Margarita Madness


I had three couples coming to my house for a dinner party, but no idea what I was going to serve. It’s 2014, meaning this was not going to be your mother’s dinner party. It had to be a kosher meal that accommodated a vegetarian, a gluten-free person, and some meat lovers. What a challenge to please everyones’ palate. I pored through cookbooks, recipes I’ve torn out of newspapers and magazines, and the internet. I was determined to make everyone happy and try some new recipes.

Then, as if by magic, something caught my eye on a high shelf in my kitchen – those margarita glasses from my wedding registry. We thought we would have many festive parties and use them all the time. I have never used them in the twenty years I’ve been married. So much for that idea. Shockingly, life has not been one big party.

I had found the idea to build my dinner party around – margaritas! Who cared that it was cold outside? Festivities are called for year-round.

Slowly, it all came together. Here’s what I served:

  • Guacamole and Chips
  • Carrot, Chile and Cilantro Soup
  • Sliced Skirt Steak on a bed of Spanish Rice
  • Chopped Romaine Salad with corn, black beans and tomatoes
  • Spicy, Smoky Lentils
  • Corn and Flour Tortillas
  • Sides of Salsa Verde, Chipolte Salsa, Cabbage, Avocado and Green Onions
  • Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Brittle
  • Sweet-Potato Cake
  • Sliced Oranges

It was a labor of love to cook for my friends and create a meal that everyone could enjoy. I’ve put two of the recipes from this meal that my guests enjoyed on my blog if you’d like to try them too. The margaritas were a delicious and fun addition to the usual wine, beer and scotch. Apparently I gave my friend an idea, as she wrote me the next day:

“You inspired me: on our way home, I conducted a mental inventory of our unused kitchen items, and came up with: a vintage 1970’s punch bowl, a waffle iron…and my mother-in-law’s circa 1955 jello molds.  I’m thinking the punch bowl is the way to go for our next dinner party (it’s really groovy, with green blown glass and matching cups), though I’m a little curious to break out the jello molds.  Maybe the ticket is to add some vodka to the jello before I chill it??”

Did someone say Jello? I totally want to be invited to that dinner party!

Sure my mother, in her Martha Stewart way, taught me that things don’t always have to be used for their intended purpose – I may have used the margarita glasses once to serve a dessert in. I am a big cleaner-outer but somehow have not been able to give the glasses away. I knew there was a party waiting to happen, and those glasses were going to be waiting for me saying “hola, what took you so long?”

I can now scratch that off my list. As my husband and I were cleaning up, enjoying the afterglow and buzz of the party, we were deciding whether to wash the glasses by hand or put them in the dishwasher.

“Why not put them in the dishwasher? If they break, I don’t think we’d miss them,” he said.

Nope, I couldn’t risk it so I hand-washed them. It was a delightful evening – God willing, there will definitely be more parties in my future. Who knows what other inspiring treasures I’ll find in my house? Maybe next we’ll have a slumber party and I can finally use those breakfast-in-bed trays.

The Lost Art of Hospitality


People don’t seem to entertain much in their homes anymore. Maybe it’s their busy lives or a lack of confidence in their cooking abilities, or their self-consciousness about their homes. I like to have people over. Not all the time, of course. I love going out to eat where someone else has planned the menu, shopped for the ingredients, cooked and cleaned up. It’s generally worth every penny.

What makes a meal great for me is the company.

Home hospitality invites people into your private world, if you are so inclined. Some people find it too invasive and stressful.  For me, it is a way to connect with people and share values and customs. My children learn how to be hosts and hostesses.  They have to engage guests in conversation, make everyone feel welcome and comfortable, and help with the dishes. They put their devices down and make eye contact. And they learn to speak with adults who are not their parents, teachers or coaches.

It doesn’t matter if you buy prepared food and serve it on paper plates or cook a feast served on your china and crystal. After all, what’s the use of having all those beautiful things if they are only going to be used as decoration behind glass or stored in a closet? Using them lends beauty and a special aura to a meal. It creates memories for our children, who will in turn be happy to use them when we pass them along the family chain.

My mother was a master of entertaining. She made everyone feel warm and welcomed. She was so skilled at making her table look beautiful and her food delicious while also pleasing to the eye. She prided herself on “assembling” meals, a mixture of store-bought items which she would masterfully spruce up and home-made foods. I can only share this secret now that she is gone. I think she wouldn’t mind. Okay Mom?

The truth is, people are happy to be invited and not have to cook.  Unless you’re a world-class chef or the food is vile, no one will remember what they ate. And no one cares if you spent days slaving in the kitchen or merely a couple of hours. What they will remember is the feeling they had while in your home.