Posts Tagged 'entertaining'

Party Day!!!

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 4″

table 4

At last here it was – Party Day!!!! I was up very early. I hadn’t really slept very much the night before – between the pain in my legs (long-standing issue – hah hah – did you GET that???) and my whirling brain, I was lucky I got any sleep. What was the first thing I did? I fed the cats, of course. 🙂 I know what is important in this house and so do they. When I walked out to get the newspaper (yes, I am old-fashioned enough to receive a PAPER newspaper daily) I saw that someone had parked their car in front of my driveway. Although the car was about 3 feet from the apron, it still didn’t leave me room to drive on the grass to get out and get bagels. table 2 Normally this is the kind of thing in the past that would have had me calling the police hysterically demanding that the car be towed but I’ve mellowed a lot over the years. I wasn’t thrilled, because I was hoping to use my driveway for parking guests’ cars, but I wasn’t as freaked out as I might have been because my husband’s car was at the curb and driveable. But still – a bad omen or something getting rid of any last bad karma by having an inconvenience that wasn’t a show-stopper? I decided to consider it a clearing.

At this distance from the day, I have to confess that I don’t remember a lot clearly. My husband went out to get the bagels (stopping at the most likely neighbor to own the offending car). My sister showed up early to help put together the things that couldn’t be assembled the previous day – the Asian Salad Wonton Cups. There was more. I know there was. Because we were setting the table, arranging the drinks, and cleaning every utensil as it was used and putting it away. You see, I had one march of the cruditemore major request of my staff, um, I mean my family. I told them that I wanted the house to look as if I simply waved my magic wand and all the food appeared. The guest of honor at this party was the renovated kitchen, and NOTHING could be out to mar the look and beauty of the counters, cabinets, floor, and appliances. That is a big ask when you consider my menu and the work involved.

We had to cook the hot food – the quiche and the mushrooms. The turkey had to be sliced. The condiments, liquors, drink add-ons and utensils all had to be laid out. I had to make the mulled cider and assemble the cocktail punch. My husband had to run out for more sugar (we had none for coffee & tea) and beer. My brother-in-law showed up with his home-baked pretzels and salt-sticks (the most fantabulous rolls you will ever have) plus a tray of his spinach & cheese (maybe it was broccoli??) rolls he’d made for the prior night’s party. We did it all. Arranging trays and platters and drinks and paper plates and plastic utensils and vacuuming and sweeping and wiping surfaces and putting everything away.
stuffed mushrooms
We were so efficient and so on-top of everything that I even had 45 minutes to go upstairs, change into my party outfit, apply make-up (I was pretending to be a grown-up) and spray glitter in my hair (not too grown-up). My sister and her husband had everything cleaned and put away by the time I came back down. The kitchen was immaculate (except for the cider pot on the stove, where it belonged for that day). It looked as if I had waved my magic wand and all the food simply appeared!!!
walkin cooler
EVERYTHING was in place and party ready. Or was it? WHITE CAT!!!!! That cat. I wasn’t going to put this in but I changed my mind. BC and GC very quickly grasped that there was a LOT happening on the first floor and they headed upstairs (despite their memories of The Great Incarceration, I’m sure) and there they stayed – out of the way. Not so WC. She was not pleased and she was very happy to let me know that. First, she – sigh, what is the delicate way to put this??? She left a DEPOSIT in the front hall. That was still fairly early on in the morning so I removed it, washed the floor, told her that she exhibited poor behavior and carried on with what I had to do.
skewer city
On my check list for Tuesday, and you can see this in the photos, I had “take off red couch cover”. I’ve posted pictures of WC in what she considers to be her boudoir – the back of the red couch in the sun room. I keep that couch covered with a matching cover in the vain attempt to protect it from stains and non-removable cat fur. WC has the silkiest, finest fur you will ever encounter. She was ensconced on the couch. We would be in the sun room because the TV is in the sun room and people would be watching the football games. cat fur on couchMy sister went to dislodge her. Now you need to know that for 16+ years my sister has attempted to make nice to WC and for 16+ years WC laughs in my sister’s face and runs away. We all figured this was a piece of cake – my sister would walk in there and look at WC and talk to her and WC would take off, as she has done REPEATEDLY in the past. It didn’t happen that way. WC simply glared and did not move. We must have gone through this routine 3 times and each time I said, fine, leave her be, we still have time. We ran out of time. WC finally headed up the stairs when the first guests arrived. I threw my big, grand, celebration party with white cat fur matted all-over the back of my red couch. I didn’t mention it and neither did the folks watching TV. But other than that, I think the house looked great and the party was quite a success.
table 1

