Favorite Things: Dinner Party Edition

The holidays bring about a sense of togetherness. Each year I plan some sort of friends get together which gives me an excuse to cook a new recipe and share laughs (and wine) with others. Pinterest has been blowing up with this “Favorite Things” concept, so I thought I could meld two parties into one: Dinner Party and Favorite Things Party.

Go to YouTube and play “My Favorite Things” by Julie Andrews while you read this, just to set the mood.

Anyways, I selected a small group of about 10 girlfriends and wrote them this note on a Facebook Invite:

Favorite Things Concept:

1. Pick your favorite thing that represents you. Something you love and/or cannot live without…that is under $8. This can be anything like your favorite beauty product (lotion, chap stick, mascara, nail polish), food/drink item (sauce, snack, soda, beer, wine), hobby item (cooking, painting, running, shopping) or be creative!

2. Buy 5 of that same exact item (ex. You love to bake so you buy 5 whisks with your mom’s famous cake recipe attached)

3. Be ready to tell the group why this item is so special to you. Five lucky ladies will get to enjoy your gift 🙂

So each girl picked an item that is their favorite thing. I chose a Mary Kay Baked Eye Trio in Earth BoundSpecial-Edition Green Goddess, given that my mom sells Mary Kay and it is the only makeup I use or else I’d be banished. Honestly, look at how beautiful those colors are and they are Christmas Colors!

This is the important part, I bought 5 of these. EVERYONE brought 5 of their chosen favorite thing.

Before the girls arrive, collect a different color of paper for each girl participating, including yourself. Example: I had 7 girls come over and myself makes 8, so I had eight different colors of paper. As a teacher, I have a myriad of colors at my disposal. If you are not a teacher, find one and be their friend. They may share.

Now, cut each color into 5 strips. When the girls arrive, have them pick a color and write their name on EACH of the 5 strips for that particular color. I had the girls place these strips in a trifle bowl. Fancy. After this is complete, pass around the bowl and everyone will draw 5 different colors, being sure to NOT select their own color. You will end up with 5 different girl’s name.

Let’s start gifting. Each girl will share a personal tale about their favorite thing and why they chose it. Then they will call out the 5 names displayed on the 5 strips of colored paper and give each of them their favorite thing. Perhaps they could also sing, “These are a few of my favorite things! When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things…”

photo 1

Now on to my favorite part, the Dinner. You may notice that the unplanned theme of the night was cheese. Our guests ate at their own risk of constipation. My husband and I set out a variety of crackers and cheeses including Brie, smoked Gouda and cranberry Goat cheese. My girlfriends surprised me and brought a few appetizers themselves. A crowd favorite was Brie en Croute with fresh roasted garlic nestled inside the flaky garlicky crust. When broke open the Brie poured out like a river of creamy richness. My amazing husband served us ladies as if we were at a restaurant. We prepared individual salad bowls with spring lettuce mix, craisins, Gorgonzola cheese, pecans and slices of Honey Crisp apple. Balsamic dressing was passed around.

photo 3The entree was Fettuccine Alfredo with Prosciutto and Peas. I used Tyler Florance’s, Food 911, Alfredo recipe because he explained why people struggle with making this sauce. The trick is spending the extra money and buying a hunk of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Do not buy pre-grated Kraft cheese, this is infiltrated with chemicals meant to keep the grains in tack. We want our cheese to melt.  Additionally, use heavy cream instead of half and half. This creates a thick, instead of soupy, sauce. While boiling the pasta, I added petite frozen peas to the water. Lastly, after tossing the pasta and peas in the sauce, top with parsley and crispy prosciutto sauteed in a frying pan.

Check out the recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fettuccine-alfredo-recipe.html

photo 4

The sweet treat was also incorporated with cheese. As an Italian you would think that I grew up making Cannolis, but the truth is…I did not. I do not think anyone in my family, including my 93 year-old Grandma who came off the boat, knows how to make them. So I resorted to the only place I know, Pinterest. After comparing several different recipes, I found this blog called “Craftaholics Anonymous” whose recipe seemed to have all the correct ratios of ingredients. My ultimate goal is to learn how to make the shells, but friends, I am not ashamed to say that I purchased the shells at my local grocery store. Don’t worry, I told my friends the truth. The filling however was divine and very easy to make. After preparing it according to the recipe, I transferred the mixture to a gallon zip lock bag to refrigerate over night. Right before my friends arrived, I cut a centimeter off the bottom corner of the bag and piped the cool creamy ricotta into each end of the shells. They were each decorated with mini chocolate chips and showered with powdered sugar. (Do not fill the shells too early, they will get soggy)

Check out the recipe here: http://www.craftaholicsanonymous.net/homemade-cannoli-filling-recipe

photo 2

All in all we had enough wine and food to feed a drunken army. It was a wonderful night.