It’s fun and easy to make healthy casual dinners at home. Here are my favorite tips and tricks to help you and your family/friends enjoy these times.
It’s no secret that I love to cook and I love to entertain. And yes, I am a chef. But no, I don’t always feel like cooking fancy food and my guests most often prefer a more relaxed vibe. So over the years I’ve amassed many tips and tricks to make fun healthy casual dinners at home.
Dinners can be fun without being fancy. As a matter of fact, a lot of times the less fussy, the more fun they are. This pic is of hot dog night at our house. We’ve got the dogs, of course, But we also have lettuce wraps, sauerkraut, leftover Korean pickled vegetables, leftover pasta, kimchi, crispy roasted potatoes, and a variety of condiments.
To me, the key to a fun dinner made up of leftovers and simple foods, is to take everything out of the fridge that could possibly go with the main dish. Then, put whatever hodgepodge you’ve got into individual little bowls. Put it all out together and pretend that it’s exactly as you intended it to be all along. So yes, hotdogs DO taste better on lettuce wraps. And kimchi IS as good on a dog as sauerkraut. And roasted potatoes ARE better than potato salad… just say it like you mean it and it will be awesome.
Remember, life is now a “Chopped” episode… enjoy it.
Easy Ways To Ramp Up Your Healthy Casual Dinner At Home
1. Put your condiments in bowls.
This is the simplest thing you can do. Open your refrigerator and look on the door (at least that’s where I keep most of my condiments). Take out everything that could possible taste good or look good with what your are serving. Pour them or spoon them into little bowls. Set these bowls all around the table. Already, it’s starting to look like a fun dinner in a great restaurant.
2. Put Some Healthy Wrap Options On The Table
I like to put out a platter of big lettuce leaves, cabbage leaves, blanched collard leaves, and grain-free wraps. This way everything can be eaten with your hands — which makes everything more fun. This is a really simple way to make your healthy casual dinners more fun for everyone.
3. Make Your Fries Healthy
In my book, ya gotta have fries with a casual meal. Fries make everything better. Fries can be made from standard potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other veggies. Then… you can top them with whatever ingredients go with whatever else you are serving. This is a pic of my favorite Dairy Free Sweet Potato Fries. And if you haven’t yet tried Green Bean Fries, you don’t know what you are missing.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Use The Simplest Of Foods
I can cook fancy dishes with complicated sauces… and I often do. But, nobody is ever disappointed when I serve the simplest of foods as an integral part of my healthy casual dinners at home. Burgers and dogs are always everyone’s favorites. And when you put into effect the above suggestions, you’ve really got something special. Don’t hesitate to make a variety — add in some veggie burgers or carrot dogs for fun… really, people love them.
5. Put A Big Pot Of Something On The Table
Sometimes I just feel like having soup. And even if it doesn’t “go with” my planned meal, I will put a big pot on the table. Smack in the middle. Or, if I’m having a lot of people over sometimes I’ll leave the pot simmering on the stove so people can walk around and ladle some into a bowl before dinner while we are waiting for everyone to arrive. Nobody will ever wish you didn’t serve a good soup like this Fresh Vegetable Minestrone Soup.
6. Oven-To-Table Is The Way To Go
Healthy casual dinners at home are meant to look that way. So, I have made it a practice of serving my food directly on/in whatever pan or pot I used. Sheet pans, racks, pots, skillets… all are fair game. I mean, it’s fun to eat out of a skillet, and casual to me means less clean up.
7. Cocktails Or Mocktails Can Really Lighten The Mood
Depending on my mood, I’ll either create a pitcher of a pretty cocktail/mocktail or I will set up a bar on the side. This depends on my inclination at the time and also on the amount of people I’m having over. A pretty pitcher of Manhattans, Margaritas, Sangria or Martinis can go a long way to helping guests relax. I love to serve wine with dinner — my favorites are natural, clean wines from Dry Farm Wines — but I love to serve cocktails before dinner. Sometimes, if I personally don’t feel like indulging, I’ll make a beautiful pitcher of herb water or kombucha for the center of the table.
8. Beyond The Food… Have Fun!
Okay, so maybe I don’t usually sit on my dining table. But, the idea is that I could if I wanted to because healthy casual dinners at home mean everyone, including me, has fun. Everyone needs to be relaxed. And all of your guests will take their cues from you. Yes, I am probably uber-relaxed when I entertain because this is truly my happy place, but you can be relaxed too. Especially when you follow the tips outlined above.
Healthy casual dinners at home are just that. Healthy and casual, both in food and in atmosphere. And… most importantly in state of mind. So, just breathe and have fun.