Archive for the ‘Fall Entertaining’ Category

Throw a Leftover Party

November 27th 2009

dinnerwareturkey Throw a Leftover PartyChances are no matter where you were yesterday for Thanksgiving, you have leftovers. Even if you didn’t host dinner, you probably had a bag of leftovers packed up and sent with you. Relatives and friends alike love to think they’re helping us out. Especially when they are overwhelmed with leftovers themselves.

You could heat and eat the same old meal. Or you can think of each dish as a single ingredient and create some new dishes in a mini Iron Chef competition with yourself. By creating new dishes you’ll stretch your food budget, and surprise yourself with your creativity.

Have a pizza shell in the fridge or some dough in the freezer? Try making pizza with some of your leftovers. Try bbq turkey with shredded turkey, pre-made bbq sauce, chopped onions and bell pepper. Add some drained, canned pineapple if you’re feeling adventurous. You could also toss some turkey in pesto sauce spread over a crust, top it off with crumbled goat cheese and some leftover cranberry sauce. Make a vegetarian pizza with sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce on a crust covered in a garlic butter sauce.

Pasta is another great option. You could make a left over casserole with whole wheat ziti, turkey, leftover veggies, Use leftover gravy or a mushroom sauce to bind everything together. Toast leftover dressing and crumble over the top.

Turkey lasagna with a sweet potato cream sauce and spinach is another favorite. Or try egg noodles combined with turkey and green bean casserole – add a little milk to loosen it up if needed.

Have some leftover creamed corn? Try mixing it with diced pepperoncini peppers, and some turkey or grilled shrimp. Toss the mixture with angel hair pasta. Creamed corn is also the perfect base for a corn chowder. Just add milk, diced red peppers, cubed potatoes, more frozen corn if needed, and some fresh thyme. It’s my favorite cold weather soup.

If you made the turkey at your house this year, you can use the carcass to make turkey broth. It freezes great. You can put it in quart containers, or freeze in ice cube trays and store in Ziploc bags. It’s great to be able to take out a few cubes of stock at a time. Much better than opening a carton of stock for a few tablespoons worth.

Don’t forget the power of omelets. Any of the mixtures above would work great. Turkey and goat cheese is one of my favorites, but you can use any cheese you have on hand. Omelets are perfect for using up the tiniest leftovers.

Take these ideas and invite some of your friends over for a Thanksgiving leftover party. It just may be the least expensive party you’ve thrown all year!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Occasions & Recipes | No Comments »

Don’t Forget the Centerpiece

November 24th 2009

sm fallcenterpiece Dont Forget the CenterpieceThanksgiving is growing nearer and I’m confident that you have your menu ready. You’ve already arranged to get extra chairs, folding tables, and even silverware if you need it. But have you put any thought into your table centerpiece yet? Don’t get me wrong, the food is the focus of this holiday, but it’s always nice to add a special touch on the table as well.

You can go the traditional route and have some Indian corn cobs, or a basket filled with the season’s beautiful winter squashes. Of course, whatever you pick needs to go with your table linens. You could try a tall rectangle glass vase filled with autumn leaves and pine cones. You could get a square glass vase and fill it with popcorn and a pillar candle. You can even get colored popcorn for a more unusual display. Remember, if you add anything in with a candle; make sure what you add not flammable.

Another vase idea is to find some branches in your own backyard and put them in a large vase. You can add in some flowers as well, to make it a spectacular addition to your family’s meal. Hollow out mini pumpkins or gourds, then add a votive inside. They are delightful candle holders.

Don’t forget about your houseplants. They can go on your favorite Noritake dish surrounded by leaves or mini pumpkins. Use a cake plate to raise it up from the table. Doing this gives any center piece more dimension, and catches the eye more readily. Fresh flowers are always a welcome sight on the table. Try for warm orange colors if you can find them. Also don’t be afraid to get some poinsettias early and use them as well. The white ones are my favorite to have before the Christmas holiday kicks in.

Big trifle bowls of apples, pomegranates, and pears is another dynamic center piece. Plus it’s one you can eat for dessert too! A bowl of citrus can be pretty too, especially when you add in some kumquats and satumas. My favorite functional ‘center piece’ is sliced oranges, limes, and lemons in big glass pitchers of drinking water. It add great flavor and is amazing to look at too.

