6 Dorm-Inspired Decorating Tips

Take some tips from your aspiring scholars and try these 6 dorm-inspired ideas for creative and inexpensive storage and decorating solutions. Even if your college years are long gone, you can still benefit from the practical solutions inspired by the small quarters on campus. 

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Here are 6 easy, ingenious ideas inspired by clever dorm room décor:

  1. Multipurpose furniture is great because it’s easy to move around, provides extra storage and adds more function to small space design. When you don’t have a lot of room, no item or space should be wasted. Think chairs that turn into beds, or poufs and ottomans that double as extra seating. Have a closet that you want to put to good use? Add extra shelves or a small desk and turn it into a hideaway craft center or office. 
  2. Add cheer to your space and banish boredom with pops of color and bright patterns. Don’t have time to paint?  Hang a bold tapestry or piece of fabric behind a couch for a fun punch. Or try adding a few easy-to-remove wall decals to add interest to plain walls. Removable wallpaper is another fun option to try, without having to make a big commitment. s
  3. Casters on everything! Add wheels to your furniture so it can be rearranged easily, depending on your changing needs. Repurpose a rolling bar cart into an end table, nightstand, or bath cart. Wheel your coffee table aside for cozy sleepovers or movie night. Add casters to cubed bookcases for mobile storage for everything from kitchen gear to bath essentials to office supplies and more. They’re amazing room dividers, pop up bars, consoles behind a couch, or tuck small items into colored bins for a sleek storage solution.
  4. Soft textiles warm up cold impersonal dorm rooms, and can do the same for your space. Place a pretty throw rug next to your bed, add curtains to soften windows or use them to divide a space, hide storage, or create a canopy for a bed or reading nook. Anchor and warm a sleeping space with a make-and-mount fabric-covered “headboard.” Colorful throw pillows work magic on tired couches, side chairs, benches, and beds.

Combat clutter and streamline your space with smart solutions. Use bed risers to give yourself extra storage space for bins of off season linens, clothes or extra blankest and pillows. Bath product totes don’t have to stay in the dorm hallway; use them to corral hair sprays and gels, styling tools or even kitchen spices. And, don’t forget the inside of closet doors as prime storage space!

Despite the trappings of the texting era, a cork board, whiteboard or chalkboard on a door is still the hallmark of college living. They’re great for jotting down notes, leaving messages for roomies or tracking to-do lists. Incorporate the idea throughout your home in clever ways. Either buy pre-made boards or consider trying out fun, functional chalkboard paint on a wall or back of a door. 

What’s your favorite dorm decorating tip?

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25 Ideas to Host a Better Outdoor Party

Summer’s here and it’s time to party! Take your backyard bash to the next level with my 25 easy tips for entertaining outdoors.

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Take the Indoors Outside. Don’t be afraid to move your comfy and easy-to-move indoor furniture and décor outside for the party. You’ll make the party space look cooler and feel comfier all at the same time. 

1. Use a mobile cart or console table to set up an impromptu drinks station near your seating area 

2. Situation couch cushions andpoufs on a large blanket to create a cozy conversation area

3. Build a backyard living room with a throw rug, a cot or futon layered with pillows, and side chairs

4. Cover your picnic table with a pretty patterned tablecloth and mismatched dishes for that shabby chic look

5. If you need extra seating, mix dining chairs with patio chairs and use small throw pillows as seat cushions

6. Add that special touch by hanging a small chandelier above your outdoor table. Lit or not, it’s sure to impress.

How to Handle Wind & Insects. You know they’re gonna be there … best plan ahead. 

7. Surround the eating and seating area with citronella torches or candles to keep mosquitoes at bay

8. Pin a sandwich baggie filled with beans to the corners of your tablecloth to keep things from blowing about. 

9. Upside down mesh colanders are a perfect way to protect dishes from bees and flies 

10. Provide bug repellant wipes and sprays in a pretty pail for easy guest access

Embrace the Elements. Use touches of nature to add a pretty, casual feel to your décor .

11. Summery sand pails and cute flower pots are great containers for floral arrangements, dining utensils on a buffet, or lined with wax paper, for tall snacks like breadsticks or pretzel rods.

