Tag: Ideas

Cheap Lunch Recipes – Ideas for Budget Lunches Under $5

I went through a phase earlier this year during which I ate a toasted English muffin for lunch every single day, for three weeks. I started out with a bang. Think, flashy towers of toasted muffin halves, swathed in mayo and sambal, cradling fried eggs. Grilled cheeses with a whole gang of melty constituents and caramelized alliums. And then, as time went on, things took a turn. One Wednesday, the toaster wasn’t working, and all I could rustle up was a handful of wilted arugula and olive oil. A few days later, I found myself tucking into a muffin-half swirled with a single teaspoon of peanut butter, from a jar a colleague had intended to discard.

By about day 19, even my polite seatmates could no longer avert their gazes.

“I have some leftover rice pilaf!” blurted Eric. “It’s in the fridge. You should really, um, switch it up.”

In an effort to prove I could take a hint—and, honestly, because I started to find cornmeal crumbs in all of my pants pockets—I decided then and there it was time to make a change. With the help of my colleagues, I compiled the following list of $5 or less lunches to get me through a full work week (plus, one bonus).

A quick note about how our math works: We base prices on local markets or online delivery services, like FreshDirect and Amazon Fresh. When it comes to pantry staples (think: salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar…), we assume you already have those on hand.


Not all desk salads are created equal. This one calls in deeply roasted squash, toasted almonds, and cheddar for a punchy, savory-sweet lunch that tastes even better the next day.

The math:

  • About $1.00 of squash ($3.99 for a whole one)
  • $2.36 of kale ($2.36 for one bunch)
  • 44 cents’ worth of almonds ($6.99 for 16 ounces)
  • 81 cents’ worth of cheddar ($5.64 for 7 ounces)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

The total: $5.16 for two servings: $2.58 for one serving

This Spanish Tortilla is one of my all-time favorite recipes on Food52—it’s perfect hot or cold, on its own or with a healthy dollop of garlic aioli. (Or, you know, a side salad.)

The math:

  • $2.58 worth of potatoes (2 pounds at $1.29 per pound)
  • $1.19 worth of onion ($1.19 for one)
  • $2.33 worth of eggs ($3.49 for a dozen)
  • About $1.50 of Parmesan ($4.75 for a quarter-pound)
  • 40 cents’ worth of butter ($3.79 for 8 ounces)

The total: $8 for six servings; $1.33 for one serving

Meet the sandwich that’ll make you want to cancel your lunch plans for the rest of the week, so you can keep bringing in more iterations of this one.

The math:

  • $2.58 worth of canned chickpeas (2 cans at $1.29 each)
  • 20 cents’ worth of celery (from 1 bunch, at $2.99)
  • 20 cents’ worth of shallot (for one small shallot)
  • $1 worth of mayo ($4.99 for a 15 ounce jar)
  • 30 cents’ worth of curry powder ($3.99 per jar)
  • 30 cents’ worth of turmeric ($3.99 per jar)
  • 50 cents’ worth of parsley (99 cents for a small bunch)
  • $2.32 worth of sliced bread ($6.99 per loaf at the sandwich creator’s neighborhood market)

Total cost: $7.40 for four servings; $1.85 for one serving

Broccoli salad is a dream of a make-ahead lunch, considering broccoli holds up well in the fridge—this version has sliced apple and chopped walnuts, but feel free to swap whatever you’ve got on hand.

The math:

  • $3.99 worth of basil ($3.99 for a bunch)
  • 23 cents’ worth of garlic ($4.99 for a pound)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)
  • $4 worth of walnuts ($7.99 for 8 ounces)
  • About $1.75 of broccoli ($3.49 for roughly two heads)
  • $1.78 worth of apple ($1.78 for one)

The total: $12.30 for three servings; $4.10 for one serving

After “cheesy fritters,” what more do you need to hear? (Run, don’t walk.)

The math:

  • $1.09 worth of quinoa ($5.99 for 16 ounces)
  • $2.38 worth of goat cheese ($2.99 for 4 ounces)
  • $3.49 worth of arugula ($3.49 for large container)
  • 55 cents’ worth of lemon ($0.55 for one)

The total: $7.51 for two servings; $3.76 for one serving

If you’ve made it this far in the under-$5 lunch lineup, congratulations: It’s Saturday! Celebrate with cheesy, garlicky sausage pasta.

The math:

  • $1.09 worth of spaghetti ($1.09 per pound)
  • $5.62 worth of sausage ($5.62 per pound)
  • About 30 cents’ worth of garlic ($0.51 for a head)
  • 49 cents’ worth of red chili flakes ($2.94 for a bottle)
  • $3.92 worth of Parmesan ($7.84 for about 5 ounces)
  • 75 cents’ worth of parsley ($1.49 for a bunch)

The total: $12.17 for four servings; $3.04 for one serving

What’s your go-to, wallet-friendly lunch? Let us know in the comments!

