The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Yuletide Gathering

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The breeze blew mischievously as Doug continued lighting the luminarias that lined the walk, the oil lanterns, and the dozens and dozens of tea lights.  The house was ready for a party.  And so was I.

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Luminarias are prevalent in New Mexico where they light the way for travelers and carolers alike.  Simply fold down a few inches of a paper lunch bag.  Pour in three inches or so of sand and place a tea candle in the center.  

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An oil lamp makes a lovely welcome outdoors and adds whimsy to the lighting indoors.  Remember, no overhead lighting allowed!  Twinkly lights and tea candles work beautifully to create drama, softened features, and enchantment.  

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We haven’t thrown a Christmas party in four years.  It was wonderful being able to send out invites to a Yuletide Gathering with a few friends.  I chose to serve soups and had my guests bring either wine, bread, or dessert.  Soups are easy to prepare in advance.  They are always delicious and hard to mess up.  Alongside, I served a platter of garlic bread for the Sherry Tomato Soup,  corn chips and sour cream for the Three Chile Mole, and green olives for the Italian Lentil soup.  Friends came bearing garlic and cheese breads, sausages in raspberry chipotle sauce, and lots of divine desserts.

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Make sure you put out little cards stating what each thing is.  The key is to free up as much time to mingle with guests and join in the festivities and you want your guests to feel at home.

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Before guests arrived I put out a platter of my homemade manchego cheese and crackers with roasted orange-parmesan olives (almost all of these recipes are in my new cookbook, From Mama’s Kitchen With Love).  I don’t wait too long after guests arrive to serve supper but something to snack on quells early dinner pangs and gives folks something to do.

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Place all plates, silverware, and glassware out so that friends can help themselves.  Use china.  You can do dishes tomorrow.  

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The couches and the easy chairs are set up in a circle for ease of conversation and it was very easy to pull up other chairs so that everyone could take part in the games and laughter.  I invited an eclectic group of people.  A surgical tech, a Reiki master, the owner of a metaphysical shop, a veteran and her older three children who homestead and homeschool, my oldest, great friends-Rod Sr., Rodney, and my dear Pat.  Everyone had things in common and the conversation stayed lively.

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Start with an ice breaker.  We name all of our animals after movies and so we named off our eight cats and dog to create a fun ice breaker where they had to name the movie.  

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From walking up the illuminated path, to having wine and hors d’oeuvres, to the ice breaker, than dinner, a ten dollar gift exchange, then the game.  We played a fun game called “Catch Phrase” that required no boards or teams, just an electronic device that we passed around that gave us a word and we had to get the group to say it with clues.  It created a lot of great laughter and fun.

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The White Elephant game where people bring odd gifts and people trade and such just creates more items that folks don’t want and may end up in a landfill.  Everyone brought a nice ten dollar gift, such as small oil burners, and salt lamps, crystals, books, and candles, and everyone was delighted with what they received.  

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Pour leftover soup into pint jars and send them home with friends!

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New friends were made, great food was had, joy was spread, and I do believe that is the best party I have had.  Such a beautiful way to celebrate the season of light.

The Entertaining Farmgirls take on Spring

The password to get into the dinner party was “Strawberry Wine” and the guests did hope that there would be a glass waiting.  We did not disappoint!  The guests at Wildflower and Fawn’s popup dinner party were greeted with cold glasses of strawberry rhubarb wine from a vineyard in the Palisades.

Shyanne had the idea of writing the menu on the glass pane of the old door in the dining area with chalkboard pens.  It looked whimsical and illustrated the evening’s fare.  Lots of herbs would be showcased in our late spring supper.

Shyanne and I had a vision for this supper club that would incorporate local, organic produce, preferably from my garden.  Fresh, seasonal food prepared in a unique fashion to give party goers something different, something exciting, and a treat to the senses.

The first course was a cool, refreshing strawberry soup to go with the wine.  In a good blender combine a package of frozen strawberries, or other fruit, with a few cups of milk of choice (we used the last of our local goat’s milk), and a 1/2 cup of sugar.  Process than place in fridge until ready to serve.  Pulse one more time before pouring out frothy, creamy soup.

