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Some dinner parties require a more formal protocol. For example, a military dinner will have strict guidelines as to where personnel will sit. If you are hosting a client dinner, you might also prefer a more formal arrangement. Even in a casual setting, you can choose to follow protocol to honor a special guest. The below description is based on a social party (vs. business), a rectangular table, and includes both men and women:

When hosting a dinner party, where you place your guests around the table is a crucial element for the success of your event. You presumably put thought into who you invited to the gathering. Do not stop there. The placement of each person around the table is something that should not be thrown together at the last minute.

I love entertaining friends and family in my home, especially during the holidays. But I must admit, it can be a bit overwhelming hosting a dinner party in the stage of life with little ones running around. The cooperation I receive from my toddlers is a significant factor in how efficient I am on a daily basis. Add in hosting a party, and it can be overwhelming. If you find yourself wanting to gather friends for a festive evening, here are my tried-and-true tips for entertaining with young children:

Planning a party can be fun, but do you know the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly? Have a rehearsal for your party. Yes, you heard correctly. You have spent a great deal of time planning your theme, creating your guestlist, and delivering your invitations. Now is the time to do a mock rehearsal which will allow you to create an action list of outstanding items around your home that might need attention. It also helps solidify any last-minute details.

These thirteen tips will get your through any dinner party. Here is a quick refresher. 

1. Leave The Cocktail Glass Behind:

If you are attending a dinner party, there may be cocktails offered before the meal begins. When the hostess signals it is time to head to the dining room, leave your drink behind. Why? The dining table has been pre-set with the glasses you will need and adding another to your place setting will only clutter the minimal real estate in front of you. Your palate is another reason to leave the cocktail behind. Many hostesses go to great lengths to pare wine with the food being served. Once seated at the table it is time to switch to wine or water.

You just received an invitation to a party, and the attire says: Shabby Chic; Razzle Dazzle; Cowboy Couture. What??? Word to hostesses: when listing the attire on the invitation for a party, make it clear. We do not want our guests to solve a riddle to understand what is expected of them. There is a phrase I like to quote, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

Table manners are the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in managing an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care.

When attending a party, there are certain expectations we have of our hostess. We appreciate everything she has done, but we do assume there will be food, drinks, a clean bathroom, and a home that does not smell like the local pet store. What some people forget is there are also expectations of the guest. When a hostess plans a party, a great deal of time is spent deciding who she will invite. What group of friends go well together?

Have you ever seen someone walk into a party looking scared, so unsure of themselves, and then watched them slink off to an obscure corner? Their body language screamed, “I wish I was anywhere but here!”

You are invited!!! There is something special we feel when we receive an invitation. It is the anticipation of a celebration, the excitement of choosing what to wear, but more importantly, it is the affirmation that tells us, “I was chosen!” We know a hostess has responsibilities to ensure her party is a success, but did you know there are expectations of the guests? And your first job begins when you receive an invitation that says RSVP. Follow the six steps below and the hostess will be singing your praises!

  • Cecelia Zook

White Bean and Mushroom Soup Taste Test


Happy Foodie Friday! This recipe review and taste test comes courtesy of Penny and Eleazar Martinez.

www.thefrankincensetree.com

info@thefrankincensetree.com


Each of our Taste Test Reviews comes with the original recipe and the tester's notes/changes listed with the ingredient list in blue. We hope you enjoy!


What a fun time I had making the White Bean and Mushroom Soup! It was incredibly easy to make and an absolutely delicious starter to a wonderful meal. I made one minor change to the recipe by substituting 3 teaspoons of garlic powder with 4 cloves of garlic. I added the cloves to the cooking sheet still in the shell which we removed prior to adding them in the blender along with the other veggies. Being a longtime lover of mushroom soup, I was shocked to see that this was a completely clean meal. It is gluten and dairy-free and can be made vegetarian or vegan by swapping chicken broth with vegetable broth. It was a very filling soup, so I would recommend having smaller servings. I decided to garnish the soup with fresh parsley, but the soup is so versatile that you could top it with anything like avocado, a dollop of sour cream, or, if you're adventurous, jalapeños. I can't wait to serve this soup at my next gathering! 


Additionally, I have no clue where that stick of butter came from in the ingredient picture. Butter is my most used ingredient so I usually just have it always lying around when I cook. I guess it was just natural for me to put it in an ingredient picture. That should show you how shocked I was that there was no butter included and I always thought there had been - that's how good it is!



White Bean and Mushroom Soup
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Makes 6 Servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Cost: $15, but I used my own fresh herbs. If I purchased fresh thyme and sage, it would be around $23.


Ingredients:

1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered

2 large sweet onions, quartered

3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic so I put 4 cloves)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, divided

8-10 fresh sage leaves

8-10 stems + 1 tablespoon leaves fresh thyme, divided

48 ounces chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted for a vegetarian version)

45 ounces canned white beans, not drained (cannellini beans)

Additional salt and pepper for seasoning


Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450F.

Arrange mushrooms, garlic and onion separately in single layer on large baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Toss to coat, keeping mushrooms separate from garlic and onions. Add sage leaves and stems of thyme on top of the mushrooms.

Roast at 450F in oven for 10 minutes.

Toss and roast for additional 15 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, add broth, beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves to a large stock pot and simmer over medium heat, about 5 minutes.

When vegetables are done roasting, let cool slightly.

Retrieve 2 cups of the white beans and 1 cup of broth from the stock pot. Add to a blender along with the roasted onions, garlic and herbs.

Cover and blend until smooth.


Notes:

There were about 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of beans left over after taking out some broth and beans to blend with the veggies. The recipe doesn't say what to do with what's left in the pot, so I decided to use this in another meal for dinner tonight!


I learned that some soup recipes have you add the puree back to the extra broth. This wasn't clear in the recipe, so I'm not sure if that's what I was supposed to do. Looking back, I think that's what the recipe wanted me to do.


Recipe and Taste Tester - Cecelia Zook