This blog post has been compensated by Borden® Cheese. All opinions are mine alone. #BordenCheeseLove #CollectiveBias #Ad
Meal planning, a yummy recipe, hosting, & gathering together. This post has been a labor of love and I am excited to finally share this with you and hope that it’s of some use to you. I’m truly passionate about gathering together with those in your community over a meal. In our day, we’ve made dinner parties stressful and overwhelming, and today I want to share an all-inclusive guide to make hosting a meal at your home simple and enjoyable.
The new year is all about new starts, and this year, one of my goals is to invite people into my home more often. We already have an open door policy at our home, and people are known to just stop by. However, this year I want to be more intentional about making sure to invite people over for dinner.
In this day and age, many of us go home, close our doors, and don’t interact with the community around us, especially in these cold winter months. While we do value our family time, it’s also important to engage with neighbors, friends, and family. It’s incredibly rewarding to invite others into your home and to share a meal. Let’s stop making dinner parties difficult and a lot of work; let’s go back to making them simple and enjoyable.
How to make a dinner party simple and enjoyable for all:
1. Plan ahead. I’m absolutely horrendous at this one. But, I’m really hoping that this year, this is where I grow the most. I know most of the world prefers things penciled in ahead of time, including my husband, so I’m hoping to get better at this one.
One way I try to think ahead is meal planning. Before heading to the grocery store, I write out the meals we want to make that week. On the same paper I fill in what ingredients I need and everything else we need. It’s not hard at all to meal plan and doesn’t take much extra work. We often rotate the same meals like this casserole. We also have staple ingredients that we pick up or always have on hand for our meals, like black beans, Borden® Cheese, peppers, and onions. I make sure to sit down and write down what meals we’re making for the week and the ingredients needed.
If we have a favorite meal on the menu that I know will feed a lot of people, I’m trying to be better about sending out a quick invite to friends. “Hey, I’m making a black bean quinoa casserole this Saturday. Do you want to come over for dinner?”
Armed with a list, shopping is a cinch, and I don’t have to spend time thinking about what I may need. I also only get the essentials, keeping our grocery bill on budget. And let’s be real, you want to shop as quickly as you can with a toddler in tow. At Shop n’ Save, I usually grab us a treat to share and always pick up some flowers for the week. They have such good prices there. This is where I bought my Borden® Cheese. You can check this store locator to find where to purchase it near you.
2. An easy dinner. I prefer to make meals that can be prepared beforehand and that don’t require much work when guests arrive. One of my go-to dinner party recipes is my black bean and quinoa casserole, it’s simple to make, everyone loves it, and it’s all in one dish! And don’t forget about the appetizer! Making a quick cheese board is the easiest and most impressive appetizer. You can quickly take a block of cheese and some crackers and make it look incredible with some grapes, olives, and rosemary. I like to set this out before guests arrive. That way if something takes longer with dinner, I have something for them to snack on.
I love comfort food in the winter months, but after the holidays in January with a new start, I don’t want to be eating too unhealthy. Over time I’ve figured out some recipes that still warm your bones but are filled with veggies and good things. One of my favorites is my black bean and quinoa casserole. The casserole makes for a complete meal, also filled with peppers, onions, and tomatoes with a southwest style. It’s ridiculously easy, foolproof, and just the kind of recipe that’s easy to try!
I finally wrote down the ingredients as I made this dish so that I could give them to you. Know that it’s really simple and adaptable, making it perfect to serve to guests. Feel free to add or take away some of the veggies based on preferences or what’s stocked in your pantry.
As long as you have some of the basics for this recipe your set: Borden® Cheese, black beans, quinoa, cumin, and some veggies like peppers and onions.
I’ll share the full recipe that you can print out at the bottom of this post, but I’ll walk you through how to make this easy dish and continue sharing my tips for hosting.
This dish doesn’t take long at all to make. I start by getting the quinoa cooking first because it takes about 20 minutes.