12. Decorate place settings with sea shells and use river rocks to weigh down napkins

13. Fill a shallow dish with water and float garden flowers inside for an inexpensive, bright centerpiece

14. Use twine to tie up rolls of silverware in napkins

15. Create a long centerpiece with greens, moss, stones, and flowers from your garden

Let there be light … to keep the party going after dark:

16. Hang lanterns in the trees surrounding your outdoor space or seating area

17. String plenty of plain white party lights under the table umbrella, in trees, along fences and throughout your foliage for a fun, festive feel 

18. Cluster battery powered “candles” on decks, buffets, tables and around seating areas for a beautiful glow

19. Hang a plain white sheet as a movie screen against a wall then project your favorite flick for a backyard drive-in feel

The Best Time Had By All. You can make your party fun and comfortable for your guests, while being sure to have a great time as well. 

20. Buy rolls of brown or white craft paper to use as table coverings for a casual look and easy cleanup

21. Don’t have enough chairs for everybody? Stick with skewers, finger food, pre-buttered corn on the cob, and one-handed desserts like cookies, brownies and ice cream sandwiches.

22. Organize your party essentials on trays for easy set up at stations: empty glasses near the beverage dispenser, mixers and garnishes by the bar, and condiments on the buffet

23. Chill drinks, dips, and other small items in a slightly larger bowl filled with ice

24. Take advantage of your space. Spread the sitting area, dining area, buffet and drinks spot in different locations around your yard to keep the party flow going 

25. Don’t have outdoor speakers? A cordless Bluetooth setup and an iPod playlist are all you need for keeping the music hopping all night long. 

Ready to squeeze every ounce of outdoor fun you can out of backyard entertaining this summer? Use these tips to have a blast through the warm months and beyond until the winter forces you back indoors.

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10 Tips to Teach Your Kids About Cooking

Bringing the kiddos into the kitchen is a great way to spend quality time together, and an opportunity to teach them a lifelong skill. Now, it may sound like things could get pretty messy … and they could. But, I promise it’ll be totally worth it.

The thing is, kids who help out with cooking and shopping for food tend to end up as healthier, more adventurous eaters. Plus, you’re packing in more quality time together when you’d likely be separated — you at the stove, them at the TV waiting for dinner. 

Cooking together is a great creative outlet for you to share with your kids and once they get the hang of things, you’ll havea sous chef to work with every night. The most important thing to remember is that kids learn through play, so make it fun. 

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Here are 10 ideas to invite your kids into the kitchen to play with (and learn about!) their food:

1.Take them grocery shopping. Talk to your kids about different ingredients you select and what dishes you’re buying them for. If you can, visit a farm or farmer’s market to pick out seasonal produce and show the kids where food really comes from. Let them choose an ingredient or two they want to try out, then find a recipe you can make together using whatever they get. 

2.Show them how to be safe in the kitchen. Point out dangers like the flame on the stove, pots and pans with hot food in them, and teach them to use hot mitts to touch hot things. Demonstrate how dangerous sharp knives and tools can be, and make sure they know exactly what can and can’t touch. Explain basic kitchen hygiene like washing your hands, keeping your hair pulled back and avoiding the double-dip so no one spreads any germs around. 

3.Give the kitchen a kid-friendly makeover. Bring in a slip-proof step stool or create a low work table where kids can easily get to the task at hand. Stock up on some just-my-size kitchen tools and mixing bowls with no-slide rubber bottoms. Before starting, cover their work service with a disposable tablecloth for easy cleanup. Extra dishtowels and non-skid cutting boards are also a good idea. 

4.Manage your expectations. This one may be the hardest for you, but realize that cooking with kids is going to take a little longer than doing it alone. Plus, like I mentioned, someone’s most likely going to make a mess. Don’t let yourself stress about it. Get into your zen place and let the process take the time it takes. Enjoy bonding with the kids, and don’t worry if dinner’s a little late or doesn’t taste as good as it could. Your Jr. Chef will be proud of the accomplishment, and you’ll both have a fun memory to share. 

5.Cook using recipes. Although you may be the kind of cook who wings every dish, teach the kids how a recipe is laid out and how to follow the instructions. You can even get them their own cookbooks so they can choose their own dishes to try out. With smaller kids, flip through the pages storybook style and let them choose recipes by the picture. 

6.Play “match the measurement” together. Create a matching game where your kids read an ingredient on the recipe then choose the right tool to measure out the correct amount. Play every time you cook together, and they’ll be total pros before you know it. “You want me to get you a quarter cup of milk and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar, mom? No problem!” 

7.Put your mess in its place. In the industry it’s known as mis en place; a French term for prepping all the ingredients you need for a recipe before you start cooking. Show kids how to put pre-measured items into separate small bowls to have everything at the ready once you get going. (This is a great tip that works for grown ups, too!)

8.Let ’em do it on their own. Show your kids how to do tasks like cracking eggs or tossing salads, then give them a chance to try it themselves. Sure you might end up crunching on a bit of shell or cleaning up stray arugula from the floor, but how else will they learn to do it right? Depending on their age, interest and ability, feel free to let them whisk the batter, wash the veggies, stir the soup and even chop those semi-soft ingredients with a kid-friendly knife. Think challenging, but age appropriate at the same time.

9.Bring out the kitchen toys. All kids love toys, so try to incorporate fun kitchen tools like rolling pins, cookie cutters, or blenders whenever possible. Introduce older kids to the more complicated gadgets like stand mixers, pasta machines, and ice cream mixers when they’re ready. 

10.Teach them to develop their own dishes. Once the kids get comfortable in the kitchen, give them some creative space to try different ingredients they’re interested in. Allow them to experiment with different flavor combinations and even cook the dishes they make up. You can even host a “tasting” where they show off their masterpiece to the rest of the family.

Remember! The key here is to enjoy your time with your kids. The having more helpful hands in the kitchen? Well, that’s just the gravy on top.

Share your stories of cooking with the kids below. Be sure to let me know what other ways you come up with to invite them into the kitchen!

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Recipe-Free: Vinaigrette

You know, the easiest and most convenient way to get more greens into your diet is with a big, hearty leaf-y-licious salad. Though, the store-bought creamy, fatty salad dressings we sometimes pour on top of our veggie pile, almost defeats the purpose. So, I want to share with you a great no-recipe recipe for a healthier vinaigrette you can make from stuff you’ve already got in your cabinets at home.

This is a really great basic technique to have in your cooking repertoire that will allow you to bust out thick, delicious, home-made vinaigrette, recipe-free in minutes! With one simple proportion to remember, you can easily combine lots of fun ingredients to make your own flavorful dressing that you can also use as a marinade or to drizzle over veggies and fish.

Your vinaigrette will keep well in the fridge for up to a full week, so you can get the most out of your tasty batch. Just bring it to room temp and whisk it a little with a fork before serving. Another idea? Use your vinaigrette to dress pasta and grain salads for a delicious treat.

Just Remember … 1:3

A vinaigrette is a mixture of oil (I prefer olive oil for its flavor and health benefits) and vinegar which is where you can get creative). The general proportion for vinaigrettes is 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts oil (to taste).   

Vinegars to Experiment With:

  • Balsamic – great for Italian vinaigrettes
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – lightly sweet, pairs really well with fall flavors
  • White Wine or Champagne Vinegar – elegant, neutral, lightly flavored and colored
  • Red Wine Vinegar – perfect for Greek salads and grilled meats
  • Rice Wine Vinegar – lightly sweet and great for Asian dressings

Get that creamy, thick finish for your home-made vinaigrette using my simple trick to get the oil and vinegar to bind well. This step is what I call the “insurance phase” when I teach cooking classes, and it’s an easy way to add a burst of flavor to your dressing. Just add a teaspoon or two at first, then more as needed.

Insurance Ingredient Options:

  • Maple Syrup – amazing with balsamic and cider vinegars
  • Dijon Mustard – a staple that works in all dressings
  • Honey – pairs well with any vinegar for a lightly sweet finish 
  • All Fruit Jam – orange marmalade and apricot jam are amazing with rice wine vinegar. Raspberry works wonders on red or white wine vinegar

Whisk it Up!

