Easy peasy al fresco entertaining

I love entertaining. My grandparent's used to own a restaurant and growing up my mother hosted dinner parties often. People know they will get fed if they come to my house. It's just in my blood. 
With that said, I recognize that not everyone is wired that way and entertaining can be fraught with anxiety. I used to cause myself a boatload of stress because I had to Cook. Not just throw a meal together and have a happy evening, no, I would put so much pressure on myself and need to create a four course meal (I'm remembering one specific Christmas when I decided to make a bouche de noel. Do you know how hard it is to make a freaking bouche de noel?!).

I was having people over for dinner and I lucked out and the weather was beautiful so we were going to be dining al fresco. I started planning a meal involving a mushroom gallette and a tomato polenta dish and a salad and and and. Then I stopped and I went to my secret weapon for easy delicious meals- Donna Hay

We had cous cous, chicken breast, roasted tomatoes and halumi cheese. It was awesome and delicious. What I love about Donna Hay is they give complete meals so all of the guesswork is taken out of the decisions. I was also grateful that my friend Carey was over because there was no way I was cooking chicken (vegetarian of 25 years!). 

I made the candle holders out of beer bottles. Here's the how to. I already had these on hand, so I did not try to do an upcyle DIY and a dinner party in the same day! 

I went grocery shopping the night before and thankfully the butcher at Mariano's was super helpful because I am clueless when it comes to picking out meat! I am very lucky to have a great little middle eastern store in Andersonville and so I picked up cous cous and halumi cheese there, but I am sure regular grocery stores will have those items. 

An hour or so before dinner I set the table and started cooking the cous cous and tomatoes. The cous cous can actually sit on the stove top with a lid and it will keep warm. Just fluff it with a fork before serving. Carey started the chicken once everyone arrived and I cooked the haloumi cheese in my iron skillet then as well. 

Bring the food to the table and bon appetit. 

I used to have to do everything myself (recovering control freak), but now I let other people into the kitchen to help. I also know when to leave certain things to the pros and my friend Dan is an amazing baker and he made the cake (it was around Easter time and I am just getting around to posting). 

I also made a delicious whiskey punch for the evening. My friend complained the punch glasses were too small! I'll be sharing the recipe soon. 

A couple of notes on setting the mood and logistics. I had lights strung on the patio and candles on the table. I plugged my iphone into a speaker and played some tunes via spotify. I have a small table for the patio and a folding table, so I put the two together and covered it with my favorite Marimekko tablecloth. Finally, I have a small collection of folding chairs that I've picked up at various antique stores, but I don't have enough chairs and I just pull the dining room chairs out onto the porch when needed. 

Photo Credit Kandy M. Christensen

Originally published 6/4/14 

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