Great Summer Entertaining Tips From Ted Allen

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We’re gearing up for the kickoff of summer — and that includes preparing great dishes, even better cocktails, and an ambiance that is bright and inviting. Ted Allen, food TV personality and host of Food Network’s Chopped, is sharing his tips for hosting a fantastic summer bash.

Here are a few great tips for achieving entertaining success this season:

On Mixing Up a Perfect Cocktail:
"Iced tea is a classic refreshing beverage of summer. These Pure Leaf Iced Tea recipes use the new line of Not Too Sweet flavors and my personal favorite is the Asian Spicy Cucumber Honey Green Tea. It's a unique flavor pairing of sliced cucumber, limes, ground red pepper, and 1 bottle of Pure Leaf Not Too Sweet. Mix it up for a delicious mocktail (or for the adults, add vodka)."

Here are a few great cocktail & mocktail recipes:

  • Asian Spicy Cucumber Honey Green Recipe
  • Peach Blueberry-Basil Iced Tea Recipe
  • Peachy-Ginger Tea Thyme Recipe
  • Pomegranate Mar-Tea-Ni Recipe
  • Strawberry Black Peppercorn Peach Tea Recipe
  • Minted Melon Iced Honey Green Tea Recipe

On Summertime Refreshments:
"The clean, crisp refreshment of these cocktails are the perfect pairing for lightly seasoned, light fare like salads, shrimp, and other delicate foods — they complement them without overwhelming them."

On Summertime Entertaining:
"When you’re barbecuing, make it easier on yourself by prepping ahead with side dishes that don’t need to be heated: Bean salads, pasta salads, or even a panzanella bread salad are easy to make ahead, and that frees you up to be the grill master."

"The delicate, refreshing flavor of tea pairs beautifully with almost any food. Think of its abilities to clean your palate of rich, sweet flavors, and to complement more delicate ones. Offer a range of teas — sweet, unsweetened, not-too-sweet, peach — to give your guests choices, then serve with interesting garnishes (cherries, kiwi, blood orange, Meyer lemon, and a selection of herbs)."

"Nobody wants to hear themselves chewing at a dinner party, so don’t let 'dead air' happen at yours! For a fun ambience, the music must never stop. Develop a playlist of elegant background music — no surprises like heavy metal or John Philip Sousa. My go-to is Chet Baker."

Chefs' Picks: Summer Cocktail Favorites

Geoffrey Zakarian's Rum Punch cocktail, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen, Season 2.

Photo by: Emile Wamsteker ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Emile Wamsteker, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

With summer in full swing, it’s time to dine outside, in the sun, with a refreshing adult beverage. Here’s some inspiration for drinks that will keep you sipping all through the season. We asked four top toques around the country for their top summer cocktail picks.

Gavin Pera, Chef de Cuisine, Burlock Coast, Fort Lauderdale

Pera is a hot-weather aficionado. Before manning the stoves at the Ritz-Carlton’s Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Pera spent a year in the Caribbean, where his neighbors had trees laden with tropical fruit growing in their yards. That’s where the chef fell for the cooling effects of an infused rum punch.

“They would buy aged rum from St. John and infuse it with the fruit in Mason jars throughout the week,” says Pera. Now that’s he’s back in South Florida, the chef likes to infuse his cocktails with fresh passion fruit, coconut and pineapple, mixed with rum and poured over ice with a splash of mango nectar.

Get creative with other revitalizing riffs on rum punch, like Geoffrey Zakarian’s version that combines watermelon puree with orange and lime juices.

Marcus Woodham, Executive Chef, Tujague’s, New Orleans

As the chef of New Orleans’ second-oldest restaurant (currently celebrating its 160th anniversary), which is both the home of the oldest stand-up bar in America and the birthplace of the grasshopper cocktail, Woodham knows a thing or two about mixed drinks. After a shift at Tujague’s, Woodham likes to reenergize with the Minor Swing Margarita at Three Muses, prepared by mixologist Kim Patton-Bragg.

