Tag Archives: entertaining

Surviving Winter

Winter has been hitting full force at my house for the last week or so. Since it has been cold and snowy since October, more snow and cold is starting to get really old and discouraging. All of us are a little stir crazy. And last week was only the halfway point of “winter”, so we aren’t done yet.

One way I’ve discovered to combat these mid-winter blues is to have parties. Inviting guests over and preparing food can seem really overwhelming. But I’ve found it can be fun and gives you something to look forward to as well.

Last year, my husband and I started an annual formal dinner. We send out a formal invitation – usually just altering a template for a wedding invitation on Microsoft word. Everyone dresses up. We make “fancy” food and serve it on the best china. We plate the food and serve it in courses. It is a ton of fun. It can be a bit of work, but in the end, it is worth it. Here are some pictures from this year’s formal. Please don’t mind that the food pictures aren’t the best – I just snapped something quick on my phone rather than make my guests wait while I staged something nice.

Winter Formal

Beet Salad

Cheesecake

But having people over doesn’t have to be fancy. I wanted an excuse to hang out with some friends one day. So I had an early Galentine’s Day lunch this week. I kept it fairly simple – a couple kinds of quiche, salad from Costco, and simple chopped fruit. Brownies for dessert were a hit and easy to make ahead of time. When I’ve done these in the past, I often ask people to bring things – drinks, fruit, bread, etc. So then it is even less work for me. But it feels so luxurious to eat a real meal and sit down with friends during the week. Pro tip: make extra so you already have dinner for your family that night.

While the formal dinner wasn’t the healthiest meal I’ve ever eaten, we tried to make it a good balance. We served salad, vegetable soup, and veggies with the main course. My china dishes are a bit on the small side, which is great for keeping portions under control.

With my Galentine’s lunch, I made all the dishes something I would want to eat while being health conscious. Lots of veggies available in the quiches. Salad and fruit are easy, nutritious sides. You could skip dessert if you really wanted.

Remember, not everything has to be perfect. I was doing my laundry during the Galentine’s lunch. All the snow in the street made parking a bit crazy with 5 vans in my garage and driveway. Kids were running around and needed diapers changed. But we all still had a great time.

How do you combat the winter blues? Do you have fun entertaining ideas or traditions? I’d love if you shared them in the comments!

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French Onion Soup + Lightened up Grilled Cheese

I asked my husband what his favorite vegetable was once.   He thought for a long time and said, “Peas, corn, and maybe carrots.”  This is the man that has NEVER eaten a dish that he thought had too many onions, and believe me I have tried. I would guess that most of us forget that onions are even a vegetable, and yet, many of us eat more onions in a year than about any other vegetable.

Onions add to the rainbow of color I mentioned last week.  High in vitamin C, fiber, and several phytochemicals, onions are nutritionally beneficial beyond the flavor they add to your food.

I know onions can be strong, but caramelizing onions takes away the strong onion flavor and enhances the natural sweetness.  Caramelized onions are great on sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs as well as in chili and some pasta dishes.  This french onion soup is the perfect soup for a multi-course holiday dinner – full of flavor but very light.  You could serve this with a more traditional cheesy toast on top, but I prefer a grilled cheese.

Enjoy!

French Onion Soup  (Serves 4-6)

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2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 cups low sodium beef broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1. In large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until beginning to lightly brown. Add salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until they are a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes.

2. When onions are sufficiently caramelized, add garlic powder. Sauté for about a minute, until fragrant.

2. Add broths, water, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and bay leaf. Scrap bottom of pot when adding broths to get any brown bits off the bottom. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in vinegar. Serve warm. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 161
Protein: 7 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 15 mg
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 268 mg

Recipe Notes: I’m including a process shot for those who haven’t caramelized onions before. This took at least 20 minutes, and I’d keep going. Caramelizing onions takes patience. Take deep breaths, and give them time. It kind of looks like a watery mess at some points. That is just the water coming out of the onions, which is good. I know this seems like a lot of onions. But they are kind of like leafy greens – they shrink a lot when cooked.

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I would be fibbing if I said this was my favorite soup ever. It was very tasty. I’m just more of a soup-as-a-meal rather than soup-as-a-course person.

Source: Adapted from Keeping Up Cookbook

Lightened Grilled Cheese (Makes 4 sandwiches)

4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
8 slices whole wheat bread
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1. Combine cream cheese and shredded cheese. Divide evenly between 4 bread slices. Top with remaining bread for sandwiches.

2. Heat a skillet to medium to medium-high heat. Place ¼ teaspoon of olive oil on skillet and place 1 sandwich on top, swirling sandwich a bit to coat with oil. Repeat for remaining sandwiches. When browned, flip sandwich, putting another ¼ teaspoon of olive oil under each sandwich mid-flip. Brown second side.

Nutritional Information (Amount per sandwich):

Calories: 341
Protein: 18 g
Fat: 16 g
Saturated Fat: 8 g
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Carbohydrates: 31 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 412 mg

Recipe Notes: You could use whatever shredded cheese you prefer. Swiss cheese and french onion soup are a classic combo. These are a little more intense than traditional grilled cheese, I know. But they are very good and cut quite a bit of fat.

Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light

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