By the Book

I belong to a book club.  A very small group of women who, once upon a time, had children in the same preschool class.  Today those same kids are high school seniors.  And many books later, the moms still meet to chat and vent and laugh and eat, and, as our husbands suspect, rarely talk about the book.

Our next get-together is at my house.  Which means I control the food:)  And since I am trying to be good with my eating, I need to find the right balance between a great offering and either healthy choices for myself or delectable choices that hold no appeal to me.  It also mean that I have a lot of cleaning to do!

I have long been aware that I am the least thin member of my book group.  Every one of the other ladies is trim and fit.  Some have been on diets in the past, but I never remember them being very large to begin with.  One gal is a runner and a vegetarian.  One has done Weight Watchers.  A third went on a healthy eating kick a few years back while training for her first 5K.  Another is an ice skater who teaches the sport to young kids and stays active that way.  The sixth belongs to the same gym as me, takes lots of cardio classes, and walks her dog every day.  When we get together, the gals eat.  Sometimes a little; sometimes a lot.  Sometimes they go for the junkiest of the junk; sometimes they only reach for the healthy options.  I have given up figuring it out and trying to predict what food will sit uneaten and which will get scarfed down.

For me, past gatherings have often been as much about the food as they have about the conversation, companionship, and book.  Sometimes I am eating healthy and almost dread going, worrying about the temptation and almost resenting having to sit for hours with a table of treats in front of me.  Sometimes I am not eating well and look forward to having something tasty to nibble.  One time I went in the throws of PMS, in eager anticipation of anything chocolate, only to be so disappointed there was none served that the hosted dug out some Halloween candy for me!  (What can I say, it was the hormones.)  Sometimes I go and partake of everything; sometimes I go and eat only the healthiest of offerings.

When I host, I like to have something for everyone.  The person who might want to eat healthy, the chocoholic looking for a fix, the one who missed dinner and needs something more filling.  And as someone who has not one gene in common with Martha Stewart, I always stress out a bit about what I am serving.  Not only are these gals thin, but they are very creative and talented hostesses.  Thank goodness they have other imperfections to make them likable.  (Just kidding.)

So after waffling and obsessing thinking about this all week, here is my menu compromise for tonight:

  • Hummus with pita bread
  • Tomatoes (from my neighbor’s garden), mozzarella, and basil with balsamic vinegar
  • Veggies and dip
  • Fruit
  • Chocolate covered almonds (from my husband’s Costco stash)
  • M&M cookies (frozen from the batch I made my son last week)

Now that I look at it, maybe I can cut something out.  I wanted to make it easy on myself.  No baking to tantalize my olfactory senses.  No complicated recipes that would test my culinary skill.  Hopefully minimal stress.  And very little temptation that might be leftover to entice me for days.  A few hours of fun and food then back to the normal routine.

Are you a consummate hostess or domestically challenged like me?  Have any great books to recommend?



Filed under food, influence of others, restaurant/social eating

46 responses to “By the Book

  1. I am a good hostess (or so I’m told), but it is a running joke that unless Mr. B is cooking, the menu will be simple and/or easily duplicated by a trip to Sam’s! LOL!

    Here’s a question for you and others? My greatest challenge in situations like this is not damage done while the guests are there, but handling the leftovers or out of control nibbling before they arrive. What do you do with leftovers???

    BTW, I caught the sentence about the chocolate chip cookies in the freezer. Congrats on that. In my house recently, there would be none left by book club day.

    What is today’s book? Do you only do fiction?

    • Karen

      I toss a lot of leftovers because I am a germophobe and won’t keep anything (like the hummus or dip) that has sat out for hours. The cookies will go to my son or husband; I was careful to limit how many I had for tonight. My mom is a great hostess and she always sends the food home with others so she won’t be tempted.

      We read “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff. I thought it was a great book and highly recommend it. We mostly read fiction and typically nothing “heavy” since some of the gals are not really big readers. Another recent favorite was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.

  2. I am totally domestically challenged!!!!!!!!!! Not a bone in my body that goes the Martha Stewart way. I hate to clean & put it off, can’t decorate or make the home look good if it bit me, can’t cook. Needless to say, I don’t do parties & rarely have people over.. They get it & are used to it. 🙂

    I think your menu is great! Send the cookies with them or make sure they all get eaten!

