One night. 350 dinner party hosts. Hundreds of guests in 25 countries and 50 US states. And one cookbook: Pretty Simple Cooking.
On February 17, 2018, hundreds of people gathered worldwide to cook a meal using recipes from the same cookbook (our new book!), Pretty Simple Cooking. And what an event it was. Comments have poured in about how guests felt connected not only to family and friends, but to others all over the world. No mention of liberal, conservative, Christian, agnostic, pro this or pro that…the Pretty Simple Dinner Party became a way to celebrate some of the pretty simple good things in lives all over the world—food, family, friends!
For Alex and I, who fiercely believe food is the great uniter, it was one of the most meaningful nights of our lives. (Save our wedding day and the birth of our son Larson, of course.)
Alex and I first dreamed up the idea as a worldwide cookbook club—a party where each person cooks a different recipe from the same book. With cookbook clubs becoming an online trend, we thought: what if we invited the entire world to a giant cookbook club? The release of our book Pretty Simple Cooking was a perfect excuse to throw a party. Starting in October, we began to invite friends and followers to join in the fun. By February, we had 350 hosts on board, at least one in every US state and 25 countries around the world!
If you’re reading this and were part of a Pretty Simple Dinner Party, we cannot thank you enough for joining in. It was an incredible, magical night that united all of us together through a virtual “table”. To catch photos from parties all over the globe, search the hashtag #PrettySimpleDinnerParty on Instagram!
To check out the book that started it all, Pretty Simple Cooking, click here.
And now, some highlights and photos from dinner party hosts:
Our Pretty Simple Dinner Party
Alex and I hosted a Pretty Simple Dinner Party in downtown Indianapolis with the help of our friend photographer Kelley Schuyler. It was at the Hinge Bureau (a co-working space) with greenery by Wildwood Market and party planning and photography by Kelley Jordan Photography (credit for all three photos above). Our dinner was Spanish themed, featuring the Veggie Supreme Paella, Spanish cheese boards, Irresistible Tomato Almond Dip, and Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It was an incredible evening with all guests gathered around the communal paella pans!
Worldwide Pretty Simple Dinner Party Highlights
Here are some highlights from Pretty Simple Dinner Parties around the globe:
“Thanks again so much to you and Alex for writing your beautiful book and getting so many hundreds of people around the table last night! It was so fun to scroll through the hashtag and see the different parties all over the world. On top of everything, every single recipe we tried was incredible! It was so fun to sample so many of the recipes and when we went around the table to explain what each of us made, no joke, everyone said to some extent how simple the recipe was!” -Reba in Indiana
(Photos by Reba below; her menu featured the Falafel Burgers with Yogurt Dill Sauce and Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Rice Sausage)
“Can we please do it again?! Thanks for the excuse and the inspiration! I’m obsessed with your cookbook. The recipes and pics are fab but even take a backseat to the beautiful message behind the words you’ve put to page. Love the message in the pages of this book. And our menu choices were delicious successes!” -Janell in Illinois
“It was an incredible experience to be part of this celebration. This was a really creative way to bring people together and we had a lot of fun in the process. The food came out so good and now I’m hooked and definitely plan on making all the recipes in the cookbook–which by the way is now my favorite cookbook of all time!” -Sarai in Nevada
(Photos of Sarai’s party below, credit to her; featuring the Goat Cheese and Heirloom Tomato Pizza and Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake)
“I’ve never been one to actually be interested in vegetarianism or anything, yet everything we made was so amazing, so flavorful that I’ve committed to starting to eat like that more often. Everything felt so filling, yet light. I was surprised to know all ingredients were very affordable and we were able to enjoy our little dinner immensely. By far the cookie was the most delicious thing we’ve ever tasted. I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without eating this. I’m so grateful we got to do this..not only because we needed something different for a night, but because it opened a whole different way of eating I’m actually looking forward to. I owe you a great deal for all of this.” -Alex in the Dominican Republic