“It’s a really light, refreshing cocktail,” Woodham says of the drink, which features hibiscus- and-jalapeno-infused Cabeza tequila, Solerno blood-orange liqueur, lime, and grapefruit soda with a spiced salt rim. “I love the aromatics of the hibiscus and the tartness from the grapefruit soda,” Woodham explains.

Mix up other spins on this spicy-and-sour combination with recipes like Geoffrey Zakarian’s grapefruit margarita rimmed with chipotle salt and Bobby Flay’s trio of ginger, grapefruit and tamarind margaritas.

Ted Allen, host of Chopped, cuts through the stress of holiday entertaining

What do you get when you bring together some of the finest chefs, both as competitors and judges, several baskets of food with seemingly strange combinations, and a James Beard award-winning host and journalist who is also a food and wine connoisseur? That would be Food Network’s cooking competition show, Chopped.

From host to host

Ted Allen, the host of Chopped, took time recently to talk with SheKnows about the high-energy show, and to provide recipes and ideas for easy and elegant holiday meals and entertaining. If you’ve seen Chopped, then you understand the pressure the competitors are under. They have to make quick decisions, use their imagination, and sometimes use ingredients they’re not at all familiar with to pull together an interesting and delicious dish that several people will enjoy. Sounds a little like the holidays, doesn’t it?

Asked about one thing he’s learned from being on Chopped, surrounded by talented chefs, and Ted admits that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one thing. “I’ve learned so much from the chefs, but the main thing is the mindset of cooking from an ingredient point of view,” says Ted.

“The Chopped contestants have no choice but to cook using the ingredients they’re given,” he notes, and recommends that home cooks also put the focus on ingredients. “Think about what’s in season, what’s fresh and then buy what looks good,” he says. “Instead of starting with a recipe and going to the market to buy specific ingredients, I go to the market without a recipe, and I buy what looks good.”

Food for the holidays

Holiday cooking can be a bit of a different animal: typically there is a set menu planned using specific ingredients, and perhaps following a family recipe in order to create a crowd favorite. But even then, don’t be afraid to apply a few new tricks to those tried-and-true recipes. Ted developed several recipes for Unilever and its brands of spreads like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and we were thrilled he shared them with us.

Multigrain stuffing with apricots, sausage and sage

Of the recipes Ted put together with Unilever, his holiday favorite is stuffing. “I did some experimenting recently, and, instead of using two sticks of butter for my traditional stuffing recipe, I replaced it with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Nobody at the table had any idea, and I cut the saturated fat by 70 percent in a dish that depends very heavily on buttery flavor,” recalls Ted.

Smashed potatoes with golden beets

Who among us can think of the holidays without the side-dish darling, mashed potatoes? Ted explains that typically, when he makes mashed potatoes, he uses a combination of 50 percent potatoes and 50 percent parsnip or celery root. “This is a great way to mix it up a bit.” He took this approach a step further when he created the mashed potato recipe using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

“When I was at the market I saw golden beets and I thought, why not? It’s a root vegetable that will mash smoothly,” he explains. “Using golden beets in the mash helps develop a beautiful golden color for this dish and gives it a sweetness, a depth. Just more flavor than using potatoes alone,” he says.

Butternut squash and wild mushroom lasagna

“I have friends who are vegetarian, and I like it when they come to dinner. It gives me a focus and a challenge when I’m cooking,” Ted explains. “I wanted to create a lasagna recipe that had an autumnal feel, and I came up with lasagna made with butternut squash, wild mushrooms and whole wheat, no-boil pasta sheets. The sauce is a white sauce made using Country Crock. I didn’t use cream and I didn’t use butter, but my guests remarked on how rich this dish was,” recalls Ted.

Get fired up for the festivities

Making a great meal is just one piece of the holiday entertaining pie. There are also parties to be hosted, and food and drink alone doesn’t create great atmosphere. Ted detailed a few important things to consider to help create a memorable and festive holiday gathering:

Cut costs on alcohol and prep time

“Focus on one specialty, signature cocktail. It makes it easier on you as the host, because you won’t have to buy so many different drinks and mixers.”

