Spring serves up a menu of some of nature’s best offerings. The season reawakens a love for all things fresh and effortless. Longer, brighter days shed new light on home entertaining.
“I think the general [spring entertaining] trend is to take a cue from nature,” says Mari Jo Mundahl, senior interior designer with Studio M, the design partner of Mingle, a 25,000-square-foot home design resource center.
Elizabeth Cohen, general manager of Studio M, agrees. “We wait so long for winter to end, and we want to entertain outside,” Cohen says, adding that if weather doesn’t quite cooperate, “capture the first blooms of spring” to bring the outside in.
“Everything gets lighter in the spring,” says Kelly Davert, Mingle general manager. “That applies to both color and food selections. For dishes, the colors tend to go lighter in cream and white dishes or even pastels to neutrals. Napkins and tablescapes tend to follow suit, as do the food selections. Charger plates may be exchanged for a lighter placemat, so the entire table lightens up, and candles are still viable but in lighter colors.”
Nature offers some of the most vivid hues, and entertaining with this season’s on-trend colors will provide a bursting bouquet of pigments. Mundahl suggests incorporating bright and pastel colors. “I think entertaining follows fashion,” she says. To that point, home entertainers should feature colors such as aquamarine, Lucite green (like those used by designers Betsey Johnson and Monique Lhuillier), toasted almond, strawberry (sitting between pink and red), tangerine and custard (subtle yellow with an “easy disposition”). Consider using the colors to give popular white serving accessories a fashion infusion with a pop of color coming from a vase, small dish or glassware.
Mundahl says finding inspiration is as simple as taking a walk—through Mingle’s showroom. Open to the public on weekdays and Saturdays, Mingle offers design and decorating inspiration by way of an expansive showroom, featuring professionally decorated living spaces. “The floor is energizing,” Mundahl says.
Browsing at Mingle is like shopping for shoes—sometimes you have to slip your feet into a pair of pumps, take a test walk and see what feels right. Customers are encouraged to “sit on the furniture, feel the fabrics, open cabinet doors and drawers, [and] play with appliances and accessories,” according to Mingle’s website.
Mundahl says heading to a local farmers market could lead not only to menu inspiration, but to tablescaping ideas, as well. For spring events, she suggests using greens, vegetables and citrus fruits in centerpieces or as table accents. She recommends choosing elements that are hardy and will hold up in an arrangement. For example, placing firm tangerines or grapefruit in an arrangement highlights the season’s color scheme. “Look for colors in food, and think outside the box,” she says.
From left, Mari Jo Mundahl, Rachel Sherwood and Elizabeth Cohen at Mingle.
Rachel Sherwood, owner of a culinary enterprise called Impressions at Home, echoes those sentiments, noting spring reflects the need to “rethink and repurpose food. I think it’s about taking something we know and making it into something else,” the food stylist says.
Sherwood also says spring trends call for rethinking how food is served. Take a recipe typically served on a plate and nest it in a cup or a cordial glass. “Food served in a different vessel can take on a whole new life,” says Sherwood, author of The Pretty Plate: 5 Elements to Make Everyday Meals Magnificent.
Through Impressions at Home, Sherwood works with groups of all sizes and private clients, to “teach people to develop their own palates and recipes.” Trained at Mendota Heights’ Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Sherwood stresses the importance of developing a confident style that reflects a cook’s lifestyle.
Cooking since she was a child and working in many food-related venues would lead one to think Sherwood has a singular passion for food. Not true. “I love gathering people together,” she says. “That’s what creates memories.”
Making memories—a trend for all seasons.
For More Spring Entertaining Ideas:
12955 Highway 55
Mondays: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Tuesdays–Thursdays: 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Fridays: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Rachel Sherwood’s Spring Recipe Preview
Trend: Family-style, the return of punch, highlighting spring asparagus and local produce
This spring, Sherwood says diners are in for fresh, spicy and a bit of retro-style entertaining. With a nod to the return of family-style meals, she offers a menu option that can be prepared ahead of time. It’s time to dig out the old family punch bowl because punches are back! “I think they are all part of the family-style essence,” Sherwood says. She recommends avoiding sugary ingredients and using seltzer water and natural sugars from fruits to perk up the party beverage.
Menu 1: For beginners or busy hosts
- Asparagus Quiche
- French Toast Casserole
- Sunrise Punch
Trend: Small plates, re-thinking ordinary foods, root vegetables
“This is really about making things beautiful but approachable,” Sherwood says. Featuring lighter portions on small, white plates or serving pieces add an airy, easy sophistication. Incorporating beets into items such as hummus adds the pop of color referenced by Mundahl, and rethinking root vegetables (such as rutabagas and beets) reflects today’s overall interest in “using what you have.”