Try mixing and matching some of the ideas above to create your own master piece. You could create a vase of white roses in a clear vase lined with kumquats. Or add a houseplant into the center of a bowl of Indian corn. Mix dried leaves in with mini pumpkins and pears. The possibilities are truly endless.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Thanksgiving | 1 Comment »

Throw a No Work Dinner Party

November 7th 2009

dinnerware sushi Throw a No Work Dinner PartyWith the holidays right around the corner, time with friends is at a premium. In addition to the typical holiday celebrations, you have to decorate the house, take care of work social obligations, not to mention shopping for the perfect gift for each of your loved ones.

There’s not much time for a proper dinner party so throw a lazy dinner party! No need for excuses about needing to clean your house since you won’t be having people over. You are still the hostess if you organize a dinner out with your friends.

Last year I arranged a dinner for 14 of my friends. Since they included picky eaters, holiday budgeters, and over workers it would not have happened if one of us didn’t take the initiative to go ahead and plan it.

The first thing to consider is how much everyone afford. Any price is fine if you’re treating. If not, always use the person on the tightest budget as your price gauge. You want everyone to be happy about dinner out, not worrying about giving something up to be there. The most important thing is to get everyone together. It doesn’t need to be at the fanciest restaurant in town.

The next thing on the list is making sure everyone can find something to eat at the place you pick. You need to think about the people who won’t eat fish, the ones who won’t eat veggies, and the vegetarians. It’s not hard to find a place that gives everyone has a few choices. Make a special effort for anyone who has food allergies. More places are offering dairy free and gluten free dishes on their menus. Call in advance with your reservation and most places will even make a special vegan dish without a fuss. The key is doing this in advance, if you wait until you are at the table it’s too late.

Choose a date, or range of dates to choose from, then send a mass email out to friends. Another great way to organize any event is through Through you can even let your guests suggest dates and times. You can ask for suggestions for places as well. But be prepared for a range from no answers to too many choices to get a group consensus on.

To keep within a budget see if there are any early bird special at your favorite places. This works especially well if you want to go to a fancier restaurant. At my fav place we get a 3 course meal for 30.00, normally that’s what an entree goes for. You can also look at You purchases a discount coupon through their website. They send out many codes for even more off  at the end of the month, so that’s the best time to score a great coupon. You can only use one per party, even if you sit at different tables.

Everyone will appreciate getting a dinner discount off the top. And you’ll have a great dinner party with no washing up!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Plan a Relaxing Day with Friends

November 2nd 2009

dinnerware fallpath1 Plan a Relaxing Day with Friends

As you’re taking down your Halloween decorations and preparing for the winter holidays, take a day out to have some relaxing time with friends. One of my favorite things to do is have a bunch of people meet at my house to go on a walk. It’s nice to slow down the pace and go outside to take in the beauty of the season.

Make sure to dress for the weather, and tell everyone to wear comfy shoes. If you aren’t near trees or nature, plan a road trip to find some. This time of the year is perfect for catching the last of the fall leaves in all their beautiful color. Enjoying a cool afternoon breeze, and perhaps the chance to pull out your favorite wool scarf, are great reasons to get outside. If it’s very cold, plan a short walk. Or make everyone steaming hot coffee in insulated cups to take along with them. You can enjoy the season and your friends even on a simple walk around the block.

If you have a backyard, you could use your fire pit to make a nice warm place to hang out there. Or if the weather really gets tough you can light a fire in the fireplace and enjoy your friends inside. Just remember to not stress out about the details, this is a day for everyone to kick back.

Make a few things ahead of time and you won’t have to disappear into the kitchen. You can actually relax at your own relaxing weekend party! In the morning, before your guests arrive, heat up a big crockpot of chili. You can use your favorite recipe, or make this easy sweet potato black bean chili from scratch. You’ll have to put the beans on the night before, but after that it takes almost no work.

Go ahead and fill up a few small bowls with garnishes. Then you can just pull them out of the fridge when you get back from your walk. Use sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, jalapenos, minced cilantro, black olives, and a few different kinds of salsas. Set up bowls and soup spoons by the crockpot before you leave for the walk. It’s just one less thing for you to think about when you get home.

In another slow cooker make a nice hot drink for your friends. A hot toddy is always nice, or give  hot buttered rum a try. If you have kids involved, or just want to have an alcohol-free day make up some hot chocolate.

It’s always a treat to spend some downtime with the people you care about. After a beautiful, relaxing walk with your friends, sit down to a simple meal. You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to appreciate everything in your life.

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Hostessing | No Comments »

What If It Rains on Halloween?