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Winter Date-Night Dinner Ideas | Naturally.

Roasted Radish Salad with Butter-Thyme Dressing | Naturally Ella

In the grand scheme of weeks, my husband and I don’t get out very much. We work, we hang out with our son, we repeat. However, our times after our son goes to bed are ones we cherish. It’s the time we unwind. The time we connect with each other about our day. That time is extremely special.

While most nights we eat dinner as a family, some nights I reserve for a ‘date night’. We spend our unwinding around the table, enjoying a meal that’s a bit more involved than our normal dinners. Most of the time I prep ahead and finish while my husband is working his way through bedtime routine. This way, when he’s done, we’re ready to eat.

Think of these ideas as more of a starting place. I just worked my way through the archives and picked out the recipes I most enjoy. Everything has a main, a side vegetable, a salad, and dessert. Every meal is loaded with vegetables and I’m relying on my friends to bring the dessert (because we all have to play to our strengths!)

Berbere Chickpeas and Chard with Farro | Naturally Ella

No 1. The Unusual Flavors Date-Night Dinner.

I’m leading with this set, primarily because it uses some bolder flavors and some less-common produce. I love the spice level with the berbere seasoning and the balance of the tender turnips. Plus, I know people are often looking for more recipes with chard and turnips. Best of all, you could easily swap out the chard and just use turnip greens (a bit more on the bitter side but would work well with the flavor of the berbere!)

Pumpkin Paneer Curry | Naturally Ella

No 2. Curry, forever.

I feel like one of the ways I show a person I love them is by making fried cheese. Sometimes that fried cheese is used in tacos, other times, it’s curry. This pumpkin curry has a smooth, velvety sauce which I like to balance with a bit of heat from the chili roasted broccoli.

Lentil Broccoli Bites with Lemon Cream Sauce

No 3. A Variation ‘Meat’ and Potatoes.

My husband was never a ‘meat and potato’ kind of guy. However, I find that it’s hard to always escape my Midwestern food upbringing. These dishes are about as close as I get. Lentil bites smothered in a cream sauce provide the ‘meat’ while the romesco potato salad stands in for a more traditional mashed potato.

No 4. Vegan.

I think this might be one of my favorites. This vegan meal shows you don’t need to overload a veg meal with cheese. The risotto’s creaminess comes from a delicious walnut cream while the spicy cauliflower and avocado salad help balance the richness.

Kale Pasta with Sunflower Cream Sauce | Naturally Ella

No 5. Lemons, Winter’s friend

Winter in California is all about citrus. I love the sunflower cream sauce with the pasta. It’s bright, light, and vegan. Paired with a beautiful persimmon salad and a fun take on beets; it’s hard to go wrong. This meal is sure to put a smile on your face.

Spinach and Red Lentil Masala | @naturallyella

No 6. Flavor for all.

Finally, I like to come in with big flavor. Nearly everyone who makes the lentils find it becomes a staple. The flavor is amazing and it’s one of the more filling vegetarian mains. I like to balance this with a lot of vegetables. The green beans are a nice, easy side while the radish salad showcases this beautiful vegetable in a unique and fun way. Don’t miss the teff brownies either- they probably should have been dessert for every meal.


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Best Crock Pot Recipes – Easy Slow Cooker Dinner Ideas

The holiday season is officially in full swing, as we trade out Christmas carols in favor of those sparkly New Year’s hats. (If you’ve got one, please send it our way!)

In my household, this means a few things. First and foremost, we’re hosting relatives and friends on every conceivable surface. That’s not a cute way of me saying all of the beds are full—I’m also talking couches, air mattresses, and a sort of triple-blanket-nest right on the floor. It also means that our home is chock full of (joyful!) chaos. Half-finished board games are strewn about. Each time someone takes out the recycling, it instantly refills with a new batch of milk cartons, wine bottles, and the remnants of what were, days earlier, carefully wrapped gifts. And every day, around 4:15 p.m., someone, from some surface, brushes aside a deck of cards and bellows, “What are we doing for dinner???”

Others join in, tossing out suggestions—the threat of mutiny’s imminent—”Pizza—again,” says someone dejectedly. “I guess we could… have more leftovers?” another voice chimes in, will all the eagerness of deflated basketball. “We could… cook?” offers someone, timidly, and then, “But I’m not sure I’m really up for a project.”

Enter set-it-and-forget-it dinners, courtesy of the humble-yet-mighty slow cooker. An answer to the big-batch, flavorful dinner conundrum, minus the effort.

This year, I’ll be prepared. When someone asks, “What’s for dinner?”, I’ll give them a choice between these five. (And once we settle on one, I’m going to clear a stack of Monopoly money off the last unoccupied chair, and challenge everyone to a Hearts tournament.)

