Hospitality in our home is usually centered on food. With a very busy life, the best situation for connecting with people is around a meal.

But even if it’s just a glass of iced tea, or an evening with dessert – with our without a full meal – we’ve found that cherished time with friends is just about being together.

About a month ago we entertained, but this time instead of a formal meal, we made Rachael Ray’s Classic Bolognese and served it buffet style. It was perfect for adults, and perfect for kids, one tip being that you can hide the chopped carrots as you mix them into the spaghetti sauce.

And who would ever know there are chicken livers in this recipe? I’m telling you, even though they are optional, they MADE the flavor come alive!

We stacked the plates on the counter, put the food in one place, we gathered around and everyone filled their own dishes with pasta, sauce, salad, and homemade bread.

Our friends who came for dinner brought a level of excitement to our family. They are fun, full of life, ask lots of questions, and they really engage with our kids.

We turn up the volume of music, there seems to be a lot of laughter, but also serious talk of meaningful things, and in a sense, I’d say our evening “dripped with soul.”

Have you ever thought about this? That your family unit revolves around who you are as individuals and not around what you have?

It’s the people, the relationships, not the “stuff,” that makes for a great time.

Which, by the way, I was fortunate to have this exact conversation with Rachael Ray this past month in NYC at an event hosted by Rachael Ray and Ziploc Brand to promote the FreshOver program. I had to pinch myself over the fact that I was really talking to Rachael, but it was true! Many of my friends have asked me if she’s the “real deal,” and my answer is, “yes, yes, yes!”

We had similar views of entertaining, bringing friends together, the importance of putting our imperfections aside and focusing on the people. We actually talked about our gardens, too!

Here’s what Rachael shared with the group:

-Rachael Ray wanted to get involved in the Ziploc Brand FreshOver program because she’s concerned about the obesity epidemic in our country.

-She LOVES what Ziploc Brand is doing for families and that they care and have a heart.

-She’s an AVID Ziploc Brand user, including the new Perfect Portions bags.

-She encourages moms to go food shopping with their kids and suggests they teach their children to “pick a color” when shopping for vegetables.

Me with Rachael Ray, Audrey from Mom Generations and my Party BluPrint friends, Elizabeth and Dawn. (Photo Courtesy of Gary He)

Because of Ziploc Brand and Rachael’s approach to fresh eating, I thought you’d be interested in this recent survey:

The Ziploc Fresh Eating survey ranked the top-50 cities across the US on whether their residents tend to eat fresh and captured their attitudes towards eating fresh. Additionally, the results include other stats such as how often people eat fresh foods, what time in the day they are likely to eat junk food, whether or not they grow fruits and vegetables etc.

I thought it was a very informative and interesting study!

Also, don’t forget you can participate in the Rachael Ray Sweepstakes taking place until May 5th:

Ziploc is hosting The Great American FreshOver Sweepstakes from February 29, 2012 through May 5, 2012. Fans can enter on the Ziploc Brand Facebook page by “liking” the page, entering The Great American FreshOver app on the page and offering a FreshOver food idea, in the form of a recipe or tip in text. During the sweepstakes, fans will be rewarded with access to exclusive Rachael Ray videos and tips, weekly prize drawings, coupons and one lucky grand prize winner will win a trip for two to experience the ultimate culinary experience in America’s food capital – New York City. Grand prize winners will stay in New York City for three nights and four days, can eat at the most sought after “fresh” restaurants and swap recipes with Rachael Ray. No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to participate.

Now, back to entertaining, this yummy Classic Bolognese recipe, inviting others in and showing hospitality … it’s something to really ponder.

Would you say your home life? drips with soul? And what kind of meal would you serve if wanting to accomplish a night like I shared above? Or how would you serve it?

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Recipe: Rachael Ray’s Double-Batch Classic Bolognese {ReluctantEntertainer.com}

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, finely diced
  • 4 ounces trimmed chicken livers, finely diced, optional, but recommended
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 2 small ribs celery, finely chopped, with leafy tops
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck or sirloin) and veal
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 pinches ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (about 1/3 bottle)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian pureed tomatoes
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or bucatini pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Rachael Ray’s Double-Batch Classic Bolognese
  2. Warm 2 cups milk in small pot over lowest heat.
  3. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly brown. Then add the chicken livers, and cook almost through. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and cook until tender, 10 minutes.
  4. Add the ground meat and cook through breaking into pieces, but do not brown. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and stir in the wine and allow it to cook into the meat, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm milk to the meat and allow it to absorb into the meat for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, vegetable stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. Divide the sauce in 1/2, cool, and freeze one batch. Cool and store the remainder for a make-ahead meal within the week.
  7. Alternately, cook pasta to al dente, thin the sauce a bit with a bit of starchy pasta water and toss with pasta dressed with butter to combine.
  8. Top with grated cheese and chopped celery leaves. Serve with green salad.
  9. TIP: For picky eaters, finely chop carrots and mix them into spaghetti sauce.

Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 40 minute(s)

Cooking time: 2 hour(s) 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

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