Entertaining Season Is Upon Us!

Rarely am I the host of our family and friend get-togethers, but I’m proud to say this year, I’ve outdone myself.  I hosted the first dinner of the season for my close friends a few weekends ago, and personally I think it was a great success – my menu was fresh and included a delicious protein.  My guests loved it!

For those of you considering hosting the first get-together of the season amongst your own crew, I’d like to offer some simple advice.

The internet is your friend – don’t fight it – it’s the 24-hour food network and party-planner all in one.  Lately I’ve been leaning on my new passion (and possibly my first addiction), Pinterest, for new recipes and party ideas.  I love this site!  This is where my cooking inspiration often begins.

– I highly recommend testing all new recipes prior to the big event.  There’s nothing worse than being stressed over a failed new recipe at your own party!  Start with something you’ve done before and build your menu around that.

Keep it simple, prepare as much as you can the night before.  With only one exception, my entire meal was prepared the night before the party.

My menu was a rustic, down home feast consisting of slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, corn bread, quinoa salad and cheesecake-stuffed strawberries finished off with a refreshing white sangria.  It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was filling, especially with the addition of a few appetizers.  I put out a cheese & fruit platter and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus…trust me, no one left hungry that night!

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches

1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin (pork shoulder or butt can also be used)
1 (12 ounce) can of root beer
1 (18 ounce) bottle of barbecue sauce
8 hamburger buns

1. Place the pork tenderloin in a slow cooker and pour the can of root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until pork shreds easily with a fork.
2. After pork has cooked, drain and discard the root beer. Shred the pork and place it back in the slow cooker. Pour the barbecue sauce over the pork and stir to combine. Serve immediately or keep warm in slow cooker until ready to serve. Serve on hamburger buns.

Recipe courtesy of

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Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa (small disk-shaped seeds)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed if canned
1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups cooked corn (cut from about 2 large ears)
3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander

5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

1. In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve.
2. In a saucepan of salted boiling water cook quinoa 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. Set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).
3. While quinoa is cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper, jalapeños, and coriander and toss well.

Recipe courtesy of

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Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

1 lb large strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, softened (can use 1/3 less fat)
3-4 tbsp powdered sugar (4 tbsp for a sweeter filling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
graham cracker crumbs

1. Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of the strawberry. Remove the top and clean out with a paring knife, if necessary (some may already be hollow inside). Prep all strawberries and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill strawberries with cheesecake mixture. Once strawberries are filled, dip the top in graham cracker crumbs. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

Recipe courtesy of

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