So you appear well-raised

Month: January 2019

Party Up: Part I – Party Prep

There’s a lot I can say about parties, from the prep to the conversations, to the food and drink. So I’ll be doing a series of posts about parties and will tackle a different aspect of throwing a party in each post. I’ll focus on the house party and entertaining at home, but most advice would be great for any type of party you’re throwing.

First up – party prep! That’s broad. I get that. Let me break it down:

  1. Decide on a date. Saturdays seem to work better. You have all day to get things ready for your guests coming that evening. Plus, most people are free on Saturdays and you’ll have higher attendance. Pick a date about 5 weeks away and you’ll have enough time to get the word out to your friends.
  2. Who’s who? Determine how many people you want to come to your affair. Is it a cocktail party? Is it a dinner party? A house party? Will you do the cooking or will it be potluck? Once you figure out what kind of party to have, you can make a list of invitees. You know your friends better than I do, but I typically invite more people than I actually want to have because sometimes even 5 weeks out isn’t enough time to snag a spot on someone’s schedule.
  3. The grub. I’ll say more on this later, but for now, I want you to think about some of your favorite foods. What are your favorite things to cook? What can you make lots of easily? Or, if you’re not the type to cook, what can you order ahead of time that can heat well for a party?
  4. Spaced out. Where will everyone sit? People tend to migrate toward where the food is, so make sure there’s ample seating around the good stuff.
  5. Drink, drank, drunk. What are your guests to drink? In subsequent posts, I’ll provide some ideas for big batch cocktails and some wine pairings that do well at parties. Definitely don’t depend on your guests to provide all the drinks, because you never know what you’ll end up with.

Once you have these details nailed down, you’re well on your way to having a party! Next up: Setting the tone.

Brownie Pudding

Those who know me know I’m not really a fan of chocolate. I know, I know. A woman who doesn’t love chocolate – an oddity. But this brownie pudding is delightful! It’s not an easily whipped up recipe, but what I can promise is that it’s worth all the work you’ll put into it. I’d definitely save this for something special.

You’ll need:

2 sticks of unsalted butter (plus extra for buttering your baking dish)

4 large eggs at room temperature

2 cups of sugar

3/4 cup of GOOD cocoa powder

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon of your favorite liquor (optional)

Toasted nuts

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval baking dish. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  2. In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes. You want it to be very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  3. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, liquor, and cocoa powder/flour mixture. Mix only to combine – DO NOT OVERMIX! Pour in your cooled butter and continue to mix until everything is combined.
  4. Pour everything into the oval dish and place it in a larger ban-marie (tub of water that will come halfway up the side of your brownie dish. Look, I told you this wasn’t easy. But do this because it’s worth it.) Bake for 1 hour, taking care not to overbake. The center will look undone.
  5. Get fancy and sprinkle toasted nuts on the top. I’m a fan of pecans, but you can use almonds or walnuts.

Mind-blowing, huh? So of course we have to pair something with this. Because this dessert is so decadent and so delicious, I’d go all out with the wine. Something bubbly. You can go with Champagne, if you’d like. But I’m going out on a limb here. Hear me out: Almond Sparkling Wine. I get mine from Trader Joe’s for a mere $6 a bottle. It’s crisp and effervescent, which we expect of anything bubbly. But this is different. This has an extra layer of “oooh la la” by having an unmistakable amaretto taste. It’s subtle, but you won’t miss it. This is my pick for the brownie pudding because, together, it feels so damn decadent! Treat yo self.

Pairs Well With Life: Amicone

I was introduced to Amicone by a lady that worked in the wine section at my local Whole Foods. She loved her job and routinely tried the wines so she could tell her customers about them. She no longer works there and I miss her. This lady loved her job and it showed. She really put me on to some amazing wines.

One wine that was introduced to me was Amicone. It’s a smooth, every day red. You don’t have to pair it with anything. I know people think, “Red – steak,” and normally, they’d be right. But not this one. It’s too light for that. This is a “juicy” wine, bursting with notes of raspberries and cherries. That’s not to say this is sweet, because it isn’t.