“My theme for the Pretty Simple dinner party was a Mediterranean feast and dedicated it to my kids. I knew for sure that as soon as they got back from school and saw the table set they were going to be excited. My kids love hummus and Mediterranean food, so the Layered Mediterranean Hummus Platter from Sonja and Alex’s cookbook was a total success between them!” -Alejandra in Texas (photo by Alejandra below)
“It was quite moving having so many people around the world sharing a common idea, preparing the same day, through maybe all hemispheres, the same recipes from just one book and united in the pleasure of being together and having a good time peacefully.” -Fátima in Portugal
“I have to admit, between working my regular office job, starting the farm business, and life that comes with having two pre-teen kids, I started having second thoughts about having a dinner party. If it wouldn’t have been for you two planning this special night, I would have missed out on probably the most fun dinner party I’ve ever hosted. There was nothing out of the ordinary, just good food and old and new friends, but I think everyone there needed last night to take a break from life. What I thought would be a couple of hours around the table turned into 5.5 hours of laughter and stories. Several people said they didn’t want to leave. You’re idea was a huge success here and I can’t thank you enough!” –Jennifer in Indiana
“Thank you a million times for this amazing idea :) It was more than having dinner with loved ones, it was celebrating the joy of eating amazing food with amazing people all over the world! We truly appreciated this moment and will make more pretty simple dinners with all our friends as soon as our book arrives at our home :) The Eggplant Parmesan Casserole: a new go to for my dinners! I will make it for my Italian in-laws visiting us next weekend! Merci merci merci and keep doing amazing things like this!” -Lauriane & Alex from Switzerland
“We had such an amazing time! Everyone brought one of your dishes so we got to try a ton of your recipes. So accessible and delicious!” -Erinn in Indiana (photos below by Erinn Bridgeman)
“As soon as I heard about the Pretty Simple Dinner Party, I knew I had to host my own in our little corner of Tangier. Because of where my food story has brought me, this idea of 350 hosts around the globe, connecting through the collective goal of creating a dinner from recipes in their book was something I fell in love with immediately. I made a roasted tomato and almond dip, garlic herb white bean dip, what is aptly called the best veggie lasagna, and a flourless chocolate cake with macerated strawberries for dessert. Everything was bursting with flavor and enjoyed by all over conversation in three different languages, a lot of laughter, and those full moments of silence when no one speaks because they are too busy taking the first bites of something truly delicious.” –Ruby in Morocco
“Dishes like gnocchi represent comfort and are perfect for sharing with your loved ones. When we saw this Ricotta Gnocchi alla Vodka recipe we were super excited to try it out. And you know what: It’s fresh, simple, delicious and easy to make. The recipe is from A Couple Cooks new cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking ( 100 amazing vegetarian recipes 😍) We made it for our dinner date today for the Pretty Simple Dinner Party, just to celebrate good food, A Couple Cooks cookbook release and the positive vibes a good homecooked meal brings.” –Maja and Jernej in Slovenia (of Jernej Kitchen)
“Thank you for empowering me in the kitchen!! The Eggplant Parmesan Casserole and Bliss Bites will be in rotation at our house. The book is amazing. Thanks for creating a place for the world to share, connect, and enjoy good food without the fuss. Enjoy!” –Kristen in Indiana
(photos below by Kristin; preparing the Eggplant Parmesan Casserole)
“The recipes I made were fabulous, I mean, who doesn’t love a flourless chocolate cake. But the “The Best” Veggie Lasagna…oh…my…gosh. I will never make a different recipe unless my husband begs me to, and that won’t happen because he loved it too. The tomato sauce had sooo much flavor, and I absolutely love the lemon flavor that comes from the cheese layers. It’s amazing how much that adds to the overall dish. I’ve made four recipes from the books so far (cornmeal pancakes and bliss bites in addition to the dinner party selections), and they have all been great. I look forward to cooking my way through the book. Thanks so much for including me as part of your Pretty Simple Dinner Party. It was fun to see what everyone was making, and to feel like part of such a big party.” -Kristin in Missouri
