Paleo Dinner Party

happy women saying cheers with white wineI recently met a woman who told me about an interesting concept called mealsharing.com.  Meal sharing’s mission is to bring people together over home cooked meals.  You can sign up to host a dinner at your house or sign up to attend a dinner.  This woman was recently divorced and her college aged kids were having Thanksgiving with their dad.  So she signed up for a meal sharing Thanksgiving dinner and had a wonderful time eating a fabulous holiday dinner prepared by someone who loves to cook and met some friendly and interesting people.

I thought it was a great idea – I could host a paleo dinner party at my condo.  But instead of inviting strangers I invited 5 women friends.  I chose a few Thursday nights that worked for me,  emailed an invite and we picked a date.  Having a dinner party on a weeknight when you work all day can seem daunting, but just like cooking healthy meals, it’s all about planning.

Word MENUI chose a menu where everything could be made ahead.  To be respectful of everyone’s dietary needs, I emailed the menu to confirm there wasn’t anything problematic for anyone’s diet.  Here’s the dinner party menu:

Appetizers:  Salmon carpaccio and green olives with sun-dried tomatoes

Dinner:  Chicken with fig sauce, garlic mashed cauliflower, green beans with almonds

Dessert:  Bacon wrapped dates, chocolate bark, chocolate coconut peppermint squares

To make this dinner party stress free, I just did a few things each night to prepare.  On Sunday I made the chocolate coconut squares and pistachio bark.  On Tuesday evening I made the appetizers.  On Wednesday I made the chicken with fig sauce, chopped the cauliflower and roasted some garlic.  While the food was cooking, I wrapped the dates with bacon.

Thursday when I got home from work I had about an hour to prepare.  I put the appetizers into bowls, and put the chicken with fig sauce on the stove to reheat.  I steamed the green beans (in the same skillet I would use to reheat them later) and put the cauliflower in a pot to steam.

When my guests arrived and drinks were served, we all enjoyed the appetizers while I turned the heat on under the cauliflower (takes about 20-30 minutes to cook).  Once the cauliflower was fork soft I cooked the green beans and mashed the cauliflower in the food processor.  When we sat down to eat I put the bacon wrapped dates in the oven.

We enjoyed a lively conversation on a variety of topics from food to work to health to family and pets.  Although only two of the women knew each other, everyone enjoyed the dinner and we found lots of things in common.  After dinner I put a platter of the dessert options on the table and the evening continued on.  It was such a success that one of the women offered to host again in a couple of months.  It was such fun to enjoy a casual dinner with friends at home without dealing with restaurants, waiters and menus.  I can’t wait to do it again!

Recipes:

Salmon Carpaccio (Everyday Paleo around the world Italian Cuisine)

  • 4 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • sea salt and pepper

Thinly slice the smoked salmon into strips and place them in a small mixing bowel.  Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss together.

Green Olives with Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Everyday Paleo around the world Italian Cuisine)

  • 10 oz cured green olives (I like Trader Joe’s Green Ripe Olives)
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes packed in extra virgin olive oil, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Drain the olives and place in a small mixing bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Chicken with Fig Sauce (Everyday Paleo around the world Italian Cuisine)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons duck fat or ghee, divided
  • 8 oz pancetta, diced
  • 6 oz pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup shallots
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I use homemade)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup dried figs, chopped and rehydrated (to rehydrate the figs, cover with hot water and let sit on the counter until soft; approx 30 minutes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  1. Salt and pepper the chunks of chicken.  In a large skillet heat 4 tablespoons of fat over medium heat.  Add the chicken and sear for 4-5 minutes per side or until browned.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.
  2. In the same skillet, melt the other 2 tablespoons of fat. Add the pancetta, pearl onions and shallots, and cook until the pancetta is crispy and the onions and shallots are soft and carmelized.
  3. Add the chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, figs, oregano and thyme to the pan, simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken to the pan and cover with sauce.  Cover and cook until the chicken is done.  Transfer chicken and sauce to serving dish.  (The sauce is yummy spooned over the mashed cauliflower.)

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into similar size pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic (I like using roasted, but uncooked works fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee

Cook the cauliflower in a steamer until soft.  Drain and put into a food processor.  Add the garlic and ghee and process until smooth.

Green Beans with Almonds (adapted from Well Fed 2)

  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 lb of green beans
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I like using roasted, but uncooked works fine too)
  1. In a large skillet, heat and lightly toast the sliced almonds.  Remove from pan.
  2. In the same pan, place the green beans and water.  Cover and bring to a boil, steaming for 5-10 minutes until tender.  Drain the green beans and set aside and dry out the pan.
  3. Return the pan to the stove and turn the heat to low.  Add the olive oil and garlic, cook about 5 minutes.  Add the green beans and toss to coat and allow to heat through, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bacon Wrapped Dates (with or without goat cheese inside)

  • 24 whole Medjool dates, pitted
  • goat cheese (optional)
  • 1 package bacon
  • toothpicks
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Slice the bacon in half and place the bacon in a glass dish.  Microwave for a couple of minutes to partially cook (makes it cook faster so the dates don’t burn).  Cool a bit until you can handle it.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  4. Place a teaspoon of goat cheese into each date, if using.
  5. Wrap each date with half a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick.
  6. Place the bacon wrapped dates on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until bacon starts to crisp.  (Bacon tends to crisp up a bit more after cooking so remove before completely crisp.
  8. Cool and enjoy (these get seriously hot inside so let them cool first!)

Chocolate pistachio bark or Almond Joy Chocolate Bark from Elana’s Pantry

Chocolate coconut peppermint squares

I am grateful each day for wellness, happiness and the opportunity to share with you.