Wow, I feel like I haven’t hosted a dinner party in ages! During the holidays I was more of a guest then a host, which is nice sometimes; everyone needs a break from the routine from time to time. But I missed cooking, so I decided to have a few couples over for a tropical inspired dinner. It is the middle of winter and Los Angeles has been strangely cold, so I thought a little taste of the equator would be a palate tingler.
Unfortunately my local grocery store wasn’t selling any flowers that reminded me of Hawaii or the Caribbean, so I purchased these lovely tulips in bright shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Then I set the table with some brightly colored napkins that I purchased on sale at BHLDN (sold out, similar here). To create the “bows” I just folded the napkins into squares and then wrapped a little washi tape around the middle. So easy!
Here is how the table looked all-together. Not bad for about 20 minutes of work, including the flowers! Though sometimes I like to go all-out with my table decor, other times I just let the simplicity of the colors take center stage. A tablescape doesn’t always have to look like it has been magically transported from the pages of a wedding magazine, often simpler can be just as glamorous as overabundant.
As you can tell from the photo, all I did with the flowers was place them in various mason jars with some votive candles and called it a day! You can see another tablescape I did that is very akin to this one here using similar colors and the same napkins- only with a totally different look. Reusing your collection of napkins and table settings keeps your costs down and your creativity up!
Now for the food! I made tropical lime skewers and they were delish! Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the kabobs all pretty on their serving platter, so this shot will have to suffice. Here is the recipe:
Tropical Chicken Skewers With A Lime Marinade
- Juice and zest of 3 limes
- 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1-3 Tbsp honey (depends on how sweet you want it. I like them sweet)
- 1/2 small onion
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and correct seasonings. If you want it sweeter, add honey. Too sweet? Add more lime juice.
I marinated 8 large chicken breasts and it was plenty of food. Then I put them on the skewers and grilled them on a grill pan (seen above) for 1.5 minutes on each side- just to get the color and those burn marks. Then I placed them on a baking sheet, covered with foil, and placed them in the oven at 300 F as soon as the first guest arrived. They were in there for about 45 minutes and were still very moist. I like this trick because you don’t want to be grilling chicken, which can get quite messy, while your guests are arriving. I precook the skewers about 30 minutes before everyone was set to arrive so all I had to was pop them in the oven.
Next I made a Carribean influenced quinoa salad with black beans and a sweet & spicy dressing.
Caribbean Quinoa Salad With Orange Spiced Dressing
- 1.5 cups of quinoa rinsed well
- 3 cups of water
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tblsp frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp corriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- salt/pepper to taste
- Black beans from a can, rinsed
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 a small red onion, sliced
- 1-2 avacados sliced into cubes
Cook the quinoa by placing the quinoa and water in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil, place a top over the pot and lower the heat, just like you are cooking rice. Let it cook for 12-15 minutes then remove from the heat.
For the dressing, mix the oil, vinegar, orange juice, honey, spices, and salt/pepper in a blender. Taste and add seasonings as needed.
For the salad, in a large bowl mix the quinoa, black beans, onion, cilantro, and avacado together with the dressing and serve. If you want to make ahead of time you can follow the same steps except the cilantro and avacado- save those for right before you serve (well, with-in 30 minutes of serving).
Serves 6-8 people
I often serve corn bread at my meals because who doesn’t like corn bread? Plus it can be made up to a few days before the party, and it is nice and filling. I am always concerned about my guests getting enough to eat! For this beauty I used my version of this recipe (here) only I don’t use Jiffy corn bread mix because it contains lard, so I used another brand (Trader Joes) of corn bread mix and cake mix. Then I took out 1 cup of the corn bread mix and substituted 1 cup of the cake mix, and followed the corn bread directions. Came out fantastic! Nice and sweet, which is how I think corn bread should taste. Don’t even think about putting jalapenos in my corn bread! Blasphemy!
I wanted to include a fresh green salad, so I sort of did a riff on a taco salad, only I omitted the meat and added a mango dressing.
Mexican Salad with Mango Dressing
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup mango, fresh or frozen
- 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
- A squeeze of honey
- salt/pepper to taste
- Lettuce (I used 3 heads of Romaine)
- Radishes sliced in half then sliced thinly
- Cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 4-6 scallions sliced thinly
- Corn (fresh or frozen *which I forgot but would be really good in this salad)
- 2 avacados cubed
- Corn chips crushed on top
For the dressing, blend the first 5 ingredients in a blender. Check for consistancy and taste. If dressing is too thick but tastes good, thin with a little bit of water. If it is too sour, add honey; not tangy enough add some vinegar. Too watery, add more mango.
For the salad, just mix the next 7 ingredients and toss with the dressing. To make ahead of time I chop the vegetables up and keep them cold in the fridge. Then I toss everything together last minute right before I serve the food.
The last dish of the meal was an amazing coconut rice, which I can’t take any credit for because I followed this recipe (here) to the letter and it came out perfectly! The only difference is I used a lower fat coconut milk because that is all they had at Trader Joe’s and it still tasted like summer smells. It went perfectly with the marinated chicken and the black sesame seeds gave the dish a pretty contrast when served.
For dessert I made key lime cheese cake bars, but I totally forgot to take pictures of them, plus the crust was a little on the dry side, so I will work on that recipe and post it at another time.
As you can see, having a dinner party doesn’t mean you have to serve coq au vin, or some other complicated meal. All it takes is a little creativity and time and your guests will love it!