As I posted about six months ago, my birthday plans were ruined by a giant blizzard. So I decided to give myself a half-birthday party. I just invited a few people to hang out on my porch and eat yummy food that I prepared.
This is, in fact, the first time I have ever hosted a party at my home and had to acquire all the food and stuff myself. The last time I actually prepared food for numerous people, I’m pretty sure it was at my mom’s house (therefore with her money). Ever since then, I generally plan parties as outings to restaurants I like. I didn’t realize how much money it cost to get all the food. Especially because I’m just so fancy, I wanted to make seafood. Next time… probably not. Luckily, alcohol came with the guests, or else we would have all had to be sober the whole time 😦
I don’t want to go into the details of shopping for stuff, except to say that I’m glad I didn’t try to do it all in one trip, and that I did it in advance. This is my advice to you: IF you are planning to do all the shopping in one trip for a party, make a comprehensive list and do it AT LEAST one day in advance, so that if you couldn’t find certain items you’ll have a chance to go to another store for them. I made a list, but the way things go, inevitably you’ll forget to get something and you can’t carry it all home at once anyway, so at least two trips are necessary. Technically, I think five shopping trips happened, although only three of them were me going for food.
So here we go: I’ve gotten myself all ready and some of the food. Care to see?
It wasn’t a fancy party by far, really, but I hate to pass up an opportunity to dress up. Wearing a bright red dress makes me feel so fun and sexy. So why not? Heels, too. I mean, maybe they aren’t the most practical shoes to wear in the kitchen, but if we were all to go around being practical all the time, no one would ever wear heels. EVER. Except maybe really short people.
For those who might be curious: My dress was purchased from Modcloth, shoes from DSW, and my tights and apron (shown below) from Anthropologie.
In terms of plates and decorations and stuff, nothing was remotely interesting or worth mentioning where I bought it. So, moving on…
As it turned out, most of the guests didn’t arrive until the dinner part was mostly done. But that’s ok. So I got started on the food. Most of the work was just chopping. Then things went into the oven.
That’s a green pepper I’m slicing up there. It got mixed in with various other vegetables and shoved into the oven for roasting.
As people finally started to arrive so the party could actually be a party, the dinner was just about done and I laid it out on the table. And took pictures of it.
And yes. I did make the mango salsa. Thanks for asking. Of all the things I made I actually think it was the most successful individual item. Recipes vary. For reference, this is what I used: two mangoes, five or six (maybe seven) campari tomatoes, one whole jalapeno, and cilantro. I kept the cilantro in a separate bowl because I wasn’t sure if there were people who didn’t like it. But they got mixed together when I put the leftovers away 😉
The shrimp did get a bit more dried out in the oven than I would have liked, but they weren’t badly overdone or anything. Still perfectly edible and tasty. The rice was rice, the veggies were well-roasted and not overcooked. Everyone said they really liked the food. This is definitely the largest number of people I’ve ever cooked for, so I’m pleased that the dinner was well-received. A little it of digestion time later, and it was time for dessert.
…Dessert was sponsored by Sesame Street and the letter C. Apparently.
The cupcakes and champagne were brought by one of my guests, and since I rarely ever have desserts made for me, I was very grateful to her. I requested buttercream frosting knowing that it might not hold up all the way over to my apartment. So really, it’s my fault they look like that. I am certain that, as she says, they looked very pretty in the morning. However, they were still delicious, and that’s what really counts.
And that’s it. We hung out a bit longer, enjoying the last of the champagne and listening to ridiculous covers of Lady Gaga. The guests trickled out, we put away the leftover food, and that was the end. I am thinking that half-birthdays might be the thing from now on. August is much more likely to give me good weather than February, don’t you think?
I think I will have to count this as my first actual adult party. And it went pretty well.
This is something I made last week, and I figure I should write about it before I forget how I made it. It was very simple and thrown together without much effort, honestly, as I didn’t feel like thinking about it. I had originally intended to break out my new grating dish from Spain (which I will share a picture of at some point) and put some fresh ginger in this dish, but then that all just seemed like too much effort.
The broccoli, being frozen, was the first thing thrown into the pan. As it was defrosting/sizzling away, I started to cut up some mango. The mango was of inappropriate ripeness, too soft and mushy with not really enough flesh to get good chunks out of it. As it cooked it turned pretty much to mush. But that’s ok.
Shrimp was added and started to pink, as per the standard way you cook shrimp in a pan. No need for any further comment on that…
I had the brilliant idea of just squeezing the remaining mango over the pan, because I wanted some juice. As everything cooked, I decided to add some red pepper flakes. I could have gone with chili powder, but I just love me some red pepper flakes. 😉
This was one of those rare times I didn’t use any oil in the pan, and that was noticeable. Overall the stir fry was slightly lacking in moisture. But it wasn’t overly dry and it wasn’t bad. The main problem with it was that I only had a handful of shrimp left to use, and I wanted more. So that counts as a success, yeah?
