Feeling the mid-winter blues? Although the days are starting to get longer and there are birds chirping outside our windows in the early morning, we know that there are at least still 2 more months of cold weather. We know how discouraging it can be to venture outside when it's cold and dreary outside. So, hosting a dinner party is one of the best ways to still have fun in the winter time (and while you are at it, ensure that you are eating high quality ingredients you can trust).
Planning a Dinner Menu
How do you plan a menu that everyone will enjoy? How do you accommodate all the allergies and sensitivities? And, then on top of that, how do you know that everyone will like the seasoning and cuisine that is being served?
1. Find out the facts.
Ask everyone what they can't eat and what ingredients they avoid. Compile this list in one place, so that you are able to see all of the ingredients that you need to work without. Generally, we find that the most common allergies are dairy and gluten. So, it's highly likely that you will end up serving dinner to someone avoiding at least one of these ingredients.
3. Determine the cuisine.
Once you know what you are working with, start to think about the type of cuisine that you want to have. If you are just starting out, we recommend doing something from the Mediterranean cuisine. Generally most people like these falvours and spices and it's easy to avoid dairy and gluten.
4. The best ingredients to focus on.
Fresh herbs, lots of vegetables, whole gluten-free grains, clean and high quality proteins. If you are serving omnivores, we recommend going with a sustainably, organic raised fish or a sustainably wild caught fish. Or, you could always serve organic chicken. If you are serving vegetarians we recommend preparing chickpeas or lentils, as these tend to be beans that are easy for most people to digest and can be used in a variety of recipes.
5. Decide how many dishes you are going to prepare.
Write out a list of how many dishes you want to serve. We recommend doing 1 main dish (or 2 if you need a vegetarian and omnivore option) and then having 2-3 side dishes. Side dishes should be packed with a variety of vegetables. One of the side dishes could be focused on a whole, gluten free grain such as wild rice, brown rice, or quinoa. You probably will want to add in a dessert too!
6. Find your recipes!
This is the fun part- go out and look for your recipes. If you have cookbooks, get cozy on the couch and browse through the pages until things pop out at you that fit into your cuisine and the types of dishes that you want to have. The internet is packed with recipes. You can always search on The Living Kitchen Blog for recipes. You can also try out Foodgawker to browse tons of recipes from a variety of blogs.
7. Make your ingredient list.
We recommend writing out the ingredients for each recipe. Once the lists are complete, read over everything and then make a combination list. We recommend making a list of all Produce, all Pantry items, all Bulk items, and all Protein items. This is a great way to keep your grocery list organized so that when you go to the store you can focus on the different sections of the store instead of running around all over the place.
8. Get cookin'!