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Ease Your Anxiety: The Art of Entertaining {Recipes}

by Elise Museles

GazpachoI think we can all agree that entertaining, especially for a large crowd, is not for the faint of heart. As pleasurable as parties and events can be, the preparation and anticipation is often completely nerve-wracking and stress inducing.

Imagine throwing a lunch gathering in your home, where all 30 of your guests are deeply immersed in health and wellness…from nutritionists to food bloggers to authors to established authorities on clean living.

Now, imagine that the purpose of this event is to join an important conversation about food itself.

Yes, I had the amazing, yet terrifying opportunity to host a lunch & learn for Environmental Working Group – one of my favorite nonprofits. I was ecstatic to be a part of this, but also a bit panicked.

Suddenly, The pressure was ON. In fact, my anxiety coiled itself around me like a snake. My perfectionism that was long buried started to bubble to the surface, catapulting me into a tailspin of self-doubt.

What should I make to please everyone?
What will they rave about?
How can this lunch exceed creativity and taste – for the very people who we admire for their advice and guidance on what to eat?

The tremendous pressure to create the most crowd-pleasing menu (on earth) was now resting on my tense and tired shoulders.

Then it hit me.

I’d lost complete perspective on the real reason behind this lunch & learn. This self-imposed search for the “perfect” meal was only taking away from the joy and excitement that this lunch was supposed to provide!

Instead of worrying about every dish, I needed to embrace our common interests – our similar goal of improving the health in our communities.  And stressing about the food, or spending my time in the kitchen when everyone else was part of the experience, would have defeated my own purpose for hosting the event in the first place.

I began to realize that as long as the meal I was creating was a product of my passion and love for what I do, it didn’t matter whether someone who was grain-free decided to skip the quinoa dish or the strict vegan passed on the animal protein.

So, I took a step back and came up with a combination of dishes that had something for everyone – a menu filled with beautiful, fresh and colorful food that I could prepare in advance… and then I simply LET GO.

From my kitchen to yours, here’s a crowd-pleasing menu that will take you from jittery to joyful while creating a stress-free and seamless entertaining experience.

ewg-lunch-1c

Easy Gazpacho with Avocado.  I greeted each guest with a shot glass filled with this refreshing & cooling summer soup, which hits the spot when it’s warm outside.

Kale Chips. My friends over at Gouter make the best kale chips EVER. While they keep the recipe under wrap, their secret ingredient is nutritional yeast.  I’m working on getting them to share, but for now, you can try this one.

Sliced Kale & Kale Breakfast Hash.  I decided to test out one of my newer kale recipes.  Since my guest list was comprised of a kale-loving crowd, I went for a more innovative way to serve my favorite leafy.

Quinoa with Dried Fruits & Nuts offers plenty of plant-based protein, plus the variety of colorful fruits & veggies look gorgeous on the table.  Admittedly, this dish requires a lot of chopping, so it’s definitely more of a special occasion quinoa, not my go-to everyday version.

Lunch

Chili Lime Chicken with Fruit Salsa.  I went back and forth on whether to serve animal protein.  In the end, since I was having over 30 guests, I wanted to offer the variety.  Plus, the mango, strawberry & avocado salsa is delicious on its own.

Simple Chia Seed Pudding.  The mini martini glasses are the perfect size for this nutrient-dense dessert.  Top it off with vibrant berries to end the meal on a colorful and satisfying note.

Raw Chocolate Bark with Goji Berries.  Last but not least, I couldn’t serve a kale-filled meal without…. chocolate!

I can’t wait to hear from you. Do you stress so much over what to serve that you miss out on the reason why you’re getting together? Share your stories below and let’s help one another put the ease back into entertaining.

18 Responses to Ease Your Anxiety: The Art of Entertaining {Recipes}

  1. Susan June 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    I am so guilty of the stress entertaining! Thanks for the inspiration to step back and make it fun again. And these recipes look AH-mazing. Can’t wait to try that gazpacho!

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      Susan! You said the magic word: FUN. I hope that you can remember next time you entertain. Let me know what you think of the Gazpacho.

  2. kathy June 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    I was so honored to be a guest yesterday. Elise- everything was perfect and I’m blown away that you were able to get this post out the day after! It was wonderful to be a part of that great energy and the food looked and tasted like it was catered by a 5 star restaurant (even better as it was catered by you!). Thank you for a wonderful afternoon and thank you for all these wonderful recipes! I can’t wait to try all of them!

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      Kathy! I am so thrilled that you were not only able to enjoy the food, but also able to be a part of the conversation. Your energy & enthusiasm is so contagious. Great seeing you, as always. xo

  3. Stacey June 5, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    Um, yum! These all look delicious, but anything that involves brusell sprouts is a must try! I’ve learned not to stress about entertaining…just like I encourage my clients, food-related celebrations are really about bringing people together to reconnect, share stories, and bond with one another. I stress about the house looking clean enough more than anything else 🙂 Thanks for sharing your delicious recipes and beautiful pictures!

