I am way behind on blogging but I have a ton of things in the can- a trip to Door County, a trip to Michigan, and of course the typical shenanigans that occur in my kitchen- but lets start here. A little while back the hubby and I hopped on a Metra that was on its way to Ravinia to see Lord of the Rings on the big screen accompanied by live orchestra and choir. In a word? Awesome.
Yesterday afternoon I was treated to a wonderful birthday lunch hosted by my friends Andrew and Michael that featured some amazing food. Somehow they managed to fantastically arrange courses that included all my favorite types of cuisine- Middle Eastern, Italian, and French (I think a little hubby bird told them)
Here was the menu:
I came across a recipe over at Peas and Thank you for a sauce that tastes delicious on just about anything from roasted vegetables to tofu. It’s a vegan recipe but I changed it up a bit and added cheese.
Ally’s Yum Sauce
adapted from Peas and Thank You
1 tablespoon EVOO
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 water (or more for a less thick sauce)
1 can organic chickpeas
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for vegan version)
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (or fresh lemon juice)
1 large clove garlic
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all ingredients except EVOO in food processor. While food processor is running, drizzle in EVOO.
This sauce is delicious! You can use it for a ton of things like salad dressing or smear it on a Fourth of July burger for a kick. It shares a consistency and taste similar to hummus. You could also use it as a dip!
This sauce is so good that it made my cat insane (I’m talking opening a can of tuna level of insanity) which is odd because it contains no meat and very little cheese. I’ve never had a cat chase me around the house for my salad. Apparently, it crosses carnivore lines in its deliciousness or my cat is just insane.
This weekend was the 30th birthday of someone very dear to me, my best friend Andrew.
Drew and I have been the best of friends since our freshman year at DePaul University. He has been a constant source of support and encouragement for me over this last crazy decade and he is someone I can always count on for a smile and a song which he usually has for just about everything.
Yup, this guy:
So, I was more than happy to host a party at our place to celebrate the milestone of turning 30. Drew requested a middle eastern menu and I got to work Saturday morning after getting my house together after work Friday night.
Let’s do this!
The Menu (for about 20 people)
Beef, Chicken, Veggie kabobs
Bulgur wheat salad
Mixed green salad
Spinach and feta pastries
Iced Mint Tea
Grapes and feta cheese cubes
I jazzed up my table with a vibrant tablecloth, candles from World Market, and a floral arrangement. It was my intent for this to be an outdoor party after a lot of work in the garden but the weather had other plans.
I picked up the hummus, baba, and pita from the Pita Inn Market because let’s be honest, making homemade pita for 20+ people is insane. The orangey/red stuff is Muhammara, a Syrian spread, that is a lot like olive tapenade but made with roasted red peppers. It was really tasty and I will probably make it again for gatherings. Recipe from Bon Appetitt via Epicurious.
Beef and chicken kabobs with yogurt marinade were the main course. It was just my luck that the propane ran out on our grill right before guests arrived so I grilled them on my cast iron grill and finished them in the broiler.
1 cup plain yogurt
1 chopped medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
Red wine vinegar
Red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients with meat and let marinade for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
Spinach and feta puff pastries. I sautéed some organic baby spinach and a couple of cloves of garlic, added some crumbled feta and placed a spoonful of the mixture into a square of puff pastry. General rule: pretty much anything tastes good wrapped in puff pastry.
Flowers for the birthday boy and hostess. Thanks George! 🙂
There was a lot of chatting, mingling, and munching as people joined the party.
I was worried that we might run low on wine but I walked into the kitchen and saw the variety of wines our guests brought.
And finally Mike came home from the theatre…
…and the showtune books came out.
Ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery.
Happy Birthday Drew! Welcome to the club, I no longer feel so old 😉
Speaking of birthdays, I’m looking forward to my 29th birthday in August 😉
This was my first year hosting Easter and I was definitely feeling up to the task. I was excited that so many people we invited RSVP’d that they were be joining our festivities. We had never had this many people in the house at one time (around 20!??) but what the heck. Bring on the ham!
I picked up this almost 9lb ham at Sam’s club for about $18. It was incredibly tasty and an economical choice for a big crowd. It comes fully cooked and you can serve it cold but I prefer it warm. Heat it up for about 10 minutes per pound in the oven. It came with a glaze packet that I used as well.
In addition to the ham, I roasted this big hunk of lamb. I picked this up on sale a little while ago and immediately put it in the deep freeze. I knew I would use it for something…
For them lamb, I made a simple marinade in the food processor of several garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, a couple tablespoons of softened butter, and salt and pepper. Smear all over the lamb and place in the oven for about 1.5 hours.
To go with all this meat, I roasted some fingerling potatoes. For a crowd this size, I checked out Sam’s club and picked up this 5 lb bag. I cut them in half, added some EVOO and salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees until they are tender (about 45 minutes).
Of course, it isn’t Easter without deviled eggs. I used this recipe from Cooking Light. I really liked the addition of smoked salmon and a little sprig of dill made them look pretty.
I picked up this pasta recipe from Ina Garten. It was easy to make, tasty, and served at room temperature, something to take into consideration for a buffet. I also liked that it made use of seasonal items, like peas.
Mixed green salad with tomato, red onion, gorgonzola, lemon vinaigrette.
In the crock pot, I made some meat balls using O’Mara grass-fed beef. I mixed up the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs, garlic salt, peppers, and an egg and baked them in the oven. Then I placed them in the crock pot on low with a jar of Heinz chili sauce.
Our guests brought some pretty tasty items, too!
Desserts were abundant as well, brownies, cookies, Peep vs. Dinosaurs Easter cake…
And, these adorable little nests brought by our friends John and Ryan.
In an effort to conserve space, I set up this drink table. I used a narrow, shaky table from the basement and covered it with an inexpensive flat sheet from Walmart.
Fresh flowers add a lot. I set out several small arrangements of colorful flowers rather than a large dramatic centerpiece to get the most bang for my buck. These poms were $5 dollars from Sam’s and I picked up a couple bunches of daffodils for $2 a piece, placed in vases from the dollar store. The tablecloth was $5 at TJ Maxx. It was colorful and water resistant (perfect for clean ups). Candles from World Market.
Cooking for this many people is a lot of work and takes a great deal of planning but it was a wonderful day filled with friends and we had a blast. Looking forward to next year!