“Tonight I attended the virtual dinner hosted by Sonja and Alex from A Couple Cooks on the occasion of the release of their cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking. I received their book yesterday and the recipes are just perfect: vegetarian recipes, simple and good. Tonight, with my husband we ate Ricotta Gnocchi alla Vodka and Apple Cherry Cardamom Crumble. I will end with a quote from their book that speaks to me particularly and that brings me back to my relationship with the kitchen “The only way to make the kitchen part of your life […] is, really, to fall in love. fall in love with the process, the tastes and smells […]” -Wadji in Paris (translated from French, photo by Wadji)
“I just wanted to share a little about our Pretty Simple dinner party – we had a blast. We were a party of six (myself, husband, 11-month old daughter, brother, and grandparents) and it was a delightful evening! I love any excuse to bring out my china. Everything was amazing! I thought I hated fennel, the Fennel, Pomegranate, & Arugula Salad has converted me. I could not get over how fresh and delicious it was. Everyone was raving about it! The Eggplant Parmesan Casserole I had to make this dairy and grain free, but the flavors were delicious and it will definitely be added into our regular rotation of meals! My grandmother kept asking me when the next one is! Thank you again for facilitating this. It’s amazing how food (and social media) can connect strangers all over the world.” -Sarah in Ontario
(photos of Sarah’s party below, photo credit to her)
“What a night! EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, turned out delicious. My daughter in law told me she appreciated how well the directions to each recipe is written. She also appreciated having an actual book to work from. In this day…we use our phones and computers for everything, there is really no substitute for a real paper page book.” –Colleen in Washington
(photos of Colleen’s party below, photo credit to her, featuring Classic Greek Salad, Kale Caesar Salad, Homemade Whole Wheat Naan, Creamy Vegan Potato Chowder, Creamy Cauliflower Cashew Curry, and Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake)
“We had such a good time last night at our Pretty Simple Dinner Party and we all LOVED the food! We did a Greek-style dinner with the falafel burgers, tabbouleh, and hummus with veggies. I’m excited to try more of the recipes from the book. I read through the whole book the day it came in the mail and it is SO well done!” -Katie in Michigan
“We had such a great time our Pretty Simple Dinner Party it was a big hit! The entire menu was vegetarian and our friends (even my husband!) Loved the whole meal. We did loaded sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffed acorn squash and finished off with affogato al cafe. The whole evening was really great, our friends really surprised at how satisfying the food was. Great friends, great food – what more can you ask for? -Cathy in Calgary
“We loved the Pretty Simple Dinner Party! I enjoyed cooking so much, it was like therapy after some really difficult days. The kids also tried a bit of everything and they loved the cake of course! Just because I noticed, I need to share with you that it really is pretty simple cooking and I looked at my shopping list and I loved the fact that I could find everything easily and have same ingredients in more than one recipe. So thank you for the experience!” -Irini in Greece
“It was a joy to gather with some of the people I love the very most and share a delicious meal and evening together. I’ve run marathons and there is something amazing about being a part of a group of people who all worked to accomplish the same goal. I felt the same way about hosting a Pretty Simple dinner party. People throughout the world gathering those they love around tables with the goal to share a meal and celebrate your cookbook. I told my husband today that I was sad it was over and he told me I should do it again! Thank you, thank you for a job well done!” -Breanna in Utah