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      Stacey,
      So great that you are excited about the Sliced Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad. I think people either love them or hate them. It’s so true that food is an important part of the celebration, but we do have to keep in mind that it is only one part of it. Great advice that you offer to your clients…the stories, connections and bonding are what make these occasions memorable.

  4. Jean June 6, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Having some “go-to” menus is my 1st line of defense when hosting a party. I always keep my party menus in a notebook and some items always show up on my menus. This is another menu I can add to my list. Thanks, Elise. I’m going to try the gazpacho at my gathering on Saturday. Oh, and Stacey, my way to avoid worrying about a clean house is: clean the bathrooms, put out fresh towels, de-clutter table tops and forget the rest. Make sure your best friends arrive first because they love you anyway. Once there are 5 people at your party, no one can see any dirt anyway. I always have to do a really good cleaning after the party, so why do it twice?

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Jean!
      Excellent advice on the cleaning. Love your reasoning… and it’s so true that you can let go of the idea that EVERYTHING has to be perfectly clean. I want to get a peak at your notebook. I wish that I were that organized with my menus. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hannah Ransom June 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    I had to read this post because I keep thinking I need to have people over more but it stresses me out.

    That chia pudding looks so good!

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      Hi Hannah!
      If you start with some of the simpler and easy to make recipes (like the chia pudding!), it might ease some of the anxiety that goes along with entertaining. xo

  6. Julia Cohen June 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    A pleasure to share in this fabulous meal! Thank you Elise for being an inspiration to us all to eat and live healthier lives!! Ive just shared and saved all the recipes and cant wait to make the chia pudding for my 2 year old daughter. She is going to love it.

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

      Julia,
      It was so nice to have you hear and to learn more about the Food Database. I can’t wait for it to launch so that we can all have one more EWG tool to help us make more informed choices.
      So happy that you will be spreading the chia love to your daughter. You may want to let her help you as it is super easy to make. Hope she loves it!

  7. Aimee Prezzano June 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Wow, my mouth is watering, Elise. Great recipes for a soiree — simple yet elegant. And allow the food to really shine (and brilliant colors!). And a brussels and Kale salad is delish, and a great “make it in advance” salad as it does not wilt like some other greens might do.

    I love to entertain.

    My sister is a chef and she taught me a great rule of thumb from when I am hosting a party — when choosing my recipes/food to serve, don’t make all new recipes. Maybe ONE new recipe. Otherwise, it is too stressful. That way, leading up to my party I can try recipes, but not a brand-spankin’ new one on my BIG DAY 🙂 I want to feel confident and calm at my party. And having some cooking confidence under my belt helps enormously.

    The other thing that Calley drilled into my brain after seeing me scramble at my own parties one too many times (yes, that was me — I admit it!) is to make sure that when planning my menu, that I try to choose as many dishes that I can make in advance …or are just finishing in the oven when guests arrive, so I am not “actively cooking” when guests arrive. One super fresh dish is fine — but not every single side dish & dessert! Eeesh!

    Choosing meal plans wisely for entertaining at my own party is super important. Perfect time to set the ego aside! 🙂

    • Elise Museles June 6, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

      Aimee! There are so many nuggets of practical advice in your ONE comment. I only experimented with one new dish as your sister advises. I had made the Sliced Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad once before but never for a crowd. I agree to do as much as you can in advance and just leave the finishing touches for the last minute. And, so true, about setting the ego aside:). Thank you for joining the conversation here. Sounds like you know how to throw a great bash!

  8. Silvia June 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    Elise, This looks so lovely! So glad you turned the whole thing around so you could truly have and be present for the experience. I can feel it! I’m sure you had a blast!

    Yes, it’s all in the menu planning isn’t it?

    • Elise Museles June 12, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks, Silvia! I know you are the queen of menu planning and can do it in your sleep:).

  9. Melissa June 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    I love how you brought yourself back to the moment of ‘why’ you where doing this luncheon and what it means. I think most of us can admit to getting carried away from our purpose and passion at times because of the pressure. You so easily released that pressure gauge and to me that is so cool! The results of an even more amazing lunch plan is so apparent in your recipes. I am going to try making those kale chips. I’ve made others in the past but yours look so good! Also that Chia pudding is totally up my alley. I’m hoping my kids will go for it. I’m always trying to find ways to get that in their diet. Thanks for the refreshing post. I really like it here and will be back 😉

    • Elise Museles June 12, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

      Melissa! Welcome, and it’s so nice to have you here. Please do let me know whether your kids go for the Chia pudding. It’s super easy to make, so perhaps if they can help out, they might be more open to trying. Thank you for commenting.

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