    I do the laundry & take out the garbage though!

    • Karen

      My sweet husband started vacuuming for me at 6:30! I once co-hosted a party with my very Martha Stewart-like sister-in-law and she made things looks so beautiful that our guests asked who catered it! She is the type who makes beautiful flower garnishes and serves her dip in a head of cabbage. Hmmm. I could do that tonight!

  3. As much as I love to cook, I find appetizers challenging. You end up working just as hard for the pseudo-meal, and like you say, you have to please many palettes! I will give you a new twist to the old mozzarella and tomato dish, if interested. (It does require cooking but it’s very easy!). If you take puff pastry sheets and cut them in squares, then you put chopped tomato and mozz on top. I sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. I think I cooked them about 20 minutes @ 375. Once out of the over, I put chopped basil on top. I even eat these at meals (and my six year old loved them, too.)

    • Karen

      Sounds yummy! My biggest challenge right now is picking through my neighbor’s herb garden (which I have been given an open invitation to do) and see if I can figure out which is the basil.

      The worst thing is when I actually put in more effort than with tonight’s food and make great stuff and no one eats it!

  4. Yummmmm!!!!!!!!!! Can I come? What are you guys reading?

  5. Ewa

    Great snacks. I love hummus and I would not be able to stop eating it till it was gone. For that simple reason I would not be able to go to your book club meeting or I would have to talk with my mouth full. 🙂
    What book are you talking about?

    • Karen

      “The 19th Wife” by David Ebershoff. I actually am not that big a hummus fan and will be more tempted by the pita! The best hummus I ever had was on a float trip down a river in Colorado/Utah and the guides made a batch with all sorts of chunks of stuff tossed in, like artichoke hearts. It was fabulous.

  6. I like to make little tea sandwiches. Cucumber, hummus and veggies, even pb&j. People love them.

    Good books… I just did a great review on my blog of Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein. Hilarious, hilarious book. Great book for a group of women.

    • Karen

      I have never actually had a cucumber tea sandwich. I have read about them, though. Sounds like something to try for next time since no one has done that yet. And I will check out that book. Funny is good.

  7. sunnydaze

    This sounds so cozy. How great that you still get together after all these years. Your menu looks wonderful.

    • Karen

      One of the gals came up with the idea at the end of the preschool years. We had all sort of gotten to know each other just standing in the hall waiting to pick up the kids. When I was invited, I naively asked, “What are you going to read?” They had no idea. Should have been my first clue! I can’t wait for the day we go to our kids weddings:)

  8. When I started reading this I had it in mind to suggest hummus as a snack, but you beat me to it! 🙂 Do you make your own or buy it?

  9. Your food for the book discussion sounds great. I love Caprese salad and it’s very diet friendly. I give away or ditch the leftovers so as not to have to keep fighting them off. I really like entertaining. I have lots of food standbys, some of which I always have, but I like to try new things, too. I find it really helps to keep records of what you’ve served, when. That way you don’t serve the same things all the time, but also, it helps me remember yummy treats that I’ve forgotten about. I keep most of my recipes on the computer and I have a separate WW section where I put all my healthy recipes. Under chocolate, in that section, I have dried apricots dipped in dark chocolate–easy to make ahead but very fancy looking.

    • Karen

      That sounds good and elegant! I will need to remember it. I still have a whole notebook of just WW recipes from way back when. Nothing in there was appetizerish though.

  10. I LOVE having parties and cooking and baking!!! I like the attention I get when I make something so awesome and people rave about it! That being said, I can totally relate to your dilemma. I think what you are offering looks reasonable. You want to be able to enjoy the get together and that’s kinda hard when everyone else is eating stuff that you can’t. But if your skinny friends want treats, they should have them on their own time! Lol!

    • Karen

      See that is my problem – I would also love to have someone rave or ask for a recipe. So I used to stress out more trying to come up with something great. When I was in a Bunco group it was the worst pressure!!

