This is the guide to last minute tailgating, but what I really mean is busy people tailgating. You know, people who know there’s a chance they’ll go tailgating, or know they’re going, but don’t have time to be elaborate. I’ve attended plenty of tailgates in my time, both large and small, and I love people who go all out. When I went to college in Nevada, long before Colin Kaepernick had anything to say about anything, but right alongside him, I joined a great group who would take turns doing all the work. I learned a lot from them. Unfortunately, I can’t put it into practice. I just don’t have the time. But, I love football. I feel guilty about loving it due to all those concussions, but if you invite me to a tailgate, I’m going to go.
Right now my husband is getting his MBA at the University of Tennessee. While I disapprove of their color choices, I like their school song, so I’m willing to attend their games. Tailgating for an SEC game is so different than tailgating for the Mountain West. If you haven’t done both, I think you should. At Nevada I’d roll up, park in the tailgating area, and commence the party. Here I have to find parking at least two miles away, probably pay $10 at a minimum, walk to the tailgate, and get to whatever tent I’ve been invited. People pay more for the good spots here, and a large chunk of them are catered, but if you can find your own spot, these last minute tailgating tips will probably help you out since you’ll be spending so much time just getting there!
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Equipment for Last Minute Tailgating
I’ve reviewed ways to keep your drink cool before, but for this I recommend a regular cooler. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking alcohol or not, you’re going to get thirsty. Throw your cooler in the trunk of your car, grab some ice at the gas station, and get going. You can even pick up water, beer, or soda at the gas station if you’re not already prepared. Now, if you’re not serving very many people and you want beer, I really like growlers. Then you don’t have to lug a cooler around. My husband has this one and it keeps his beer cold throughout the game. Hmm. I just realized I spend way too much time worrying about drink temperature.
You’ve probably seen those amazing set-ups on College Game Day where everyone has wild grilling options. Don’t get crazy here. You need something you can throw in the car and go. You’re probably wondering why you need a grill at all if you’re last minute tailgating, so I’ll tell you why. It means you get to cook your food when you get there instead of doing it at home. Genius, right? Okay, so I would say get a charcoal grill. They’re pretty cheap, plus if you’re a broke college student you can probably find one at a yard sale or on Craigslist. Or, even easier, get a stove for camping like this one. It’s not going to get you on TV, but it will heat your food.
Last Minute Tailgating Food
Ah ha! Now you get it. You’re providing the main part of the meal, making you the hero – and you had to do zero prep work. Hot dogs are cheap and totally appropriate. Hamburgers are also great; I like to throw garlic salt and cayenne pepper in my bag to season them up, although you can get patties that are already seasoned. Remember to bring buns along, and cheese if you go with hamburgers. There is no need to get any fancier than that if you’re last minute tailgating. The fancy stuff is for people who have more time to devote to this than you. Vegetarians, grab some portobellos instead of meat.
I typically advocate a mix of homemade and store-bought foodfor parties, but if you are really last minute tailgating, you’ll only want store bought food. I say bring some chips and dip. Then you have a side dish that doesn’t need to be cooked, and really, who needs more than chips and a hot dog at a football game anyway? If you want to get really crazy, pick up a thing of sour cream and use one of those packaged mixes to make a fancy dip. You can even mix it once you get there, saving you even more time.
That’s it! Bring some meat, chips and dip, a cooler, and a grill. Unless you’re tailgating by yourself, request some else brings all the condiments, paper plates, etc. Why? Those people have to pack things up and bring them home. You will not, which means less clean up afterwards. Now, obviously this isn’t completely last minute tailgating, since you will already need to have the equipment at home unless you want to do a frenzied dash through Walmart. But, if you know there’s a chance you’ll be tailgating, you can at least be prepared and do the minimum amount of work beforehand. More time to party!
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I’ve seen recipes for whiskey bacon brownies before. I’ve even used them. But I was looking for the one I like the other day and it disappeared, so I figured I’d just make one myself and share it with the world. Or the thirty or so of you who read this, that works too. 🙂 As a perpetually busy person, brownies from scratch are not normally my thing. Actually, brownies in general aren’t normally my thing. However, they are my husband’s, and every once in awhile I decide I like him and make a treat. His work is facing the end of a fiscal year this week, plus he’s got three full days of class over the weekend, so he needs some brownies. And some whiskey. And some bacon.
I’m not sure if the bacon craze of a few years back is still ongoing or not, but when it was in its heyday I threw my husband a booze and bacon birthday party. Since then I’ve developed a little bit of an obsession with boozy desserts. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth when I’m not pregnant, but a good hostess serves dessert. Because I appreciate alcohol (not in an alcoholic type way, but I love wine tastings and people with awesome mixology skills), adding it to the desserts I wasn’t really enjoying made it more fun for me. So, hopefully you will enjoy these too, but if they’re too time consuming, do it the real frenzy way: box brownies with a couple teaspoons whiskey and slices of bacon mixed in.
Recipe for Whiskey Bacon Brownies
Serves about 20, 45 minutes (15 active)
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5-10 slices bacon
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp whiskey
1.25 oz milk chocolate (1/4 of the 7 oz cooking chocolate)
Cook up some bacon and set aside. Aim for crisp even if you normally like it floppy. Set aside.
Make the glaze. Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat. Stir in whiskey. Set aside.
Mix the batter. Start with melted butter, eggs, and sugar. Then add cocoa, vanilla, flour, and baking powder.
Pour half the batter into your pan. I use an 8 x 8 for thicker brownies, 9 x 13 for thinner.
Add bacon. You can put it in strips or crumble it up and spread them out.
Add the rest of the batter.
Take your whiskey glaze and swirl it throughout the top layer of the batter.
Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes.
If you used strips of bacon, it is important to cool them before you cut – 15 minutes in the fridge should be fine.
Friends, I am not a baker. This is the most basic brownie around, and you’ll probably find similar versions of it all over the place. For my whiskey bacon brownies, I do omit any salt just because the bacon is salty enough. But, if you want to use your own version and just add some whiskey glaze and bacon, be my guest. I don’t think it will change much. Since I’m not an expert I don’t know if you’re supposed to bake brownies in glass or not, but I switch back and forth depending on what’s clean and have no problems. My grandma did just buy me a new Wilton pan and it’s awesome, so I’ve been using that. I also recommend this article from SheKnows if you want brownie baking tips, like how to make them cakelike over fudgy. Now go out and enjoy some whiskey bacon brownies!