This is a wine that can be enjoyed on its own. Pair it with life. But if you must pair it with food, keep it to things that have a smokey flavor, like grilled meat.

Amicone is a great wine to have on hand, should you have anyone stop by or you just want something smooth and red after a long day.

I think this wine is mostly found at Whole Foods. I have yet to see it anywhere else. Amicone is typically under $20, with it being $13-$17 most of the time.

So try it and let me know what you think!

Feeling De”feet”ed: The Shoe-Free Home

Remember that episode of “Sex and the City” where Carrie went to that party and had to leave her fabulous shoes at the door? And they were stolen and she was forced to wear some ratty old borrowed shoes home.

Man, that pissed me off! Now, I’ve had nothing anywhere near a Manolo, but for years, I would be PISSED if anyone asked me to remove my shoes in their home. They were wrecking my ensemble! Also, because I’m short, if I had on heels, there went my faux statuesque, fabulous party self. Bummer.

But I’m older and/or wiser and more content with being short. Or something like that. Now, I totally get why people want you to remove your shoes. Cleaning carpets can get pricey and time-consuming. You wake up early, walk and scrub every square foot of your home, and leave the house for a whole day while the floors dry. It’s exhausting to think about.

If you are invited to someone’s home and they have a pile of shoes by the front door, chances are, they want you to remove yours. Some people will say it and others, you’ll just have to be observant. This is why you should always have on decent socks.

Because I have a kid now who is down on the floor at times, I think much more about what’s on my floor; what my shoes track in. I have a shoe rack by the door in order to try to keep my carpet a little cleaner. It’s working.

If you have a shoe-free home, you better make damn sure your floors are clean. I once knew someone that insisted I remove my shoes to enter her home. Fine. Except, her carpets were visibly nasty, with fresh food stains on them. And since I don’t have the power to levitate, I chose to not go in. I waited for her outside.

Those who make the request for you to remove your shoes need to have socks or slippers on hand for guests that are caught off guard. It’s only fair. I’m not always walking around with a fresh pedicure, so this is much-appreciated.

Put simple, I can see the argument for and against having a shoe-free home. Regardless, if you are invited to someone’s home, do as they do. And if you require that people remove their shoes, try to accommodate them as best you can.

Herby Roast Chicken

Nothin’ says “lovin'” like a well-prepared chicken. It’s one of the first things I learned to cook as an adult. Over time, my methods for making it have improved and I’ve fallen more in love with this comfort dish.

I have a tiny little garden right off my kitchen on my deck. I plant about 14 herbs and a few veggies every summer. At first, I thought this was just fun. But then, I found that it was a great way to save money on fresh herbs.

Typically, I like to brine my chicken. I just feel it gets rid of that “poultry” taste. I can’t describe it other than that, but I’m not a fan of that taste. So, with a nice brine, away it goes! You can do what you want.

Here, I’ll give you my basic method for roasting a chicken using fresh herbs. This recipe is great for company, in the winter with mashed potatoes, in the summer with a nice salad, as part of a meal prep because the leftovers are great. Basically, it can be a go-to.

What you’ll need:

A chicken, washed and with all the gunk pulled out

A bunch of rosemary

A bunch of thyme

A bunch of parsley

A bunch of sage

A yellow onion

A few cloves of garlic

Salt and pepper

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place your bird in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Salt and pepper the inside of the bird.
  4. Cut the onion in half. One half, you’ll leave as it is. The other half, you’ll chop up to go around the bird.
  5. Rinse your herbs. Take half of them and bruise them with the back of your knife. Throw these inside of the bird with the onion.
  6. The other half of your herbs should be chopped up and sprinkled on and around your bird.
  7. Rough chop your garlic. Throw some in and around the chicken.
  8. Bake covered until chicken reaches 140 degrees.
  9. Uncover and let the skin get nice and brown. Make sure the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh.

*You don’t need to baste. Too much of a fuss.

*If you can make gravy, please do. The juices from this are well-seasoned and will make a delicious pan gravy to use on the chicken or rice or mashed potatoes.

