Alternatively titled, “the post that never ends.” It is ridiculously long. I apologize.
Taking a cue from my beautiful mother-in-law, I expanded my hostessing skills to an actual dinner party. Putting together an actual event was a new one for me. My idea of hostessing is usually putting on my cleanest pair of sweatpants, shoving a brisket in the oven and beer in the cooler. Also, our dining table only seats six and there are usually about 40 people in our living room at any given time so the table usually ends up as a buffet rather than a place to sit. I felt pretty guilty for not making this an open invitation event like usual but if I only had six, then I got to use our china for the first time ever.
This soirée started as another I’m-bored-at-work-so-let’s-plan-something event. When my deskmates mentioned that they wanted to have an evening of classy old school cocktails, I mentioned that I wanted to have a classy dinner and together we hatched a plan. Mind you, this was Thursday afternoon and our brilliant idea was set for Friday…none of us are the think-it-through type. Thankfully our spouses didn’t put up too much fuss about the short notice and Husband was even sweet enough to help me clean and grocery shop.
The goal was to have a classy evening but no one was quite sure what one actually looked like. As with all brilliant ideas, the details were hammered out via Facebook…well, as hammered out as things could get for us….
Deskmate 1: I think we should suit up. I need a top hat and a monocle.
Wife of Deskmate 1: I’m not wearing a suit
Me: I’m going to attempt classiness. I doubt it goes well. Husband doesn’t own an actual suit. Are swimsuits appropriate?
1: I have one from an 80s prom party. Or I’ll give him an hour off work tomorrow to get one from a thrift store. You should have called this “fancy pants party”
Deskmate 2: So we’re wearing fancy pants?
1: Yeah. It’s official. I’m going to party city at lunch to get a top hat.
2: But I don’t want to wear fancy pants.
1: Fancy pants or no pants.
2: Are you wearing your pimp coat?
1: I’m married now so I can’t wear it out of the house. Women flock to it like you wouldn’t believe.
Me: Husband said he has pants. They’re awesome but not fancy. Also known as jeans. I’m getting a fake mustache.
2: So this is turning into a costume party? That happened fast.
1: Just be fancy. But not fancy like from that Reba song.
Wife 1: You are all weird.
2: HUSH IT.
Wife 1: I’m so confused. What am I supposed to wear?
2: Is your fake mustache fancy?
Me: Yes. I’ll make sure it’s freshly oiled and curled. Husband also wants a tiny bowler hat for his big head.
1: I’m wearing a bowtie and a monocle.
Wife 1: I quit.
With that mountain of information, I got to work. Cocodot.com is my new favorite website of all time. You can create stellar online invites and have them sent (for free!) via email or Facebook and it makes an event page for you. I always prefer actual mail but I was working on a 24-hour timeline and cocodot is a very acceptable second. They even come in a cute little envelope.
In my mind, I had some adorable decorations but I had a meeting that ran long on Friday afternoon and didn’t have time to do much. I printed out the menus onto card stock and looped one around each napkin. I attached a paper mustache to each menu, because it somehow seemed appropriate. Mustaches are sophisticated yet silly and seem to be all the rage on Pinterest so are obviously stylish.
A dozen cheap roses tossed in an assortment of bottles was a quick and painless centerpiece. And now Husband no longer nags me for never using my stockpile of empty wine bottles.
I apologize for the lack of legitimate pictures, but I was too busy
frantically cooking being classy to document the deliciousness of the food (the decor pictures are mine). I’ve stolen some photos from the sources of the recipes and google (as noted) which looked similar to what was on our table in the hopes that you have a vague idea of what happened. Next time I use the recipes, I’ll record properly. I also have a tendency to cook without measuring. Be aware that all measurements are approximate and estimated.
I figured I should have something to munch on during the cocktail hour (aka while I’m cooking) because booze on an empty stomach is a bad idea. I’m finally old enough to admit that. I threw some zucchini fries in the oven and served them with some sweet onion dip. It was a hit.
baked zucchini fries with sweet onion dip
adapted from King Arthur Flour
3 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 3″ strips
1 C gluten-free bread crumbs (aka crushed corn flakes)
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 C egg beaters
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 C plain greek yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 425
2. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, and Italian seasoning in bowl and egg beaters in another.
