February 22, 2014

Giving a party that keeps on giving

Felafels and tahini sauce from Dreena Burton

So. Do you cook too much food when company is coming? Do you always make way too much and end up eating leftovers all week? I do. There was only one instance that I can remember when I failed to make too much — or even enough, and I never let it happen again. It was awful. It happened when my first child was about a year old, and I had invited someone from our play group for dinner. At that time, whenever I took my baby to someone's house for dinner, I usually fed him at home, and brought some finger foods for him to eat rather than depending on our hosts to provide something he would like. He was used to eating much earlier than the typical starting times for company dinners. I didn't know that many people with babies so I was just learning the ropes. We hadn't had a lot of babies come to dinner at our house, but up until this point, everyone had done what I usually did.

Chocolate chip cake — my prettiest one yet.

We were vegetarians at the time, and for this particular dinner I was serving zucchini-crusted pizza from Moosewood Cookbook. I'll never forget this. I had considered making a double recipe, but decided that I should just calm down and make a normal amount of food for once. The recipe served four to six, and with four adults, and two babies who I assumed wouldn't be eating, there should be plenty. I probably didn't have an extra pan at the time anyway. As the pizza was finishing baking, our guest baby started getting a bit cranky, and her mom said she was probably hungry since it was way past her usual dinner time. Uh oh. When the pizza was done, the mom cut off a generous piece and gave it to the babe, who scarfed it down in a flash. Then the mom cut off another huge chunk and handed it over, explaining that her child was a voracious eater. More than 1/4 of the pizza was gone, and dinner hadn't even officially started. After the baby had a third piece I called my husband into the kitchen (sitcom style) and told him that he and I would be eating very little for dinner that night, and he could not take seconds of anything. The rest of the evening is gone from my memory, but the zucchini-crusted pizza incident will be with me forever as a warning to always have more than enough food for guests ... including babies.


Last weekend we hosted a dinner for 12 adults and two children, and trust me, there was enough food. In fact, I just finished the last of it yesterday — not counting the brownies and cookies that are still in the freezer. Of course I was worried that there wouldn't be enough, but as usual, there was.

I may have over-baked these a little, but they were (are) still delicious.

As I've mentioned before, I try to keep events like this 'simple' so I don't get stressed out, and I cook ahead when possible. The menu included: appetizers of hummus and tapenade (both brought by a guest), and spinach artichoke dip (from Glue and Glitter) with crackers, chips, carrot and celery sticks. The main menu included stuffed grape leaves (store-bought), felafels with tahini sauce (from Dreena Burton), roasted carrots and potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower, green salad, quinoa cooked with broth, harira soup, lentil soup, and mini pitas. And the desserts were chocolate chip cake, gluten-free brownies (from Oh She Glows), chewy ginger cookies and fruit salad (brought by a guest).


I made the cookies two days ahead, and put them into the freezer. The brownies were made the night before, and left uncovered overnight as suggested by Angela from Oh She Glows. (I made the gluten-free version, by the way, and if you need a great GF brownie recipe, this is it! The brownies freeze perfectly, too, and can be eaten right from the freezer. I should know.) The felafel mix and the harira (except for the noodles) were also made the day before the party.

All that was left of the 'taters and carrots when I remembered to snap a photo

Everything else was made the day of, and it was pretty easy to cut veggies for roasting, steam quinoa, throw salad into a bowl, toss stuffed grape leaves onto a platter. Heating the harira and adding noodles was simple, and making lentil soup with carrots and then puréeing it to creamy lusciousness in the Vitamix was no problem. The only part requiring effort was cooking the felafels at the last minute, and it wasn't so bad.

Leftover lentil soup jazzed up with aleppo pepper, scallions, coconut bacon, etc.

Why did I make two soups and two veggies and multiple desserts? There's that thing about wanting to be sure there was enough food, but also I had a group of diners with very diverse tastes, and I wanted to be sure to have foods that everyone would find appealing. I know that I present challenges to dinner hosts, and am very grateful when they accommodate me. I like to be sensitive to my guests, and make sure that when they come to my house, they have what they need. I always cook vegan food, but within that parameter, I try to make my guests feel welcome and happy. I plan for everyone!

Leftovers for dinner.

There was enough food at the party. (hahah) In fact, there was enough for lots of leftovers the whole week. Some of the leftovers were eaten as is, and others were used as part of new combinations, like a quinoa bowl with steamed broccoli, crisp felafels and tahini sauce. The lentil soup, kept simple and plain for the party, got spiced up. I love giving a party that keeps on giving. Don't you?

32 comments:

  1. What a delicious dinner. I want to eat at your house. Barring that, I may use your menu.

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    1. We would have been happy to have you — clearly there was enough food for a few extra guests. :)

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  2. Oh, what a great dinner party menu! That all sounds so good. I'm sure your guests didn't leave hungry!

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    1. Remember when you published your party menu and I said I was planning a similar one? This was it. I doubt anyone left hungry, but I guess I'll never know. :)

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  3. I'm guilty. I always make way too much. Two soups is priceless!

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    1. As I learned early on, too little is much worse than too much. About the soups — I really wanted the harira, but I knew some of my guests wouldn't eat it, so I had to make the simple lentil soup as well. Doesn't everyone make two soups? (just kidding.)