Here’s my foolproof way to make yummy, fluffy quinoa:
1. Boil two cups of water (I use our tea kettle)
2. In a pan set to medium heat, add I Tablespoon olive oil
3. Add in one cup of quinoa and let cook for a minute or two
4. Pour in two cups of water
5. Bring to a light boil and then turn down heat to low
6. Let simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, it should look like this when done:
While the quinoa is simmering, I chop up all of the veggies and cook them. I always use peppers and onions. I also often add in frozen corn or sweet potatoes. When cooking the peppers I like to leave them untouched on medium high heat to blacken them a bit.
Once the veggies are cooked, it’s time to add in the black beans and a can of tomatoes (look for ones with yummy Mexican seasonings or green chiles). Fresh cilantro is definitely a plus if you have it on hand.
Add a tablespoon of cumin and half tablespoon of chili powder to give it some yummy flavor. Add more if you like more flavor.
Once that’s all cooked, it’s time to add everything to the casserole dish. Mix the quinoa and vegetable mixture together.
And then add the cheese! We love Borden® Cheese over here, and our littlest one also prefers the shredded variety of cheese, which is perfect for little fingers. The cheese adds the ooey, gooey comfort and warmth to this dish.
We’re all sharp cheddar lovers over here, so I like to mix half Borden® Cheese Finely Shredded Four Cheese Mexican Shreds and half of the bag of Borden® Cheese Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Shreds. That way we will have a little extra for toppings later and snacks for that little toddler of ours.
Now it just needs to hang out in the oven until bubbly, which is about 20 minutes. Broil for an extra minute at the end if you want it to be more crispy and done.
And that’s it! I love this dish because it can be made ahead of time, and the bake time means you’re not cooking when guests arrive. Make sure to chop up any additional toppings and get back to your hosting duties.
3. 15 minute cleanup. This year I want to be better about not fussing over cleaning our home for guests. As long as all my normal house upkeep is done, all I need to do is quickly run through the house and tidy up. Pick up toys and clutter, put away papers, sweep, and clean off the dining room table. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes when you know people will be over. Put the casserole in the oven, turn on some music and get make it fun!
4. Less people, more quality time. My first instinct when having a party is to invite everyone I know. Lately, I have learned to invite however many people can fit at my dining table. Instead of small talk with a lot of people, you can really have a quality conversation with fewer people.
5. Simple tablescape. Set the table, use your fabric napkins, some candles, and maybe a fresh bouquet of flowers, and you’re good to go. Simple is elegant.
6. Have fun. Most importantly, remember that even if everything goes wrong or your house is a mess, you can still have a good time. Your guests are there because they want to spend time with you. Don’t spend the entire time in the kitchen, cleaning, or worrying about the house. Sit down, grab a bite to eat, and have a good time; the dishes can wait.
I hope that this encourages you to invite others into your home and share a meal. Let’s all agree to spend less time concerned about what our homes look like and what we like and more time being kind to others. It’s incredibly valuable and enriching.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 diced onion
- 2 diced bell peppers (i used red and green)
- 1 Tablespoon Oil
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 2 cans black beans
- 1 can diced tomatoes (with green chiles or Mexican seasonings optional)
- 2 Tablespoon Cumin
- 1 lime
- 1/2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
- 1 bunch chopped cilantro
- 2 cups shredded Borden® Cheese Finely Shredded Four Cheese Mexican Shreds or Borden® Cheese Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Shreds
- sliced green onions
- diced avocado (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cook quinoa:
- Boil 2 cups water
- In medium saucepan, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil on medium heat
- Cook quinoa in pan for 1 minute
- Pour in boiling water
- Bring quinoa and water back to boil
- Turn to low heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes
- While quinoa is cooking, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in non-stick skillet and cook onion and peppers for 3-5 minutes until soft. To blister the peppers, turn the heat up and do not stir for a minute or two and then turn the heat back down.
- Add in corn, stir, and cook for 2 minutes
- Add in black beans, tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, and about a Tablespoon of cilantro (save the rest for toppings) juice of half of lime, stir, and let cook
- In a 9×13 pan, combine quinoa and black bean/veggie mixture
- Top with shredded cheese
- Place in oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly
- Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, avocado, salsa, tortillas, as lettuce wraps or on a salad, or just plain.