The second course was an easy salad with fresh greens, pickled eggs and beets (click for recipe), and drizzled with the malt vinegar the eggs were in, toasted pecans, and walnut oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  I had a loaf of homemade bread on the table too.  This course was enjoyed with housemade strawberry kombucha.

The next course was a duck egg frittata, eggs compliments of my good friend, Alli (who taught me how to make kombucha!).  The frittata was filled with eggs and fresh herbs from my garden, and grape tomatoes.  Eight eggs, 1/2 cup of milk of choice, 3 Tablespoons of herbs (we used thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, chives, chive flowers, clover flowers, cilantro, rosemary, and sage), and 1/2 cup of tomatoes.  Whisk together, pour into heated oiled pan and cook over medium heat until sides and top are almost set, without disturbing, then place under broiler for five minutes.  This was served with couscous and dried cherries with preserved chokecherry sauce.

This course was served with my homemade chokecherry wine.  How to Make Chokecherry Wine was my number one post last year so those of you who made it may want to know that after sitting on its side for twenty months, oh my gosh, it is sooo good.  Semi-sweet, dry, really good wine.

And lastly, the course we were all waiting for was Shyanne’s cake.  Shyanne took a recipe from the vegan cookbook I wrote some years ago (which is coming back into print) and added minced herbs and lemon.  She deftly minced lemon balm, lemon verbena, and lemon thyme.  There was a pile of herbs on the counter for garnish.  I asked her if she had put them in the cake.  She replied that she had put a little in.  “It’s mint, right?”

“Catnip.”

“What?!” she said in horror.  With her yummy lemon frosting and a cup of cardamom coffee, it made for a delightful dessert.

We so enjoy having various folks over to treat them.  Our next supper club is in August and will preview many fresh ideas from our garden.  Sign up early so you can be at the next supper club!  We’d love to entertain you.

The Entertaining Farmgirl-Christmas Time

I used to be known for my Christmas party.  I had one every year.  Hundreds of dollars spent on food.  Friends from all facets of our life were invited.  Each year I spent so much time in the kitchen, serving, cleaning up, trying to talk to everyone, that I actually didn’t get to spend any time with my friends.  I was more of the roaming, stressed hostess.  The last time we had a party, I hired someone to come do the dishes and help serve.  I had more time to talk to a few friends  before I noticed that all the food was gone and some of the guests were so drunk and obnoxious that they started offending and scaring off the other guests.  We needed to change something.  (Not the friends, I love those goofy guys.)

The only good thing about those parties was my ice breaker.  People talked about it and looked forward to it all year.  I split the guests into groups of unaffiliated couples.  They were given a sheet of paper with all of our animals’ names on it and told to tell what movie each name came from.  Back then we only had eight cats and one or two dogs.  It would be a hoot to do it now with sixteen chickens, two goats, two alpacas, along with eight cats, and two dogs!

We decided to have individual dinners with each group of friends.  I could be more present and really enjoy my friends.  We often go to a restaurant with Monte and Erik to exchange presents and celebrate our friendship and the year.  Toast the year ahead.  We’ll meet Margie and her family tonight at the wine bar.  Rodney, Pat, Kat, Rod, and Mark will come over Christmas night.  Last night we hosted Nancy and her crew.  Farmgirls reunited.  We made it through a treacherous summer of farmer’s markets.  Didn’t kill each other and came out stronger.  I was delighted to have her and her husband, daughter and boyfriend, and Nancy’s nephew who was home on leave from the Marines over for dinner.  My girls were here, the twinkly lights, candle lights, and oil lamp seems to shine brighter and sweeter with friends over.

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Here are some tips for putting together a seamless holiday dinner.  Everything is done in advance.  Don’t choose a day you work or will be running around to host ten people for dinner.

1. Clean the house during the day or the day before.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Candlelight and friends are forgiving.

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2. Set the table hours in advance.  Shoo cats off the table for the rest of the day.

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3. Prepare coffee pot and place after dinner cups on a tray.

