Spa-Inspired Dinner Party

Staff Writer
Combine soothing music, yoga, and a healthy meal for a unique alternative to girls night out.
Polenta Pizza
Gentl & Hyers

Polenta Pizza

Do the mid-winter doldrums have you down? Have you been staying away from hosting dinner parties in an effort to avoid all the tempting, rich dishes you might normally cook when entertaining? Then lift your spirits and reset your mind and body than with our at-home interpretation of spa night.

Spending time with friends is reinvigorating, and with our simple tips below, hosting a dinner party for them doesn’t have to drain you. Begin your spa evening by doing something active with your guests, like taking a long walk or doing yoga. Then, treat your guests to a meal of easy-to-prepare, mouth-watering dishes from Terry Walters, author of "Clean Start" that can be enjoyed guilt-free (and won’t derail those new resolutions). It's just like the spa, but in the comfort of your own home.


Set a (Soothing) Scene

Credit: Flickr/Jennifer E. Smith

- When creating a calming environment, music helps. Put together a soundtrack of spa-favorites, like Enya or instrumental music.

- Start a fire in the fireplace, or light a couple of candles, to create a warm and soothing glow that is also inviting to be near.

- When setting the table, be inspired by gorgeous flowers. Choose what is beautiful and fresh, and let them determine your color palette. Arrange small vases of brightly colored lilies, roses, or anemones down the center of the table, one stem per vase. If you have a small table, opt for one low, compact arrangement to place in the middle.

- At the table, light small white votive candles and scatter them around the flowers for light.

- Opt for pastel-colored dishware in soft greens, blues, taupes, and mauves to pick up the colors of the flowers on the table. If all you have is white dishware, use neutral-colored linens and let your flowers be the accent color.


Enjoy a Recharging Activity Together

Credit: Flickr/Lululemon Athletica

When it comes to getting your mind off what is most bothersome, doing something meditative and/or physical helps. Go for a leisurely walk at dusk, or host a yoga class or meditation session at home (with a video or an instructor). If pampering is what you need, contact your local massage therapist or esthetician to see if they make house calls; while some enjoy a relaxing massage or pedicure, others can be working together to prepare the meal.


Serve a Healthy Meal

When planning the menu, choose nutrient-rich and colorful food to restart and recharge your mind and body from within. Terry Walters, a proponent of ‘clean’ eating — choosing foods that are simple, nutritious, and delicious for living well — has shared some of her tips for healthy eating, each paired with a delicious party-friendly recipe for you to try at home (Photos courtesy of Gentl & Hyers).


1. Eat the colors of the rainbow

The more colorful your diet, the more nutrient-rich it will be. White, processed foods sap your energy, while fresh fruits and vegetables will boost it. This light yet protein-packed salad is an excellent starter dish, or can be served alone for a healthy lunch.

Recipe to try: Chickpea, Avocado, and Pea Shoot Salad with Orange Dill Dressing.


2. Choose flavorful foods

Minimally processed dishes that balance sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent together naturally are often more flavorful; they also help make you feel satiated when eating healthy. Not a fan of vegetables? Coax more flavor out of vegetables by roasting, as it helps bring out their inherent sweetness. This deeply flavorful side dish can also be served over brown rice for a heartier main dish.

Recipe to try: French Lentils with Roasted Roots, Caramelized Onions, and Thyme.


3. Serve healthier versions of everyone’s favorite foods.

Eating clean doesn’t mean depriving yourself of sweets or ignoring your craving for pizza. Instead, opt for foods that will satisfy that hankering but won’t leave you feeling lousy. If you’re craving something sweet, try poaching fruit. If all you want is a piece of pizza, Terry has that covered, too. This is a great recipe that is both gluten and dairy free; feel free to experiment with the toppings if greens aren't interesting enough.

Recipe to try: Polenta Pizzas.


How the Food is Served Matters, Too

When it comes time to serve the meal, think about the beautiful setting you've created and put that same care and attention into how you serve the food. “You don’t have to use fancy dishes," Terry tells me, but "take special care to make everything look enticing.” For example, serve the pizzas on parchment-covered wooden boards and put them in the middle of the table for everyone to share. Present the food family-style, rather than plating individual dishes, so that each guest can enjoy the colors and aromas of the whole dish — a meal is much more satisfying when you can “eat” it with all five of your senses.