Tag Archives: parties

Party planning

I need to take a break from work, so here’s some info on a party I’m planning right now. We’re having 25-30 people over on Friday night for apps, sweets and booze. I’m in the middle of a crazy week, so I’m looking to make it pretty easy on myself…but still amazing.  A few tips to that end:

  • I think a spread looks more impressive as a whole if it follows something of a theme (e.g. Italian, Mexican, Comfort food).
  • When the whole looks impressive, you have a little more wiggle room on the individual items. Meaning that you can buy more dishes ready-made or ready-to-assemble.
  • Always plan several items that can be wholly or partially cooked 1-2 days in advance.
  • For a cocktail party, I shoot for 3 savory dishes (1 veggie, 1 vegetarian or seafood, and 1 meat), 2 sweets and 1 signature drink.
  • Try to avoid dished that need utensils or more than 2 bites.

With those rules in mind, I came up with the following 3 menus:

Mexican

  1. Guacamole topped with chipotle puree and toasted almonds, served with chips (vegetarian): Easy-peasy. You have to make the guac the day of, but easy to puree the chipotle in adobo and toast the almonds in advance
  2. Cilantro dip  with crudite (veggies): The dip is store-bought and I’d cheat and buy a lot of veggies already prepped
  3. Oregano-crusted pork tenderloin sliders with pickled red onion and lime aioli (meat): Cheap, delicious and easy. I can make the pork and red onions in advance, the rolls come from the freezer section and the “lime aioli”is just mayo with lime zest and sauteed garlic.
  4. Subtly spicy Mexican chocolate pudding with cinnamon cream, served in little shot glasses (sweet #1): You literally make this dish in a blender. It is so good and easy…and vegan (minus the whipped cream)
  5. Key lime bars (sweet #2): The hardest thing on the menu, so I might think about a substitute.
  6. Margaritas (signature cocktail): Always easy, always delicious. Pre-mix everything and just have it out for people to serve themselves

Comfort food

  1. Michael’s curry dip with crudite (veggie): Easy to make in advance because it tastes better after a day or two…and I can outsource it to my husband
  2. Little crawfish pies (seafood): Store-bought pie shells filled with crawfish etouffee and cooked with parm on top. YUM. The etouffee isn’t “easy” but I’ll end up with more than half of it in my freezer for a rainy day, so I don’t mind the effort
  3. Pigs in a blanket (meat): Come on, people. They are delicious and everyone loves them. Literally just store-bought little sausages rolled in crescent roll dough and baked. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on some before baking, mix up some honey mustard (yellow mustard, honey and a bit of mayo) and Schriracha ketchup, and people with think you’re Christ come again.
  4. Brown-butter rice krispie treats (sweet #1): Just increase the butter a bit and let it get nice and brown before you mix it up. Sprinkle a bit of course salt on top while it’s still warm in the pan.
  5. Peanut butter, chocolate chunk cookies (sweet#2): My earliest signature dish and still a winner. Stay great for days, so you can make in advance.
  6. Bourbon slushes (signature cocktail): Mix it two days ahead and  pop it in the freezer. Then you just separate the ice with a fork and leave it out for people to serve themselves.

Italian/Mediterranean

  1. Rebecca F’s delicious prosciutto wrapped goat cheese (meat): So easy, plentiful and yummy. They do need to be assembled the day of the party, but it’s an easy job for a hubby or child (hah)
  2. Puff pastry tartlets with pesto, fresh mozzerella and sun dried tomatoes (vegetarian):  Another day-of job, but easy and great at room temp.
  3. Mediterranean platter (veggies): Store-bought grape leaves, hummus + crudite, olives, and Marcona almonds
  4. Nutella and banana tea sandwiches (sweet #1): Seriously. Nutella and bananas in perfectly square, little white-bread, crustless  sandwiches
  5. Meringue cookies with lemon curd (sweet #2): Store-bought meringues with store-bought lemon curd. Add a blueberry or raspberry on top and we’re in business
  6. Blood orange Sangria (signature cocktail): Add “blood orange” to the title and people will think it was harder. 🙂 Better if you make it a day in advance

So, 3 menus that are all easy, delicious and well-balanced. My honey picked the last one for the party. What do you think?

