Well this is kind of a funny blog post, as it was intended to be two separate posts – ya know one with some party tips and the other going over the dinner party I threw for the blog’s 5th anniversary. But in an ironic twist, I realized during my slightly over-the-top dinner party that I wish I would have followed all the advice I had gathered, because I totally didn’t. 😀 While the party was a blast and it’s always fun having my pals over, I ended up learning some valuable lessons – mostly that quality over quantity is a good rule of thumb to follow when planning a menu.
Not sure if it comes through on this here bloggy blog, but I tend to go a bit overboard when entertaining (I get that from my mom). So when the big ole’ 5 year anniversary was coming up, I thought – I’ll invite 10 of my best buds over and will make some of my greatest hits. So, I made:
holiday mulled wine
cheddar + green onion cheese ball
sweet and sour meatballs
my mom’s mustard bread (more on that later)
creamy mashed potatoes
roasted brussel sprouts
wild rice with caramelized onions + mushrooms
bacon meatloaf with carrots, prunes + onions
Ina’s turkey meatloaf
AND my mom’s lemon chicken.
Whew! That was a lot to type out, but even more crazy to make. I ended up cooking from about 10AM to 6PM.
It. was. a. marathon.
As each dish was done, I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge. Since I was making so much, there was no way I could time everything to be ready and just coming out of the oven when our guests arrived. And here in lies the rub. I ended up re-heating everything in the oven, which took forever and of course dried things out. 😦 My friends were lovely, and went on and on about how yummy everything was, but internally I was yelling at myself, “WHY did you make so many things!? It’s all D-R-Y! Argh!” I even know Queen Ina says “only make two or three dishes and buy the rest — or assemble the rest.” Blarg!
I learned my darn lesson.
I did, however, feel much better after dinner was done, because my pal Katrina from Baking with Soul made me this RIDICULOUS chocolate, espresso + cinnamon cake. Can you believe this!? So freakin’ good and such a sweet gesture for my little celebration.
Alrighty, so with my newly learned lessons fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share with you some great advice from some of my friends + fam who I consider expert party hosts, bakers, cooks, and just all around pretty alright folks. 😀 I hope some of this helps if you’re throwing any holiday shindigs! Cheers!
Best Pal Adie
Adie throws amazing Christmas + 4th of July parties every year and is a kick-ass baker. She also gave me the recipe for the sweet + sour meatballs above. YUM.
Tips: “Make as many things ahead of time as possible, use crock pots and don’t do too many dishes in the oven, because they won’t stay hot. Make sure there is plenty of booze and no one will care what else you do!!”
Mombo (that’s my Ma)
Mom specializes in theme parties – whether it was a luau for my birthday, or a beach party in the dead of winter for her buddies – it was always a GOOD time.
Tips: “Plan ahead, way ahead! I started to plan your summer parties in January! Also, make lists. Give yourself a good half hour before the party starts, when all is under control and light the candles, have a cold one and relax, or as you youngin’s say, chillax. Last, lotsa ice.”
Debbie from The Mountain Kitchen
Debbie is queen of the mountain! She is funny as hell and is a constant inspiration to me with her cozy mountain home and fantastic recipes.
Tips: “Be there for your guests! Have a good plan and stick to it. Don’t run away to the kitchen every five minutes. Prepare foods that can be made ahead of time and don’t worry about the party mess until long after the last guest has left. A party isn’t about working your ass off, it’s about spending time with the people that are invited!”
Ms. Maddi The Wonderful
This gal has rocked two Ina Garten days with me, and once asked me to smell her egg salad. Despite that, I still trust her tips.
Tips:“Make room temperature apps. Eat and get dressed beforehand so you’re not a monster when people arrive, or get tipsy off your first cocktail. Also, pigs in a blanket is the world’s best appetizer despite it being kind of embarrassing to serve. Last, I come from a long line of people who put all the drinks in a cooler outside, no matter the weather or the fridge space.”
Katrina from Baking with Soul
Katrina is another fabulous baker (*ahem* cake above), and is always letting me sample her latest recipes – so she’s up there in terms of favorite friends!
Tips:“Get yourself up earlier the day of, so you’re not starting the day feeling rushed at all. Do the prep work in the morning, like having things chopped and set aside, or having doughs made and ready to go.”
Veronica, the NYE Hostess with the Mostess
Veronica throws an amazing NYE bash with her hubby every year and everything is always SO lovely – especially her impeccable outfit!
Tips: Veronica says that because everything at party stores and online looks too typical, she likes to make her own decor, totally DIY’ing it. She also gave a great tip to look at local thrift stores for things like punch bowls and cute silver or glass serving plates.
She also shared some of her FAB punches – I love that they’re both so different – something for everyone!
Pomegranate Champagne Punch:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 bottles of chilled Brut
1 1/2 cups of white rum
1 1/4 cups of pomegranate juice
1 pomegranate worth of seeds, 1/2 goes in punch, 1/2 goes in ice rings
1 box of mint leaves
4 lemons, 1/2 goes in punch, 1/2 goes in ice rings
The lovely secret ingredient to this punch is an ice ring you make the night before. Fill one or two round Tupperware containers with 1/2 of the pomegranate seeds, the mint and some lemon slices. Mix all ingredients together in your lovely punch bowl and toss in the ice cubes, the pomegranate seeds and the lemon slices. voila!
1 cup of pre-made sweet tea, or if making your own, include 1/2 cup honey
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/2 cup of lemon juice (to taste)
1 1/2 cups of bourbon
1 tsp of bitters
For this recipe, also make a Tupperware ice-cube but this time with some lemon slices and rosemary sprigs.
Mix all together and serve with the gorgeous ice-cube!
Alright, so last but not least – I want to talk about my mom’s mustard bread that was on the menu. I imagine some of you going, “mustard bread, what the hell is that!” – but it was a staple at so many of my mom’s parties. And it was always met with rave reviews. Same at mine. I have no idea where this recipe came from, but it tends to wow the crowd and get gobbled up until there’s none left. So – my final piece of advice I’ll throw at ya, is to make a tried and true, quick to throw together, family recipe that might be new to your guests. It always feels warm and fuzzy to share a family recipe that you can pass along from your family to your friend-family. ❤
And – mustard bread will be the next blog post – so stay tuned on how to make this magic!
Happy holiday hosting! I’ll leave you with this video of me party-ready – before I realized everything was dry. LOL.