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Easy red, white and blue party foods seem like they’d be a dime a dozen, don’t they? The 4th of July is a major American holiday, and we also have things like Memorial Day and Veterans Day where we abandon all meaning and focus on burgers and other foods that have nothing to do with combat. Okay, so we don’t all abandon the meaning – I personally live with a Marine who did three tours in Iraq, so our family does some actual memorializing on those other days. But no one knows anyone from the Revolutionary War, so if you want to focus on easy red, white and blue party foods instead of that guy who killed the other guy with a musket, no one’s going to judge you. Yet, it feels like our guests really will judge us for not having food shaped like an American flag, doesn’t it?
I’m positive this whole nonsense with color coordinated food became a thing because of Pinterest. As much as I think it’s nonsense, though, I kind of love it. It’s festive, right? But here’s my problem. I think my definition of easy is different than other people’s. I need a dish that’s going to be ready to go in five minutes. Earlier today I read an article that was supposed to be “last-minute” 4th of July ideas. Then it had Rice Krispie Treats prepared with Popsicle sticks dunked in frosting and sprinkled. What?! That’s not last minute. And what’s the deal with dipping ice cream sandwiches in sprinkles? Seriously, who leaves ice cream sandwiches sitting out? Ug. This is why I have to post these obvious easy red, white and blue party foods ideas – so we busy hostesses can participate without getting carried away.
Ice Cream Cups with Red and Blue Fruit
This is my take on all the colorful 4th of July desserts I could find on Pinterest. I don’t disagree the other ones aren’t easy; it’s more that they’re time consuming. Do you know what I’m going to be doing the week before the 4th of July this year? Giving birth. So I feel like there’s a good chance I’m not going to want to hang out in the kitchen. But my family will probably wind up over here since it’s easier than me packing up the kids and dogs and going there, so I’ll attempt to have some sort of sustenance. The gist of this idea is to skip skewering and lining up anything. I admire people who have the patience to put strawberries and marshmallows on fifteen different sticks, or alternate rows of pretzels and cherries to make an American flag. But I’m not that person.
Do you actually need directions for this, friends? I feel like you don’t, but here’s what you’re going to do:
1. Go to the store.
2. Buy vanilla ice cream cups and frozen red and blue fruits (like cherries, blueberries, etc.)
3. Take everything home.
4. Don’t let the ice cream melt.
5. When it’s time, take the tops off the cups and sprinkle with berries. Or, put the berries in a bowl and let everyone else do that, those lazy bums.
See? I knew you didn’t need instructions. If you want, you could completely skip berries and do red and blue M&Ms. Or get any flavor ice cream with said M&Ms, as they make this lovely patriotic bag that you won’t have to sort through and comes with white ones. To each their own, I say.
Red, White and Blue Cupcakes
Do you want to make a glorious multi-colored, multi-layered cake? Well, then, go nuts my friend. You won’t find the directions here, but you can send me pictures in the comments and try to make your case as to why it’s faster than making regular cupcakes with different colored frosting. I will admit, this is not a last-minute idea. You need about an hour to make and frost cupcakes, right? I’m honestly asking, I haven’t made them in one day in a long time. Even if they’re out of the box, which mine are, they have to cook and cool. I’m going to skip the sarcastic instructions this time, but as always, you have a couple of ways to do this.
The first method is to use some food coloring in a white frosting (bought or homemade frosting- no one cares), or separately buy red, white, and blue frosting. The second method is to frost them all one color and use red, white, and/or blue paper wrappers. I either go with white frosting and red and blue wrappers, or white frosting with patriotic wrappers like this (I also use these for the Patriots at football parties – not a fan, I just love theme food for football). If you want to skip the wrappers all together, use a white cake mix. Now, if you want to tell me these aren’t ridiculously easy red, white and blue party foods, may I also suggest, once again, ignoring what I say and using patriotic sprinkles?
Cheesecake Dip with Strawberries & Blueberries
There really aren’t a lot of naturally blue foods, are there? There’s more red, but nothing as vibrant as the strawberry. That’s probably why every red, white and blue food on Pinterest includes the two of them. Some are really lovely, like these white chocolate frosted strawberries with blue sprinkles. But, come on. If I don’t have time to line up things in a flag formation, I don’t have time to dip all those strawberries. I don’t feel like stuffing them with cheesecake dip either, but… Cheesecake dip is actually really quick to make. Too quick, honestly, it’s probably responsible for a lot of unnecessary weight gain. So why not use it?
Here’s a really easy recipe. Then get out your serving platter, put a bowl of cheesecake dip in the middle, and set up your strawberries and blueberries as you see fit. Feeling crazy? Give it some sprinkles, why not. I think by this point you can see what the real point of this article is, right? If you want to make easy red, white and blue party foods, all you really have to do is make sure people can see all three colors at the same time. Sure, you can make them fancier if you want to. And one day, when your children are grown, maybe you will.
Red, White and Blue Pitchers
Okay, so drinks may or may not count as easy red, white and blue party foods, but they’e still festive. Have you seen the patriotic drinks floating around online? They look cool, right? Well, they are. But there’s also a little problem with them that make serving them kind of pointless. The first couple of people to see it will get the full effect. Everyone else is going to see two colors, a purple blob, or somewhere in between. Of course, that’s if you put it in a pitcher. If you put it in individual servings, well, you’ve just signed yourself up for individual servings. Did you have any plans to enjoy your party, or were you cool with being a bartender all day?
My solution to this is 110% cheating. Just put the three different drinks in three different pitchers. Or, only serve one red drink and one blue drink, but use pitchers with white lids. You can even include a sign telling people how to make their own patriotic drink if you want to use ingredients in a recipe like this. Personally, I can live without Hawaiian punch, so I always use cranberry juice. There’s a bonus if you try it this way: your red drink can become vodka cranberries, if you don’t have sneaky kids running around. If you have no kids at all, you could go straight up alcoholic and mix a red cocktail, a blue cocktail, and a clear one. Fun!
Now go out and make some easy red, white and blue party foods!
