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Party Perfection: 9 Easy Mezze Dishes

Party Perfection: 9 Easy Mezze Dishes

You’ve sent the invitations. You’ve even cleaned your house. Now, what are you planning on feeding these people?

When it comes to party perfection, few styles fit the bill better than a spread of mezze. Mezze, by definition, suits a gathering — “a selection of plates to accompany alcoholic drinks.” Planning a party surrounded by beautiful Middle Eastern mezze doesn’t even have to be difficult, as you can make most of the elements in advance, leaving you to whoop it up with your suitably awed guests. In this series of videos, you will see just how easy it is to provide a spread of delicious dishes without breaking a sweat.

Your Mezze Party: The Essentials

Here are a few items to really ramp up the authenticity of your mezze spread:

  1. Plenty of pita bread. A big portion of a traditional mezze is dip-based, so having a big basket of pita bread cut into triangles can help to soak it up.
  2. Fresh cut veggies. Raw vegetables are a staple on the mezze table, and are used to scoop dips, or guests can just munch on them.
  3. Olives. Good quality olives are a must for a mezze. Look for several varieties, such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, Manzanilla, and olives stuffed with garlic or or pimento. Serve mixed together or separately — just be sure to include a receptacle for the pits.
  4. Pickles. While making your own pickles is relatively easy, you’ll do just as well picking up a selection of pickles from your local Mediterranean or Middle Eastern grocery store. Look for bright pink, beet-dyed turnip pickles for a traditional table, as well as crunchy dill cucumbers. A variety of pickled vegetables can help round out your table, and is great for cocktail hour. See below for a quick recipe on how to make your own.

1. The Dips

Hummus

Sure, you could just go to the store and pick up a tub of hummus. But why? Making your own hummus is extremely easy and doesn’t even require a food processor (as demonstrated below). However, should you want a smoother hummus, a food processor is vital. Try flavoring your hummus with extra garlic, chopped cilantro, parsley, or even chilli pepper. Hummus is infinitely customizable.

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Feta & Red Pepper Dip

While feta cheese and red pepper in all their forms make frequent appearances on mezze tables, this dip brings them together in a symphony of yumminess. While you can roast your own red peppers for this particular dip, it’s just as easy to purchase a jar of pre-prepared red peppers from your grocery store.

Baba Ganoush

As legend has it, there once was an elderly, toothless father (the baba) whose daughter had to mash his food, as he wasn’t able to chew it. Step forward baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern favorite consisting of roasted and mashed eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, and lots of garlic. If you’re not willing to spring for a jar of tahini (sesame paste) for your bash, many swear by using peanut or almond butter instead — also a great hack for hummus.

2. The Nibbles

Falafel

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Falafel is to the Middle East as the hamburger is to America. Its popularity knows no bounds, and with its crispy shell and creamy interior, it’s easy to see why. While the idea of frying something might strike fear into the heart of a novice chef, falafel is a great way to get started down the path of all things fried and delicious.

Top tip: Canned chickpeas won’t work for this dish. You’ll need to soak some dried chickpeas overnight for the best results.

Pickled Turnips

No mezze table is complete without a plate of pickles. Having an array of pickles helps ramp up the appetites of your guests, and also goes great with cocktail hour. Try flanking your homemade pickles with a selection of brined goodies from your local Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery store. The olive bar at some of the bigger supermarkets may also present some great additions.

Marinated Feta

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You’ve probably seen fancy marinated feta at specialty food stores and marvelled at both the flavor and the price. Making your own feta is simple, inexpensive, and doesn’t take a lot of time. Make this a few days ahead of your party and you’ll have an simple, yet elegant, plate to add to your parade of dishes.

3. The Salads

Tabouleh

As any smart host knows, anything you can make ahead will make your party better. After all, who wants to spend all night chained to the kitchen while your friends and loved ones whoop it up? Make-ahead salads like Tabouleh get better the longer they sit, so they’re easy to prepare the morning of (or even the night before) your party. Remember, the key to a great tabouleh is to have a greater ratio of herbs to bulgar.

Piyaz (White Bean Salad)

Another from the don’t-miss-your-own-party range of dishes, piyaz is a traditional Turkish dish that makes a regular appearance on mezze tables. This make-ahead dish also gets better with time, so aim to have this completed the night before and garnish at the last minute. Large beans work well here, so look for haricot, great Northern, or even Greek gigantes beans.

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Roasted Veggie Salad

If there’s ever a time to showcase vegetables, it’s on the mezze table. In a way, creating a mezze spread for your guests ensures that there’s something for everyone, from carnivores to vegetarians, and even those on pesky diets. This roasted vegetable salad makes use of what’s in season, and can easily be adjusted to use what is on sale in your locale. For a more Middle Eastern spin on this, omit the balsamic vinaigrette and instead toss veggies lightly in a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and za’atar (a traditional spice mixture of dried herbs and sesame seeds).

Rolling out a table full of mezze not only means you’ll delight your guests, but it also ensures your presence at the actual party. Use this list as a base and add additional dishes depending on what’s available, who’s coming, or how many people you need to feed. These little, flavor-packed dishes were made for parties and sharing!

Featured photo credit: Ewan Munro via flic.kr

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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