Menu:

My brother-in-law baked the salt sticks, the pretzels and the spinach/cheese rolls. No recipe available from me.
I made the quiche, and I made several changes to it, including making it gluten-free (but not nightshade free *grin*). This is a good recipe for getting started on a 13×9 quiche (my pan is 14×10).
I made the marinated (fake) crab meat – *laughing* – the fake part means that the fish is really pollock, not shell fish. The original recipe is Zesty Marinated Shrimp. I probably did not do justice to this recipe as we found it too citrusy for our tastes, but to be fair I did not keep the proportions as I found them. So I still like the recipe and will do it in less of a “factory production” moment.
I mulled the cider and I do that by looking at a variety of recipes and then gathering up whatever I have and wrapping it in cheese cloth. I put the cider on a low flame and let it seep for a few hours.
The cocktail punch was delicious, simple and kept me going all party. 🙂
I considered also making several Champagne Mules but decided that even for me that might a bit much. So I left all the ingredients and the instructions out with the prosecco and other cold drinks and desserts.
I made the fruit skewers and again, they were simply what I thought might work, no specific recipe.
I also made the tahini cookies and the shortbread – I don’t have any links for those. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll post them.
I also made (or assembled) a sugar-free strawberry shortcake. I bought a sugar-free angel food cake and cut it in half on the y axis. The day of the party I used whipped cream and strawberries, put the top layer back on, then used whipped cream and strawberries on top. In the interest of speed, I used the canned whipped cream, which does not hold up as well as hand-made whipped cream. But it sufficed for this purpose and was eaten. 🙂
My guests also brought cookies and cakes and other very tasty desserts, so that table was much fuller than the picture shows.
My sister made the crudite cups, as I’ve mentioned. I saw a picture online and it made me think of doing something similar. We ended up using 2 oz cups, and a few 3 oz cups. 2 oz cups are more than sufficient. Next time I might not make the cups pretty, because people wouldn’t take a cup because they didn’t like EVERYTHING in it. Oy. So eat what you like and subtly ditch the rest. We did have a lot left over but they did NOT go to waste. I rinsed off the dressing from and my husband made a fantastic vegetable soup.
My sister also did the cheese skewers, which were our own creation with what we had, and she assembled the caprese skewers, which were beautiful and tasty. The only tricky part to that was adding the balsamic glaze at the last moment.
My sister assembled the Asian Salad Wonton Cups which were gorgeous and delicious but again needed to be assembled the day-of, although I had prepared everything in advance.
My husband prepared the marinade, cooked and sliced the turkey.
I made the stuffed mushrooms, and made them gluten free (yes, Virginia, there ARE gluten free bread crumbs). They were very good and there weren’t many left over at all.
My husband made the mini BLTs. We used turkey bacon and party rye bread. These were a mistake – one of my “we didn’t need so much food” mistakes. They tasted fine, but with all the other dishes, they just weren’t that popular. My b-i-l ended up taking them home, ditching everything but the bacon and used that in a different dish. It’s a shame, really. They were so cute.
Little preparation, only presentation:
Bagels, lox, cream cheese. I believe it was my husband who prepared the tomatoes, lettuce and sliced onion for the lox. (Correction – it was my b-i-l, with cleanup by my sister. 🙂 )
Store-bought cheese cake slices. Again, an unnecessary item given all the other desserts that did arrive. But I can’t count on food that I don’t know is coming (which will be the subject of another post one day). The cheesecake made my office mates very happy. 🙂

Where To Put All the Food??

AKA “We’re Having a Party, Part 3″

img_9961

img_9963 Food preparation was going to take 4 days – Saturday through Tuesday. I do have two refrigerators, and the new one is HUGE, but even so – I had a LOT of food to store both before preparation and after. Where does all that food fit?

Some food wasn’t showing up until the day of the party. My brother-in-law was baking his famous, fantastic pretzels and also his salt sticks. He’d bring them on Tuesday. The bagels would be purchased on Tuesday. The punch and mulled cider couldn’t be assembled until Tuesday. My basement is fairly cool so vegetables that did not need refrigeration could be stored down there. I use my deck as a walk-in freezer for winter parties, but it was getting quite warm that weekend. That meant I could only use the deck for refrigerated (not frozen) items. Using the deck for food (as opposed to beverages) also means I need to come up with some way to keep out the various roaming animals. img_9965I wasn’t too worried about the falcon returning nor the roving gangs of deer, but we also have raccoons (known for their dexterity with locked receptacles), ground hogs, squirrels, skunks and cats. It would take a little thought and prevention to use the deck.

