If you need to cook a healthy dinner party for a lot of people, these recipes and tips will help you have a successful dinner party that you can relax and enjoy as well!
I had the great pleasure of cooking for a group of locals at the new Metropolitan Market in Sammamish, Washington. The dinner was held in the beautiful mezzanine at the market, which opened in March, 2017. Not only am I a Sammamish resident, but Mesa de Vida is a Sammamish-based business, and *yay* Mesa de Vida healthy cooking sauces are available on the shelves at the Metropolitan Market. So it was a great honor to be able to host some of my neighbors, members of the local government, and some local bloggers at the store we are all so excited to have here in Sammamish.
We gathered around the table to enjoy a delicious meal, all 18 of us. The best part is that we got to enjoy a delicious evening, filled with conversation and laughter. The next best thing was that the preparation was simple, and stress-free thanks to some of the tips I’ll share with you!
With a group that included vegetarians, as well as several people that have gluten intolerance’s, I wanted to make sure there was plenty of food for everyone to enjoy. I decided to go with a Moroccan themed meal because it is exciting, fresh, healthy, and usually includes lots of different bites to eat. That could seem like the worst idea when cooking for a crowd, but I find as long as you utilize plenty of helpful, healthy shortcuts from the store, it is possible. There is nothing more beautiful than a big, bountiful table full of delicious food, right?
When cooking for a lot of people I try to make the main entree a slow cooked option. This allows you to do all of the prep ahead, even a day or two before your event! The morning of your dinner simply get the meal in a low oven to slow cook all day, no effort on your part.
I chose to make Beef & Lamb Tagines for the entree, you can get the recipes here. With Mesa de Vida North African Harissa inspired healthy cooking sauce almost all of the work is done – all of the vegetables (even some fruit), as well as all of the perfectly balanced, complex spices are in the jar.
Early in the morning I cubed the lamb (a gorgeous boneless American lamb shoulder), along with a grass-fed beef chuck roast (both available from Metropolitan Market), and browned the cubes on all sides in a bit of oil. *Tip – plan for about 3 oz of meat per person in a stew-like meal such as this. Then, simply put the meat into a large roasting pan along with a couple of cubed potatoes and eggplant. Pour the Mesa de Vida North African Harissa inspired healthy cooking sauce over the top, season to taste with salt (and some Harissa hot sauce if your group likes it spicy), and toss to coat. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and place into a 300 degree oven for 6 hours or so. Simply sprinkle with some fresh mint and parsley before serving and the star of your meal is done.
For a side dish I prepared a tabbouleh/couscous inspired recipe, Jeweled Quinoa. This is gluten free, as well as vegetarian, so anyone not eating meat could enjoy this hearty side as their main entree. The recipe is another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, and just gets better. (When making ahead of time simply add the herbs, cucumber, and tomato at the last minute.) To make this all I did was cook up some quinoa in vegetable broth until fluffy and tender. Add lots of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and diced dried apricots. You can serve this at room temperature or even as a cold salad. Add diced cucumber, tomato, and lots of fresh chopped mint, basil and parsley before serving. Toss, pour into a platter, and enjoy!
For a light and refreshing salad, simply utilize pre-washed boxed baby spinach as the base. Add sliced red onion, cucumbers, thinly sliced fresh peeled orange, and toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas). I dressed the salad with a bright and fresh dressing made with fresh orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, whisked to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad at the last moment and toss. Garnish with pretty slices of oranges, and a few more toasted pumpkin seeds for a gorgeous, refreshing salad.
To complete the meal I purchased some hummus and tzatziki sauce, right off the shelves at Metropolitan Market. They are all natural and healthy, just as if I made them myself, so why not take the shortcut, right? Hummus and tzatziki sauce are so delicious dolloped onto the top of the rich-tasting tagine, as well as perfect for scooping up with some pita bread I grabbed from the bakery. Simply scoop the dips into some bowls, lightly toast the pita, and cut into triangles.
Meghan and Corrie from Metropolitan Market were on hand to pour tastings of Metropolitan Market’s own brand of sparkling wine, rose, and a delicious red wine. As guests arrive it is always nice to have out something to nibble that won’t overwhelm or ruin their appetite. A cheese board is always a winner, and so simple. Here is my combination: Thinly sliced pears, and a few clusters of grapes. Pick 3 different varieties of cheese for your board. Metropolitan Market’s cheese department is incredible, and if you don’t know what you should serve one of their friendly employees will help you make the perfect choice. A few crackers, some dried fruit, olives, and perhaps a bit of thinly sliced charcuterie from the deli are all you need to make a stunning cheese board. Arrange everything very casually, and rustic – that is my favorite style. Tuck in some fresh herbs to make everything pop. That’s it!
Thankfully the Metropolitan Market has an incredible bakery with so many options to serve for dessert, it was hard to decide. I knew I wasn’t going to be making a homemade dessert, I’ll leave that to the pros! Since our meal was very ample, I wanted to provide a light dessert to end the evening on. The bakery has a selection of gorgeous gateauxs, provided by a local bakery in Redmond, Midori Bakery. (I LOVE Metropolitan Market’s support of local businesses – including Midori, Mesa de Vida and many others!) These little desserts are stunning. Since a full gateaux may have been a little large for some, we opted to choose just two gateaux (passion fruit, and chocolate), then cut each gateau into 3 pieces. Each guest got a small bit of each gataeux to enjoy, finishing off the meal perfectly. Don’t feel like guests need a huge dessert to end their meal on. Something simple and light is perfect.
Meghan and Corrie set up the evening simply, yet spectacularly. My style of serving food is very rustic and casual, I want people to feel like they are sitting down to a family meal. So we opted to do a long-table dinner, pushing two tables together. Cute runners down the middle, a few simple, yet stunning floral bouquets in small containers, white plates and a bright napkin to add some flair are all it takes to make a beautiful, simple table. Instead of large platters of food, we put the food into smaller bowls and plates. This encourages passing, conversation, and makes the table look even more bountiful.
I hope these ideas help you enjoy more meals around the table with family and friends!
Thank you to Metropolitan Market for the opportunity, and for making it so easy! Big accolades and appreciation as well to Meghan and Corrie for all of their help!