Today's guest is our friend Melissa Klein of Celebrations.com. She stopped by to share a recipe and entertainment tips from a fabulous dinner party that she recently hosted. A little more than a month ago my fiance and I moved into our very first apartment. As you can imagine it was totally exciting, a bit stressful and completely fun to experience together. But as anxious as I was to get settled, I was looking forward even more so to hosting my first ever dinner party. With no dishes, utensils or furniture though, that dinner party wasn’t going to happen. Apart from making guests sit on the floor picnic style, I’d have to wait until we got the living situation more in order. Finally, last Tuesday, the TV was plugged in, the sound system hooked up and the table we ordered, assembled. Everything was set and ready to go. To honor the big occasion I decided a special meal was in order.

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday carefully picking my menu, cleaning up, arranging my table and most importantly choosing my playlist. Michael Buble, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Matt Nathanson, and Colbie Caillat all made the list. I learned from my mom early on that no party is complete without music! It really shapes the mood and tone for a party. Finally, 7 o’clock Thursday arrived and so too, did my guests. I had an assortment of dumplings that I’d prepared the night before and cooked about 10 minutes before they arrived ready for dipping. While everyone eased into conversation (about the best summer song – I had a selection playing on the iPod that sparked this) I took the time to finish up what I’d chosen as an entrée – an orange soy steak with grilled veggies and homemade fried rice. For the most part this dish was super easy to prepare and took a total of 15 minutes to cook. The best thing about the entire meal though, is most of the work can be, and should be, done ahead of time, which makes it a good choice for any dinner party.

Some helpful hints for dinner party entertaining:

  • Choose a menu that you're comfortable with - don't attempt that fancy chicken dish for the first time. You'll only succeed in frustrating yourself and avoiding spending time with guests.
  • When selecting your menu, think about ways you can prep it ahead of time, including marinating meat, chopping veggies and getting the kitchen clean and ready to go!
  • Finally, you'll be busy in the kitchen for a good portion of the evening - invite guests to sit nearby and participate in conversation if you can. But, if like me that's not necessarily possible in your space, be sure to provide some entertainment. Avoid the TV and opt for music, easy interactive games or even hiring a professional entertainer. Palm readers are always a fun choice.

 Here's the dish we made for our dinner party. Give it a try!

Orange Soy Steak with Veggies

Ingredients

For Steak Marinade 1/4 cup of soy sauce 1/4 cup of garlic teriyaki sauce 1/4 cup of orange juice heavy drizzle of olive oil fresh black pepper (to your liking)

For Veggies sliced mushrooms chopped green beans sliced peppers (I used orange and yellow) 2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil (mince a clove if you don't have) You'll also need 2 oranges peeled and divided naturally as well as another 1/4 cup of orange juice 2 tablespoons soy sauce scallions for garnish

Directions

Prep for Steak Begin by preparing your marinade. Combine all of the ingredients (except for the olive oil) in a medium bowl. Whisk together. Then gradually add in the olive oil as you whisk until the mixture has turned a light brown color and is a bit thicker. Next, slice your steak into smaller strips (think stir-fry style). Then, throw your steak in the marinade - you can keep it in the bowl to marinate or put it in a large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it that way. Either way, pop it into the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.

To Cook the Dish Chop your mushrooms and peppers into about 1" chunks. Cut long green beans in half. (You can do this the night before as well and store veggies in an air tight container in the fridge.) Heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil (I just throw 1 minced clove of garlic in mine). Then, add the peppers. Saute on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Add your mushrooms and green beans and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with soy sauce. Once your veggies start to get tender, dump your steak and all the marinade into your pan. Situate the ingredients so that the steak pieces lie on the bottom. Allow to cook on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, uncovered, and stir occasionally. Just before you're ready to remove, add in the orange slices and freshen up flavor by adding a bit more orange juice and soy sauce. Allow to cook until just softened. Remove from the heat and plate over a bed of fried rice.

For more dinner party tips and dinner party recipes, visit Celebrations.com, the premier online source for all things celebratory! GigMasters is always ready to help you find the perfect entertainment.  And, we have a playlist for just about every occasion.

Do you have a favorite summer dinner party recipe? Or, perhaps music that you think sets the right mood? Please, share them with us below!