“Buy prosecco (which is less expensive than Champagne). To a glass, add a splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, top it with prosecco and garnish it with a raspberry. It says ‘holiday cheer’ and is really welcoming to give to a guest when they first walk in the door.”

Select special nonalcoholic drinks

“As a host, it’s your responsibility to provide something good for nondrinkers, not just a can of diet soda. That’s not good hospitality.” Something easy and simple can still be special. “Buy a sparkling French lemonade and put a sprig of basil in it.”

Reduce stress over the holiday meal and start a new tradition

“Potlucks not only help cut expenses, but they take some of the pressure off the host. I like to see the host focus on the turkey or main dish. Ask friends to bring dessert, or side dishes, especially the kind that don’t need to be heated since there’s always competition for oven space. A potluck is not only a way to start a new tradition in the way the meal is served, but your guests are incorporating their food traditions into your family, as well.”

“Do as much ahead of time as possible. If you can make some dishes a few days in advance, do it.”

Prepare to prevent a holiday meal emergency

“Thaw your turkey! There is only one way to do it: leave it in the plastic and keep it in the refrigerator. It takes about five days to thaw. When the turkey isn’t ready it creates panic for you.”

Decor and ambiance basics

“To get a lot of impact for little money, buy a bag of votives at a discount store. A display of 35 votives on your mantle can be dramatic and beautiful.”

“Use your dimmer switch to create mood lighting.”

“Decorate with food. There’s nothing more beautiful than a bowl of artichokes, pomegranates or a bowl of lemons or apples. And you can use them later.”

“Pick up some small branches from your yard and put them in a tall vase.”

“Play music. Sophisticated jazz from an artist like Chet Baker is indispensible for entertaining.”

The most for the host

If you’re wondering about what to give as a special host gift, Ted suggests wine. “It’s not particularly original, but it’s thoughtful,” he explains. “Consider three wines within your budget that you like or that someone recommends. Then, do some research and figure out what food pairs well with those wines. Write out a corresponding recipe for each of the wines, tie a ribbon to each of the cards, and hang them around the necks of the bottles. People are often mystified by food and wine pairings. This is a gift that will propel people into their kitchens. You’re helping them learn about food and wine, and you’re giving them a theme for an evening down the road. They will love it.”

For the stuffing, mashed potato, and lasagna recipes developed by Ted, as well as more tips for holiday entertaining, visit Good to Know!

Not only is Ted Allen the host of Chopped, but his latest cookbook, In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks, was released this year. He also writes for such publications as Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Food Network Magazine, and Esquire.

Our Favorite Memorial Day Dessert Recipes

Make dessert the star of your Memorial Day get-together with these sweet treats that feature lots of red, white and blue!

Related To:

Photo By: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Tara Donne ©FOOD NETWORK : 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Photo By: Chantell Quernemoen

Strawberry Country Cake

Ina flavors this impressive cake with sour cream and the zest from lemon and orange. Spread generous spoonfuls of whipped cream between the cake layers and on top before adding fresh strawberries for a decorative centerpiece.

Red, White and Blue Fruit Cups

Rachael's 10-minute dessert is chock-full of fresh fruit: strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Frozen Fireworks

Just like your favorite childhood treat, these ice pops are ideal for ringing in summer. To achieve the different colors, Valerie uses a combination of coconut sorbet, raspberry sorbet and blue food coloring. The cherry on top? Star-shaped cuts of fresh pineapple!

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Cake

You'll use vanilla and strawberry ice cream to make the creamy filling for this frozen take on classic strawberry shortcake.

Dump Cakes

All you need to make one of Ree&rsquos Dump Cakes is a box of cake mix, canned fruit, butter &ndash and whipped cream, for serving.

