Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

I am #blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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New Recipe! Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill

Refrigerator Pickles

I am back in the kitchen this week and it feels great. I usually cook less in summer because our schedules are so weird and unstructured. Also because it’s Minnesota Minnesnowta and when the weather is warm we tend to want to be outside all. The. Time. I’d much rather be drinking a rosé and watching my daughter splash around at the pool with friends than be home in the kitchen. You know?

But this week I felt a pull to the kitchen, and so I went. Luckily we had one day that experienced torrential downpours so I had nothing but inside time to spare. My generous and kind friend Shawn gave me her CSA box when she went out of town and her loss was definitely my gain. It was full of tomatoes that were so sweet we couldn’t help but eat the entire amount in a day. Aren’t these beautiful?

tomatoes 2

The box also contained two heads of kale, which I added to that night’s pasta primavera.

Then there were many cucumbers. So many cucumbers. And dill. So obviously I made refrigerator pickles. Super easy and totally delicious, anyone could make these including a child just learning to cook. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Stir the water, vinegar, sugar, and sea salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and cool completely.

Combine cucumber slices, smashed garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass or plastic container. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Seal container and refrigerate for at least 3 days. 

Look at this!

pickles

I’m going to experiment with spicy squash pickles next, because of course the CSA box came with squash. And I really don’t like squash, but I love pickles, so maybe this just might work.

Enjoy!

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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

So, how is your summer going? Is it long and lazy and wonderful? Is it busy and hectic and going too fast? Somewhere in between? For me it’s been the latter, and I’m none too happy about it. So, I’ve cleared my calendar for a few days and the plan is to simply relax and enjoy some rest.

First up on my non-agenda is to read the book The Art Of Being Ill: Or How To Be A Better Patient. I won’t bore you with details but the past two months have been an immunological roller coaster. My doctor finally gave me orders to rest, something I have a very hard time doing. I am looking forward to reading this book on the art of self care. Apparently before we entered the age of busy-ness, during the “Days of Yore”, people did a really wonderful job of convalescing. Laying around in bed and resting up was an art form. I’ll write an update soon and let you know what I thought of the book.

Secondly, I want to tell you about a fantastic product that I discovered my friend KC at Word Savvy using. I went to her house to pick her up one morning and her essential oil diffuser was on in her kitchen. I didn’t notice any clutter, or any dirty dishes or anything else because the diffuser made the entire room seem peaceful and calm. I immediately got online and bought one for myself. Depending on my mood and malady, I use different essential oils. I’m still learning about mixing essential oils but when I really need some calm I always just go for lavender. It doubles as a small humidifier so during the winter, next to my bed, it’s a very inexpensive luxury.

And lastly, I highly recommend reading this article from the “Well” section of the New York Times on boosting resilience in your adult years. There’s a lot out there about how we can help kids be resilient, but adults are also capable of building resilience, even in their older years. If you’re going through a traumatic experience such as a layoff, a scary diagnosis, or a family crisis, it is important to realize that you can navigate through it without succumbing to the fear and stress. “There is a biology to this,” said Dr. Charney. “Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better. Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”

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Midweek Mashup

Midweek Mashup

Maybe A Portobello Patty Melt For Dinner Tonight?

Ever since I cut down on my red meat consumption, I’ve really missed one of my favorite splurges: the patty melt. Maybe they taste good going down, but then reality sets in. Indigestion, the meat sweats, that brick-in-my-gut feeling. So when I saw this recipe I just knew I had to try it.

I made these Portobello Patty Melts last night for dinner, and they were GOOD. Like, really good. A few things I did differently: instead of caramelizing the onions for 40 minutes, I did it for about 20. Also, instead of roasting the portobello mushrooms for 40-45 minutes, I put them in a pan with the marinade and sautéed them with a cover on until they were ready. It saved about 20 minutes which is huge when you have a hungry family.

My daughter hates mushrooms so she opted for a grilled cheese but my husband and I really liked them. I can’t wait to have them again. Maybe next week?

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Maybe It’s Monday (Again) And We Need An Easy Dinner Idea: Fettuccine With Asparagus

This crazy family of mine. They want dinner. Every. Single. Day. Like I mentioned last week, we usually do #MeatlessMonday as a way to eat a little healthier and do something nice for the Earth.

