This is a guest post by Jean.
Book Club is at your house. Tonight. And it’s already 4pm.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think those words strike fear into the heart of every good book lover out there. Admittedly, your friends are coming to your house to discuss the latest Can Lit hit, and they should want to come to visit YOU, not your HOUSE. But if you’re anything like me, then you’re nevertheless rushing around like a mad woman getting laundry off the floor, sweeping up guinea pig hay, vacuuming the couch, and Lysol-wiping the powder room (you know you do it, no time for the “full” cleaning protocol).
Now the clock is ticking and you have less time to prepare food than you thought. What to do, what to do?? I turn to some super fast, super delicious finger foods so I can get out of the kitchen and into the party and relax with good friends! Oh, and some good discussion too… :) Here are some of the favourite good foods that have been served at our get-togethers. The funny thing is we are a pot-luck style book club but – with no planning surprisingly! – most nights someone brings something with beef.
Last night’s book club had sweet’n’sour mini meatballs. Mmmm. And my friend Erica sometimes (if we’re lucky) brings the most amazing beef nachos, because who doesn’t like a little sustenance with their wine and brownies?
Here are some other ideas I really love for easy book club nights:
Fondue! It’s perfect for eating and conversing (even if the book selection this month was sub-par). Open up a 1L tetra-pak of good quality beef broth, add some finely chopped onion and herbs and get it simmering. Cut up some tender beef on the grain, very thin, and pull out every dipping sauce you can find in your fridge. Put it all on a beautiful platter with tiny bowls and parsley and some funky fondue forks and you are in business.
Go sweet’n’sour with frozen mini meatballs and heat them in a pot with a tangy pineapple BBQ sauce and serve with those fun toothpicks with the sparkly, coloured cellophane pom-poms on the end.
Or if you have a bit more prep time, try out Thai Beef Satays on skewers with a peanut-butter based dip and a bowl of hot chili sauce. Pass around the napkins.
Your book club may be the more adventurous type, you know, matching the menu to the theme (or location or time period etc) of the book. In that case, how about mini beef Wellingtons for British history or a high-society murder mystery! Or Moroccan kabobs in mini pitas with a light yoghurt dressing for a Saharan odyssey?
Really don’t have time for any of that? Here are my favourite super-quick and non-cooking options.
The classic stand-by: Cream cheese with a good tangy and slightly hot red pepper jelly. Last night we (my son and I) did the coolest thing: I had a new large tub of Lactancia cream cheese, so we turned it upside down and slid the whole jiggily mass onto a plate, cut off a 1 ½” horizontal slice, put that on a plate and topped it with the red pepper jelly and a sprinkle of dried mint for colour. You could use fresh mint if you have it. When we inverted the cream cheese, there was a raised ridge all the way around from the bottom of the container, which perfectly held in the jelly. We couldn’t have planned that any better. Loaded up the rest of the platter with crackers and slices of pear for dipping and we were done in less than 3 minutes. Seriously.
More Fondue! Chocolate this time. (This is actually my preference). Add pre-made angel food cake cubes (or pound cake is great too), cashews or almonds, marshmallows. Or fruit. Then it’s even sort-of healthy. Watch the kid in everyone appear.
Ploughman’s Platters are lovely, just a good variety of deli meats and hard and soft cheese, a few grapes, some nice paté, crusty baguette and pickles all laid out.
Chips and dip. Well, NICE chips and dip. On a nice platter.
Whatever you do, don’t stress about it. Lay out the basics, and it will all happen. Your friends are coming to have fun too, and besides, they’ll be on the hot seat the next time…..
So let’s hear what your best book club bites are! Send in your stories:)
Jean can normally be found in her untidy but happy home with her two amazing children, patient and supportive hubby, guinea pig who hides from it all, and three ovens. She spends her days (and nights) baking up a storm (www.jeanscakes.ca), teaching music, volunteering, chauffeuring children to activities, knitting soft and cozy things, flitting around the city with her girlfriends, and almost always taking on too much because life is just too short to sit still!