I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comfort in a Pot of Beans

It is no surprise that I love to cook and spending hours in the kitchen working on a complex recipe is one of my favorite ways to pass a day. Yet there are times when I am awed by the power of a simple recipe. A pot of beans is just a few minutes of mis en place plus some wait and a soulful dinner is on the table. There's something reassuring knowing I can throw a handful of ingredients into a pot and churn out a hearty meal that costs only a few dollars.


Yes cooking dried beans does take time. Yet it is time where the beans themselves are doing most of the work, leaving you to clean the house, play a game, catch up on your DVR, read a book. There's no need to hover over the pan as it cooks, though you may want to with the scents that waft around as it bubbles away. Dishing up and tucking into your bowl feels wholesome, hearkening back to days of our parents' and grandparents' meals and seems something to be passed on to generations ahead.

It doesn't take a master in the kitchen to conjure a delicious meal out of dried beans. This is a recipe a novice can, and should, make. It is an entree in its own right but can take on countless iterations: burritos, dips, soups, cassoulet, etc. with just a few adjustments. A large enough pot can make a variety of dinners for a whole week. If you can get your hands on heirloom  beans they may cost a few more dollars but pack an even larger punch of flavor (I highly recommend any from Rancho Gordo. I'm not receiving any compensation or product from them, they are just that good that I really can't help but promote them).

Winter is obviously not done with us yet. As the cold, snowy winds blow outside, keep yourself indoors and put a pot of these on the stove. Add a pan of cornbread and a meal of endless comfort is complete.

Cooking Dried Beans
4-6 servings as an entree

1 lb. dried beans (Jacob's cattle, cannellini, pinto, etc.)
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 t. salt

Soak the beans. If you have enough foresight to know the day before or early in the morning the day you will eat them, place them in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of water. Soak for around 6-8 hours. If you haven't anticipated this wait (as I never do), place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of boiling water. Let these sit for 1 hour. Many people will tell you to drain the water after soaking, but I feel that this takes away some of their flavor and some studies are actually showing that this drains away some of their nutrients as well.

Heat a large pot over medium with the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Pour the beans and their soaking liquid into the pan. The beans should be just covered with water--if not add some more to top off. Add the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

Here is another area where opinions differ on method: some say to cover the pot and others leave uncovered. My understanding is that a covered pot will cut out a bit of time but will make for beans that are a bit mushier (great if you are making a dip or refried beans). An uncovered pan will yield beans with a bit more structure but may take a bit longer (better for soups). Both have their uses, so consider how you will utilize the beans when making your call here.

The time it takes to cook the beans varies thanks to many factors: type of bean, freshness, how long they were soaked. After about 45 minutes start testing the texture. You want them to be soft enough to eat but not to totally break apart into mush. Certain varieties may be ready after 45 minutes, others may need 2 hours. The more you cook beans the more familiar you will get with their specific cook times. I like to add salt when the beans aren't quite finished yet--when they have about 15 minutes or so left to go (when you test them and feel they are soft but could use just a bit more time). It does take some time for the beans to soak up the salt so give them a few before tasting and adding more.

Once perfectly tender remove the bay leaf and remove from the heat. You can serve the beans right away or now use in another recipe. If there is a bit of broth leftover go ahead and put it in your soups or stews--it is full of flavor.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

I opened the fridge door and let the cool rush of air wash over my face. Leaned in, took a deep breath, and then prepared to show no mercy.

I was in the midst of a deep clean of my kitchen. Going through the fridge, the pantry, the cupboards and getting rid of anything that was underused, past its prime, or just unnecessary. There were a couple of bottles of condiments and a package of oats that I'm pretty sure I brought with me when I moved into this apartment. Spices that I've had since college. Items that I don't even remember buying. My kitchen was in desperate need of this scouring. Offering it up a rebirth of sorts. Once finished with the purge I felt lighter, more at peace. And definitely ready to cook something up in my newly organized space.

In an effort to use what I have on hand more often and avoid throwing food away, our dinner that night was a pasta made solely from items I already had around. Sun dried tomatoes, half a container of mushrooms, the remainders of a bag of spinach, cured meats, a basil oil I'd made for soup. It merged together into an interesting, tasty meal and left my fridge even cleaner than before.