October 28th 2009

dinnerware toddlerpumpkin What If It Rains on Halloween?I don’t know about where you live, but surely it will be raining somewhere Halloween night. You may be the home that entertains all the ghostly kiddies before they go trick or treating. If it rains – are you prepared? The same goes for a snow storm. This year some of the cities in the far north have already had their first snow.

If you are already planning a party, you’ll have a house full of kids already. If not, you could call other parents on your block and have an impromptu one. That way everyone can enjoy Halloween, even if they can’t go door to door due to bad weather. Make sure to make a few alternative plans, just in case. That way no one will spend the night disappointed.

If it’s just lightly raining (or snowing), you can still go out. Ask each parent to bring an umbrella for their child. You could also keep a stash of dollar store ones, for this and future group outings in the rain. I promise you will use them again in the spring. Small children love to carry their own umbrella – especially while they jump into puddles! Of course, you need to gauge the ages of the kids at the party. If they are too young to carry their own, a parent will need to carry it for them.

An unexpected solution is to create candy stations in most of the rooms. Each one hosted by an adult, who will make sure no one’s getting more than their share. This works great if you’re having all the families on the block over. It helps if you have some decorations for each of the rooms you use, and you can ask each parent to bring some to the party. Also adults in costumes make it seem more like ‘real’ trick or treating. This idea would work very well with young children. After they have gone to all of the houses (rooms), they can sit down and trade candy just as if they had gone out. A bonus is that they are not soaked to bone or cold from the elements.

Maybe you don’t have the space or the adult help to pull off indoor trick or treating. Make up some party goodie bags ahead of time. Put in age appropriate toys, cards, even wax vampire teeth if you can find them. You can always have the parents to check the bags ahead of time, to make sure they are ok with everything in the bag.

Have a costume fashion show. It’s less pressure on everyone than a contest. Plus everyone gets to show off all their hard work. Have each kid (and adult) get into character as much as they can. Everyone will be laughing before you know it.

This would also be a great time to make up a batch of sugar cookies. The kids can help cut them out with Halloween cookie cutters, and then decorate them with different colored icings. Anytime of the year cookies are a big hit.

You could turn down the lights, sit around the fireplace, and tell scary stories. Even roast marshmallows and make smores, if you have a wood burning fireplace. Make sure the stories are not too scary for your age group. Plan an alternative activity for kids who don’t want to participate. You could set up a coloring station with copies of pumpkins and the children can create their own jack-o-lanterns with crayons.

If the kids are still ready for more after you’ve done all that, games are the next step.

Here are a few links to sites that have tons of ideas:

I hope your Halloween skies are clear and lit bright with moonlight.

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Halloween & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing | No Comments »

Halloween Dinner All Grown Up

October 25th 2009

dinnerware spider4 Halloween Dinner All Grown UpI had my big Halloween extravaganza last night, the annual Gothic dinner party. I invited 12 people for a total of 13 including me – a perfect number for Halloween. Everyone comes dressed in black, and a few guests add makeup and accessories to create a costume as well. The table was covered with a black table cloth that was accented with small gold one to cover the center of the table. The only lights in the room were witch hat string lights and candles everywhere (especially the dinner table). The lightning machines behind the graveyard scene covering the windows looked like a spooky storm, complete with thunder sounds. Like I’ve said before, setting the scene is one of the most important parts of a successful Halloween party.

I love the new rolls of Halloween scenery you can buy this year. Various scenes that are 4 feet tall and the rolls have 50 yards of it. I covered one entire wall with a spooky forest theme at the top with a graveyard scene below. It’s an amazing effect, since it’s on one of the biggest walls in the room.

Over the front windows I have scary ghosts panels and when the lights are on inside, you see the ghosts and tombstones glow outside. It’s a great effect inside and out. I found some spider web lace panels at a fabric store and used that as sheers for the remaining windows. Add as many jack-o-lanterns as there are surfaces, a raven with blinking red eyes, and obligatory skeleton and you’ve created your own haunted house.

On the table I used regular dinner plates as base plates, water glasses, wine glasses, and a full set of silver for the evening. It’s important to have as much done ahead of time as possible. Each guest brings a dish and I have a multitude of slow cookers ready to keep each course warm until we’re ready to serve it. This year I broke my cardinal rule of starting off any dinner party with an empty dishwasher. Don’t make my mistake. It’s a beautiful thing to fill up your dishwasher as you clear each course. It makes end of the evening clean up a breeze.

