Summer is practically at our door step and for most of us, that means grilling season, picnics, vacation time and parties. And with the warm weather, you can take the party outside. But are you party ready? Can you put a shin-dig together on the fly? How much time do you need to prep for your party? As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I was offered this very question from Electrolux: Am I party ready?
Electrolux has a campaign going on right now to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research. You can take the Kelly Ripa Party Challenge here and offer your party tips for the impromptu party scenario Kelly describes each day. Kids coming over to hang out at your house after school? Neighbors getting together for cocktails? Each time you participate, Electrolux will donate $1 to OCRF and you get a chance to win an Electrolux refrigerator!
Although I had over a week to prepare for this party, I honestly couldn’t give it much thought. I was recovering from my stomach problems and the thought of food and cooking was the last thing on my mind! Plus, the kiddos had a packed last week at school with cub scout meetings, parties, performances and field trips. I had invited my guests and I knew we were going to grill, but that was as far as I got by Wednesday.
My party was last night, Saturday night. I invited four families over for dinner, so that was 10 adults and 13 kids to plan for and to feed. My husband had the idea that instead of a sit down dinner, we would be grazing all night. That was right up my alley because who doesn’t like to snack and munch their way through a party?
Now depending on the type of party you have, the amount of prep work varies. My formal parties, like the POM party I put together, was a lot bigger and required a lot of time planning the menu and the party logistics. I pretty much cooked the whole week prior to the party. This Electrolux party was a casual affair, and I wanted to test my own impromptu party skills!
I did my grocery shopping Friday and started cooking Saturday morning. As I always do for my parties, I make sure dessert is ALWAYS made first! I do have my priorities, you know. Since I started in the morning, I chose to make a Bailey’s Irish Creme Mousse for the adults. It was so amazing (pictured at the top). And, for the kiddos, I baked giant chocolate chip cookies to be used for ice cream sandwiches.
PARTY TIP #1: If time is a factor, serve fresh seasonal fruit for dessert. Always keep fresh fruit stocked in your house for your family to snack on, as well as a healthier dessert option. I also have a few go-to recipes for impromptu dessert making and I will share those with you later this week.
With dessert done, I moved on to appetizers. I typically offer my guests at least one dip, whether warm or cold. I usually have a variety of canned beans in the pantry, so hummus is always ready in a flash.
PARTY TIP #2: Canned beans equals a dip in 5 minutes. Don’t have tahini? You can also use olive oil or a little sour cream to whip up your dip. You can read more about my love affair with hummus here! For last night, I roasted some garlic bulbs and made some Roasted Garlic Hummus. The longer the hummus sits, the more the flavor melts together. But, you can easily make the hummus and serve it right away if you have a time crunch. The hubby did the garnishing. Can you tell he’s an engineer?
As my artichokes were forgotten by hubby (a long story), I literally had to come up with other appetizer ideas that had to be ready in less than an hour. Luckily, I had prosciutto and cantaloupe which I laced together on a skewers with fresh mint. I also like to keep a box of puff pastry waiting in the freezer for quick and easy recipes.
PARTY TIP #3: Puff pastry makes simple flavors taste even more amazing. I rolled out a sheet and cut it into small squares then tucked them into a mini muffin pan. I filled each with a slice of brie. Trader Joe’s now has a log of brie and it was perfect for this job! Then I used three different toppings: mint & raspberries, roasted garlic and rosemary, and grapes & basil.
PARTY TIP #4: Always keep some kind of cheese in your refrigerator. From brie to goat cheese, cream cheese to cheddar, you can easily whip up an appetizer in no time!
I wasn’t completely ready when my guests arrived, but since everyone likes to hang out in the kitchen, I quickly finished up the appetizers and white wine sangria while we chatted away. And seriously, who gets offended if the food and drinks aren’t ready the instant you walk in the door?
PARTY TIP #5: Get your friends into the action and have them help you out. Whether it’s to chop some herbs, load up a tray or set the table, your friends are there to lend a hand.
Dinner last night consisted of kabobs. They are kid friendly and quick to cook up. The chicken breast and beef tenderloin were cut into 1/2-inch chunks. We cut our long bamboo skewers in half so each skewer would hold about 5 pieces. This was a great snack size to grill and eat right away. We offered two seasoning options for each meat, so guests could decide which one they wanted. And of course, with picky kids, the option was available to grill the meat unseasoned. GASP!
PARTY TIP #6: Skewers make eating food fun! I had marinated some jumbo shrimp and jumbo scallops in lemon, garlic and chives and we quickly skewered them up, too. I found these smaller bamboo skewers at Cost Plus. They worked perfectly. The key to grilling shrimp and scallops is to not over cook them or they would turn hard and rubbery. Remember, once the shrimp turns pink, it’s done. And the scallops are ready, too.
With our kabobs, I had a variety of pita breads and flat breads, from whole wheat to white. I also had a spring salad with goat cheese, raspberries and a sweet balsamic dressing. I roasted some of the larger fingerling potatoes that the Idaho Potato Commission sent me and then skewered them up. I served them with sour cream, chopped bacon, shredded cheddar and green onions so everyone could enjoy a little baked potato on a stick. Again, this was a HUGE hit with the kids.
PARTY TIP #7: Make a pitcher for the house drink ready to prevent spending the evening mixing individual drinks. I love making different flavored sangrias. Since I knew we were going to be eating all night, I chose to make a lighter and fruitier sangria using white wine. This Red, White and Blue Sangria is made with a Riesling and Prosecco, garnished with strawberries, blueberries and lychee fruit. Get it? Red, white and blue? Okay, next….
Remember, having a party is supposed to be fun. I am the first to admit that I tend to stress out trying to make everything perfect for my guests. But, deep down I know that it is all about being with those you love and have a great time together. And when you have kids, you can easily make a party both kid-friendly and adult friendly without skimping on flavor or flair.
I will offer more party-ready tips in the coming week, so keep a look out for them.