Patriotic Cheesecake Parfaits

Take all the great, rich flavor of cheesecake, layer it with summer's best berries then add a little crunch and a touch of chocolate, and you have what may just be the perfect summer dessert. Best of all, a great big, celebratory serving of this parfait clocks in at less than 400 calories. (This recipe can also be made to serve six instead of four. Just use smaller glasses and divvy the recipe up into six parfaits with less than 250 calories each. We pinky-swear it won't feel skimpy!)

Strawberry Cheesecake Brownies

Gently swirl strawberry jam into uncooked cheesecake using a wooden skewer for a colorful (and tasty) treat. Use dollops of blueberry jam too for the full red, white and blue!

MINTED MELON ICED HONEY GREEN TEA 6 chunks honeydew melon, about 1-1/2 inches square 15 large fresh mint leaves 1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea Crush honeydew and mint with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea. Strain and serve over ice. Garnish, if desired, with additional honeydew and mint leaves. For a pitcher, simply double the recipe. Pure Leaf Tea begins with the freshest tea leaves picked at their peak. The leaves are then hand-selected from China, India, Africa and South America for their distinctive and smooth flavor by Pure Leaf’s Master Tea Blenders. Pure Leaf is proud to be Rainforest Alliance Certified™ for sourcing tea sustainably. I was also excited to learn that the square bottles are made of PET plastic, which are lightweight and provide a high pallet efficiency, which equates to more bottles, lighter loads and less fuel used in transport. The bottles are also 100% recyclable! Delicious Summer Cocktail Recipes

The official start of summer is this weekend and most people will be firing up the grill and mixing the cocktails! Pure Leaf™ brings its fresh-brewed taste to any occasion with refreshing cocktails.
Pure Leaf-Inspired Cocktails

2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
10 slices cucumber (about 1/4-inch thick)
2 slices lime (about 1/4-inch thick)
Pinch ground red pepper
1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea
Crush cucumber, lime and red pepper with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea. Strain and serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish, if desired, with additional cucumber and lime.
For a cocktail version, simply add 1/4 cup vodka.

2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
1/4 cup blueberries
5 large fresh basil leaves
1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea
Crush blueberries and basil with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea. Strain and serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish, if desired, with additional blueberries and basil.
For a pitcher, simply double the recipe.
For a cocktail version, simply add 1/4 cup light rum.

2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
3 slices fresh ginger, about 1/8-inch thick
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea
Crush ginger and thyme with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea. Strain and serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish, if desired, with additional ginger and thyme.
For a pitcher, simply double the recipe.
For a cocktail version, simply add 1/4 cup bourbon whiskey.

1 serving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
2 ounces of Pure Leaf™ Lemon Iced Tea
2 ounces pomegranate juice
In shaker filled with ice, add all ingredients. Shake well, then strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish, if desired, with lemon peel.
Serving suggestion: Moisten rim of chilled martini glass with lemon wedge, then coat with colored sugar.

Strawberry Black Peppercorn Peach Tea
2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
2 tsp. black peppercorns
6 strawberries
1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea
Crush peppercorns with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Add strawberries and mash well. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Peach Tea. Strain and serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish, if desired, with additional sliced strawberries.
*Substitution: Instead of peppercorns, simply add 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper.
For a cocktail version, simply add 1 cup chilled sparkling wine after straining.

Minted Melon Iced Honey Green Tea
2 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
6 chunks honeydew melon, about 1-1/2 inches square
15 large fresh mint leaves
1 bottle Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea
Crush honeydew and mint with wooden spoon in 1-quart glass measuring cup. Stir in Pure Leaf™ Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea. Strain and serve over ice. Garnish, if desired, with additional honeydew and mint sprigs.
For a pitcher, simply double the recipe.
For a cocktail version, simply add 1/4 cup vodka.
Summertime Entertaining tips from Ted Allen:

