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Archive for the ‘blue envelope cooking’ Category

There I was, in my apartment, strawberry buttermilk cake iced and decorated on the counter in it’s crystal cake stand, my hair in curlers, doing my makeup and getting ready for a ladies tea party, drinking a gin cocktail and singing along to some forgotten Dean Martin song.  And I thought, I would have made a damn fine 196os housewife.

That line brought to mind all kinds of interesting foods and images…pot roast, meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, gin, card games, pencil skirts, Brussels sprouts, all those things that were so decadent and were staples of every Betty Crocker-loving housewife.  Coincidentally, I used the 1973 version of the Betty Crocker Cooking for Two Cookbook to make the scalloped potatoes for my first Family Meal.

So those thoughts and images inspired my first dinner party.   But in order to make my friends part with their cash in return for a home cooked meal, I had to make this a really special, edgy 1960s Family Meal.  In my mind, 1960s housewives didn’t exactly get paid by those they hosted dinner parties for, unless you count payment as the opportunity to clean up  the whole mess, have your husband’s creepy boss hit on you and his wife get drunk and spill her red wine on your white carpet, or if you’re lucky, your husband gives you a little bauble or access to a credit account at the grocery or Macy’s as payment.  And for those of you who are wondering, yes I do have a very odd imagination.  Anyway, menus worthy of a paid-for dinner party started forming in my mind.

The pot roast was a must, but I needed some kind of kick to it, no mushy boring potatoes and veggies for this dinner party.  At my office Christmas party last year the gift I bartered for was a Sriracha cookbook.  It intrigued me so I bribed a co-worker to take the crappy scented candle I’d picked out of the pile.  I made this pulled pork with a brown sugar / Sriracha rub that was amazing.  I decided to do some kind of spicy-sweet pot roast, and try to keep the veggies slightly firm.

So what else?  The aforementioned scalloped potatoes were essential, and I couldn’t bear to butcher Betty’s butter-laden creamy goodness, so I left those alone.  Brussels Sprouts were a done deal.  If you read the “Tastes Like Broccoli” post from a few days ago you’ll know why I had to choose those pretty little cabbage cousins.  I did them up with garlic, honey and a touch of Sriracha (yeah, I’m obsessed with that stuff).

The appetizer was a bit more of a challenge.  My aunt and uncle who were my age in the 60s were visiting from Maryland as I was putting together my menu, and I scoured them for ideas for appetizers.  They came up with Jello.  Seriously.  Jello.  And cheese and crackers.  Turns out 1960s housewives weren’t that creative when it came to appetizers.  So I improvised.  Simple…fried…tasty.  TATER TOTS!  But I couldn’t just pop open a bag of Ore Ida and throw them in the oven.  Had to make special tots…sweet potato goat cheese tots with a dipping sauce made with sour cream, Greek yogurt, honey, cinnamon and red pepper flakes.  Oh yeah.

So amazing (though the tots actually became nests as I fried them…I am terrible at frying things).  No matter, I just served them in little cupcake tins with forks.  And of course no self-respecting housewife gets through the 1960s without mastering a bundt cake, so I threw in a lemon blueberry bundt for dessert.  Just the right tart and sweet to end a great meal.

So, invitations were sent, the night arrived, and two by two some of my most supportive friends started arriving.  And…other supportive friends, I didn’t forget you.  My table only seats 10, so you’ll get the chance to part with your cash in time.  I promise.  I fried up the tot nests, let the meat rest, carved it, enjoyed bustling around the kitchen while listening to my dear friends chat about random things.  It was a really great mix of people…I tried to put together friends from different areas of my life, but made sure I wasn’t the only common denominator so they would have plenty to talk about.  I couldn’t believe how well the night flowed.  We even had some crashers that I was able to feed, and who joined the conversation perfectly.   I’m starting to think that I can do this…that I can really cook for people on a regular basis.  It’s taken a lot to get here…a lot of stress, planning, finding the right people to come.  But when that first knock on the door came and my first guests arrived, I figured out that I was doing something really important.  Something that will make me happy for a long time.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for. So, stay tuned to see what inspires my next Blue Envelope Family Meal.

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I’m starting to realize that I’m pretty blessed.  This cooking thing has been so simple, and support has just been magically coming in.  I’d always heard that doing the things you love can be so difficult, so much work, but somehow I’m missing that part, and only getting the fun.

So I had the chance to cook for two very special birthdays over the past few weeks.  A party of eleven for my friend Nikki, which I hosted at my place in Downtown Orlando; and a party of six this past Saturday at my parents’ house for my brother Kyle’s 35th.  Nikki’s party was the first I’d hosted and Nikki is literally the hostess with the mostess, so the prospect of cooking for her party was intimidating.  Plus it was a dinner that would be kind of a prequel to the parties I’ll be hosting for my friends for actual payment.  I volunteered as a way to impress my friends…to show them that this cooking thing was a big deal, and that it’s not just another random project to keep me busy.  That I’m actually good at it, and it will be worth it for them to part with obscene amounts of their money over the next few months in order to taste my amazing creations (ok, not obscene…actually I’m charging a rather modest $15-20 per person).

I made quite the meal…started with some Midnight Moon goat cheese, crackers, nuts and fruit, then moved on to pan-seared scallops topped with a cucumber-cilantro sauce.  The main course was Guinness braised beef over crostini and linguine with kale pesto (the kale pesto is from another blogger…in pursuit of more), and for dessert black & tan brownies (also made with Guinness).  It was a pretty incredible meal, and everyone had a great time.  The guest list added a couple when my roommate and her boyfriend joined us, but there was plenty of food, and everything got rave reviews.  As I sat on the balcony with Nikki in the last minutes of the party, I heard my friend tell me she was proud of me.  That she could see that I was happy with myself and that this cooking thing really fit me.  Those words were pretty powerful for me.

So my next meal was a week later, at my mom & dad’s.  My brother came in from Brooklyn for his 35th birthday, and I asked to cook for him.  There’s something special about cooking a meal for your big brother’s birthday.  Something incredibly adult, but still innocent about it.  It’s like you revert back to being in kindergarten drawing a picture or gluing macaroni to a piece of paper in the shape of his face…but of course your using incredibly sharp knives, ovens, and drinking wine.  The process is all wrapped up in love and thoughts of our growing up years…he’s one of the first people I ever met and the only person who has known me my whole life (other than my parents), so all of this emotion is rolled up into the meal.  Memories of watching Star Wars over and over again every summer; running for my life after I’d done something to really piss him off and he was chasing me toward my room with what I thought at the time was absolutely lethal intent; crying with him in his room after our first horrible day of school in a new city.  And now, as an adult, sharing a bottle of wine with him and ringing in the end of his 35th year with a pot roast, Brussels sprouts, scalloped potatoes, rosemary sriracha aioli and chocolate souffle.  I think it is one of the best times I’ll ever have in my life.  And it makes me realize that I’m doing the right thing by cooking for the people I love.

I’m glad that Nikki and Kyle were the first people I got to share this with.  They are important people in my life for very different reasons.  Kyle, for having been by my side through a lifetime of growing up, and Nikki for being supportive of me and truly being one of the first people to understand what I’m doing here.  Explaining to each of them that by cooking for them I was starting to find my place, my purpose, was a wonderful thing.

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