Clean out the Fridge Pasta
This isn't so much a recipe, but a guideline on how to take ingredients you have on hand and create a solid dinner out of them. 

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Chop up any veggies, onions, meats, etc. that you have on hand. Grate some Parmesan, pecorino, or asiago cheese.
If you have a hearty pasta that takes a longer time to cook you may want to toss it into the boiling water before starting on the "sauce." If it is a skinny/fast cooking pasta you may want to wait until the sauce is almost ready before cooking. Before draining make sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water to possibly use in the sauce.

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil and a couple of tablespoons butter in a large saute pan. If using, start by sauteing the onions. Next up you will want to add any really hearty vegetables: carrots, celery, leeks, turnips.
If you have any uncooked ground meat you will add that to the vegetables once they are just tender and cook it through.

Next into the pot would go any medium veggies: kale, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic. If you have some tomato paste that you want to use now would be a good time. Any cured meats (prosciutto, chorizo, etc.) could be added now as well.

Check the fat level in the sauce: if it is too dry you may want to add a bit more butter to have something to stick to the pasta.
Now toss in any light veggies: spinach, herbs. The sauce is now ready for the pasta.

I like to add the pasta to the sauce pan over a medium-low heat, tossing it all together with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy, cohesive sauce that coats the noodles. Then turn off the heat, top the whole thing with grated cheese and fresh basil or parsley if it's on hand, and serve.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Latest Over at Pine Tar Press

With football season now is swing, it's the perfect opportunity to head on over and check out what I've been posting on "Batter Up and Fry: Tailgating Treats" for Pine Tar Press.

Panzanella Salad

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Baked Clams

Chicago Dog Spread

Baked Beans

"Beaver Nuggets"

Tailgating Gear

Monday, August 13, 2012

Braised Summer Veggies (and some thoughts on Mis en Place)

Must admit, I'm feeling a little withdrawal with the Olympics being over. I've never spent so much time watching the games, but this year couldn't pull myself away. Luckily I've got a few events DVR'd that can help me extend my obsession a bit longer.

Right now I'm watching the men's marathon (probably should actually be focusing on writing and turn it off, but you don't mind a little distracted, disjointed blogging, do you?). It's always such an inspiration seeing the speed and the determination and talent displayed at these events. Especially love pumping myself up for my own training while watching the races.

When I run, my least favorite part is the prep I have to do before heading out. I eat breakfast, put in contacts, get dressed, vaseline up, sunscreen up, do some warm ups and stretches, mix my Gatorade, charge my Garmin, etc, etc. It seems like a lot and always frustrates me when I'm just ready to get out the door. However, once I finally start the run I am thankful for all of the little steps I took before because they have prepared me for a successful training session. Without those tasks I may have to stop mid-run for a bathroom break or because I didn't fuel well enough or because I get a cramp. The extra time pre-run gets the actual run off without a hitch.

I realized on my last run that this translates perfectly right over to my other passion: cooking. Mis en place is the culinary term for this pre-event preparation. When I was younger, I didn't understand how this could help me and would start in on recipes without even reading them all the way through first, and prepping ingredients as they were needed. This would result in me going absolutely crazy while cooking several dishes for a meal and would often lead to dishes going wrong or me cursing up a storm in the kitchen.

Over the years, though, I have learned that mis en place is the most important part to cooking. I read through a recipe, if using, or go through the "mental recipe" if creating my own. Pull out all of the ingredients I will need, wash produce, chop, measure. Heat the oven. Pull out the dishes, pots and pans required. All of this ensures that I have the ingredients on hand, that I have the quantity of ingredient I need (nothing worse than pulling out a jar of something to realize you only have 2TB when you need 1/2 cup!), that all will be ready when it is time to add it to the pan. As in running, these little steps before starting the actual cooking ensures success. I guarantee you that a little extra time in the beginning will make all the difference in your own cooking. I myself spent a lot less time shouting obscenities in the kitchen these days and a lot more time enjoying the process.

This particular recipe requires that all of the chopping be done at the beginning so the veggies can then bake slowly in the rich sauce. Mix it all into the baking dish, pop it  into the oven, and then you have free time to do the dishes or catch up on your DVR'd gymnastics while it cooks.