When you’re barbecuing, make it easier on yourself by prepping ahead with side dishes that don’t need to be heated: Bean salads, pasta salads, even a panzanella bread salad are easy to make ahead, and that frees you up to be the Grill Master.
The delicate, refreshing flavor of tea pairs beautifully with almost any food. Think of its abilities to clean your palate of rich, sweet flavors, and to compliment more delicate ones. Offer a range of teas–sweet, unsweetened, not-too-sweet, peach–to give your guests choices, then serve with interesting garnishes (cherries, kiwi, blood orange, Meyer lemon, and a selection of herbs).
Nobody wants to hear themselves chewing at a dinner party, so don’t let “dead air” happen at yours! For a fun ambience, the music must never stop. Develop a playlist of elegant background music–no surprises like heavy metal or John Philip Sousa. My go-to is Chet Baker.
Learn More about Pure Leaf Tea on their Facebook page

The Ultimate List Of The Most Uplifting Podcasts

Press Send With Chinae Alexander

This one is a new addition as Chinae launched her podcast after I published my first list. Chinae is hilarious and funny but also such an incredible example for women of all ages. I love her body positive outlook, how she shares her daily life with us on social media, and I LOVE her advice. Her podcast is fun in that you can go her website and submit a question, and then her and her guests will answer them! The guests are always fantastic… she has had a really great mix of women on. Becca and I just recorded an episode with her – you can listen to that here! Listen to Press Send here.

Absolutely Not With Heather McMahan

I mean, is there anything more uplifting and funny than spending an hour with Heather McMahan? She is one of my favs to follow on social media and I just adore her. This new podcast brings me so much joy. Heather is hilarious. It’s always under an hour, it’s always SO FUNNY, and she’s had on some amazing guests. I regularly laugh out loud at inappropriate places when she’s in my ears. Listen to Absolutely Not here.

Be There in Five with Kate Kennedy

This is another new to me one and now I’m hooked I don’t always get the pop culture references but I LOVE Kate and all of her deep dives. You never know what she’s going to talk about. It’s really fun, I always learn something new, it’s just great all around. Separately we have also had Kate on our podcast! It’s a very fun episode! Listen to Be There in Five here.

Girls Gotta Eat

This has become one of my favorite podcasts as I just laugh and laugh and laugh with these two. It’s kind of like U Up (another favorite) but with a strictly female perspective (although they regularly bring on men as guests). They are definitely not always politically correct, and they are sooooo very open about their dating lives and real life, but I just laugh. Through podcasting and life in New York Rayna and Ashley have come to be real life very good friends but before that I would listen to them and feel like they were my friends.

As a single girl in her thirties, dating in New York, I live for each episode – it helps me realize I’m not alone in this crazy, crazy world. Also: I keep getting asked for recommendations for a podcast similar to Girls Gotta Eat – I can’t really think of any, besides maybe U Up! Listen to Girls Gotta Eat here.

Ted Talks Daily

This is a given (does anyone NOT listen to Ted Talks?) but man – I have learned so, so much from Ted Talks podcasts, particularly the more motivational podcasts. I love that they come out every day and they’ve become an important part of my day to day routine! It’s thought provoking and always something interesting. I try to listen to most of the new episodes, but this podcast is so prolific that I also find myself looking up older episodes to reference them. Listen to Ted Talks Daily here.

Unlocking Us With Brené Brown

I’ve gotten really into Unlocking Us this year (I think it was Helena who talked about it, and I quickly subscribed). Brené Brown is an overall inspiring podcast and she has had an incredible roster of guests (I loved the episode with Ibram X Kendi) Listen to Unlocking Us here. She’s an amazing interviewer and has even interviewed Barack Obama!

The Lively Show

Jess Lively is such an inspiring person. She is currently on a hiatus (I hope the podcast comes back but I am still making my way through all 280 episodes!) but she really should be a motivational speaker or life coach. Her interviews are amazing. Her weekly podcast is one of the first podcasts I ever heard about, but I was a late adapter to podcasts so now I’m caught playing catch-up. Listen to The Lively Show here.

