Princess Edamame\’s Parties

You CAN have a great party – just learn from my mistakes!

Interview Meme

My Blog Friend Fighting Windmills sent me this interview meme as a way to get me back to the blog before the first anniversary of my last post, so here goes!!

1. What taste can take you back to a strong childhood memory?  Chocolate.  Definitely chocolate.  

2. If you could have a personalized license plate (7 characters) for your car, what would you get?  I already do!  GSHA MEL.  Any guesses?  Yeah, that’s an easy one.

3. When is the next party coming up and what are you planning?  Easter will be the next small get together.  We will be having turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, gravy, whatever veg my sister brings, and dessert from Mom.  And eggs.

4. What kind of pets do you enjoy?  Those belonging to other people.  And my son – I enjoy him.

 
5. How do you spend your Saturdays typically? Shopping, watering and weeding at the community garden, cleaning up the house, putting my son down for a nap, falling asleep myself, waking up, computer time, son’s up, play play play, dinner, then put son to bed and futilely trying to stay awake until my husband gets home from his gig.

 

 

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April 5, 2009 Posted by | entertaining, Family Parties, food | Leave a comment

Shake That Turkey!

I have been asked by fellow blogger Mrs. Metaphor (see Blogroll) to share tips on shaking up a Thanksgiving feast.

I have thought about this a great deal since receiving this request, and must confess, it’s a stumper.

The thing that came to mind most often was serving non-traditional food – flavoring Tom Turkey with Moroccan spices, for example.  Or serving a meat other than turkey.  If your family is adventurous, I’d say go for it.  Make exotic side dishes.  Skip the ambrosia salad.  But in my personal experience, changing up the food doesn’t always make for a memorable gathering, at least, not necessarily in a good way. 

Every time I thought about sexing up Thanksgiving, I came back to the fundamental part of the holiday – giving thanks.  I’m not sure that this is something that needs sexing up.  I really feel that Thanksgiving is the kick off of a season which features appreciating others at its core. 

 So perhaps the best thing that one can do to “shake it up” is to begin cementing traditions.  Have everyone write on a cut-put paper leaf what they are thankful for, and put them in a bowl.  Everyone can pull one leaf from the bowl, read it aloud, and guess who is thankful for that item.

 Have your traditional turkey carver carve the turkey together with a younger family member.  It’s a great photo op, and a great way to pass the knowledge of turkey carvery.

And perhaps the best tradition I can think to start?  Turn off the Game!  Enjoy the company of your loved ones – even the dysfunctional ones!

November 7, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, entertaining, Family Parties, food, holidays | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hostess Gifts – Bring ’em On

If you’re like most people, you may often wonder when it is appropriate to bring a hostess gift when going to someone’s home for a meal or a party.  Here’s my position:  Bring it on.

The host/ess is going to some measure of trouble to have you over, whether it’s a small affair or a large event.  You should in turn show your appreciation for his or her efforts with a small but thoughtful gift.

“But what?” you ask.  This is where it gets fun.

Everyone knows the usual:  a bottle of wine or flowers.  A bottle of vino is always nice, and I always appreciate it.  But please don’t be offended if the host/ess doesn’t open the bottle that evening.  The wine may have already been carefully chosen, and what you brought may not go well with what is being served.  But please know that your gift is appreciated.  A note on flowers:  It is a good idea to bring a small arrangement that does not smell too strongly, and that does not require being put into a vase.  An arrangement that it already in a container is fantastic, because your host/ess is busy enough; don’t make her stop what she’s doing to find a vase, snip the flowers, and arrange them. 

 But how about something more unique?  Here’s a quick list of some favorites that I have either given or received (or would love to receive – hint hint):

A package of novelty cocktail napkins.  I’m of the belief that you can’t have too many cute cocktail napkins.  And as proof, I have over 30 different unopened packages that I can’t wait to get through.

I once hosted an eat-on-the-floor Japanese dinner, and my guests brought a basket containing a variety of Japanese snack food, and a pair of long cooking chopsticks (which came in handy that very night).  It was adorable, well thoght out, and relatively inexpensive.

