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.

 

 

Advertisements

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

what appetizers do you have at wine tasting

Someone found me recently searching “what appetizers do youj have at wine tast”.  I’m going to assume I have a character limit in my report screen, and that that googler was really searching for what to erve at a wine tasting…

 And here’s what I’d go with – match it up depending on the wine you are serving:

 The classic is cheese, of course.  And since I’m a cheese nerd, it’s only right and proper that I list that first.  There are tons of  references available on the internet to suggest pairings, and since I don’t know what you’re pouring, I can’t get too detailed.  But some of my favorites are nice goat’s milk bries, epoisses, and aged goudas.  Sometime I’ll have to run down my faves for you…

And what do you eat with the cheese?  Unless I’m serving a gloopy cheese like a brie, that really needs a carrier to be eaten in polite company, I tend to slice and serve.  If I need a bread or cracker, I’ll usually go with a baguette, thinly sliced.  Crackers impart flavor, and I like to just taste the cheese.

What else to serve?  I’d go with thinly sliced pears, or chocolate.

Of course, there are endless other options.  But since someone took the time to ask what I’d serve, that’s the answer!

March 2, 2008 Posted by | entertaining, food, wine tasting | Leave a comment

Appetizers

Appetizers are a great way to welcome your guests and let them know you are ready to party.  They show tha you have put an extra touch of effort into the evening.  They not only stimulate the appetite, they stimulate activity.  Since guests will always gather around the food, they help to break the ice at a small party with guests who don’t know each other well.  Appetizers also give your guests something to do while getting settled.

But appetizers do not need to be complicated.  You can put out some nuts, or chips and salsa.  If you want to keep it super easy, but super tasty, here are my two favorites – no cooking required:

  • A cheese plate.  There are myriad ways you can put a cheese plate together, and none is wrong.  Try a sheep, goat, and cow.  A brie, a blue, and a hard cheese.  Use water crackers or mini toasts – if the cheese is good, it’s carrier doesn’t need much flavor.  My favorite carrier for cheese – my hands.
  • Sliced bread with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Use the best quality of each you can afford.  Chop one clove of garlic very finely, and mix with olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a dipping bowl, or individual dipping bowls.  For an extra-special presentation:  pour the oil. vinegar and garlic into a small prep bowl. put a small plate over hte top of the bowl, and invert them together, so the plate is sitting on the table, the bowl is upside down containing the mixture.  When you remove the prep bowl in front of your guests, of course, the oil and vinegar will come spilling out.  Practice a bit first, and don’t let it sit for too long, lest the oil and vinegar seep out from the bottom of the bowl.

November 11, 2007 Posted by | entertaining, food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dining Al Fresco?

Tonight, we have tips about having casual parties outdoors.

Keep your food simple.  In fact, this should be your entertaining mantra.  But it is particularly important if you intend for your guests to be outdoors.  Why, you ask, would it be particularly important?  Logistics:  Do you really want to be in the kitchen cooking while everyone else is outside drinking all your rose and prosecco?

Try grilling (obvious, I know).  Most grilled food can be fully readied in advance, then slapped on the bbq.

Keep beverages in a cooler outside.  Or a cute galvanized bucket with ice.  Again, you don’t want to be running back and forth inside the house to get drinks.  Also, your guests can help themselves as needed.

Don’t forget the tablecloth weights, napkin holder, and some sort of cover for food that’s outside.  Citronella torches and candles are also important, unless you prefer to hire someone to fan the flies from your delicious food.

Of course, a back-up location for bad weather is essential.  Remember that “bad weather” doesn’t  include only rain.  Dining outside in the cold, the wind, or the unshaded hot sun can be just as unpleasant, if drier.

November 10, 2007 Posted by | barbeque, BBQ, entertaining, food, planning | , , , , , | 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

Cookbook Recommendation, Part I

Okay party people, I have only 13 minutes left to post in order to prevent missing a day, so here’s a quickie for you:

I have to give a great big ShoutOut to Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country for their foolproof recipies.  I have a dozen of their cookbooks, and I subscribe to both magazines and keep every issue.  I have cooked many things from them, and every single thing has turned out perfectly, as promised.  Even if I screw it up, which I tend to do.  If I break my rule of not trying a new recipie for a party, it is only with a Cook’s Illustrated recipie.  Buy the magazine, the cookbooks, and/or subscribe to their websites. They rock.

You can find them at:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com

http://www.cookscountry.com

November 4, 2007 Posted by | cookbook clubs, cookbooks, entertaining, food, Tips | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Post-Party Stress Disorder

FightingWindmills has sent me the following question in support of my NaBloPoMo effort:

 “Okay–I want to know how to deal with after party laziness and letdown. How, as a host, do you deal with cleanup and avoid over-analyzing your party’s level of suckiness/success?”

 After a party, post-party stress is common, as is total disorder in the house.  From the disastrous dining room to the unkempt kitchen, you are sure to feel overwhelmed.  You just cleaned your house, and now, only a day later, it’s a mess, and you have to do it all again.

First, you probably have one definite advantage over me:  Your party was likely on a Friday or Saturday.  As a musician’s wife, all my parties are on Sundays, which means work the next day.  So the mess will sit a while. Eww.  Now, we have a disastrous dining room, and unkempt kitchen, and putrid party platters.

So here’s what we do:

1.   Share, freeze, refrigerate, dump, or compost your leftover food, if there is any.  I prefer to share, since I am probably tired of looking at the stuff by the time end-of-party rolls around.  Please remember that not all leftovers are salvageable.  Sweaty meats and cheeses are best tossed, as is macaroni salad, potato salad, sour cream dips, etc.

2.  Rinse your serveware to get all chunks off.  This is best done with a glass of wine in one hand.

3.  Hit the hay. Or the couch.  Or the bath.  Or something.  If it’s Friday or Saturday night, you have an entire weekend ahead of you.  You’ve just thrown a fantabulous bash.  You’ve done quite enough for one evening.

4.  Next morning, after breakfast, start washing.  If you’ve got a dishwasher (that your serveware fits into), great.  You’ve got another advantage over me.  If you, like me, live in the world of analog dishwashing, start with the largest items.  The sense of accomplishment you get from clearing off half your counter space by washing only 3-5 items is immeasurable, and will make the rest of the task seem less daunting.  (Note:  Hopefully, you have been able to use at least some disposable serveware.  There are some very nice, inexpensive plastic platters and bowls that caterers use that you can toss post-party.  A store like Smart & Final is a great place to start.)

As to FW’s question about how to avoid over-analyzing the success or failure of your party, that’s a little tougher.  If people leave happy, you’ve done great.  If they come back, you’ve done fantastic.  If no one wants to leave, you’ve done too well, and need to tone it down.  Or start handing out dishtowels and aprons. 🙂

Im my opinion, one entertains for their own pleasure.  You should never entertain to try to impress someone else or please someone else.  That only leaves you with paranoia, wondering whether you did well enough.  So, if you entertain because you want to, and because you enjoy it, and you are happy at the end of the party, you have had a successful party!

November 2, 2007 Posted by | after the party, entertaining, food, Tips | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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