Friday party trick: Pasta in a bag

November 27, 2009

Last week’s party trick was so much fun, that I think I’ll offer another!

I wish I could take full credit for this idea but truthfully, this picture appeared in Donna Hay magazine originally. When it was featured in her magazine, Donna’s team recommended popping cooked, lightly sauced pasta in a parchment pouch with raw seafood and then heating it gently to cook the shellfish and reheat the pasta.

I love this idea for entertaining since serving pasta to a crowd can be a rather steamy, messy affair that leaves the hostess’s hair either limp or frizzy. So, if you’re a pasta lover but don’t have perfectly bouncing and behaving locks but like to look good form company, this idea is for you!

Do you often serve pasta for company? If so, do you go for baked dishes like lasagna or brave the humidity and cook noodles in a vat of salted water?

Weekend Party Trick: 60-second appetizer

November 20, 2009


The challenge: make a great looking appetizer that tastes fantastic in less time than it takes to wiggle into your party clothes.

The solution: Fruit and Nut topped Camembert

1 wheel Camembert or Brie cheese
Liquid honey
1 handful Back to Nature Raisins, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Pecans and Apricots blend

Place the cheese on a platter and drizzle with some honey. Mound some of the trail mix on top. Drizzle with a bit more honey and serve with grapes, apple slices and crackers.

Need a wine match? Try an off-dry Riesling for white drinkers or a light, fruity pinot noir for a red choice. Can’t decide between red or white? Prosecco is a great match, too!

Now that you’ve seen my favourite party trick, tell me about yours!

Holiday side dish resolutions

December 18, 2008


As I have proclaimed perhaps a bit too loudly, I’m no longer a perfectionista. And, to prove it, I’m going to tell you that this Christmas, when my family gathers around my table for turkey, stuffing and Christmas cheer, I’m going to cut myself some slack and keep my side dishes super simple. Honest. On the menu will be green beans and super fluffy mashed potatoes with giblet gravy. That’s it. That’s all. I promise.

I’m a big fan of green beans and I think I make rather good ones. The best green beans are cooked in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes depending on their thickness. Any less time and they are too crunchy. Any more time and they get mushy and stringy. All that’s left is to drain them well and to toss with butter, sea salt and pepper.

What about you? Will your holiday side dishes be elaborate or easy?

Perfectionistas anonymous

August 27, 2008

My name is Dana McCauley and I am no longer a perfectionist.

After a couple of weeks away from home and work, I realized that I make a big deal of too many things. Take entertaining for example: I’ve been known to obsess over every detail before a party, staying up to all hours to get my house, the food and the table ready for a get-together. Last winter, I worked for two days to get ready for my Christmas Eve cocktail party and then stayed up until the wee hours of Christmas morning cleaning up. Was the party a wonderful success? Absolutely. Did my guests ooh and ahh over the food and the table? Certainly. Did I enjoy Christmas day? Not really. In fact, I had a pounding headache and a crick in my back that hurt when I stood or sat.

Refreshed from my holiday, I have a new outlook and attitude and I’m going to do my best to keep it up. See that table above? That level of detail was the old me. The new me eschews such finery! From now on guests will get what they get:
• If I have time to make something fabulous, it will be served. If I don’t, I’ll buy something.
• If my linen napkins are ironed and folded, we’ll use them. If not, paper will do.
• If someone offers to help with the clean up, I’ll gladly accept his or her help.
• And, from now on my larger parties are going to include a new budget line; I’m going to hire someone to help serve and clean up so that I can have my party, a good time and a clean house, too.

Do any of you dread entertaining because of all the schlepping and cleaning? If so, maybe you should join my new club.

If not, what strategies have you developed to help you enjoy your parties from the planning stages to unloading the dishwasher the morning after?

Coconut cups

August 20, 2008

It seems that weddings are in the air for many of my young friends this year. Martin and I will have attended four weddings and as many wedding related parties in twelve months by the time Thanksgiving arrives.

I have to say that I’ve been impressed by the diversity of celebrations I’ve been asked to share. From traditional to quirky, the brides and grooms we know are letting their personalities shine through so that their weddings are anything but magazine layout knock offs. We’ve witnessed belly dancing and heard a bride pledge in her wedding vows to help her groom cope with the pain and anguish of being a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Good times!

At a recent engagement party with a Hawaiian theme, I was particularly impressed by Heather and Mike, an enthusiastic young couple who trekked to T&T, bought whole coconuts and cleaned them to create pina colada glasses for the guests. (That’s Heather and Mike holding their own well-earned drinks above.)

Although the hostess had already taken every necessary step to make the party a success, I loved that this couple spent the afternoon before their party wielding machetes, joined in a mutual goal to encase alcoholic beverages in thematically sound barware. After all, if a couple can band together on a creative project that requires this magnitude of violence and still smile at one another, their chances of staying together have to be pretty damn good!

Have you been to a wedding or engagement party that entertained you in unexpected ways?  If so, tell us about it.