4. Choose the menu a good week before and make sure you have the ingredients for it.  Let friends bring things.  They truly don’t mind (after all, their house is staying clean!).  Drinks, or an appetizer, or dessert could be taken care of if you only ask.

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5. Get creative with table settings.  I used an old lace curtain, topped with a round lace tablecloth, topped with a large, vintage doily.  Candles along the table.  Mix matched Christmas china…..let’s stop there.  I know that it is tempting to use Christmas paper plates but it is so much prettier and makes people feel special if you go all out with presentation.  I had everyone wash just their plate and I have considerably less dishes to do this morning.  Or Doug does anyway.  A canning jar acted as a water cup with a wine glass next to it.  Instead of cloth napkins, I threw in a bit of humor with cocktail napkins with funny sayings.  People started laughing immediately upon arrival as soon as they saw them.

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6. Back to the meal.  I always choose something like soup or pasta that can be made and sit in a pot on warm in the oven until ready to serve.  No more cooking while folks are over.  I made goulash last night in a cast iron pot and placed it in the oven.  A jar of sauerkraut, a jar of apple and pear sauces, and Nancy’s crisp salad rounded out the meal.  (It sure is nice having a full root cellar of canned food.  It is like having a grocery store in the basement.)

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7. Open up the wine and have a glass.  ‘Tis the time of year to celebrate!

Let’s see how you fare on the ice breaker.  Reply with your answers.  They are characters from a movie, play, or commercial.

Bumble-

Windsor Wizzer-

Snuggles Sheer Khan-

Ichabod Crane-

Zuzu’s Petals

Frankie and Louie (from a commercial)-

Clara Belle-

Mr. Boogedy Boo (Boo boo)-

Eliza Doolittle-

The Entertaining Farmgirl’s Summer Party

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Ever the Entertaining Farmgirl I must host shin digs.  It is my inner Martha Stewart.  Our summer party is my favorite.  Our friends are like dear family to us and to have everyone together is a blessing and a cause for celebration.  We can stretch out when we have the party outdoors instead of crammed in the old farmhouse in the winter for dinner parties.

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The weather started blustery, and rainy.  Small chips of hail hit us from the side as we tried to figure out how to fit twenty people in the living room if the weather did not let up.  An hour later, the temperature was perfect, the air fresh, and the sweetest party weather ensued.

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We set up our farmers market tents in case the rain joined us later.  The table was decorated simply with Santa Fe blankets and oil lamps.  Twinkly lights strung across the yard (I thought ahead last year after Christmas) made the scene enchanting.

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Our friend, Rodney, has a great system for music and karaoke and we are lucky enough to use his expertise and sound system for events at the farm.  Joyous singing, from serious and astounding vocal performances (like Dave’s rendition of New York, New York.  He was this close to making it on X Factor, the television show.), to the group performance and rousing remake of Bohemian Rhapsody.

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The goats were a big hit and they did their best to show their most fantastic antics.  Our little friend, Lucy, sure enjoyed the animals.

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We set up the party after having our booth all day at the street fair.  After three long days of farmers markets.  The house was not spotless.  We premade baked salmon with tropical barbeque sauce (fire ban here) and served it cold.  I set a pot of baked beans to cook itself in the crock pot early that morning (2 cups of pinto beans, 5 cups of water, 1/2 bottle of barbeque sauce, a couple good shakes of liquid smoke, a dollop of Worcestershire, five swirls of molasses, and at the end a few teaspoons of salt.)  In bean fashion, they weren’t quite done, but no one complained.  Everyone brought a summery dish.  Deviled eggs, bean salad, chips, fresh garden salad, pasta salad….the spread was mouthwatering.  Friends don’t mind making it a pot luck.  If almost everyone brings something, you will have enough food.  Lots of wine and beer were enjoyed plus a little spiked lemonade courtesy of Pat and Rodney.

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The conversation was great, the sunset was breathtaking, the music was hoppin, the food and drink were refreshing, and the summer party was a great way to take a breather from all the work required in the summer and enjoy the season.  Get some folks together for an impromptu pot luck.  Enjoy summer!