5 Ways to Make Any Dinner Feel Special

_MG_4791When I was growing up, my family ate dinner together pretty much every night. As we got older, it became a little more difficult between sports, play rehearsals, and any of the other many social obligations of high school, but my parents always made sure that it happened at least a few times a week. One of my sisters or I would set the table, Mom or Dad would be cooking, we would turn on some music, and let the phone go to voicemail. For all of us, it was a way to reflect on the day, to decompress and enjoy the food in front of us. Since leaving home, I've come to realize that this isn't always the case -- and between my busy work schedule and the many take-out options in New York, sometimes dinner doesn't feel quite so special. So when I do have time to relax and have dinner (or take-out), here are a few things I've come up with to make any dinner feel like an occasion: _MG_47341. Light some candles. This is an amazingly easy way to dress up any table, and it's usually very inexpensive (Ikea is great for stocking up).

2. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. I always prefer the look of cloth napkins over paper, and they are much more eco-friendly!

3. Turn on some music. This is one of my favorite ways to set a mood -- for dinner parties, I particularly like the Motown and Adele Pandora stations.

4. Use your nice china. Of course, I only bought matching plates a few weeks ago (I finally decided that now that I am 25, I can have matching plates. I'm feeling very grown-up), but if you are lucky enough to have separate sets of dishes, use your fine china for an everyday meal. What are you waiting for?_MG_4798

5. Have a little sparkling wine. Somehow, many people think that champagne or prosecco are only for special occasions, but when you can find perfectly decent bottle of sparkling wine at Trader Joe's for $5, why save it? Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that I studied abroad in Bologna, land of the apertivo, or the fact that despite being 100% Norwegian in heritage, my dad and uncles are convinced that we are Italian. Either way, I can't think of anything much better than sipping a chilled glass of prosecco on a warm day (ice bucket is certainly not necessary -- though I scored this one at Housing Works for $8! And I think it adds a touch of elegance to any table).

What do you do to make everyday events feel special?

Tomato-Feta Open-Faced Sandwiches

To me, the end of summer means lazy afternoons spent in the park, swimming, candlelit dinners al fresco, and more than anything -- tomatoes. Or at least, the first three are what I dream during the summer (mostly I've been in an air-conditioned office and sweating on the subway). But tomatoes, those I can have. My mom made these simple sandwiches for me when I was home a few weeks ago (why is everything always better when Mom makes it?) with tomatoes from their garden, and I couldn't resist re-creating it once I got back to the city -- especially since she sent a few of those tomatoes back with me as well. This makes an excellent appetizer or a simple lunch -- but be careful, you'll eat a whole baguette before you know it.Tomato-Feta Open-Faced Sandwiches

1 baguette, cut into 4-inch long halves

2-3 tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch slices

2 oz feta cheese, thinly sliced

8-10 basil leaves, julienned

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Toast bread until golden-brown. Layer tomatoes and feta on top, then sprinkle with basil leaves and a dash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


I don't really have an excuse for my absence here over the last week, but if I did it would be that the batteries for my camera are currently dead and I left my charger at a friend's apartment. So until I get that back (I'm hoping by tomorrow) here are a few pictures from recent happenings, including a few from my trip to Minnesota (chickens! Wesley!) and from New York (trip to Rockaway Beach -- and Rockaway Taco -- a 1920's party on Govorner's Island, and movies at Brooklyn Bridge Park) as well. I'll be back soon with some great late-summer recipes, I promise.