A few years ago when Valentine's Day landed on a Saturday night, we hosted a party for 30 of our closest friends and their children. Our budget was really small, we didn't have a lot of time to cook and I was determined to have good food, drinks and fun.
The meal we served was a simple Italian spaghetti dish with bacon and pine nuts that I recruited my Italian friend Denise to help make. Loaded up antipasti plates were delicious appetizers and I bought a Valentine's Day cake for dessert from my local grocery store. The cake served as dessert and decoration for the table. For drinks, we provided one specialty cocktail and everyone brought whatever else they desired.
At the time, most of my friends had small children so we transformed our garage into an arts and crafts room stocked with colorful paper and crayons (and heaters). I purchased a bunch of crafty plastic cups online that the kids decorated, drank from and took home. Purchasing the cups and kid drinks in gallons was less expensive than if I bought individual juice and milk boxes. We hired two teens to supervise and encourage the kids to color and play nicely.
This party cost us $200.
My point is, with some organization you can throw together an enjoyable gathering for little money and time. The key to a successful party is really thinking about your guest list. Had there not been a special place for the kids to play, adults would have been distracted and unable to mingle. If I asked everyone to bring food (which is okay) then my friends would have spent their Saturday shopping and cooking and I wanted everyone to be relaxed and ready to have fun.
Here are a few tips for an uncomplicated, successful party:
> Have an activity for adults and children (pool, cards, watching football)
> Menus with themes are easy to shop for and ingredients can be reused in another course (parmesan cheese on antipasti platter and spaghetti dinner)
> Recruit a few close friends to help (I have a bottle of bubbly in the kitchen to share with helpers.)
If entertaining is on your mind, a taco party is a fun way to have company, re-create dishes and deliver a meal most people like. On the right you will find an easy, colorful, inexpensive recipe that will elevate your taco night. Include this with traditional beef tacos and party success is yours!
2 lbs. catfish
1 tablespoon ground Cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
4 cups shredded red cabbage
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup diced green onion (about three using both green and white parts)
1/8 cup diced jalapenos (optional)
1.5 tablespoon lime juice
Pulse 1/2 head (3 cups) of red cabbage in a food processor for about 5 seconds. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, let sit for 30 minutes to release cabbage juices.
Mix next five ingredients with cabbage, chill.
Wash and pat dry catfish.
Mix cumin and paprika together and spread generously over both sides of fish.
Heat saute pan over medium and drizzle with vegetable oil.
Add fish, cook covered for 10-12 minutes, flipping once.
Shred fish with fork and serve on corn tortillas with slaw.
Garnish with diced mango or avocado.