I started the baking and food prep on Saturday night, getting cookie dough ready. I got cookie baking done Sunday morning, as well as preparing the quiche dough. I headed out grocery shopping with my sister on Sunday late morning, and then came home and began creating all the various marinades and dressings that we’d need for the entrees. Sunday was also the day to put the turkey in to marinate. I’d seen an appealing marinade on another blog, Cooking Without Limits, and keeping with my “everything different” theme, I suggested to my husband that we use that. img_9969He took a look at the Spicy Turkey Breast in Beer Sauce recipe and agreed that, with a few modifications (no bacon for one), it sounded delicious and right for our party.

I’d selected so many of my dishes on the premise that I wanted “finger food” – food that people could pick up and eat while they wandered and talked. I didn’t want a lot of food that required people to sit down and use 2 hands to eat. I had the turkey, the quiche and the bagels/lox/cream cheese for “real” eating. I wanted everything else to be eat-as-you-go and “I’ll just have one more little nosh”. It’s a great idea but getting all that food onto skewers and into little cups takes a LOT OF TIME. img_9967 It looks so EASY but it is incredibly time consuming. This is where my sister was beyond compare. She sat there at my dining room table slicing and arranging all the crudite. She took home the skewers, the cheese, the basil, the dressing, and the tomatoes and skewered food all through the football game (had her team WON, I’d be putting in a mention of that. But alas, neither of us had winning bowl games this year. 😦 ). Not only did she do all of that labor-intensive work on Monday, she came early Tuesday to help assemble the asian salad cups and other dishes.

img_9962Monday was the night I had to utilize the deck for more cold storage. We’d cooked the turkey on Monday so that we could slice it on Tuesday. The wonton cups were made. The cookies I was baking were made (salted tahini chocolate chip cookies). The fruit skewers were done. The crudite cups were assembled. I got out one of my plastic storage bins from the renovation – used to pack up our lives for 6 months 🙂 – and began creating layers within the bin. I made sure to lash down and protect the bin from raccoons once I put it outside.

We prepped for hours. I think I only snapped once. 🙂 My sister and husband might disagree with that. But we hit our deadlines!! My sister was able to get home and see her football game and get out to her New Year’s Eve party. My husband and I made it to our New Year’s dinner OUT – where someone waited on me, and all the food prep was done by someone else out of sight and I didn’t have to do any cleanup beyond using my napkin.img_9966 I did come home and did a bit more preparation – baking the shortbread cookies and rolling out the quiche dough. I was still awake at midnight to hear the fireworks across the river. The sky was completely overcast so all I could see were the clouds lit by the explosions. Somewhere around 1 am I made it to bed although I make no claims about actually falling asleep. 🙂 My brain was still churning and my bad leg joints had begun to complain. Ah yes, running full throttle!

We’re Having a Party!

I love socializing. I love feeding people. I love my friends. I love throwing a good party. There are several parties/food events I do every year, some of them more elaborate than others. I used to throw a New Year’s Eve party. We had what I used to call “The Gang of Eight” – 4 couples that got together frequently during the year. After my son was born I called us the Gang of 8.5. 🙂 One of our standard get-togethers was on New Year’s Eve. menuAlong with a few other folk, we’d get together at my house for dinner and watch the ball drop. Then a few years ago some of us began murmuring about being too tired to stay up til midnight. I remember one year where I think 3 of the females were actually asleep on couches and chairs after dinner – we had to wake them before midnight. *grin* NOT ME. But you knew that. A few years ago I made an “executive decision” – I moved our get-together to New Year’s Day, called it Brunch/Lunch and invited a few more people. It was still a relatively small crowd and we did still have New Year’s Eve with a small handful of folk (who could stay awake, or at least attempted to make it to midnight).

This year, between the college football playoff games and my new kitchen, I decided a more drastic change was required. I decided that we would FINALLY have our “come see our gorgeous new kitchen” open house along with our New Year’s Day luncheon. coffe labelsOnce I drew up the invitation list, I saw I had around 60 people on the list. I’ve posted pictures of the inside of my house and you should know that it would be an extremely tight squeeze to fit 60 people on my first floor without removing furniture – even WITH removing furniture. I think the only time I’ve hosted that many simultaneously was for my son’s bris, when I think we had between 60-70 people there (and yes – we took most of the furniture out of the living room and put in folding chairs). We got lucky that day because it was in March and we had some springtime temperatures and people flowed out onto the deck as well. But I wasn’t worried. I knew that on my list there were some who wouldn’t come (just because they don’t come), some who would be away for the holiday, and some who had prior commitments. New Year’s Day is NOT an original date for a get-together. 🙂

