Healthy & Beautiful, Recipe Box

Recipes: How to Throw Your Own “Independence Day”: A Dinner Party Menu

As I stated in a previous post, I chose to end a long-term relationship that really wasn’t working for us for quite some time.  As difficult as the decision was to make, it was also simple: great guy but we’re not compatible.  As such, he moved out two weeks later and I decided to rearrange the furniture, reorganize the closets, scrub the entire apartment and throw a dinner party!  Some were quite surprised that I would do such a thing but really, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.  I have a lot to celebrate: amazing friends, amazing career, my freedom…

Below is just a mini recap of what I produced for about 20 people.  Please note, it requires about 2 1/2 hours of prep and cooking time for THAT many people.  Somehow, I think I managed to pull it off.


– Red and white table cloths

– Red, white and blue flowers

– Red, white and blue plates (I’m sure you’re starting to get the theme)

– Candles

– Softly played house music (it’s called My Dinner Playlist 🙂 )


I chose a more intricate menu of spinach-stuffed mushrooms, cucumber rounds with gazpacho, Parmesan-crusted chicken, salad and cupcakes for dessert – almost all of it gluten-free. This was in addition to all the wonderful treats some of my guests brought.  (Recipes from my main creations at the end.)


I chose a cross-section of meaningful people that have been there for me through different stages in my life.  Guest list includes: Steve Lebo, Joanie Smerdzinski, Susan Helmick (and her friend), Vithaya Phongsavan, Elaine Mensah, Amanda Kammier, Liz Smith and her daughter Savannah, Natalie Cartner and her daughter Skyler, Margo Schlossberg and her friend from Finland, Kerry Finnegan, Rob Zick.


You know it’s a good time had by all when you’re ushering the guests out at 10:30pm to go to a bar down the street to continue the celebrations.  🙂  It was really fun to have two 5 year olds there to remind you of just how old you truly are and how completely innocent and pure (i.e. sugar still gets them all hopped up) they are.  I found myself mentioning several times, “I wish I had THAT energy.”

Still, there is nothing better in this world than to see friends from all parts of your life come together and meet each other and have a blast.  It was everything I wanted to get out of this gathering – just to make everyone happy and not expect a thing in return.  I also think I got a few raves on the food too (BIG thanks go out to Steve Lebo, Elaine Mensah and Joanie Smerdzinski for saving my butt in the kitchen and Vithaya for taking pictures – you’re the best!).  Below are my recipes – enjoy!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

(serves 4-6)


– 1 clove of garlic (minced)

– 1 stick unsalted butter (melted)

– 1 cup dried bread crumbs (I substituted with dried corn flake crumbs)

– 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I added a bit more)

– 2 TBSP chopped parsley

– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

– 1 TBSP Italian seasoning

– 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces, no larger than 2X2 inches


– Preheat oven to 450 degrees

– In a bowl, combine the minced garlic and melted butter.  In another bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic salt and Italian seasoning.  Dip the chicken pieces in the butter mixture and then coat it in the dried mixture.

– Place coated chicken pieces on to a 9 X 13 pan.  Try to leave a little room between each piece (should be single layer).  Bake 15 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Spinach-stuffed Mushrooms

(serves 8)


1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tsp.  garlic

8 large mushrooms (I used bite-sized ones)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


– In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil.  Add the spinach, cover and cook.

– Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems (center of mushroom should be hollowed).

– Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

– Drain spinach and combine with Parmesan and garlic

– Spoon mixture into caps and serve

Cucumber Rounds with Gazpacho

(serves 4-6)


– 2 large cucumbers

– spicy V8 tomato juice


– Cut the cucumbers into sushi-sized rounds

– Take a spoon and carefully dig a pit in each of the cucumber rounds (to hold the gazpacho in the center)

– Pour just a dollop of V8 into each

– Chill before serving

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