This post is sponsored by ALDI, all opinions are my own. Click here to find an ALDI near you!
A part of my life that doesn’t translate onto the blog or social media is my love for hosting! Anything from a casual cook out with friends, to a nicer dinner with a more detailed menu is fun for me. I love thinking through the prep work, paying attention to details that guests may notice, and generally enjoy cooking and baking. The clean-up often doesn’t bother me either, as I usually use that time to wind down after a fun evening with friends!
I hosted an outdoor “girl’s night” dinner party with a few friends recently and it was so much fun. The weather was perfect, it was about 70 degrees with a very soft breeze. A few days prior the temperatures were still sitting at 80 by 7:00pm, so I was thrilled to see we had a slightly cooler day on tap.
My husband strung cafe lights over our deck table, and I accessoried with plants and candles on top of a pretty printed table cloth. The vibe I was going for was a bit rustic but mostly really natural and simple. I wanted to hang some greenery from the lights but since that was our only light source I didn’t want to risk blocking too much light with it, so I left the greenery to the tabletop!
Once I knew I had 8 guests attending, I started thinking through the menu. I wanted something that wouldn’t require me to be in the kitchen the whole evening, and something a little light in case it was a bit warm that evening. Nothing is less comfortable than eating a heavy meal of chicken and potatoes outside on a warm, summery night.
After finding Naan flatbread at ALDI on a shopping trip, I decided flatbread pizzas were the way to go. I had the felixibilty to make a few different kinds, so I was sure everyone would at least find one that they liked! To go along with the pizzas I chose 2 salads, one being a bit heavier than the other. I didn’t want to mess with making the dough ahead of time, and finding everything I needed on one ALDI shopping trip made it so easy. And the low price points meant I could offer a few different flavors of pizza with interesting and delicious ingredients without a huge grocery bill.
For drinks, I knew I was going to pick up Broken Clouds Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I had a glass when I was in D.C. with ALDI and it was so good. I’m not well-versed in wine drinking, I just know what I like, and I really like the Broken Clouds Pinot Noir.
I also wanted to have a more fun, girly drink for those who don’t prefer wine. I made sparkling sangria and it was the favorite drink of the night.
Sparkling Sangria Recipe
10 minutes prep time, serves 8-10
1 bottle sparkling Prossecco, Moscato or Champagne (I used Moiselle Sparkling Moscato Spumante)
1/3 – 1/2 cup Triple Sec
1 lime, sliced thin
1 orange, sliced thin
6-9 strawberries, sliced thin
blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
Slice the fruit and add it to the bottom of a large glass pitcher. Pour the Moscato over top of the fruit. Finally add the Triple Sec. Stir a few times to mix, then fill the pitcher with ice. Serve immediately.
If you’ve hosted a few times before you may know that guests can congregate in the kitchen. Often it’s because they are trying to help, which is exactly what my friends did this night, but I intentionally set up the drink station and cheese board outside on the screened in porch to encourage them to be outside and enjoy the evening. I had asked my friend Caroline, who loves to cook, if she was able to come early so I could have a chance to be in the kitchen with her. I handed her the kale salad recipe as she is a healthy eater and is much more familiar with kale than I am!
The salads were a Spicy Quinoa and Kale salad and a classic Caesar Salad. I chose the Spicy Quinoa and Kale salad because it was a little bit more substantial for those who may not choose a pizza with protein on it. And for someone who doesn’t often eat kale, it was really good. The spiciness of the salad dressing completely masked the bitterness of the kale.
Spicy Quinoa and Kale Salad (original recipe can be found here)
30 minutes prep time, serves 4
Make the dressing first so it has a little time for the flavors to develop.
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, mined
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt + pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
6 cups chopped kale, de-stemmed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn, cooked
Cook quinoa according to directions on package. In a very large bowl, add the kale and the onion. Next add corn, black beans and quinoa to the bowl, giving it a good mix. Finally top with the salad dressing. Serve immediately.
The second salad was a classic caesar that we kept simple with chopped romaine, Specially Selected Gourmet Croutons, freshly grated Priano Parmesan, and Tuscan Garden Caesar dressing.
While we were assembling the caesar salad, Nicole mentioned that she’s never had freshly grated parmesan (that she’s aware of), and we all got to talking about how vastly different it is in taste versus the grated stuff you can find on the shelf of the grocery store. I picked up a wedge of Priano Parmesan while I was at ALDI and grated it right before we added it to the salad. It added a nice element to an otherwise simple salad.
I chose to serve the salads and pizzas together so the table was full of options and full of color! The green salads and pretty flatbread pizzas looked so delicious on everyone’s plates! It was the right amount of food to save just enough room for dessert too.
I’ll be back with another post soon sharing the pizza recipes and the dessert!
This post was sponsored by ALDI, all opinions are my own.