Pour your vinegar and one of the thickeners above into a medium sized bowl.

Slooooowly add the oil, whisking continuously, until combined. Start with the magic ratio: 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and taste. If it’s too tart, add a little more oil until it’s just right. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This method will give you a delicious, thick, basic vinaigrette.  

In the mood to get a little more creative? 

Try these easy add-ins to create your own custom version of vinaigrette:

  • Add minced garlic, shallot or onion for some extra bite
  • Chopped fresh herbs like dill, basil, parsley and tarragon work well in vinaigrettes
  • Slash calories and fat by replacing bit of the oil with chicken stock, fruit juice, pureed roasted peppers, or water
  • Replace some of the oil with flavored oil for a taste twist (sesame, walnut or hazelnut)

Here are some of my fav combos to get you started:

  • Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette: Balsamic Vinegar + Maple Syrup + Shallots + Olive Oil 
  • Greek Vinaigrette: Red Wine Vinegar + Dijon Mustard + Red Onion + Dill + Olive Oil 
  • Orange-Sesame Asian Vinaigrette: Rice Wine Vinegar + Orange Marmalade + Sesame Oil + Olive Oil
  • French Vinaigrette: White Wine Vinegar + Dijon Mustard + Honey + Tarragon + Olive Oil

What’s your favorite vinaigrette flavor combination?

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Find a Use for Your Flutes

Don’t save your fancy flutes for super special occasions only. You can enjoy using them any time as a fun way to make any event a little more memorable.

Although people traditionally reserve the bubbly for New Year’s Eve or a wedding, there’s a lot to be said about kicking off a party with a taste of champagne or toasting the end of a lovely dinner with a flute of prosecco and a bit of sweet elderflower liqueur. 

So, why not make a new habit of using those champagne flutes by introducing them at your next party, no matter what the occasion is? Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Champagne or Prosecco Cocktails 

Get in touch with your inner mixologist and try your hand at a variety of bubbly-based drinks that not only look gorgeous served in a flute, but are also super delicious.

  • Champagne Cocktail – this classic concoction dates back to the mid-19th century and is as simple to make as it is enjoyable to drink. Drop one sugar cube in a champagne flute, add 5 drops of Angostura bitters then fill 3/4 of the way with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist, orangeslice or half a strawberry.
  • Barbotage – add some cognac or brandy and Grand Marnier to a champagne flute then fill with bubbly for a trendy and tasty tipple.
  • French 75 – Although several variations exist of this popular cocktail, my favorite recipe consists of a splash of simple syrup, splash of lemon juice and and ounce of gin. Top it off with bubbly and garnished with a lemon twist. Yum!
  • Kir Royale – créme de cassis adds a lovely red tint to prosecco or champagne for a classic, classy cocktail.
  • Poinsettia – a perfectly festive drink for the holidays, just add 1 part triple sec to 4 parts bubbly and add a splash of cranberry juice for color. Garnish with a single cranberry.

Build a Bubbly Bar

A great idea for brunch, you can build your own bubbly bar where guests can create their own versions of mimosas, bellinisor other champagne-based cocktails. Simply set up a table with a variety of juices and fruit nectars in pretty carafes, and a small tub of ice filled with prosecco and club soda for non-imbibers. Add a display of your fabulous flutes and you’re all set!

Note: As a host, you want to be sure non-drinkers feel included in the festivities. Along with the boozier drinks, offer options that use cider, seltzer, or ginger ale as the bubbly part. Have fun trying different fruit nectars, juices and flavored syrups to create your own signature mock-tails. 

Serve Dessert in Style

Think beyond the bubbly and use your champagne flutes as a striking and elegant way to present your desserts. Think rich homemade ice cream, gelato, or a decadent mousse parfait. Top with berries, chocolate shavings or fresh whipped cream, and serve with long handled spoons so everyone can get to all the delicious goodness.

What other uses can you think of for your flutes? Share your ideas below! 

