Princess Edamame\’s Parties

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

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

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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

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