How do you throw a party for 60 people? I start by looking at the folk I expect to show up, and noting all of their dietary preferences. *grin* My mother used to stress-out totally about entertaining. She was an ogre on the days leading up to the entertaining, and the day-of she would practically have palpitations. spiked punchAnd that would be just for having the bridge club over to play bridge (12 people there for a specific purpose eating only munchies, coffee & dessert), long before this day and age when everyone has some food preference and/or allergy. So I make my list: gluten-free, diabetic, kosher, vegetarian, no alcohol, following the keto diet, on a lose-weight diet. Apparently I also have someone who does not eat nightshade but I didn’t know that until she was there and checking ingredients. Once I have the food restrictions, I begin on my menu. There must be enough food that all of those people will have a CHOICE of something to eat. I don’t want to have a pile of carrot sticks to hand out and say “here – you can eat this”. 🙂 (Do carrots have nightshade??? Something new to learn and consider.)

When I have my basic idea of food groups – appetizers, main course, side-dishes, desserts, drinks, snacks – I being selecting recipes. I have certain staples that work for large groups – roasting a turkey, large rectangular pan of quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese – plus the standard drinks. gluten free Paring the menu down to the selected dishes is the next step. The dish has to fit the mood, fit my loose kashrut standards (no pork, no shellfish, no mixing meat & dairy in one dish) and be tasty. For this party I decided that other than my main courses (turkey, quiche, bagels/lox/cream cheese), all the other dishes had to be new and different – NOT like my other party menus. 🙂 And that meant – turn to the internet and browse!!!

Beauty and Function

My husband will say it’s Function and Beauty. Every time he does something in the kitchen (cooks, cleans, preps) he comes over to me and says “As beautiful as it is, it’s even more functional than it is beautiful.” I always reply “it’s equally beautiful and functional.” It really is. IMG_9479 We are both amazed and delighted each and every time we are in the kitchen. I’m not sure but I think the sink might actually be the best single improvement in the room.

Our contractor did not think we had sufficient cabinets and counters. We kept assuring him that we thought we were okay with the new plan and that for us it was so much more than we’d ever had. He (and most everyone else) told us to think ahead, that just because it was better didn’t mean we’d achieved best. We think we achieved best. I cannot believe how simple it has become to prepare a meal. It’s so easy, and such a pleasure, that I’m cooking again, not just baking. *laughing* Sometimes we both say “I thought I’d make this for dinner tonight” and one of us will give way and let the other have the fun. I love how I can have my measures right at hand along with the compost bin, and my knives within reach if I need a new one. IMG_9474When I work there at the counter the stove is just to my right, easy reach to go from cutting board to pot.

Today we passed the last of the official township inspections: electrical, building (fire), and plumbing (note the Oxford comma). (By the way, every inspector commented on how beautiful they found the new kitchen.) That does NOT mean, however, that we have actually finished this renovation. We still have a final payment reckoning. There were MANY add-ons, and those costs need to be tallied. In addition, the floor is still not right. They are coming on Thursday to try to fix it. I’ve been promised deck lights and we’ve actually agreed on what kind and how many and where. And the kitchen ceiling still needs to be sanded and painted after the plumbing leak. We’re close, but we are NOT there yet.

I WAS going to throw a party in November, a “come see my beautiful new kitchen” party. That is not going to happen, at least not in November. It will happen on New Year’s day. Now that we moved our New Year’s Eve party to New Year’s Day, we’ll invite the world to THAT party to see the gorgeous kitchen. In the meantime we have cooked meals for a few people already. I had the ladies over for Sukkot, we had another friend over for Sukkot, and friends over last weekend for a soup-to-nuts dinner – cocktails through to dessert. IMG_9520My husband and I were able to do that dinner without any bumping into each other, or needing to time counter space or any other “right of way” issues. It was great. I made bread (from scratch, no bread machine), Turkish coffee brownies, salad, yogurt pie, and roasted broccoli & cauliflower. My husband did his wonderful hand-made pasta, and a tagine chicken dish that is sensational. I also had time to make all the accoutrements for the cocktails: allspice dram and a cranberry syrup. It was all so much fun!!!!! The leftovers are pretty yummy also. 🙂

A Last Hurrah

kitchen stove dining room doorLast night we threw our last party with our old kitchen. It was Memorial Day weekend, always a great time to throw a BBQ. We had several reasons, however, to throw a party. Our wonderful next-door neighbors are moving down (back) to Florida. They will be gone by mid-June. All of us in the neighborhood are heart-broken that they are leaving. We love them, we’ve had such good times together, it was a wonderful, wonderful relationship. I decided that we needed to do a good, fun send-off to remind them how much they like us all and that they would need to come back and visit. (I already have a promise of a return for our Passover seder. 🙂 ) When I first proposed the Bye-bye BBQ I thought that we’d have already lost our kitchen – that we’d be doing this kitchen-free. I’m very happy that we still had a kitchen to do food preparation.

