Sunday, December 14, 2014

Xander's Class Christmas Party

In 2002, I had my first Christmas Party. It was a mix of college friends and new work friends. The deal was I made all the food and provided the beer and wine, everyone else had to come with a bottle of alcohol to share. At the time, I lived with my GREAT-grandma (Granny) in a house my grandparents bought for me in Rocklin, as an investment for them, but to help me get started. The master bedroom, my bedroom, was on one side, my granny's side had her bedroom and living room and her bathroom was in between our bedrooms. She usually would spend time with her sister and brother at their homes throughout the year, but mostly she was there with me. Including my first Christmas Party. She stayed out of sight as promised and for me that was out of mind....No one knew she was there.......until the next morning..... People got shit-faced at this party. It was fun. The guy that I thought I loved but would turn out to be an incredible disappointment full of even more disappointing character 10 years later, came from the bay, brought a friend wearing navy blue velvet pants, the friend hooked up with another friend of mine in granny's bathroom. When they departed the bathroom, they accidentally locked the door from the inside out. That friend shacked with my friend that night at her house, and well, my friend, err, the guy I thought I loved, shacked with me. I also had three other friends stay the night. (In a separate rooms people! Do you think I'd really tell a story like THAT on this blog???) Remember no one knew Granny was there until the morning when we were all rushing around trying to clean up because I was heading to Mexico for a family cruise and I had an 11 am flight. All of sudden, granny comes barreling out of her room asking loudly, "Who's in my bathroom?" Everyone turned around and was like, who the hell is that???? "Who's in my bathroom????," she snarled again. "Uh, what? Who are you? How'd you get here?," was my response desperately trying to create the illusion this 90-year old woman was random, and didn't belong there, and broke into my home. "Someone's been in my bathroom since last night and I had to take a shit in the backyard!!!!," she growled. Damn. Now the story is too unbelievable. A 90-year old random burglar who shits in the backyards of the people she robs and then sticks around to harass them the next morning? The story is too far-fetched now. I have no choice but to come clean. "Sorry, granny! I don't know. We'll take care of it." The guy I thought I loved was in the police academy so he was like a 23-year old MacGyver with lots of tools, (I could totally insert a joke about him just turning out to be  a tool, but that would be mean, right?) Nevertheless, that particular day, that ONE particular day, he saved it by popping open the lock. After all the drama, the bathroom break-in was totally anticlimatic... It was just velvet pants who locked the door from the inside out when he was vacating after his horny hijinx. That was the first Christmas party. The Christmas party went on until 2011, but never quite reached that level of awesomeness again. People started to get busy, get married, have kids and quite frankly no one was interested in hooking up in a bathroom anymore. 

The party took on a new form in 2011....just close friends and their families and that was awesome. We all had kids then and everyone brought their kids over to play and it was awesome. Now though since everyone has kids with different schedules it's near impossible to get everyone together on the same day so we still do Christmas things with all of them, just on different nights and days during the month. Time marches on....

I've always believed the greatest gift you give anyone is time. Time, your attention, that's what's most important. That's what's remembered after we're gone. That's what matters. Those defining moments are true testaments of character. 

Xander, as you know, only had a cousins bday dinner this year, but has been so generously invited to his friends from school birthday parties. This school, this wonderful school, has given my son friends (aside from his cousins), that he actually talks about when he comes home from school. It makes my heart sing. Bam! I have an idea! Xander can have a Christmas party for his friends from school! And, I was off.....

I sent out the invitations (I wanted them out by Thanksgiving), planned the activities, the menu, the takeaway gift. I was in my element. Xander was so excited to have his friends over from school for the first time, and I was excited to get to know the parents better. From what I knew of them already, I really really liked them. But, I also wanted to make a good impression on them. Ordinarily, I'd answer the door with two glasses of wine in my hand, one for me and one for my guest, but I felt like I needed to take it slow. I didn't want to give the wrong impression. But when the first child and mother arrived, I offered up a whole bevy of beverages, "I have coffee, tea, white, red, beer, lemonade, iced tea, juice." I totally used the sandwich approach. My eyes light up when she said, "Oh, I'll take some red."  Thank God! My kinda parents! I said, "WooHoo! I was desperately hoping you'd say that!" And, every parent who arrived after (except one who was nursing) also agreed to wine. And, that kicked off a great morning, which turned into nearly 3:00. The kids played for hours doing what was planned and doing what wasn't planned, and me and Alex chatted and drank with the parents and had a great time. I can't wait to do it again! These were totally our type of people. #MotherhoodMyWay #NoOneElse'sRulesApplyToMe

Getting set up for the Craft Station the night before. The kids could choose between pipe cleaner beaded snowflake ornaments, or foam ornaments...PS Wine is my own and not a part of the station!

