Saturday night, we celebrated this blog’s first year with The Big Party—the same one I announced in June, back when summer was just beginning and we were looking ahead to months of longer daylight and warmer temperatures, and August seemed a very long time away, like July 4 or going-back-to-school or the Labor Day picnics we’ll have in a few weeks. I felt then (still do, if I’m honest) a little silly about the whole thing—a blog party?—and yet, now here I am, on the other side of things, having met a few of you I hadn’t known before, a few of you I’d reconnected with through blogging and many of you who are the kind of friends I know will be there through anything, including if I said tomorrow I’m Going to Do This All Again Next Weekend and Will You Help Me, because, well, you’re amazing and sacrificial and thank you, so, so much, I don’t deserve a bit of it.
I can hardly believe all that’s left now is the fun work of recapping this last birthday week, but here it begins:
The Online Giveaway
Using a Random Number Generator after the party, I drew numbers from a list of 283 (!) total entries and picked two winners from our online giveaway. Because I am still waiting on a response from the winner of the Destination Dinner, I will hold off announcing that (stay tuned!), but, for the other prize, the lovely Kim of Kim’s Kitchen Sink was Winner #2 and will be receiving a box of homemade cookies on her doorstep soon! Having known Kim as a blogger even before Food Loves Writing began, I am thrilled she won, and I hope you’ll give her site a visit.
The Party Giveaways
Through a pulling-names-out-of-a-jar drawing, awkwardly announced by yours truly, we had five winners at the event, including Val of ValBromann.com, a fantastic photographer I met in grad school who I know had her camera out at the party and may be posting shots at her site soon. Once again, let me give a big THANK YOU to our sponsors and local supporters, Andrews McMeel for their gorgeous cookbooks; Country Bob’s for their bottles of sauce, of which everyone got to take one home with them (And if you’d like a bottle, head over to their site, where simply filling out a form will mean a free one sent to your door!); Downers Grove Wine Shop, which gave us a case of old wine bottles to clean out, fill with mint lemonade or ice water and dress up our tables; and Melissa of Sugar Magnolia Pastries in Evanston, who went above and beyond with gorgeous cakes!
Speaking of the cakes, here are a few quick shots of them, after they endured 1.5 hours of 95% humidity on their way from Evanston to Downers Grove, slightly melted but no less delicious—several people would have gone back for more, had we NOT RUN OUT OF PLATES (lesson #1 in party-planning: bring extra of everything). Anyway, Melissa, you are a rock star, and thank you again!
Now let’s get to the main event: the food.
I really wanted the menu to have some kind of purpose behind it, so that it would truly be a celebration of the year that passed, as well as a thank you to everyone nice enough to read and come out and, you know, listen sometimes. We had barbecue chicken, the kind that reminds me of what my grandma would make for my brother and me, when we watched television on her plastic-covered sofa and ate off clear-glass plates.
And there were fingerling potatoes, which came from Molly Wizenberg’s Orangette, the first food blog I ever read and the first I loved, which felt appropriate.
My generous mom made her strawberry poppyseed salad, topped with toasted almonds and mandarin oranges and paired with poppyseed dressing, as well as her famous meatballs, which, by several requests, I promise (!) we will post the recipe for here soon.
Then there were the desserts: the double chocolate biscotti that I made for a friend’s wedding three years ago, chocolate-chip banana bread my friend Kelley who encouraged me to write sent me the recipe for last year, butter cookies topped with four colors of icing, made from an easy recipe that uses just over a half a stick of butter.
And that’s just scratching the surface, if you can believe it, of all there is to say. More to come, including photos, soon. (Full recap posted 8/14/09: everything (and I mean everything) about the party)
Adapted from Kelsey’s Kitchen
Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts
20 ounces Coca-Cola
1 cup barbecue sauce (I use Hunt’s Original)
1/2 cup ketchup
This will be the easiest recipe you’ve ever heard, and yet it will give you fork-tender, moist results. Are you ready? Dump all the ingredients in your crock pot, and cook for 4 to 6 hours.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
2 cups powdered sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk (it calls for whole, so I used half plain coffee creamer and half skim milk)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the powder sugar and butter until it’s well-mixed. In a separate container (I used a measuring cup), mix together the milk and vanilla). Turning the mixer’s speed to low, add in the milk/vanilla mixture in a slow stream. Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, for around five minutes or until it’s fluffy and light. If your kitchen is very hot, you might find the frosting getting too warm—just stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes then try again.
This recipe makes enough for about 12 cupcakes, half an eight-inch cake or a full batch of butter cookies.