Recommended wine: Butter Chardonnay. This Chardonnay lends itself well to pairing. The herbs in this chicken play extremely well with this wine. It’s creamy and bright. Butter can typically be found for less than $15 at any of the places you get wine.

Run Me My Coins: Stop Asking for Favors

Plain and simple – don’t ask people to work for free.

Lawyer friends of mine are always getting asked for free legal advice. They spend all day getting paid to “lawyer” and some random friend presents them with a legal conundrum over happy hour, expecting them to do for free what everyone else pays them to do. It’s 2019. That’s gotta stop. We have to do better by our friends.

If you work every day, being asked to do that thing you do outside of work hours for no money seems senseless. Sure, there are causes to which we donate our time and talents. But random friends and people looking to profit off your labor aren’t it.

Most insulting is when people tell you there won’t be payment and you’ll be working for “exposure”. I’ve been told this. Someone asked me to speak at something after seeing me speak elsewhere. She said she thought I was poised and well-received by the audience and spoke well. And then she went in for the kill: the favor. She asked me to speak at a thing she was doing where people would be paying admission. She then said, “I can’t pay you; this will just be for exposure.” *slow blink* But I’m already exposed. YOU know me, which is why you’re here asking me to work for free. I politely declined, fighting the urge to let her know how rude I thought her request was.

Intellectual labor is labor. If I am paid to do something, don’t ask me to do it for free. You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to build you a house for free, would you? Instead, mention that you need something done. If I offer to do it free of charge, fine. But coming right out and asking makes things awkward.

Have you done this? Have you asked your accountant friend for tax advice? Your writer friend to edit something for you? Your personal trainer friend to be your accountability partner? I could go on. You get the point. Don’t do it. Pay people what they’re worth.

Easy Corn and Crab Dip

Chances are, if you invited me to any sort of potluck in the past 10 years, my contribution was this dip. It started out as a simple Mexicorn dip that I doctored up with some crab and spices.

This is a crowd-pleaser. And it has crab in it, so it makes it look like you really went out of your way to make something.

You’ll need:

A half stick of butter (real butter)
Mexicorn (the short can of it)
2 bars/12-16 ounces of cream cheese (not that low fat $hit either)
1 pint of claw meat (it’s cheaper and way tastier than jumbo lump and works better for this recipe)
Old Bay seasoning (You may NOT use another seafood seasoning!)

How to make it:

  1. Throw the butter and Mexicorn in a sauce pan. Let the butter melt.
  2. Throw in your cream cheese. You really need to watch the cream cheese. It can and will burn if you don’t stir it.
  3. Once you’ve got that melted, turn your attention to your crab. Put as much Old Bay as your heart desires into that can of crab. Mix it. Taste it.
  4. If you like what you did, dump it in the pan with everything else. Stir. heat your oven to 350. Throw this into an oven-safe loaf pan (I recommend using the foil ones that come with the plastic lid. Works great for taking this to parties. Face it – no one returns Tupperware anymore.)
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold with tortilla chips or crackers.

Red Sangria

There are a gazillion ways to make sangria, the traditional Spanish drink made of wine and spirits. Supposedly, locals don’t drink it and it’s more of a tourist thing. Whatever. It’s a tasty, inexpensive way to entertain.

I like to serve this red wine sangria in the cooler months. The cinnamon makes it cozy. It’s a nice alternative to mulled wine.

Here’s how I make mine.

You’ll need:

A cheap bottle of red wine (dry)

Brandy (I like flavored, you can do plain)

3 cinnamon sticks

1 red apple

1 green apple

1 orange

Apple juice

Sugar to taste

How to make it:

  1. Rinse and cut up your fruit. Core the apples and cut the oranges into wheels.
  2. Put your fruit in the brandy. Do this a day ahead of time.
  3. Add the wine, stir and taste.
  4. If it’s too strong for you, add apple juice. If you’d like it sweeter, add sugar and juice.
  5. Throw in your cinnamon sticks a few hours ahead of time.
  6. Serve over ice with an apple or orange slice.

Warning: The fruit is HIGHLY alcoholic. Careful!

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