  11. I love your food choices. I don’t think they worry as much about this as you do. They are not coming to see how clean your house is or what food you are serving. I think they just want the great company. So stop stressing. I do the same thing. So easier said than done:)

    • Karen

      I know! I gave someone advice once to not bother cleaning their floors before guests because no one looks and they just get messy with everyone eating. But I still can’t resist. That said, my husband washed our floors today:) AND cleaned the bathroom!

  12. I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart would only serve what she liked and not consider her guests so much, you’re a step above her in my book.

    BTW, thanks for your take on my post today. I wrote a response on my blog, but figured you weren’t likely to see it. It’s people like the woman you mentioned who was depressed by your success that I was addressing. Instead of seeing that success can happen, she turned it into something negative. *Pause while I scream out of frustration with people like that!* Okay, it’s people like that who bring others down. (Her response, IMHO, was beyond selfish. If she is a friend shouldn’t she celebrate in your success, not make it about her failure?) I think it’s fine to admit that you had a bad day once in a while, but if you see a pattern developing, maybe it’s time to take action. That was my point. I hope that came across the way I intended. (BTW, you are NOT a Debbie!)

  13. I like to be the hostess as well, because I like to control the food too. Which, is sometimes bad, sometimes good. I roll with the punches for the most part.

    And hey, there is no shame in not being a domestic goddess. I’m FAR from it! 🙂

    • Karen

      Yes, that is by far not my greatest failing:) I sometimes think about taking a cooking class but I have to admit that I don’t really like cooking so… why bother.

  14. I like to have things at my house, not only for the food but that way I don’t have to go anywhere! I too am a germophobe and rarely eat other people’s food – unless I know them and know they take food safety seriously. (See, I’m weird!)

    Have a great time!

    • Karen

      Oh I could so hang out with you! And you are welcome to eat here anytime:) I am the person who will toss something like guacamole midway through a party and replace it with fresh. I could go on and on but I would not want you to know just how kooky I can be!

  15. I like to give the leftovers away too. And I totally am with you on making treats others like but that leave me cold – I do that a lot.

    I remember getting a lot of appetizer ideas from this :

    But usually I make a huge veggie platter w a few kinds of dips, and a cold carrot salad that people love and then the rest is usually a platter of cheeses, and some cured ham or something similar that needs no cooking.

    • Karen

      The hard part is coming up with yummy stuff that I don’t like! I almost put walnuts in the cookies (for tonight but not my son’s batch) because then I wouldn’t eat them. But my husband and son would not have wanted the leftovers and I didn’t want to see them go to waste. I will have to check out that site.

  16. Recently I’ve been picking up sushi platters from the great place near my work. They do amazing rolls with plenty of variety. Everyone’s loved it!

    Otherwise, I’ll do massive veggies & dips, homemade guacamole & salsa with tortila chips and possibly a plate of cheese, crackers and olives. Sometimes I’ll make some coleslaw or potato salad if I think of it ahead of time. I used to bake cookies and make little peanut butter and chocolate balls, but I don’t really do sweets anymore.

    You choices look great – and have a good range, so everyone should find a few things they really like.

    • Karen

      I’m trying to remember if you are the one who had a sushi post not too long ago. Sigh. Darn memory. I have never tried it. But that is a great idea and they are so interesting looking. Those PB and chocolate balls sound too divine!

      • Yep – I started ordering sushi for the girls’ nights so I knew there’d always be healthy food I’d enjoy. Plus it’s relatively cheap, which everyone likes. 🙂 You should try some! I’d suggest a california roll to start. No raw fish and a good kinda basic starter to give you an idea of it.

        The PB chocolate balls are amazing – which is why I don’t make them anymore. I’d eat them all! It’s basically PB, icing sugar and Rice Krispies mashed up and rolled into balls, then dipped in melted chocolate and put in the fridge til the chocolate coating hardens. Sugar overload! But definitely something you end up eating far too many of every single time.

  17. Yum, I am totally coming to your house. I have a group of friends over weekly for a step study and I always serve the same thing: pretzels, fruit, coffee and tea. Now I’m thinking I should prepare something more. I am totally domestically challenged.