A low-maintenance house/outdoor plant.  One friend brought a pointsettia to my Christmas party.  We kept it outside after the holidays, and it grew up beautifully.  It was a nice reminder of this guest, and his thoughtfulness, every time I saw it.  He’s invited every year.  My grandmother brought a chrysanthemum (my birth-flower) to one of my parties many years ago, and it is still thriving to this day.  She’s invited every year as well. 😉

Cookbooks!  If you know the type of food being served, you could theme your choice.  A book about a favorite region would be nice as well.  Perhaps you are of a different ethnicity of than your host?  How about a book featuring the cuisine from your native land?

November 3, 2007 Posted by | entertaining, Family Parties, food, hostess gifts, Japanese Dinner, Tips | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Fourth of July Party Was A Blast!

This year, I wanted our annual Fourth of July party to be something worth reporting to my devoted readers.

 

So I approached the party as though I were helping someone else simplify his or her own party.  (Although I tend to really practice what I preach, I do have moments where I really overreach – anyone remember the homemade gnocchi from our Christmas party a few years back?)

 

First, I considered the starting time.  Fireworks are legal where we live, so the party tends to run late.  In previous years, we started pretty early, as early as 1:00, so people tended to leave before the fireworks got started.  In addition, I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to not only get everything prepared, but to relax before the party.  A long shower, time to put on makeup and style your hair, all go a long way towards being a relaxed hostess.  So I decided that this year, we would start at 5:00.  I had plenty of time, and nearly everyone who came stayed for fireworks. 

 

 

As in many other families, our Fourth of July party is a barbeque.  However, depending on what you are cooking, that tends to put a lot of burden on the griller.  This year, I wanted to take that pressure off Dear Husband, so he could be freer to socialize.  So here’s what we did:

Our main courses were sloppy joes and Italian sausage sandwiches.  (We also did hot dogs for the chilluns.)  The sloppy joe mixture (5 batches, recipe from Cook’s Country, October/November 2005) was cooked the night before and the morning of the party, and stored in zipper bags in the fridge (the fewer dirty dishes, the better).  About an hour before the party, I nuked each batch to take the edge off the cold, and tossed them all into a crock pot, set to low.  Done!

 

For the sausages, I precooked them almost, but not quite, completely, by steaming them with a little white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I held them in the fridge, and all Dear Husband had to do was finish them on the grill.  Then, he’s free!

 

As for the side dishes, which I adore making, devilled eggs are a must.  (My favorite recipe:  Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1999, Better Homes and Gardens Books.)  The eggs can be boiled well in advance.  Then, make the filling the day before, and store it right in the pastry bags you’ll use to pipe the filling into the egg halves.  Don’t forget to cover the tip of the pastry bag, and clip the top shut.  Easy, right?  My tip for a upper smooth filing:  put the yolks through a potato ricer, rather than mash them with your fork or a pasty blender.

 

 

For a BBQ, chips and dip are simple enough, and sure to be eaten.  A fruit plate is easy, if you buy very nice looking pre-cut fruit.  Pile it on a plate, and you’re finished!  Olives are also always easy – buy and dump.  Just be sure to get a nice quality olive.  Try them from an olive bar (like at Bristol Farms or an Italian deli).

 

I have a cheese plate at every party, whether it’s the Fourth of July party, Christmas Brunch, or Bachelor Sunday.  (More on Bachelor Sunday in another post.)  Cheeses are great, if you get the right ones.  If you are planning to leave the cheese out for a long time, such as all afternoon during your BBQ, forget cheddar and jack.  They will start to sweat, and become oily and unappetizing.   Try soft ripened cheeses, like brie, which typically become better as they sit out.  A great soft-ripened cheese to try (if you can get past the barnyard aroma) is epoisses.  If it’s properly ripened, it will simply “melt” as it sits out.  Blues are also great.  Try Saint Agur, a nice gorgonzola dolce, or a Stilton.  Use water crackers – you want to really taste the cheese.

 

M&Ms are fun – I purchased some custom printed ones this year.  They are expensive (about $12 for 7 oz), but of course custom printing isn’t necessary.   Nibbles like bar snacks or trail mix are great.