Second Life

This is Hillary Kerr’s podcast and I just love it. This is such an inspirational podcast. Hillary is one of the founders of WhoWhatWear and I just find her to be so relatable and likable – while also being aspirational. The podcast is very new but it’s full of great interviews with women who have amazing careers… about life and business. She’s talked to Jen Gotch (the founder of, Jessica Alba, Lauren Conrad… it’s just such a good podcast. As a blogger I most recently got a lot of interview with Marianna Hewitt. Listen to Second Life here.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Can Gretchen Rubin please be my life coach? She is the bestselling author of the Happiness Project (LOVED this book and its pragmatic look at attaining a happier life) and is inspiring listeners to live their best lives. She has such an amazing understanding of human nature. This one is definitely helping with my own personal growth and just learning to embrace my own life and be happy with what I have. Listen to Happier with Gretchen Rubin here.

Magic Lessons by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the bestselling author of Big Magic, City of Girls, Eat Pray Love, I could go on. You know her! I looooved Big Magic, and was so excited to learn that she has a podcast too! Similar to the book, the podcast is all about unlocking your creative potential in your daily life. This is a really inspirational podcast and I feel like it would be so helpful for women in a creative field. She brings on different influential people and creatives in every episode. I personally really loved the episodes she did with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle. Listen to Magic Lessons here.

The Chalene Show

Chalene Johnson is amazing. She’s a celebrity fitness trainer and her podcast is thought-provoking, inspiring. I love all the practical advice – it really covers everything. From diet + fitness tips to relationships to productivity hacks, it’s just chock full of useful, valuable content. Not every episode is relevant to me (i.e. “What to do when you eff up as a parent”) but I included it as the ones that are relevant are incredible. I loved the one about worrying less. Listen to The Chalene Show here.

Forever 35

I feel like I could be friends with Kate and Doree! They have a lot of beauty + self-care recommendations along with a healthy dose of real life. I always feel happier after listening to them chat about their everyday life, favorite books and beauty products, and more. It started as a weekly podcast and now they have little mini-episodes, which I just love. Listen to Forever 35 here.

Good Life Project

I’ve only just discovered this podcast but really like it so far and there are SO many episodes. I love a conversational podcast and this is a good one if you feel that way too. They’ve had some incredible guests as well… think Elizabeth Gilbert, Brené Brown, Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Godin, and Gretchen Rubin! Listen to Good Life Project here.

The Tony Robbins Podcast

This is one of the best motivational podcasts. Tony Robbins needs no introduction but he is the #1 Life and Business strategist and has helped over 50 million people. This podcast unpacks his strategies and tactics for getting better results in work, life, finances and relationships. I really liked the more recent episode about trading expectation for appreciation. Listen to the Tony Robbins Podcast here.

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss also needs no introduction but he’s the bestselling author of The 4-hour workweek. (I really want to read this book, btw!) In this podcast, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use in their everyday life. Listen to The Tim Ferriss Show here.

The Art of Charm

Hosts Johnny and AJ are all about teaching us how to master human dynamics, relationships, and becoming your best self to become higher performers, better spouses and partners. I really love how they dig deep into human behavior and the science behind it to help us better understand what we do and why we do it! Listen to The Art of Charm podcast here.

School of Greatness

Because we all could use a bit more greatness in our lives, right? This one is hosted by Lewis Howes who I was not familiar with but he is a NYT best-selling author, 2x All-American athlete, keynote speaker, and entrepreneur. This podcast is full of inspiring interviews with successful people to help inspire us to unlock our own inner greatness! Listen to School of Greatness here.

Products shown in photos: pink iPhone case (similar!) // apple airpods (read my full airpods review) // patchology lip balm (a new fav – it’s so thick + hydrating!!) // white heart sunglasses

PS – for even more podcast recommendations, I rounded up my favorite podcasts back in November of 2018 and then added to that list with a few new additions in March. I also have a fun list of the best true crime podcasts!

