Friday, December 23, 2011

All in the Name of Progress!

We really have been in full swing party mode this week - with a neighborhood dinner party on Tuesday night and a Playgroup Cookie Party on Thursday - I am plum tuckered out!  But boy howdy have we had fun!!

'The Girls' at House #1

I've mentioned the sheer fabulousness of my neighborhood before - it is an older (larger lots), smaller (especially by today's standards) subdivision in the middle of our small town with easy access to the freeway, shopping and the like.  But none of this is what makes our neighborhood so sought after (It's true!) and such a great place to call home.

It's not the neighborhood - it's the neighbors!
And we consider ourselves blessed to call them friends.

To celebrate our collective awesomeness, several of us decided to have a party and since we are all addicted to Pinterest all wanted an excuse to decorate we decided to make it a PROGRESSIVE DINNER PARTY!

Now if you have not heard of this or participated in one yet, you are missing out!  You basically divide up the party into stops - we went with cocktails and appetizers at one house, main course at another and dessert/after dinner festivities a third, but you can divide it up as many times as you like.  Since we only extended an invitation to one non (but honorary!) neighbor, we skipped invitations and just decided on a time to start, but you might want to designate times for different courses/events if you are hosting for a larger group, who may not be able to make to all the stops!  Best of all, when you host a progressive dinner party in a neighborhood with only three streets, nobody has to drive!!

Despite being in the midst of hosting a Christmas Cookie Exchange, my house was chosen for appetizers and I promised to share them with you, so here they are, in no particular order since they are ALL AWESOME!!

The "Now Famous" Cheese Ring
from 'Tea Time at The Masters'

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 C chopped pecans
3/4 C mayonnaise
1 medium onion, grated or finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)
1 C raspberry preserves (I use strawberry - CANNOT stand raspberry myself)

Combine all ingredients except preserves and mix well.  Chill overnight (Important not to skip this step, plus you'll have less to do the day of)  Form into ring on platter (I tried a star since it IS Christmastime).  Fill ring with preserves or spread on top of shaped cheese.  Serve with crackers.

Aimee's Pinwheel Canapes

1 tube crescent rolls
prosciutto or smoked ham
basil pesto
Gruyere cheese

Roll dough out as a flat sheet.  DO NOT separate!  Spread with thin layer of pesto.  Follow with thin layer of ham and grated cheese.  Roll lengthwise into long tube.  Cut into 1/2" slices (I use dental floss to help maintain shape) and place on greased or foil-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees 8-11 minutes or until browned!

And last, but not least, my very own appetizer!  I wanted to simply use my sister-in-law's recipe, but i couldn't find it anywhere, didn't really find anything that sounded like what I remembered online and she was having the time of her life skiing not available for consultation, so I was forced to get creative!  They came out very yummy though, so here ya go!

SassyAggie's Bleu Cheese Meatballs in Red Wine Cream Sauce
(Sounds harder than it was, believe me!)

1 pound extra lean ground beef
1/2 - 1 C bleu cheese rumbles
1 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic
black pepper to taste

1/2 C red wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 C heavy cream

Mix beef, egg, bread crumbs and seasonings together.  Take small piece of ground beef and roll into ball.  Flatten ball in palm of hand and place small amount of blue cheese in center of mini patty.  Form patty around bleu cheese to cover completely and roll into ball.  Finished meatball will be about 1 1/2" round.  Heat several tablespoons of butter in pan over medium heat and place meatballs in pan to saute, stirring occasionally to brown on all sides.  When cheese starts to ooze out of center and/or juices run clear, they are done.  (I cooked and formed at the same time, so it took less time from start to finish.)  Remove meatballs form pan as they are done.  When all are done, reduce heat to low and deglaze pan with 1/2 C red wine.  Stir in a tablespoon of butter.  Slowly add cream, stirring constantly to form sauce.  Place meatballs back in pan and allow to simmer on low to reduce liquid and thicken sauce.  Makes 2-3 dozen depending on size of your meatballs.

In addition to appetizers, we had COCKTAILS!  My favorite part!! 

Lately I've been hooked on a drink called a Calimocho - half red wine and half Coke (or Diet Coke) over ice.  Tastes like neither when you mix them together but the combination is really quite tasty!!  Several of my neighbor-friends are converts now too, because you can get  smooth (yay!!) from the wine but stay awake to play from the caffeine.  I don't know about you, but for this harried dedicated mom-on-the-go, whose day usually starts between 5 and 5:30 AM, having an adult beverage and NOT going straight to sleep is something of a feat!

'The Girls' at House # 2

And speaking of staying up to play - after scrumptious appetizers, a DIVINE homemade lasagna and salad and an INCREDIBLE dessert bar - we divvied up and played a round of Charoodles.  Haven't heard of it?  Neither had I - and I come from a LOONG line of game players!!

I can't seem to find it anywhere, except online for some unreasonable price, but if you can find a copy of this game - SWIPE IT UP!!  It is basically a twist on Charades and it is fun, fun, fun!!  Luckily, I have great neighbors (I think I might have mentioned this before - wink wink) who are letting me borrow Charoodles for Christmas Eve with my family tomorrow night!  Yippee!

You can't tell by looking I guess, but we did include the menfolk in our little soiree - see!

Great food.  Great friends.  Great fellowship.
Truly a blessing, this season and always!

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