Posted in Entertaining

A Christmas Wine Tasting Party

On a cold winter’s eve, a group of friends gathered at my home, escaping the windy night, to celebrate the holiday with dinner, gifts, and to taste my new wines. Thank you to my friend, Annie, for taking photos!

The tree was decorated and all aglow, the twinkly lights and candles were lit and cast a lovely glow. Food was set out all around so that guests would mingle; latkes, cheese balls, olives, pickles, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, chips and dip, limocello cheese cake, and ginger bread.

We created a game that we have done at every party. Guests pair up with someone they don’t know and answer the questions. The questions are based on the origin of our animal’s names. There is always laughter during this trivia game! (You can answer the questions at the end of this article!)

The Chardonnay was everything I wanted to be. It was a very small batch. Caramel apples and light pineapple in every taste of this delicious wine. I was so pleased.

My Merlot was a hit. Sumptuous, with aromas of cranberries and flavors of mulberries and cedar; currants and complexity linger on the palate. We toasted to friends and the new year.

Everyone brought a ten dollar gift to exchange. Numbers were drawn and everyone went home with a wonderful present.

I let each guest have a barrel taste of my new Nebbiolo. It is still sweet with juice but the flavors are coming together beautifully and I think it will be a very fine wine indeed.

Keeping in mind what is really important, gather those you love near, introduce new friends, and gather memories dear.

Ice Breaker:

  • What are our cats, Chuck and Linus, named after?
  • What movie is our cat, Mr. Boogedy Boo, named after?
  • What movie/books does our dog, Gandalf’s name come from?
  • What movie/book do our goats’ names come from? Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones?
  • The sheep we are getting in a few weeks will be named Ebenezer and Fezziwig, where does that come from?
  • Our kittens are named Taos and Socorro- what do those have in common?
  • Our ducks are named Serrano, Sandia, and Big Jim- what do those have in common?
  • Tie breakers- A past cat we had was named Zuzu’s Petals and a greyhound we had was named Bumble; what movies are those names from?
Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Gathering Folks Together, a Simple Baby Shower, and an Easy One Pot Cake

My home seemed too small to host a baby shower for my friend, but I know after all these years of gathering people, that somehow it all works out perfectly. So my daughter, Emily, and I started planning. In my small space, we amazingly, and comfortably fit eighteen people, laughing and wishing the new mama well.

Parties needn’t be elaborate or expensive. When an RSVP came in, if they asked if they could bring something, I said yes! Many parties can be potlucks. No one minds. I always loved to throw great, large dinner parties, until I realized how crazy I was getting trying to get everything cleaned, then everything cooked, and I never ended up having time for my guests and relaxation.

My favorite guest, my granddaughter, Ayla Mae!

If you throw a celebration between mealtimes, you can just provide a few snacks and drinks. The idea is to get folks together. In an era of social media, loneliness, and disconnect, we must go out of our way to gather people together. Invite neighbors over for a neighborhood potluck. Invite a few couples over for cocktails and a card game.

Or invite several people you don’t know to a baby shower! It was really great fun. Gifts, chips and dips, vegetables trays, cupcakes, and my own vegan cake filled tables. A few different people brought sodas and Emily brought paper ware and index cards. We had the guests write their advice for the new mama. As she read each one aloud, I could tell she was touched by the support that she may not have realized she had as a single mom. It takes a village to raise a child, and a small part of the village came together to show her that.

Let us promote the idea of village once again and invite folks over to celebrate anything…celebrate life!

I like to make an easy one pot cake for gatherings. This recipe can have infinite possibilities. Use all flour or use hazelnut flour instead of almond. Change the spices. Use water or almond milk instead of coffee. Just keep the basic numbers right and you will end up with a delicious, moist, plant based cake every time!

Amaretto and Coffee Cake

Combine:

2 1/2 cups of unbleached, organic flour

1 cup almond flour

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons of baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of ground coffee

1 Tablespoon homemade cinnamon extract (or 1 teaspoon of store bought vanilla extract)

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 cup of coffee

2 Tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar

Quickly stir it all together (the baking soda and vinegar is what makes it rise) and pour into a 9×11 greased pan, 2 greased round pans, or a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

For the baby shower cake, I just used regular frosting. I made the same cake the evening before for a gathering with friends and make an amaretto frosting to top the cake with. Amaretto and Coffee cake is delicious.

In a bowl combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 Tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur. Drizzle over cake.

Posted in Entertaining

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.