This past weekend, my friend Emily and I co-hosted a book release party for our friend Rachel Haas. And somehow I thought my role as co-host meant I would show up early to help out and bring a platter of bacon-wrapped dates. And Emily thought it meant she would host and handle drinks and I would bring all the food. We laughed about it all weekend because for two professional writers, we absolutely failed on the communication front!
I figured out what was going on Thursday afternoon, the day before the party. I was on a conference call and I saw a text message pop up saying something like: We have 20 people coming tomorrow night and I’ve got all the drinks covered — can’t wait to eat your delicious food! (This is a paraphrase. It actually took me a few messages to catch on because (a) sometimes I’m kind of dense and (b) my brain was focused on some awesome spreadsheets.)
If I’d realized what was going on a little earlier, I would have spent a lot of time planning an awesome menu for Rachel’s party — because she wrote an entire book and we are totally psyched for her huge accomplishment — but since I only had from 6 p.m. Thursday to when I went to sleep and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday when I had to leave for the party, we had to focus on easy, fast, tried-and-true favorites to get the party started. Emily created the most beautiful party environment, and I think the food turned out pretty great too.
Here’s what I did:
- Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese. I doubled the version and when it was going into the oven it looked too soupy, but when it came out of the oven it was golden and delicious. Macaroni and Cheese is vegetarian-friendly, super filling, and not too expensive on your party budget, so it’s a go-to for me when I need to feed a crowd. I made and baked this Thursday night, and then reheated in the oven at Emily’s on Friday night.
- Bacon-wrapped Goat Cheese Dates. You just put the tiniest bit of goat cheese inside the dates, wrap them up with raw bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy. Super easy. We prepped these on Thursday night and then baked them at Emily’s house while the party was getting started. Bacon smells great while cooking, so it’s a win-win for everyone there.
- Barbecue Meatballs. Grab freezer meatballs and throw them into the your crock pot with barbecue sauce. I used a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s, peach jam, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water. I kept adding stuff until it tasted good to me. Follow your heart here.
- Hummus Platter with Vegetables. I used Sabra hummus but transferred it into a fancy container and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. I hate how raw broccoli feels dry and scratchy in your throat at parties, so I skipped it and went with baby carrots and sliced red and green bell peppers instead. Since the mac-and-cheese and meatballs were a bit heavy, the lighter hummus and vegetables offered a healthier option.
- Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Fudge. Cupcakes, cookies, cakes — I would usually bake something lovely for such a huge moment in a friend’s life, but since time was limited (and honestly, so was our fridge space!) I went with an easy, quick dessert: fudge. I’m sure there are really delicious ways to make fudge that are not easy, but for both of my efforts, it involved pouring things into a bowl, microwaving that bowl, stirring the contents of the bowl, pouring the melted contents into another container, chilling, and chopping. So easy! The small bites are party-friendly. But, since some have peanut allergies I’m really careful to keep the peanut butter fudge separate so if needed, it can be swept away and the party can be allergy-free.
And the reason for the party: Rachel’s New Book!
If you’re interested in fairy-tales, new fiction writers, or just making someone feel awesome, click through here to purchase Rachel L. Haas’s new book, Portals of Water and Wine. I’m so impressed with Rachel’s tenacity to get this book written and out into the world — I think we could all learn a lot from her commitment to her art. Here she is on Friday night, talking about her writing process and reading a selection from her new release!