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Posts Tagged with “justsayyes”

A Terrific, Nibbly Party Menu for Your Next Open House

Come on in!

We recently threw a little shindig at our house. It was kind of a house warming but mostly it was just time to throw a party. I mean, we moved in almost a year ago and have been madly sourcing more furniture and hanging artwork (we upsized…I know. WHO DOES THAT?), working in the yard (we REALLY upsized the yard!) and making good on all the travel we’d planned before we moved into a big ol’ house. So maybe it was past time that we threw a party!

Anyway, we had about 85 people over and I cooked for days, or maybe it was a week. Either way, the point is we had a fabulous time and enjoyed ourselves so much and the food was enough of a success that there are folks who want recipes. Which I am so happy to share! So, I thought I’d just write a quick post with links to the base recipes and notes on the tweaks I use to take said recipes from good to great (there is, seriously, an entire blog post topic right there, so stay tuned for more on that!).

We tried to make sure that we had all the bases covered with the menu so there would be something for everyone — veg-y people, meat-y people, cheese-y people, gluten-free people. ALL the people. And so, the decision was made to have platters of things (by which I mean to say cutting boards, because I almost always use a bunch of cutting boards to set out the food at a party) like meats and cheese and veggies with dip along with baskets of sliced baguette and crackers (with AND without gluten, of course!). Which is also, note to self, a smart set-up for the hostess who wants to do more than just slave in the kitchen for the whole party!

Ready? Here we go…


Cutting Board One — Meat-y Things

Served with cornichons and lots of Dijon mustard (my fav is Edmond Fallot)

Pork Rillettes
Recipe: by David Lebovitz (I know I’ve already written about this Rillettes recipe, but it is such a winner that I think I’ll be making it for every party until…well, until there are no more parties).
Tweaks: NOPE. None. Not even a one. So good just as it is!

Lentil Walnut Pâté
Recipe: (originally) by Dr Andrew Weil, though this links to a ‘reprint’ on an ‘All Things Walnut’ website (and I must say, DO NOT underestimate this gem of a recipe…it may be vegan but it is a winner with everyone who has ever tried it, including diehard carnivores!).
Tweaks: 1) Use Puy lentils (also known as French green lentils) instead of plain lentils; 2) Toast the walnuts in the oven at 350° for about 10 minutes before you chop them up; and 3) Be overly generous with the Dijon and the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper — you want to taste all that seasoning!


Cutting Board Two — CHEESE!!

A couple of nice cheeses on one side with a glorious Baked Brie en Croûte on the other. Served with a mass of grapes…we found the most beautiful black grapes at Costco (of all places!) and they set off the cheeses quite nicely.


Cutting Board Three — Crudités & Dips

In an effort to keep it simple, I used green beans (blanched in water as salty as the sea for 4 minutes and then cooled on towels), heirloom baby tomatoes (I may have had a few leftover, which I turned into an amazing pasta dish a few nights later!) easter radishes (so pretty!) and rainbow baby carrots. Served with a bold, herby White Bean Dip (again, thank you David Lebovitz!) and a tangy Thousand Islands Dressing which is a gorgeous Saveur recipe that has earned a place in my secret arsenal of all things bullet-proof.


And because my fella can’t live without Chips and Dip, I whipped up a batch of this French Onion Dip from Bon Appetit and (tweak alert!) tweaked it (just a little!) by sautéing an extra finely chopped shallot (in addition to the raw chopped shallot called for in the recipe) with a few sprigs of thyme until carmelized (at which point I pulled out the thyme sprigs) and then stirring it in with a little extra lemon juice prior to serving with a big bowl of potato chips. YUM!

Last but not least, cookies. Said fella is a big baker and in our house, it’s a toss up as to which cookies are the best…so he makes the kind I like AND the kind he likes. So everyone wins! His favorite is this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the New York Times and mine is this Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookie recipe from his mother, Alice share with us by his sister, Heather. You really can’t go wrong with either, and the smart people usually have some of each which I feel is a very fine policy.

Plus, you know, we had sparkling water and wine and gin and vodka (with mixers) and rye whiskey (without!) and friends who brought wine like Tom and Lorrie Wilson from their award-winning Château NoElle Vineyards & Winery and all the other fabulous folks who contributed wine or booze and good cheer and took the time to come on over to sit a spell and share stories with one another.

