First up we have a really awesome Q&A with Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange to share. Are you guys familiar with Megan? Her blog, The Fresh Exchange, is always an inspiring read. See below for lots of great thoughts and ideas on what Easy Evenings look like to Megan.
What do easy, fun evenings look like to you?
MEGAN: Gather those you love. Have great music. Ask each individual to bring something to make the dinner come together whether it be flowers, candles, a dish, their guitar, or a special cocktail for the night. Getting guests involved makes it seem more communal and takes pressure off of you as a host. People will feel much more a part of the night and it will be memorable for years because everyone will have a memory of what each brought along for the night.
Your “Go To” easy entertaining meal or signature dish?
MEGAN: I always make sure there are healthy and smart options that are easy to make on hand. I eat mostly a vegetarian diet and do not eat a lot of dairy so I love bringing my Kale Salad with Tahini dressing to events. It is always a hit with everyone, the healthy eater or not and it takes little to no time to prepare.
Do you have any “Go To” entertaining pieces – a certain platter, linens, or serving dish you find yourself using over and over again?
MEGAN: White Dishes. Nothing is easier than having white dishes. It sounds simple, but if you look at nearly all of our simple evenings there are only 1 or 2 where we use anything other than white. The reason being is if it breaks it is easy to replace, it highlights the food, and it is easy to mix and match so guests can bring their own white plates if you don’t have enough for the evening and it still looks uniform. If you don’t have white dishes, collect them at Goodwill, Thrift stores, Garage Sales, and even clearance sales. They don’t all have to be the same and in fact when they don’t all match it looks really neat and it creates a fun talking point for the evening. I have a stack in a closet of 24 plates I tuck away for dinner parties.
Do you keep anything stocked or an “entertaining arsenal” to make casual, impromptu entertaining easier?
MEGAN: Ball jars and candles. I have 2 boxes of ball jars that have been used for anything from glassware for the evening or votives. I either collect them cheap or buy them if I see them on sale. Candles are best from Ikea. The price cannot be beat. I also order cloth napkins from restaurant stores so they come in bulk and like $.10 a piece. It doesn’t have to be ridiculously unique to be special.
Favorite cocktail or drink to serve guests?
MEGAN: We are on the White Whale Bold Mixer kick. We love it because it is fun, interactive, takes little to no work as a host, and you can just ask different guests to bring one of the liquors. Each bottle has enough to mix 8 cocktails. It is a simple 1-to-1 ratio so it is a easy for guests to make on their own and you don’t have to buy tons of ingredients and be bar tender for the night.
Favorite not so easy recipe worth mastering?
MEGAN: The best showy but amazing thing to master is Paella It feeds a ton of people, feels communal, and everyone can bring an ingredient to toss in. We have served our’s at multiple holiday parties and dinners using in season ingredients and every time it is a hit! The process is tedious and takes some chef skills but if you can get this one down you will be the hit at your next backyard party. Serve it up in the summer over an open fire and all your friends will be talking about the party even if you eat on paper plates.
Thank you so much Megan for sharing! I'm jealous of your stash of 24 white plates for dinner parties, and love the tip on buying cloth napkins in bulk so inexpensively! I've been a little intimidated by Paella (we actually just considered and nixed it for a couples shower recently) but I think it may be time to give it a go! Can't imagine anything more fun than paella over an open fire in the backyard! Thanks again Megan, and come join us for a White Whale cocktail if you're ever in town!
All images via Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange