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Last weekend I attended a tamale wrapping party. Well, halfway attended. My neighbor threw it, so my husband and I kind of traded off during the kids’ naps. It was a good time, so I figured I’d share how she pulled it off. It wasn’t my first rodeo with tamales (my husband loves them and we’re from Nevada, so it’s kind of a typical Christmas thing), but I do have a confession. I really don’t like tamales. It’s the masa. So gross. But, I like the idea of them, and I love a big group of people getting together to wrap them up, so I’m totally going to recommend you do it anyway! Just don’t make me eat them if you invite me. 🙂
Tamale Wrapping Party Guide
Set a Price
I’ve talked about parties for pay before, but this is totally not the same thing. Tamales are expensive, and unless you’ve got a group of super hungry guests, they’re going to take the tamales home. It’s one thing to invite friends over and provide food for them at a party. It’s another to provide them with take-home meals. My neighbor does $20 for 2 dozen tamales, which is pretty reasonable. However, she makes all the meat filling herself. If you’re going to have guests bring meat too, you’ll probably want to charge less. Speaking of…
Let Guests Know What to Bring
This is up to you. If you’re hosting the tamale wrapping party, you should probably have the masa, cornhusks, take home bags, etc. But, it is a lot of work to make a whole bunch of meats, so maybe you want to split that chore. That’s fine; only cooking up one meat and dragging it along with you is no big deal. You should still check with everyone and see what filling they’re going to bring, though, or you might wind up with only super spicy pork or something.
Send them Home with Instructions
People who want to come to this party probably already know what tamales taste like, but that doesn’t mean they know how to cook them. It’s really not hard. You steam them forty minutes to an hour. There you go, copy and paste that to a text message and you’ve gone and an extra step besides just telling them what to do! Oh, you should also let them know they’re great for freezing.
Provide Snacks & Drinks
This tamale wrapping party was your idea, friend! Since it is a form of party, you should be offering your guests refreshments and snacks. I suggest chips and guacamole and/or salsa. I also think it’s fun to have margaritas or Mexican beer like Dos Equis, but that’s all up to you. If you were having a cookie baking party or something, people might eat the ingredients as they go along, but that’s unlikely with tamales. You don’t have to spend a lot, but have at least a little something.
Set Everything Up on a Big Space
If you don’t have a big table, use your counter space to set up your tamale wrapping party. You’ll have big bowl of maza, husks, paper wrappers, and all the different fillings you’ve made. It’s easier if your guests can get to everything without constantly passing it back and forth, so if you can put two bowls of each out, that’s helpful, but in smaller spaces it’s not realistic.
It’s totally okay if you’ve never wrapped a tamale before, but you should be the one willing to look like an idiot and go first no matter what. It’s not hard, but it is time consuming, and no one has the time to sit around guessing what you’re supposed to do. If you don’t want to demonstrate, pull up a YouTube video on your phone. Here’s one. Play that and you’re good to go!
Well, that’s it! It’s pretty simple to throw a tamale wrapping party. Now, you may have noticed I didn’t provide any recipes. I don’t have any that I didn’t steal from someone else, so I’m not going to provide that, but here’s a few places to get started:
Basic Masa Dough Recipe
10 Best Tamale Filling Recipes
Everyone needs some fun Christmas food traditions. I don’t mean fun as in, oh yes, it’s fun to have the same traditions year after year. I mean, let’s jazz this up and get a tradition that can change a little bit to keep it interesting! If you haven’t heard, millennials are foodies. My husband and I are technically millennials, and we are most definitely food people. I’m not going to mess with Thanksgiving. Those foods are sacred. But Christmas is a little more flexible, and I think it’s a great idea to come up with traditions that evolve. Here’s a few ways to do that:
4 Fun Christmas Food Traditions
1. Get Crazy with Breakfast
I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a late Christmas breakfast. Well, later. I guess it’s still pretty early since I have a toddler with serious FOMO. I don’t have any fun breakfast traditions yet, but if my family decides they want to have the same dinner year after year, I can definitely see myself turning breakfast into a surprise meal. There are so many ways to do this. I suggest making really Christmassy breakfasts. One year you can try Christmas tree waffles, the next a candy cane pastry. Seriously, so many options!
