Hosting and Toasting

Hosting and Toasting
Posted at 1:00 AM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 22:03:29-05

(Family Features) Whether you’re hosting a small weekend get-together, a large gathering or anything in between, entertaining friends and family will always provide an opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime. However, no host wants to miss out on the highlights because of an endless to-do list in the kitchen. With the right recipes and refreshments, it’s easy to throw a successful, enjoyable dinner party for both you and your guests.

One way to take the guesswork out of meal planning is by starting with the wine you’re planning to serve and working backwards. Chardonnay is a favorite varietal of many wine lovers, and Edna Valley Vineyard has crafted award-winning, food-friendly Chardonnay from California’s central coast for more than 35 years. Featuring bright layers of white peach and apricot alongside notes of pineapple and brown spice, this white wine is a sure bet to complement a range of dishes and elevate any meal.

One savory example that pairs perfectly with Chardonnay is Grilled Panzanella Salad – a quick and delicious dish that can serve a small group using a few basic ingredients and leftover bread. For a bright, decadent option that holds up well at room temperature, try a side of Orzo with Lemon, Brie and Toasted Pine Nuts. Last but not least, whip up this simple Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes recipe for a hearty entree to round out the meal and complement your wine selection.

Live a life in balance

Particularly during the busiest times of year, finding the right balance is crucial. With all the time spent on work and personal obligations, it is important to remember what matters most – family, friends and the things that make you happy. Here are three ways to prioritize your individual interests and live a life in balance:

  • Reconnect with loved ones regularly. Actively schedule quality time with family and friends. Set up a date with your significant other, have lunch to reconnect with a friend or invite a small group over for a glass of Chardonnay on the porch.
  • Do something you enjoy. Spending even a few minutes each day to appreciate something that brings you pleasure – whether it’s a good book, gardening or preparing a delicious meal, for example – is an important way to ensure your own interests fit into the balancing act called life.
  • Treat yourself. Get a pedicure or facial, schedule a massage or buy a new outfit. It doesn’t need to be costly; a simple glass of wine, cup of your favorite coffee or tea, scented candle or fragrant bouquet can make a big impact.

For more easy entertaining recipes and ideas, visit

Orzo with Lemon, Brie and Toasted Pine Nuts

Serves: 8

  • 1          pound orzo pasta
  • 1/4       cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided
  • 1          tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3          tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2       teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1          wheel (10 ounces) Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4       cup golden raisins
  • 1/2       cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4       cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking and allow to cool.
  2. In large bowl, toss pasta with remaining olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, Brie cubes, raisins, pine nuts and basil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Garnish with additional basil, if desired.

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Serves: 4-6


  • 8          ounces day-old sourdough bread
  • 2          tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1          clove garlic
  • 1          cup roasted red bell peppers, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2    cups yellow grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2       cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, halved if large
  • 1/4       cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4       cup grated Asiago cheese

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 1/2    tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4       teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4       cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  1. Heat grill or grill pan to medium heat.
  2. For salad: Cut bread into 1-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt. Grill bread on both sides until toasted and grill marks are present. When bread is cool enough to handle, rub garlic clove on both sides. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
  3. In large bowl, combine bread, peppers, tomatoes, olives, basil and cheese.
    For balsamic vinaigrette: In small bowl, combine balsamic vinegar and garlic. Whisk in olive oil in slow stream until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Toss vinaigrette with salad and serve immediately. Garnish with additional fresh basil and grated cheese, if desired.

Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes

Serves: 4

  • 1          pint cherry tomatoes
  • pepper
  • kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • 4          chicken thighs (skin-on, bone-in)
  • 1          cup white wine
  • 1          clove garlic
  • 1          lemon, juice only
  1. Heat oven to 400° F.
  2. In cast iron skillet, toss tomatoes with pinch of pepper, kosher salt and light drizzle of olive oil and place in oven. Roast tomatoes for 20 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Heat skillet on stovetop. Once hot, sear chicken thighs. Flip chicken and sear bottom side for about 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  4. With pan still hot, pour in white wine. Once wine has settled, add minced garlic. Add juice of one lemon. Return chicken thighs and tomatoes to skillet.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (Chicken Thighs and Tomatoes)