The first dinner of 2012 (February 25, 2012)

Has it really been 2 years since the last time we hosted a dinner for friends? 2011 was definitely NOT a dinner thing for us; we were so busy with work and school, we didn’t do much of anything. Oh wait … we had guests for Thanksgiving, but for the most part, we didn’t host any dinners in the year. The resolution for 2012 is more dinners with friends, more events, just more fun!

The Event

Our guests this evening were a pair of Debs, a Harley and a Paul (and I raise you a Craigie!). It was great to have the Welch’s and the Anderson’s over, giving us a chance to catch up on our lives. It was a wonderful evening!

Menu

  • Mixed nuts and a cheese platter with crackers. Cheeses included some Gouda, a Gorgonzola, Humboldt Fog and a triple Brie. The Anderson’s also brought a wonderful brie stuffed with truffles.
  • My old standby: Tomato soup with noodles and soup meatballs (Tante Tini’s recipe)
  • Loekie’s Lamb Shanks (Cook’s Country Lost Suppers recipe … my mom’s recipe!)
  • Rice
  • Steamed green beans
  • Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Guests

  • Paul and Deb Anderson
  • Harley and Deb Welch

Food Notes

  • The tomato soup was a hit, as usual. During prep this time, I strained it using cheesecloth and a fine mesh strainer. This made the clean up of the strainer a snap (no embedded food in the tiny mesh of the strainer). The soup came out as a very clear broth, which was different than before, but still very delicious. It’s a very light soup, which is different from most soups you’d get as a first course.
  • I doubled the recipe for the lamb shanks. This meant that I had 8 lamb shanks, each shank cut in half. 16 pieces … phew! Luckily my Dutch oven is the 9 quart size. The meat and sauce just fit in the pot. The timing of completion was terrific. I knew I wanted to serve dinner around 7:30, so the shanks went into the oven at 5PM. Prep ahead of time (all the browning of the shanks) took about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Worked out great!
  • I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough rice, so I made a batch in advance that I could heat up if necessary. I then set up a 2nd batch to start automatically to be done in time for the 7:30 dinner. (I love my new automatic, time delayed rice cooker!)
  • I left the green beans in the steamer just a tad too long, but nothing too detrimental. It’s always a toss up to keep them warm vs. overcooking. I lost the battle this time.
  • I loved making the red velvet cake! I hadn’t made a cake, more importantly a layer cake, in years. I used CI’s hint to weight the batter as you put it in the cake pans, so that the layers come out even. Worked like a charm! The cream cheese frosting was delicious, just sweet enough to complement the cake. The decorating wasn’t too bad, either!
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