Black and grey is a great color scheme to theme your Halloween table. Check out the Noritake Black Pepper or Stone Charcoal patterns. If you’re looking for some cool dishes for your Halloween party it’s a perfect place to start.

Here’s my Halloween dinner menu:

  • A shot of pomegranate liquor to start out the meal in an ice skull

  • Tossed mixed greens with an orange vinaigrette decorated with berry ‘eyes’

  • Spicy tomato soup garnished with radish-olive eyes

  • Dead Man’s Ribs and Veggie Loaf Coffins

  • Whole Cauliflower cooked in a tomato olive sauce as a bloody brain

  • Spooktacular Mashed Potatoes – I left out the eggs, used coconut milk and earth balance to make it vegan

  • Gluten Free Corn Muffin Bats and Ghosts

  • Gluten Free Brownies

  • Meringue Bones stuffed with raspberry jam

  • Vegan Apple Crumb Pie

  • a liberal amount of a sparkling Sauvignon blanc and Devils punch

I hope that my party menu inspires you to have your own Halloween soirée this week.

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Halloween & Holiday Entertaining & Party Food & Table Setting | 1 Comment »

Halloween Dinner Ideas

October 13th 2009

dinnerware pumpkinsoup Halloween Dinner IdeasYou can go with any theme for your Halloween dinner party, but it just won’t be complete without a few dishes to remind you of the holiday. From mummy hot dogs for a kids party to ribs served on a platter with a carving knife stabbed into a fake heart – they all create an atmosphere your guests won’t soon forget.

I throw a fancy Gothic dinner party. I have my guests dress up in all black or a dressy costume. Each guest chooses a dish to bring from a list of recipes. I make sure there are recipes that everyone can make.

You can create a buffet using ordinary crockpots to keep the food warm, and allow for people to arrive at different times. I do a big sit down dinner with multiple courses. Of course, you have to count on your guests a little more, but the results really shine.

It takes some planning to have each course ready when you want it. After all, you want to be in the party not in the kitchen all night! If you want to do a little bite (amuse bouche) to start your meal, try something cold that you can have plated up in the fridge. Do the same with your salad course, plate it up, and put dressing in the serving bottle you want to use.

Keep your soup hot in a crockpot and ladle out in small bowls you set up nearby the minute you want to serve it. Have your main course cooked ahead of time, and you can pop it in the oven to warm up as you eat the soup or salad. If you have a room temp dessert plate it up and cover with a dish towel until you are ready. Or if it’s a chilled dessert, try and prepare it in individual serving dishes to speed up your time in the kitchen.

Make sure you have enough plates to serve on ready ahead of time in the kitchen. Nothing will slow you down more than stopping to wash dishes for your next course. Pick up a few thermal carafes, and make your coffee and tea while you are heating your main course. It’ll be hot and ready to serve when bring out the dessert. Also have sugar and creamers ready to make coffee service a breeze.

I set my table so that all the silver for the night is already in place. Set a water glass, wine glass, and coffee cup just like a restaurant would do and you’ll have less to haul from the kitchen. Make sure your dishwasher is clean and empty before the party starts, then you can put your dirty dishes straight in for an easier cleanup.

Have I got you thinking about your Halloween dinner? There are a ton of  ‘clipped’  Halloween recipes saved in the Halloween recipe notebook on Evernote. Happy party planning!

Posted by Myriam under Fall Entertaining & Halloween & Party Food & Recipes & Table Setting | No Comments »

Halloween Drink Ideas

October 10th 2009

dinnerware drinks Halloween Drink IdeasIt’s fun to have a Halloween dinner party – for kids or adults. Both kinds of parties need some spooky drinks and here are a few ideas that can work for either.

For kid’s parties a traditional sherbet punch can be made creepy by using orange or lime sherbet. Add some ice hands and face in to scare the older ones. Make the ice using a mask and latex gloves as the ‘ice trays’. It’s a little more involved, but check out Martha Stewart’s great how-to here. She uses green food coloring in hers, but depending on what you put in your punch bowl clear ice would be fine too.

You can create a foggy punch by having an outer bowl that has dry ice in it and then placing a second metal bowl inside to actually hold the punch. Don’t use glass though – it could crack from the dry ice.

We covered pumpkin carving last week, but there’s more to pumpkins than traditional jack-o-lanterns. To make a spectacular punch bowl centerpiece use a large pumpkin. You can make it a plain straight line on the top. Just cut off the top part of the pumpkin and scoop out the insides. Or you can get fancy and carve a more intricate pattern at the top of your bowl, something lacy or reminiscent of a chandelier. Place a bowl inside to hold your punch.

