Last weekend was one of my favorites so far in London. We actually didn’t travel into Europe or see any historical monuments. We didn’t go to opening day at the House of Parliament and wave to the Queen, and we didn’t scout out the best fish and chips. We actually stayed around home and had a great weekend relaxing with old and new friends, good food and wine, and yes…even the sunshine showed up!
My husband has a friend from college that has been living in London for the last several years. It has been great to reconnect with him and hear about all things London. Last weekend Nate and his girlfriend Laura came to our place for dinner. Earlier in the week while I was planning out my menu, my husband asked if I would think about straying away from my healthy cookbooks. He stated that while they are great for us each week, he really wanted to host with some rich flavorful food. Challenge accepted! If I were to list out some of my top values in life, eating in a mindful healthy way is near the top. I can never abandon my values of clean eating and present any of my guests with fattening junk. Therefore, I needed to find a way to cook that would still embrace summer, fellowship, and the experience a savory meal can bring- without compromising the standards of having healthy habitudes-and it needed to be husband approved! Once my menu was planned, I showed my husband Jake and he said it sounded awesome. When Friday arrived I decided to document my entertaining journey on social media as many of you followed along. Here is the night broken down, along with all of the recipes that you must try for your friends…or for yourself asap!
First things first. Most of my ingredients I bought a head of time, but I reserved some of the fresh produce to be purchased for the day of the dinner to ensure maximum flavor! My pup Wyatt and I walked to our little fruit and veg market and picked up fresh fruit for our salad, rhubarb strawberry crisp, as well as some fresh tomatoes and basil for the caprese salad skewers. We picked up some beautiful fresh-cut flowers to add a little bit of color and fragrance to the table as well. England is very dog friendly and Wyatt was allowed in the market and the wine shop. Often you will find dogs in the pubs and on buses accompanying their families. As dog lovers, we appreciate this about the UK!
When I returned from the market I started in right away on the dessert and moved on to marinating the bourbon glazed salmon. I continued to do as much prep ahead of time as I could. I went ahead and skewered the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, baked my potatoes for the twice baked loaded sweet potatoes, and washed and prepared all of the fruits and vegetables for the salad.
The weather in England has been mild since we arrived in mid-March. It is quite nice even though I am a lover of the hot days of summer. Even the steady rain can been peaceful. We have had a couple of really nice days when the sun has made an appearance and the temp has topped off around 75 degrees or so. These days are beautiful and the nice weather weekend fueled my taste for summer flavors.
- About 1 pound of fresh fruit (or 1 cup dried fruit), singly or in combination
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup EVOO
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced, optional
- 1 to 3 teaspoons Dijon or other good quality mustard
- Salt and pepper
- 8 cups mixed greens, torn into bite-sized pieces.
- Prepare fruit. Toss the fruit with lemon juice, then cover and refrigerate while you prepare the dressing.
- Put the oil, vinegar, shallot if you're using it, mustard, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk until combined.
- Add the fruit and greens and toss until everything is well distributed and evenly coated with dressing. Serve immediately.
- Option-Instead of the mustard, use ⅓ cup crumbled goat, feta, blue cheese, or prated Parmesan and whisk until the cheese thickens the dressing (just a minute or so). Toss the salad with ½ cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, or hazelnuts.
These twice baked sweet potatoes were awesome! I left out the chickpeas because that felt like a lot of food! But add them back in as the recipe suggests and you have got a full meal! I enjoy the blog: couple cooks, and have now tried several of their recipes. They do a great job. Here is their Loaded Sweet Potato With Kale!
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar-I had honey on hand and it worked great and added unique flavor!
- 3 tablespoons bourbon
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce-I used gluten free
- 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
- ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 1½ hours, turning occasionally.
- Line baking sheet with foil for easy clean up.
- Place salmon fillets on lined baking sheets and bake at 450 degrees for approximately 15 minutes, checking often. Should come out flaky.
- Top with green onion and sesame seeds before serving!
The night was going great, our bellies were satisfied and the conversation was flowing. As far as drinks went, we started out with some bubbles, and then Nate introduced us to Ginger Beer and Jamaican Rum. With a squeeze of lime, this was a tasty drink that I would definitely try again! Nate and Laura also brought an amazing Chardonnay that they picked up especially to pair with the salmon. Fantastic! My rule with engaging in Friday night drinks is to also stay hydrated. For every cocktail, beer, or glass of wine, be sure to drink a tall glass of water before moving on to another adult beverage.
I love the idea of a slow meal and great conversation. We stayed up late talking and progressing slowly to each course and then finally to dessert. Dessert is not necessarily a part of our every day diet, but life is all about balance, and if you choose how and when to consume the sweet stuff it can actually help you stay on track for the long haul. There is no need to feel deprived. This Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp served with a high quality organic vanilla ice cream has minimal and all natural ingredients. When you are reviewing recipes don’t be afraid to replace and switch out some ingredients for healthier choices. (For example, I used splet flour for my topping to keep this dessert gluten-free.) Simply google your conversions and feel better about the ingredients you are adding! Summer never tasted so good! And this recipe is from a dude food blogger…you don’t see that too often!
We ended the night watching some You Tube videos of Jimmy Fallon and said good night around 2:00 a.m. Needless to say my 9:00 a.m. Saturday run got pushed back to the afternoon!
We have been so blessed by having some extremely warm and welcoming neighbors. Of course we all met by being outside with our dogs, and our South African friends have shown us kindness ever since. Carla’s husband Ryan is Irish and a phenomenal home cook and wine lover. They invited us over for dinner on Saturday night along with another friend-a wine distributor from South Africa who was in London doing a tasting. He also brought along a colleague from New Zealand, a wine maker there, and they both brought some exquisite wines for us all to taste and talk about while we enjoyed Ryan’s cooking. What a great opportunity and lovely time getting to know them.
Experiencing life, culture, history, and habitudes in other countries is a gift I never thought I would encounter. However, seeing different parts of the world doesn’t fill me up like spending time with people. I love my friends and family. I am blessed and rich because of you! Cheers to dinners that last long into the night!