Menu 2: For intermediate and advanced hosts
- Tuna Tartar Beet Hummus
- Beet Hummus
- Chocolate Avocado Mousse
Trend: Rise of spicy Asian, pickled, smoked and fermented, highlighting mushrooms and fresh local produce
“We’re going to see a lot of pickled and smoked items,” Sherwood says. The increased interest in Bánh mì can be traced to the popularity of food trucks, which serve fast, easy-to-manage, casual fare, Sherwood explains. Diners are showing an inclination to “turn up the heat.” New peppers have hit the markets, and Sriracha sauce is nudging out ketchup at the cool condiments table. “I think they’re looking for new flavors,” Sherwood says of diners.
Menu 3: For intermediate hosts
- Wild Mushroom Ramen
- Spicy Szechuan Green Beans
- Chicken Bánh mì
- 4 ripe bananas
- 6 c. water, divided
- 2 15 oz. cans mandarin oranges in light syrup
- 46 oz. can pineapple juice
- 12 oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
- 12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate
- 3 liters club soda, chilled
- 3 64 oz. plastic containers
In a blender, combine bananas and 3 cups water. Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and stir in pineapple juice. Blend in orange juice concentrate, lemonade concentrate and 3 cups water. In a blender, lightly pulse the two cans of mandarin oranges just until broken up, but not pureed. Add to banana pineapple mixture, stir to combine. Divide into three equal plastic containers and freeze until solid.
Remove from freezer 3 to 4 hours before serving or slightly thaw in refrigerator overnight. Using one portion at a time, slightly break up the frozen mixture into slush, place slush in a punch bowl and pour in 1 liter of club soda for each slush container.
- 6 oz. sushi grade tuna, diced 1/4 inch
- 1 green onion, minced, divided
- 1 tsp. jalapeño, minced
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
- 12 wonton wrappers
- 3 c. peanut oil
- 1 T. toasted sesame seeds
In a small bowl combine tuna, 1 T. green onion, jalapeño, soy sauce, ginger and lime juice mix until fully combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut wonton wrappers into four smaller quarters. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan. To tell if it is hot, dip just a corner of one of the wonton squares into the oil. It should bubble up quickly: If not, let it heat up more. When oil is ready, lightly fry wonton wrappers in batches until lightly golden brown and crisp, drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining wrappers. To serve, spoon tuna mixture over each crisp wonton. Garnish with remaining green onion and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
- 1 pie crust (homemade or a pre-made refrigerated crust)
- 2 T. butter
- 1 cup washed, trimmed and diced asparagus
- 1/4 c. onion diced
- 4 eggs
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 lb. (about 1 cup) natural Swiss cheese, shredded (Grate a cheese block for the best melting consistency.)
Prepare and roll out pie crust into one 9-inch pie plate. Set aside in the refrigerator to chill while preparing other items. Heat a large sauté pan with 2 T. of butter. Cook onion 1–2 minutes until tender but not brown, add prepared asparagus and sauté 3–4 minutes until tender. Drain on paper towels and press lightly to remove any extra moisture. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl with a wire whisk, beat eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in cheese to combine. Spread cooked vegetables in prepared pie crust. Pour egg mixture over asparagus and bake 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 325 degrees and continue to bake for 35-40 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead: To make in advance, prepare recipe as directed, allow baked quiche to cool and refrigerate uncovered until well chilled. Cover with plastic wrap to keep overnight, if needed. Serve quiche at room temperature or, reheat it by placing it covered with foil in a 325 degrees oven for about 30-40 minutes until heated through.
Gluten-Free option: Prepare as directed, but omit the pie crust. Pour filling into a greased pie plate and bake as directed.
French Toast Casserole
Yield: 8 servings
- 1 c. whole milk
- 3/4 c. coconut sugar or packed brown sugar
- 4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 lb. loaf artisan bread, brioche or challah
- 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- Pinch of salt, if using unsalted butter
- 1/2 c. chopped pecans
In a small sauce pan, over medium-low heat, warm the milk and sugar, stirring occasionally until sugar completely dissolves. Turn off the heat, add butter to the pan, allow to sit until butter is melted and mixture is slightly cooled. In the meantime, slice the bread into 1/2-inch slices. In a 13x9x2-inch baking dish, arrange bread slices in the dish, overlapping as needed to fit. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and salt.
