Winter entertaining can mean a taste of summer
PLANT CITY/DOVER, FLA— Entertaining isn’t just for the holidays anymore. Some Americans will entertain at home for the fun of it, while others will opt to host fireside this winter as a way to stretch their dining dollars.
“Special occasions call for special foods, but no one wants to cut back on getting together with family and friends,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “We’re doing things a little differently today by choosing to entertain at home more often and by changing the menu to reflect the current economic reality. Florida’s winter strawberries can add glamour and glitz to any special occasion without breaking the budget,” she added.
Florida strawberries are in the marketplace now through March – just in time for an array of winter and springtime celebrations. Strawberries from Florida are in ample supply. The Sunshine State is the only place in the USA where strawberries are harvested in the winter months – just in time for cold-weather entertaining. They are brought to supermarkets fresh and fast.
These Southern-based growers and shippers have a significant transportation advantage in markets east of the Mississippi where they deliver freshly picked strawberries from refrigerated trucks in virtually hours. Florida’s strawberry growers make it easy for home cooks, chefs and caterers to enjoy a taste of summer all winter long.
“Each carton of Florida-grown strawberries will have geographic identification. We understand that consumers are thoughtful in their purchases of fresh produce today. Knowing these berries are grown in the USA should give them confidence in the quality and freshness of Florida’s winter strawberries,” Harrell continued.
Strawberries are nutritious. Eight strawberries contain more vitamin C than one orange. A one-cup serving (about 8 to 10 medium-sized berries) contains 45 calories and has no fat, cholesterol or sodium.
One of America’s premier authorities on all things culinary, particularly when it comes to Southern food and entertaining, is Molly Fowler. She is a caterer, cooking instructor, television personality, author and publisher of Molly Fowler, The Dining Diva Presents Menus for Entertaining.
Reflecting on the home entertaining trend Fowler says, “Weekends are often set aside for enjoying family and friends at home – where it’s comfortable, relaxing, warm and friendly. It’s the special people, the glow of candlelight and the warm conversation that are so important to us today.
“I recommend enhancing special gatherings before, during or at the conclusion of a wonderful meal with a well-thought-out toast and a glass of bubbly, whether non-alcoholic or the real thing. Nothing could be easier and more festive, especially in the winter months. I like to add beautiful and luscious winter strawberries to the sparkling beverage of choice. It makes the occasion just that more special,” she concluded.
Six tips for hassle-free entertaining
Entertaining is not just for the holidays anymore! Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering or an all-out bash, the basics are the same. Here are some tips from Molly Fowler, an entertaining guru, to make hosting a breeze – anytime of year.
Make a Detailed List – This is a no-brainer, yet you’d be surprised at how many people fail to do the initial planning when they entertain. You’ll need a list to keep track of everything from whom to invite to what food and flowers to purchase. Develop a timeline so you’ll know when each step should be accomplished. This is the first step to relieving the stress.
Plan the Menu – Select recipes that can be prepared at least partially in advance.
Keep it Simple – Stick to what’s comfortable. The idea of entertaining is for everyone (including the host or hostess) to relax and have fun.
Gather Serving Pieces in Advance – Don’t sweat it if your china cabinet is a bit bare. Use some of the beautiful paper products that are available. Or you can mix and match plates, flatware and stemware. As long as the pieces complement each other, blending is the “in” thing to do.
Dim the Lights so You Don’t Have to Dust – Seriously! Set the mood easily, yet elegantly, by using lots of candles and simple flower arrangements throughout the living areas and even the powder rooms. The soft aroma of strawberry-scented candles would be pleasing to your guests.
Don’t Forget – Dress up the champagne or non-alcoholic bubbly with the simple addition of one or more whole strawberries to add color, appeal and a delicious reward. There is even alcohol-free strawberry champagne on the market today.