Kaki, I hosted two different gatherings at my place last week, one Tuesday and one Thursday. That sounds a bit crazy when I write it but let me tell you, it was actually pretty easy. I’m starting to think I might be good at this.
First things first, thank God I have a job where on occasion I can work from home. Because Tuesday, every break in the onslaught of emails was used for some kind of cleaning; wipe down bathroom, vacuum up bits of paper from the Massive Shred-a-thon of 2013, move every random crafting or laundry-related item to the bedroom for the evening. Shut the door, apartment looks sparkling, awesome.
Second, I outsourced. Your brother and Gio were my guests on Tuesday, as well as a couple of their friends that were crashing at their place last minute. Alex and Gio graciously offered to provide wine and dessert, so I only had to worry about an easy appetizer and the main course.
Third, I put that slow-cooker to work! I got the America’s Test Kitchen: Slow Cooker Revolution cook book last year, and I highly recommend it… for meat-eaters. Sadly, there are very few vegetarian recipes in there, which is obnoxious; even a lot of the bean-heavy recipes call for bacon or ham hocks or the like. Still, their recipes are always really tasty, and the ribs I put in the slow-cooker that morning were no exception. (You finish them under the broiler after basting with barbeque sauce*, so they get just a little crispy, how genius is that!)
Finally, I kept the veggies easy. Appetizer was pre-washed green beans and some sliced red bell pepper, with the Easiest Honey Mustard Sauce Ever (recipe below). Honey mustard is my new go-to, Shoot-I-need-a-snack-on-the-table-NOW recipe. Pour, stir, taste, done. Then for the salad I did a take on everyone’s favorite kale salad from Smitten Kitchen. Finally I sliced up sweet potatoes for fries, although there were too many for the one sheet pan I had available and they turned out more like just soft, roasted sweet potato pieces. Not that anyone minded. Also, the sweet potatoes were really good with some of the honey-mustard drizzled over the top. Hmmm-mmm.
For book club two days later, my apartment was already relatively clean, and I put out leftover green beans and made up another batch of honey mustard. I sliced up an apple. I put out the leftover cookies that Gio had brought. I heated up the kettle for tea. I cut up some cheese, and asked someone else to bring crackers. Cooper also brought chocolates that a vendor had given her at work that day. Sarah brought some delicious banana bread. And all of a sudden we went from “I have a few measly leftovers, what can I do?” to a full buffet of little bites. So easy, I couldn’t believe it just came together like it did.
Easiest Honey Mustard Sauce Ever
1 part yellow-mustard (or whatever mustard you have on hand)
1 part honey (or maybe a touch more, to taste)
1 teeny-tiny squirt of hot sauce (we’re talking barely-squeeze-the-bottle here, or to taste, naturally) (I use Sriracha)
several cranks freshly cracked black pepper
Pour mustard, honey, and hot sauce into a small bowl. Stir vigorously to combine. Taste and add more honey if desired. Transfer to serving bowl, or just use a wet paper towel to clean up the edges of the bowl your stirred it in if that is the serving bowl. Crack black pepper on top so it looks like a nice garnish. Done and done.
Have you gotten to host much in your new place, Kaki? Do you have hosting tricks you can share with me? I’m all ears, girl, especially as Project: Celebrate Everything is upon us.
Hope your pre-Thanksgiving days are going well!
*Gio asked at the table, “Oh, where did you get this barbecue sauce?” and I sheepishly admitted I made it. I say sheepishly because it sounds a bit overkill, a bit too “Martha”; “Oh, I just whipped up a batch of barbecue sauce, right after I humanely raised and then slaughtered the pig for the ribs today, which was of course after I’d finished firing all of our plates in the kiln this morning. Nothing especially difficult.” It sounds a bit much, but happily, it is one of the easiest things to make, you just pour ingredients in the pot and let them simmer until the sauce is as thick as you like it. Measuring all the spices is the most time-consuming part of it, which is to say, not that time-consuming. I have found my barbecue sauce happy-place, and it is here: Big Al’s K.C. Barbecue Sauce.
P.S. I feel like this is the wrong post for today. I feel like I should be posting either a “You guys, stay calm, you can totally handle making a full Thanksgiving meal”, or a “You guys, the standards? Please, it’s time to gussy-up those Thanksgiving favorites.”, or perhaps even a “You guys, what in the world can vegetarians do on Thanksgiving?” post, like every other blog in America. But, you know, I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. I’m not that audience yet. I’m just going to Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house like we do most years (though I am showing up with this, so, that’s something). My life isn’t two days of brining a turkey this week. It’s quick, make a sauce and use some raw, pre-washed veggies as the appetizer, boom, done. It’s someone else bring crackers, please, because I have cheese and then we’ll have crackers and cheese. It’s offering milk to my book club members and realizing wait, take that back, this milk might be a touch old… And I’m cool with that. Plus, the more I think about it, an easy appetizer might be just what’s needed on a busy cooking day like Thanksgiving. Maybe this is more topical than I’d thought. 🙂
P.P.S. I made the prettiest vegetable stock last weekend, with tons of carrot and sweet potato peels, some leek tops and parsley stems. When we get back from Thanksgiving I’m going to make up a batch of ramen with it. Ha, maybe ramen with turkey if leftovers happen.