50 Easy Toast Toppers

Find 50 ideas for quick and easy toast toppers from Food Network Magazine.

Related To:

Recipes courtesy Food Network Magazine

Step 1: Slice 1 to 2 loaves of French bread into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.

Step 2: Brush each slice with olive oil or melted butter.

Step 3: Place the rounds on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees until crisp throughout and lightly golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.

1. Spread with goat cheese top with finely chopped canned beets, an orange segment and fresh mint.

2. Spread with fig jam top with gorgonzola cheese and prosciutto.

3. Spread with fig jam top with goat cheese and chopped walnuts.

4. Spread with butter top with thinly sliced bread-and-butter pickles.

5. Spread with hummus top with olive tapenade.

Toast with Figs and Honey

6. Top with sliced figs drizzle with honey sprinkle with sea salt.

Toast Toppers

Photo by: Marko Metzinger ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Marko Metzinger, Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

7. Mash avocado with salt and lime juice spread on toasts top with shrimp.

8. Spread with ricotta cheese top with chopped roasted red peppers sprinkle with salt and pepper.

9. Rub with a garlic clove top with sliced plum tomatoes sprinkle with sea salt.

10. Spread with butter top with thinly sliced radishes sprinkle with sea salt.

11. Toss canned tuna with lemon juice and zest, olive oil, chopped parsley and salt spread on toasts.

12. Spread with gorgonzola cheese top with sliced pears.

13. Top with chopped grapes and wrap with prosciutto.

14. Top with pesto and shaved Parmesan cheese.

15. Top with pesto, crumbled bacon and chopped tomatoes.

Toast with Pesto and Sundried Tomatoes

16. Top with pesto and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

17. Spread with mashed avocado top with crumbled bacon and sprouts.

18. Spread with ricotta cheese drizzle with olive oil add a dash of salt and pepper.

19. Brush with olive oil add a thin slice of manchego cheese top with chorizo.

20. Chop rotisserie chicken meat and toss with barbecue sauce spoon onto toasts top with chopped pickles.

21. Combine mayonnaise with wasabi paste spread on toasts top with lump crab meat.

22. Combine mayonnaise and wasabi paste toss finely chopped sushi-grade tuna with sesame oil spread wasabi mayo on toasts top with tuna.

23. Whip cream cheese with chopped dill spread on toasts top with thinly sliced smoked salmon.

Toast Toppers

Photo by: Marko Metzinger ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Marko Metzinger, Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

24. Spread with Taleggio cheese top with candied pecans or walnuts.

25. Spread with apple butter top with crumbled blue cheese and chopped fresh sage.

26. Saute finely chopped mushrooms in butter and season with salt and thyme spread on toasts top with shaved Parmesan cheese.

27. Saute thinly sliced onions in butter until caramelized spread toasts with Brie cheese top with apple slices and caramelized onions.

28. Top with thinly sliced apples and grated cheddar cheese broil until melted.

29. Spread with butter top with thinly sliced ham and a cornichon slice.

30. Spread with cranberry sauce top with thinly sliced turkey sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

31. Saute thinly sliced fennel and golden raisins in olive oil until soft spoon onto toasts.

32. Combine cream cheese and chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce spread on toasts top with thinly sliced smoked turkey.

33. Top with fresh tomato pulp sprinkle with sea salt and fresh basil.

34. Combine refried beans with chopped green chiles spread on toasts top with pepper jack cheese and broil until melted.

35. Combine equal parts sour cream and cream cheese with horseradish spread on toasts top with thinly sliced roast beef.

36. Halve asparagus tips lengthwise steam until al dente and season with salt spread premade egg salad on toast top with an asparagus tip.

37. Wilt baby spinach and toss with crumbled bacon spoon onto toasts top with chopped hard-boiled eggs.

38. Toss finely chopped romaine with Caesar dressing and grated Parmesan cheese spoon onto toasts top with an anchovy.

Chopped Host Ted Allen Imagines His Dream Kitchen For the Ultimate Summer Dinner Party

For American author and television personality Ted Allen, there is only one thing that can top good food, and that’s good company to share it with. No matter how frequently he and his husband—interior designer Barry Rice—host friends and family in their 1879 Brooklyn brownstone for dinner, they never get tired of cooking and eating with their close friends.

