Dinner party

"A party isn't a party unless you pick up small food with toothpicks."
—The Man With the Yellow Hat, Curious George television series

We had our friends Jennifer and Brett over for dinner last night. Kent always has a terrific time with them, and we've recently discovered that it's much easier when we go to each other's homes instead of meeting at a restaurant. The food is better, too. We went over to their apartment for swimming and pizza a few weeks ago, so we had them over for lasagna and various related food objects last night. I cooked a lot of stuff and was in danger of going overboard, but it was well worth it to make our friends feel special and have a lot of delicious things we all enjoyed.

We started off with some toothpicky antipasto, salami wrapped around fresh mozzarella, and mini caprese salads with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and cucumbers (which I later drizzled with balsamic vinegar on Brett's request). I also breaded and fried some artichokes, the one and only Sandra Lee recipe I have ever cooked and enjoyed. I'm almost embarrassed to say that I liked something of hers. But I guess in all her blubbering and food gaffs there's bound to be a grain of deliciousness. A stopped clock is right twice a day, after all. (Okay, now I feel really mean.) The recipe for the artichokes is so old that it isn't on the Food Network website, but it basically consists of draining canned artichokes, dipping them in beaten egg, breading them in Italian breadcrumbs, then frying them until they're golden. They're marvelous, crispy little bites of salty flavor.

After the appetizers, we had veggie lasagna packed with roasted eggplant, peppers, zucchini and mushrooms, and made with homemade sauce (thanks, Anne!). Crusty bread, roasted garlic, and a simple green salad rounded out the meal. I dressed the salad with a vinaigrette made with honey, Dijon mustard, salt, olive oil, and my favorite vinaigrette-making ingredient: Trader Joe's orange muscat champagne vinegar. I miss Trader Joe's, but I can get versions of basically everything else they have except for this awesome vinegar, so I always stock up when we drive through Atlanta.

Yes, Atlanta, nearly 9 hours away, has the closest Trader Joe's. Meh.

Jennifer and Brett are newlyweds, and as such have been laden with new cooking equipment, so she was eager to try out some of her new bakeware and a brownie recipe I had given her at Christmas. Brett suggested that she add peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips. Win. They were too good for description. Chocolate and peanut butter... you get the idea. Milk required.

After dinner, Jennifer and Brett both started cutting up with Kent, flying him around the room and having him jump over their legs and doing all sorts of silly things that he just lapped up. I watched them and thought, "Yes, this is what Kent has been in desperate need of: some time to just have fun!" Consequently, every time I woke up in the night (which is often, because of Dean), I thought about how Jack and I have gotten stuck lately with "parenting" and have forgotten to just have fun with our three-year-old.

Brett is a percussionist, and we watched one of his videos on YouTube while Kent sat in his lap and Brett drummed with him. They had the greatest time. Brett is going to be such a cool dad — they're both going to be great parents — and they're getting a lot of practice with Kent. (Luckily for them, they just get to do the fun part now, and then when it's time to get the boy through the bath and bedtime routine, we take over...)

Good friends are good for so many reasons.

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Love this! with enough good food, friends and playtime we can make it through any day!
hehe- my word is "bakin"
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