It is like the summeriest of summers out there. For the most part we are getting gorgeous weekends which is AH-MAZE-ING. The week days have been rather rainy; I think I heard them say on the news that it has been one of the wettest July’s in history…blah! As long as my weekends can be spent outside soaking up the sun and working on my tan I am a happy chica. If you throw in a pool I’ll be extra happy!
I am writing this blog post as I watch the marathon of the Hunger Games because I can’t tear myself away. I could literally watch these over and over. Clearly, I am still a 13 yr. old girl on the inside (er, outside?). I recently took a personality test for work and it told me that I have the same personality type as Peeta. As I thought about it, I realized that this is probably fairly accurate and explains why I had no interest in the Katniss and Gale love story. It must be that whole bleeding heart, caring about anyone and everyone thing that we have in common. I will take it! Side note: how do you feel about personality tests? I happen to think they are pretty accurate but I don’t know if others agree. It can be a tough pill to swallow when you read a summary of all your shining attributes and perhaps, some of your less awesome attributes. I guess, you are who are. I know I am who I am.
Anyway, if you have been a long time follower of HPB then you might have seen this recipe before. Back in the day when we lived in DC. I wanted to bring it back and boost the photo quality since it is a great recipe and the pictures I had before did not do it justice (don’t bother looking, I already trashed it). I look back at a lot of my older posts and think about giving them an upgrade. As a blogger I do wonder about the value of taking time to go through the posts every now and then to see which ones could benefit from an update. I feel like it is my job to give you newer content and new recipes but it might not be worth it to take a look at some of my older content. To my fellow bloggers, what say you? Do you update your content and if so, how frequently do you do this? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
As another note on this recipe I will say that you certainly don’t need to make your own chips but why wouldn’t you? I have learned that it is always more fun to make your own chips or tortillas. The other benefit of course is adding your own toppings like I do here (cinnamon & sugar). I learned how to make this recipe with the homemade chips but I wont fault those who’d like to save the time and purchase their own chips. If it helps, it is actually very easy and fun to do!
I like to bring this dish to summer brunches or picnics because it is a bit different from the other dishes you will see on the picnic table. It is also a sure way to impress your friends and family when you display it in a pineapple. It could be considered a dessert or appetizer depending on your mood. It has always been a crowd pleaser and I don’t think anyone will complain no matter when you decide to put it on the table. I hope you enjoy it!
Remember when I told you about my desire to start a dinner club? I think we did it! I think we started a dinner club. It is even more legitimate since I created an Instagram account for it (see here). So, I think whenever you host two dinner parties AND create a social media account you have just started a dinner club. When we started thinking about our winter installment we decided to let a literary classic be the source of our inspiration, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here’s how we did it…
Picking a theme – It turns out that picking a theme can be very hard, especially when you 0r your co-host might not share the same vision right away. For this dinner party we started out by creating a Pinterest board where we pinned pictures of decorations and food that seemed appropriate for a winter dinner party. Somehow in all of the pinning and discussion we landed on Narnia as our theme. We wanted to stay away from something that was too much like a Christmas dinner and we knew we would host the party after New Years so that was not an option. If you know the story then you know Pevensie children wander through a wardrobe to find themselves in a winter wonderland. We wanted to create that winter wonderland.
Setting the menu – The menu is my favorite part of planning (I am sure you can guess why). I usually get overly excited and since we had such a fun theme to work with, the menu was important. So here’s how the menu planning usually goes (typically over drinks)…
Me: I know we talked about doing something like Cornish hens but what if we do some sort of red meat or like seafood…oooh maybe like a surf and turf!
Anna: Oh yeah, that could be really nice!
Me: Yeah, like maybe we do steak for 15 people and pair it with fish and like the whole plate is white and the meat is the only color on the plate and it’s just really pure…
Anna: Hmm, steak for 15 people you say? Is that going to be hard to pull off?
Me: Ooh and how about we do…
Anna: Hey, remember when we talked about Cornish hens?
Me: Yeah, ok, I think we should go back to Cornish hens.
So we ended up making Cornish Hens, cauliflower mash, roasted mushrooms, and roasted green beans. Everything was easy to execute and truly spoke to the winter season. (See pinterest board for recipes)
Make a cake! – Alright, you don’t have to make a cake to have a successful Narnia themed dinner party but it only seems fitting to have cake at a party. I really wanted to push myself so I decided that my biggest contribution was going to be to make a layered cake with some sort of winter decoration. If you follow this blog then you probably know I don’t typically make cakes. I like to bake but cakes always seemed to fall in the category of being too stressful. I took a deep breath, drank a few cocktails and then got to baking. Anna arrived the next morning to help me finish decorating (she also kept me sane). I was extremely proud of the final product. We also had a Turkish delights in honor of the book but not everyone loved them (you should still make them because they are from the book).