3. Pat zucchini dry and dip each strip in the egg beaters, then bread crumbs.
4. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, rotating once.
5. Heat oil in skillet and add onions, stirring occasionally until onions carmelize but don’t burn.
5. Once the onions are medium brown, remove from heat and add vinegar.
6. Place onions and vinegar in your Ninja, add honey and mustard and pulse until smooth.
7. Stir in greek yogurt and refrigerate until serving.
For the menu, I knew red meat was a must. My family owns a cattle ranch and I try to support the beef industry as much as possible. Also, it tastes delicious and there were going to be fellow Texans present. I couldn’t NOT serve red meat. I’ve come across several recipes for flank steak recently and considered it a good option. Cheap and easy, but those little strips look fancy. Which, I’m fairly certain, is what people said about Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
grilled flank steak with red wine marinade
2 flank steaks (about 1.5 lbs each)
1 1/4 C dry red wine (I used Merlot)
1/3 C low-sodium soy sauce
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp lime juice
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1. In glass bowl, combine marinade ingredients
2. Add steaks, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Turn at least once.
3. Grill over high heat for approx 5 minutes per side.
4. Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.
5. Pour remaining marinade into small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes or until slightly reduced, stirring continuously.
6. Drizzle reduced marinade over steak and serve.
Obviously you serve potatoes with red meat and red potatoes are fancier than the regular kind. My mother firmly instilled in me that you must have something of every color on your plate (and fruit loops don’t count-I tried) so I added some sautéed peas, artichokes, and asparagus and a romaine and spinach salad with walnuts and mandarin oranges. These all seemed like options that sounded fancy but were actually pretty easy and could be accomplished in under 45 minutes. I even turned my back so no one saw me open the cans. So sneaky and classy.
smashed red potatoes
3 lbs red potatoes
1/4 C finely chopped green onions
1 Tbsp italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut potatoes into fourths, place in large pot and cover with water.
2. Boil over medium-high heat until potatoes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.
3. Remove from heat, drain, and return potatoes to pot.
4. Add seasonings and toss with a fork, smashing slightly, until well-combined and butter is melted.
5. Serve immediately
sauteed vegetables with dijon vinaigrette
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
1 can green beans, drained
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
2 Tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
splash of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add asparagus and artichoke hearts, cook for approx 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Add peas and seasonings and saute for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat if vegetables begin to brown
4. Whisk together Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil.
5. Toss veggies in vinaigrette and serve immediately.
No meal is complete unless it is followed by diabetes so I crafted a chocolate bread pudding creation that was utterly ridiculous and difficult (as in, it required more than one bowl and the steps were more than “dump ingredients in kitchen aid and turn on”) but absolutely fantastic. This dessert is responsible for my love affair with bread pudding (before the dreaded Celiac diagnosis); I had this years ago on a cruise but never could figure out how to make it. I finally found the recipe here but I’m from Texas and not a chef, so had no clue how to read it. I pretty much just made it up as I went along. It worked though! I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of myself. I even ate some, and that’s saying a lot. It has to be pretty special for me to willingly ingest gluten. You’ll notice that the menus also have a pear and apple crisp listed. I couldn’t decide which to make until the last minute. Bread pudding was the winner in all aspects. I’ll save the pear crisp for another time.
I used to have just the recipe here, but then I made a new and improved version. YES. Which you can find HERE!
Although I started out with a lovely Pandora station (I highly recommend Duffy), my beloved Rangers were playing tonight and we watched baseball during our classy dinner. Whatever. It was delicious and the company was fantastic. And I didn’t even wear sweatpants.
And we did have fancy cocktails but Deskmate played bartender so I’m not quite sure exactly what ended up happening. Old fashioned and Champagne margaritas were mentioned. People just kept handing me glasses filled with pretty liquid and I didn’t ask questions.