and family gather around the table for a meal is one of the best ways to connect. Celebrating a milestone, meeting new neighbors, or just getting together for laughs, the table is where memories of a lifetime are often made. Making a meal for someone is a wonderful way to show them you care, as well.
Don’t make restaurant reservations the next time you want to get a group together, stock your pantry with Mesa de Vida healthy global gourmet cooking sauces instead, and bring life to YOUR table!
Menu #1: Magical Moroccan Feast
THE MAIN ENTREE
Make a glorious Tagine with our North African cooking sauce. Start with the protein of your choice, lamb and beef are the most traditional, then add potatoes, and maybe some cubed eggplant to make a meal for a crowd, simply. You can also make a vegetarian feast by using all vegetables and some chickpeas. You don’t need any special equipment, a slow cooker or low, slow braise in the oven will work just fine.
- A bowl of simple steamed couscous, or our jeweled couscous recipe
- Warm garlicky olives: Add a bit of olive oil to a pan over low heat, add a clove or two of crushed garlic and some red pepper flakes. Once the garlic begins to become fragrant add in an assortment of olives. Toss to coat and warm through. (Warning: these are addictive!)
- Spinach salad with grapefruit and red onion
- Feta cheese drizzled with warm honey
- Warm pita or flatbread
- A bowl of dates
Hot mint tea
A sparkling rose, light-bodied red if you’re making a vegetarian tagine, or a bold and peppery red if you’re making a lamb or beef tagine.
Candles in brightly colored votives, a few lanterns (pick some up at World Market), and a couple of strands of lights would set the mood nicely.
If you have a large coffee table you could also serve this meal sitting on the floor with lots of colorful blankets and pillows for comfort.
Menu #2: Next-Level Taco Bar
For a quick meal you can cook up ground meat (or tofu) in our Smoky Latin cooking sauce, or slow-braise a pot of tender, succulent shredded pork, beef, lamb, or chicken for the most amazing Carnitas/Barbacoa/Ropa Vieja/Chicken Tinga you’ve ever had at home. Or, try our impressive Al Pastor-style tacos!
- Latin Rice: Simmer 1 part rice to 2 parts broth and a few spoons of Mesa de Vida Smoky Latin cooking sauce for amazing rice that is the closest thing my husband has had to his mom’s famous Mexican rice. (For 8 servings bring 3-1/2 cups broth + 1/2 cup Mesa de Vida Smoky Latin cooking sauce + salt to taste to a boil, add 2 cups rice, lower the heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, then fluff with a fork.)
- Warm tortillas
- Beans – Make it simple and use canned cooked beans (rinsed and drained) simmered in a bit of broth or beer, and a few dollops of our Smoky Latin cooking sauce for delicious restaurant style frijoles you’re going to love!
- Sour cream, fresh quartered limes, sliced radish, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo or salsa, guacamole or cubed avocados, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and/or crumbled Cotija.
Of course, margaritas would be a perfect accompaniment. My “famous” margarita recipe starts with my honey simple syrup (1 part honey to 1 part water, bring to a boil then cool). I mix 1 part tequila + 1 part fresh squeezed lime juice + 1/2 part honey simple syrup + splash of Triple Sec or Cointreau. Shake and serve over large ice cubes in a salt-rimmed glass. You can make these even more special by muddling some cucumber or mango, cilantro and jalapeno in the bottom for a sweet & spicy specialty, or add some pureed strawberries to your simple syrup for a strawberry margarita to die for!
Frosty Mexican lager mixed with a hefty squeeze of fresh lime and a sprinkle of Tajin would be fantastic too!
This meal and all of it’s accompaniments are so colorful and gorgeous in their own right, you won’t need to do much to make the setting pop! Lots of colorful towels for wrapping the tortillas in and laying out to serve the spread on is always a beautiful touch. Jars filled with cilantro and herbs, bowls of limes and votive candles always set the mood for a fiesta. Serving the meat in a rustic cooking pot or clay dish makes everything look inviting as well.
Menu #3: Spanish Paella Party
You can make a simple chicken & chorizo paella, or a phenomenal show-stopper paella loaded with calimari, clams, crab or whatever else your heart desires easily with our Smoky Latin cooking sauce. I’ve been told my Mesa de Vida paella is a “11 out of 10” by a client that has enjoyed many a paella in Valencia, Spain, so I’m thrilled that we can help you create an incredible Spanish paella at your own home with the help of our cooking sauce!
Paella is traditionally served on it’s own, but it’s always nice to put out some side dishes for those that would like to nibble.
- Thin slices of crusty bread rubbed with a clove of garlic and a juicy ripe tomato just before serving
- A bowl of warm garlicky olives (see the Moroccan feast above for the recipe)
- A simple sliced tomato salad drizzled with good Spanish olive oil and red wine vinegar marinated red onion slices would make a beautiful accompaniment to your glorious paella.
Spanish sangria – of course! I make my sangria by muddling together sliced oranges, lemon, lime and plums. Pour in 1/2 cup of the honey simple syrup (above, in my margarita recipe), and 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice. Pour in a bottle of Spanish red wine and stir. Let this refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably 4 hours. Serve over ice, making sure to add a couple of slices of the fresh fruit to each glass and enjoy!
Paella is such a gorgeous feast for the eyes, nothing much more is needed to create a beautiful setting. If you have a paella pan to cook and serve the meal in, all the better, but a big rustic pot works well too. Wood plates or cutting boards for the side dishes would be lovely, and rustic stoneware plates would be a lovely addition. Votive candles, some flower petals strewn across the table, and you’re all set for a meal to remember.
Menu #4: Creole Inspired Fete
Make a Creole-Inspired Gumbo with our Creole inspired cooking sauce and you’ll be able to cook an incredible Creole meal for 4 or 40, simply! Gumbo is one of my favorite meals to feed a crowd. I can stretch the budget by using lots of flavorful, affordable chicken legs, high-quality sliced sausage, shrimp, and by cracking the crab legs into small pieces so everyone can enjoy this indulgent, delicious treat! (Cooking for a low-carb, or Whole30 crowd? Try our Cauliflower Rice Jambalaya instead!)
- Lots of hot steamed white rice as it is customary to serve gumbo over a scoop of rice in the bowl.
- A simple fresh garden salad would also be nice to round out this hearty meal.
Cold beer of course!
A nice, semi-dry crisp white wine would also be lovely.
The big pot of beautiful gumbo is going to be the centerpiece, so not much else is needed! Bright and colorful bowls for serving, as well as to collect the empty shells and bones leftover after your guests enjoy every morsel. Don’t forget a covered bowl of hot damp towels for cleaning up sticky fingers!
I hope you enjoy a Mesa de Vida dinner party soon, and I’d love to hear how it went! Better yet, send me a photo of you and your guests enjoying a meal at your Table of Life and I’ll send you one of our bright and colorful kitchen towels as a thank you! You can email, or share your photo on social media tagging Mesa de Vida and the hashtag #MakeItWithMesadeVida or #MesadeVida, we’d love to share your inspiration with our community!