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  4. I think it's so nice that you cook big vegan meals for guests. I've been married 16 years, and I'm just not there...yet. I've only cooked meals for relatives, pretty much. I do prepare large amounts of food for my kids' birthday parties - and it consists of usually salad/potato bar with salsa, hummus, guacamole etc on the side. So in those instances, yes, I prepare way too much food. I have a great phobia of someone coming and not finding anything to eat (since I know how that feels). I really lack confidence to cook things, though, and you always do such a great job. The chocolate chip cake is really cool, in particular.

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    1. I've seen pictures of your dinners, and they always look amazing. I never believe my dinners will turn out well when I start, and I can barely taste the food at the party, so it's a good thing there are leftovers so I can see the next day how everything tasted!

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  5. How were the kids about the food? They are the picky ones, guess it depends on age and if vegan Mac and cheese is at the table.

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    1. One was a baby, and I think he ate a falafel. The other is six, and very picky. The lentil soup was partly for her, as was the quinoa — two foods she likes. She also eats roasted veggies. She doesn't like the vegan mac and cheese that I make!

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  6. Although it involves a lot of work, it's so nice to have guests over for a home-cooked meal. I'm guilty of subsisting on Amy's soups for dinner when it's just me, but splurging for friends is not only enjoyable, but a great way to show appreciation for their friendship. Nothing says I'm glad you're my friend quite like homemade bread!

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    1. Well said, Abby. Cooking for others is a whole different experience. I like simple food when I cook for myself, but I still like to cook it from scratch, with as little effort as possible.

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  7. That looks like a lovely spread! I tend to over-cook for groups too. I kind of love having the leftovers to eat all week and remember how much fun we had at the party!

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    1. The leftovers were great. Two of the guests were kind of sick, so there were even more leftovers than usual, as one of the sickies is a big eater.

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  8. That sounds like a wonderful menu! I am notorious for "over"cooking for parties or gatherings, but I really do enjoy the process as well as all the leftovers.

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    1. It's so unpredictable how much people will eat, and whether there will be too much or not enough of any particular dish. It's just more fun to overdo it a little. :)

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  9. what a great post. Yes, I am another firm believer in Too Much Food. I recently had dinner at some friends' house and there was not enough food at all. I was so uncomfortably hungry! I vow never to do that to my guests! Also, it's worth all the work, because then you don't really have to do much work for the next few nights as you enjoy all the leftovers! Your menu sounds amazing, by the way. Thanks for the gf brownie tip. I sometimes make gf baked treats for my yoga students, and I've been wanting a good gf brownie! <3

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    1. Too bad I don't have a "baby eats all the pizza" video on youtube as a warning to dinner-party hosts. haha. I've seen photos of your parties, Amey, and I can't imagine there will ever not be enough food at one of your events! You always have the best-looking casseroles — so beautifully fresh and delicious-looking! BTW, when I made the brownies, I left out the last 'two tablespoons' of margarine and it worked just fine.

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  10. The soup toppings sound so perfect - peppers, scallions, and coconut bacon! I could take handfuls of that and be happy all night. maybe a dessert sampling :)
    How many times have you made the harira now? I've got to do that before it's no longer soup season...

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    1. coconut bacon with a brownie chaser — perfect any night of the week. :)

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  11. Yep, I always make too much if anyone is coming over and end up with truckloads of leftovers, but I kind of think I do that deliberately, as I always make nicer stuff for friends than I do just for me. Either way, I'd be extremely happy to have loads of falafels and harira to munch my way through.

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    1. Sad to say the harira had the least amount left over — maybe two bowls. But I REALLY overdid the felafels. Good things I liked them so much!

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  12. Ever since I went vegan, I've only invited just a couple of friends over but haven't hosted any big parties. I am always anxious of the idea of what non-vegs would be thinking if fed with veg food. :S But I will work on this, definitely more. And yes, always make much more food than what is required.

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    1. I like small dinners, too, but sometimes I just have to entertain a crowd for one reason or another. Even though I've been cooking vegan for a long time, I still worry about whether the omnivores will like the food, though most are too polite to actually tell you they don't. 1/3 of the adults at the party were omnivore, but everyone ate heartily and expressed happiness with the dinner. It's nice to show people that vegan food tastes good!

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    2. Yes that's true, omnivores do like vegan food that tastes good. What I've also found when bringing food to friends' parties is that they like to eat the vegan food as side dishes. But I'm happy either way as long as they like it. :)

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  13. Oh my goodness, that story about the mother taking 3 huge pieces for her baby actually gave me hot flashes. Ahhhh!!!! Like did she think there was more food coming or was she just inconsiderate?
    Everything looks great though!

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    1. If I remember correctly, the mom was a tad ditzy — I don't she paid much attention to the consequences of her actions. I should have made a double recipe. ; )

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  14. Your food looks fabulous, Andrea! I am having a dinner party this weekend, and you have made me a little nervous...I will definitely cook more than I think I need, just in case :-)

    Courtney

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    1. Thanks! I hope I haven't inspired you to get too carried away — I always make way too much.

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    2. Way too much is better than not enough! Leftovers will get eaten, no problem!

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  15. What a gorgeous chocolate chip cake - it is indeed pretty! What a delicious dinner, I wish I am eating them!

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    1. I wish you could have been here to share the meal!

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