Anyone ever held a copycat recipe potluck? I may throw a mean fancy dinner party, but heaven help me, I’d go crazy if I did it all the time. This week I thought I’d talk about something much, much simpler. So much simpler, you barely have to work at all. In fact, you might even be able to convince someone else to host it. Lol. I haven’t actually done one of these yet, but I have been thinking about it for awhile. What do people love? Going out to eat. What impresses those same people? Cooking something from one of those restaurants they love eating at.
In theory, you could do the whole meal yourself, but sometimes a busy girl just needs a break. And sometimes a super pregnant girl just needs to eat and not stand on her feet cooking all day. I’m currently both, but even if I was only one or the other, I think this is the kind of party where sharing duties would be very comfortable. Copycat recipes are usually easy to find, easy to follow, and come out tasting pretty darn good. Even if your friends can’t cook, they can probably come up with something for a copycat recipe potluck. At the very least they can buy it from the restaurant and try to pass it off as theirs. Why not give it a try?
Option 1: A Copycat Recipe Potluck Free-for-All
What do I mean by this, you may ask? It’s simple. Put absolutely no limits on what people bring. Any restaurant, any course, any particular dish. It doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a tasty cocktail.
My main concern with a copycat recipe potluck free-for-all is that you’d wind up with fifteen batches of Olive Garden breadsticks. But I guess that could be fun, right? You can judge each other harshly and pick one person to look down on for their poor attempt at fresh bread. Okay, kidding about that last part. Don’t be mean. They might not own a bread machine or have the time to knead bread. Why they chose breadsticks in that case, I don’t know. Your hypothetical bread baking friend clearly wants to be an overachiever. But I digress.
Honestly, what are the chances you wind up with fifteen batches of breadsticks? I bet there will be a couple of overlapping dishes, but for the most part it’s likely to be a surprise. Some people probably won’t even think of chain restaurants – they’ll use copycat recipes from their home towns, or some restaurant they visited once in New York. Plus, most of them will be glad not to have a restriction. You’re making them bring you food, and you’ve already put one theme on it. Adding more might stress them out.
Option 2: An Email Chain of Organization
What did people do before email? I mean, I lived without it for part of my life, but I can’t imagine trying to organize events now. Anyway, once you decide who’s invited you can start an email chain. Send it to all your guests, enjoy the necessity of the reply all button.
One word: Delete.
This one is better for groups of friends who do not like surprises, like to stay organized, and prefer feedback before they choose a dish. They sound like a high maintenance group of friends, but they’re not really. They just don’t want to make a Cheesecake Factory dessert if no one’s going to eat it. You can’t blame them. By making sure in advance that everyone knows what everyone else is bringing, you’ll get a nice, cohesive meal and all the really bad ideas will be vetoed from the get-go. It might take a little more time up front, but it will soothe the indecisive people who don’t know what to fix.
Option 3: Assigned Restaurants
You can assign restaurants one of two ways. First, individual assignments. Everyone is either told their restaurant or they pick it from a list. Second, you pick three or four restaurants and assign groups.
There’s really only one drawback to this, and it’s that your friends may not agree with your choices. Generally when you have a potluck you’re telling people to bring their best food, so if you start putting restrictions on them left and right they might not want to participate. A copycat recipe potluck should be fun, not stressful, and not everyone is going to have the same taste as you. Of course, if you keep it really small to just close friends, you probably know exactly what restaurants you all like and this could make it super easy.
Anyone have a least favorite chain restaurant? I do! I mean, I had a gift card to this place for three years before I finally caved and bought a beer there. So imagine if everyone I knew brought a dish from that restaurant. Shudder. This way you’ll be sure you’ve got people bringing food from less questionable restaurants, plus for people who don’t want to think about what they’re bringing, you’ve really narrowed down the options.
Option 4: Assigned Courses
Instead of telling people what restaurants they should be copying, you can tell them what course to bring. Or, again, you can have them volunteer. Volunteering is fine, it’s just a matter of who you speak with first. You might want to suggest a course to people but be very flexible if they want to trade.
The main drawback here is that you have to do a little more organizing than if it was a free-for-all. The secondary drawback is that you should probably assign yourself the main course, if you choose to have a main course instead of a smorgasbord of sides and desserts. I don’t know that you really need a main dish, but if you do, it’ll probably be meat and probably cost more to serve a whole bunch of people. If it’s at your house and you’re the one doing the inviting, I would go ahead and take that hit yourself unless someone else actively wants it.
I mentioned breadsticks earlier, but I don’t really think you’ll get that much bread. I do, however, think you have a real chance of getting a whole lot of dips. It might be a huge variety of dips, and that might be a very fabulous party idea in itself, but is that what you want for a potluck? Probably not. Assigning courses at least guarantees you’re going to get a full menu.
If you’re feeling like a regular potluck isn’t the way to go, a copycat recipe potluck would be fun to try. Personally, I’d go with the free-for-all, because I just don’t have time to deal with organizing all those guests and their food. I will happily give suggestions, though, if they ask. If you are going to throw one, I would go through a copycat website or two and be prepared with a few options that seem simple enough. CopyKat Recipes is a good place to start, but you can do a quick Google or Pinterest search and you’ll get plenty of ideas. Now get out there and make your friends cook for you!
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Well, friends, I finally had my Disney themed dinner party. It may have been a month late, but it happened, and that is the important thing. We did have a few little issues getting it all together, but for the most part it was a lot of fun and we got to hang out with some new people. They even appreciated the silliness of a Disney theme at an elegant adult party, with one of my guests bringing crowns for all the ladies. You can’t get much fancier than that! I did learn one thing about my fancy dinner parties – hosting them while 7 1/2 months pregnant with a toddler is just a teensy bit exhausting. Try it. You’ll see.
Anyway, let’s get on with it. Hosting a fancy dinner party is a ton of work, and I usually only do it once a year because that’s how long it takes me to figure out everything I want to do. Hosting a fancy Disney themed dinner party took me a little over a year, and I’ll be honest, I still want to try fifteen more recipes to see if it is possible to come up with the most perfect Disney dinner anyone has ever seen. Of course, I did eventually have to give up and go with what I had, or I’d never have another dinner party again, and I simply can’t have that.