“Just some feedback from our guests – the crisp green salad was delicious, the red lentil coconut curry smelled amazing and tasted even better, the cilantro chutney was phenomenal and really elevated the dish. One guest who never has seconds had seconds, and one who doesn’t really eat desserts was the first to polish off his chocolate peanut butter mousse. Everyone wanted the recipes. I’d call that a success!” -Jessie in Australia
“Last night was soooooooooo fun! What a fabulous idea… we had a couple of friends over that we hadn’t seen in a bit and it was the perfect opportunity to get together – I had the kids (we have 4) help with the cooking and we ate outside by the firepit – our group pics turned out super dark, but here are a couple of prep pics. Burrito Bowls turned out super delish and I loooooooooove the Cumin Lime Crema!” -Claudia in California (photos below by Claudia)
“Thank you for organizing the Pretty Simple Dinner Party. I am so glad I participated. It was such a great excuse to experiment with recipes right away. Sometimes it takes me awhile to try things after I get a new cookbook but now that I’ve gotten my feet wet I’m excited to try a few more this week. My nephew loved helping us make dinner on Saturday night. He helped make the pancakes and said they were so delicious. To impress him with food is a big deal since he is so picky! My husband and I loved everything but we both were especially big fans of the strawberry jam!” -Connie in Ohio
(Photo below by Connie; her party featured Cornbread Pancakes with Strawberry Lime Chia Jam, Spinach Artichoke Frittata, and Two-Potato Hash with Romesco)
We had our #prettysimpledinnerparty in the form of brunch (my favorite meal) was a success! If you haven’t added the @acouplecooks new cookbook to your list of must-haves, you should do that now. The bliss bites were a huge hit, we couldn’t get enough of the two potato hash with romesco sauce, the pomegranate and fennel salad was magical, and I think we are all still dreaming about the crusty bread with strawberry lime chia jam. I think that cookbook parties might become a regular thing around here. Food is such a fun way to bring people together! @jenna.hazel (Photo below by Jenna)
Our #PrettySimpleDinnerParty was a hit! We made several dishes from #PrettySimpleCooking including: Fennel Pomegranate & Arugula Salad, Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges, Crisp Green Salad with Apple & Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, Smoky Red Lentil Stew, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Skillet Cookie, and Bliss Bites. We also made the Cashew Cream Sauce and the Honey Mustard as accompaniments. We’re so excited for you Alex and Sonja! What a beautiful way to bring the world together. @mrshunley
Representing Oahu, HI for the #PrettySimpleDinnerParty! It’s a dinner party any night I cook dinner for my family (according to my kids), which is almost every night of the week. Tonight, we had Eggplant Parmesan Casserole from @acouplecooks’ new cookbook #PrettySimpleCooking cookbook! It really was so simple. This week kind of got away from me, and I didn’t get a chance to plan any extras for the evening, BUT this dish was all we needed! It was flavorful, filling, and EASY. I love eggplant, but one of my favorite parts of this dish was the basil/balsamic/breadcrumb topping. It’s a keeper for sure! ❤ @thatgirlwhocooks
The fact that I was quickly & easily able to make these dishes ahead of time AND my boys LOVED every bite is a testament to how family-friendly Sonja & Alex’s cookbook is! I lit a few candles & set the table with the “good” dishes for ambiance, but my boys quickly inhaled every last crumb, while mostly sitting at the kitchen counter. We made: Red Pepper Tabbouleh, Layered Mediterranean Hummus Platter (with Baked Pita Chips), and Baked Goat Cheese with Tomato Sauce (but made with Feta cheese, because I’m the only one in my house who likes goat cheese 🙄). (This last dish was perhaps the biggest hit: My 12 yo said I should make it every day! 😊) Congratulations, @acouplecooks, on your beautiful yet practical cookbook! @wholesomefamilykitchen
(Photo below by Amanda of @wholesomefamilykitchen)
“We loved our Galentine’s Pretty Simple party! We had SUCH a wonderful time with each other and looking at everyone else’s dinners all over the globe!” -Alex in North Carolina (photos below by Alex)
Blog posts by Pretty Simple Dinner Party hosts
A few Pretty Simple Dinner Party hosts shared about the party on their blogs:
- Live Love Create
- Ruby Josephine
- Brown Sugar and Vanilla
- Hazel & Heart
- Our Natural Adventure
- Bear & Bug Eats
- Studio Delicious
- Wholesome Family Kitchen
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious.