25 Year Old Entertaining Wisdom

Okay, so this is one of those posts that I know when I look back in 2o years, I am going to think, “Oh, how little I knew.”

For now, middle-aged me can just stay quiet.

Daniel and I hosted our church small group for a Christmas party this past Sunday. I was so thrilled about having people over, and I spent every night last week bouncing around our house like a rabid elf preparing for Christmas.

I also went into marathon cooking mode. We had sausage and stuffed mushrooms for apps, pork tenderloin, salad, rolls, twice baked potatoes, asparagus, and corn casserole for dinner, and a red velvet cake for dessert. It was all delicious (humble brag), and I learned some useful advice to share with you.

1. Plan ahead. I learned this from stalking Daniel’s mom when she entertains. Write out all of the food you plan on serving on sticky notes. Then lay out the serving platters, bowls, spoons, etc. that you will use, and place a sticky note on each serving piece. This way, you are sure to have everything ready, and you won’t end up serving Sister Schubert rolls out of their ugly tin.

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2. Purchase Baker’s Joy cooking spray. It is incredible. The red velvet cake was layered, and spraying Baker’s Joy on the pans before baking made all the difference in the world. The cakes practically leapt out of the pans. So great!

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3. I’ve said it before, but use real napkins and silverware! It makes people think you are fancy. Even if you ain’t. (See, I use the word “ain’t”. Therefore, I am not fancy, but I am convincing guests otherwise with my fancy cloth napkins.)

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4. Use what you have. Scrounge the pages of Pinterest, rack your creative brain, and you can think of creative ways to decorate using what you already have. I sent Daniel out in the yard to cut berry leaves, and we decorated this mason jar to make an awesome candle holder. That is, after I scrubbed the mason jar. It smelled like pickles. Nothing about pickled candle smell says Christmas.

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5. Improvise. We do not currently own a dining room table that seats fifty, but I aspire to own one. Until then, we have to improvise when five or more people come over. For this dinner, we borrowed wooden trays from Daniel’s parents, and each person grabbed a tray, a wrapped silverware, and a plate of food. It worked out great!

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For Better: I feel like the party was a success!

For Worse: I still have so much more to learn.

Iced Sugar Cookies

Yes, I love all of the important things about the Fourth of July, such as celebrating our freedom and remembering our important history as a county.

But, I also love the shallower aspects of Independence Day, especially patriotic baked goods.

Cue Iced Sugar Cookies:

These trinkets of sugar are sure to be a crowd pleaser, and you can change up the shapes/colors for any holiday or event. (duh.)

For this recipe, you will need:

milk, powdered sugar, shortening, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, egg, vanilla extract, butter, and cinnamon and food coloring (two things you forgot to photograph because you were too distracted by Will Smith in Independence Day)

Begin by creaming together 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup shortening, and 1 cup of sugar.

Then add one egg and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

Now add these dry ingredients to your first bowl.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients. You are really gonna have to use some elbow grease! I kneaded it together with my hands.

On a clean (no breakfast taco crumbs) surface, sprinkle some flour so you can roll out your dough.

Roll out your dough, and cut out your fave shapes.

Place on a cookie sheet and cook at a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before icing.

Speaking of icing, this is how my mom taught me to make icing. It is a simple, rich, sweet treat, but it can be a little tricky, so pay attention! Sorry, that was bossy.

First, you need one cup of powdered sugar. Then, add just a splash (a tiny splash!) of milk.

Stir until it is combined. If it is runny, add more powdered sugar. You don’t want it to drip all over the sides of the cookies.

Then add food coloring.

Ice those cooled cookies!

Let the icing set, and enjoy!
 Side note: Some cooking adventures involve crying. Like the time I baked a blueberry pie, only to discover it was not fully cooked as Daniel made a hard right turn in his truck and the inside of the pie went sloshing everywhere. Whew, I think that was a run on sentence. Regardless, there were tears that time. While cooking these lovely cookies, I broke a cardinal rule of cooking. I plugged my electric mixer in before I put the beaters in the mixer. As I was putting the mixer together, it turned on and my finger got caught in it! Daniel came into the kitchen to find me in the fetal position, crying. No fingers were lost. No blood was shed. I did learn my lesson, though. Owie.

Wise Women

Well, here they are…

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My mother (the hot blonde) and my mother in-law (the stunning brunette).

You will be hearing lots about these two.

My mother, Johnnie Kay, is for sure the nicest human being on the planet. Ever. For real.

I will be sharing ideas from her because she is incredibly thoughtful, while being organized and efficient. She makes  her friends and family feel loved on a daily basis, including lighting candles for people while she prays for them. “I think God can see my prayers better,” she says. With her prayer success rate, she may be onto something…

My mother in-law, Suse, is the master entertainer and chef. Tasting her bread pudding is the closest you can get to heaven on this earth. This woman will throw a Sunday lunch that puts most wedding receptions to shame. We have lots to learn from her.

That leads me today’s post. Suse has some non-negotiables when it comes to cooking and entertaining, and I am going to share some with you today.

1) Use good paper napkins or real napkins.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever (get the picture?) use paper towels as napkins when serving.

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cocktail napkins we received at a wedding shower…perfect for football parties!

2) Grate your own cheese.

This was a new concept to me, but Suse has shown me the gift of self-grated cheese. The consistency and flavor is significantly better than pre-grated cheese.

Grate your own cheese. Just do it.

3) Use real utensils and plates.

Fresh out of college, my friends and I were hosting a bridal shower on a very tight budget. I asked Suse how we could have a nice event without spending too much money.

“Use real utensils and plates.”

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stored in mason jars for that Southern touch

It’s true. Not eating off paper plates with plastic utensils does make a difference. It adds a certain “fancy factor”.

Many thanks to Johnnie Kay and Suse for all the domestic advice they have given me and continue to give me. I hope you will enjoy their wisdom as much as I have.