Maybe today I’ll just post this super easy but elegant looking Fettucine With Asparagus recipe I found this weekend. This is what I plan on making tonight for my hungry family.

Maybe you’ll make it too, and come back to tell me how it was?

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Maybe Some Rice Noodle Salad For Dinner Tonight?

Maybe allergies are kicking my butt. I woke up yesterday with my ears completely clogged and everything sounded like I was underwater. I generally just didn’t feel great. So after I got home from picking up the 12 year old from school and it was time to make dinner, I was thankful I had planned on making this simple Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil. It took about 20 minutes from start to finish and there was absolutely no cooking involved. If you’re lucky, you have a kid that likes to cook and will make the dressing for you while you sit comfortably. This would make for a perfect summertime supper when it’s just too hot to turn on the stove. The recipe also fits with our Meatless Monday plans, which I would say we adhere to about 90% of the time. Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of preventable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, it’s generally cheaper to make a meatless meal. Win/win!

Asian Noodle Salad Meatless Monday

The original recipe came from Redbook Magazine but I made some changes to the recipe and adapted it, so here’s my version:

Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil

THE SALAD:

6 oz pad thai rice noodles

1/4 medium purple cabbage

1/2 sliced english cucumber

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 scallions, white and green parts sliced

1/2-1 cup fresh basil and cilantro, chopped

1 cup chopped peanuts, cashews or almonds

Sesame seeds

THE DRESSING:

1/4 cup lime juice (I love buying Santa Cruz organic bottled lime juice. It’s just so much easier)

3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp garlic powder

HOW TO:

Pour hot water over noodles to cover and let sit for about 5 minutes, until softened. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cut all the veggies up into thin slices, place the nuts in a baggie and whack them with a rolling pin to “chop”, and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Assemble the salads, drizzle dressing over the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. ENJOY!

NOTE: If you want more protein in your salad, it would be very easy to add rotisserie chicken, tofu, shrimp or any leftover meat you have. Maybe it’ll become a new family favorite.

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Friday Cocktails! The Pomegranate Moscow Mule

Can we talk? It’s Friday, but it feels like three days ago should have been Friday. You know? There is 11″ of snow in the forecast and Saturday morning’s wind chill is supposed to be -35. MINUS THIRTY FIVE DEGREES. Let that sink in. I’ll wait.

Tonight, though, is family movie night. Kevin McCallister will be brilliantly foiling the Wet Bandits at every turn as they repeatedly try to break into his house. Meanwhile, his family tries (and except for his mom, they are not trying that hard, if we are being honest) to reunite with him back in the suburbs of Chicago.

There will likely be Thai takeout and decorating of gingerbread cookies and my grandma’s Chex Mix.

And then there will be a cocktail. It’s Friday night after all. A simple glass of red isn’t going to cut it.

Fun background note: Recently my friend Mimi and I were playing paddle (It’s like a shorter game of tennis/raquetball played outside in the winter) and I commented that she had a crazy good return shot that I dubbed “The Mimi Zinger”. Then we decided that sounded like the perfect name for a cocktail. I told her I would come up with a cocktail named after her and she requested it have pomegranate juice in it. I think this is a good fit.

If I can get to the store in the blizzard that I will buy the ingredients for this twist on a Moscow Mule (which is one of my all time favorite cocktails. I even have the copper mugs). Then we will settle in and hunker down until tomorrow morning.

Pomegranate Moscow Mule (i.e.: The Mimi Zinger)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. pomegranate juice UPDATE: a bottle of pure pomegranate juice cost $11 at Whole Foods so I bought cranberry pomegranate blend for $4 and it was delicious!
  • 1 tbsp. pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 c. ice
  • ginger beer

METHOD

  1. In a cocktail glass stir together vodka, pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds, tbsp. lime juice, honey, and ice.
  2. Top off with ginger beer (I like Reed’s, which I buy at Whole Foods)

*Adapted from a recipe retrieved from Delish.com

Have a favorite cocktail recipe to share with me? Please leave it in the comments!

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