If you’ve decided to host a little something to watch the Golden Globes this weekend or just want to have a game night with girls – but you are not sure about committing to a full meal, here are a few easy ideas to help lighten the load…each course can be brilliantly made ahead and reheated prior to or as guests arrive.
Easy Appetizer: Delish Low Fat Spinach and Artichoke Dip
I’ve adapted this imprecise recipe from Cooking Light…
3/4 10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 green onions, chopped, using all of the whites and some of the green
1 can drained artichoke hearts, chopped
1, 8oz block reduced fat cream cheese
8oz low fat sour cream
1 cup shredded low fat mozzarella
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesano reggiano
2 tablespoons minced garlic
garlic salt to taste
garlic powder to taste
And now what?
Saute green onions in large non-stick, high-lipped pan. When almost done, add minced garlic and artichoke hearts.
Add cream cheese in smaller portions to aid with the melting process.
Add chopped spinach and sour cream, mixing well.
When all is blended, reduce heat. Add mozzarella cheese and pecorino, stirring constantly.
Add garlic salt and powder to boost flavor (tasting bites are a must!).
Remove from heat and serve immediately (or store in microwaveable container and reheat before serving.)
I like to offer a few things to pair the dip with ~ from carrots and peppers to pita chips or toasted cubes of sourdough bread.
(Pssst! Feel free to increase quantities to ensure leftovers…this is a fabulous counterpart for sandwiches or even topped over a grilled salmon filet!)
Easy Entree: Hearty Vegetable Soup
3, 15oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
pinch crushed red pepper
cracked black pepper
grated parmesano reggiano or pecorino romano to taste
garlic powder to taste
Here’s the scoop:
Place beans, rosemary and stock in a large pot on the stove, bring to boil.
Reduce heat to low, simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
During that time, heat a skillet over medium/high heat. Add olive oil and saute the onion until soft and translucent.
Add tomatoes, crushed red pepper and black pepper and salt – cook for 2 minutes.
Add garlic cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the vegetables to pot of beans and broth, cooking for another 15 minutes at low heat.
Serve with sprinkle of cheese and crusty bread. If you’re seated on the couch instead of at the table, spoon the soup into large mugs for easy eating!
(This soup stores wonderfully and can be made a couple of days in advance – or made the day of with the thought of lovely lunches days after your gathering.)
Easy Dessert: Brown Sugar Pavolvas with Macerated Berries and Mint
For the meringue:
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use superfine…of course)
1/4 cup packed splenda brown sugar (regular is fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the creme:
1 small tub light coolwhip
2 vanilla beans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the berries:
1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup splenda brown sugar
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
And here’s what to do!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Draw 6, 4″ circles on the paper and turn the paper over so you don’t get pen/pencil on your meringues.
Beat eggwhites, constarch and salt on high until foamy (I use a KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer will work just fine!). Gently and gradually add the granulated sugar and brown sugar – spoonfulls at a time. Continue beating until thick and glossy. Add vanilla, mixing until stiff peaks form.
Fill a piping bag (or freezer bag with a small, dime-sized hole in one corner) with fluffy meringue. Trace the circles, filling in the bottom evenly, then retracing the perimeter to create a bit of a lip, so they resemble nests.
Place meringues in the oven, then immediately turn the oven down to 300 degrees.
Bake roughly one hour, checking the status toward the end to make sure they aren’t overcooking (significantly browner in color).
When finished, turn oven off and cool meringues in closed oven for roughly 4 hours (or longer) until completely dry. They should not stick to the paper or your fingers.
Gently remove meringue nests from paper and store until use.
(These are perfect made a day or two in advanced. Keep in a dry, air-tight container).
Place all washed fruits in a large bowl, add brown sugar and fresh mint.
Carefully stir until evenly coated. Let macerate. I like to make the berries the day before so they are extra juicy and delicious.
For the creme, carefully slice vanilla beans in half, lengthwise. Scrape teenytiny vanilla-bean goodness from the beans with the tip of a knife.
Stir into coolwhip.
Stir in vanilla extract.
(Creme can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.)
Assembly is simple! A single nest, generous dollop of vanilla creme, topped with berry mixture. Add a fresh sprig of mint for color contrast (but of course!)
I am a meringue lover and love to keep a few unassembled ones to crumble into my ice cream after dinner or with coffee for “breakfast” (What…not much different than an egg-white omelet, right?!)
Now we just need some fabulous dresses or some high stakes to finish the night!
(image credits) dip, soup and pavlovas shot by me