I love organizing tools almost as much as I love kitchen tools. Lists, stackable closet shelves, small plastic baskets (like these ones by Coza Brazil)…you name it, if it’s an organizing goodie I probably use it and get excited talking about it. (Side Note: I use those baskets for everything, but one of my favorite uses is for my spice pantry…instead of getting a chair to stand on so I can look through the shelves, I load the baskets up with spices and just pull the whole basket down when I need to look for something.) Like most things, organization can be both a blessing and a curse…but, it sure does come in handy when it comes to party planning and preparation.
Now that the weather’s turning warm, parties are popping up all over the place. We like throwing casual cocktail-type parties (mocktail really, since Mike and I don’t drink), where the focus is on good food and great company. Here are a couple of my tips to throwing a perfect (even last-minute!) gathering almost effortlessly:
- Pick a theme and let it be the common thread between your décor, food, and drinks. (And dress code, if you feel like it.)
- Have a drink bar. I like to serve at least one kind of punch and have a whole bunch of other beverages on hand (juices, sodas, lemonade, iced tea, iced coffee, etc.) along with cute little umbrellas and fruit embellishments (like maraschino cherries and/or fruit kebabs).
- Serve a few different kinds of finger foods. I usually like to serve a crudités platter (it couldn’t be easier to put together – just cut up a whole bunch of veggies – but if you’re in a hurry, pick one up at the grocery store), a cheese and cracker tray (or some variation on it…a cheese ball is always a hit), a cold dip (such as vegetable cream cheese dip, roasted carrot red lentil dip, or vegan pimento “cheese” spread; or you can buy something premade if you’re pressed for time), a hot dip (like baked pizza dip or spinach-artichoke dip), and a couple different warm appetizers. For me, when it comes to warm appetizers, puff pastry saves the day every time.
If you’re looking for a new finger food for your next party, definitely try my Crab Rangoon Tart! Crab Rangoon was my initial inspiration, but I let my imagination run a little wild with additions like gruyere cheese, red bell pepper, and fresh ginger. It’s a fantastic appetizer, especially with a little drizzle of the sweet/sour/spicy sauce I made to go with it.
So, spill the beans…what are your favorite party planning tips?
Serves about 16
1 sheet (1/2 lb) puff pastry
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
1 small onion, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
1/2 lb fresh lump crabmeat, coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for eggwash)
Crab Rangoon Sauce (recipe below)
If frozen, thaw the puff pastry at room temperature for 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F and line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll the pastry out to a rectangle about 12 inches long by 9 inches wide, then cut the pastry in half the long way so you have 2 long rectangles, each about 12 inches long by 4 1/2 inches wide. Transfer both pieces of pastry to the prepared pan, leaving at least 1 inch between them; keep in the fridge until the filling is made.
Mix together the cream cheese, milk, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in the gruyere, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and ginger, and then fold in the crab.
Spread the crab mixture on both pieces of pastry, leaving a border of about 1/2-inch along the outside of each pastry; lightly brush the border with eggwash (you will have extra eggwash). Bake until both the pastry and filling are puffed and golden, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Cool slightly before cutting, then serve with Crab Rangoon Sauce.
Yields about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
5 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
Combine rice vinegar, water, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat, and then turn heat down and boil 10 minutes. Add dissolved cornstarch, bring back up to a boil, and boil 30 seconds.
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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Orbit® gum via Glam Media, but such compensation did not influence any opinions expressed herein. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Orbit® gum.