A casual dinner party and my tip to take a store-bought dessert up a notch

This past weekend we hosted a small dinner party among friends and the goal of the night was to keep it simple and easy. Usually when I am entertaining, I tend to stress myself out with making everything from scratch…the appetizers, the desserts, all of it. But this time, I wanted to eliminate those steps and enjoy myself among good company without feeling frazzled or tired from all of the prep work.

We decided to throw steaks on the grill, so that in itself was a headache taken off of my plate. Anything grill related is passed over to J since he is the grillmaster of the house. My friends were bringing a pasta salad, so I didn’t need to fuss too much over sides, but wanted to add a fresh green salad to the mix. What was left? Apps and dessert. Here was the menu:

To start, I made an easy Whipped Ricotta dip and served it with a fresh baguette and I sliced some imported meats and chesses and piled them on a board with crackers. Then I pulled together a green salad with toasted almonds, green onions and a delicious, herb-packed Green Goddess Dressing to serve with the main course.

Finally, the dessert. I bought (yes, bought) a chocolate cake, propped it on a pretty pedestal, and surrounded it with greens cut from my yard. So easy! The cake then served as a pretty centerpiece on the island with the appetizers.

Note: Place the plastic cake top over the cake on the pedestal to keep it fresh and cut the greens ahead of time and place them aside in water until ready to assemble.

The table was super simple, as well. Brown jute placemats, black and white striped napkins, white dinner plates, fresh flowers from the grocery store, and my grandmother’s water glasses. That’s it!

With a few simple tasks to prep beforehand, my dinner turned out just as planned. Good food, yummy wine, and fun company!

Just like I love fine wine and dark chocolate, I'd love to hear from you too!