I cooked up one of my old favorites, Near East brand rice pilaf, to eat with my stir-fryish. I actually think I still have a bit of that left over. Basic box directions, so you can look that up yourself, I’d imagine.
Honesty: if I had been willing to put a little more effort in it could have been a lot better. Like maybe I could have thrown in some roasted red peppers, which is one of my favorite food items ever. They are especially nice to make salads more interesting when you’re lacking time or any interesting vegetables. –But sometimes you make food that’s just adequate, instead of really super delicious, and that’s ok, especially if you’re only cooking for yourself.
Side note: where did these dark clouds come from? I thought it was supposed to be nice and sunny today. I don’t want to go home in the rain. 😦
So I made this a while ago… I can’t really remember exactly what I put in it any more, so here’s some variation or other of this dish:
Quinoa: prepared according to basic instructions. It was a tricolor package. I used 1/2 cup of quinoa and 1 cup water, which is much closer to the amount one person would want to eat than if you make a whole cup…
Heat vegetable oil in pan, add sliced bell peppers. Mine were “rainbow,” but actually more of “flamebow”–red, orange, and yellow. Very nice to look at. Cook for several minutes, until peppers are getting soft.
I remember now. I actually added the peppers alone first, to get them seared a little, then added the oil after, before adding the shrimp.
Add peeled raw shrimp. Stir to make sure the shrimp is touching the pan, not just sitting on top of the peppers.
When shrimp has started to turn opaque and pink, add fresh basil. Mix in.
Add desired seasonings. Suggestions: cajun seasoning, thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes. I am pretty sure I added red pepper flakes.
When it looks done, squeeze lime wedges over shrimp and peppers, stir to coat.
Put quinoa in a bowl, serve shrimp and peppers on top.
This was quite pleasing to the mouth and the eyes, and yet I wanted a cheeseburger SO BAD right after eating it (I had wanted one earlier too). I didn’t end up getting a cheeseburger… in fact, I still haven’t managed to have one yet. I should get on that. On a different day, I’m sure it would have been quite satisfying.
As I may have already mentioned, all my birthday plans got ruined and/or postponed by that damned
gimpy fish snowstorm. I ended up staying in all weekend after I got home Friday afternoon and not doing anything particularly productive. I did manage to cook a nice feast, however, which I shared with my roommate because I had made quite a lot of food.
The lineup: baked shrimp skewers, pan-steamed broccoli, and herb and lemon jasmine rice (the tomatoes were just an extra thing because my tomatoes had to get used up, they were going bad…)
I heated the oven to 350, having skimmed over some instructions somewhere online about baking shrimp. You’ll rarely want to put the temp very high for cooking seafood, at least, that’s the impression I get. If I’d planned ahead more I might have marinated the shrimp, but I did not plan ahead more. I tossed it with some olive oil (the good olive oil), sea salt, and pepper, and possibly some other herbs, I don’t know. It was over a week ago now. My memory isn’t that good anymore. Soon I’ll be a stooped old lady with no teeth.
(For perspective, for those who don’t know me, I just turned 26, so… yeah.)
Anyway, back to the shrimp. I grabbed a few bamboo skewers and started sticking the shrimp on them. Only about five fit on each skewer, since I didn’t want to crowd them too much. I got a package of bamboo skewers for like $1, of which I have barely used any at all, so a recipe like this isn’t going to require lots of money to buy the materials. Just the shrimp. Although I just bought a big bag of frozen shrimp when it was on sale, and it was a really good deal. …So, shopping and preparing aside — Once the oven was heated up I just stuck the skewers in the oven, on a foil-lined baking sheet, and they only cooked for 10 minutes at the most. Turning them once is recommended, and I finally had a reason to use my plastic metal-handled tongs. Yay. Make sure you pay attention and take them out of the oven once they’re opaque and pink. Otherwise, they’ll be overcooked and dry and that’s just gross.
Alternatively, you could cook them on a grill instead, which would probably give them that delicious smoky flavor that’s really the point of anything vaguely kabob-related. I don’t own a grill, so I didn’t get to do that. So what.
My shrimp were mild but quite tasty and juicy.
Here is a close-up of the shrimp, just because:
My rice was nothing complicated, just made the way you usually cook rice. I hope you wouldn’t need me to tell you how to do that. I added at least one tablespoon of butter, a whole bunch of thyme, and some other herb, like basil, or something. Like I said, it was over a week ago, I don’t really remember. Once the water was done cooking off I poured in some lemon juice. You probably don’t want to squeeze a lemon right into the rice unless you really like eating lemon seeds… which I don’t. I used approximately half a lemon. I don’t know what that is in actual measurements. It ended up tasting quite lemony, which I believe was a result of adding the lemon juice after it was cooked. I’m sure if you put in the lemon before it was done cooking, it would be a little more subdued. Not sure though, so don’t take my word for it.
And not even ten minutes after I’d started eating:
So yeah. It was really good.