What’s your favorite way to feed a crowd? Share tips in the comments section below!

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Quick & Easy Dinner Recipes & Meal Ideas for the Family

I’m about to head home to Atlanta for the holidays—and I can’t wait. I can’t wait for my dog to run around in that big yard; I can’t wait to eat massive vats of my mother’s kimchi fried rice; and I can’t wait to cook for my family, to show them all of the many recipes that have sustained me over the past year.

My mother is an avid home cook and loves food magazines. She’s inspired by them, gets ideas for her weekend dinner parties, and is known as the home “chef” of her niche Korean-American community in Georgia. Which is why in late December, when I drive home with my dog and a couple pounds of bone-in beef short ribs from my favorite butcher, I know that she’s going to ask me, “What are you cooking these days?”

Every year she tells me how bored she is of her kitchen, and how she’s looking for new inspiration. How, since her two sons “abandoned” her years ago, she has little reason to step into the “hearth of the home” and cook for pleasure because now there’s just two.

Jean, like me, loves cooking with intention and with purpose. So it tends to be much easier on any given night to whip up a simple salad, or to go to a favorite local restaurant—because the act of cooking to nourish quickly became less of a priority when it was just her and my dad.

Which is why I’ve collected the recipes below, to share with my mother when I go home to her for Christmas. To remind her that cooking, even when it’s just on a weeknight, can inspire a whole chain of reactions: self-care, creative stimulation, quality time with the people she cooks for. (At least, that’s what she taught me growing up.) These are the kinds of family-friendly meals that can really help during this hectic holiday craze—fast, simple dinners that make you want to return to the calm of the kitchen. Because it’s always worth it to cook a nice meal, whether it’s just for you, the two of you, or the whole family.

What quick meals are you cooking these days? Let us know in the comments below.

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Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks (30+ ideas)

Happy holidays all! What you see here is a holiday gift guide for cooks and culinary enthusiasts. I get asked for ideas every year, and know it can be tricky to find a thoughtful gift for the chef (or serious home cook) in your life. So(!) here’s my gift guide – one that primarily highlights small producers, and products I genuinely use and love. And, if you don’t spot something here, I also posted a round up of 15 Great Culinary Gift Guides yesterday.

St. Agrestis Amaro & Townshend’s Kashmiri Amaro

An after-dinner sip of amaro always hits the spot. And, part of the fun is tasting all the different ones available. These are two recent favorites in gift worthy bottles. The Townshend is chai-spiced, which, honestly, I thought might be a miss. Instead it is surprising, balanced, and feisty – in the best way possible.Holiday Gift Guide for CooksJacob May Cutting Boards

Jacob May end grain kitchen boards are contemporary classics. Heirloom quality, they get better each year. I’ve had mine for five or six years now (!?) and love it more each time I reach for it. The recipient of one of these should be extra, extra special ;)…

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Donabe & Japanese pantry

I love cooking in clay pots, and despite a real effort to scale back, have growing collection of them. Toiro Kitchen is my favorite source for donabe, Japanese clay pots. The Kamado-san double-lid rice cooker is my favorite, but I also love the Ibushi Gin donabe smoker. Beyond donabe, everything in Naoko’s Torio Kitchen is gift-worthy, and a selection of the pantry items would make a great basket. If you can visit the Los Angeles store do it. You’ll find a helpful staff to explain their incredible selection of donabe, pantry items, and Japanese tableware.Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

All things Herriott Grace

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Vitamix 7500 in white

I bought one of these years ago, and my pureed soups, smoothies, and nut milks have never been silkier. It is really is that good. In the years since, I’ve also experimented with other blenders, as well as the little Magic Bullet – and, at a much, much lower price point. Nothing I’ve tried comes close to this big guy. You know those commercials where someone gets a car with a bow in the driveway? That’s the realm we’re in. The Mercedes of blenders.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pure Stainless Steel Can Opener

A can opener for a gift? This is the smoothest can opener I know, it quickly opens cans with precision every single time. Wayne and I sometimes fight over who “gets” to open the can. 

Iris Hantverk brushes

Here’s the entire Iris Hantverk kitchen line of brushes. They are beautiful, utilitarian, and a simple pleasure to use.Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Weck jars plus wood lids

A set of Weck jars is a great gift. They stack nicely, and help turn chaos into calm. All my favorite dried beans and pulses go straight into them. I also use them constantly in my refrigerator (below), in the quest to minimize plastic, and single use containers.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks
Levo oil
I put this on my personal wish list. It just seems like it would be a blast to experiment with. I like to think that I’m not one for gadgets, wifi-connected devices and single-use appliances, but this is the sort of thing I can’t resist. For the right person who likes to experiment in the kitchen, this is going to perfect. Lots of cool ideas, ratios, recipes on their site if you poke around.Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Moccamaster in white

We’re currently an espresso (and lots of tea) household, but friends have told me this is a great combination of style and functionality.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Jenni Kayne Tableware

Jenni Kayne always has a great selection of bowls and tableware (the wood bowls!). They’re the sort of kitchen items that get better and better the more you use them.

 Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Wonder Valley Olio Nuevo

I’ve been working my way through a bottle of the Wonder Valley Olio Nuevo (Thanks Chanda!). Made with olives harvested in October 2018, this is the fresh, bright stuff. Limited to 600 bottles. 

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Diaspora Co. Turmeric

Sana’s Diaspora Co. sources turmeric from Andhra Pradesh, India. It is some of the best you can buy.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Coffee Manufactory Holiday Bundle
Not sure if you knew, but our friends at Tartine and Tartine Manufactory have a coffee venture. And like everything they set their sights on, it’s spot-on. Check out this holiday gift bundle.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Breakaway Matcha

Eric Gower’s Breakaway Matcha is one of the best sources of matcha tea in the United States. A great gift and introduction to the different grades of matcha is this matcha flight.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Lord Windsor Coffee

A local fav in Long Beach – a few bags of the Costa Rica blend or No Stresso Espresso in this colorful packaging brighten a friend’s morning ritual. 

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Canyon Coffee

Ally and Casey’s Canyon Coffee never disappoints – I like the Colombian blend, but they also offer gift packages. If you’re on the West coast, keep an eye out for them at a bunch of holiday markets, where you can have a cup in person.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

For the adaptogen enthusiast: The O’CLOCKS – More about them here. And the collection as trio here.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

For cooking Inspiration on Cozy Winter Nights – Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings: The New Taste of German Cooking

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Ila Black Lava Salt

The perfect finishing element for anything from salads and spreads, to cookies or homemade crackers – we love the Ila black lava salt. Bonus points for the beautiful, weighty, black on black packaging.  

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Song Tea White Dragonwell

Peter Luong carefully sources tea from China and ships it back to the states with temperature control, so you get the freshest, most subtle flavors. I love the white teas in particular, and the description of this one with notes of chrysanthemum, rice milk, and marshmallow caught my attention.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Leaves & Flowers Turmeric Wellness Tea

This is the herbal tea blend I drink the all the time, select the glass jar for gift-worthy packaging. I really enjoy all the L&F blends, and you can’t go wrong with their seed tea, hibiscus blend, or peace tea (these are all the ones I buy most often) – I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be afraid to experiment, because it’s hard to go wrong here.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Sarah Kersten Ceramics

You’ve no doubt seen Sarah’s classic fermentation crock, but her ramen and salad bowls deserve to be in daily rotation.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Malinda Reich

Malinda’s pieces are all one-of-a-kind ceramics made in small kiln firings in San Francisco. We enjoy having them on the table and sprinkled throughout favorite corners of the house. 

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Nappalachia Cookies

For your favorite cookie lover. My pal Natalie kindly sent me a box of these as a house-warming present when we were moving into our new place. And, while all of these cookies are super A+, I promptly fell in love with the GF Chocolate Chocolate Peanut Butters. I mean, each cookie goes into the oven weighing nearly 1/2 lb. Laugh/cry.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Luvhaus Ametrine

Sean has recently introduced bold glazes which pop on any table. I love this one called ametrine. For the bold table scape.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Colleen Hennessey Ceramics

I’m never very far from a Colleen Hennessey bowl in my kitchen. They mix and match beautifully, can go oven to table, and are resilient (if you tend to be tough on bowls and plates).

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Earthen Ceramics

Julia opened a fantastic shop in San Francisco’s Lower Haight neighborhood this year. But if you can’t visit in person, her site has a good selection of her work.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Julie Cloutier

Julie Cloutier’s bowls and cups, (and her signature style) are a score for the minimalist cook in your life.

Holiday Gift Guide for Cooks

Happy happy holidays! And, I hope this has helped your gift buying process a bit :)! -h

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Holiday Party Ideas We Got From a Party Planner

We’ve partnered with Blue Diamond to highlight clever tips and tricks for pulling off any holiday get-together without breaking a sweat. It’s your party, after all, so you might as well enjoy it!

Holiday parties are one of my favorite things about winter. The seasonal cheer and chilly temperatures make an easy excuse for inviting all of your favorite people over for a night of delicious food, flowing wine, and an abundance of great conversation. Still, there’s a lot that goes into throwing a festive fête , especially if you plan on hosting a large crowd.

To find out all the little details that take an evening from meh to amazing, I turned to the real pros: Heather Wautelet, an events consultant that helps bring the Food52 brand to life through parties and special experiences; and Liz Rosen and Maggie Hollingsworth, who are in charge of organizing beautiful dinners and full-scale events (from start to finish) for The Little Owl Venue & Townhouse, two private spaces that are an offshoot of the New York City restaurant. With their help, you can make sure this year’s celebration is bigger and better than ever before.