2. Choose a Base Dessert and Dress it Up
Desserts are the most important part of fun Christmas food traditions, right? So make yours especially fun by choosing a basic dessert and changing it each year. What do I mean exactly? Think of cheesecake. You’ve got a basic cheesecake, and they’re delicious, but there’s approximately 8 million cheesecake recipes out there (that might be a slight exaggeration). One year you do basic, the next year you try a pecan pie or a caramel apple crisp cheesecake. Now every year your family knows they’re getting cheesecake, but you get to experiment with new ways to make it!
3. Go International
What if your tradition was celebrating a new culture every year? Then every year you’re doing the same thing, but eating something totally different. I personally love this idea, because there’s nothing I like more than cooking up something new and delicious. Here’s just one place to start on your search for other country’s Christmas food. If you can’t stand the idea of having something different every year and not getting that big fat turkey, you could always implement this on Christmas Eve, or make Christmas Eve your regular dinner. Christmas is so nice it gives you two chances for fun Christmas food traditions.
4. Add a Fancy Drink
I’ve been known to throw a cocktail competition or two, so this makes perfect sense to me. Except, instead of alcohol, I think it would be really fun to try a different hot chocolate every year. Then the kids can play too. Of course, I’m not anti-alcohol, so that also works. Either way, this gives you the chance to make the same food every year but add something a little extra to keep yourself interested. Or to keep yourself from getting too irritated by all those new noisy toys, if you choose the alcohol way. 🙂 Now go out, enjoy your new fun Christmas food traditions, and be merry!
All day Thanksgiving menus probably sound crazy… If you’ve never had to work on Thanksgiving. Guys, if you and your family all have the whole day off and you’re free to eat whenever you want, you might not need any of this. But if you’re like my family, where one or more of you are shift workers at places that don’t close down for the holidays, eating at a regular time might not be an option. This year we’re basically eating Thanksgiving lunch, but imagine if you had to eat earlier than that. Yes, you can always eat your Thanksgiving dinner on a different day, and you still should if you want a whole turkey. But why not celebrate at least a little on the day of with a few of these all day Thanksgiving ideas?
All Day Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions
Most people probably don’t think about breakfast on Thanksgiving because they’re saving up for the big meal or don’t want to cook more than they have to. At least, that’s how I am. But if you have to head into work by 11:00 AM, why not have a big breakfast or brunch to hold you over until whatever day you celebrate? Or, if you’re eating really late, how about a little holiday food to kick off the day and make the wait easier? Here’s a couple of ideas:
I know you need snacks whether you’re dealing with all day Thanksgiving or not, but hear me out. If you’re eating at 4:00 PM, you know what to eat for snacks. Cheese, crackers, vegetables. Easy stuff. But, if you have to change your Thanksgiving dinner to a different day, or if you’re eating really late, perhaps you’d like a little hint of Thanksgiving.
Desserts to Go
This is the one I personally have to use on my all day Thanksgiving. We’re eating early so my dad can go to work on time, but he might not be hungry enough for dessert before he goes. Pies are a staple for a Thanksgiving meal, but they’re not the easiest to take on the go, especially if you want all the good stuff that goes with it, like ice cream or whipped cream. You can still have your pie, but if you’ve got night shift workers in the house, perhaps you can send them off with a couple of these treats.
Well, I hope some of these all day Thanksgiving ideas will help you out. I obviously don’t expect you to cook meals all day long, or even eat them. It’s just some menu items that might help those of us celebrating at weird times. Oh, and whether you’re eating at 4:00 AM or 4:00 PM, don’t forget to have a fun tablescape. Here’s my historical ideas to get you started. So, anyone out there also celebrating at a weird time or a different day? What kinds of things do you eat while you wait?
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Hosting a dark Halloween dinner party is a fun way for adults to celebrate this holiday without having to dress up as either a slutty or terrifying anything, and won’t we all be much happier that way? Okay, okay, I’m going to a crazy Halloween party, and I do plan to enjoy it, but I’m not throwing one this year and I’m not going to fake one just for the blog. But I really do think a dark Halloween dinner party will be a lot of fun, mostly because I’m pretty sure the internet exists only to horrify us and give us recipes, sometimes simultaneously. In this case, we’ll be going with both.
