Monday, August 27, 2012

Mahalo Summer

I may have mentioned this in a previous post or two and I just have to say it again - I have the best neighbors! I know, I know... you probably have great neighbors too, however, the energy of our cove (cul-de-sac) has recently been revived with some new families and it's like it has awakened after being in some kind of cryogenic sleep chamber. Now we all seem to be outside with our kids playing, chatting and sipping cocktails more nights than not and our diversified group of personalities and age groups just adds to the fun.

A while back, my friend Lisa in Hollister, California started telling me about how her neighbors started doing progressive dinners. I was intrigued and thought if I ever had the opportunity to do one of these dinners with my neighbors I would. So step into the now with all of these fantastic neighbors and what a perfect opportunity to start our own tradition. We've now had two dinners and they have been nothing but huge successes! We started off with a simple "Progressive Meet Your Neighbors" dinner to test the waters. It was a hit, so we decided to end the summer right and have a luau-based progressive dinner. The progressive dinner itself is pretty basic. We start with three courses at three separate houses - appetizers, entree, and dessert. If you are hosting at your house than others can co-host by bringing food to that course. We had ten families participating in our luau, three of which hosted courses in their homes or backyards, the rest helping with their course of choice. We spend about an hour or so enjoying each course at each house until we move on to the next. It's simple, fun and a great way to get to know your neighbors. Of course, you don't have to have themes, we just happen to have an awesome group that is open to anything. As my new neighbor Ross mentioned last night, "Living on Cyrus Cove is like stepping into the 50's with a modern, updated twist." Thanks Ross, I could not have said it any better.

So if you find your neighborhood in a bit of a cyber-sleep and need to wake it up a bit, may I suggest something a bit progressive? You never know - it might just be the one thing that wakes you and your neighbors up... I'm jus' sayin'!

Here are some tips from my friend Lisa for making your progressive dinner successful.
  1. Start with lots of communication, be it through e-mails, e-vite party invitations or phone calls. Don't rely on just chatting with people and keeping track of what you chat about. If it's all in writing then it's easier to go back and look at.
  2. Appoint one master-planner. Having a master-planner will ensure that all communication (above) is stored and kept current. This planner can do any or all of the following:
    • Keeps track of the families participating (headcount).
    • Arranges groups (to keep families rotating amongst themselves)
    • Works with everyone regarding the theme/menu/timing (so no dishes are duplicated)
    • They create the final agenda and post it before the dinner letting everyone know where to go and when, what the theme is, and whether the theme requires any special needs like props or dressing to fit the theme.

  3. Encourage neighbors that may be a bit shy to co-host rather than host a course at their house.
  4. If kids are invited, make sure there's a small "busy" table set up so that they are not bored while the parents are mingling. It can be as simple as having bubbles and coloring books outside on a craft table. Just remember to make it as simple as possible so that they do not need a lot of attention, but rather can enjoy both themselves and each other.
  5. Teens can sometimes not be as gung-ho as the adults or little ones. Make sure you involve them in the creative set-up and course planning, that way they can feel like they are contributing.
  6. Diet or special needs are where the "communications" person can make sure that specific needs are met. If a person is gluten-free, make sure they bring a dish that is suitable to the course as it will give them a chance to offer something new to the group as well as take care of their own personal needs.
  7. Relax! The dinner should not be difficult but rather fun and entertaining. If you are uptight it will show. This is about getting to know your neighbors.
  8. If you think there will be more people then your home can comfortably hold, move it outdoors or even at an easily accessible park for one of the courses.

Here are a few recipes from our Progressive Luau to get you started

The Luden's Mai Tai's

Mai Tai
4.5 fl oz Mr & Mrs T® Mai Tai Mix
1.5 fl oz Light Rum
1.5 fl oz Triple Sec

Instructions: Pour ingredients over 1 cup of chipped ice in a tall cocktail glass. Garnish with pineapple slice and lime as desired

Dianne's "Not Your Hokey Poke"

2 1/2 lbs. ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 bunches green onions, white and some green, sliced
½ C soy sauce
1/3 C toasted sesame oil
Sesame seeds or wasabi sesame seeds

Toss tuna and onions in a bowl.  Mix soy sauce and oil and pour over tuna. Toss, and add sesame seeds.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Dianne's Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad 
1 1/2 lbs small elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
3 bunches green onions, sliced
1 bag shoestring carrots
1 – 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
Mayo to taste
Salt and pepper

Rinse the cooked pasta to cool it. Toss pasta with onions, carrots and still-frozen peas. Add mayo to taste, season with salt and pepper.

Tony's Pineapple Brocoli Chicken

Aloha Pork Sliders w/Pineapple Mango Salsa & Spicy Plum BBQ Sauce.

Anita's Delicious Spicy Plum BBQ Sauce was slathered on one side of the bun

Aloha Pork Sliders

Aloha Pork Sliders
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup of minced spicy pickles like Wickles brand
1 medium red onion minced
1 egg
1/4 cup of pickle juice from jar
Salt & pepper to taste
Pineapple Mango Salsa (I made my own by just combining diced mango, pineapple, jalepeno, onion, lime juice, red bell pepper, cilantro and salt & pepper. You can certainly purchase ready-made at your local grocer.)
Hawaiian Bread Rolls
Spicy BBQ sauce  (I used a gift of homemade but you can certainly use your favorite bottled)

Mix the above, until completely combined. With an ice cream scoop make rounded scoops about the size of a kiwi. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

To Assemble: Slice each roll in half. On one side, spoon on some BBQ sauce and on the other, put a tablespoon of salsa. Place a slider on the BBQ side and put the salsa side on top. I secured mine with cute hula girl toothpics. You could certainly use a wooden skewer. I also placed a wedge of pineapple on top to garnish. This recipe should yield 24 burgers.

The Langham's Hawaiian Kabobs
Chicken and Pineapple Skewers
We followed the recipe closely, with the exception of substituting the sherry with rice vinegar.

The Javan's Absolutely Delicious Banana's Foster

Sweet after dinner cordials served at the Javan's Dessert Course

The Gatshe's Rice Pudding with a Sweet Pineapple Compote

First Course Appetizers

Ross greeting us all at the door with an "Aloha"

Buffet style for the entree course

Eating Outside (Entree)

Kelli whisking up the sauce for the Bananas Foster.