There’s nothing I love, love, love more than entertaining and having friends over. It’s gotten a bit more difficult over the years with little kiddos but as they’re getting older it’s getting easier again. AND not to mention we’re embarking on a kitchen / living room makeover in the next few months (I’m sure everyone in my life is sick of hearing me talk about it at this point.) But I am so, so, SO excited to create a space that will be perfect to entertain and have friends over. Not to mention feed them.
I don’t know about you guys but one of my biggest pet peeves is cooking when I have company over. I hate it. I have my friends and family over because I want to enjoy their company and play some Cards Against Humanity not because I want them staring at me cooking. I also try to find recipes that are healthy but so delicious that my friends and family won’t know or guess it’s “that weird paleo way” Michelle eats.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved hosting my friends. Even in college, just having our friends and neighbors over to BBQ on our back deck was one of my most favorite things. God only knows what I was serving up back then though! That evolved in my 20’s to having friends over for themed dinners and game night.
My favorite dinner / game night to this day was our “Greek” night. My roommate and I made up an entire spread of greek food and played some of our favorite games with some of our favorite friends. One dish in particular I remember was this fried Saganaki which is basically a briny cheese fried in olive oil and doused in some lemon juice. The cheese gets this nice, crispy little salty crust on it but on the inside is a bit melty and gooey. It’s definitely not paleo or dairy-free but even today it’s so delicious I’d say it’s worth it. I also remember making Blue Cheese Gougeres… and that’s about all this ‘ol brain can remember as far as the meal..Greek meatballs? I dunno. Clearly there was a bit too much Greek wine involved.
I lived in San Francisco for about 7 years but there was something about this particular one night that I’ll always remember as one of my favorites. Maybe it was the food? The old-school Kanye (back when we all still loved him) we were listening to? Maybe it was because it was one of the nights it actually STAYED WARM in the city. Most likely it was because some of my favorite friends from that time of my life were all there together. Ami and Kristen, my partners in crime that were always down for (good) trouble. Nestor, my ex-boyfriend’s friend that turned into one of my closest friends. I even remember Mike, the guy that Kristen was dating at the time, being there who oddly enough was Tom Brady’s backup QB at Michigan but now was a tech-guy.
Our plan was after dinner and games we’d head out to the bars nearby our apartment in the Marina. Well, we were all having so much fun with our games but also had a major case of FOMO so we decided to take our games out with us… I was in an old Lupe Fiasco T-shirt ripped jeans and most likely a pony tail despite the fact everyone else at the bar was in their “going out” clothes. I didn’t even care, I just happy with our Scattagories and Apple to Apples, drinks and the company of my favorite people.
Whether it’s playing old games at a bar in your 20’s or having your friends and their kids over for a night of laughs, snacks and ignoring crazy kid-antics I love the memories created by being with friends. Food is always a part of that. But these days more than ever, I need to keep it simple.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner I’m all about creating EASY recipes that are festive, delicious AND healthy and loved by everyone. If you’ve been following my blog or Instagram for any amount of time, you know I’m completely in love and obsessed with Simple Mills. They make the BEST grain-free baking mixes (and crackers) and are perfect for times when you want to whip up something quickly yet still have it feel special. And thanks to Simple Mills’ Artisan Bread Mix, this Butternut Squash + Orange Cranberry Relish Flatbread fits that bill perfectly.
I love that you can create each component of this recipe easily ahead of time and assemble it right before you need it. It’s the ultimate entertaining food, particularly around the holidays. You can ring it to your Thanksgiving gathering or as an appetizer to your ugly Christmas sweater party. Either way, it will be a hit.
As far as the “cheese” goes on this recipe I used a nut-based cheese alternative you can get at the store. You can also make your own, but in the spirit of keeping things simple I chose to purchase one. Another option is to use a dairy-based ricotta cheese if you aren’t choosing to avoid dairy. The choice is yours and I wanted to provide different options.
I truly hope this recipe makes it onto your table at your next gathering. And more than that I hope your next gathering is full of fun memories for you!
In the meantime you can find all of Simple Mills’ clean products from grain-free cupcake and pancake mixes to their Farmhouse Cheddar Crackers HERE.
- 2 C. cubed butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 Tsp. olive oil
- 1 box Simple Mills Artisan Bread Mix prepared according to instructions
- ½ C. cranberries
- ¼ C. pomegranate arils
- 1 orange zested, peeled and cut into small segments
- ½ Tbsp. maple syrup
- ½ C. almond cheese dairy-alternative (optional to use regular ricotta cheese)
- 6 sage leaves
- Finishing salt
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400*
- In a large bowl toss butternut squash, olive oil, salt and pepper thoroughly
- Spread butternut squash in a single layer onto baking sheets and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and tender
- Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan with ½ inch of water and heat on medium-high heat
- Add cranberries and begin to boil
- Add orange zest
- Cranberries will start to heat and pop
- Once popped, strain cranberries into a colander
- Return cranberries to saucepan on low heat and add maple syrup, orange segments, pomegranate arils, and a pinch of salt
- Stir to combine and turn off heat
- Add 1 tsp. of olive oil to a separate pan and heat on medium high heat
- Once oil is hot add sage and fry for approximately one minute
- Remove and set aside
- Once all components are done it's time to assemble
- Crumble (or smear) dairy-free cheese alternative / ricotta cheese onto flat bread
- Top with roasted butternut squash, cranberry relish and sage
- Sprinkle finishing salt over top
Please note that I only work with companies and products that I feel passionately about and that align with the Whole Smiths’ views and that this post contains sponsored content. While I am compensated for the work I do, my opinions and bad jokes are always 100% my own.