Braised Summer Veggies
serves 4 as an entree

about 3 c. sliced zucchini (1/4" thick)
about 2 c. sliced baby or Japanese eggplant (1/8" thick)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
2 Italian peppers, deseeded and sliced (1/4" thick)
3 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. cream
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon
2 t. fresh savory or thyme, chopped

2-3 TB butter
1/2-3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Clean and chop all of the vegetables. Toss the zucchini, eggplant, halved tomatoes, and Italian peppers together and then spread them into a 2 quart souffle dish.

Melt the 2-3 TB butter in a small dish. Mix in the breadcrumbs--they should be just damp and not completely soggy.
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the 2 TB butter and melt. Then add the flour and whisk together and allow some of the flour flavor to cook away, about 2-3 minutes, while stirring continuously. Add in the chicken stock and turn up the heat to medium high. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes then add in the cream. Keep on stirring until the mixture comes to a boil and the sauce thickens up, about 3 more minutes or so. Taste the sauce and salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the savory/thyme and the lemon zest.
Pour the sauce over top of the vegetables in the souffle dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and press down.

Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs have browned and the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to sit about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I've Been Up To

Been a bit of a drought here in posts lately. Feeling a little bogged down with the craziness of life (work, sister's upcoming wedding, friends in town), but have still been cooking! Lots of posts on the back-burner, but you can find a little of what I've been up to in a couple of other places.

The past couple of Pine Tar Press posts:
Cake Batter Crispy Treats

Tailgating Party Prep Tips
and Grilled Camembert Cheese


I also guest blogged for Everyday Desserts, featuring an open-faced sandwich of tomato bread with avocados and smoked paprika:


I also hosted Easter once again this year. Since I almost forgot about it and it creeped up on me pretty quickly we made it a pot-luck. I prepared a boneless lamb leg roast (with rosemary, garlic and orange zest), a vegan quinoa and beet salad (from one of my favorite blogs, Sprouted Kitchen), a couple of side salads, and a few appetizers (including David Lebovitz's Fig and Olive Tapenade). Friends brought an amazing array of cheeses, meats, homemade bread and beer, potatoes, vegetables, wines. It was a spread to be proud of.
Lots of laughs to be had.

 Will soon be back with new recipes, stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Olive Sables

Monday night I hosted a cheese making party for some friends. We gathered together with lots of wine, loads of milk and cream, and some old-fashioned entertainment.

We made butter, mozzarella, and ricotta and made them into a three-course meal. The butter we paired with radishes and sea salt as a simple appetizer. Then the mozzarella was made into a caprese style pasta tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan. Finally we used the ricotta to create dessert by serving it on top of toasted bread topped off with a pear and honey compote.

To have something to start the evening off and nibble on while we made the butter and cheese I decided to make cocktail cookies. I had read about Dorie Greenspan's versions and had them pinned to my Pinterest to try out for my next party. They sounded perfect: barely sweet with a lingering salty flavor on the end. The ideal pairing to nibble along with wine and cocktails. The version I used is from Pierre Herme, posted on the lovely Fresh From Eva's Kitchen blog. Find the recipe here.

To make your own butter check out Saveur's directions here.

For homemade ricotta find a recipe at Smitten Kitchen here.

To make mozzarella get Ricky's 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Entertaining Meal Prep Tips

I am so very late on this post, but as there are other holiday entertaining opportunities to come, I figure it can't hurt to go ahead and post it. Plus, I redo this for myself every year so why not just put it down it a place I can come back to. So here are my steps to preparing Thanksgiving dinner (plus the recipe for the Cran-cherry Sauce and Garlic Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes and my favorite Roast Turkey).