From planning what you should put on the menu to special touches that can transform a space, here are their best tips and tricks for pulling off a holiday party without a hitch.

Consider your guests—and the vibe. Before you even start thinking about the food you’re going to serve or how you’re going to decorate the tablescape, you should have at least a rough idea of who (and how many) will be coming. “I think being hospitable really means understanding who’s coming to your house, because you’re throwing the party for them,” says Rosen. This, along with your space, will dictate whether you’re throwing a sit-down dinner or cocktail party; about six to 10 people for a dinner party is reasonable, while anything over 12 is likely going to go the cocktail route, meaning you’ll just need light bites and drinks.

Ahead of setting the menu, get some inspiration. Before thinking about the menu, Rosen usually heads to the farmer’s market to see what’s in season and looks freshest. “It also just really gives us a lot of inspiration for what we’re gonna make, whether it’s a garnish, or whether it’s the bulk of what we’re cooking,” she says. Once you have an idea of what you want to make, start jotting down ideas on paper and slowly but surely your menu will form.

Split up your shopping trips. Things like wine, liquor, anything canned or jarred, and even certain decor elements (candles, votives, table cloths, etc.) can be purchased a week or two out, giving you one less thing to think about once it gets closer to the big day. You don’t want to purchase things like meat or fresh produce until a day or two before the party, unless you’re planning on cooking it ahead of time. As for anything that’s going to be served raw (crudité, oysters, and the like), “you want to buy those at the very last minute,” says Rosen.

Your vibe = the vibe of the party. The ladies at The Little Owl stressed that the host always sets the tone for the party, so if you’re relaxed, your guests will feel at ease; if you’re not, well, it rubs off. “Your vibe is what the party vibe is, and the vibe is just as important as the food and the drink,” Rosen says. So make sure you do what you need to do—whether that’s getting the bulk of the cleaning done the day before, or prepping everything the morning of—to be as ready to enjoy the party as your guests are.

You don’t need to go overboard with the appetizers. Whether you’re doing light bites or a full meal, keep the appetizers simple. “Instead of doing a bunch of different appetizers, just focus on three or four,” says Wautelet. It’s also helpful to choose dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, like a spinach dip or deviled eggs, or things that don’t really need any prep at all, like nuts and olives. Meat and cheese platters or crudités, she adds, can also take you a long way in a very short period of time. “It’s so easy to make that a beautiful presentation and people are always impressed by it.”

Make sure you’ve got something for everyone. Instead of polling every single guest to find out who has food restrictions (though you certainly can if you’re not sure!), the gals at The Little Owl typically make sure their menu has a variety of options that everyone can enjoy. That usually means having at least one vegan and gluten-free option each (you could even include some gluten-free crackers on your crudité spread). These dishes should look as beautiful and taste just as good as everything else on the spread, because “you don’t want anyone to feel like an afterthought,” says Rosen.

Rely on make-ahead, oven-friendly dishes. So that you’re not stuck in the kitchen while your guests are sitting down to dinner, choose dishes that can be made ahead of time and then finished off or reheated in the oven. Luckily, some of the coziest, winter-friendly recipes fall under this category. Things like lasagnas (or any type of baked pasta, really), braises, or even an impressive standing rib roast can be prepped the day before and brought to warm, bubbling perfection an hour or two before someone knocks on the door. “Soups are also really great for that—you can always cook those the day before,” Rosen adds.

When it comes to drinks, you really only need these options. How you stock your bar will depend on how many people you’ve invited (and whether or not they like to drink), but a safe rule of thumb: Serve one type of red wine, one white wine, something bubbly (like Prosecco or Champagne), and a cocktail (but only if you have time; punches are easiest). For an elegant touch on cocktails and regular soft drinks, make specialty ice cubes (like these big rocks) and dress up drinks with fresh herbs. “Whether it’s mint, thyme, or basil, that’s a beautiful way to garnish your drink and make something a little extra special,” says Rosen.

Buy your wine in bulk. Depending on how many people you’re hosting, buying things in bulk—especially cases of wine—is an easy way to bring down the cost of your party. “When you buy the wine in cases, you can usually get a good deal on that,” says Hollingsworth. Another tip for saving money on wine is to swap expensive grape varietals for their budget-friendly counterparts. For example: You could trade a pricy Sancerre for a different Sauvignon Blanc from a very close region; or you might ditch an expensive Barolo for a Nebbiolo instead.

For bigger parties, consider hiring a bartender. “Hiring your own bartender can actually be a relatively affordable thing to do,” says Wautelet. She suggested it’s a great option if you’re having more than 20 people over; you supply the booze, and then they’ll take care of prepping the garnishes and mixing up the cocktails. If this is a route you want to consider, check out your city’s bartending certification school and they can provide references of who to hire.

