Imagine: You get an email telling you to rendezvous at a specific time with a mysterious stranger. You show up, enter a room pulsing with bad dance music and twenty-year-old anxiety, and approach a table staffed by harried students. They introduce you to your mystery date... and then handcuff you together. At Grinnell, this is how Valentine's Day is celebrated: with a dance called "Chains," where your friends can anonymously set you up with your true love match... or with a total stranger.
Allison and I thought, what better way to pre-party for Chains than with a small soirée for a few of our closest friends? Because we're super-busy, but also creative and charming, we decided to throw a 1950s-kitsch-themed party using almost exclusively pre-prepared and processed foods. Delicious! Or at least fast.
Our menu was:
strawberry and chocolate cupcakes with semi-vegan buttercream frosting
Lipton's onion dip
Sour cream salsa dip
almond-covered cheese ball with Ritz crackers
reduced-to-clear Valentine's Day candy
punch with sherbet and strawberries
Unfortunately, the spread disappeared before we could get good photos of the food. But you can see from this photo of the carnage that the party was a success - thanks Bryan for the fabulously composed pictures.
Classy! We even had requests for the cheese ball recipe. So, here it is!
Awesome Cheese Ball
(Adapted from the "Heavyset Cheese Ball" in I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris)
8 oz pkg of cream cheese
1/2 c REAL Mayonnaise
dried dill weed
3 tbs coarse grain mustard
1/2 c whole natural almonds, roasted in the oven
Cream together the cream cheese and Mayonnaise. Season with spices to your taste, mix in the mustard, and refrigerate the whole concoction for a few hours. When it has become more firm, form it into a log-like shape on a plate, and cover it with the almonds, which should be arranged to evoke the idea of a pinecone. Don't ask me why.
The other major home-made success was our buttercream frosting, which we have decided, because it involved soymilk, is almost vegan.
2 sticks of butter (no, really)
A whole bunch of powdered sugar (probably five or six cups)
1/4 cup or so of soymilk (add more to achieve spreadability)
food coloring optional
Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl with a spoon. Once it's soft, add about a quarter of the powdered sugar and a splash of soymilk, mixing everything together to create delicious frosting. Keep adding the powdered sugar and soymilk alternately until all the powdered sugar has been used. Feel free to personalize this recipe by tinting the frosting hot pink (like we did!), or any other appropriate color.
So, if you want to throw a fabulous party, the main ingredients are:
Delicious unhealthy food
The soundtrack to American Graffiti
"Apples to Apples"
Festively attired guests
Until next time, remember:
Keep it simple, keep it kitschy, and always semi-homemade!