Step 1: Menu Planning.
The first thing I always do when hosting a gathering is to decide what to serve. These days I usually have a few vegetarians in the mix so I need to make sure there is enough for everyone to eat. I gather up all of the recipes I will need into one place. This step also includes deciding what you would like to have others bring/contribute to the meal. This year I had one friend volunteer to make the desserts (3 unbelievable pies) and everyone else brought wine (lots and lots of wine).
Thanksgiving 2011 Menu
Appetizers:
Roasted Peanuts
Chips and French Onion Dip
Maple Bourbon Pickles

Entrees and Sides
Turkey
Fall Vegetable Patties (vegetarian option)
Gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Spinach in Beurre Blanc
Grandma's Dinner Rolls
Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Cran-cherry Sauce

Dessert
Eggnog Ice Cream

Step 2: Shopping Lists and Purchasing
Here I go through all the recipes I have compiled and list which ingredients I am going to need to pick up. This gives me the chance to go through the pantry and double check that I have all of the staples that I need as well.
I usually end up doing a couple of shopping trips to pick everything up. I start with drinks and non-perishables the week or so before the event, and buy the perishables about 4 or so days before.
There are certain items you need to think of even farther in advance--like the turkey or ham for the big holidays. I ordered my turkey this year towards the end of October/beginning of November from Brooklyn Victory Garden. They brought in turkeys from the local Oink and Gobble Farms.

Step 3: Set Cooking Plan and begin pre-preparations.
Next up I decide which items I can start cooking/prepare in the days before the event and which need to be done at the last minute. Here's what I cooked in the days leading up to Thanksgiving:
2 Days Before:
Make Cranberry Sauce
Make the ice cream base and refrigerate
Make turkey stock from turkey neck
Caramelize onions for dip

1 Day Before: 
Make dinner rolls
Make ice cream
Prep veggie patties
Boil potatoes and rice them
Roast sweet potatoes and mash
Make onion dip
Tie and rub/prepare turkey

Day of:
Cook turkey (once cooked allow to sit before carving and drain juices and separate to use for gravy)
Prep green bean casserole and cook
Set out serving wares
Set out appetizers/drinks

Last minute (the final prep before serving--this is a great time to learn how to delegate and ask for help from you guests!):
Reheat potatoes and mix with milk and butter
Reheat sweet potatoes and mix with milk and butter
Make beurre blanc and add spinach
Make gravy
Fry veggie patties
Serve!

Step 4: Enjoy!
Don't forget to take the time to enjoy your own meal and your company. Proper planning before the event allows you that time. You can leave the dishes for later after the guests have gone.

Cran-cherry Sauce
1 package fresh or frozen cranberries (12 oz)
1 1/4 c. cherry juice
3/4 c. turbinado sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
zest from 1 lemon
zest from 1 orange
1/2 stick of cinnamon
1/8 c. fresh squeezed orange juice

Mix together the cranberries, cherry juice, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, lemon and orange zest and the cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium to allow the sauce to simmer. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon stick, then stir in the orange juice. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Garlic Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes
sweet potatoes
whole garlic cloves
fresh sage leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

milk/heavy cream
butter

Preheat the oven to 375.
Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into 1 1/2" cubes. Toss together with a few whole cloves of garlic, whole sage leaves, salt and pepper.
Spread the sweet potatoes, garlic and sage onto sheet pans in a single layer. Roast for about 45-60 minutes, tossing every so often, until the sweet potatoes are tender and slightly brown.
Once the potatoes are roasted, mash together with the garlic and sage and mix with milk or cream and butter. Add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.

Roasted Turkey

This is how I've prepared my turkey for the past two years and it has turned out really juicy and delicious. The first thing I do is pull out the neck and giblets. A couple of days before Thanksgiving I use the neck and vegetables to make a turkey stock. I save the giblets for the gravy and use the liver to make a pate (great for  an appetizer or quick, simple dinner).

The day before Thanksgiving I mix together some room temperature butter with fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme), and maybe some minced garlic or fennel pollen. Then I lift the skin of the turkey and rub this mixture underneath, between the skin and meat, avoiding rubbing it on the outside of the skin. Then I salt and pepper the outside of the turkey well (sprinkling some salt and pepper into the cavity of the turkey as well). Then I place the turkey on the roasting rack in the roasting pan and put the whole thing into the refrigerator uncovered overnight (this helps to dry out the skin of the bird, making it extra crispy once roasted).

The next morning I get up and turn on the oven to 475 degrees. Once the oven is preheated I place the bird in for 20 minutes. Then I take about 1/2-3/4 c. of turkey stock and add it to the bottom of the roasting pan and turn down the oven temperature to 275 degrees. I will then allow the turkey to cook until the thigh meat reaches 160 degrees (this takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes per pound. Check the temperature often). 

