This year the boyfriend and I hosted a very healthy vegan Easter brunch for 11 adults and two toddlers, and the holiday couldn’t have gone better! No one commented on or complained about the lack of meat (the sistertraveller was not pleased when she originally found out a few months ago that there wouldn’t be sausages present, but eventually she came around to it and she ended up really enjoying the meal :)). Everyone was complimenting our brunch and thought it was delicious. Success! I wouldn’t host vegan meals for every family holiday that I host, but it’s nice to be able to host the occasional vegan meal for people to healthify a holiday and to share healthy tasty foods with the people I love.
Here is everything you ever needed to know about hosting a healthy food-oriented event:
1) Preparation. Do as much as you can in the days ahead of time. Make sure you have extra ingredients on hand in case something goes wrong, and maybe even have a back-up dish in the worst-case scenario that something falls on the floor and gets ruined or that you use an expired product or something similar (amazingly, I have yet to experience those worst-case scenarios! Fingers crossed that I continue to always check expiry dates ;)).
2) Allergies. Find out ahead of time if anyone has allergies, food intolerances, or even dislikes. I adore the smell of coconut, for example, and a very slight hint of a taste of coconut in a dish is okay, but I run away from any dessert that contains coconut flakes. Ew. Something about the texture and the taste completely turns me off. At any rate, you don’t want this happening to your guests! Ask them ahead of time if there’s any food that they particularly dislike or cannot eat due to health concerns so that no one has to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable the day of.
3) Don’t tell them it’s “healthy.” Unfortunately, “healthy” is often synonymous with “disgusting/tastes like cardboard/smells funny/looks weird.” There is absolutely no reason why “healthy” doesn’t have to mean “gorgeous presentation, amazing aroma and swoon-worthy taste.” If you tell people you’re cooking them a healthy/vegan/gluten-free meal (or anything similar), they’ll probably assume the worst. Just don’t tell them and they won’t be the wiser. Sometimes adults need to be treated the same as children.
4) Go heavy on spices. When you’re making a food item healthier, that means that you need to compensate the lack of butter/oil/margarine/cream etc. with spices and herbs. They can do the trick beautifully – as long as you know how to properly combine them! Don’t experiment with a recipe unless you know what you’re doing. Cook with someone else present (particularly someone who has experience as a professional cook, ie. the boyfriend) so that they can be a second taste-tester and can give their own advice on what the dish is missing.
5) Focus on presentation. If you’re cooking something healthier, you want it to look really nice. Use a variety of different-coloured vegetables to make the plate a rainbow; use bright spices such as paprika and turmeric to jazz up an otherwise ordinary-looking dish; play with various types of juice to make the main-event beverage really sparkle. Or just use gorgeous platters and silverware: sometimes that can be just what you need to class-up an event.
6) Choose a meal that you’ve made before. Definitely never experiment when you’re cooking for six-plus people. Cook the dish beforehand to make sure that it’s tasty! Some healthy dishes out there do taste like cardboard, and therefore you don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype. Find a dish that really wows you and it’ll be sure to wow your guests as well.
7) Make everything ahead of time. If you can, make your dishes the day before and then re-heat them the morning/afternoon of the big event. It’ll take away any stress that you otherwise might experience. If the meal has to be eaten as soon as it’s made, then it’s a good idea to have someone over to help you out. For example, when the boyfriend and I have people over for tapas, he makes the tapas and I entertain the guests (ie. I drink wine). It’s a great situation 😀
8 ) Have at least three different menu options. At least one should be savoury and at least one should be sweet. This way, if people don’t particularly enjoy one dish, they have a couple of others that they can taste without feeling bad or going hungry. At our Easter Brunch, we had a spinach and mushroom tofu quiche, fruit salad and banana bread, plus chocolate sauce and walnut butter to go with the latter two dishes. All of those foods were vegan and homemade! We also had orange juice and pineapple juice with champagne to make mimosas and a variety of chocolates on the coffee table.
9) Have a couple “appetizers.” This might mean having chocolates, nuts, mints, vegetables, or a cheese and crackers platter out on the coffee table while everyone mingles before sitting down at the dinner table. It also gives people the option to satisfy their hunger pre-meal.
10) Don’t skimp on the beverages. Have a variety of beverages – coffee, tea, water, milk, juice, wine, beer; let people make their choice, but also have a couple specifics that “go well” with the meal (for example, a wine picked our particularly for the cheese appetizer, or champagne and OJ to go with your brunch).
What do you do as a host to ensure that your brunch/dinner party is a healthy and enjoyable affair for everyone?