1. Our annual fall open house on Nov. 15; last year we had about 50 people but I don't know what the attendance will be this year. I'm leaning right now toward doing pretty simple stuff:
2. The Cherry Creek Chorale's Saturday-morning retreat on Nov. 21 with breakfast provided for 75-80 people. Right now I'm leaning toward a couple of breakfast casseroles--I had a southwest-inspired one recently that was absolutely fabulous, so I will probably have that one and a sweeter one.
3. Thanksgiving Dinner! We are having it here at our house, but right now I have no idea how many guests. There may be only six of us; there may be a dozen. As usual there are competing family ties; we won't get my brother and his family this year, alas. Some items are absolutely essential such as my sausage-and-apple dressing; other items are up for grabs. I'd like to have the savory sweet potato casserole I made last spring, but there seems to be this idea that you have to have a sweet sweet potato dish for TG. We may just have both. I will make either pumpkin cheesecake or pumpkin roulade for dessert; I don't particularly like regular pumpkin pie.
4. The annual Christmas party at our church, probably the first weekend in December, for which I used to make the entire meal but now just do the desserts. Last year there were about 70 people and I wrote extensively about the two flubs that I produced. I hope to do better this year.
5. The post-concert Friday-night reception for the Cherry Creek Chorale's Christmas concert on Dec. 11, which is an absolute zoo. (Be sure to come!) Last year's event went very well, all things considered, and I have wonderful helpers already lined up. The pink eggnog will once again flow like water, cookies will reach to the ceiling, and I'll be making the much-sought-after pesto party torta among many, many other items. If you'd like to get a jump start to your own parties, here's the recipe for this fabulous item, which came originally from Sunset Magazine, I think, but versions of it are all over the web. I've done my usual tweaking, tinkering and commenting:
DEBI'S LAYERED SUN-DRIED-TOMATO AND PESTO SPREAD
(If you don't particularly like sun-dried tomatoes or want to make something simpler, you can just make the plain and the pesto layers. I don't have my own picture of this as yet, and any pictures online aren't showing the correct layering.)
Make this recipe up to 3 days before the party.
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened, 1 package divided in half
3/4 cup butter, softened (that’s 1 ½ sticks)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, well drained—I usually put them in a strainer over a bowl and let drain for awhile, then spread them out on paper towels to get out as much oil as possible. You can save the drained oil for other uses, but you don't want your tomato/cream cheese layer to be runny. If you can find dry-packed tomatoes, so much the better, as you can skip this step.
The following section of ingredients is for making your own pesto. HOWEVER, the stuff in a jar is just fine. Costco’s is relatively inexpensive. The small jars at the regular grocery store aren’t. 4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
¼ cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable cooking spray
Garnishes: fresh rosemary sprigs, sun-dried tomatoes
Crackers or baguette slices
BEAT 2 packages of the cream cheese, butter, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Set aside.
PROCESS dried tomatoes in a food processor until chopped. Add 4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese and 1/4 teaspoon salt; process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Spoon into a bowl, and set aside. Wipe container of food processor clean,
PROCESS garlic and next 4 ingredients in food processor until chopped. Add Parmesan cheese, remaining 4 oz. cream cheese, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt; pulse just until blended, stopping to scrape down sides. (Or, if you’re using purchased pesto, just mix the cream cheese with about a cup of pesto, more or less to taste.)
SPRAY a 6-inch springform pan with cooking spray. If you don't have this small of a springform pan, you can just use a pretty pie plate and skip the unmolding step listed below , simply having people scoop the mixture out with a knife or crackers. You can build layers however you want. The easiest way that will keep the layers separate is to divide the plain cream cheese/butter mixture into three portions. Spread the first portion on the bottom, then the tomato, then another plain layer, then the pesto, then the third plain layer. Everything needs to be soft in order to do this. Cover with plastic wrap and chill if you’re not serving it right away. It does need to sit out for an hour or so if it’s been chilled, or it will be too hard to spread..
RUN a knife gently around edge of pan to loosen sides. Remove sides of pan; carefully remove bottom of pan, and place layered spread on a serving tray. Garnish, if desired. Serve with crackers or baguette slices.