The decorations – I think any winter themed dinner party is going to be a little more fancy than one you might host in the fall. We knew we really wanted to play up the fantasy element but also have fun with it. Our hosts were gracious enough to allow us to use their fine wedding china and fancy glasses. We also pulled together lace tablecloths and candles to make a very elegant dining layout. If you check out our Instagram page you will see some the fur coats and crowns that helped bring home the Narnia theme. I wouldn’t suggest you run out and buy fur coats for just this purpose, we happened to have a friend who had a few lying around, ha!
What to drink – Punch is always a good idea! Our hosts put together a delicious blood orange punch that our guests enjoyed before the meal. They also crafted a beautiful ice mold to go along with it. The punch was a bright way to start the night and since it was winter it was a nice distraction from the winter weather outside. We serve wine with dinner (of course) and ended the evening with some fun cocktails. One of our guests made coffee ice cubes which were a great addition to the kahlua and vanilla vodka cocktails we served with cake. If you want to go alcohol free then I suggest hot cocoa since that is very Narnian.
That’s how we hosted a Night in Narnia and how easy it is for you to host a winter dinner party with your friends or family! Stay tuned for our spring installment and more adventures with the Pittsburgh Dinner Club.
Guys! I have this secret obsession with starting a dinner club. It’s not a secret anymore since I just told you about it, ha. Seriously, anyone who knows me, knows I love to host gatherings. I mostly love hosting when it involves food (which is always). Also, you probably know I have an obsession with all things fall. So, of course I had to put those two things together! Recently, I co-hosted a fall inspired dinner party with my co-worker and I think it was a huge success. Here are some of our tips and pics!
Pick a location – We wanted to have the party outside so we had to decide between backyards. When doing a party outside make sure you have a fairly flat yard if you want to put a table on the grass. Know where your electrical outlets are if you want to use any sort of lighting or music. HAVE A RAIN PLAN! We live in Pittsburgh and we have our fair share of rain, make sure your location allows for flexibility if you have rain or snow. (It did start pouring an hour before our dinner but we waited it out and luckily our guests were more than happy to help us get things set up when it was dry.)
Sketch out a menu before you send the invite – This was a really crucial step. We actually made some pretty good decisions on the theme of the menu and number of dishes before we sent out the invite. We decided to focus on a Mediterranean feeling menu but wanted to make sure there were fall elements in each dish. We also decided on our protein early on because we knew that would drive a lot of the expense. Chicken is always a cost-effective way to go and there are plenty of ways to make it sexy! Also – remember your veg friends; they appreciate you thinking of them and making sure they don’t have to just eat salad.
Make a Pinterest board – Shortly after menu planning we set up a Pinterest board where we could both pin things that inspired us and dishes that looked yummy. Ultimately, most of the recipes we chose came from Pinterest. This is also a good way to focus in on specific elements of the party that you want to make sure you capture (i.e., I was committed to having a blanket bench and luckily she had a bench so I brought the blankets!)
When it comes to decor, simple can still be elegant – I subscribe to the notion that when you want something to look really classy, just add candles! We kept the decor very simple, the tables were covered in butcher paper (a roll from Michaels cost $7.00) and we used mason jars with tea lights as decoration along with two vases of dried flowers (see picture below). A simple accent of burlap and twine helped to keep the rustic fall look. The food was all served family style which means you need plenty of room for your dishes on the table. A strand or two of lights can also make a huge difference. Don’t fuss with fancy dishes or glassware! If you want to spend money, spend it on more candles!!!! Fun platters can also serve as a great way to bring color or detail to your table.
Buy in bulk – We made a Costco run a week before the dinner to pick up ingredients that were non-perishable or had a long shelf life (nuts, cheeses, dried fruits). Buying in bulk can be a great way to save on the cost, we had also planned dishes that had similar ingredients so things could be used in multiple dishes.
Full bar vs. wine or beer – We talked about this a good deal. Do you go with specialty cocktails? Do you get a bunch of wine and beer? Ultimately, you should do whatever you think your guests will like. We had a feeling a lot of our guests would bring some wine so we decided it would be easier to just have wine (we ended up going through lots of wine!!). To save on money, encourage your guests to bring their favorite wine or beer. Most people want to bring something as a token of appreciation so let them!
Time out cooking so that you don’t have to stand in the kitchen the whole time – We did some prep work the night before (mostly sauces and cutting). Make sure you pick recipes that are simple enough that you can execute in a few hours. Time everything out based on prep time and cook time. If you want to pre-bake anything make sure you don’t overcook it. Your guests wont know what things are supposed to look like so you get to be the judge before things go out!
Don’t Stress! – I have had my fair share of kitchen meltdowns but I have learned that the biggest part of entertaining is the time spent with your guests. Unlike a restaurant, your guests usually don’t come in with a lot of expectations (unless you have hosted before and then of course, you have to live up that haha) so just roll with it! If it rains, it rains. As long as you have plenty of wine I am sure it will still be a great time!