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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 January 17, 2019

8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

Listen carefully:

We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

1. Pray Daily

You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

3. Smile Often

Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

4. Organize Your Working Desk

A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

How do you do that? This is my formula:

First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

8. Go Exercise

Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

The Bottom Line

It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

More Resources About Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

Reference

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