Kitchen sink door to basementThat was the second “last hurrah” – bye-bye to the kitchen. For 34 years we’ve been entertaining, throwing parties, feeding people all from this kitchen and breakfast room. Okay – I’m exaggerating. The breakfast room and deck are only 28 years old. Putting that addition on the house was a true life changer. When we do BBQs, drinks and appetizers are out on the deck and the dinner selections are in the breakfast room. I probably should have taken some pictures of that last night – we had a MOUNTAIN of ribs. 🙂 And LOTS of non-meat sides because we have a fair number of vegetarians in our gathering.

view from breakfast room to front hallYet another reason for the BBQ was my brother-in-law’s birthday. He, like our guests of honor neighbors, is carnivorous so we decided on beef ribs. My sister has a membership in a fantastic warehouse called “Restaurant Depot”. It has every and anything a restaurant/food vendor would want/need. My brother-in-law and I went there on Friday to get the ribs. It’s probably not a good idea to let the 2 of us do this sort of adventure without a chaperone because we both believe that more food is better. No – more than more. We came home with about 30 pounds of beef ribs. But that’s fine, because in 3 days, we’re not going to have a kitchen, no stove, and we’re going to still need to eat. Leftovers!!!! I know some people HATE leftovers but I love them. Leftovers mean I don’t have to cook or prepare something. My husband is the real chef in the family (I bake) and he did a great dry rub on the ribs. For good measure we tossed in some chicken dogs and veggie burgers. view from breakfast room doorwayWe had sugar free cheesecake and sugar free pound cake with fresh fruit and whipped cream for those needing SF, and we had sugar full cheesecake and sugar full ice cream cake for those wanting that good old sugar hit. The appetizers were delicious also. I’ll also give a little mention to the fact that I nearly lost my husband last night. As in permanently. One of my guests brought a home-made keto dessert (she’s very big on all sorts of healthy diets) and I’m not really sure what these things were, but they were sugar free. So she gave 2 to my husband who, of course, ate them. I only found out after the fact when I heard her describing the ingredients which included macadamia nuts. I said – don’t give any to him because he is highly allergic to macadamia nuts. Which is when I heard he’d already eaten them. Everyone joked about it and teased him and her, but the truth is – he was somewhat sick from them last night. 2 little tiny doses but enough for him to have a reaction. :/

I originally planned to do this party today, but as I write this post, rain is thundering down outside, and our phones periodically beep with emergency alert notices about flash flooding. The weather forecasters got all of that right because that was the forecast they were giving a week ago, which is when I said better move the party to Saturday night.

breakfast room table pots and pans closetEighteen of us on the deck – chairs and space enough for everyone, although I will admit there was a tight squeeze in one corner. I had the chance to show everyone the plans for the renovation, and got to show off the now-famous upstairs hall door (you remember – an essential piece for The Great Incarceration). We’ve decided on the faucet for the kitchen sink (somewhat steampunky) and I got to show pictures of that as well. Plus the really amazing steampunk faucet we are NOT getting. 🙂 It’s going to be a huge change.

I’m going to miss my kitchen. I know that many people look at my kitchen and go “ugh”. It’s small, old, kitschy, loud. But I do love it. I love the pink and yellow and bright and the art work and the decorations. I no longer love the floor (28 years ago) or the stove (15 years ago) and I hate that the cabinets and drawers don’t work properly. I’m not loving the current ant invasion, either. Despite all its flaws, when it’s clean and bright, it makes me smile. It makes me happy. I’ve been worried about getting a new, modern, soulless kitchen. I think we’ve made some good choices so that although we will have a new modern kitchen, it shouldn’t be soulless. Time will tell.

breakfast room cat treeToday, however, is designated as “pack up the kitchen and breakfast room day”. Tomorrow is probably the same thing. We are working out a plan for how/when to move cat paraphernalia upstairs in preparation for The Great Incarceration. We are trying to determine in advance where we will put all the boxed up kitchen ‘stuff’. We have a lot of stuff. Where did all this stuff come from? Do we NEED all this stuff????

Tick tock, tick tock….. Less than 48 hours til the wrecking crew arrives…..


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