murder mystery tour is waiting to take you away

10 tips for throwing a budget savvy dinner party for 20 people

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Last weekend, I had a blast planning a Murder Mystery Dinner Tour in East Troy for a fantastic group of people. Here's what I did to make things easier: 

1. Use flatware and plates you have on-hand. Not everything has to match perfectly, in fact it's sometimes better if it doesn't. We mismatched clear and white plates for service and used 3 different flatware sets...gold, silver, and more silver -different shape. Nobody cared and everyone thought that table setting was lovely.

2. Use nature. We pulled leaves, branches, and flowers from the park. A weeping willow tree is the perfect companion for bright, happy yellow flowers. 

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3. Have lots of bread and easy dips/tapenades on the table to start. Store-bought is fine as long as you garnish and make beautiful. This helps fill people up and gets them drinking and laughing together.

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4. Always plate the food if you are trying to control portions. I plated the salad, dinner, and dessert so I knew that everyone was receiving the same amount and no one got seconds....still hungry?? Eat more bread :)

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5. Potatoes should be the starch of choice for any dinner party. They are affordable, delicious and go a long way. 

6. Slow cook meats. They stay moist, are always perfectly cooked and falling apart with flavor and yumminess. For chicken and salmon, cook to temperature and add a pan sauce to help add flavor and keep moist during serving. 

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7. Say vegetable medley on the menu. You can buy vegetables that look the best the day of the party. Don't limit yourself to anything concrete. 

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8. Make a menu that is easily Gluten & Dairy-free. That way, you don't have anyone chiming in last minute with special requests that you can't accommodate. So many things are naturally dairy and gluten-free. I always use vegan butter and olive oil when cooking vegetables and searing meat and I use almond milk in place of cow milk. Feel free to do the same. I promise nobody notices.

9. When it comes to dessert, don't give a choice. Plate a small scoop of whatever you have to offer. Only crazy people will turn down dessert. Don't give them that option. Dessert is the highlight of life. EAT IT!

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10. Make sure to have fun and enjoy yourself when entertaining. If you have found that you are someone that can't relax while putting on a show, then hire someone else (me) to do it for you. 

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lemon pepper salmon

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pan seared chicken cutlets

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braised beef tenderloin

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roasted vegetables

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vegan truffle mashed potatoes

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key lime pie

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mixed berry cobbler

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chocolate pecan pie

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vanilla bean whip

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Healthy Lunch Box

Check out this awesome video from my friends at WeAreTeachers.com. Drizzling never looked so good. (Maybe I should be a hand model?)

The challenge was to spend $25 on groceries and create 5 unique, easy-to-make lunches that anyone could take to work. It's like taking a trip around the world without leaving your kitchen. Asia, Greece, Italy - all from one rotisserie chicken. Stop spending all that money running out to get Panera or fast food and bring a lunch made with love instead. Oh and it's not just for teachers but for construction workers, lawyers and professional clowns too!

 

BBQ Chicken Pita

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Chicken Caprese Salad

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Chicken Salad

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Greek Pita

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Sesame Stir Fry

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Next week...dinner party on a budget.

Spice Up Your Summer!

I'm writing this on the first day of Summer, my favorite time of year! This past week, we've settled into our new home, adjusted to our new commutes and are just focusing on getting to know our new neighborhood. I'm so pumped to try out the Farmer's Market that's only a mile from our house. I plan on throwing the kids in a wagon and walking there on the trail behind our house. (http://www.brookfieldfarmersmarket.com/)

I set up my happy place. Isn't it beautiful??? It all starts in the kitchen and I needed to have everything in its place to feel at home. 

This week's recipes all have a little kick to them. Black bean burgers, Sweet and Spicy cauliflower, Chipotle Salmon Cakes and Stuffed Peppers. We really try to eat vegetarian as much as possible because I want my kids to love and crave veggies so we figure just give them no option!

In the theme of spicing things up, the kid's rooms are starting to come to life, beginning with the closets. Decorating a new house is a little like seasoning a meal, since it's all about accents. As we get more settled, we'll show more of the house. 

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Spicy Week Grocery list

 

Black Bean Burgers

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DON'T YOU JUST WANNA TAKE A BITE???

The black bean burgers are super versatile and they freeze well. I always double the recipe when I make them and freeze half. I like to crumble them into tacos, make lettuce wraps when I'm feeling like I need to lighten my load, or have them with sriracha on a salty pretzel bun when I need a reward.  

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BLACK BEAN BURGER 

 

SWEET AND SPICY CAULIFLOWER

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STUFFED PEPPERS

The stuffed peppers are a client favorite. Even people that think they don't like stuffed peppers like these and they ask for them on repeat. Pete and repeat were on a boat and Pete jumped off. Who was left? Repeat. Pete and repeat were on a boat and Pete jumped off. Who was left? Repeat.Pete and repeat were on a boat and Pete jumped off. Who was left? Repeat.

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what do you call a fish with a tie? sofishticated.

CHIPOTLE Salmon cakes

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Next week will be the weekend before the 4th of July, so we'll have a special grilling focused menu. See you then!

Moving into Asian Week

Move into summer with these Asian Inspired recipes: Spring Rolls, Asian Slaw & Ginger Soy Stir Fry

 Signing the papers to our Home Sweet Home! ps. that's a huge bottle of celebratory Tito's in that bag. 

Signing the papers to our Home Sweet Home! ps. that's a huge bottle of celebratory Tito's in that bag. 

Last week was nuts with the move into our new dream home. But after a few days of nonstop unpacking, hanging, drilling and rearranging, we’re basically settled. I don’t know about you, but I can’t live out of boxes so I took the kids to grandma’s house and just focused on unpacking and decorating. The last time I moved was six years ago pre-kids so this time was a lot more stressful. But here’s what I learned:

The top 4 things I learned moving my family across town:

Number 1. Hire movers. Do it. Whatever it costs. It took professionals 12 hours to take our 3 bedroom home and bring it to the new place. I can’t imagine what it would have taken if it was us and some reluctant friends. 

Number 2. Get rid of the kids for a couple of days. We took them to my parents house and I focused on making their new home comfortable for them. I worked on their rooms first and made sure everything looked as it had before. I was worried that it would be stressful or confusing for them, but of course they already forgot about the old house and love the new house and especially their rooms. 

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People were surprised that I already had decorations up on the wall but what’s the sense in procrastinating?? Decide where you want the stuff to go and drill a hole. I delegated. Chris drilled. Plus we worked on getting the place ready ALL DAY. For several days. 

Number 3. DO NOT wait until the night before to start packing. I know this seems obvious but we didn't want to disrupt our lives and didn't start until the night before and well, let's just say the movers were not happy with us the next day when they saw things thrown into garbage bags. The move took so much longer and we ended up having to tip them extra and threw in a bunch of beer and booze because we felt so bad.  

Number 4. Plan a housewarming party. There’s nothing that gets you to finish unpacking and decorating a new home like an impending, grand unveiling in front of all your friends and family. 

and now onto the recipes...

 

ASIAN SLAW SALAD

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ASIAN SLAW SALAD - before

I use a handheld mandolin to thinly slice vegetables because I am no professional chef (self taught) and I don’t want to waste my time doing something a kitchen tool does better. Plus they look so pretty when they’re the same size. 

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ASIAN SLAW SALAD - after

 

Spring rolls

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These fresh Spring Rolls are even better than you'd find at a restaurant, and they're incredibly easy and healthy! Served with a delicious homemade peanut sauce, these rolls are perfect for a fresh, light lunch, dinner or appetizer. And the rice paper wraps are really easy to find at any grocery store. They sell them at our Pick n' Save and Sendik's.

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Ginger Soy Stir Fry

Ginger soy stir fry….perfect for the end of the week when you are trying to control food waste. You can literally use any vegetables or protein you have on hand. This recipe is all about the sauce. I serve over brown rice but you could use rice noodles, whole wheat spaghetti, white rice, quinoa, riced cauliflower, sunshine rice…(I don’t think that’s a thing but if it was, you could use it).

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I'm telling you, this stir fry is always a hit. Sometimes when I don't know what to make, I just throw in any vegetables in the fridge and add this sauce. It's the sauce that makes it so, so good.

 

Next week, I'm going to spice up your week with Cajun Salmon Cakes, Black Bean Burgers, Stuffed Peppers and Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower. See you next Friday!

It's Greek Week!

Welcome to Simple Eats Meal Prep 101. Meal prep is easy. It's about taking the time once a week to prepare all your meals so you aren't bothered after a long day and you have the time to watch The Bachelorette, guilt-free.

I love Mediterranean food because it's fresh, simple AND healthy. If you follow my grocery list, you'll be able to make all these recipes using up all of your ingredients. No more throwing out vegetables because you'll be throwing them into the Mediterranean Bake! You'll have dinner for a few nights and time leftover to be able to sit with your family over an easy, delicious home-cooked meal. 

  You don't need to stick with the vegetables on my list either, you can add what you have in your fridge into the mix. 

You don't need to stick with the vegetables on my list either, you can add what you have in your fridge into the mix. 

 

So take this grocery list with you to the supermarket, grab the items, allow a couple of hours to prepare these tasty meals and then you're all set! Go watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding if you need to get into the Greek Week spirit.

 

Click on the list for a printable pdf or save to your Pinterest page!

 
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CUCUMBER BASIL GAZPACHO

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If you've ever waited tables like me, you probably heard "This soup is cold." So this soup is the perfect solution to avoid that because it's served cold. 

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I don't have a picture of the chicken but you know what chicken looks like ;)

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GREEK CHOPPED SALAD

 
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Turkey meatballs. What can you serve but never eat?

A volleyball. Get it???

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Step 1: Mix everything in a bowl

Step 2: Roll into balls

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Step 3: Bake and enjoy!

 
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One of my favorite families that I meal prep for has a vegan daughter, so that’s how I landed on the Mediterranean vegetable bake. I needed a tasty alternative and this is so easy to make, too. 

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I love this sauce drizzled on everything from vegetable skewers to chicken breast and even to dip fresh pita bread in. Side note - just click on the recipes above to get a printable pdf. 

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for next week's grocery list and menus, posted every Friday! 

 

Meet Krysta

You guys, I’m starting a blog! My goal is to have every family in the Midwest eating real meals together again. And since I can’t make food for everyone that wants our service, I can at least teach them how to meal prep for themselves. I’m going to be posting weekly grocery lists with easy recipes so you can make them with your families and not go bonkers during the week. The lists will help ensure that all of the food you purchase is being eaten. Food waste drives me bananas!! We spend so much money on food....grocery stores, Costco, dining out and take out because we don’t feel like cooking the food we purchased or we don’t have the time. We end up tossing half the food we bought because it goes bad or nobody wants to eat leftovers. It’s a vicious cycle that is easy to break with planning. I want to post live videos of meal prep sessions and cleaning out your fridge to make sure there’s less food waste. It will save families time and money. 

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"Food waste drives me bananas!!"

We meal prep every Sunday at my house and we make it a family event. My husband makes pancakes and marinades for the meats while I prep all the the vegetables and starches. The meals come together fairly quickly and the kids love to help. It’s one less thing to worry about during the week when our schedules are crazy.

This week's recipe is for Protein Balls. They're the most requested recipe and they're a healthy, raw, sugar-free cookie ball that fills you up and tastes great. My kids love them! Plus they're simple to make. 

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Stay tuned for next week's first grocery list and recipes: 

Greek Meatballs made with Ground Turkey, Cucumber Basil Gazpacho, and Mediterranean Vegetable Bake with Grilled Chicken.

Have a great weekend!