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Thank Your Holiday Host with a Better Bottle

Thank Your Holiday Host with a Better Bottle

The holiday season is a time for spending time with family and friends, celebrating and giving gifts, and of course … parties! 

Now, you never want to show up at a party empty handed and a bottle of wine is a great go-to gift, which is why most people will be doing the same thing. To make your gift stand out, here are a few creative tips for wine gifts that wow.

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3 Fundamentals to Wine Pairing

3 Fundamentals to Wine Pairing

Nearly every culture around the world includes wine on the dinner table. You want to know why? Because wine makes food taste better! When you get the perfect pairing of wine and food, you can really indulge in savoring the flavors so you enjoy every bite and sip. 

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Some Basic Tips About Wine

Some Basic Tips About Wine

One of life’s greatest pleasures is enjoying a perfectly paired glass of wine with a delicious meal.  

The right wine can actually enhance the flavor of your food for a more fulfilling dining experience, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating or expensive for you to enjoy it.

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Create a Cozy Coffee Happy Hour

Everyone loves to savor a warm cup of coffee at the end of a lovely dinner or great party. So, why not take things up a notch and make it special?

Hosting a coffee happy hour is a fun way to make a plain old cup of coffee feel fancy, and it’s a nice way to wind down the evening with your friends. With just a few tips and tricks, you can set up a super special coffee bar that’s sure to impress.

First, you want to choose a location where your guests will be comfortable with plenty of space and seating for lingering and chatting. Then select a spot in that room where you can set up a coffee bar, and be sure to check that there are outlets nearby and you have any extension cords you need to plug urns or coffee makers into.

Plan your coffee hour ahead of time so you’re sure to have everything you need.

You’ll want to consider things like:

  • how many guests you will be serving
  • what appliances or vessels you’ll need to make the beverages and keep them hot
  • the number of teacups and saucers, coffee mugs or even disposable cups you’ll need
  • what beverages you’ll serve (coffee is great, but cocoa, hot tea and warm ciders can be tasty additions, too)
  • how many spoons, stirrers, and other extras like sugar, creamer, honey, lemon wedges, teabags, etc. your guests will need

Note: If you’ve got enough teacups and saucers of your grandma’s old china, or enough cups that came with that fancy set you got for your wedding, now is the time to pull them out and put them to good use! 

Set Your Coffee Bar Up Before Your Guests Arrive

If you prepare your coffee station ahead of time, you’ll be able to relax with your guests instead of running around looking for more spoons or washing out cups. 

As you set up the table, organize the elements to create a logical flow of traffic. Put the cups and saucers at one end, followed by the percolators and/or carafes, then put all of the extras at the end. Get creative with the display. Teabags can be super cute in a pretty box and a tiered rack is a perfect presentation for sugars, coffee pods, and other extras. And, don’t forget the special touches like a pretty tablecloth, flowers and cute little decorations.

Make it Memorable

Add a gourmet flair to your coffee bar with a variety of flavored syrups, liqueurs and special extras like cinnamon sticks, marshmallows for cocoa, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Then, instead of displaying coffee and sugar on that tiered tray, use it for adorable petit fours, biscotti, after dinner mints, and truffles.

Note: If you have an espresso machine, feel free to add it to the mix. Just be prepared to serve as a tutor for guests who haven’t had experience with using them before.

Your cozy coffee happy hour doesn’t have to happen after a long dinner or jamming party. Try hosting one as a fun get together for brunch, or just as a way to spend time with friends on a cool, crisp fall afternoon.

What’s your favorite hot beverage you’d be stoked to find on a friend’s coffee hour bar? Let us know in the comments below!

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Quiche Your Way to Healthier Eating

Nothing beats a quiche for being a super simple, way tasty way to add a protein and nutrient punch to your diet. Luckily, we’ve all learned that eggs aren’t the “cholesterol bombs” they were once thought to be. In fact, they offer a slew of health benefits and in the form of a quiche, they’re perfect to enjoy any time of day!

