Tag Archives: dinner party

VeganVille: The Holiday Blues

I love winter and all its holidays: Three Kings’ Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, you name it (and please do, the more I learn about, the more I can party). Everything is all warm and sparkly and if you knew me you would know I’m nothing if not a giant, crumpled ball of tinfoil, at least emotionally. I can relate to winter holidays.

What I don’t love, however, is that all holiday parties seem to revolve around mother lodes of meat. And I hate to admit it, but even though I’ve been vegan since well before Al Gore invented the internet, there have been times when I have caved and brought meat, at the host’s request, to some shindig or other. As you no doubt can guess, that always turns out badly in the end.

Most recently, for example, I had a boss that I shall call Mistress Congeniality for the purposes of this reminiscence. She asked us, her minions, to attend an optional (not-optional) holiday party/team-building at her house. She said she would provide the vegetable sides and desserts, and assigned the other necessary items to the rest of the celebrants. I was asked to bring a tray of tendons, or at least that’s what I heard her say.

Trusting, gentle tenderfoot that I am, as I roamed the supermarket on the way to the fete, not having eaten all day, I ignored the delicious displays of olives, loaves of artisan bread, freshly-cut trays of crudité, and pint after pint of non-dairy frozen desserts with names like Caramel Calorie Cowabunga and Buttbusting Brownie Deliciousness.

She was providing non-meat food, she said, and, so I bought only what the Minister of Toil told me to bring: something that used to have a face. So after considering the possibilities that were available that wouldn’t gross me out excessively, or involve me having to do any touching or preparation, I grabbed the first grizzled, oil-soaked lump I came across:  something aging in the rotisserie. I’m guessing it was a chicken, but the chickens I know have beautiful feathers. Still attached. Along with their heads.

Anyway, I remember thinking sarcastically as I entered the Bastille that evening that I could always eat my freshly manicured nails if there was nothing else—they were glittery, silver and matched my tiara perfectly.

So when I put my contribution of crud next to everyone else’s unrecognizable piles and lumps, I became mildly alarmed when a quick scan revealed…no crackers, no spreads, no vegetables, no sides, no dessert..WAIT!  I spoke too soon—at the end of the counter was three small dishes that weren’t loaded with ground Buzzard or minced bandicoot: a miniature plate of gherkins, a small bowl of chow chow and a plate of onion and tomato slices. I’d been HAD!

Wow. Not only did Santa NOT give me a present that year, he used my life as a reindeer rest stop and didn’t bother to clean up after the rascals. At least my fingernails were delicious.  And let me reinforce that you don’t team-build very well on an empty stomach.

Happy Merry!

 

Written by Ginger Rail*

 

(*Ginger Rail is the pen name of our favorite vegan writer in Southwest Virginia. She spends her spare time entertaining her friends and family with her hilarious adventures–and now she’s sharing them with us!)

Staycations!: An End-of-Season Home Vacation

RECIPE DEVELOPMENT, FOOD STYLING, PHOTOGRAPHY, and ARTICLE BY LIZ BUSHONG

Pack your bags, it’s time for the best end-of-season vacation you have ever had and you don’t have to leave home to take it!   Vacations don’t have to end just because a season ends, take a relaxing and enjoyable vacation at-home or in your hometown anytime you want.

A true staycation is more than just a week or weekend at home; it is a planned intentional time of events for relaxation and fun for your entire family.

Here are a few planning tips for a successful Staycation:

1. Brief-your-case for having a vacation at home by including your family with the planning process.  See Step 4.

2.  Decide what kind of vacation you want to take. Gather brochures just like you would when you plan a travel destination.

3.  Create a budget for activities and food.  Plan your menu for the week and make-ahead a few meals related to your themed vacation.  No one really wants to cook while on vacation, unless it is a culinary destination.

4. Inspire the family with the staycation idea and plan a “staycation idea” dinner party/meeting.  Good food always brings people together and a pretty tablescape will reinforce the excitement that a  home vacation could be fun.

5. Clean your house before you begin your staycation. Get caught up on laundry, dishes, and the everyday duties that can be stressful.  Place special scents and music in your home that reflect the type of vacation you are taking.  Select special guest room items in each bedroom to mimic a bed and breakfast vacation.  Set up and stock a beverage center with your family’s favorite snacks or snacks that you would have on a travel destination.  Set up a continental breakfast buffet for each day of your vacation.

6. Unplug for a day!  Develop a plan that the entire family will unplug all technical devices including cell phones, computers, pads, and even watches during this vacation week.  Make it a game and give a prize at the end of the week to the family member who stayed true to the technical shut down.  Select a prize that excites everyone and announce the no –tech challenge at the beginning of the vacation week or during your family planning meeting.

7.  Maybe your staycation is an outdoor adventure, plan for day trips to zip lines, white water rafting or hiking the mountain trails.  Other ideas for a staycation include: Spa day or week, a culinary international tour , Hawaiian or Caribbean cruise with different ports of call or create a DIY room, you get the idea.

Here is one Staycation Dinner Party-meeting inspiration to get you started:

mini suitcaase-www.lizbushong.comYour planning meeting could be a trip to a tropical beach.   Begin with a suitcase as the centerpiece.  A backyard profusion of blooms-hydrangeas, pink geraniums and verbena- overflows the open suitcase centerpiece.  Simply line the vintage suitcase with plastic then add a water- filled rectangular dish to hold the fresh cut flowers and potted plants in place.  Plank the sides of the suitcase with tropical photos or scrapbooks.

Bright and bold colorful placemats serve as a runner for the center of the table. At each place setting create mini suitcase favors that are made from cardstock.  Cover the suitcase with cute stickers and fill boxes with candies or surprises for each family member.  See mini suitcase how to at www.lizbushong.com.

A quick and easy healthy menu includes make-a-head black bean burgers, sweet potato fries and a peachy apricot parfait for dessert.  Your family will be surprised and excited about taking a home vacation.  Remember, planning is key, we don’t want this satiation to be all on mom and dad’s shoulders, this is a family affair.  Make this staycation fun and a time for reconnecting with the family.

Peach Parfait www.lizbushong.comPeach-Apricot Cream Parfait       www.lizbushong.com 

1 -12 oz. ounce can apricot nectar
1-3oz. package lemon flavored gelatin
2 -16 oz cans unsweetened apricot halves and peach halves, drained
1-8oz package sour cream
Whipped cream and mint springs to garnish if desired

In small saucepan, bring to boil 1 cup apricot nectar. Remove from heat.
Add lemon gelatin, stir until dissolved, stir in remaining cold apricot nectar. Set aside.
Place peaches and apricots in electric blender, process until smooth. Divide mixture.
Add sour cream to one part of divided fruit mixture.  Process to blend.
Pipe or pour fruit mixture into decorative parfait or serving dishes. Garnish with whipped cream/mint sprig.

Yield:   8 parfaits

Bean Burger recipe www.lizbushong.comSpicy Black Bean Burgers      www.lizbushong.com

2 cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs
¼ cup slivered green onions
¼ cup diced celery
¼ teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon each paprika, red pepper, cumin, oregano, parsley, dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon grated lime peel
2 teaspoons lime olive oil
Olive oil and butter for cooking

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Pat mixture into a 4 x 6 inch rectangle and score into 3- 2-inch sections making 6 burgers.  Shape into 6 patties.
Heat skillet with 1- teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter.  Fry burgers until browned 3 minutes on each side.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight before cooking.

Yield:  6- 2” burgers

For a seasoned potato buns recipe, visit www.lizbushong.com!

Helping you Make a Statement, Make is Sassy and Make it Yours! ® 

See staycation ideas http://www.livingwellspendingless.com

Liz Circle 2013 smallLiz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. For the past several years Liz been entrusted to decorate the White House for several Holidays. She is a featured monthly guest chef/designer on Daytime Tri-cities, Daytime Blue Ridge and other television shows. Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook as well as a contributing writer for VIP SEEN and Bella Magazine.  For more information about Liz go to www.lizbushong.com/www.serveitupsassy.com 