While he loves the space they’ve created in their home, Ted cranks up the creativity when envisioning his ultimate dream kitchen.

Ted and his husband partnered with architect Jarek Tresko to design their kitchen into an efficient space for easy entertaining.

"Our kitchen is on the ground floor and connects to the backyard patio, so it’s a great place to entertain," Ted says. Although the couple has friends and family over year-round, Ted especially loves to host outdoor dinner parties during the long days of summer. After years of putting on memorable gatherings, he says that proper preparation is key to creating exceptional experiences for his guests.

"I don’t love ‘fast’ dinners," Ted notes. "I like to do everything from scratch, including picking my own fresh ingredients. I also try to prepare the food in advance so that I can spend more time doing other things with my guests when they arrive."

To that end, they created an efficient and beautiful cooking area. Designed by his husband, along with New York–based architect Jarek Tresko, the stylish kitchen in their brownstone features a thoughtful floor plan, along with plenty of modern amenities that promote easy function and flow.

"Efficient placement of the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and sink is important," Ted explains, "especially when I’m entertaining friends and cooking a meal at the same time. It’s all about appreciating the different functions of the room." He and Barry even went so far as to install two dishwashers. "If you have the space, it’s not that much more expensive, and it’s super useful if you entertain a lot."

"I’m not big on bold color or intricate wallpaper," Ted notes. "I prefer a crisp, white kitchen with stainless-steel countertops—these are great because you can’t really damage them."

The couple’s kitchen prioritizes easy access to equipment. "We wanted our kitchen to be a space where everyone knows where everything is," he explains. "The coffee maker is readily available and easy to find. Above the dishwashing sink is a long shelf full of plates. Many of the kitchen tools, such as our knives, pots, and cutting boards are on display, which allows people to find what they need without having to ask or hunt for anything. I like that we’ve designed this into a space where any guest can truly feel at home."

Turning to for his dream-kitchen inspiration, he sets his imagination free by combing through the company’s vast collection of online home improvement products. Featuring trending fixtures and high-end appliances, the e-retailer also offers all the essentials needed for every category—including lighting, plumbing, and hardware.

In his dream kitchen, Ted would utilize different lighting for different purposes. "While task lighting is important for preparing food, dimmable lighting is great for setting the mood and creating a relaxed ambience for entertaining."

The only thing missing from Ted's wish list? A butler's pantry and more natural light. "Having a skylight would also be amazing, along with more space to seat people in the kitchen."

"In my dream scenario, I would love to have a wood-burning fireplace in the kitchen," Ted adds. "That would be the ‘dream kitchen’ item for me."

5 Classic Cocktails, Slimmed Down — Summer Soiree

Think twice before you reach for that tiki drink. When you consider that one standard shot (1 1/2 fluid ounces) of 80-proof vodka, rum or gin contains roughly 100 calories, you’re likely throwing back more calories than you bargained for on a typical night out, especially if you’re combining a few of these with sugary mixers. One way to take control of your caloric intake is to skip the bar all together and mix your drinks at home. For a lighter version of your favorite cocktail, start by measuring out the hard stuff. Choose 100 percent juice or use fresh fruits and herbs to flavor your drink in place of overly sweetened bottled mixers. And remember: Size matters. Keep the calorie count under control by pouring your cocktails into 8-ounce glasses, or smaller. Whether you prefer clear vodka or dark rum, here are a few classic cocktail recipes, slimmed down for your next summer party.

As far as cocktails go, mint juleps are far from the worst. Bobby Flay sticks to the classic combination of bourbon whiskey, mint, sugar and shaved ice when preparing his old-fashioned Mint Julep (pictured at top).

Watch the video: Summer Entertaining Tips

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