Surprisingly, the invitations were my first problem. I used Punchbowl to create some free online ones (I wasn’t a very green hostess for the most part, but I tried to have at least one thing not ruin the earth). They had Disney character invitations you could use for free, so that was about perfect. I picked a Beauty and the Beast one because it said “Be Our Guest,” and not “Birthday Party for a Small Child.” The invitations actually worked fine for a Disney themed dinner party, although I was a little worried about sending something pretty childish to strangers. That’s where the real problem was – strangers.
I’ve lived in Knoxville less than a year and I work from home, so I have a pretty small circle of friends right now. We usually have about seven to ten people at our dinner parties, and we were set for six this time around. I had to special order the meat (venison) for this particular dinner, so I waited as long as I could to get RSVPs, then ordered for eight. I really didn’t think we’d wind up with anyone else. The two people I already considered friends couldn’t come, and our guest list had two people we legitimately didn’t know even at that point. But, my husband operated in the shadows and somehow we got us to ten after I’d already ordered. Luckily only nine showed, but still, we were a little short on meat. Lesson: Don’t let your husband know where the invitations are.
Hey, did you guys notice I put “fancy” in my post title? That’s right. This was not a Disney themed dinner party with little Disney figurines all over the place. Plus I’m super lazy when it comes to decorating, because, well, more decorating more cleaning, which means more time out of my day. So I stuck with very simple table decor. I had already planned on using Beauty and the Beast for this because I’d left poor Belle and Co. off the menu, and when I found those Punchbowl invitations I knew it was meant to be. Now, if you have a bunch of old candlesticks or some fabulous rose holders lying around, you can probably do a better job than I did, but I’m okay with that.
My main goal here was to get a yellow table runner and some roses. Everyone knows Belle wears that fabulous yellow dress and the whole movie revolves around a single rose, so I thought it would be pretty easy to get the theme across. I found some bright yellow fabric at Walmart, when I wasn’t even looking for it, which is not surprising at Walmart. I could have made it into an actual table runner, but my sewing machine is broken and I want a two-sided one anyway, so I just left the thing folded up long ways and put it on the table. Then I put a single rose in three different vases and sprinkled some rose petals around. Wah-lah. Super easy, but still both Disney and grown-up.
The Disney Themed Dinner Party Menu
Here we are. The most important part! If you’re going to throw a Disney themed dinner party meant for adults, it’s all about the food. I mentioned that we had strangers at our party, but I’ve previously mentioned you should not invite picky people. How would I know if they were picky if I didn’t know them? Well, in this case, the strangers were my mom’s coworker and her sister-in-law, who came knowing what kind of food was going to be served. We got really lucky with the rest, and now I have new foodie friends. Hooray! Anyway, it was really important they not be picky, because my menu included beets, venison, and sushi.
How did my menu come out with such a strange assortment of dishes? Blame it on Disney. First, I went through all the films I could think of and wrote down specific dishes that were already in the movies. Next, I wrote down different foods that appear in the movies. You know, bananas in The Jungle Book, corn in Pocahontas, porridge in every single Disney movie ever, and don’t forget the variety of talking animal meat (muhuhahaha). Then came practicing, combining, and ultimately deciding on the dishes I felt would best fit the theme that I could also cook. They were not all literal. I’m sharing my menu, but there are so many more options. I barely scratched the surface. If you decide to try this, if you can come up with a dish that fits a Disney name, that’s really all you need to do.
Was Alice on mushrooms when she went down the rabbit hole? I don’t think that’s what Lewis Carroll meant, but either way she eats them. These have some spice to it to give them a little kick. It also worked to kick off the Disney themed dinner party with a classic character since most of my guests weren’t up to date on all the new movies (and neither am I).
Remember the scene where Sebastian escaped the cook’s pot? Well, I used imitation crab, so I know it’s not Sebastian, but still, it could’ve been. These were also spicy and served with an aioli sauce.
Drink pairing: The Enchanted Rose Cocktail (sweet to counter all the spicy)
Amuse-Bouche & Bread
Bruce’s Fish are Friends not Food Nori Rolls (Finding Nemo)
Amuse-bouches typically aren’t put on a menu, so you won’t see them on mine, but they did get served. I have no recipe to link because I just made them. It’s a nori sheet, sushi rice (here’s a recipe for that), cucumbers, pickled radishes, and avocado. There’s no fish so I didn’t worry too much about serving sushi, but it is really important to practice this one if you’re going to try it. Oh, and I drizzled this sauce on top to look pretty.
Also not on the menu, this is the one thing that was already on the table when I started serving. I used a copycat Olive Garden recipe and made the dough in a breadmaker. Also, if you don’t have a good non-stick surface, I recommend these non-stick silicon mats. My grandma got them for me and I love them. I used them for the nori rolls too.
I made this recipe myself when I got obsessed with using beets and my husband wouldn’t eat them. My plan must have worked because only one person left the beets on the plate, and it wasn’t even Hubby. I do tell everyone it’s okay not to eat everything, by the way. I certainly don’t.
Drink Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc (earthy to go with beets – also served it for the nori roll)
Serving soup when it’s hot is always a concern of mine, so I choose something with fresh veggies. This one’s spicy. And you guys, Pocahontas totally does grow a lot of corn.
Drink Pairing: Riesling – a little sweet to go with the spice
Main Dish & Side
Bambi’s Mom (Bambi)
What? Too soon? Not soon enough, I say. She died in 1923, you guys, unless the book was supposed to take place in the future. No meat needs to age that much! I don’t have a recipe for this either. It wasn’t venison season so I ordered it through Highbourne Deer Farms, and it was delicious. I only used olive oil, salt, and pepper to season, then grilled it. Just don’t make my mistake and overcook half of it, I was getting tired of getting up and down by then.
This is the only dish specific to a movie that made it onto my menu. Weird, huh? You could use any version of this, but I’ll be honest, I did not practice enough to make it look beautiful. It tasted fine though. Roasted vegetables, not really that hard.
Drink Pairing: Pinot Noir – I wanted rioja but my sister couldn’t find it, so we went with the next best choice for red meat and roasted veggies.
