One thing your going to find out about me and my hubby, is we like to entertain. Dinner parties are our thing.
(Just a side note, 1 Peter 4:7-11 New International Version (NIV) says: 7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.)
We have had close to 50 folks in our home at one time for a sit down brunch, but generally have dinner parties with 4 – 12 people. We purposely made this room for entertaining, we also have a back door to this room which takes you outside onto our large patio with fire pit and large gazebo. See, we like to have folks over! If your like us, if you don’t have folks over, you don’t use the stuff! So use it!
The table we have in our sunroom where we do most of our entertaining, we purchased at George’s Woodcrafts in Marietta, PA. This table is fabulous, ours now has enough leafs for the table to open the entire length of the room and sit 30 comfortably. If your ever in the Lancaster Pa area your not to far from Marietta, so go check George’s out, tell them we (Barbara & Harry) sent you!
Okay, I just want to say, if you’ve never had a dinner party before you should do it, its not hard, start small and start with what you know. Another thing, if you are one of those people who only entertains on holidays, birthdays, or other family functions, that’s fine too. One thing I do want to say, even if your only having your family over for dinner one night, use your good china, use your cloth napkins , use your tablecloth that you have stuck away some where. You’ll make them feel special and it takes no more work, well, maybe just a little more work, you’ll have to do an extra wash load the next day, but, its worth it. Trust me. Get yourself out of your rut with paper napkins and possibly paper plates and go for it. The one piece of good advise I can give you to help out is, make sure, your dishwasher is completely empty before your guests arrive, this will make for such a quick and easy clean up later.
As I’ve been posting recipes, I’m now incorporating the recipes into a dinner party post. I’m showing how simple I do it them, with photos of my table set and food prepared and recipes. Right now, for me, I’m challenging myself, because of my diet being gluten and dairy free, I try to make my menu where everyone is happy. My family and friends love being my guinea pigs, so I’m truly blessed there, my hardest one to impress is my hubby, not really impress, feed……..he doesn’t like spicy and trying to convert him to gluten free isn’t easy, but he does give it a try and generally I get rave reviews from him, generally. :-)
Okay, that being said, here we go. This dinner party I held on August 25th, for some of our oldest and dearest friends. There we’re 8 of us this night.
My table theme: Shabby Chic
I used 3 tablecloths, 1 green, 1 blue, 1 white with embroidery which my mother in law had made for me many years ago. None of the tablecloths were big enough to cover the table alone, so I put the blue one at one end, the green one at the other end and covered the middle with the white embroidery one. So, now I had a color theme to go with my Shabby Chic theme. The best thing to start doing if your new to entertaining is, start going to auctions and yard sales and start picking up dish sets and linens cheap. I have several sets now and still want more, but thats me, you don’t have to be like me, but I do like to have holiday dishes, I have a large set of white, a small set of black (which I can only use for 6, so I’m looking for pieces I can add to this set) I have a set with apples & cherries and green lattice on them which I got at ACME a few years back, thats a set for 16 I think, I have several Christmas sets and a set that is cream color with gold stars I like to use for New Years. My hubby just brought me home a box of linens from an auction that he went to that he got for $5.00! It had several tablecloths, linen, yes, linen napkins and fabric napkins, what a find! So, see, you can do this.
(click on any of the photos to see them larger)
I used my white dinner plates and mixed my blue and green table napkins every other plate with my white floral porcelain napkin holders and I used my green drinking glasses. (Drinking glasses is one thing I still have to get more of for my glassware repertoire. I definitely don’t have what I need right now, I do need a good set of clear, believe it or not, I don’t have one!)
Since shabby chic was may plan, I decided I wanted to use pint canning jars as my vases for my fresh flowers. If you have a flower garden, put it to use. Cut some fresh flowers for your dinner table. So, had the hubby look some up for me, he found me the old blue ones which was way better than the clear ones. I was thinking I was going to add food coloring to the water, now I didn’t have to ;-) What I did add to the water was underwater lights which you can get in Michaels. Just twist them on and drop them in the water, they land light side up. I turn them on and drop them in about 15 minutes before guests are due to arrive. You can see them sitting on my table next to the flowers in the photo. My Cape May Daisies are blooming big time right now, so I used them in my vases. I decided 3 vases would be perfect for the table size and they were low enough not to be blocking anyones view, I hate that.
Shrimp Cocktail (which my girlfriend Theresa, graciously offered to bring. She does make good shrimp!) When Theresa offered to bring the shrimp, that’s when I decided on what my menu would be, the shrimp set the tone.
Layered Salad: I stole this idea from my girlfiend Pam, who served salad to us this way one night. Made me feel special, so I use this allot. Folks love it. It’s easy. Get yourself a truffle bowl, possibly 2 (1 you can use for dessert) and use them! This salad was layered with romaine on the bottom, then cubed zucchini, then mixed greens, then shredded carrots, cubed cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts and cubed tomato and green onion sprinkled on top.
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette: Made with olive oil (about a cup), red balsamic vinegar(about 1/3 cup), 2 cloves minced garlic, garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste and 2 TBL grated parmesan cheese.
Twice Baked Potatoes with a Twist: The twist is a decorative twist of mashed sweet potatoes on top of the mashed white potatoes. The best thing about twice baked potatoes, you do them in advance, all you have to do is the second baking. Which you make sure your second baking is on a cookie pan lined with foil for very easy clean up. To make twice baked potatoes, you bake them first. When their cool enough to handle you cut them in half, scoop out the potato, use the shell of the skin to scoop your potatoes back into. Mash your potatoes, return to skin shells, dot with butter. When ready put them back into the oven at 350º degrees for about 20 – 30 min, finish under the boiler to brown the tops.
Corn & Bean Salad on a Lettuce Cup: Anything served on a lettuce cup looks elegant in my book. Nice thing about this, I did it ahead, had them made ahead on a tray in the fridge, ready to go. Make this as you like it, very user friendly, I used can corn, canned black beans, canned chick peas, cubed fresh tomato, cubed fresh mango, chopped fresh cilantro. Salt & pepper to taste, drizzle with olive oil & white balsamic vinegar.
Homemade Crab Cakes: I buy the premium canned crab when its on sale and have it ready to go for just such an occasion. Crab cakes are not hard to make, made them up ahead of time, just like the twice baked potatoes, had them on a cookie sheet with sides, lined with foil. I made these gluten free, I used some of the gluten free bread (below) and made my own bread crumbs in the blender. I used: lump crab meat, gluten free bread crumbs, enough mayonnaise to make it moist and Old Bay seasoning. With crab cakes, simple is better and NOT dry. Mix altogether, scoop about 2 tablespoons or an ice cream scoop size, roll into balls, coat with bread crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake in oil of your choice, I used coconut oil, in preheated 350º oven for about 20/30 minutes until brown.
Homemade Gluten Free Bread by Jeanne from ART OF GLUTEN-FREE BAKING – I followed Jeanne’s recipe and mixed it together in the bread machine. I had my bread machine out already and my mixer wasn’t, so figured my bread machine was made to do this anyway. I did NOT bake it in the machine, when it was done its mixing, I put it in my bread pan, let it rise, then baked it. It was delish! You can get the recipe here at the Art of Gluten-Free baking and she has the link on the page for using the bread maker if you wish.
Homemade Four-Grain Bread – I got this recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens Best Bread Machine Recipes book and made a change or two. The recipe is below.
My Avocado Almond Joy Pudding (I’ve made this before, but not for these folks, so here’s the recipe Avocado Almond Joy Pudding)
Gluten Peach Blueberry Fruit Crisp (I’ve made this before also, but not for these folks, so here’s the recipe for Peach Blueberry Fruit Crisp)
We have a long granite counter top in our sunroom, perfect for setting dinner up buffet style, which I like to do when I have my table decorated nicely. I do from time to time have a sit down dinner, this time, I decided on a sit down dinner which I plated and served. I plated in the kitchen and my girlfriends helped to serve. This was a first for me to serve this way, but it just seemed right. I did put out extra on the counter for seconds. So, the skies the limit when it comes to entertaining, do it your way, but do it! Make your guests feel special, you’ll be glad you did. Let me know what you do to make your guests feel special.
FOUR-GRAIN BREAD for bread machine 2 pound loaf size
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 2/3 cups water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons gluten flour (I’m assuming this is all purpose flour, that’s what I used)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
Add all ingredients to your bread maker according to the way bread makers instructions tell you to add the ingredients. I’ve had some bread makers that tell you to put the wet in first, the one I have now you put the yeast first then the dry, then the wet. If available select the whole grain cycle, if not select the basic white bread cycle.