I have hit on THE easiest way to entertain at this time of year: Girls’ Night Potluck (GNP).
I just type the words “Girls’ Night Potluck” into the subject line of an e-mail along with a date and time and send it to eight friends. It’s effortless on so many levels. I don’t have to clean my house in a big way because it’s all girls—they get me, their kitchens aren’t spotless either. We probably won’t ever leave the kitchen because there’s so much talking going on—so no one ever sees the dust on the mantel or the unmade beds. And no, we’re never nine at table—no way is everyone free on the same night. It’s usually four to six women and my husband. He horns in on the meal and then disappears. To be fair, he often cooks the main dish while I’m at work so he’s earned his seat at Girl’s Night.
I provide an appetizer (like my popular horseradish cheeseball and crackers), a main dish (typically pasta) and a dessert. So it’s not any more work than cooking a family meal. Guests bring whatever they like to make and eat and there’s plenty to go around. Even people who claim they don’t cook are good at SOMETHING. My friend Jeanelle says she’s not into cooking, but her salad with toasted pepitas goes with everything. My friend Jen is a master of soups. Don’t nobody not like soup.
Because I know these friends well I already know their diet restrictions, allergies, etc.
Then there’s Nicole. This is another aspect of “Girls’ Nights”—women sometimes ask if they can bring a friend. It’s cool because you get to meet new, entertaining gal pals. But the night Jen first brought Nicole along I was serving up a veggie lasagna when Nicole innocently asked, “Oh, is that cheese in that lasagna?” Oops, vegan alert code yellow!
Unfortunately I’d already formed a bond with Nicole. She’s really funny. She was headed off to some bowling caper after dinner. That night poor, thin-but-healthy Nicole dined on tossed salad and pickled beets.
I vowed to give Vegan Girls’ Night Potluck a roll. Turns out, everyone was open to it. Then I remembered that my friend Fran, who hadn’t made it to a GNP yet, is gluten intolerant. And, oh crap, Ellen is going to try to make this one and she can’t eat GARLIC! I’d already made a very garlicky tapenade (instead of a cheeseball) when I remembered Ellen’s garlic problem. So I picked up some fresh veggies on GNP day.
I also bought some rice crackers and planned to serve the main dish, Beans and Greens, over rice instead of pasta. I called Husband to remind him to set aside some beans and greens sans garlic. I made a big, vegan peach/plum/pear pie for dessert and thought that I had that covered. Then I remembered that the ice cream I serve with pie is always a big hit. I made a mental note to pick up some sorbet and then I struck vegan frozen food gold at The Milk Pail Farmstand when I was buying local cider—Steve’s FROZEN KOMBUCHA. Take that, Nicole!