Which is, as far as I know, the secret to a really good party…it’s the people you know who come and make it wonderful. And on that count we feel very lucky indeed.

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Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch

This sassy bunny is Jean Dau (born Polly Jean Boyles, but she couldn’t stand that first name, so Jean it was), whose 99th birthday would have been today.

She was my one and only grandmother, who we called Gram because as the grandkids started showing up when she was only 50 she would have no part of being a GRANDMOTHER or any such nonsense. I called her Granny Gooch and she called me Nilrad and we got on like houses afire except for when we didn’t. She taught me to ride horses and kick ass and take names and I taught her to swear like a sailor. Peas in a pod, really.

Despite tough times and all the good and bad that go into living on this planet, hers was not a sad story. Hers was a story of a rodeo princess and lifelong horsewoman who became a school teacher and lived the life she wanted to live with no apologies and plenty of grit who even now inspires me to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when I think I’m too tired to ever possibly go on.

At any rate, I digress. Suffice it to say that the only bad thing about my Gram dying at 91 in 2011 is that I don’t get to call her on the phone every Saturday any more. Though I do think I talk to her more often these days, oddly enough. I figure she can hear me better now without any device needed because I’m certain that wherever she is, she’s got her eyes and ears on me.

Every year on her birthday, I try to do a little something to honor the time I was lucky enough to spend with her, which usually involves eating something DELICIOUS that might be BAD FOR ME. Doesn’t that sound like fun??

This year, in honor of GG, I decided to whip up her favorite breakfast of biscuits and gravy and serve it for dinner (as one does). By which I mean to say, tender, fluffy, glorious biscuit pillows soaking up hefty dollops of milk gravy full of sausage and black pepper and served with eggs basted easy in bacon grease. We are, after all, talking about a woman who would sit and eat mayonnaise by the spoonful out of the jar with a look of sheer joy on her face.

There’s a wonderful article from The Sunday New York Times Magazine that came out about 6 months after Gram died, called, “You Are Making Your Biscuits Wrong” that has not one but two terrific biscuit recipes and a sausage gravy recipe that would have met with Gram’s approval. For this particular celebration, I decided to go with the All-Purpose Biscuits, though I’m certain no one would quibble if you decided to go for the Cake-Flour recipe instead!

I pretty much followed the recipe, with the exception of seasoning the gravy. It calls for sage and fennel, but when I reached into the spice cupboard to doctor it up, I discovered no sage…but I DID spy my little tin of fennel pollen and in a moment of inspiration, used that instead. (Side note here: if you haven’t had the good fortune to bump into fennel pollen yet, it’s worth the time and trouble to track some down. It is truly a little sprinkle of heaven! I found mine on Amazon. And if you get some and don’t know what to do with it, the nice folks at the Escoffier SCA have some ideas to share.) It makes it a little schmancier than the gravy that Gram used to eat, but from the results I can vouch — she would have loved it!

So here’s what things looked like when all was said and done. We drank a toast to Jean Dau and then tucked in to our breakfast for dinner (on the china that Gram gave me, of course!).

Baking powder biscuits, sausage gravy and bacon fat-basted egg

Happy Birthday, Granny Gooch! Miss you every day.

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Just Say Yes

Yes!

From the very beginning of who we are, says a friend of mine, we have a motto in our heart of hearts. Sort of a “Life T-shirt,” if you will. At every party we went to in our 30’s, that was her icebreaker question to people she would meet, “What’s on YOUR Life T-shirt?

My original Life Tshirt, from birth I swear, is,”You aren’t the boss of me!”. Which morphed, over the years, into, “I don’t know who you THINK you are, but you’re not the boss of me!”. Sassiness, evidently, increases with age. 

And speaking of age, now that I’m (ahem!) a bit older than dirt, I am happy — THRILLED, really — to have discovered that if we’re lucky and paying attention, we might even get to have more than one. So I have added another Life Tshirt to my mental wardrobe. Wanna know what it is? Open up your mind and say AHHHHHHHHH because it’s a really good one, if I do say so myself! 

Are you ready for it? It is: JUST. SAY. YES. Three simple little words strung together in a row that can make things turn out even better than you can possibly imagine, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Just say yes to those you love, to your dreams, to your aspirations, to opportunities that present themselves, to your very own little self…to life. That is it. Just say yes to life. 

Imagine the possibilities!

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