Make Thanksgiving Easier

bellaweb1With the parades, football games and plenty of food, Thanksgiving is usually enjoyed by all. But what if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner and welcoming friends and family into your home? Thanksgiving can all of a sudden become very stressful and overwhelming.
Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, says focus on the five Ps:  Prior planning prevents poor performance. 
Here are her 10 tips for being a hospitable host during the holidays: 

  • Do your homework: Find out ahead of time if any of your guests have food allergies or other dietary restrictions and plan your menu accordingly or prepare a buffet with a variety of items.  Keep it simple and serve what you know.  Don’t try to serve an unfamiliar, complicated, or labor-intensive dish your first time out. 
  • Keep a list: Write down all of the items you need to make your meal complete.  It’s especially frustrating when you think you have all of your ingredients and then discover in the midst of cooking that you don’t have enough salt, sugar, or butter.   
  • Have a variety of beverages on hand: The mark of a good host is to have a few bottles of red and white wine along with plenty of nonalcoholic beverages for the teetotalers in the group. 
  • Stock up on snacks:  This includes nuts, chips, salsa or dip, one or two different cheeses, crackers, and one or two kinds of frozen appetizers.  Choose hors d’oeuvres that are easy to eat and require only one bite.  This will ensure that no one gets crumbs on his or her nice outfit or on your floor. 
  • Do as much as possible the day before: Don’t wait until the last minute. Set your table the night before.  Clean and polish your serving pieces and fill your salt and pepper shakers a few days before Thanksgiving dinner to avoid last-minute flurries.  
  • Iron your linens. When you are serving cocktails, provide linen cocktail napkins or, at the very least, decorative paper cocktail napkins.  For dinner, use linen napkins because they’re more elegant than paper ones.  
  • Set the mood: Candles are an easy, inexpensive, quick way to make any home more inviting.  Buy as many candles as you can and place them throughout your house.  Remember to reserve a few unscented ones for the dinner table.  Light your candles approximately 15 or 20 minutes prior to your guests’ arrival, and then light the candles on your dinner table just before everyone sits down to dine.  
  • Choose your tunes: Music is a vital element in the staging of a good holiday get together, as it sets the tone for the evening.  Create a dinner party playlist on your iPod or iPhone or preset your CD player so there’s music in the air when your guests arrive and keep it playing throughout the evening.  
  • Preset your coffee and tea service: About an hour before your party, set up your coffeemaker and put cream, milk, sugar, and sweetener in decorative containers.  Put condiments in attractive bowls or containers rather than placing bottles directly on the table.  Put your coffee cups, saucers, teaspoons, and assorted teas on a tray on a side table.  
  • Make time for yourself. Allow plenty of time to shower, get dressed, and look your best for your party.  You’ll want to greet your guests at the door with a relaxed smile on your face.  The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel, and the better time you’ll have at your own party.

Hosting a Dinner Party

Some might call the dinner party a lost art, but gathering family and friends around the table to eat great food, drink fantastic wine and enjoy each other’s company is the perfect way to celebrate. Creating an elegant, effortless evening to remember is easier than one might think.

Perfecting the dinner party is about putting people at ease and creating an environment that encourages conversation and laughter – the two most important elements of a successful dinner party. So, instead of trying to impress guests with fancy culinary skills or decorating prowess, focus on five simple tips:

1. Light can be the life of the party

From glowing centerpieces to sparkling votive candles, elegant party lighting is always a bright idea. Candles set the mood and create ambiance – and allow your guests to truly shine.

2. Let the wine flow

The right wine can perfect the moment and no dinner party would be complete without it. Greet guests with a bright and beautiful sparkling rose and keep it flowing during the cocktail hour. During dinner, offer one red and one white wine.

3. Of course dessert is a food group!

Dessert is the perfect way to end an amazing meal. Leave your guests floating on air with angel food cake topped with a Prosecco-infused frosting.

4. Don’t let guests leave empty-handed

Giving guests a little something to take home when they leave extends the good vibes. Say goodnight in a unique way by sending guests home with a bottle of wine or votive candle to re-create the magic in their own home.

New Image365. Remember to breathe

If you’re having fun, your guests will too. Take a deep breath and, while you’re at it, give your red wine a little air, too. Aerators open up the aromas and flavors, making every sip better.