Fuss Free Entertaining

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luncheon ideas Sometimes you just don’t need hours of planning and prepping in advance or cooking 3 days ahead of time when entertaining, especially in the summer months when things are more relaxed and casual. Here’s a few things I like to make when having friends or family stop by either on short notice or even planned in advance.

I love to spread everything out buffet style, once it’s laid out you can enjoy yourself and not worry about getting up and down to serve things.

Most of the ingredients I always have on hand either in my pantry or fridge, the others I usually buy weekly anyway and a couple of things I like to keep handy in my freezer. There’s no mayo required in any of this so you don’t have to worry about anything spoiling either.

focaccia sandwich ingredients Have you seen those round or square pre-made focaccia breads? I get mine at a local Italian market, but I’ve seen them in the bakery section at many different grocery stores, they keep really nice in the freezer and are easy to defrost. I’ve seen them topped with many things like olives, onions, jalepenos and chedder, they all look so pretty and they make a great sandwich.

My two favorites that I personally get are the ones topped with artichoke hearts and the simple crushed tomato topping, they taste so good as is, so I like to keep my deli meats simple. You’ll want to cut them horizontally with a serrated knife, just take your time and they will split in half fine.

What adds to the flavor of the sandwich is this oil based pepper spread, it’s a staple in my fridge, a mild combination of finely chopped veggies some spices and vinegar, like a giardiniera but only finely chopped, it’s spreads really nice and it’s packed with flavor. If you can’t find it finely chopped you can just pulse a regular jar of giardiniera in your food processor a few times to make it more spreadable.

focaccia sandwich I prefer not over packing my sandwich full of meats and cheese, just a simple layer will do, you have a lot going on in flavors with the topping and the spread. I used prosciutto and sliced Asiago on the artichoke topped one and  a rosemary ham also with Asiago on the other.

focaccia sandwich You can cut your focaccia sandwiches according to what other things you’ll be serving, out of one eight inch focaccia, I had six to nine servings.

caprese salad Who doesn’t like a caprese salad, the more it sits the better it gets! Even though it’s not officially tomato season, I was lucky to find some beautiful heirlooms and they tasted wonderful, in fact I’m going back for more.

shrimp and endive platter This endive salad is made with two bunches of endive, a half pound of cooked shrimp, an avocado, a hint of lemon,radishes, green onions, fresh basil and a light drizzle of olive oil all chopped into bite size pieces and folded together and then spooned onto individual endive leaves and arranged on a platter. So simple and so light and a nice presentation to boot, I could eat this alone for lunch!

pasta salad This pasta salad is also light and fresh, there’s no mayo in here,the creaminess comes from goat cheese and it’s all tossed in a light vinaigrette.

pasta salad It’s an old recipe from Martha, you can take the basic concept and add or take away any ingredients you personally like, I added red pepper strips to mine, but it’s delicious and it can sit out on a buffet without worry.

luncheon party

Add in some fresh fruit and olives then tell your friends to bring dessert, cannolis in my case!

Pour a glass of wine, sit and enjoy the time with your guests.

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  1. Marie you are fantastic! Your Stuffed Cabbage with White Wine Basil sauce is to die for. I stumbled upon it by accident which led me to your website a couple of weeks ago. Everyone that I’ve made that for loves, loves, loves it. I was coming back today to look for another fabulous recipe. For the contest, my favorite thing to cook on the grill has to probably be some nice Swordfish Steaks.

  2. Oh Marie. You always make everything look so simple, delicious AND beautiful. You are an inspiration to all of us! I want to find that focaccia too!

  3. What a great spread! Having my family over for my 50th in a couple of weeks…this looks perfect!

  4. I so enjoy your blog and wish I had even a half of your cooking and entertaining skills!! I always tell my daughter I wish we were part of your lucky circle of family and friends!!!

  5. I have never seen this focaccia in a square pan before! I want it! That would make my life so easy (for Henry’s lunchbox!).
    I love a summer buffet…..salads and sandwiches……eaten al fresco. The best!

  6. Everything looks delicious, Marie, and perfect for any time of the year but especially nice for the upcoming hot summer months

  7. Talk about easy peasy………everything looks wonderful and I know tastes incredible.
    Even the simplest dishes you make look so yummy. In my next life I want to grow up related
    to you! A neighbor, cousin, anything…………as always admiring how lucky your family is and how
    talented and gifted you are.
    Warmly, Carol

  8. What time is the party? I can be there in about six hours 🙂 Do you want me to bring some wine?? Are we celebrating anything special, or just being Italian? Looks wonderful Marie! I wish we had an Italian deli or market around here. I don’t think they even have one in Indy. I simply can’t believe it. I do like how you entertain!! Have a wonderful weekend. We are off the Indy to see the kiddos — lunch on us. 🙂

  9. You have such a way with food. I always love to see what you have made.

  10. That all looks so wonderful! Some of my favorite foods to eat.
    I’m going to have to make some focaccia tomorrow 🙂

  11. All I can say is YUM! Not having much culinary fun these days because of health restricted diet but I love remembering and your pictures are wonderful. My Dad was attached to the embassy in Rome when I was a kid and my Aunt married into a Sicilian family so reading your blog is like reliving my memories. Thank you!

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