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Plan the Perfect Alfresco Gathering

03/30/2015 03:40AM ● Published by Family Features

The days of chilly air and dull skies have been replaced with the sights and sounds of warmer weather. This change in the season is cause for celebration, so pull out all the stops for an outdoor gathering guests will long remember.

From festive decor to the bright colors of seasonally inspired cuisine, use these tips for setting up your alfresco spread:

Make a memorable entrance. Invite guests into your gathering with warm and cheerful decor, starting with your door. Hang a moss-adorned wreath with a few vibrant sprigs of pink roses or yellow tulips, which you can keep up long after the event.

Deck the table. Make sure your centerpiece provides a bright and welcoming ambiance. A low key gathering calls for the downhome elegance of daisies and grasses shooting from mini terra cotta pots or aluminum canisters. More formal events will shine with fresh cut lilies, roses and tulips placed in short cube or rectangle glass vases.

Start with small bites. Serve a few appetizers for your crowd to enjoy as they wait for other guests to arrive. You can’t go wrong with deviled eggs garnished with fresh herbs or cheese and crackers. Aim for three cheeses – one hard (Parmesan), one soft (Brie) and one blue.

Serve pairings that please. Spring foods pair perfectly with a fruit-forward wine like pinot grigio. Choose one of high-quality from the northern region of Italy such as Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio ($12). This crisp and clean wine goes well with seafood, chicken or white-sauce pasta entrees.

Embrace spring flavors. Bring the garden to your table with fresh fruits and vegetables. Plump, red strawberries look and taste wonderful atop a bed of fresh spinach with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Fresh asparagus stems give quiche and egg casseroles texture, while also making a great sauteed side dish. Also try this Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives recipe that’s easy to make and sure to please.

From simple floral arrangements to the colorful foods you serve, creating a lovely alfresco gathering is easier than you think. For more ideas to make your event memorable, visit facebook.com/BaroneFiniWines.

Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup multicolored cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons oil and vinegar dressing, divided
  • 20 olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

  1. Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.
  4. Combine tomatoes, dressing and olives in skillet over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Cut each chicken breast half into 3/4-inch slices. Top each chicken breast half with 1/4 cup tomato mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese and torn basil leaves, if desired.

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