 

Keep your beverages simple.  A few juices are great for kids or as mixers.  Vodka, tequila gin, scotch and rum are good spirits to have around.  We also like some more “exotic” ones around, for fun, such as Hpnotiq, Midori, and Sambuca.  Don’t forget beer, sodas, and plenty of water, for a summer party.

 

 

I serve dessert and coffee with the fireworks, and I keep it pretty simple.  This year, my sister made a beautiful red, white and blue trifle, and I purchased a sugar-free angel food cake, and topped it with sliced, macerated strawberries.  Both were simple, elegant and tasty.

 

All in all, our simplified bash was a ton of fun.  Nearly everything was finished before the first guests arrived; the only remaining task was plating a few items, which we all did together.  And, most importantly, I had plenty of time to spend with our guess – and isn’t that what it’s all about?

July 22, 2007 Posted by | 4th of July, barbeque, BBQ, entertaining, Family Parties, fireworks, food, Tips, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Being a Guest…

I went to two Halloween parties this year, and both were great – for totally different reasons.

The first was thrown by a long-time friend of mine and her husband. The guests consisted largely of people who knew each other, or at least of each other, and a few people only the hosts knew. It was a great mix. Going to party after party with the same people can get to be droll. It’s always good to invite people whom no one else knows, but who have something in common. (By the way, costumes help people have something in common…)

The food was great, without being extravagant. Some frozen appetizers, cooked well and very nicely plated. No one knew she hadn’t made them herself! Some was catered via take out and, again, the food was well presented.

The second party was a family party. Everyone in costume again, which is great for family, because you see people in a new light. The food was largely homemade, with a good mix of food for adults, and food for kids (that the adults could eat, too). Excellent bar set up, a pumpkin decorating contest, and lots of cozy places to sit, inside and out.

Some tips for your party, whether friends or family:

Get rid of the evidence! You can’t have the empty boxes or take out containers lying around! Always put out your own platters, bowls and plates.

Use what you know, Part I: A party isn’t the time to try a new restaurant. The chic new place around the corner may look good, but until you have had at least 3 different meals there, don’t bother.

Use what you know, Part II: This isn’t the time to try a new convenience food, either. If a frozen appetizer looks good for your party, get a box and try it first. Better to find out now that the cooking instructions aren’t right, it won’t hold for the whole party, or it just tastes like crap.

Use what you know, Part III: Same goes for new recipes. Try them out first! Know how much time it will actually take, how much preparation is involved, and how well the food will taste, and hold for the evening.

Alcohol: The great ice breaker. A few well-chosen boozes and a few well chosen juices make for a fun evening. Don’t forget the beer! If you aren’t hiring a bartender (I never have), it’s nice to put out a few recipe cards as suggestions for what your guests may wish to make.

Coming up:  My progress on planning my own Christmas party, and my favorite cookbooks for parties…

November 6, 2006 Posted by | Family Parties, Tips, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Success!

The back-to-back parties went off rather well, I think!  Saturday night was Japanese dinner for 6, plus my almost 2-year old son.  We made sukiyaki, which is a sort of stew your guests cook at the table.  All I needed to do was buy the ingredients, chop the veggies and make some very simple broth to cook in.  Since this is fantastic party food, I will definitely do an in-depth post on it another time, and recommend some cookbooks.

Sunday afternoon was my son’s second birthday party (a little early).  Mainly family, and a few neighborhood kids.  My uncle made the cake, which was stellar:  devil’s food with rasberry filling!  We held the party at 2 p.m., so no need to prepare a full meal:  pub mix/trail mix, fruit with dip, Halloween candy, shrimp scampi (homemade, but extremely easy and keeps well), and frozen quiches (brand:  Nancy’s.  Almost as good as my homemade.)

Here’s what I would recommend should you decide to hold two parties very close together:

1.  Definitely re-think the idea.  It’s going to be a lot of planning – the schedule will be everything.

2.  Make one of your parties super simple.  Think party platters, pre-cut vegetable trays, or even catering from a favorite restaurant.

3.  If one of your parties is for family, try making that the more casual party, and enlist their help.  Don’t turn them down when they offer to bring something, clear the table or wash dishes.  Don’t be a hero!

October 12, 2006 Posted by | Family Parties, Japanese Dinner, Tips, Uncategorized | 1 Comment