Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cooking with Friends DIY Party

Photo courtesy of Google image search
Is your free time limited? Have you ever experienced an ounce of guilt after spending a few quality hours with your girlfriends? Well then, I have the perfect girls night idea for you. With my Cooking with Friends Party, you’ll prepare meals together to freeze and eat at a later date. Doing chores with your gals makes them much more enjoyable. We all have to eat, so why not find a way to make the prep work more fun? It’s a win-win situation: You get to spend a few hours actively connecting with your friends while saving yourself time in the weeks ahead. Read on for the how-to.

Setting and Setup
The nice thing about this party is the only room you have to clean is the kitchen! (and maybe the bathroom) To get ready, you will need to do a little advance preparation.

First, pick a simple theme for the recipes you will make, such as casseroles, soups, chilis, or chicken dishes. Limiting yourself to one kind of meat, such as ground beef or chicken, will save time and steps, but that is up to you. Consider your friends’ budgets when setting your theme. You may even want to suggest minimum/maximum dollar amounts so you don’t have one friend bringing filet mignon while everybody else brings ground chuck. You may want to limit the meals to 4 or 5 ingredient recipes. Annie's Eats has some great recipes for freezing.

Consider any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Be sure to let everyone know if there are restrictions on ingredients.

Pick up extra spatulas, measuring cups, cutting boards, etc, at the dollar store, or ask your friends to bring some basic cooking supplies. If someone is making lasagna, they should bring foil pans or you can provide.

Have plenty of freezer bags, small zip-seal bags and aluminum foil on hand. You will also need labels and/or a Sharpie marker.

On the day of the party, you will want to make sure your kitchen is sparkling and ready for your friends. Clear the counters, wipe down the stove top and clean out the frig.

With preparations made, now it’s time to invite your girlfriends! Because of time and space constraints, limit your guest list to five or fewer. Try to invite friends with similarly sized households, because each friend will be taking home the same amount of food. 

Try sending your invitations on recipe cards. Find one with a pretty design, or punch holes along the edges of a plain one and thread it with a pink ribbon. (you can find MANY free printable recipe cards on the internet, by the way.) Write something like this:

Recipe for a Great Evening

4 chatty friends
5 different dishes
1 cup of laughter
1 hot stove
A splash of wine
And the key ingredient: You!

We’ll be cooking up freeze-ahead recipes while we enjoy each others company. Please bring all the ingredients to make your favorite recipe (times 5!). You’ll leave with 5 different meals to put in your freezer.

Ask each guest to bring foil pans if necessary to store and freeze their recipe (casseroles, for example). Instruct them to bring their ingredients in a cooler and bring them home in a cooler with ice or cold packs to keep the food safe.

Food and Drink

Super simple is the key here. You are going to be cooking up a storm, so you don’t want to be tired out from preparing snacks for your guests. Popcorn, chips, store-bought brownie bites, or other easy nibbles are all you need. Be sure to have sodas, beer, wine, a pitcher of margaritas, or whatever your crew likes to drink at the ready.

Ready, Set, Cook!
How you get the cooking done is up to you. But here are a few tips:
  • Make one recipe at a time. The person who brought the recipe calls the shots.
  • Use an assembly-line approach. One person browns the meat, one person does the chopping, one person mans the mixing bowl.
  • Pack the finished dish in as many zip-top bags or foil pans as needed. Wrap securely.
  • Using a permanent marker, write the name of the recipe on the bag as well as any special instructions…e.g. “cook at 350 for 50 minutes,” or “serve over pasta.”
Connecting Activities
Spending time in the kitchen together is a great opportunity to share joys, setbacks and thoughts on life over food. Here are few potential conversation starters:
  • Your favorite food related memory
  • Who is your favorite chef
  • The role of food or cooking in your life –your food philosophy, struggles, etc.
  • How you learned to cook (or didn’t)
  • Your signature recipe
Party Favors
Leaving with a cooler full of food will definitely be enough of a souvenir for your girlfriends. But if you feel the need to add something extra special, here are few party favor ideas:

  •  Find plain aprons at a craft store (sometimes you can even find then at the dollar store) and decorate with fabric paints, or create iron-on transfers using a favorite picture of you and your girlfriends.
  •  Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul book.
  •  Ask your girlfriends to send you their recipes ahead of time so you can make copies and have them ready to hand out at the party. You can laminate or put them in page protectors, or, if you are feeling ambitious, start a “Girlfriends Cookbook” binder that you can add to each time you get together to cook.
One final note: This party would make a great alternative baby shower. Send the mom-to-be home with a freezer full of prepared meals instead of baby gifts!

I know this party may seem like a bit of effort, BUT it actually will save you time in the long run. You had to cook anyway, and now you get to do it while gabbing with your friends. Try it, and you may discover a new tradition. I hope I’ve shown you that it’s possible to get things done AND have fun. All it takes is a little advance planning and a kitchen full of girlfriends

Photo courtesy of Google image search

Happy Cooking!

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