Category Archives: Food

You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 2

Today is the second post in a two-part mini-series within a series about hosting a dinner party, written by my friend Joy of Living Life in the Shades of Grey. You can catch the first post, which covers how to plan for a dinner party. Today’s post goes into the nitty-gritty.

{Image: Joy}

You came back!! I hope you’re still excited to host an AWESOME dinner party! Here are some thoughts on the nitty-gritty of Dinner Party week. *hint* you’re going to need to make a list.

For the ease of writing this blog, let’s say you’re having the party on Saturday at 4:30, eating at 5:30 (note: I like to host parties on Saturday since I generally don’t have to work). Here’s what your week should look like:

Sunday thru Tuesday – work on making your list (whos coming/to do/to make/to buy) and getting together all of your RSVP’s. If you’ve facebooked or e-mailed people to invite them, you may want to send a friendly reminder even to people that have said they are coming. This will remind people that they have made plans with you while reminding others to let you know that they need to tell you whether or not they will be there.

Also, do whatever cleaning you’re wanting done. Obviously there will be last minute things like dishes from the week (and to be frank, I like to clean my bathroom the day of the party), but you don’t want to have to think about cleaning while you’re cooking.

Wednesday – completely finalize your menu. Make a list of what you will need at the grocery store. Even if you’re not usually a grocery store list person, make a list this time! If you don’t there will inevitably be something forgotten, and you don’t want to have to think about going back to the store for it!

Thursday – Go to the store! Buy what needs buying (flowers will last more than 3 days!) Check off your list. Go home. Put the groceries away. Chill out, you deserve it. Set your table (except for flatware). Put the flowers out. Leave the glasses/stemware upside down, and the plates too! All you’ll have to do the day of the party is turn them over and set out your forks/knives/spoons.

Friday – Prep time. If you’re making lasagna like me, you can put the entire thing together on Friday night. Marinate meat of you’re making steak or chicken. Make a dessert that can be made altogether in advance, or put it together so all it has to do is be baked (if that’s possible).

Some of this you can do on Thursday after grocery shopping. Really the trick is, the more you can get done ahead of time; do it! If all of your prep work is done, you’ll really get to enjoy the day of your party. You’ll get to relax while you’re finishing cooking. Do as much ahead of time as you can!

Saturday a.k.a. Party Day! – Wake up. It’s a very important step! I would even allow yourself a little bit of time to sleep in. People aren’t coming over until 4:30. You have plenty of time! Once you’re up? Eat breakfast! Then you can finish cleaning. Dishes from the night before (you’ll have to bear with me, I don’t have a dishwasher and I know this isn’t really a step for most people anymore!). Bathroom (if you’re like me). Tidy what needs tidying.

Eat some lunch… I’d go for a small one because you’re going to be cooking an amazing dinner and you’ll really want to enjoy it! But you don’t want to be too hungry; you’ll need the energy for cooking and socializing, after all! Shower, get yourself ready, veg out…

Turn over the plates and glasses/stemware. Put out the flatware. Maybe add some water to the flower vase.

About two hours before everyone starts coming over, that’s when you’ll hit Dinner Party Mode. Checking to make sure things look good. Double check your recipes so you know how much time you have and what you’ll need to put in the oven when. Then all you need to do is coast until it’s time to cook.

Here’s how things work with my menu:

My lasagna takes about 45 minutes to cook, so I’ll turn the oven on to start heating up at 4:15. I cheat and use the microwave steamer bags, so my green beans are in the bag waiting to be microwaved until 5:15. My rolls will go in the oven for 10-15 minutes after the lasagna comes out to rest before cutting it. I like family style meals, so everything will make it to the table and we’ll eat.

Dessert? My apple cranberry crisp will go into the oven right around when people are done eating (I’ll sneak off to the kitchen quickly to get it in the oven). That way we get a break between dinner and dessert to let everything “settle” and my friends ready for some dessert. Once the crisp is done, I’ll bring it out with some ice cream! Yum!

