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Being a parent is an important part of who I am, yet it does not completely define me. I’ve entered a new point of my life where I am recognizing just how important it is to have adult only time, whether it is a date night with my husband, time with my girlfriends, or going to an adult only event like the debt reduction dinners hosted by a group at our church. I need that time apart from my boys and the ability to chill with a glass of wine.
This past month had my husband and I spending a lot of time apart between his remote work locations in interior Alaska for a week at a time and my trip to a conference in Atlanta. We have learned that we need to make time to spend together without the boys hovering, even if it is just having a lovely meal in our home with the boys sent to another part of the house. I decided it would be a great opportunity to test out a few things in anticipation of inviting a few couples over for a nice meal.
Holiday Entertaining: Shopping for Necessities
As time is precious, I like to do what I call one stop shopping. Walmart is a is the go-to place for your holiday entertaining needs, not just the food but also some great wine.
I have to admit that I have rarely gone into the separate liquor store at our local Walmart as I usually have at least one boy in tow. Making a shopping trip by myself ( a luxury at times!), I discovered that there is an amazing selection of wine including The Dreaming Tree’s Crush Red Blend which I picked up. Not only are there a lot of great choices, but the prices are fantastic, too.
Pasta is always a hit for our family and a wonderful way to keep everything in one dish for hosting others for a meal. Barilla Pronto, an easy-to-prepare pasta that is ready in minutes, is available in several shapes including Penne which was the perfect option for the dish I wanted to create: Steak and Pepper Pasta. I knew from past experience that Barilla Pronto will speed up my mealtime prep and keep everything in ONE pan. Barilla Pasta Sauce is perfect for adding a burst of tomato goodness to most any pasta dish you make, too.
As a special treat, I picked up the Pepperidge Farm Cookie Collection for a tasty and quick dessert option. And for some appetizers to get the whole dinner off to a great start, I bought the Pepperidge Farm Cracker Trio to go with an antipasto spread of prosciutto & mozzarella spiral cheese, grapes, and vegetables.
You can find lots of ideas at the Simple Entertaining hub. Inspiration from others is always a good thing!
Holiday Entertaining: Preparing the Meal
The appetizer component is as simple as slicing up cheese (or buying it pre-sliced to save time) and arranging everything on a platter. This little respite is easy to pull together should company come knocking and you need to offer them something to nosh on.
Items like olives and marinated artichoke hearts can be served straight from the container. Aside from arranging everything on the platter, the only work involved was my slicing the prosciutto & mozzarella spiral cheese and washing the grapes.
The main meal features the Steak and Pepper Pasta.
The cut of meat I used for this dish is called a split skirt and is a thin, flat piece of meat easily cut into bite sized strips.
I used one large cast iron (12-inch) skillet for my meal preparation.
I did cook the beef mixture first and then set it aside to make the Barilla Pronto Penne per the box instructions. 10 minutes later I was ready to toss it all together.
Alongside is a tossed salad with a base of romaine lettuce and spinach topped with sliced peppers and chunks of sugar snap peas.
Homemade rolls made from a Challah bread dough recipe, served warm with butter, make for a lovely accompaniment to the main course.
The Dreaming Trees Crush Red Blend pairs wonderfully with red meats. I found it to be less dry or bitter compared to some red wines I’ve tried.
Finally, the Pepperidge Farm Cookie Collection can be displayed on a platter and set out for your guests to enjoy after the meal is over.
Holiday Entertaining:Enjoying the Meal
Once everything is ready, place it all on the table for your guests to enjoy.
If you want to have a more Italian experience, then serve each course separately (antipasto followed by the main course with bread, followed by the salad, and finishing with the cookies.) Any way you approach it, the overall experience should be quite pleasant.
Be sure to check out more holiday entertaining ideas on Simple Entertaining. I’d love to hear about your favorite holiday recipes, tips and tricks!
What are some ways that you make meal time preparation easier during the holidays?
What’s your favorite component of this meal?
Recipe for Steak and Pepper Pasta
- 1 pound split skirt steak, sliced
- olive oil
- 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 large green pepper, sliced
- 1 onion, sliced or diced
- 1 to 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
- 1 package Barilla Pronto Pasta, penne shape
- 3 cups water
- In a large cast iron skillet on medium heat, saute the garlic, onion and peppers in olive oil until tender.
- Add sliced steak, stirring to cook thoroughly
- Add tomato slices, cooking for just a minute to warm.
- Remove meat mixture from the skillet and set aside.
- Add Barilla Pronto Penne Pasta and 3 cups of water.
- Turn the heat up to high.
- Stir often and cook for approximately 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente and water is mostly absorbed.
- Add meat mixture, tossing to coat the pasta.
- Optional: Add a scant amount of Barilla Pasta Sauce to lightly coat.
I found a preseasoned split skirt which had some tang (vinegar), garlic, oil, and a few other seasonings not identified. It was almost like a very mild fajita seasoning. Marinading meat in a fajita seasoning may produce results that are equally as enjoyable.