What is your favorite AK product and why?

I've been a fan of AK's bags for a long time, ever since my friend Candace came to visit about a decade ago and had swatches of Alex's bag materials. Ever since then, I've been a big fan of her simple crossbody bags, but I also love her sandals. I'm eyeing the Dr. Scholl's slides with navy alligator skin for summer. I used to LIVE in those when I was growing up in Southern California.

What are your top five latest obsessions?

I have a Friday Love List post where I include ALL my latest obsessions, but some recent faves:

The Cook's Atelier

A school in Beune, France, I'm heading to for a weeklong intensive in October.

Masseria Moroseta

A hotel I'm currently obsessed with in Puglia. Can't wait to book a trip! 
And the cookbook. And Samin herself.
A book by John Carreyrou about the Theranos rise and fall.

Tell us a little bit about your mission with your classes, blog and emails.

My mission is to teach and inspire home cooks to make healthy, simple meals. I try to accomplish that by sharing weekly meal plans, weeknight-friendly recipes and knife skills and cooking tips.
 Cooking at home is almost always healthier and less expensive. It's also one of the best ways to unplug and connect with the people you love the most. I want to share the cooking methods and skills I learned in cooking school so home cooks can learn how to make cooking more efficient and enjoyable at home. I want to take out the stress and unpleasantness from preparing meals; cooking for your family shouldn't feel like a burden. Ask your family for dinner suggestions and have older teens and spouses cook dinner on an assigned night during the week. 
I love to cook and it helps me tune out and relax, but I do think some people genuinely do not like to cook, or do not want to be shouldered with the burden (both emotional and physical) of doing all the shopping, cooking and clean up. That's such a bigger issue, and something we don't have space to cover here, but I do believe food is love. The act of service of cooking for people you love and nourish and care about can be a deeply emotional and intimate process. It's a gift of time and energy. There's nothing I love more than sitting around my dining room table enjoying lunch after a cooking class. Slowing down and having meaningful conversations with people is a dying custom.

What are your favorite entertaining recipes for this summer?

I have so many! I love healthy snack boards with colorful crudité and tasty dips. My romesco, healthier jalapeno artichoke dip, 7-layer dip with cauliflower hummus and green goddess dip are some of my favorites. 
As well as...

Burrata and Stone Fruit Crostini 

What are your tips or tricks to hosting a great summer meal with friends or family?

I have a few different ways to entertain in the summer. It depends whether we're here in Houston (keep the cooking to the grill so you don't heat up your house!) or in Idaho or California with family. 
In Houston, I like to grill meat that feeds a crowd, such as flank steak or tri tip. The pieces can be cut (against the grain!) thin to serve a ton of people. Add in a tangy sauce, like chimichurri or chermoula, and a bunch of cold salads, like my spinach salad with pesto and peas or just a big green salad with homemade salad dressing
In Idaho, we like to pack picnics to listen to the summer symphony and can make a meal out of a cheese board. The trick to a relaxed entertaining is to be prepared, but also chill out and have fun. It you're stressed and worried about every little details while you're hosting people for dinner, your guests will be uptight in return. Once everyone arrives, crank up the music a little and relax. Part of having good hospitality is being hospitable. Smile, relax, enjoy time with friends.
And of course a good cocktail!

Jalapeno Mint Margarita
I've also been loving Eton mess for dessert, which couldn't be easier to assemble.

Who is Marcia Smart and why do we love her?

Summer is here and it is truly the only time of the year where I actually enjoy entertaining and cooking! Perhaps because of the fresh Farm Stands in Long Island and schedule-free days. There is something incredibly simple and special about making a great meal and gathering up new and old friends to share it with. Every time I look at Marcia on Instagram or on her weekly emails I get inspired and excited! Not only is Marcia that effortlessly chic girl who makes it all look so easy...but her humble and honest weekly emails and menu suggestions are down to earth, realistic and delicious! She gets it and is not intimidating. Her website shares some more insight into her fabulous life and she is generous enough to share her personal likes and loves as well outside of the kitchen. Her kid tested and approved recipes are the reason why I keep going back for more. With my picky eaters I can let them know that "The Smart Kids eat it" and that seems good enough for all of us! "Be Smart" is our motto - I LOVE IT and love her. 
Do yourself a favor and get on will not regret it. 
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