Fresh herbs make great centerpieces. Bundles of fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage, can go a long way when planning a get-together—and not just for the food. “You can use them on your plates as a garnish, but you can also put them on the table,” says Rosen. Arrange little bunches of herbs around candle votives for a seasonal touch that smells good, but won’t overpower what’s coming out of the kitchen. You can also bring the outside in, Rosen adds, by using little plants and branches as decorative accents.

Give your handwritten place cards a special touch. If you’re having a seated dinner, place cards are a given, says Hollingsworth. This not only makes your guests feel welcome and important, but it also helps you put together people you know will get along—and keep apart anyone that might not. “Sometimes I’ll write a personal note on the inside of the card, or pose a question to the group that’ll engage conversation,” she adds.

You can rent furniture and table settings just for the occasion. Just like you can hire a bartender to take the pressure off the drinks section of your to-do list, you can also rent furniture and picture-perfect table settings just for the evening. “You could call your local rental companies and pick out a linen, or a plate, or something that’s different than what you have and will make the decor pop,” says Rosen. And again, it’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about.

Make the kid’s table fit right in—but still fun. There’s no need to make an entirely separate menu for the kiddos, Rosen explains, when you can just slightly adapt what you’re serving the adults. Let’s say you’re making mac and cheese: For the adults, you could add truffles and mushrooms or cauliflower and broccoli; for the kids, just make a smaller, separate dish that doesn’t have those extra ingredients. It’s also crucial that keep the little ones occupied with an activity, adds Hollingsworth. Her latest go-tos: cookie decorating or lining the wall with big, giant craft paper kids can draw on with crayons.

Give decorated to-go boxes. There are always bound to be leftovers at the end of a holiday party, so be prepared to send your guests home with their favorite dishes or sweet treats. “Some people don’t want to eat their dessert right after dinner, so having to-go boxes, with a festive sticker on it or some sort of personal touch is really cute,” says Wautelet. She suggests buying a stack of bakery or craft boxes and some festive stickers or stamps, plus string to wrap them with. When they’re munching on their leftover pie or mashed potatoes the next day, they’ll think about what a great time they had the night before.

What are your best holiday party tips? Tell us in the comments below!

It’s your party! In partnership with Blue Diamond, makers of high-quality almond products for over 100 years, we’re excited to share creative ways to make hosting a holiday party easy and delicious. Whether you’re hosting on a budget or throwing a festive cocktail party, Blue Diamond is here to help. Their Crafted Gourmet Almonds, seasoned with flavors like pink Himalayan salt and black truffle, and Artisan Nut Thins make a perfect addition to any elegant spread, from last-minute snack trays to homemade appetizers.

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Christmas Party Ideas From Easy Holiday Drink Recipes to Festive Snacks

We’re highlighting clever tips and tricks for pulling off any holiday get-together without breaking a sweat. It’s Your Party, after all, so you might as well enjoy it!

There are few things I love more than a chance to break out the lipstick, high heels, and the fancy dress that’s been hanging in my closet just waiting for the right occasion. But gathering all my favorite people in one place for merrymaking with proper cocktails is definitely one of them. Combine the two and you’ve got the world’s best excuse to shine yourself up: A dressed-to-the-nines-cocktail party so festive that even Scrooge himself would crack a smile. I’ll be hosting one this year and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Should you want to, too, here’s my blueprint for a good time.

I’m a “more the merrier” type of person, so I usually end up inviting, oh, I don’t know…everyone I know. I’m also a shoebox New York City apartment dweller, which means I’ll be hosting my party open-house style: Drop in when you can, stay for one or many drinks, then be on your merry way. Noting this policy on the invite gives guests permission to party hop (it is holiday party season, after all) and helps spread out the fun, keeping my place from feeling too crowded at any one point in time. And it might seem overly formal, but I also usually ask my friends to RSVP any plus-ones—not to shame the singles, but to be sure I’ll have enough drinks, snacks, and cups to go around. (The world’s easiest way to do this? Paperless post!)

Oh, and if you do really want everyone in their Sunday best (or dancing shoes, or ugly Christmas sweaters, or fluorescent yellow sweat suits…it is your party after all!) don’t be shy about putting that on the invitation, too!

I happen to love making cocktails, so that’s usually the focus of my bar. I also know my friends love to contribute, so I’ll specifically ask them to bring wine or beer (which happens to be the easiest way for me to make sure the wine and beer drinkers will be happy, without having to haul a few cases home from the corner store). When I’m feeling overly prepared I may also buy a few giant party wines—one red, one white, and one sparkling—to get the evening off to a good start.

