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Simply . . . Entertaining: List a crucial ingredient for party success

Thursday, April 19, 2001

By Mary Miller

Lists, lists, lists. I make lists for everything. Lists of what to do each day. Lists of what to pack for a vacation. Lists of the books I want to read. I couldn't get by without my lists.

When planning a party, making lists is at the top of my to-do list. First comes the shopping list. As I go through my cookbooks and recipes, I write down the ingredients and amounts needed. I then check to see if I already have any of them -- and the right amounts -- and cross them off if I do. Who needs four boxes of brown sugar in the pantry besides my ever-present kitchen moths? (OK, I do not have any pantry pests at the moment, but I have had them.) Don't forget to jot down other items you might need, such as disposable plates, trash bags or ice.


Mary Miller is a Fox Chapel-based registered dietitian and food writer. For questions or comments, she can be reached at marymar333@home.com.


Next, organize this list based on where you shop. For example, items found in the Strip District are in one section, supermarket items in another and farm market goodies in yet another.

Then re-organize the list according to the way the grocery store is laid out. Based on where I shop, it's produce at the top of the paper, milk and juice at the bottom. This procedure takes some time before your shopping trip, but it saves even more time later. No more circling the store for a half hour to get back to broccoli in the first aisle.

Next comes the preparation list. The week before any get-together I sit down with my trusty calendar and assign tasks to certain days. Purchase food on Thursday, buy flowers on Friday -- you get the idea. That way time is set aside to get everything done.

Then I get really specific. I read through each recipe and plan for jobs that can be done ahead of time, such as chopping celery or soaking dried beans. It's not good to realize the morning of your party that the custard for your tiramisu needs to be made one day ahead. By working ahead, I can enjoy my guests at the party.

The next list is for party day. Include such activities as filling the ice bucket and doing a last-minute check of the powder room. My family could go for a month without using a guest towel, but the day of the party somehow every guest towel is not only used, but also thrown on the powder room floor.

My final list involves the menu. Put a list of every food item to be served, including appetizers and garnishes, somewhere in the kitchen where you can see it.

In the middle of all the excitement, it's easy to forget a side dish or a garnish. I once put a three-bean casserole in the oven around noon only to realize at midnight that the beans were still baking. Talk about a mess to clean up! And how frustrating to spend three hours carving radish roses for your Mother's Day casserole only to find them -- brown and shriveled -- shoved to the back of your refrigerator on the Fourth of July.

This easy, low-fat recipe keeps well for up to five days.

Mediterranean Barley

1 cup pearl barley
3 cups vegetable broth
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced red pepper

Rinse the barley and place in a medium saucepan with broth. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until barley is tender, about 35 minutes. Add garlic; cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer the barley mixture to a fine sieve; drain well. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover and chill completely. To serve, add parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon peel, salt, black pepper and diced red pepper; toss well to combine. Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from "Moving Towards a Plant-based Diet"

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