Yes, that’s right, I remembered one tiny little line in one song in Aladdin, and it turned into my whole dessert. I can make baklava, but it’s not as pretty, so I turned it into a cheesecake. This recipe works fine, but I cut the honey, cooked it about twenty minutes longer than suggested, and skipped the whole topping. Instead I sprinkled plain walnuts then drizzled honey for looks. Also, if you’re not phyllo dough expert, it is not going to stand up as beautifully as the recipe creator makes it seem. Mine only had one piece left standing and I considered that highly successful.
Drink Pairing: We had both Port and Sparkling Wine – cheesecake is impossible to pair with, and baklava’s not much better
I am a huge advocate for properly planning your Disney themed dinner party in advance, but I totally messed up this time. My son would not sleep Friday night so I didn’t get anything done in advance. That meant I had to get up at 6:00 A.M. to make up for it on Saturday. I also would not have survived if my mom hadn’t come to baby-sit. My sister came to help cook, but she wound up taking over baby duties after my mom left. I did manage to get everything done in time, but the dinner took longer than it normally does and we did not get a chance to clean at all. For the record, my husband was in class all day, so he actually couldn’t help. He did clean everything the next day though!
To alleviate some of the dish pain, we had to reuse our forks and knives, and we used the fancy Costco disposable plates for each course, in different sizes of course. Each person got a real wine glass, but a plastic cup for water. I usually plate dishes in advance, but I didn’t have room in my fridge, so I did feel rushed. Overall, though, it was a great party. We got to make new friends and even played a little Cards Against Humanity afterwards (come on – we served Bambi’s Mom, you knew we were awful people). I hope this menu helps you out and you enjoy your own Disney themed dinner party one day!
Throwing a housewarming party as an adult homeowner is a different ordeal than throwing one as a college student who moves to a new rental every two months. I mean, it’s fun either way, but when you’re young and don’t actually own the property you’re living in, housewarming parties are really just an excuse to drink, aren’t they? Whereas when you’re an adult, you want to say, “Look at this piece of construction I purchased! It has four walls and a roof and I actually care about cleaning the carpets!” You may even have transitioned to real, grown-up furniture. You know, pieces that were clearly purchased to complement each other and require a coaster. Either way, throwing a housewarming party really doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. Here’s five tips to get you started.
1. Don’t worry if you’ve lived there a while.
This only works up to a certain extent, but it took me two full months from our move-in date to even start thinking about throwing a housewarming party. No one seemed to think that was odd. Actually, no one even mentioned it. Throwing a housewarming party should be fun and you want to show off your house; if you can’t do that, what’s the point? We are a very busy family, plus I’m pregnant, so unpacking and all that jazz took quite a bit longer than it’s taken me in the past. We also needed to do some projects that took precedence (building a fence, installing a dog door, etc.), schedule around my husband’s Saturday school, and pick a day when I’d have a baby-sitter so I could prepare. I’m surprised it only took us two months to throw it, actually.
Of course, there has to be some sort of deadline on this. I don’t think throwing a housewarming party six years after you’ve moved in will make any sense. Could you call that a barbecue instead? It might ruffle less feathers. I checked a few websites, but there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on how long is too long. For us, we took a couple of months because of packing, but perhaps you’ve moved into a fixer-upper and need a little more time. If I knew you were hard at work, I wouldn’t mind waiting a year to go to your housewarming. On the other hand, if you want to throw it before you take stuff out of boxes, kudos to you. Does anyone actually care what’s in the boxes? Not unless you’ve been recreating Seven, probably.
2. Invite your neighbors.
Neighbors? Do people actually talk to their neighbors these days? Yes! I do, anyway, and I totally recommend it. Do you know how nice it is to have someone next door to borrow a tool from or a babysitter down the street? Those are a couple of benefits of neighborhood friendships, but there’s also the possibility you could wind up becoming, I don’t know, actual friends. Think about it. You chose the same neighborhood. There’s a good chance you have a similar income. If you both have kids, you found the same school district to be worthwhile. It can’t hurt to find out what you have in common.
The possibility of friendship is not the only reason to invite the neighbors though. Ever had an awful neighbor? Yeah, they exist too. You might as well find out who they are right away. I’m not suggesting they’ll show up to your party; they won’t. Awful neighbors never do. But, they’ll know you’re having a party, so if they have issues with parking or noise or anything like that, they can let you know beforehand. If the awful neighbors don’t out themselves, maybe some of the other, nicer neighbors, who do show up to the party will fill you in. They’ll also let you know if the neighborhood has a Facebook page and other things like that.
3. Don’t decorate.
I mean this sincerely. If you’re throwing a housewarming party, don’t decorate. Put the balloons down, Becky, I see you trying to sneak them in your cart. No, not even for the mailbox to let friends and family know which house is yours. If they can’t read the house numbers already on your house or mailbox, you need new friends and family. If you don’t have house numbers somewhere, you should get them, or you’re never going to be able to order pizza.
My reasoning for this is pretty simple. When people attend a housewarming party, what do they expect to see? A house. They want to see how your regular decor is done, not whether you are a streamer or plastic tablecloth kind of person. If you have a fixer upper and there’s something you’re trying to hide, put some boxes or a plant in front of it. Or, hey, leave it out in the open and see if you can get any suggestions for it. I did put a plastic tablecloth on my dining room table when I threw my party, but that was not for decoration. That was so people could spill whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t have to clean it.
4. Serve a combination of packaged and homemade food.
Speaking of spillage, you should serve food and drinks at your party. Depending on where you are in your life, you might want more food or more drinks, but you’re going to have to serve something. You may already have twenty fabulous recipes figured out, but even if you do, throw something store-bought out on the serving table. Why? Remember how I told you to invite those neighbors? Well, you’re probably a completely new person to them. They might not trust your cooking just yet. You know there is always someone who participates in the office potluck that just shouldn’t, and it makes everyone wary of eating strangers’ cooking unless there’s a health inspector grading them on it.
