Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bringing Home the Baking

Knowing how many of my friends wanted a chance to visit and view my new place, I planned a pre-holiday open house for next Sunday so that they'd have as good an excuse as any, with food and drink awaiting them.

(You'll note that I steadfastly refuse to call this a "housewarming" or "apartment-warming" party. I did that with the house, and most people took that as a hint to bring gifts. Having downsized my possessions considerably, that is the last thing I want to imply this time around! But I digress...)

As you might expect, it goes against my grain to announce a party and then serve from a platter of pre-made appetizers and snacks bought at the store. Oh, no. If I'm going to have guests over, you'd better believe I'm going to be cooking.

And for a delectable spread of appetizers, hors-d'oeuvres, and nibbles, I'm going to be baking and cooking from now until next Sunday. Can't help it. That's just the way I am.

I laid out the menu for myself a few weeks ago and spent a little time yesterday planning just when to make each item. Naturally, there are some things that have to wait for the last minute, but there are always items that can be done well in advance and tucked away until needed.

Yesterday I baked the pumpernickel bread that will show up as a base for two kinds of bruschette, and I also made polenta cups that will start off another recipe. Today, then, I turned to other baking: spiced nuts and cookies.

This morning, while enjoying a lengthy phone chat with the fair Titania (my constant companion in the kitchen, despite her residence one large state away), I mixed up and baked a tray full of Indian-spiced pecans (seasoned with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, chili powder, and a touch of cayenne), followed by a batch of my favorite chai spice shortbread.

This afternoon I made my other favorite spiced nut recipe, rosemary walnuts, tossed in butter and oil and flavored with rosemary, sage, and paprika. Walnut bliss!

Then I whipped up a batch of tasty oatmeal cookies studded with chunks of dates and liberally spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

After allowing everything to cool, I stashed the spiced nuts in canning jars and the cookies in tins and set them aside for next weekend. (I'm hoping I can resist the temptation to sneak a bite here and there!)

I've still got plenty more food to bake this week, but at least I'm off to a strong start in the party preparations.

Now, to get that grocery list made...


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