Do you ever get overwhelmed by the thought of a dinner party? I remember the days when just the thought of cooking for ten people would have had me doing circle breathing for 10 minutes to calm down. It’s become much easier with some practice. Plus I love that I can control the volume of the room and what’s on the menu. I’d say the largest worry for me now is the scheduling as I never know if it will be a good day or a bad day. Fortunately I’m here with some tips for you, so you can avoid looking like Izzy the sheepdog.
We had a large crowd this weekend at our house for my brother-in-law’s graduation from business school. One night we planned a casual dinner outside for the crew. My original plan was to throw some pork in the crock pot and forget about it, but I got a little ambitious. I decided to do grilled salmon, plus double the recipe for this pasta salad and this blueberry crumble. I’m not quite sure if everyone was just being friendly, but we didn’t have leftovers so that’s always a good sign.
The dinner wasn’t without it’s challenges. I woke up that morning to the sound of thunder and immediately regretted my decision to have everyone over for the party. Thunderstorms always seem to elevate my symptoms, which makes a lot of sense after this year’s Migraine World Summit. Interestingly one of the studies quoted, showed there was a 25-30% increase of onset headache or migraine if lightening was within 25 miles. That number also increased if lightening had a greater negative charge. Who knew, right? Either way, I started feeling pretty dizzy. I took an extra dose of magnesium, stuck with my supplements, and got to cooking. By the end of the day, I felt much better and had a great time with our family and friends. This is part of why I got so into cooking when I was at my worst. It was something to get my mind off the discomfort. Below are some tips I’ve picked up through the year on how to throw a dinner party with a chronic illness.
- Don’t grocery shop the same day – If you’re looking to keep your symptoms and stress level low overall, a busy grocery store isn’t going to help. If you can make a list and plan a day ahead, it will make the cooking a breeze.
- Start early and make something simple – choose recipes that can be prepped far enough ahead in the day so you’re not rushing at the last minute. For instance, this blueberry crumble can be made ahead and warmed right before serving. The mango salsa here can be made in the morning so you only have to grill your salmon. Pulled pork can be put in a crock pot (or instant pot) and ready when your guests arrive. Salads can be made and kept separate from the dressing, which you thrown on right before serving.
- Don’t tell your guests they’re eating a migraine diet meal – If your family are picky eaters like a certain father I know, just don’t tell them the pasta is gluten-free and made of quinoa flour. Or that you used distilled white vinegar instead of the finest aged balsamic. They don’t need to know! You can also keep them happy by giving them more wine.
- Recruit help – If your children are great at setting a table or your spouse is a grill master, get them to help you with these tasks. When my husband grills, it takes one more task off my plate!
- Be proud of yourself – many would be sitting alone in a dark room somewhere, but not you! You are a migraine warrior. You are living your life to it’s fullest and not letting a chronic illness rule it.
I hope this post will give you the push you need if you’ve been avoiding these parties, thinking it would be too difficult. Also, if you hate this salmon you can blame my husband because it’s his recipe.
The mango salsa is a perfect, sweet compliment to a simple grilled salmon. You could easily substitute peaches if you can't find good mango.
*if cooking for a crowd, I used 4lbs of salmon for 10 adults and tripled the mango salsa recipe*
- 1 lb salmon, skin on and bones removed I used Norwegian
- olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper
- 1 large mango if buying fresh, you want it to be firm with a slight give when pressed, like an avocado.
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1/2 watermelon radish chopped (or regular red radish if you can't find)
- 1/4 green jalapeno seeds and membrane removed, minced the seeds and membrane contain the most heat. You can adjust accordingly to your personal heat level preference.
- 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
- kosher salt to taste
Use a peeler to peel the skin from the mango. Slice around the largest diameter of your mango, avoiding the pit. Martha has a great video here. Add chopped cilantro, red bell pepper, radish, vinegar, and chopped shallot. If using jalapeno, remove the seeds and membrane first, then dice into small pieces. Here is a great link from the kitchn on how to do this, as well as getting the heat off your hands! If you'd like a little salt, I added about 1/4 tsp. You can taste it and see what you think it needs. Cover and place the salsa in the fridge. This can be made 1 day ahead. Be conscious of tyramine build up!
Heat grill to 425-450 degrees (we use a charcoal grill, but a gas grill would be more accurate). Drizzle salmon with extra virgin olive oil, some kosher salt, and pepper.
Once grill has reached desired temperature, place salmon on grill, skin side down. Close the cover to your grill. Allow Salmon to cook for 8-12 minutes
If salmon has been cooked all the way through, serve immediately. If middle of filet is still raw, allow salmon to rest 5 minutes loosely covered in aluminum before serving.
Signs salmon is done:
1. Cut a slit into thickest part of filet. Depending on desired level of doneness, middle of fillet should be slightly raw.
2. If the fat of the salmon has started rendering (melting) the fish is overdone.
Desired level of doneness is a matter of preference. I prefer mine more medium well, my husband prefers straight up medium.
If the salmon filet doesn’t have the skin on, cook the salmon on sheet of aluminum foil. Be sure to oil both side of the salmon filet if cooking on aluminum foil.
This can also easily be made in the oven by roasting at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes.