Do you take turns with your friends hosting lunch or brunch? While you love the thought of getting together, what you most likely don't love is the stress that can come from playing host.
It doesn't have to be all work and no play. Keep in mind that the idea is to have fun and enjoy your friends. It's also fun to spoil your friends. After all, everyone needs a little pampering.
Here are some tips to make your gathering a success for you and a lovely experience for your friends without registering on the stress-o-meter.
Plan a meal that will be tasty, eye appealing, simple to prepare and easy on the calories. The recipes we offer here are taken from the American Cancer Society's "The Great American Eat-Right Cookbook: 140 Great-Tasting, Good-for-You Recipes." What they all have in common is a minimum of prep and cooking time, no longer than 45 minutes total.
The Ham and Vegetable Frittata looks great and tastes even better. With only 220 calories per serving it is a welcoming mainstay of any brunch. For brunch or lunch, choose something a bit unusual such as large portobello mushroom caps stuffed with spinach, brown rice and feta and accented with toasted pine nuts. You can save a step by buying toasted pine nuts instead of toasting your own. Add a salad and you are good to go.
Dessert can be anything from fresh fruit and vanilla yogurt parfaits to Chocolate Chip-Sour Cream Coffee BabyCakes. So cute. They are a snap at 15 minutes to prepare and eight to 12 minutes to bake. One cake is 80 calories so your guests can be guilt free reaching for two or more.
Adding bubbles to your brunch or lunch is a kick. You can pair champagne or Prosecco — an Italian sparkling white wine — with any number of fruit juices to create a good tasting drink. Be eclectic and colorful. Fill clear glass pitchers with a variety of chilled juices, such as pomegranate, peach, grape, orange and pineapple, set them up on a serving table or counter with your sparkling wine and have your guests experiment to find their favorite. This is a good way to get the party interactive and to easily answer the perennial question: "Can I help?"
Provide non-alcoholic drinks, too, such as Virgin Bloody Marys and coffee. Liven the coffee up by brewing it Mexican style in an automatic drip pot. Sprinkle a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon on the coffee grounds before brewing or put two sticks of whole cinnamon on the grounds ready to be steamed as the hot water drips down. Serve Half and Half (fat free is OK) and Sugar in the Raw or brown sugar.
Here's the place to spend a little time and pull out all the stops — plus the lovely linen tablecloth and napkins, shining flatware, sparkling glasses, beautiful serving pieces and anything else hibernating in your china cabinet. You don't have to make everything so matchy matchy. When creating a special table, the key is to remember that none of it has to match, it just has to go together.
Use one color tablecloth and a different color or pattern for your napkins. If you have enough, use a different napkin ring for each guest or make simple napkin "rings" by tying up each napkin with colorful ribbon or even more simply a length of raffia. Bring out those vintage salad/appetizer plates you bought at the antique store and place them on top of your special occasion china. Use the coffee cups from your everyday set, as long as they aren't ham-handed mugs. Mix up your drinking or wine glasses too. Ditto with your flatware, using stainless with silver or silverplate.
Instead of going with a centerpiece that will have to be moved to accommodate the food, create simple arrangement for each place setting. Fill some small, low glass vases with water, lime slices and a few fresh cut flowers, such as daisies or mums. Surround the vase with a few votives. Even though it's a daytime event, light the candles. You will all appreciate how you look in the glow.
Follow this simple, stress-free entertaining plan and your friends will bask in the special treatment. They'll always look forward to your turn. And you will too.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun