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Giving a party that keeps on giving

Posted Feb 22 2014 6:14pm
Falafels and tahini sauce from Dreena Burton

So. Do you cook too much food when company is coming? Do you always make way too much and end up eating leftovers all week? I do. There was only one instance that I can remember when I failed to make too much — or even enough, and I never let it happen again. It was awful. It happened when my first child was about a year old, and I had invited someone from our play group for dinner. At that time, whenever I took my baby to someone's house for dinner, I usually fed him at home, and brought some finger foods for him to eat rather than depending on our hosts to provide something he would like. He was used to eating much earlier than the typical starting times for company dinners. I didn't know that many people with babies so I was just learning the ropes. We hadn't had a lot of babies come to dinner at our house, but up until this point, everyone had done what I usually did.

Chocolate chip cake — my prettiest one yet.

We were vegetarians at the time, and for this particular dinner I was serving zucchini-crusted pizza from Moosewood Cookbook. I'll never forget this. I had considered making a double recipe, but decided that I should just calm down and make a normal amount of food for once. The recipe served four to six, and with four adults, and two babies who I assumed wouldn't be eating, there should be plenty. I probably didn't have an extra pan at the time anyway. As the pizza was finishing baking, our guest baby started getting a bit cranky, and her mom said she was probably hungry since it was way past her usual dinner time. Uh oh. When the pizza was done, the mom cut off a generous piece and gave it to the babe, who scarfed it down in a flash. Then the mom cut off another huge chunk and handed it over, explaining that her child was a voracious eater. More than 1/4 of the pizza was gone, and dinner hadn't even officially started. I called my husband into the kitchen (sitcom style) and told him that he and I would be eating very little for dinner that night, and he could not take seconds of anything. The rest of the evening is gone from my memory, but the zucchini-crusted pizza incident will be with me forever as a warning to always have more than enough food for guests ... including babies.

Harira from Isa Does It — a personal favorite

Last weekend we hosted a dinner for 12 adults and two children, and trust me, there was enough food. In fact, I just finished the last of it yesterday — not counting the brownies and cookies that are still in the freezer. Of course I was worried that there wouldn't be enough, but as usual, there was.

I may have over-baked these a little, but they were (are) still delicious.

As I've mentioned before, I try to keep events like this 'simple' so I don't get stressed out, and I cook ahead when possible. The menu included: appetizers of hummus and tapenade (both brought by a guest), and spinach artichoke dip (from Glue and Glitter) with crackers, chips, carrot and celery sticks. The main menu included stuffed grape leaves (store-bought), falafels with tahini sauce (from Dreena Burton), roasted carrots and potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower, green salad, quinoa cooked with broth, harira soup , lentil soup, and mini pitas. And the desserts were chocolate chip cake , gluten-free brownies (from Oh She Glows) , chewy ginger cookies and fruit salad (brought by a guest).

I made the cookies two days ahead, and put them into the freezer. The brownies were made the night before, and left uncovered overnight as suggested by Angela from Oh She Glows. (I made the gluten-free version, by the way, and if you need a great GF brownie recipe, this is it! The brownies freeze perfectly, too, and can be eaten right from the freezer. I should know.) The falafel mix and the harira (except for the noodles) were also made the day before the party.

All that was left of the 'taters and carrots when I remembered to snap a photo

Everything else was made the day of, and it was pretty easy to cut veggies for roasting, steam quinoa, throw salad into a bowl, toss stuffed grape leaves onto a platter. Heating the harira and adding noodles was simple, and making lentil soup with carrots and then puréeing it to creamy lusciousness in the Vitamix was no problem. The only part requiring effort was cooking the falafels at the last minute, and it wasn't so bad.

Leftover lentil soup jazzed up with aleppo pepper, scallions, coconut bacon, etc.

Why did I make two soups and two veggies and multiple desserts? There's that thing about wanting to be sure there was enough food, but also I had a group of diners with very diverse tastes, and I wanted to be sure to have foods that everyone would find appealing. I know that I present challenges to dinner hosts, and am very grateful when they accommodate me. I like to be sensitive to my guests, and make sure that when they come to my house, they have what they need. I always cook vegan food, but within that parameter, I try to make my guests feel welcome and happy. I plan for everyone!

Leftovers for dinner.

There was enough food at the party. (hahah) In fact, there was enough for lots of leftovers the whole week. Some of the leftovers were eaten as is, and others were used as part of new combinations, like a quinoa bowl with steamed broccoli, crisp falafels and tahini sauce. The lentil soup, kept simple and plain for the party, got spiced up. I love giving a party that keeps on giving. Don't you?
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