The Setup

To keep people moving and socializing through the party, I like to set up a few different drink stations: One for the cocktails, another for the wine, and the beer goes in the fridge and/or in a big cooler or galvanized metal tub filled with ice somewhere else in the room. And for the non-drinkers (well, actually, all of us…hydration!) I’ll stock up on flavored seltzers and plain San Pellegrino, as well as fill glass pitchers with water and festive accoutrements like orange or blood orange rounds, cranberries, and rosemary (it’s so pretty it’s almost like another decoration).

The menu

Cocktail-wise, I’ll either go with a punch (festive! Fun! An excuse to bring out my single-use punch bowl!) or pre-batch stirred (read: all booze, no-citrus) cocktails—they can sit around as long as you want, actually taste better the longer the flavors have to mix and mingle, and don’t need to be shaken up again like citrus-based drinks do. I mix mine up in my biggest measuring cup, then pour them into large swing-top bottles or clear wine bottles with the labels removed (that I’ve washed out of course!) and store them in the fridge. If you’ve got leftovers after your party, just pop them back in your fridge and you’ve got a pre-made cocktail whenever you need one. This time of year, I especially like anything made with Campari and/or sweet vermouth for the festive red color.

I generally have a fully stocked bar (in all honesty, because I like the way it looks on my bookshelf) so those who don’t like my cocktail of the evening will still have plenty of options—I’ll leave a cocktail mixing glass with a bar spoon out near the ice for any overachievers, but folks are usually happy with a vodka soda and twist…which I’ll also pre-cut and place in a pretty bowl or cup and set out as part of the cocktail spread.

When you’re serving strong cocktails, make sure you’ve got some snacks on hand (trust me… you’ll wind up with fewer broken glasses).

Simple & Savory

I’m past the stage where I kill myself trying to do everything from scratch, so for me, it’ll be a nice big cheese board and crudité situation, plus some roasted nuts and olives (no hot hors d’oeuvres in sight!). I might also splurge and set up a “Russian nachos” situation, a brilliant idea I stole from the bar at the New York Park Hyatt: Thick-cut potato chips served alongside a tin of caviar, crème fraîche, chopped boiled egg, sliced red onion, and snipped chives. (For a slightly more affordable treat, salmon roe is just as good with the same set up. Even cheaper? Grate some parmesan and crack some black pepper over thick cut potato chips spread out on a sheet tray…they’re seriously addictive.)

If you do want to serve warm food, go with something that doesn’t need too much prep or tending, like a simple puff pastry tart, an oven-baked dip, or (yum) baked brie.

Sweet & Nibbly

Also: Don’t forget something sweet! I always make Dorie Greenspan’s butter sablés because they are so dainty and so very easy. It’s a just a butter cookie you roll into a log, then egg wash and roll in colored sugar before slicing and baking. (They’re a great secret weapon to keep in your freezer this time of year—store them in the paper tubes from empty paper towel rolls to help them keep their shape in the fridge or freezer!) I also make my mom’s toffee recipe, which is the perfect combo of deeply caramelized toffee and dark chocolate, topped with chopped almonds, walnuts, or pistachios. To keep things even simpler, I might take a page out of my coworker Emma Laperruque’s book and make some chocolate bark, which has the same vibe with one less step. (Caramelizing all that sugar and butter can be finicky!)

You’re almost there…just a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross. Once the food and drinks are of the way, scampering around to light the candles and fluff the pillows while sipping a cocktail by myself—the anticipation brewing—might be my favorite part of all the prep work.

The playlist

A great tip I got from Heather Wautelet, an events coordinator here at Food52, is to ask every guest to include a song or two with their RSVP, so you can add it to the playlist. It winds up being a conversation starter as guests wonder who put each song in the queue. If you don’t feel like making a playlist, no sweat—this is what Pandora and Spotify radio were made for.

The decor

Instead of flowers, which can be extra expensive this time of year, I’ll go for greenery only and put out some teeny-tiny vintage bottles and bud vases each holding a few sprigs. I also love using bowls of citrus as part of the decor, especially if I can find something like satsumas with the leaves and stems still attached—they’re so pretty and bonus: You get to eat them later! They even look nice just strewn here and there across your table or bar.

I love tall colored taper candles and pillar candles, so I’ll set a few out around my place, but I avoid lighting them—too drippy. (I’ve ruined a lot of tablecloths this way.) Instead, I light up tea lights in mismatched mercury glass votives (the light the votives throw off feels perfect for a glitzy evening). I’ll also set up one scented candle in each room—scent can set the mood just as much as the lighting. I’m truly a sucker for pine or spruce, but go with whatever makes you feel happy.

In years past, I’ve always gotten a tree, which, all lit up, definitely puts people in a festive mood. If you don’t have room or that’s not your thing, consider going with a garland or even just some old-fashioned string lights for a little bit of that holiday spirit.

