Take It Outside

this summer with alfresco dining at home. Let’s just say June is officially summer!  There is nothing better than firing up the BBQ and having friends over to enjoy the long summer nights.  It is the best time to entertain.  Summer gatherings can be simple and festive with little prep or you can go full-out gangbusters. Spending energy on creating a lovely and inviting atmosphere will delight you all summer long.  You will just need to clean up the space and make of list of the items you will need to make entertaining fuss free and easy.  After this it will be a breeze!  Here is a helpful tip:  clear out a designated space to hold all your summer dining essentials to make it easy on yourself and for those that are willing to lend a helping hand.

Alfresco
Make your next reservation at home! Get creative with whatever space you may have.  All spaces can be turned into a summer oasis.
Alfresco
Pick flowers and fresh herbs from your garden or go to an outdoor market for fresh local flowers.
Alfresco
Gathered utensils in a container to pass around is simple, functional, and casual.
Alfresco
A folding table (great for pop up dinners when you have more guests than your typical dining set can accommodate) covered by a simple white table-cloth.  Get clever with seating if you don’t have enough matching chairs by mixing in pieces from your indoors space.  Benches work really well too.
Alfresco
Melamine plates and glasses are worth the investment.  This would also look just as lovely with colorful paper plates and napkins. Outdoor dining can be what you want it to be.  No rules!
Alfresco
Light it up with string lights and candles!
Alfresco
Her smile tells it all!  A dear friend who just happens to be my neighbor (thank my lucky stars!) kicked off summer with an outdoor set up that has me planting flowers , dusting off summer plates , and hanging lights!  Thank you for the inspiration!

Here are a few places to check out online for your summer alfresco evenings.  Happy Summer folks!

Crate&Barrel could be your one stop shopping for all your alfresco needs.

Ikea for some Scandinavian inspiration.

Target for string lighting options and folding tables (so handy to own and can be tucked away).

Check out this great piece from RealSimple.  Lots of tips to get you excited for all your summer entertaining.

Party At Home!

Nothing makes me happier than hosting a party.  I have learned over the years it is the gathering rather than the actual meal that brings happy smiles.  I always try to create an easy prep ahead menu.  My goal is no cooking once the guests have arrived.  I want to have fun too!  We just celebrated my father in law’s 85th birthday.  It was truly a lovely evening with family.   Here is a peek at how I tackled the night.

Meat Sauce
Make Ahead Bolognese
Roasted Veggies
Roasted Veggies (carrots, asparagus, tomatoes, and beets) Ready To Be Plated
Party Prep
Side Dish Platters Ready
Party Prep
Appetizer Platters Ready
Power of The FLowers
Gathering Fresh Flowers The Day Ahead (my favorite task!)

In my past life, I worked for a gourmet shop.  I learned every aspect of the business.  At the time I never knew how useful working a barista bar (my love for a cappuccino began here), cooking in a kitchen, cutting fancy cheeses, to catering parties would stay with me.  What I learned is so valuable.  Planning ahead is critical.  So I spread my planning over a few days. The menu is simplified.  It is not a time for me to get fancy or try anything new.   During our time in Amsterdam,  we hosted parties all the time.  Learning to be simple always delivered happy results.

Easy Snacks
Tip: Take Cheese Out A Few Hours Before Serving
Pre Dinner FInger Foods
Had A Little Help From My Local Cheese Shop, Formaggio KItchen
Dinner
Kale Salad & Those Make Ahead Roasted Veggies
Decor
Table Runner Decorated By The Grandkids
Decorations
Party Decorations

The party was on a Friday night.  The weekend prior I came up with my menu and planned out the two days leading up to the party.

Wednesday: Grocery shop, make bolognese sauce (requires patience but worth it), call in catering order for appetizers.

Thursday:  Find a window to flower shop, set up space, hang my Dutch party flags ( bought these for my son’s 1 st birthday and I hang them every year for his birthday), wash and clean veggies for roasting.

Friday:  Prep salad greens, roast veggies mid day, and place platters in their spots.  Everything done by 3:00 so I can head out to pick up Aleisi and the catering.

What’s left: Music playlist! Cook pasta (task given to my husband), toss salad and arrange veggies 15 minutes before serving.

isostilo style
MY Old Blouse and My New Neon Pothos Plant Are Ready To Party!

FYI:  Whatever you serve or plan, remember that guests are thrilled to be invited and to have a night off:)  Pizza and friends is always a winner and I often take this option.

Give this bolognese recipe a try.  I make mine with all beef and add 1 cup of milk before step 3 (which is a recommendation from the original recipe from the restaurant Al Forno) This restaurant is a MUST if you find yourself in Providence, Rhode Island!

Super Bowl Sunday or Any Other Day

Any excuse to make guacamole!  Today is the day for the Pats and all their fans! Here is my contribution to the day.  I am dicing, mashing, and squeezing while grooving to the tunes of The War On Drugs.  An absolute favorite band of mine (I could go on and on about my obsession with this band and please don’t turn it off).  A perfect start to my Sunday!

Guacamole
8 Ingredients
Guacamole
mashed/cubed avocados, chopped cilantro, diced red onion, diced jalapeno, minced garlic
Guacamole
squeezed limes, ground cumin, and salt
Gaucamole
Bam!
The War On Drugs
currently playing!
Such A Fan
GO PATS!

 

 

Here’s What’s Cooking

I am so smitten with Smitten Kitchen.  I follow this site more than any other food website for inspiration.  Smitten Kitchen is so beautiful to explore.  The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow.  I am constantly seeking out easy, healthy and flavorful recipes with a refreshing spin on basic ingredients.  Here are a few new recipes that I will be cooking up from Smitten Kitchen!  I’m also well stocked on chickpeas at the moment.

Smitten Kitchen
sheet pan meatballs with crispy tumeric chickpeas
Smitten Kitchen
quick pasta-e-ceci-pasta with chickpeas
fried-rice-with-zucchini-tomatoes-parmesan
fried rice with zucchini, tomatoes and parmesan and how about that egg!

 

One Free Sunday

Doesn’t always happen but sometimes you simply make it so! It’s up to you to decide how to spend it.  For me it was easy and I was in count down mode till the Dutchies arrived.  My boys were off skiing and I love a reason to cook.  So I decided to do some monster cooking.  I rolled up my sleeves, poured a coffee, cranked some John Mayor and fired up the stove.

food-blog-isostilo-potatosoup

Menu: Baked Mama Pasta inspired by Glada De Laurentis.  The best Damn Chili which I have found to be true along with a new recipe to test out, Sweet Potato soup.  Three meals are complete!  Thanks Cook’s Illustrated.