Sunday, December 23, 2012

Casual Friends Soiree

We headed back to the Mo's aunt house for a 2nd round of noodle soup for brunch.  Since the broth had an extra day to simmer, it was even better the 2nd time around (similar to spaghetti sauce tasting better the next day).

I signed up for a free trial at the new Best Fitness in Lowell since I was NOT going to drive all the way to Woburn on my days off just to work out.  They were kind enough to extend my free trial to the end of the year instead of the usual 7 days.  After some cardio and pumping some iron, I felt a little less guilty about the rest of my day.
Nat's festive cookie jar and napkin holder
(that I wanted to steal)

Between 2 PM and 5 PM, I happily "slaved" in the kitchen, prepping and cooking for a casual dinner get together with some great friends.  My friend Nat was kind to host and we all brought dishes to share among friends. Her house is more "kids friendly" aka no wild dogs running around clawing their newborns and eating people shoes, purses and brand new car keys.

Our gracious host brought out the Belvidere vodka, an assortment of fine wines (I'm used to drinking $4.00 brands) and allowed us to help ourselves around the kitchen and fridge. I think we've all become too comfortable... but that's a different story.

For tonight's soiree, I made a variety of appetizers and entrees.  A holiday party wouldn't be tradition without my usual goat cheese spinach stuffing but since I forgot to pick up goat cheese, so I made a seafood & spinach stuffed mushrooms instead.
(Raw Mushrooms ready for baking)
I hate to admit, but I have to give credit when credit is due, I also made Marcia's recipe for sweet and sour meatballs.  It's someone I work with that makes it for all our work "pot luck" events. She usually makes it with turkey meatballs. The recipe is so easy, meatballs + grape jelly + chili sauce and set it in the slow cooker and forget it.

I vamped it up a little bit and added sweet Italian sausages and jalapeno peppers to give it a little kick.

Another staple of mines, is fried chicken wings, any style. For tonight's gathering, I made combination of habanero mango and "Asian Zing" using sauces from Buffalo Wild Wings.  Wings are always are hit at any party and they are cheap and easy to make and everyone loves wings!

No holiday dinner is complete without stuffing. I prepared an "out of the box" Stove top stuffing and added sausages, raisins, vegetables and topped it with fried onion bits and shredded cheddar cheese.

 I made a chicken parmasean baked ziti that I left in the broiler for a few minutes too long since I was too busy taking shots and what not, I was a bit disappointed in the outcome. It was a bit dry and a little burnt.

Everyone loves eggrolls and my friend Nat prepped some delicious eggrolls. I'm pretty particular about my eggrolls as people tend to skimp out on the filling but hers were perfect.

Most of the pictures were taken at the beginning of the night and I forgot to pull out my camera for the rest of the dishes that everyone brought.

Our friend Nang ordered 3 quarts of Legal Seafood's delicious clam chowder that was served with oyster crackers.  This was a hit! He wanted to do something different and he definitely succeeded! I don't think I've ever been to any gathering that served Legal's chowder, if only I got invited to presidential inaugurations then that would be a different story.

Thien and Lemar served my favorite spinach salad with goat cheese (my absolute favorite) and walnuts tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette.  Funny story, Lemar sent Thien into the grocery store and advised him on the ingredients she needed for the salad and Thien took it upon himself to pick up croutons and bacon bits for the salad. Needless to say, those ingredients were set aside and served "a la carte" for those who wanted it.   

Syn picked up mouth watering roasted pork from China Star and everyone feasted on that delectable goodness.  This dish always goes pretty fast.  Its so simple but so very satisfying.

For dessert, Sophea aka Fifi intended on grabbing a wonderful cake from H-mart but with the shit-show traffic on that road, it was impossible. Her mom made a delicious Cambodian coconut jelly dessert with tropical fruits and jelly.

I also ordered chocolate covered berries from Shari's berries using a groupon/living social special.  It was originally intended for my sister for our family holiday gathering but since it was postponed another week, the berries wouldn't last that long.  It was a dozen of their gourmet, Hand dipped cocktail strawberries  (Champagne, amaretto and rum flavored)

It was a great night, we shared drinks, lots of laughter, I tricked a parent into letting me hold their baby (buzzed.... not DRUNK.. haha) and I learned that Burma was an actual country and not part of Indonesia (yes... I'm pretty ignorant these days)..

I came home and found Kashi instant oatmeal in my purse... not sure why/how... but I'm sure there is a story behind that!