One of the things I decided to do shortly after I moved last spring was to entertain more. My goal was to have an evening on a periodic basis where everyone could come and just relax. And by everyone, I mean a girls’ night. I know I could invite spouses or significant others, but I think girl time is more valuable to me – and frankly, in the abyss of “singledom”, I don’t want to be the only person in the room with no partner. But I also want to maintain the friendships I have, and establish new and stronger relationships. I spend a fair bit of time researching and deciding upon recipes and then I cook all the food and ask that my friends just come – no expectation of them bringing anything. My thought was that if I remove all obstacles for my friends and just opened up my home, we would be more likely to stay in touch. And honestly, I love to prepare food and entertain.
My desire to entertain has not always been an active pursuit. When I was married, my ex was a bit anti-social and he was simply not interested in my friends or their spouses. I think the entire time I lived in my house I had two parties while I was married and another two or three after my divorce. I lived in my house for 14 years. In contrast, I have lived in my condo for almost eleven months and I have already had three parties, am in the process of planning and producing party number four.
My first party was in October, just after my sofa was delivered. It was the final piece of the renovation puzzle and I was ready for the unveiling of my new space. As part of the move, I raided the retirement coffers and replaced the counters in the kitchen, painted, replaced the flooring, and had cabinetry hung in the living room and bedroom. The space is small and cozy and super clean and modern. And even though I jettisoned about 75% of my belongings in the moving process, during this past year, I have only missed one or two items and those have been very minor things. It has been very liberating to realize that I can live with a lot less “stuff” and on a much smaller economic / material / carbon footprint / global scale.
The night before my first party, I was getting out all of my dishes and in an OCD crisis, I decided that I did not have enough appetizer plates and bowls. I am not kidding when I tell you that at 7:45 pm I packed the dog into the car and headed to two different TJMaxx locations and after not finding what I wanted at either of those locations, I headed to Crate and Barrel at 8:30 in the evening. After appeasing myself with more white dishes, wine glasses, platters and the oh so important appetizer plates, I was able to head home to wash them and arrange the counter for the buffet.
The party was a huge success but that’s really not the point. One of my self-imposed rules for these gatherings, and really for many of the gatherings I have been invited to for the last 5 years or so, is that I cook for the most stringent diet of whomever might be eating my food. Although you would not be able to tell from the plethora of frozen pizzas in my freezer, I have been cooking for quite some time. Baking is what I am more passionate about and it’s been a decade or more since I started playing with substitutions. My substitutions started simply – perhaps using applesauce instead of some of the oil. But I have also been able to reduce a lot of sugar in many of the recipes I use and, for the most part, ground flax or chia seeds make a great substitute for eggs. And while these are run of the mill substitutions by today’s standards, I have begun to branch out and have recently discovered cashew cream.
Cashew cream has been around for a while and is used in a variety of ways. It sounds a little daunting to make since you are supposed to soak the cashews for a period of time. However, when I was making a pie this weekend and needed a quick substitution for heavy cream, I got out my handy dandy Nutra-bullet and with equal parts water and raw un-soaked cashews, I whipped up cashew cream in about 2 minutes. And I have to tell you, it was silky and lovely and almost flavorless – which is a good thing. With a little bit of sugar it could go into a dessert and a little bit of salt, into something savory. I have used it as the “cream” for two different soups and a vegan “beef” stroganoff.
For the moment, I am going to stop here because there is a lot more I want to write on the topic of substitutions and entertaining and I’ve already postponed the posting of this blog for lack of a pithy ending. However, rest assured there will be more discussions on the topic of food – especially vegan recipes and baking.
Until next time.