Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Anatomy of a Dinner Party....when you have kids

Before Tony and I had the girls we had friends over for dinner all the time. Rarely was it anything more fancy than a pizza we ordered in, and some drinks, but we did it often. When our girls were very little our easy dinner parties happened less and less, but as they've gotten bigger we've picked it up again.

Recently, my friends at B by Brandie sent me THE most gorgeous china place settings, which to me equaled the perfect reason for a dinner party with friends! They sent me their Gold Astor Dinner plates, Birkin appetizer/salad plates, and their turquoise Truman bowls. The whole set together is just stunning! I also love how you can mix and match colors and patterns - you really can't go wrong with anything from B by Brandie! (I currently have their Olivia wine glasses on my wishlist!)

Anyways, beautiful place settings aside I believe for a fantastic dinner party (with kids) you need a few things....

A good red wine, and a good white wine. And by good I by no means am saying expensive. Most of my favorite wines are less than $15 a bottle. I say choose one of your favorites, and one of your guests's favorites. (For example, I'm not a chardonnay drinker, but know my girlfriend loves it, so I made sure to have one chilled and ready.)

You also need simple appetizers, and my go-to is a cheese plate. I pick up three different types of cheese - one hard, one soft, and something unexpected. In this case - the hard: Toscana soaked in Syrah. The soft: a log of goat cheese, rolled in herbs. The unexpected: extra sharp cheddar with bits of hot chilis and red bell peppers. (All from Trade Joe's. If you don't have a Trader Joe's by you, I am so SO sorry! You should move to a city where they have at least one.) ;) For kiddos I also like to have something out (although 99% of the time they're perfectly happy nibbling on the cheeses and crackers. I usually grab something delicious-looking from the Trader Joe's freezer section (mini frozen pizzas are always a huge hit!)

I keep dinner pretty simple. After a couple glasses of wine, and some cheese we usually don't want anything too heavy, so I make a big, flavorful salad* (recipe below), a meat dish - THIS one is delicious, and couldn't be simpler!) and a grain on the side. Usually some sort of rice, pasta or cous cous. I don't ever make anything different for the kids - our everyday rule is they eat what we eat, or they don't eat. (Spoiler alert - they might fuss, but they always end up eating whatever it is Tony or I cook.

Speaking of the kids - after dinner, and some playing around I like to pop on a movie when the night is starting to wind down. Usually they're getting a little tired, and the adults are moving onto a cocktail, and a movie is the perfect way for them to start winding down.

But then again, when it's a movie they all love, they'll probably be singing and dancing along the whole time!

We have a couple packs of Cards Against Humanity for the adults to play and laugh to, while the kids are happily watching their movie! Have you guys played that game? Naughty, but fun. We also really love Pictionary!

For dessert I always pick up a gallon of some crazy ice cream concoction for the kids, and a couple pints of gelato for the adults. Easy peasy.

With a dinner party/simple get together with friends and your kids friends, you just want to make sure that everyone is relaxed and having a good time. And when everyone's having fun, your bff might just text you a cute selfie she found on her phone the next day of the two "big" kids:

What are YOUR tips for dinner parties with kids??

*This is a recipe for the most delicious salad I've ever had. It's an oldie, but goodie, passed down to my mom and her friends from their Bunco-playing days, when I was little. Try it, I guarantee you will love it!

Carla's Salad:

(The amounts are approximate – adjust to your taste.)
Marie’s brand Poppy Seed Dressing (You can find it in the refrigerated section, near bagged salads)
Spring Mix lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
About 6 slices bacon, cooked
2 small cans of mandarin oranges
Sugared sliced almonds (I make about a cup)

To sugar the almonds: Preheat oven to 350°. Put parchment paper or Silpat on a cookie sheet. Put the almonds in a bowl and pour water over them to wet them. Pour off the water, then put about 1/3 cup of sugar over nuts and stir to coat. Place the sugared nuts in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Place in the oven and cook until golden brown. (I think about 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned them!) When I’m paying attention, the edges seem to brown first. I then stir them around about half way through.

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