Are you planning to throw a fancy cocktail party too? Let me know how it goes—and share your best tips in the comments!

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10 Quick & Easy Dinner Recipes & Meal Ideas for the Family

You’ve made turkey tetrazzini. Maybe even turkey pot pie. Heck, you’ve turned the remnants of your leftover turkey into a diamond. The carcass is already in that aspic you’ve just turned out.

Stop! You’re going wild, Turkey.

Thanksgiving is over, and if you’re like me, you’ve already eaten all the leftovers. Because let’s face it: Is there anything more satisfying than finishing off leftovers? Though I love a good, solid turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwich, I only really want maybe one or two of those before I’m done and out. The truth is, I hate eating the same thing for days on end (one of the main reasons I love cooking for one).

So, I’m here to help all of us get back into the groove of cooking like normal people now that Thanksgiving’s over, and to stop talking about leftovers as soon as possible. These are the kinds of meals that can lure me back into my old routine—fast, simple dinners that make me want to return to the calm of the kitchen even after the marathon that was Turkey Month.

What totally normal not-Thanksgiving foods are you excited to get back into cooking? Let us know in the comments below.

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Best Instant Pot Recipes & Ideas

Photo by Amazon

Skim a bunch of Instant Pot-y cookbook covers and you’ll notice a pattern pretty quickly. Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant has saucy glazed ribs and its follow-up Comfort in an Instant, chicken Parmesan. Instantly Southern shows a pulled pork sandwich (appropriate). Archana Mundhe’s Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook brings creamy butter chicken. All of which to say, the Instant Pot excels at a lot of things, but they all boil down to: comfort food.

As my co–recipe developer Ella Quittner puts it, “My Instant Pot and I can’t wait to have many cozy nights in together all fall and winter.” For many reasons, she tells me, but especially: “Deeply flavored ragu, in under an hour! Mac and cheese in 6 minutes! Beans, broth, and none of the guesswork.”

Yes, please, and thank you.

“It’s like a pressure cooker you can also sauté in,” Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen says. “Let’s say you wanted not to get as many dishes dirty; you could sear something in the Instant Pot and then add the liquid. So that’s convenient.”

Earlier this month, my editor Eric Kim wondered whether or not America would ever stop using their slow cookers in favor of the Instant Pot:

It took a year for America to catch up, but since Melissa Clark said it in The New York Times in 2017, sales have skyrocketed (the Instant Pot is the 2018 bestseller in America on Amazon). Google searches for ‘Instant Pot recipes’ are now as voluminous as those for ‘slow cooker recipes’ and ‘Crock-Pot recipes.’

Eric Kim

Responding to the times (as well as to the Times), our test kitchen this fall is busy, busy, busy developing and testing Instant Pot recipes—so expect more coming your way. In the meantime, here are a few staple recipes we think anyone with a pressure cooker should have under their belt.

Yep, that’s cottage cheese! What are you cooking in the Instant Pot these days? Let us know in the comments below.

Martha Stewart recipe reprinted from Martha Stewart’s Pressure Cooker. Copyright © 2018 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Photograph copyright © 2018 by Marcus Nilsson. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Melissa Clark recipes reprinted from Comfort in an Instant. Copyright © 2018 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Christopher Testani. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Archana Mundhe recipes reprinted with permission from The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, copyright © 2018 by Archana Mundhe. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Colin Price. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Sheri Castle recipes reprinted from Instantly Southern. Copyright © 2018 by Sheri Castle. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Hélène Dujardin. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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Top-Searched, Healthful & Healthy Pinterest Meal Ideas

It’s Monday again, and if you didn’t have a chance to get ahead on your grocery shopping over the weekend, you might be ruminating on what your food plan will look like this week (sad but still-sturdy zucchini, we’ve got plans for you).

Right here’s a great place to start (why, hello there!), and we also love scouring the ‘net to see what everyone’s excited about. We took a page from Pinterest’s top-searched healthful meal ideas from last month and paired them with some of our most popular recipes—think of this as a helpful one-stop shopping guide at its best.

Zucchini Recipes

Have a bumper crop of zucchini on your hands? Look no further:

Salmon Recipes

Cooked, raw, or smoked—we love salmon every which way:

School Lunch Ideas

We’re fully back-to-school (and back-to-work), and always looking for new ways to spin old favorites:

Vegan Recipes

Whether you follow a vegan lifestyle or are looking for dishes to whip up for someone who does, start with some of our all-stars:

Meal Prep Ideas

Going in with a plan, no matter how ambitious (or not), is always a good idea:

Inexpensive Meals

Maintaining a food budget is a very real thing. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep meals affordable, delicious, and healthful all at once:

Your New Go-To Lunch Plan

What dishes are you cooking a lot of these days? Let us know below!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

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