Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Make Your Party Special

I recently co-hosted a party for my friend, Amy, who launched the official website for her jewelry line, Jouel. Her jewelry is awesome and you should check it out while the prices are still a steal!!! We threw an all-girls cocktail party with a subtle beach theme. We kept things very modern and simple and it was a hit!

Some tips for making your party fabulous:

1. Choose dishes that can be done mostly ahead-of-time

2. Keep it easy. Parties are not the time to experiment with new, complicated dishes. I personally try new dishes if I feel confident with the techniques involved, but I try to keep flavors simple and clean.

3. Check out your local restaurant warehouse. You can find modern, sleek serving pieces that are much more interesting than paper plates.

4. Know your audience! For instance, if you are having a girls' night, keep the dishes light, which we did for this party. Then throw in one rich dish. We did a cake for dessert..but it could also be a great cheese plate, a store-bought decadent chocolaty thing, or something fried--but just keep it to one thing and the rest light. If, however, you are throwing a super-bowl party, it's okay to keep things a little heavier--but remember to add some light dishes as well. Balance is key.

5. Clean lines. Try to clear off whatever you can from the surfaces of your house. The less clutter, the better it will look.

6. Have a signature drink. This is an especially important rule for parties with women. We served blueberry martinis and I couldn't believe how quickly they went. Plus they're pretty.

7. Stick to a color scheme if you can. We decided on "beach" colors, so we stuck to white, tan, blues, and greens. It just makes a more pleasing aesthetic. If you can pull off monochromatic (all white flowers, white tablecloths, etc), even better. It's so classy and chic.

8. Accept help. No matter how much I plan ahead, there are always some things that simply must be done last-minute. Let people help you when they offer! It may go against your Martha Stewart nature, but you will be so much more happy and relaxed.

9. Encourage roaming. I set up stations around my place so that people have to move around for different kinds of food or drink. First of all, it gets people out of the kitchen (except those who are helping you, of course!!!) but secondly, it encourages conversation and a better energy to the party.

10. Whatever happens, it is EXACTLY as you planned it. Never let on that something did not turn out as you wanted it. (I admit I do not always stick to this rule, but I should!) Half the time, people would have no idea if you didn't tell them!

Clean lines, modern presentation, lots of color.

Easy cold soup a great party dish. Garnish nicely and it's a sure hit.

Shrimp are good hot or cold. Marinade simply and grill, roast, or broil. Tropical salsa is interesting and another do-ahead.


Tomato-Watermelon Salad with Feta and Almonds

White Gazpacho

Tropical Salsa
(This whole recipe looks fantastic but we used only the recipe for the salsa)


Printable version here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Did It For You!!!!

This week, I got my certificate from the New School of Cooking for completing their Professional 1 Series. Yea!

Spring Chicken Vegetable Soup

My mother-in-law is a fabulous cook and she gave me the recipe a few years ago for a Spring Vegetable Soup that she got from a friend. I have made that soup dozens of times and I can't seem to do it as well as she does. This is my adapted version of that soup that has a fewer carbs and more green vegetables. I tried to find the link to that original soup recipe online, but to no avail. I will point out, though, that this recipe is an adaptation, not an original.

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4-5 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 leek, trimmed, washed, and sliced into half moons
1 1/2 boxes low-sodium chicken broth (32 oz or so)
1 1/2 Tablespoons chicken bouillon (use one with no MSG)
1 celery stick sliced into three large chunks
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends of stems removed then chopped
1/2 lb green beans, stemmed and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped plus inner leaves, chopped
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped kale
1/2 rotisserie chicken, skinned then torn into bite-size pieces
Tobasco to taste
1 lemon, halved
Basil leaves, chiffonade, to taste
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pot, combine carrots, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaf, leek, broth, bouillon, and large celery pieces. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Add asparagus, green beans, celery, broccoli, tomatoes, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and some fresh peper.

3. Add chicken, kale and let simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

4. Add tobasco to taste. When ready to serve, squeeze lemon over and sprinkle with basil leaves.

Serves 8.

Printable version here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pork Tenderloin, Broccoli, and Asparagus Stir-Fry

I purchased a pork tenderloin from the meat man at our local Farmer's Market and I was amazed at the difference in color, tenderness, and quality versus my standard grocery store pork. If you have access to a local organic meat farmer, give him or her a try! I'm really glad that I did.

1-1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/4 lite cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon safflower (or other clear, high heat) oil
1 bunch asparagus, sliced diagonally
1 head broccoli, cut into florets

1. Combine garlic, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil in a large freezer bag or bowl. Add pork, cover, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

2. When ready to cook, put heavy large pan or wok over high heat until very hot. Add oil and using tongs, pull pork out of marinade (reserving marinade) and add to pan. Sautee quickly until no longer pink. Meanwhile, mix cornstarch into marinade. Remove from pan and put on a plate.

3. Add vegetables to pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add marinade and cook another minute. Add pork back into pan and cook for 1 more minute. Serve over Sesame-Cashew Brown Rice.

Serves 2-4.

Printable version here.

Sesame-Cashew Brown Rice

2 cups prepared brown rice (buy prepared or prepare according to package directions)
1/2 cup roasted salted cashews, chopped
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1. Combine rice, cashews, and oil.


Serves 2-4.

Printable version here.