While the turkey is cooking I heat up turkey stock in a saucepan to a boil, then add the giblets. I allow these to simmer for about 45 minutes, then remove the giblets.

When the turkey has reached temperature I pull the turkey out of the oven and use the roasting rack to tilt it up towards its side to allow the juices on the inside of the bird to drain out. Then I set the bird aside and cover. The juices I place into my pyrex measuring cup and allow the fat to separate from the juices. Once it separates I use a spoon to carefully take off the fat and place into a separate bowl. To make the gravy I will use some of this fat made into a roux with flour, then add the juices, then add the giblet soaked turkey stock to finish it off.

Once the turkey has rested for around 20-30 minutes it is time to carve and serve.





Thursday, March 17, 2011

Curried Lamb Couscous and Notes on Braising

A few years ago I didn't know what braising meant and had never used the technique in the kitchen. Now it is one of my favorite ways to prepare meat and I use it more that just about any other cooking method. The best part about braising is that it can take an inexpensive, tough cut of meat and turn it meltingly tender and rich. Plus it is exceptionally easy as long as you have a little patience.

To braise a cut of meat, begin by seasoning it (with salt and pepper at least, or a spice rub if you so choose) and allowing it to rest at room temperature for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking. This allows the meat to be cooked more evenly (and makes it more tender in my opinion). Then heat 1-2 TB of oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove. Sear the meat on all sides (usually about 1-2 minutes per side is sufficient) making sure they are nice and brown. You can skip this step if you like, but it does give a more rich, intense flavor to the final dish if you do it.

At this point you have a couple of options. You can remove the meat to a plate and add mirepoix before returning the meat and the liquid or you can move right on the the addition of the liquid. Again, I think that adding mirepoix (a combination of chopped carrots, celery and onion) makes for more complex flavors. After removing the seared meat to a plate I will turn down the heat significantly (to keep from burning the vegetables), add the mirepoix and cook until tender (usually around 7-8 minutes).

Next return the meat to the pan and add in the liquid. The liquid can really be anything, but stock, red or white wine or beer are all great options. The liquid should come about 1/3-1/2 way up the side of the cut of meat. Bring the liquid to a boil and then cover the dutch oven with the lid (or foil). You can either turn the heat down on the stove to allow the liquid to simmer, or place the whole pot into a preheated oven (around 425 degrees). The time you cook will vary greatly depending on cut of meat and size, but this is where you need to show patience--cook the meat slowly until it is so tender you can shred it with a fork. Stew meat can be done in around 1 hour, but larger cuts (shoulders, roasts) could take up to 3 or more. Now you can shred the meat and serve it in the braising liquids, or you can strain the braising liquid and reduce it or make a gravy out of it to drizzle over the meat. The result is delicious on its own but also tends to be excellent over pasta or rice or sopped up with really good bread.

Simple and foolproof (and always tender and tasty). Now put go out and put braising to use in the following Curried Lamb Couscous recipe!

Curried Lamb Couscous
5-6 servings
1 lb lamb stew meat
2 TB curry powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
pinch nutmeg 
1/4 t. cardamom
1/8 t. cinnamon
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 TB cooking oil
1/2 c. vermouth
1 1/2-2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. pitted green olives
1/2 c. raisins
1/3 c. toasted almond slivers
1 package Near East Couscous

Mix together the curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. Rub all over the lamb stew meat and then cover and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.
Heat the cooking oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lamb stew meat and sear on all sides (will go quickly with the small cuts of meat--give it only about 45 seconds to 1 min. per side). Remove the lamb meat to a plate, turn the heat down on the dutch oven to medium-low, and add in the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Cook until the veggies are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the vermouth to the pan and stir, making sure to scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom (these have a lot of flavor that you don't want to lose!).
Add the meat back to the pan along with the vegetable stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Then cover the pan and then reduce the heat so the liquid will stay at a steady simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes, then add in the olives, raisins and almonds. Cover the pan again and cook until the lamb meat is extra tender, about 10-15 minutes longer.
While finishing up the lamb, cook the couscous according to the directions on the box. Once the lamb is tender and ready add the cooked couscous to the lamb and braising liquid and stir it all together to serve.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hosting a Successful Dinner Party

One of my all-time favorite things to do is to host friends and family for a party involving a lot of good food and drinks. I love the planning, choosing the menus, the lists, the shopping, cooking, and the fellowship that is the main event. After hosting many of these gatherings, the most recent being an Oscar party Sunday night, I think I have finally gotten the hang of how to pull it off smoothly (and being able to actually enjoy myself at the party instead of working all the way through it).

