Back in the late ‘90s, Amanda came to visit me in Colorado. We were in our early 20s and the kitchen was still something of a foreign place. Somehow, we got it into our heads that we’d cook dinner for my boyfriend and his roommates. It was an epic adventure: finding an approachable recipe, wandering around the aisles at the grocery store to find ingredients, stumbling through steps and processes, using kitchen tools we’d never touched. The chicken in mushroom sauce that should have been ready in a half an hour took the whole night for us to get on the plate. I remember dropping egg-coated chicken onto the tile floor. I remember burning mushrooms. I remember shoo-ing concerned home-owners out of the kitchen, which had begun to resemble a war zone. By dinnertime, we were literally covered in flour and gravy. But we’d laughed the whole night, sipping wine and grooving to good music…and while it wasn’t necessarily a pretty plate, the food tasted GOOD.
Back then, the thought of hosting people at my home for a dinner party would have terrified me. But over 15 years later (gulp), it’s one of my favorite things to do. Part of what I love about making good food is sharing it with people I love. Whether it’s for out-of-town family gracing our guest room, local friends, 40 people or 6; whether we’re sitting at the dining room table or it’s a free-for-all buffet, I’ve grown to really enjoy the process of entertaining. I’m lucky that John is a food-loving social butterfly, too!
I try to keep a few things in mind before a get-together: make things ahead of time, keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to try something new. We recently had a few friends over for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to come up with something fun to snack on: prosciutto wrapped dates stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeño. These tasty little bites were part of a larger happy hour. To make it easier on myself, I jazzed up some store-bought snacks to accompany the homemade ones. I poured roasted tomatoes from the olive bar over creamy burrata: done. I toasted frozen samosas and served them with two sauces, a jarred chutney and leftover poblano sauce: done. I picked up some buttery Marcona almonds and a few good cheeses: done!
Before our friends arrived, I set the table to feel spring-like. One of our guests is a florist and added a beautiful bouquet to the table. We served our trusty (scrumptious) lamb burgers with yogurt-dill sauce, fingerling potatoes roasted with shallots, garlic, and herbs, and a big old Greek salad (I prepped the salad and potatoes ahead of time). When the dinner bell rang, I snapped a photo then set aside the camera so I could enjoy the time with friends. Our friends brought dessert and also helped with the dishes before they left- BONUS! Another fun and delish evening in the books, without a ton of effort or stress.
Here’s how I made the spicy stuffed dates. After slicing the date to remove the seed, I spooned a bit of soft cream cheese into it. I tucked a jalapeño slice into the cheese and wrapped the whole thing with prosciutto.
I baked them until the prosciutto had gotten a little crispy and served them hot. So easy! Sweet, salty, and spicy- my favorite flavor combination and a fun addition to our happy hour spread!
John will agree that I can let myself get stressed out before we have people over, but there’s nothing better than a group of friends laughing around the table with full bellies. If I remember what matters, entertaining is always fun.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Dates with Jalapeño and Cream Cheese
- Medjool dates, preferably pitted
- Jalapeno, sliced
- Softened cream cheese
- Sliced prosciutto
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon cream cheese and tuck a slice of jalapeno into each pitted date. Wrap with prosciutto and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about ten minutes or until the prosciutto is crispy. Serve immediately. Cheers to easy entertaining and good friends who love food. YUM.
Hungry for more? Check out the collection of recipes on the FOOD BLISS page.