Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weeknight Dinner Party: Yikes! They'll be here in an hour!

People seem to have this conundrum a lot: How will I have time to prepare a dinner party when I only get home from work one hour before my guests arrive? My advice: Keep It Simple, Prepare Ahead, and let it be a Casual Affair. Don't let working all day deter you from hosting a dinner and enjoying your friends' company during the week. It doesn't have to be a stressful event. I’ll continue to offer more menu and set up ideas, but here is one from this week.

We had talked about going out to a Mexican Restaurant, but ultimately we decided to eat at my house.

The Menu:

Green Salad with Mint (leftover), Cucumber (leftover), and Olives

Green Chili Enchiladas

Sour Cream on the side

Foil-wrapped Chocolate Hearts to nibble after the meal

I did my grocery shopping two evenings before the dinner. The next evening I made the enchilada sauce, cooked the chicken and shredded it. I have some amazing green chili powder from New Mexico that makes a great seasoning for an onion-based enchilada sauce. I had some Valentine chocolate hearts which I scattered down the center of the table. They livened up the table and looked good with the pink roses I got for Valentine's Day, and they also served as dessert so I didn’t need to make one myself.

When I got home the night of the dinner all I needed to do was assemble the meal and set the table. Or so I thought.... There was one unforeseen hitch in my perfectly timed out plan. I had ended up painting walls all day so I was speckled and smeared with yellow paint. I hadn't foreseen that I'd need time to shower and change my clothes as well, so I answered the door in my paint splattered jeans and tee shirt. What can you do. A bit of paint-dipped host didn't seem to bother anyone. We had a delicious post work day meal, took our shoes off, and enjoyed one another's company.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Valentine's Dinner

Dinner at home can be so romantic. Especially if you're like me, and you want all the details to be handmade and special. For a romantic at-home Valentine's Day dinner, let me stress: Details. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or time consuming (believe me, mine weren't: colored paper and m&m's). Just something personalized and fun.
I kept the same color scheme of bright pinks and white as I had at breakfast. Cut out paper hearts, pink and white m&m's, and of course the necessary Conversation Hearts twinkled happily among the tea candles. (Try having a conversation only using the phrases on the conversation hearts.... Very tricky!) I displayed the festively wrapped gifts on the mantle, and adjusted the various lamps for a low and romantic glow.

The Menu
Smoked Salmon Pate and Baguette
Chickpea, Cauliflower and Red Endive Salad
Mussels and Clams with Crusty Bread
Belgique Chocolatier Artisan Chocolates

I tried to stay in the pink realm with the food too, though the mussels and clams are stretching it a bit! But it is so fun to slurp the broth out of the shells and to use your hands. And the chocolates. One of the few things I would rather buy than ever attempt to make myself, Belgique's filled chocolates (stores in Kent and New Canaan, CT) are perfect in every way. Eat some if you are ever in the neighborhood

After dinner we opened our gifts, and since we were home and unshod, complimented one another on the festiveness of our Valentine socks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Pink and White Breakfast In Bed

Happy Valentine's Day! I know a lot of people dread this holiday. It is either a downer because there is no one to share it with, or too stressful because the expectations are high. Yes, in mainstream culture this holiday is primarily for couples, but remember back in Second Grade? The whole class would be cutting and pasting valentines together, giving one to everyone, sharing chocolates and wearing pink and red. This is how I still like to think of Valentine's Day. Ok, ok: I am spending the evening with my very special valentine. But I also e-mail and call my parents and friends to send them virtual kisses. I wish I could make and mail valentines to everyone because for me that truly is the epitome of the day. Perhaps that is a project for next year. But this year I'll be sharing ideas for breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast Menu

Heart Shaped Scones with candied orange peel

Scrambled Eggs

Sliced Strawberries with sugar and balsamic vinegar

Butter and Berry Jam

Coffee and Tea

And a scattering of paper hearts….

I chose dishware in pink and white, and set everything up on an industrial sized aluminum baking sheet. This baking sheet is a versatile kitchen accessory. It doesn’t fit in my tiny oven, but I use it as a surface for icing cookies, drying fresh pasta, and also as a tray when I need a really big one -- like for a breakfast in bed!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Every Day Delights: A Splash of Pink

Remodelista’s “5 Quick Fixes: Bright Pink Accents” got me thinking. I love a splash of hot pink here and there. So just in time for Valentine's Day here are some of my bright pink accents.

Vintage neon “Steak” sign from a diner in Nebraska. Yep, it's big. Some day when I have a giant white wall to put this on, maybe I'll replace the neon. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking....

Mini champagne bottles saved from a bridal shower. I thought these were fun, so I kept them and use them as vases from time to time.

Sabre acrylic demitasse spoons. These are available at in every color (not just pink), as well as various sizes. I use mine for tea, or for dips and spreads served in white dishware to accentuate the bright colors.