The most important aspect of planning a successful dinner party is planning ahead. If you think about the small details in the days or weeks before the event you will not be caught unprepared come the big day. Make lists, spreadsheets, post-it notes around the apartment--whatever you need to help you remember all the things you need to accomplish beforehand.

1. Reason for party. Why are you hosting the event? Is it a holiday? A celebration? Or just a regular Tuesday night? The reason behind the party will help to shape the menu and the vibe. Even if it is only an excuse to hang out with your friends you need to decide what kind of party it will be. Full dinner or just apps? Sit down meal? Decorations or just your apartment as is? Decide the big details first and then you can move on from there.

2. Guests. Who do you want to invite? How many people? How many people can you realistically host? If you are wanting a sit-down dinner party and your table seats only 3 you may be out of line inviting 25. It's true that probably not everyone invited will attend, but do you have the space if they all do? Send out invitations (via mail, email, facebook, text) with enough time for people to be able to make plans to attend and give them time to RSVP if you need to know the guest count. Be sure to include start and end times, address, and if the event will include a full meal, snacks, or no food at all.
Also consider what the guests should bring. People always want to help when they come to a party so allow them to! Do you need side dishes? A dessert? Napkins? I like to have people bring wine/booze since we seem to go through so much at our events.

3. Menu. This is my favorite part. What do you want to make? One thing that I have learned is to create a menu around as many items as possible that can be prepared or prepped beforehand. You do not want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking the whole time your guests are around (unless the purpose of your event is to cook together). Even if you have one or two things that need to be made last minute, it is helpful if the apps and dessert at least are already prepared.
Make a word doc including all of the recipes you plan on preparing. Then go through and make a list of all of the ingredients you will need to shop for (don't forget napkins, plates, utensils, etc. if you don't have enough). Finally go through the recipes and note all of the things that can be done ahead and make a game plan on when you will do what (i.e. 2 days before: make ice cream; 1 day before: prep roast, cover and place in refrigerator, chop veggies for app; day of: cook roast, set out veggies and dip). Remember that even if you can't cook something days before, sometimes you can chop up the ingredients or do bits of the recipe before to save time later. Also make a list of any last minute tasks that your guests can help with if they arrive early or before you are quite finished.

4. Drinks. What would you like to drink at the party? Only wine and champagne? A signature cocktail? Remember to have some non-alcoholic drinks available for those who don't drink as well. Add any of these drinks and ingredients (plus ice and garnishes) to your shopping list.

5. Shop. Don't wait until the day of the event to shop. It will cause you unnecessary stress and not give you time to grab the little things you  may forget. If you live in a place with a car (I'm jealous), go out one day and get all of the shopping done in one go. If, like me, you have to lug everything back to your place with the force of your own arms, break it up over a couple of trips, purchasing the non-perishables first and the things that aren't likely to last long last. Then go over your shopping list and recipes to make sure you haven't forgotten anything.
If you are decorating be sure to pick up the decor on this trip as well.

6. Clean. I like to do a deep clean of my apartment a few days before a party instead of the day before. That way I don't wear myself out getting it all done along with the cooking. Then it is easy to do a quick pass to clean up the little things the day of.
Make sure the kitchen is especially clean since it seems to be where everyone hangs out at every party I've ever been to.

7. Prep. Do everything you can in the days before your gathering, prepping any dish or ingredient that will last, including chopping vegetables. If you've written out a plan beforehand you should know what to do when! Decorate the night before if you are able.

8. Day of: The day of your event you should now be able to finish up the last little details. Set out drinks, plates and serving utensils. Work on finishing cooking and plating the dishes. Put some great music on and as guests arrive take their coats and bags and store somewhere (a bedroom works great if you don't have a coat closet). Point them to the drinks and appetizers and introduce them to other guests they don't know. If you need help in the kitchen to do the last few things, ask! It's a great icebreaker. Now enjoy yourself--you are hosting a fabulous party!