Lisa Thornbury: Party Mummy


Formal Dinner Parties For Dummies

Host A Supper Soiree Without Going Mad

Does the thought of planning, preparing, and serving a lavish seven course meal have you reaching for your cookbooks in giddy anticipation? Or does the image of a smokey kitchen and food poisoning lawsuit send you diving for cover under your dining room table? Maybe a smaller, less intimidating cocktail party is more your scene?

Cocktails parties I can do with my eyes shut. Formal dinner parties? So not my forte. Occasionally I pull out the cloth napkins and use the real china, but that’s as fancy as it gets. Welcoming, I can do. Elegant and refined, not so much.

I've had my share of dinner party disasters, like the time the table caught fire or the night when guests broke out into a full spousal spat over the first course, follow by a drunken dance performance during dessert. We dined in hell that night. I’m happy to say that my savory courses were not the cause of that bitter discourse.

I get a little stage fright before hosting a large FORMAL dinner party. I like to cook, but I’m no Julia Child. I can follow a basic recipe, but the timing of each course stresses me out. Plus, I need to concentrate and focus (neither of which I’m very good at) when preparing a “fancy” meal (read: not take-out or thaw and serve) so I end up missing out on the action. If I’m going to throw a party, I want to be there dammit!

This is why I usually plan casual dinners. Simple fare, buffet style, pot luck, BBQs, “all hands on deck” kinds of affairs. That way I can relax and enjoy. Plus, the microwave is less likely to explode and poison control needn’t be called.

However, there are many amazing mummies who actually relish the challenge of serving an elegant meal to a party of twelve. Party Daddy and I had the pleasure of dining at the home of one of these ladies a few weeks ago. Shelley F. is essentially Martha Stewart, Julia Child and Cocktail Deeva rolled into one. Her house is immaculate, her children are always well behaved, and her food is delicious (like, drool dripping off your chin, tasty).

We had a wonderfully elegant meal and I now…I must reciprocate. Eek! Would they notice if I brought food in and disguised it as my own? Maybe I’ll throw a “Hire A Chef – Kitchen Party?"

Shelley assured me the food she prepared was dead easy. The entire meal was outstanding, but two highlights for me were the starter – a yummy and LOW CAL soup and the delish dessert. Shelley has kindly shared the recipes below.

As Julia would say, Bon Appetit!

Senegalese Peanut Soup (Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook)

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tsp peanut oil (I used sesame)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 ½ tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cumin
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
¼ tsp cayenne
2 tablespoons cilantro

 In food processor combine chickpeas, ½ cup chicken broth and peanut butter. Puree.

 Sauté onions and ginger until soft. Stir in curry, cumin. Add remaining chicken broth, tomatoes and chickpea mixture. Simmer. Season with cayenne and serve with cilantro.

Frozen Pistachio Pie with Raspberry Sauce

1 cup crushed graham crumbs
½ cup chopped pistachio nuts, 3 tbsp butter, melted

1 package light cream cheese
1 box (4 serving) pistachio instant pudding mix
1 ¼ cup skim milk
1 container (8 oz) frozen fat free whipped topping, thawed

1 package (10 oz) frozen raspberries in syrup, partially thawed
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp orange liquor (I actually used Chambord)

Reserved 1 cup topping
1-2 tbsp chopped pistachios

 Mix crust ingredients together and press firmly in bottom of 9 inch spring form pan

 Beat cream cheese until light.  Add pudding mix and milk until combined.  Reserve one cup whipped topping (for garnish) and add remainder of tub to cream cheese mixture folding with spatula until well blended.  Spoon over crust.  Freeze for 4 hours.
 In food processor blend sauce ingredients.  Strain seeds if desired (I didn’t).
 Let dessert thaw for 1 hour in refrigerator.  Carefully run knife along the edge of pan to loosen from sides.
 Top each serving with reserved whipped topping, pistachios and raspberry sauce.