Either way, I’ll start linking back to some of these recipes. Fun, fun!

Green Chile Pork Tacos

Sigh. This is honestly one of my favorite dishes I have ever made in my whole life. SO delicious! Meaty and spicy and tangy and earthy and soft and crunchy. Basically, perfect. Also, easy. Hells bells!

Here’s the problem…I don’t really have a recipe, per se. More like some vague instructions. Still, it’s so easy, I don’t see how it can go wrong. It seems like a lot of steps, but it’s a lot of passive cooking and it literally made 20 tacos.

I’m breaking it down into 4 separate sections- pork, pickled red onions, sauce and tacos.

Pork

  • Slow cooker
  • Pork roast (needs to fit in slow cooker)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Veggie oil
  • Chicken broth
  • Roasted green chiles (I used hatch frozen)
  • Seasoning: Mexican oregano, Salt & Pepper, Flour
  • Yellow onion
  1. Get ~2 T veggie oil heating in large skillet over med-high. Meanwhile, trim the pork of outside fat. Pat dry and season liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour and pat in (about 2 Tablespoons). When oil is very hot, add pork and sear on all sides.
  2. While pork is searing, slice onion into thin half moons (pole to pole, then across). Place onions in bottom of slow cooker. When pork is seared, place on top. Add green chiles to taste (I used a full container of hot, so about a cup).
  3. Add enough chicken broth (or water + bouillon) to come 3/4 up roast. Smash and peel garlic, and add whole. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon mexican oregano. Put slow cooker on high for first hour, then cook on low for 6-8 hours. The meat should fall apart.
  4. Remove meat from pot, cover and set aside. When cool enough, strain remaining solids (onion, chiles, garlic) from liquid and set aside for sauce.
  5. Defat liquid by placing in fridge and removing top fat when cool OR by using a fat separator.  Place remaining liquid in small pot and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until reduced to ~1/3-1/2 cup.
  6. Meanwhile, shred meat with two forks or fingers. When liquid is reduced, stir into pork and set mixture aside.

Pickled red onions

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into rings (OPTIONAL)
  1. Thinly slice onions into half moons and place in medium, heat-proof bowl.
  2. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and optional jalapeno to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When boiling and sugar fully dissolved, remove from heat and pour over onions.
  3. Stir to combine and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in fridge for 30-60 minutes. Strain liquid and reserve onions.

Green chile sauce

  • Reserved solids from pork
  • Honey
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Blend reserved solids in blender until smooth. If too thick, add a bit of water.
  2. Add ~1-2 teaspoons honey (you can always add more later, but you can’t take it back) and salt and pepper to taste. It should be spicy and creamy.
  3. With blender running, slowly drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to emulsify.

Tacos

  • Corn tortillas
  • Green chile pork
  • Creamy green chile sauce
  • Sweet, sour and spicy pickled red onions
  • Optional: cilantro, feta or cotija cheese, shredded carrots and/or cabbage
  1. Warm corn tortillas over gas burner until slightly charred or wrapped in foil in 350 degree oven.
  2. Place pork in tortilla. Top with pickled onions, green chile sauce and optional toppings. I don’t have a picture of it, but I LOVE it with carrots, so don’t discount that.
  3. Eat!

Blueberry cobbler bars

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. I saw it about a year ago,  filed it away in my noggin, forgot all about it, rediscovered it, baked it, fell in love with it, and then forgot about it for 2 months. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I am FINALLY posting it.  Please don’t let my treatment of this recipe suggest that it is anything other than extremely delicious and simple. It is a keeper. I made it the week my niece stayed with me and packing it in her lunch for camp. I don’t think she minded.