Eggs are only 70 calories a piece and they pack a full 6 grams of high quality protein in each one. Although there’s a trend to stick to just the whites, the yolks are actually where almost half the protein and a large part of nutrients are stored. When you eat protein after exercise, it helps build and maintain muscle strength. At other times, it works to prevent muscle loss. How great is that?

One of my favorite recipes (that’s always a hit with the family!) is my Mini Quiches with Cheddar & Chive. They’re inexpensive and super easy to make. All you do is whisk together a handful of ingredients, pour into muffin pan and bake. Plus, they’re delicious warm or room temp.

Feel free to play around with different ingredients when you’re making your quiches (I added some options at the bottom of the Cheddar & Chive recipe). You can also freeze a batch or two to have simple, tasty, healthy snacks at the ready. Another great option to try is my Mini Frittatas with Grilled Asparagus & Gruyere.  

Have fun trying out these recipes and feel better knowing you’re doing your body good at the same time. Be sure to let me know what tasty flavor combos you come up with on your own!

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Healthy Tips for Ordering Takeout

Whether you’ve had a long day at work or just don’t feel like cooking this weekend, takeout is an easy go-to option for dinner. Problem is, those delivery foods we tend to choose are generally packed with fatty, greasy goodness. Delicious as it may be, there’s a better way to get your takeout fix without doing so much damage to your diet. 

Try these easy tips to make healthier choices with all your speed dial delivery favs:

Chinese Food: Skip the spare ribs, egg rolls and sesame noodles and opt for soups or steamed dumplings. For your entrées, think healthy, steamed veggies and lean protein, and ask for the sauce on the side. Avoid dishes with deep-fried components like General Tso’s and go for brown rice over white. 

Pizza: Go for the thin crust over deep-dish and avoid anything that has “meat lovers” or “quadruple cheese” in the description. Instead, choose veggies for your toppings and add a salad to your order so you can fill up with greens instead of a second or third slice. 

Thai Food: As a general rule, appetizers are the healthier options for Thai. Try green papaya salad, summer rolls (vs. fried spring rolls) and chicken satay skewers to start. For your entrée, you could share a more indulgent Pad Thai or curry dish.

Sushi:  Edamame and miso soup are great for boosting your protein, and they’re a lot better for you than fried gyoza. Get your veggies in with a seaweed or broccoli salad. When it comes to ordering rolls, buzz words to stay away from are tempura or crunchy (means fried) and spicy or crazy (equals mayo). Instead opt for simple fish combos, heart-healthy avocado rolls, and if you want crunch, add it with cucumber.   

Indian Food: For starters, skip the filled naan and fried samosas, and go for the lentil soup instead. Avoid cream-based curry when it comes to your entrée, and try a lean tandoori grilled chicken with veggies, chicken tikka or a vegetable-based stew. 

Mexican Food: Fajitas are the way to go when it comes to Mexican. They’ve got lean grilled meats, lots of veggies, and you get to control your own portions. For garnishes, stick to guacamole and salsa and go easy on the sour cream and cheese. But, if you’re in the mood for a burrito that’s fine. Just ask the restaurant to light on the rice and cheese and add more beans and veggies. If there’s a “bowl” option, choose that to avoid the tortilla and add in some greens.

Italian Food: A filling vegetable minestrone and hearty green salad (instead of Caesar) are a great way to start your meal. For entrées, go for non-fried, lean protein dishes like chicken marsala, shrimp in white wine sauce or a non-cream based fish dish.  

Burgers and Wings: This is a toughie, but you can still get your fix while making smarter choices. One option, if your spot offers it, is to go for the grilled chicken salad. You can also stick with kid-sized portions and skip the fries. Now, if fries are a must (and I totally get that), go ahead and live it up a bit, but swap out the burger for a grilled chicken sandwich with double lettuce and tomato. When it comes to wings, ask for extra carrots and celery to boost your veggies and fill up on the good stuff (go easy on the blue cheese) before really digging in. 

So, the next time your answer to, “What are you making for dinner?” is “A phone call,” use these tips to make smarter choices and feel better about indulging in a healthier way.

