Winter break has ended, and so has my month of non-stop eating. I did not do much over break at all, besides cooking and eating out. Upon my arrival home, the first question my mom asked me was, “what’s for breakfast tomorrow”, to which I eagerly replied, “whatever your heart desires.”
I recently became an avid fan of the “dinner party” over break as well, inviting my friends over to my house to cook them a big meal while they did all the boring prep work and, of course, the dishes. One night in particular I was planning on making a few of my friends shrimp scampi with roasted potatoes and onions with a spinach salad—all of which requires a lot of prep work. I had one friend peeling potatoes until he couldn’t feel his hands anymore, while I had another deveining and handling the raw shrimp while I delegated and supervised, and let me tell you, it was one of the easiest meals I have ever made in my entire life. Most young people do not know how to cook, but desperately want to be a part of the process, and I’m not kidding when I tell you that I have found the perfect medium for including everyone in the entire process.
Dinner parties are, in my opinion, one of the easiest ways to bring people together and actually make something out of what would have been another boring December night. My parents even became so fond of the idea of the dinner parties I had been throwing that they told me to throw a Mexican food night at our house with all of my friends, to which they said they would supply everything, on the one condition that I would make margaritas. It was a pretty tough decision, but I reluctantly complied to invite 5 of my friends over to eat fajitas and drink margaritas with my parents on a Tuesday night. I had platters of grilled chicken and flank steak accompanied with tortillas, guacamole, refried beans, yellow rice, and salsa galore. By the time the cooking was finished, you could smell fajitas from down the street, which is never something to complain about. We used paper plates to avoid cleanup, and it was one of the easiest dinner parties I have thrown because everyone involved was actually excited to eat the food.
The key to a successful dinner party is to plan ahead. You have to know what you are going to make, how you are going to make it, and most importantly, how you are going to clean it up. One of my all time favorite tips for avoiding a messy clean up is to use sheet trays as much as possible while cooking and line them with tin foil. I have used sheet trays for so many meals—breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert—that I feel confident in saying that a great sheet tray is one my favorite kitchen necessities. I have made bacon for my entire family within minutes, avoided the splatter of oil while frying meatballs on the stovetop, and baked one of the most smooth batches of brownies I think I will ever make in my entire life, all thanks to the almighty sheet tray.
Another night I went over to my friend’s house to cook her dinner, and with a sheet tray in hand, I was able to make spaghetti and meatballs with roasted brussels sprouts and a spinach salad with virtually no cleanup. The takeaway: dinner parties rock and sheet trays are what made my winter break a success.