Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
Sweet treats have always held a special place in Daphne Oz's family traditions. As a child, Oz says her mom would make Swedish pancakes, sugar-covered delights she describes as "kind of like between a crepe and a pancake," for her birthday. Now, the mom of four has her own tradition on her kids' birthdays: a colorful cake.
"That's our family tradition," Oz tells Yahoo Life. "I make a confetti cake for all my kids' birthdays."
The 36-year-old host of The Good Dish and judge on MasterChef Jr. loves entertaining in her South Florida home and says when it comes to the desserts she serves her guests, she's learned to keep it simple.
"I literally will have an edible centerpiece people can disassemble as dessert rolls around with big beautiful citrus and pears and cascading grapes or stone fruit," she says, "and then I'll put out a couple big bars of broken up dark chocolate. There is something very provocative about breaking chocolate and scattering it all around the table: It's not how you'd eat it at your normal house, so it entices people to really let loose and enjoy themselves a little more."
Another of Oz's keys to perfect dinner party? A bit of relaxation.
"That's the fundamental part of having a great dinner party, is for you, the host or hostess, to be relaxed," she says. "Your guests take their cues from you and you have to feel settled and treat yourself like a guest once the party starts, so they can actually relax and feel comfortable."
To ensure she goes into a party stress-free, Oz says she prepares a music playlist in advance. "I am someone who is so turned off when the music is wrong," she shares. "I can't focus. It's bad."
She's also learned to stick with what she knows when she's planning her menu.
"I never experiment on a dinner party," she says. "If you start experimenting, it's always a risk. It's never you at your loosest and most casual and fun, so I stick with what I know are absolute grand slams."
Some "grand slams" on her appetizer menu are simple ingredients, beautifully displayed for guests to enjoy. "I'll do something like big hunks of parmesan and a big pile of olives and bread," she says. "Or I've really gotten into Persian cucumbers lately, so I'll do a big pile of cool sliced cucumbers with a nice bowl of labneh (a Lebanese yogurt) or Greek yogurt with olive oil over top and a nice crunchy salt on top."
"Keep appetizers really simple," she adds. "Just have a mountain of them."
Oz, whose latest cookbook, Eat Your Heart Out: All-fun, No-fuss Food to Celebrate Eating Clean, is available now, describes food as "fuel that is also meant to be pleasure."
"It's a way to find joy in our everyday lives and travel without ever stamping our passports," she adds, explaining that the cookbook contains 150 recipes free of gluten and refined sugar yet big on flavor.
"People like me who love to eat and love delicious things, still need a reset now and then," she says. "After babies or stress or a lot of celebration, I look for a way to get back to healthy habits and break dependencies on sugar and gluten, which I find are the easiest things I fall into a trap of snacking mindlessly on."
Still, in times of celebration, Oz knows how to make her "taste buds happy."
"One of the most beautiful things someone ever served me for dessert at a dinner party was cold raspberries and strawberries drizzled with rosewater and then chilled really cold in the fridge," Oz recalls. "It was so ridiculously gorgeous and I think she just served it over yogurt with some honey."
"The secret is, all these fancy and contrived things you think really matter and are going to make it special? No," she adds. "So much of that stuff doesn't matter at all, and what people come to remember and enjoy is that you seem relaxed and comfortable in your home."
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