I’ve hosted plenty of fancy dinner parties in my day, but they are a lot of work, and Halloween is all about fun. Instead of trying to impress everyone with your kitchen skills, I think it’s a good idea to focus on easy recipes but make them look kind of creepy. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Ever seen a rambutan? Food is plenty scary enough on it’s own. Of course, I don’t know where to find a rambutan, so we’ll be sticking with things you can actually do at home. And for once we won’t be skipping decorations!
Dark Halloween Dinner Party Decor
Last week I told you all I think the only Halloween decoration you need is cobwebs, and that’s still true, but for this I’m going to add three more, yes, that’s right, THREE MORE decorations. Is my sarcasm coming through? I hope so. I really don’t find a total of four Halloween decorations all that impressive, but then again, I don’t need a pumpkin patch on my table either. The only part of the house I’m going to decorate is the table, since that’s where everyone will post up. I realize people have different sized tables, but I have a big one and a small one, so you’ll get to see examples of both.
1. The Cobwebs
Well, you knew they were going to be included, so here we go. For a big table, I like cobwebs coming down from the chandelier. For a little one, I like little jackets on the chairs. If you have a chandelier to decorate at your dark Halloween dinner party, you can stick to the chandelier itself, or do a little extra work and pull it down to the table. If you do this, you will want to stretch the cobwebs really thin so people can still see each other from any part of the table. For the chair jackets, there’s really no need to stretch anything, but you should only do the back side. You don’t want your guests going home covered in cotton.
2. Dead Flowers
No, not fake flowers. Straight up dead ones. I want the atmosphere of my dark Halloween dinner party to be like someone set the table a long time ago, and for whatever reason, they were never able to return. For this, I suggest you buy your flowers a couple of weeks in advance, leave them in the sun, and don’t water them. There are ways to speed up up the process if you need to, but what could be easier than forgetting to take care of something? My flowers actually wound up with more color than I wanted for these pictures, but they’ll be super dead by the time Halloween dinner gets here.
Gourds are so weird! I love them. Pick up a couple and throw them on the table somewhere. Pumpkins are fine as well. That was my original plan, but I found an awesome decorative gourd set at Walmart and decided to use that instead. They had some that were legit moldy and gross, though, so if you’re getting them early you might want to pick up fake ones. Here’s a set that looks like it would fit in. If you want to keep with the theme, I’d stay away from pumpkins with faces, but that’s about it.
4. A Messed Up Tablecloth
I wanted a really holey one, like mice had eaten it or something, so that’s what I picked up. But, it wasn’t long enough for either table, so it became a table runner. The tablecloth I used underneath on the big table was purple, because I like purple better than orange, but you could do any color that floats your boat. In fact, you don’t have to have one at all if you don’t want. I can’t even find one to fit on my smaller table. It’s too big of a square. I did see this tablecloth after I already took all my pictures, so that is what I’m using when I actually throw the party.
How to Make Black Food for your Dark Halloween Dinner Party
Okay guys, this is too easy. All you have to do is color one of your dishes black to keep the vibe going. You can be fancy and use squid ink, or you can use black food coloring. You want to be gentle with food coloring. A little black goes a long way. Obviously you can’t dye just anything, but the choices are surprisingly bountiful. What you need is something kind of mushy. I had some shrimp and grits and mashed potatoes to practice on. You can see how they turned out. The taste wasn’t altered at all, but don’t they look disgusting? I do have a complete menu you get when subscribing to my newsletter, and there is a recipe with squid ink included if you’re curious about that. You can subscribe below. Now go have fun hosting a dark Halloween dinner party!
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 food for 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!
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!
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!
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.
Alice’s Trippy Stuffed Mushrooms (Alice in Wonderland)
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).
This Could Have Been You Sebastian Crab Cakes (The Little Mermaid)
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.
The Tramp’s Scavenged Breadsticks (Lady & the Tramp)
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.
The Evil Queen’s Definitely not Poisoned Apple Salad (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)
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)
Pocahontas Grows a Lot of Corn Soup (Pocahontas)
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.
Remy’s Ratatouille (Ratatouille)
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!