I know I’ve done this before and I know it sounds crazy… but if you use my method, you should easily stay relaxed and sane! Friends will offer to help, let them or don’t. They’ll be thankful for all you’ve done for them and if they’re not, don’t invite them next time. 😉

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Life

You Can Do It: Host a Dinner Party, Part 1

My friend, Joy, blogs about photography, cooking, and living “in the maybes” over at Living in the Shades of Grey. She had so many good tips for hosting a dinner party that we’ve made it a two-part series within the You Can Do It series! Today is part one. I’m so glad Joy decided to write about this topic. When I approached my blogging friends with the idea of doing a guest blogger series, I told them the theme was “You Can Do It” and then let them decide what they felt led to share for that theme. When Joy brought up this idea, I was thrilled! She’s a wonderful party planner and pays incredible attention to detail. She’s a pro!

{Image: Joy}

I love to throw and host parties. It’s true! I love big events and have thought that if I didn’t have bills to worry about, I would love to become a party planner… but that’s another blog post for another day. As much as I love to plan a shebang of a party, my favorite party to throw is a dinner party. There is something so wonderful about a small intimate dinner with friends and something so exceptionally rewarding when you see everything come together.

What’s that? You want to throw a successful dinner party! I don’t blame you at all! Here are a few things to think about first:

1. Don’t invite a lot of people – I know you’ll want to. You obviously have a lot of friends and they are all equally deserving of a lovely dinner party. Have a second (third, fourth…) dinner party some other time. Keep your numbers small. 8-10 is a nice sized group, and 10 is definitely big enough (take it from the girl who overwhelmingly threw one for 23!) I promise if you keep it smaller, you’ll enjoy yourself more! You’ll get more of a chance to really talk to people and there’s a better chance for a great table wide conversation. If you invite more people, there’s a good chance that conversations will splinter into smaller groups of people, and you’ll probably end up feeling like you didn’t talk enough with some of your invited friends.

2. How will you invite people? Phone calls, mailed invitations, facebook … it’s your decision! Whatever will be easier for you, but do everything you can to get an RSVP! You’ll want/need to know how many people you’re cooking for! I have been known to make phone calls a week before the party to get an answer from friends!

3. Ambiance – Just a fancy word for music and decorations. As in do you want them? I love some light breezy background music (see this week’s post about making a playlist!) and maybe a small bunch of flowers on the table. I like to use a tablecloth… Do you want overhead lighting or candles? Both can be nice… just keep in mind your table space and what you might need room for which brings up to…

*imaginary drumroll*

4. Food – What? Thinking about food for a dinner party? Stop being so obvious, Joy! Ina Garten in her The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook said:

“Food is not about impressing people. It’s about making them feel comfortable.”

Here are four other things to think about when planning food:

a) Are you going to have a theme? Italian, French, Greek… Southern, Northern, West Coast…    There are a lot of options out there, be creative and take risks! I love cooking new things and sometimes I like to make my friends be the guinea pigs!

b)  Are you going to have 1 main meal, or are you going to do courses? Honestly, I’m a meal and then dessert kind of dinner party girl, but someday I want to do a 5 or 6 course meal with my friends. If this is your first dinner party, I’d recommend appetizer, meal, & dessert at most just to get a feel for it. Next time you’ll have more experience and you can go for more. I stand by the rule of thumb that you should be comfortable with what you’re doing.

c) Plated or family style? Take into consideration how much room you’ll have on your table and what your friends will be comfortable with. Are they picky eaters? Family style might be better; they can pick and choose what they want. Are they adventurous? Pre-plate away!

d)  Don’t stress! I mean it. You’re not a professional chef (and if you are, you should know this stuff). Please remember that nothing has to be perfect. I promise! Do what you can to time your food so it all gets done at the same time, but know that ovens and stove tops and microwaves all have warm up settings.

Here are my only cooking rules: LOVE whatever it is you’re cooking & have FUN cooking it!