Personally, I’m a big fan of homemade dips, and they’re easy to make, so that’s always a good option. This Chili’s queso knock-off was a big hit if you want to give it a try. As for the store stuff, Costco brownie bites worked really well, and of course we had the standard fruit and vegetable trays. I made sliders (turkey and barbecue) for the main dish, since they’re both pretty easy and I’m always in a time crunch. Your menu doesn’t really matter here, as long as you choose things you know you will eat if your guests don’t. But, the reason you need to feed those guests is pretty simple. They’re probably bringing a gift…
5. Don’t ask for gifts when throwing a housewarming party.
Crazy, right? You don’t ask for them and they show up with one anyway. I think back in the day there was some sort of etiquette rule about gifts and housewarming parties, but I could not be bothered to look that up. Just don’t ask for anything. Is it your first house? They’ll bring you decor things, whether you want them or not. Are you quite young? They’ll probably ask you what you want. Did you just get married? Then you just had a whole registry they chose from, don’t be greedy! For everyone else… Be prepared for plants and wine. Seriously. I wound up with more wine than what I started with, and the only reason I had any wine at all was to serve to our guests. Not that I’m complaining; once I evict this baby next month, that wine is all mine!
Your younger friends and your neighbors probably won’t arrive with gifts, but that’s fine. It is not anyone else’s job to furnish your house. You don’t buy friends gifts when they purchase cars and other expensive items, do you? I thought not. I don’t think it matters if you mention anything about gifts on your invitation or not. When people see the word “housewarming,” if they’re the gift-giving type, they’re going to show up with something even if you specifically ask them not to, so just leave it alone and don’t make it awkward later. Well, that’s about it. Congrats on your new house, go out and have a fabulous party!
Apple & beet salad with a Disney twist! Let me apologize now. Some of you are surely here for a kid-friendly beet recipe. You can try to get your kids to eat it – I certainly won’t stop you – but it was actually created for an adult dinner party. I’ve been discussing how to host a fancy dinner party over the last couple of weeks (part 1 and part 2 if you’re interested), and I had this lovely plan to culminate it with a discussion of my Disney-themed party. However, my party got rescheduled, because I am nothing if not frenzied, so for now I’ll just drop this little tidbit in here.
I found this really beautiful apple and beet salad on Food and Wine when I was searching for salad ideas for the party. It was an instant obsession. Everyone knows who the evil queen is, right? She wanted poor, beautiful Snow White to eat her poisoned apple. She also had a thing for ripping people’s hearts out, which is a little bit on the evil side, but to each their own I guess. Anyway, I looked at this salad and saw the beets, which look a little like hearts, had dyed all the apples red. They looked a little… poisoned. So that was it. I knew I had to serve apple & beet salad at my party. Unfortunately, my husband hates beets and he’s my tester, so I revised the whole recipe to make it less beet-heavy. Here’s what I came up with.
Recipe for Apple & Beet Salad
Serves 2-4, 15 minutes active, 75 minutes cook time
2 green apples
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup goat cheese
Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about 2 inches on the bulb. Save the greens for later. Next, put the beets in an aluminum foil-lined pan and roast at 450° for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
When the beet is ready, pull it out and let it cool. While it cools, cut the apples into slices and take the ends off the greens.
Peel roasted beet. The skin should come off easily with your hands or a towel.*
Chop beet into small pieces, about 1/2 inch. Try to retain as much of the juice as you can.
In a medium bowl, mix the beet pieces with apples. The apples should start turning pinkish-red.
In a separate bowl, toss the beet greens with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Put greens on plate, followed by apples and small beet chunks.
Add walnuts and goat cheese. Then you’re ready to serve!
*If you are not a regular beet chef, here’s a great tutorial on roasting beets. It’s how I learned. Also, if you didn’t gather from the pictures that beets turn everything red, beware – they turn everything red. You might want to wear gloves. I don’t personally, but I do wind up washing my hands a LOT, so it’s something to consider. The less you like beets, the smaller the beet pieces should be. I enjoy them, but the hubby doesn’t, so I make them small enough to be mixed in with an apple bite. You can toast the walnuts up if you want to. Just put them in a pan on your stove. Nice and simple. In fact, all of this is simple! But it looks pretty nice, so I think having an apple & beet salad at my dinner party will work out just fine. Enjoy!
Hosting Easter dinner this year? Kudos to you! I’m sticking to a fun Easter brunch, but you dinner-hosters have my admiration. Do you have the whole family coming over? A bunch of friends? No one? Those are all fine choices, although I personally like the idea of someone hosting a fabulous Easter dinner and then refusing to invite anyone to it. If I wasn’t married…
Anyway, I’m not here to give you a whole bunch of tips on what to wear and how to decorate, although if you needed to know that I’d say clothes and minimally. Instead, I thought I’d provide you with a little information about food. Were you aware that Easter is a religious holiday? I bet you were! According to Gallup’s last Easter poll, about 60% of people in the US go to church on Easter. I will vouch for this. I used to live two streets away from a church, yet somehow on Easter my whole street would be filled with the cars of lost souls who forgot how to park at a church since they only attended once a year. Religious holidays come with all kinds of traditions and meanings, so if you’re going to be hosting Easter dinner, you might as well know what tradition you’re following.
Hosting Easter Dinner with Lamb
If you are serving lamb this meal, you’re serving the most Christian of all the traditional Easter foods. If there was meat at the Last Supper, this was it. It’s weirdly also the most Jewish of all the traditional foods, because it’s usually part of Passover. What I’m saying is, lamb at Easter dinner is a religious thing. Not religious? That’s okay. It’s still delicious. Personally, if I was cooking Easter dinner this year, I’d be going with lamb. My son is too young to care what he eats, so I might as well enjoy this tasty meat while I have the opportunity. Never cooked it? I suggest something like this basic rosemary recipe. It’s pretty common to season your lamb with rosemary, so you might as well start with the basics.
Why You’re Serving Ham
Eating ham this Easter? Oh hey! You must be American! If I’m not mistaken, Easter has something to do with Jesus, and that guy was a Jew. I bet he wasn’t eating ham. So how did it get involved in all this mess? Basically, it’s just what was around. Easter takes place in the spring, and back before globalization and climate change, you couldn’t get everything fresh every time of year. Germans started serving ham because they could slaughter pigs in the winter and then keep it until spring. This spread throughout northern Europe, and they brought pigs over to the Americas, and we’ve been obsessed with pork ever since. If you’re going to cook one yourself, I say something simple like this would be fine. More time to work on your sides!