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Host a Banging Brunch

Nothing’s better on a weekend than a nice lazy brunch catching up with friends. But, who has time for those long waits at the local spots? Nobody. So, skip the line and host your own banging brunch at home.

Brunch s a casual occasion by nature, so this is a super stress-free way to get together and enjoy some quality time. Plus, with just a little bit of planning, you can still sleep in on Saturday morning and get your private brunch on that same afternoon.

Do-Ahead Dishes

The key to an easy, breezy brunch is to stick with make-ahead meals to keep it super simple. 

Egg Course: The obvious go-to for brunch, eggs are a must. A great, easy way to incorporate them into your menu are with my Bite-Sized Bacon, Egg & Cheese Frittatas. You can make them the day before and gently reheat before serving. They’re also pretty tasty at room temperature. A baked strata is another idea that you can assemble the night before and pop in the oven when you wake up.

Something Sweet: French toast casseroles or frozen cinnamon buns are easily baked the morning of, or you can try my Citrusy Belgian Waffles with Crème Fraîche & Raspberries. They’re super delicious and you can make them before the troops arrive, then keep them warm on a resting rack in oven.

Something Savory: If you prefer the lunch side of brunch, a smoked salmon platter with cream cheese, minced onions and capers is great alongside pre-sliced bagels, or you could go for a small spiral ham with fruit chutney. If you can’t brunch without bacon, bake it in advance and and keep it warm in the oven.

Bakery Basket: Use a pretty cloth napkin to line a basket and then pile it with bagels, muffins and cookies. Take things up a notch by baking fresh Toasted Oat Scones with Cranberry & Ginger or just have friends grab treats from the bakery on their way over. Baked goods is a great answer to brunch guests when they ask, “What can I bring?”

Pretty Parfaits: For a simple, serve yourself setting, put out a variety of yogurts, granola and fresh fruit (buy precut!), then set guests up with serving bowls or parfait glasses to make their own layered treat. 

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee: Set up your coffee maker the night before and borrow carafes as needed. Want to make it even easier? Put a Keurig on the counter with a basket containing a variety of coffees and teas. 

Boozy Brunch: Um, of course! Grab a bottle or two of bubbly and offer a variety of juices for make-your-own-mimosas (mango is an amazing option to traditional OJ) or blow them away with my special Spicy Sriracha Bloody Marys.  

Buffet Your Way to Easy Brunch

No need to worry about place settings. Just make sure you’ve got enough seating and set up a serve-yourself buffet. Don’t have enough space in one room to put everything out? Great! Using multiple places to split up food and drinks actually works super well to control traffic and encourage mingling. Keep warm dishes in the kitchen, set out baked goods on the dining table or sideboard, and build your bar in the living room or den.

The pro tip is to set everything up the night before with post-it notes to label where everything goes. This not only makes sure you keep your plan straight, it’s a good way to help any helpers help you. All your plates, utensils, glasses and coffee cups can be set up the night before, too.

Lounge & Linger

Ask any weekend server: brunch is a long, lazy meal that can last for hours. It’s not so great for restaurant turnover, but it’s awesome for giving your guests an excuse to rest and relax before heading back to work on Monday.

Here are some ideas to set the scene and make your guests comfortable and content:

  • To encourage lounging, make sure there are plenty of places to sit and lay out floor cushions to create a casual space for hanging.
  • Add ambiance with flowers, but put them on a buffet where they won’t block conversation.
  • Make self-service a snap with pre-sliced bagels and breads, and already-cut-into-portions casseroles, and roll utensils into napkins to have at the ready on the buffet. 
  • Place extra pitchers of water with glasses on the side, or ice buckets with individual-sized bottles in a couple of easy access spots.
  • Create a fun playlist in advance or try a groovy Pandora channel for background music. Or, find that early-arriver guest who loves to DJ and put them on task when they show up.
  • Put out crossword puzzles and pens, print out the funny pages or take it old school with a fun round of Mad Libs to enhance the entertainment. 

Now, how simple is that? You can practically set up and host your banging brunch in less time than it takes to go out, and you’ll have tons more fun as a result. 

Have your own easy ideas for weekend brunch at home? Share them with us below!

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