If you’re looking for new recipes, these are a few of my favorite cookbooks and blogs:

Betty Crocker Everyday Vegetarian – I used to be one and love this cookbook
The Joy of Cooking – I have my Grandpa’s copy from 1931, but there are dozens of updated versions.
The Pioneer Woman –her recipes are very basic – check out her soups!
I Am Baker – her desserts are fabulous and honestly simple to make.

Are you ready to host a Dinner Party yet!! I hope you’re so excited!! Come back tomorrow for some of my “week of” planning tips!

3 Comments

Filed under Food, Life

On Life, Not Organizing, and Making French Toast


I sat with my laptop for over an hour and tried to think of something snazzy and inspiring to write about organizing the house and I realized … I haven’t participated in any projects to write about. Home improvement blogger fail!

Sometimes life is just life, those day to day existence things that take your attention away from the projects. At first I felt guilty for not pushing forward, but then I realized I’m just living in the present, and sometimes the present is work and traffic and vegging on the couch watching Bones.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I went to work, filed paperwork, ate a bag lunch, then left and got stuck in traffic, and decided to spend the rest of my evening watching Bones. On the couch.

I did make some GREAT French toast to go with our “breakfast” dinner. It was quite scrumptious. If you’d like to make a great French toast breakfast dinner sometime, here’s my recipe:

4-5 pieces of whole wheat bread
4 eggs
A splash of milk
A smidge maple flavoring
A smidge vanilla

That is correct, the measurements are not precise! In fact, my proportions of the ingredients changes at whim. It’s all to taste and preference.

Combine eggs, milk, maple flavoring, and vanilla in a casserole dish or similar flat-bottomed dish until fully blended. Heat a skillet or pan on medium temperature and melt a tab of butter (about 1 Tblsp.) in the skillet. Dip the bread in the egg and flip on the other side. Place wet bread in the skillet or pan. Fry until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup, or, if you prefer powered sugar and fruit.

(Tip: If you want all the slices to be warm when served at the same, simply just warm the oven and put the slices, after frying, into a pan in the oven.)

Unfortunately, I ate mine before thinking to take a picture. So I borrowed a slightly different version to illustrate.

{Many thanks, shugarhigh, for the shot above of some other delicious-looking french toast.}

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Ponderings

Daniel’s Hearty Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Mmmmmmm. Chili.

I have to say, my husband’s chili is my favorite, hands-down. It’s spicy, hearty, and delicious. Traditionally, he makes it with a pound of ground beef (we like to use 90% lean meat). We’ve been actively adding more vegetarian elements to our diet, however, so we discovered an equally tasty and even healthier version we’d like to share with you today. Note: especially if you put all the jalapeno seeds in your chili, this is quite hot. Adjust your seasonings as desired.

Ingredients

Yves Veggie Cuisine Meatless Ground (12 oz. package)

1 Can Kidney Beans

1 Can Tomato Sauce

1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes

1 Freshly-chopped Jalapeno Pepper

Approx. 1-2 Tablespoons Chili Powder

Salt and Pepper to season

Minced onions to season

Dash of Tabasco

Cooking Directions

Combine all ingredients into a medium pot and bring to boil. Cut down to medium-low heat and let simmer for about 1.5 hours. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Serves 2-3.

That’s it!

(If you prefer a more carnivorous version, simply substitute 1 lb. cooked and drained ground beef for the meatless soy product.)

The Calorie Lowdown

While we are certainly not dietitians (and this information may not be 100% accurate), I think it is safe to say that this vegetarian chili is a high flavor, low calorie, satisfying meal. Based on information gathered from Livestrong.com, we estimate 774 calories in the entire batch, so that’s roughly 258-385 calories per serving. If you add the lean ground beef, that adds about 300 calories to the pot,  but it’s still only a total of 358-537 calories per serving. Not too shabby, eh?

Bon Appetit!

{Photo: Andrea B of Behind Closed Drawers. And yes, that is my reflection in the spoon. }

Tip Junkie handmade projects

2 Comments

Filed under Food