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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Party Planning

It's party season and I love it!!!  One of our parties is HUGE.  Two others are big enough and the fourth, it's very small and intimate. 

For starters, we're going to have my family here for Christmas Eve.  It's the first year I've taken over for Mom and I'm changing it up a bit.  Then, we have New Year's Eve.  Just the two of us.  Our traditional seafood fest.  Third is the HUGE party.  It's an open house at our home.  We invite all our families, friends, neighbors, my clients, the folks who've called in to my radio show, folks who've attended Social Security or financial planning classes I've taught, fellow Kiwanians, Facebook friends...  Lots of folks.  Typically, about 150 show up.  May have a few more this year since the email invitations went out two days ago and we're already at 70 yes's.  Oh, and the snail mail invites didn't go out til yesterday morning.  That's ok, it's fun.  I do all the cooking and spend about a week in the kitchen.  Last, but certainly not least, my lovely niece, Samantha, is getting married in February so I'm having her bridesmaids brunch late January. 

So, you ask, how in the world do you do this and work 80 hours a week too?  Hmm, good question.  I love to cook and I love to entertain - so that helps a BUNCH.  But, you know what helps the most - planning and being organized.  I've got my menus for this year almost down.  The grocery lists are started.  For the open house, I've got spreadsheets from prior years showing what folks ate and what got left.  What the dishes were served on.  Who attended.  I've hired a bartender




and two kitchen assistants and we're hoping the same young lady helps with the coats this year.  She was incredible.  Remembered almost everyone's coat.  See how thrilled Jeffrey was? 


Okay, so it wasn't just because she remembered his coat but because he's a congenial kind of a guy :-)  We're going to hire a fellow to man the grill this year so Connie doesn't have to stand out on the screened porch instead of getting to mingle with our guests. 



You see, last year I added beef teriyaki skewers and chicken satay.  This year, I'm thinking how to add shrimp on the barbie and maybe a pork dish.

Let's dig in then:

Christmas Eve

My mom and my brother's mother-in-law trade off every other year.  This was Mom's year and I volunteered to take over.  Now, growing up, Christmas Eve was vegetable soup, gelatin salad, cookies and ice cream.  My sister-in-law's family is a bit, ok a lot, picky, so the vegetable soup went by the wayside.  Instead of a big turkey dinner on Christmas, we've had turkey sandwiches on Christmas Eve.  Every year, I miss the good old turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy dinner.  So, I'm incorporating that via a turkey manhattan.  We'll have sliced turkey for either cold sandwiches or turkey manhattan.  Those who had their shorts in a knot over the fact I was going to make changes quickly changed their tune once presented with turkey manhattans.  I mean, how can you go wrong with bread, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy?  We may have to test the recipe between now and then - lol.  Stuffing is missing too.  Mom's is the best.  Hands down the best.  What is it about your mom's stuffing and your mom's chocolate chip cookies that they're the best?  I know, me too.  Nobody else's has ever come close.  This year I'm planning on making Mom's vegetable soup.  Wish me luck, please.  I've only come close once.  The secrets are to cut everything VERY finely and to cook it forever - until it kind of "melts" together.  I'll also make tomato soup to keep the picky folks happy.  We'll have a gelatin salad as well as Casa d'Angelo Salad.   The Christmas cookies and ice cream will remain unchanged - thank goodness for tradition :-)


New Year's Eve

Our seafood fest started the first year we met - 2004.  I'll never cook that much food for two people again.  I think we had escargot, she crab soup, oysters rockefeller, bacon wrapped scallops, lobster tail, crab cakes, shrimp and who knows what else.  We were eating seafood leftovers for days.  This year the tentative menu is for oysters rockefeller, seafood in a tomato consomme, salad, shrimp/crabmeat/scallops in a sherry sauce and creme brulee. 


Open House

Next is the big party.  The first task is to clean out the freezer so we have room for the stuff we make ahead.  Then, somehow, the house has to be cleaned.  I confess, I HATE cleaning.  It's really nice that it looks so good afterward.  I'd rather stick pins under my fingernails.  Oh, well, it's still got to be done.  And, I've started.  Slowly but surely.  All the picture frames have to be dusted.  And, the knick-knacks washed.  And, the copper molds, polished.  So, any volunteers are welcome :-)  I make a wish list menu a couple of months ahead.  Then, we do a winnowing.  Flavor, texture, color, ease of preparation...  What fits.  What did folks like before.  That's the tough part.  Some years a dish will be inhaled and others it's just ignored.  I don't like to serve the same things all the time but some things are signature.  Here's our menu from last year.  We wind up with folks standing in my pantry



and pretty much in any available space in the house...








All in all, it's a wonderful time, but VERY exhausting as yo can see from this photo taken the next morning - lol.




Sam's brunch. 

This one will be fun and a challenge.  She loves french toast.  It's impossible to do for a big group - like 15-20 - in a small kitchen.  I've seen a couple of recipes for french toast bread pudding.  Maybe that's an alternative.  A couple of quiches are going to be on the menu.  I'll do a trial run on Christmas day and see what my family says.  Can't do my favorite fruit salad ole (oranges, grapefruit, bananas, avocado and bacon with poppyseed dressing) since Sam doesn't care for citrus.  Apples and grapes she likes.  Maybe with some sour cream and brown sugar?

So, there you have it.  Party central.  First you figure out who's coming.  Then, you decide on a theme.  Your menu follows.  A grocery list.  Cleaning and decorating.  Cooking.  PARTY TIME!  I'll keep you all posted on the progress as we go through the planning and implementation.  And, I hope if you're in town you'll be able to join us at our open house on Jan 7th.  Please leave me a comment with your email and we'll send you directions. 

3 comments:

Biz said...

I've actually never heard of turkey manhattan before!

Love all your meal planning - gal after my own heart.

My husband and I usually do appetizers Christmas eve - last year I made shrimp toast that was so good!

~RED~ said...

Well you are going to be one busy bee!

Monet said...

Bless your sweet heart. I thought I was busy! You are a party throwing master! I only wish I could come over to your big open house. Everyone in your pictures looks like they are having so much fun. And I love the idea of New Years Seafood feast. I think that might have to become a new tradition for Ryan and me! Thank you so much for sharing with me tonight. I hope you have a wonder-filled Friday!