  18. Looks like a yummy menu, with a little something for everyone.

    I used to be in a bunco group! I was also in a canasta group with most of the same women. One group was a “desserts only” event; the other group was a full meal. I always dreaded my month and usually ended up buying barbecued pork and then making the side dishes. 🙂

    • Karen

      I did Bunco too and that one was hard because it was appetizers at the beginning, snacks on the tables during, and dessert midway through! Such pressure:(

  19. Well I am late getting on line today so the book club has most likely already met.Everyone gave you lots of ideas and I think your menu was perfect!

    I usually put out lots of fresh fruit. It is amazing to see how much people enjoy it. A huge platter of strawberries looks beautiful and can also serve as the centerpiece!

    I am a good cook but entertaining makes me a nervous wreck. I am working on that as part of my over all being the beset me I can be. It is a work in progress.

    • Karen

      It is funny how I can never predict what people will go for. Last night I had a bowl of cherries and I was the only one who ate any. But the big hit was the chocolate covered almonds! I actually went into the pantry and brought out the jar.

  20. The mozzarella and tomatoes sound amazing! I think you’re a very kind hostess to accommodate everyone.

    • Karen

      I thing I enjoyed them more than my guests did! They got the most comments from an “ooh” standpoint. But the chocolate covered almonds are what got attacked!

  21. Horrible Hostess… that’s me. I hate to hostess because of the food issues. I’m not a good cook. I can bake (Oh yeah!), but that doesn’t count for a meal. I agonize just as you are doing, but don’t generally arrive at such an appealing list of foods to serve as you have. Really! It sounds perfect.

    I used to pig out at any event like this, especially ones that I host. But since starting OA, I’ve avoided having guests as much as possible and when we’ve had them, I’ve selfishly fixed only what fits my food plan. And they’d better like it, or…..

    How neat that you’ve done book club with the same women for so many years. Odd though, despite the years, you don’t sound as comfortable with them as you are with us, your blogmates.

    Wonder what might happen if you were to declare, “At this get-together, there will be no food. We will see if we have anything going for us besides the calories.” Do you think it might start a new direction for your club?

    • Karen

      I think they would all wonder if I was having a temporary mental break with reality! You are right with one thing – I am not open in my real life about my eating issues. Since I have never been obese, I really don’t know what anyone has ever thought about my eating and ups and downs. I do have one friend who heard it all and was my diet and workout partner for years until she moved away. But I am pretty quiet about my eating.

  22. Naw, no advice about hostessing. But, I am wondering what kinds of books have your book group read. What are your favorites so far?

    • Karen

      We typically don’t choose anything heavy or classics, since several of the gals are not big readers. We just read “The 19th Wife” and everyone not only enjoyed it but found it intriguing. We have done several of Jodi Picoult’s books; she is most well known know that “My Sister’s Keeper” was made into a movie. I really liked “The Help” which coincidentally will also become a movie.

  23. Ha! I found your blog!

    Hi Karen, it’s Susan the (mostly) “Happy Hag” here. I was just going to put in a blurb about “The Help”, which was my most favorite book in recent memory. Ya know, some of my dearest buds are the ones I met through my son’s school. He has ‘out-grown” some of those friends but the Moms & I still do stuff together.

    Here’s a (PMS) recipe that is so ridiculously simple. It’s one of Paula Deen’s, so you know it’s not good for you…

    Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
    1 (18 1/2-ounce) package chewy fudge brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines)
    1 (12-ounce) package peanut butter chips or 24 miniature peanut butter cups

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 regular muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

    Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies. Fill the cups half full with brownie batter. Place about 1 tablespoon peanut butter chips in the center of the batter, or press 1 peanut butter cup into the batter in each muffin cup until the batter meets the top edge of the peanut butter cup.

    Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are set. When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

    How easy is THAT, I ask you. As I stood in front of the candy section of the store today, I debated whether or not I could trust myself handling an entire bag of Reese’s PB Cups without caving. Ended up coming home with them and am going to make these for a picnic on Saturday. If I do cave, I’m sure I’ll be moaning about it on my blog!

    • Karen

      Oh yes, Paula Deen is the antithesis of healthy eating! But she is just such a delight to watch:) I think my son would LOVE these and I will have to make them the next time he home from college. He is a big Reese’s fan. My teen hates peanut butter. Go figure.

      I think all my adult friends came from either my sons’ activities or school, or are neighbors. I can’t imagine ever moving and not having kids as a way to meet people!

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