Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a good night to end 2007 and ring in 2008, whether that meant going to bed early, watching Dick Clark in your bathrobe, or partying ’til dawn. We had our annual New Year’s Eve Party/Open House event.

We never know from year to year exactly how many people will come and how long they will stay — I think our largest crowd at midnight was around 21, our smallest was just our family b/c everyone went home by 11 PM! When we were listing our RSVPs, Tartlet 1 was jumping up and down in excitement that it looked like the kids were going to outnumber the adults — at one point we had 32 adults and 32 kids on the list and then she asked if I had included us. No. WHOO-HOOO! She cheered. Neenerneenerneeeeenee! But one family left two of their kids at home and another left all four kids at home, but then an adult couple called to cancel . . . our final count, including our family, was 33 adults, 32 kids. She pouts. 😦 Boooooo!

So, given that for our guest list, I tried to pick some things that would suit all palates. We had a lot of repeats. I made the perennial favorite with both adults and kids, mini calzones/pizza pockets, PBJ cut out sandwiches (using cookie cutters to make shapes — crustless sandwiches in fun shapes are always popular with the little crowd), and industrial meatballs from Sam’s in the crockpot served with bottled sauces — sweet and sour, BBQ, and marinara. We also had cheese plates with crackers, chips and salsa and guacamole, veggie plate, beef skewers with balsamic vinaigrette marinade, chicken skewers in both peanut butter/yogurt and garlic lemon flavors, and bruschetta. And my favorite artichoke dip, which appears every year, usually in better focus than here. Even though I fully understand, I was a little disappointed that by the time I was done bringing the waves of hot food out of the kitchen around 8:30, many of the people were already heading home with their little tykes.

For desserts I often make some spectacular new thing, but that didn’t happen this year. Instead we had some of these repeats, with filberts instead of almonds, and some of these repeats in both orange and an experimental mint version. C doesn’t like her chocolate dark. At all. But she loves Andes candies. So, for her sake, I made some with melted Andes candies on top instead of unsweetened chocolate and then sprinkled them with chopped bits. It got a thumbs up approval. I also made baklava using pistachios instead of walnuts and I used lemon in the syrup, as well as some cheesecake squares, some of which I topped with canned cherry pie filling. We had a platter of fresh fruit — pineapple, honeydew, and cantaloupe. And I made some special brownies for Mrs. V, who can now eat cocoa again!! Now there’s something to say ‘Whoo-hoo!’ about because carob? What, is that short for caribou dropping or something? Blech. Her brownies were made with cocoa, rice flour, sorghum flour, honey, egg, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, baking soda, and pistachios. They were a little weird in the baking — I think my oven was running very hot 😛 so the edges were getting burnt while the middle turned out rather fudgy.

Once I closed down the kitchen and joined in the action of the party, after more than half the people went home, we got a telephone pictionary game going, followed by a couple rounds of Catch Phrase. I *LOVE* telephone pictionary, which seems very odd to me. I mean, normally I’m the sort of person who likes to think about things for a long time and not be very spontaneous so a game in which you have 30 seconds to either write a phrase from a picture or draw a picture to match a phrase, with all sorts of surprises along the way, seems like a game I would normally avoid. But I’ll join in a telephone pictionary game any time. This time around I think the funniest twist (certainly the most macabre) came from Abram’s phrase of ‘one giant step for mankind’ which ended with a picture of a person being run over by a train. The more adjectives and adverbs you use, the more likely your phrase will distort by the time it gets back to you . . . and then there are players like my Tartlet 1 who didn’t know what to write or draw a couple of times so she just made something up — as in totally unrelated! There are those who play the game trying to keep it as close as possible to the original version and there are those who play to see twist wildly . . . and seriously, which is more fun? The twisted ones, of course! But especially when the animals are misinterpreted and actions are poorly illustrated.

When I was in college I had a very good friend, the best friend I’ve ever had. In fact, it seemed like we shared a brain. Unfortunately, she always had it while I was in calculus, but we played regular Pictionary like you wouldn’t believe. One of us would start to draw a line and the other would guess it almost immediately. The other people would say — how on earth does that line look like ‘hopping on one foot’?! And we’d just shrug — I knew what she was drawing. The trouble with telephone pictionary is you need 14 people (in our game last night, anyway) who can do that to keep the phrase the same throughout the round.  Anyway, thanks to all those who joined us for the night, however much of it you were able to share with us, and I wish you all a very happy new year!

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Recipe of the Day — Rainbow Gringo Salsa

This recipe isn’t a traditional salsa at all — it’s very chunky — but it’s yummy! Leftovers work well when mixed into rice, a Mexican flavored soup, chicken/rice dishes, etc.

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Rainbow Gringo Salsa

2-3 tomatoes, chopped (Roma are great)

1 small orange bell pepper, chopped
1- 15 oz can of whole kernel corn, drained
½ c. fresh cilantro, minced
1- 4 oz can chopped green chiles
1 jar medium green salsa (I really like Hernez)

1 small red onion, chopped
4-5 toes garlic, minced
½ medium white onion, chopped
1-15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 T. lemon or lime juice (or some of each)

Mix all ingredients; serve with chips. Makes roughly 2 quarts.

Notes:
Red, yellow and green bell pepper can also be used. This is a favorite wherever I take it.