You can use ‘ice cube eyeballs’ to decorate a clear glass of soda, or a spooky gin and tonic. Peel small radishes while leaving a few thin strips of red for the bloodshot veins in the eyes, then cut a hole to insert a halved olive stuffed with pimento. Place these in ice cube trays and fill with water. They will be a gruesome addition to any drink.

Not sure what drinks are witchy enough for your party? Here are a few links to get your imagination started:

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Fall Entertaining & Halloween | No Comments »

Make Some Halloween Trees

October 5th 2009

dinnerware scary tree xsmall Make Some Halloween TreesWhen you think of a spooky setting, one scene that may come to mind is a forest – a haunted forest of course.

The most inexpensive way to set up a haunted forest at your house can be found in your own backyard. If you don’t have any trees in your yard, you can ask a neighbor to help you out, or even buy some fake branches at a craft store.

First, think of how you want to display your Halloween tree(s). In a vase as the table centerpiece you would want a smaller, more narrow branch. But for a large front porch display, you could use branches as large as small trees.

Look for branches that are not rotted or crumbly. We want them to hold together through our crafting, and the bewitching night as well. You want to get some spray paint. I’d recommend black for a traditional look, but you could be bold and use glow in the dark paint. I’m thinking of making a few small ones to line my walk and paint them with the glow in the dark paint for a creepily ‘lit’ pathway. Feel free to match them with any Halloween party theme you may have chosen. Red, silver, green, and purple are also good Halloween paint choices. Not to mention you can glue glitter on them for a glam look as well.

I like to keep my trees simple. Painted black and showcased in a tall, clear vase filled with Halloween trinkets, or in a large fake stone planter stuck right into the dirt. I try to select branches that look more like little trees, with quite a few limbs to hang things from.

Go through your trunk of decorations from Halloweens past, and see what would look stylish on your tree. You will want to add a string or twisty tie to secure them. This is especially important if you plan on having the tree outside, where wind and rain could be an issue.

Part of the fun is decorating your own ornaments. You can use shrinky dinks, glass ornaments, even cutouts to decorate to your party theme. Any craft that you love can be used. I love the felted ornaments that I’ve seen. Just remember to only use weather resistant ones outside. You can dip glass ornaments into a solution of alcohol inks and water to create a ghoulish swirl. Take a look at this tutorial on the Ranger Ink site.

You’ll have a bewitching time making your own decorations. It’s also an opportunity for a tree making party, so invite a few friends over and let them enjoy the fun too.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Fall Entertaining & Halloween | No Comments »

Decorate with Pumpkins

October 3rd 2009

dinnerware pumpkins082607  5 2 Decorate with Pumpkins

Fall brings the pumpkin harvest and the opportunity to carve them. There’s nothing like a jack-o-lantern to get everyone in the Halloween spirit. Bright orange, haunting white, even spooky blue varieties all liven up your house – inside or out.

Depending on the area of the country that you live in, or the temperatures this year, you need to carefully time when to carve your pumpkin. Having smelly, moldy pumpkins all over you porch is not the kind of creepy you’re going for. If it’s a long Indian summer where you are, carve your pumpkins no sooner than a week before Halloween.

Funkins are also popular now. They are carvable fake pumpkins. You can get these at any craft store. You can carve them, paint them, decorate them any way you would a regular pumpkin. The best part is you can save and use them many years to come. If you have a little one you can create a collection of their jack-o-lanterns as they grow up.

Nervous that your pumpkin won’t turn out the way you have it pictured in your head? You don’t have to be an amazing artist to carve a detailed pumpkin. Templates make intricate designs easy for all of us. I was surprised at how my first pumpkin carving party went once I brought out some templates for everyone to use. Even the people that had never made one before felt comfortable. And made really amazing ones.

A few sites get free pumpkin carving templates:

Feel like it’s too much trouble and mess to carve? Don’t underestimate the effect of whole pumpkins. Buy in different sizes and in exotic colors like white, blueish-grey and anything else you can get in your area. Your local farmer’s market or Whole Foods store should provide you a wide selection, including heirloom varieties. You can cluster them on the porch and line your walk with them. You can even stack them on top of each other if you can find some with flatter tops and bottoms.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Fall Entertaining | No Comments »

Next »