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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 September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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