What’s the Deal with the Eggs
My sister is always curious about this one. I guess she forgets every year, because I have told her repeatedly. A long time ago, Christianity was not the dominant religion, so Easter wouldn’t have been a huge deal to everyone. But, that doesn’t mean non-Christians didn’t have their own religions. They did – and a lot of them celebrated spring. Once Christianity started growing, traditions started getting combined. There was one goddess of rebirth who had a symbol of a rabbit laying eggs. Her name? Eostre. So, Eostre became Easter, and now we’re stuck with this random goddess in the middle of a Christian holiday. Fascinating, right?
Alright! Now you’re pumped full of information about Easter. It doesn’t matter what kind of tradition you follow. Have a barbecue, skip Easter altogether, eat your lamb and ham and eggs, or cook up some dish that your family has passed down forever. What does matter is that you have fun and know more about the meal than everyone else. 🙂 Get out there, play smarty-pants and answer any food-related questions that come up while you’re hosting Easter dinner.
Making an awesome Easter brunch honestly isn’t that difficult, because even a regular brunch is awesome. I’ve talked about the basics before, and we’re going to stick with that outline, but add a theme. Easter’s kind of a strange holiday to figure out, isn’t it? Not the religious part – that part’s pretty easy. But the rest of it is just weird. We’ve got a giant bunny who for some reason delivers eggs. Who knows who he’s stealing all those eggs from, because I went to a biology class one time and I’m pretty positive rabbits don’t lay eggs.
Anyway, that’s not even what I’m talking about. I mostly mean it’s a Christmas-like holiday, but people don’t make it a travel priority if family isn’t close. Sometimes it coincides with spring break, other times it doesn’t. I didn’t do anything for Easter for many years because I didn’t have anyone to do it with. Now I’m close to my family again, and I have my own family to entertain, so I can make my own traditions. Brunch is definitely going to be one of them, whether I ever get around to making an Easter basket filled with bizarre bunny eggs or not. So, without further adieu, here are my 5 tips for an awesome Easter brunch.
1. Find a cool centerpiece – But don’t overdo it.
I’m not a super fan of cheesy decorations, but unless you’re going straight up Christian traditional only, Easter seems like a good time to be a little silly. Like I said, it involves an egg-laying bunny. I’ve seen many cool centerpieces online over the years. One simple one I like is just carrots in a vase, but you can get much crazier than that if you have time, especially if you already own a bunch of Easter decorations. Here’s another idea, and another. All fun, none too difficult. I moved a couple of weeks ago, and I’m very excited to have my dining room table out of storage, so I’ve already practiced my own. Let me know what you think, so if it’s terrible I have time to find something else!
So, cool centerpieces are a must. But that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with the decorations. This is the Frenzied Hostess you guys, not the I Have So Much Time I’ll Knit Placemats for Every Attendee Hostess. If you’ve got that nice Easter wreath, I’m sure that’s already up, right? Or a few little decorations the kids put up, they’re fine too. That doesn’t mean you have to spend an extra hour or two of your precious time getting ready for one meal. Set the table, have a little fun with it, and let your awesome Easter brunch menu be the shining star.
2. Have an awesome Easter brunch menu.
Ha, bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? You can serve one thing for brunch. You can do potluck. Or, you can knock it out of the park, and have your fruits, your sweets, your eggs, and your meats covered. Okay, skip the meat if you’re vegetarian. And the eggs if you’re a vegan. And the food if you’re a zombie. Don’t want to leave any eating plan out now. But the point is, have a few dishes that provide different tastes, and don’t skip the dessert, even if you are a zombie. That doesn’t mean you need four complete dishes that will each take all day. It just means variety is the key.
Shockingly, I will have a little spare time this Easter because it coincides with the end of tax season. I will be as stressed as possible on Good Friday, but by Easter everything should be handled. Don’t worry, you still have until that Tuesday to file your taxes. Just don’t ask me to do it. I need a break. Anyway, since I have more time than usual I can actually focus on making something nice. But, I know that’s not the case for everyone, so to help you out I’m including three different cohesive menus. We’ve got the traditional, the fancy, and the fun. All of them have options for make-ahead on at least one dish. Still need help? You can always count on Martha Stewart.
Awesome Easter Brunch Menus
Biscuits with Jelly
Hot Cross Buns or Pound Cake
Time Savers & Alternatives
You don’t have to hand make the biscuits, friends. Or the jelly. Just buy these things. Deviled eggs can be made the day before, morning of, whatever. They will be smelly either way, right? The hot cross buns can be done the day before in two different ways. One, you can cook them and warm them up on Easter. Two, you can make the dough, refrigerate it, and cook them the day of. I actually think this menu is the least time-consuming, even if you do have to use your oven a lot. But, if you really are in a pinch, combine your meat and egg dishes and have a ham scramble.
Cheese and spinach quiche
Smoked salmon bagels or chicken salad croissants
Time Savers and Alternatives
No time for quiche? Just do a casserole. Less fancy, same taste. Although, you can technically make quiche ahead if you want. Just form it and freeze it sometime before Easter and you’re good to go. Smoked salmon bagels are quite easy even though they look fancy, but I know not everyone’s a fan. If you prefer to do chicken salad instead, you’re in luck. That can be done the day before as well, and you have my permission to buy the croissants. Crepes sound complicated, but honestly, they’re pancakes, and no one needs to make pancakes in advance. You can skip fresh fruit altogether if you do a fruit filling with your crepes, and you can do the filling in advance. Extra time? Fancy up the fruit and put it in individual serving containers.
Fruit kebabs or fun shaped fruit platter
Eggs in a hole
French toast sausage roll ups
Monkey Bread or Dirt Cake
Time Savers and Alternatives
First thing’s first: If you’re a Pinterest user, look up “Easter fruit” to see what I’m talking about with that. Next thing: If you’re out of time, scrap the fruit platters and put it in a bowl! Eggs in a hole are pretty easy to do if you bake them. You can cut out the bread the night before. If your kids don’t like those, just scramble something up. Both monkey bread and dirt cake can be done in advance, but they’re also both super easy so you might not have to. The worst here is the french toast sausage roll ups, so if you’re really short and time but determined to do this, why not buy prepared pancakes and roll them around the sausage instead? It’s close enough.