And, getting set up for the cookie decorating station...Again, wine my own and not a part of the station....

Preparing the party giveaway: a hammonds candy cane, a christmas book, and a christmas card....Again, wine my own, but look at the awesome time lapse happening with the wine itself....You can definitely tell I'm consuming as I'm getting ready.....

The final project.....

Xander would give these to each of his friends as they left with a hearty Merry Christmas and thanks for coming to my party!

Next morning I was up bright and early making the cookies. Recipe follows. These cookies are a huge hit and just absolutely perfect for decorating, or eating plain which is what I prefer.

Prepping the butternut squash for the macaroni and cheese. I pulled a little deceptively delicious with the macaroni and cheese. The "orange" color in the mac and cheese was more butternut squash puree than cheese, though I did use cheese too. The result was stupendous!

The three stages of my cookies: finished, ready to go in the oven, and just came out of the oven.

Completed cookie station.

Berry tree for the kids' buffet...

I can honestly say I've never done a buffet like this before! Butternut Squash Shells & Cheese, Berry Tree, Annie's Snacks and Applegate Chicken Nuggets.

My only regret with this party is that I didn't have more food for the adults. That was my mistake with this party because they were forced to eat the kids food. My bad. 

Butter Cookie Recipe:
3 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter
1 egg
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tspns of vanilla
1 tbspn of light corn syrup
A few shakes of salt

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy; Add egg, corn syrup and vanilla; Combine; A one cup of flour at a time; Add salt; Combine; Divide dough into 3 parts; Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate overnight; 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees; Roll dough, cut with cookie cutters; Bake for 12 - 14 minutes; 

Super easy and super delish! Recipe came from Town & Country magazine nearly 15 years ago!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wild Mushroom & Leek White Lasagna

Totally and completely my recipe 100 percent. It turned out exactly how I envisioned it. It was so good, you guys. Scrumptious! I made this the evening we cut down our Christmas tree. Told you I was backlogged on my posts. You might think being a vegetarian lasagna, it wouldn't have been satisfying, but according to Alex - who eats meat with nearly every meal - it was. Here's how I did it:


White Sauce:
4 tbsp of flour
4 tbsp of unsalted butter
3 cups of hot milk
8 oz of Chevre
1 generous handful of shredded Parmesan

2 bunches of leeks, cleaned and chopped
Loads and Loads of wild mushrooms....I used Cremini, Shitake, Oyster and King Oyster
3 shallots, chopped
White Wine like this delicious Toad Hollow Risque
2 tbsp of unsalted butter

Lasagna Noodles  I used fresh lasagna noodles and I think I liked them the best of no-boil and packaged boil.

French Fried Onion Rings
Parmesan Cheese

How to do it:

Preaheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter; Add the flour combining thoroughly after adding each tbspn; A thick paste will form; In a steady stream add the hot milk, whisking until a thick, cream-like substance forms; Cook for about three minutes; Add salt and pepper to taste; Add generous shakes of nutmeg; Add the Chevre and the shredded Parmesan; Stir until cheese is melted; Keep warm on low heat;

Boil the lasagna noodles; If using fresh lasagna noodles, it's super quick. Wham bam thank you mam quick. Like two minutes tops. Drain set aside;

In a skillet, heat some EVOO (enough to coat the pan) and melt the butter; saute the shallot and leeks; Season with salt and pepper; Add the mushrooms; Toss with the leeks and shallots, ensuring the mushrooms are coated in the EVOO/butter; If not, add a little more butter or EVOO, your choice, just one or the other; Season with more salt and pepper; Add about 1/4 of the wine to the skillet; Drink the rest; After 10 minutes or so, it should be ready; Remove from heat;

Now for the assembly.....

Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a generous helping of the sauce; layer the noodles; top with sauce; top with some of the leeks and mushrooms; top with some Parmesan cheese; top with noodles; repeat aforementioned steps until you run out of room or one of the above items, whichever comes first. Your last layer however should be sauce. That's important. On top of the sauce, sprinkle more Parmesan Cheese and the French Fried Onions and bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.

This is perfect for a cold winter's night. This would be too heavy for the spring or summer. And, it was awesome with the Risque, but I think it would be equally delicious with a Pinot Noir, but what do I know? I just think it would taste good.