Last weekend was my first time ever hosting (& cooking) a dinner party in my own home, all on my own. My mom and I always cook together – and hosting is one of our favorite things!- but she’s always there to put out any fires I cause and save the day! Taking what I’ve learned from her (the expert!) and doing it all on my own was equal parts nerve-wracking and exhilarating.
To start the night off, I filled my kitchen table with appetizers. A three-cheese board with crackers, olives and mixed nuts, a bowl of grapes and strawberries, and a plate of spanikopita. A great cheese board must have a variety of cheeses, each bringing a different flavor to the party! I always choose a Smoked Gouda (I like the ones dipped in red wax to add color to the board). I also like a spiced Havarti- like Dill or Caraway. Havarti is sweeter and more mild, but has a really smooth flavor. For this event, I also chose Boar’s Head Canadian Cheddar (Griffen’s current favorite!). It’s a good idea to have a “safe” cheese (like cheddar) that you know everyone will enjoy and be familiar with.
Griffen’s parents, grandfather, two siblings and their wives and two children all came for dinner. When you include us, that’s cooking for eleven people! I took my mom’s advice to “stick to what you know” and decided to make homemade spaghetti for the main dish, using The Midwest Skinny Meat Marinara Sauce (with organic spaghetti noodles, and gluten free rice noodles for some with allergies). I knew I would easily be able to double the recipe to feed everyone, and it could cook all day without me having to worry about it.
I also baked Chicken Fingers and made some homemade Mac-n-Cheese (Pasta shells with milk, butter, salt, pepper and Velveeta) for the little ones!
Along with the Spaghetti, I served homemade Rosemary Focaccia Bread with Boursin Cheese. Homemade bread can be intimidating! It’s one of the least fail-proof things to make. The amount of flour needed can change from any given day based on how humid the house is, how warm your water was, etc. After years of studying my mom make bread, she has taught me how to tell when the dough needs more/less flour, when it’s risen enough to bake, and how to have patience in letting it rise!
Praise the Lord, last weekend this turned out just perfectly. What makes the bread out of this world is the cheese. It’s honestly to die for. Once we run out of bread you’ll find me sitting the kitchen dipping anything from broccoli to tortilla chips in it. Not even ashamed!
I also made a large Vegetable Salad with romaine, arugula, tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, avocado, toasted almonds and ramen noodles, red onion and purple cabbage tossed in my homemade vinaigrette (that I am still perfecting. Once it’s ready, I’ll be sure to post it). It’s nice to have some type of vegetable with pasta, but rather than something hot (like steamed asparagus or broccolini) I wanted to something chilled to compliment the warm Spaghetti and bread.
For dessert I made Almond Joy Cookies with vanilla ice cream. Now, not everyone is a coconut fan (especially my husband!), but even he devours these cookies! The coconut gives them moisture and crisp all at the same time.
I made the cookie dough the night before, formed into loose balls and kept in the refrigerator until after everyone was nearly finished eating dinner. I wanted them to be fresh out of the oven for dessert!
Dessert time with Uncle Griff!
The calm before the chaos. But I have to admit, I love the chaos! A house full of family, reminiscing on old stories, laughing and chasing around the kids.. Couldn’t ask for anything more!
Griffen was such a big help! The perfect (& honest) taste-tester, a Swiffer Jet master, quick to jump in the car and race to Kroger for my forgotten items, and the reason so much of the cookie dough was gone. I love you!
Get all of my dinner-hosting recipes here:
Salad Dressing (to come!)