3. Don’t forget about the drinks – alcoholic or not.
Do people usually drink on Easter? I don’t even know. I won’t be, but I’m knocked up, so I don’t count. My family members aren’t huge drinkers either, so I don’t think I’m going to be in a rush to buy a bunch of liquor. But, if you are, no judgment from me. My only concern is that you serve something nice. Now, I don’t like to invite people over for events and expect them to bring food, unless we specifically decided a potluck would be fun, but I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to have them bring drinks. It takes no effort to buy a carton of orange juice. Slightly more to buy a bottle of champagne if your ID doesn’t easily slide out of your wallet, but still, nothing too taxing. So don’t feel bad about assigning people drinks if you want.
Having other people bring them, doing it yourself, alcoholic, non-alcoholic, none of these things are terribly important. What is important is that the drinks are special. Sure, you can serve plain orange juice and milk. But what’s awesome about that? You don’t have to do anything complicated, but adding a little splash of color or something will certainly make for a more entertaining meal. Here’s a few alcoholic beverages that look exciting, and here’s a few that you could make for the kids. Serve one one fancy drink to go with your regular choices, and your guests will be dazzled. Or they’ll yawn, and get kicked off the guest list for next year’s awesome Easter brunch.
4. Use the good dishes. Make someone else clean them.
Hey, you’re doing all this work to make sure everyone has an awesome Easter brunch! Why should you have to cook and clean? I never use my good dishes. Literally, I mean never. They’re still in packaging. So this year I’m pulling out all the stops and embracing the terror that is allowing other people to use my nice things. (I’m just kidding you guys. If I trust you enough to have you for a meal, I trust you enough to hold a plate like a normal human being.) If you have your own nice dishes, might as well use them for this special occasion too, right? Even though paper plates would be so much less of a hassle…
But, here’s the thing about not having potlucks. It means the people you invited didn’t cook, they didn’t set out the beautiful centerpiece you found, and they aren’t going to be stuck with a pile of dishes. So it’s not so terrible to ask for a little help. Now, I wouldn’t ask my friends to clean up after themselves if it was a dinner party, but for Easter it’s my family. My husband and mom will probably do the dishes without being asked anyway, but if your family isn’t that way, perhaps you could print this Slate article and leave it strategically on your table before the meal starts. That will show them how to be a good guest. Trust me, if you can get someone to help you clean up, it will be a much more awesome Easter brunch for you.
5. Hide an egg, kids or not.
What’s more Easter-y than hiding some eggs? If you have kids attending, go throw them all over your yard. Seriously, just toss them around. It’ll take two minutes, your yard will look extremely festive, and it will entertain them while the grown-ups sip on whatever fancy drink you concocted and you finish the dish that inevitably took too long. Tell them they’re missing one if they find all the eggs too fast. There are other Easter games, I’m sure, but I don’t remember them. An Easter egg hunt is just so simple, why bother with other things? Of course, if it’s cold you’ll have to hide them inside, so make your boundaries VERY clear for those little weirdos.
No kids coming to your brunch? So what? Hide a “golden” egg somewhere and give the guests a prize. You don’t have to play a serious game of hide-and-seek with the egg. It can be a raffle, or one of those gold star on the chair sort of prize giveaways. It just adds a little bit of fun to have a prize at the end. Admit it, you hate those cheesy office Christmas parties, but you love it when they give out the prizes. Same idea. If your guests are drinking, I say hide it good and see what happens. It might be hilarious for everyone. Well, that’s my thoughts on having an awesome Easter brunch. Stay tuned – next week we need to talk about Easter dinner!
Mexican or pasta? Why not a Mexican pasta dish instead? I personally always have ingredients for Mexican food on hand, but my Italian supplies are more limited. That’s why, every once in awhile, I have to combine the two just to get rid of certain things in my cabinets. Beth, you say. Why don’t you just go grocery shopping? Are you really that time-strapped? Well, yes and no. I will go grocery shopping at some point this week, probably even today. But we close on our new house tomorrow (so maybe I’ll start actually hosting things soon), and what’s the point of picking up a whole bunch of ingredients when you’re going to have to move them in a week?
Typically my husband and I eat our pasta pretty plain. We like olive oil for a sauce, and I’ll throw in a nice vegetable and meat to keep it interesting, but that’s about it. This is our favorite. Pretty delicious, I must say. But, I’m trying to clean out my kitchen, so here’s what I’ve got: sausage, pasta, cheddar and Pepperjack cheeses, some spices, and….that’s about it. I don’t have any tortillas, and those won’t be purchased again until the move. I don’t have any mozzarella or Parmesan, and again, those will have to wait. So you can see why sometimes I feel like mixing and matching my regional cuisines. Anyway, let’s get started.
Mexican Pasta Dish with Sausage
20-25 minutes cooking time
1 lb penne pasta
1 lb smoked sausage or chorizo
Red bell pepper, chopped
3/4 cup cheddar
1/2 cup Pepperjack
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta until al dente (10-12 minutes)
Meanwhile, cut sausage into 1/4 in thick slices. Saute on medium high until cooked through.
Add cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper to sausage. Stir.
Add red pepper to saute pan and heat until softened.
Drain the pasta. Now mix in a 1/2 cup of cheddar and the Pepperjack and stir. Cheese should be melted throughout.
Add sausage and red pepper to pasta and cheese mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Allow to cool slightly.
Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
So, this is really more of a Mexican-inspired dish than a plain ole’ Mexican pasta dish. If you want something like nachos on macaroni, I would suggest something like this or this. I like the idea, but I’d be more likely to simply make nachos one day and macaroni the next if I had all the ingredients. Sometimes I feel like it’s easier to mix and match recipes rather than buy a whole store full of food, so that’s really my goal here. Now, if you want this particular recipe more Mexican-y, you could switch the sausage for ground beef. Also, definitely adjust the cheese to your own liking. I love cheese, but I know not everyone does.
This dish could also easily be switched to Creole. The flavors are actually really similar to this shrimp and grits recipe, which I also love. I may have an addiction to Allrecipes. I think the gist of what I’m saying is, feel free to throw whatever you have left in your cabinet and fridge, mix it together, and call it a dish. When your life is hectic, who cares if you’re entirely cohesive in your menu planning. Now eat up!