Pour milk, sugar and butter mixture into the egg mixture, then pour over the bread slices, allowing bread to absorb mixture. Top with pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center. Allow the chilled casserole to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking. Bake casserole until browned and set, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly.
Serve with a warm caramel sauce or maple syrup, or garnish with powdered sugar if desired.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. cream
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Add cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and watching closely so it does not boil over.
Add vanilla, stir until combined and cook one more minute. Serve warm or allow to cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools. After refrigeration, warm slightly in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Wild Mushroom Ramen
- 6 oz. mushrooms (Chanterelle, Oyster, Portobello, Shiitake)
- 1 t. dark sesame oil
- 1 t. garlic, minced
- 1 t. fresh ginger, minced
- 1 c. chopped Bok Choy
- 1/4 t. crushed red chili flakes
- 1 T. miso paste
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 3 c. water
- 1 pkg ramen noodles, seasoning packet discarded, use only noodles
- 2 green onion, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
Roughly chop mushrooms and set aside. In a large soup pan over medium, heat warm the sesame oil and lightly sauté the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add mushrooms and season with a pinch of salt and pepper cook for 2-3 minutes. Add Bok Choy, chili flakes, miso paste, soy sauce, water, noodles and one chopped green onion. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes until noodles are tender. Garnish with remaining chopped green onion and serve warm.
- 1 large beet or 3 small beets (about 2 c.)
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 3 T. tahini
- 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Wash and peel beets, cut into 1/4 inch dice and place in a shallow roasting pan. Lightly coat with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper to season. Roast at 400 degrees for 20-35 minutes until tender.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process, scraping sides occasionally until smooth and creamy. Serve with assorted artisan crackers and vegetables, or spread on melba toast with a soft goat cheese and garnish with Italian parsley.
Spicy Szechuan Green Beans
- 1 lb fresh green beans
- 2-3 T. peanut oil
- 1 T. dark sesame oil
- 2 t. fresh ginger, minced
- 2 t. garlic, minced
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. chili paste
- 1 T. brown sugar
Wash, trim and pat dry the green beans. Heat peanut oil in a large wok or skillet over med-high heat. Add dry green beans and fry 5-8 minutes stirring often until skin is starting to wrinkle and turn slightly brown. You may want to try to do this in two batches if using a smaller pan. Remove beans from the pan and drain on paper towels. Remove excess oil if any remains in pan. Reduce heat; add sesame oil, ginger and garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add soy sauce, chili paste and sugar, stir to combine and return bean back to the pan. Cook one more minute stirring to coat beans in sauce. Serve warm.
Chicken Bánh Mì
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. white vinegar
- 1/4 t. crushed red chili flakes
- 1/4 t. kosher salt
- 1/2 c. julienned carrot
- 1/4 c. julienned daikon radish
- 3 T. Hoisin sauce
- 1 T. lime juice
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 1 T. water
- 1 T. fresh chopped cilantro
- 12 oz. (3 cups) shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1/2 c. good quality mayonnaise
- 1 T. Sriracha
- 1 soft loaf French baguette split in half
- 1/2 English cucumber, sliced thinly
- Cilantro sprig for garnish optional
For the slaw:
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, vinegar and chili flakes and bring to a boil, stir occasionally to dissolve sugar completely. Pour warm mixture over cut carrots and radish mix to completely cover and set aside to marinate for least 30 minutes or overnight for a stronger sweet pickled flavor. When time is up, drain carrots and radish from the liquid and chill until ready to use.
To assemble the sandwiches: Slice the baguette in half the lightly toast in a 400 oven until just lightly crisp and warm, about 2 minutes. In a skillet, heat marinated chicken and strain off extra liquid. Remove bread from oven and slather with Sriracha mayo, top with cucumber slices, warm seasoned chicken and top with chilled slaw and cilantro sprigs.
Need a little more kick? Try this sauce as an extra garnish:
Sriracha Soy Sauce
- 2 T. Sriracha sauce
- 2 T. Soy Sauce
Combine both ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and drizzle over sandwiches for an extra punch of flavor.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- 2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
- 1/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa (high quality)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- 1/4 c. pure maple syrup
Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, cover and process until smooth. Spoon mixture into desired serving dishes, refrigerate at least 30 minutes until chilled. Garnish with whipped cream if desired, toasted nuts or toasted coconut.
Visit mingleteam.com for spring cooking classes hosted by Rachel Sherwood, author of The Pretty Plate: 5 Elements to Make Everyday Meals Magnificent. Visit impressionsathome.com for additional information.