Recipe adapted slightly…

1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
4 teaspoons cornstarch

  1. Preheat the oven to 375  and prepare a 9×13 inch pan (I suggest a parchment “sling” + pam, but just pam works fine).
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan. Press down to compact and ensure even coverage.
  3. In another bowl, stir together 1/2 cup sugar,  1/4 teaspoon salt, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until top is slightly brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares. Can be refrigerated for 1+ week

Big, bad, beautiful brunch

My MIL just moved to Austin and we decided to host a brunch to welcome her to the land of the weird. I was traveling aaaalllll week, so I wanted something super easy. Well, easy and delicious…I have a rep to maintain, yo. I decided early on that a bagel bar was the ticket. Easy, filling and yummy. That would allow me to only make a few small items to fill in the holes. Here’s where we landed:

  • Plain and pumpernickel bagels with chive cream cheese, lox, red onions, tomatoes and capers
  • Sesame bagels with candied ginger cream cheese and shaved Granny Smith apples
  • Cinnamon raisin and cranberry bagels with plain cream cheese
  • Curry dip with veggies
  • Delicious yellow honey dew melon
  • The creamiest, dreamiest cheese grits with andouille and shrimp, served with a green tabasco cream sauce
  • Individual pavlovas (courtesy of my increasingly skilled sister-in-law) with mixed berries and almond Greek yogurt
  • Mimosas
  • The BEST Bloody Marys ever. (period)
  • Topo Chico sparkling water

I think it was a big success. The flavored cream cheeses are badass. Just let some cream cheese soften, chop up some herbs or whatever, fold in and serve in a cute container. The candied ginger cream cheese was TO DIE FOR.

Mar-fantastic

We just got back from a hugely successful trip to Marfa. It is such a cool little town and we met so many great new people. Not to mention that we discovered BananaGrams, my favorite new game. I woke up thinking about it… obsessed? Maybe. We ate a few fantastic restaurants on the way to/from Marfa and in the town itself.

Art installation in the desert outside of Marfa

  • The pancakes at Rather Sweet in Fredericksburg were the best I have ever had. I am stating that in all seriousness and with apology to my mother, who now makes the second best pancakes in the world. I also met the first Danish I liked. Serious yum
  • We loved Cochineal in Marfa. Exihibit 1? We ate there 3 times in 3 days, twice for breakfast and once for dinner. The huevos rancheros were exceptional.
  • We loved the Food Shark. It’s a little trailer in “downtown” Marfa with great daily specials and exceptional Marfalafel. Get the plate, not the wrap. The falafel is better than the tortilla that it is served in.

Anyway, here’s what I ended up bringing to the party:

  1. Caramelized onion dip with kettle chips (A+)
  2. Caponata (B-)
  3. Molasses ginger cookies (A, but only because I made them a teeeeeny bit too salty)
  4. Coffee bar (A+)
  5. Salty Redneck Toffee (A+)

I’m going to try to salvage my caponata tomorrow by turning it into a pasta sauce with ricotta. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I still need to start actually adding the recipes. Haven’t figured out the best way to yet. Will do, will do.

Heavy apps?

Heading to Marfa on Wednesday for a fantastic New Years getaway. Have you heard of Marfa? It’s this random little town in waaaaaay South Texas that has been taken over by artists. Good food, good art, beautiful skies. It promises to be a worthy outing.

Our good friends, Steven and Eugene, are hosting a NYE party and I’ve signed up for some heavy apps. I need a few things that 1) I can make in advance, 2) can handle the 7 hour drive down, 3) will be easy to replate/heat/serve/whatever, and 4) are Sick Delicious.  A tall order, yes. But we can make it work.

I know for a FACT that one item will be a coffee bar [concept by the always Creative Carolyn..CC]. My hubby makes his good dark coffee, we pull out a bottle of Tia Maria (like Kahlua, but better and cheaper), I whip up some lightly sweetened whipped cream and serve some warm dark caramel sauce. Everyone can mix their own tasty treat. Easy, suitable for advanced prep, and consistently a huge hit with guests. Plus, it’s an especially good choice for NYE when everyone is trying to stay alert.  I’ll add the Caramel Sauce recipe and some pics later.

But what else? Maybe some caramelized onion dip with bacon and chives, served with kettle chips? Not fancy, but great for the munchkins and really, really good. I do a great adaptation of Emeril’s Seafood Cheesecake. That holds well, is filling and looks way harder than it is.  My hubby loves Baba Ghanoush with veggies and pita. I was also thinking a big platter of a roasted Caprese salad would be nice–  slow roasted tomatoes, fresh mozz, basil and a balsamic reduction. It doesn’t suck. Hmmmm…..

I’ll noodle on this and get back to you with the final menu and some recipes. Maybe a grocery list too? I wouldn’t mind having those organized for posterity