Monday, January 31, 2011

Delicious Dinner Party

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Danial and I were planning a dinner party.  The party got pushed back because of some tough stuff and it quite honestly couldn't have come at a better time.  During the holidays everyone is rushing from here and there and it was great to have everyone together for a causal dinner.

Danial and I were lucky enough to win and host an Annie Chun's dinner party.  When we first found out about the party we were really excited and I'll be honest, we were a little nervous.  Danial and I had never thrown a dinner party before.  I was nervous that we wouldn't be able to pull it off or it was going to be out of our budget to host a party. 
I know a lot of people probably spent quiet a bit of money getting everything together for the party: decorations, invitations, favors, etc.  It was important for us to cook great food, have great conversation, and prove that you can pull of a great party without a lot of money.  (Have a huge box free Annie Chun's didn't hurt. Haha)
We did put up some decorations.  These were Chinese lanterns I had from college.  I had planned to go all out for decorations, but it really wasn't in the budget and to be quite honest, I'm glad we didn't put up any more (because you have to taken them down at the end of the night).  :-)
We had a great goup of friends stop by and Danial's family even made it over.  It is always great when a big group of friends can get together and have great conversation.  It was especially nice because all of the people that were at the party will be a part of the wedding, so it was a great opportunity for Danial's family to meet our friends.  When the wedding rolls around, everyone will recognize a friendly face.
This Gochujang Sauce Korean Sweet & Spicy sauce is the best!!!  It is spicy but not overwhelming.  During the dinner party guests used it with spring rolls, but since the party I have been using it on scrambled eggs and veggie burgers.  If you are a meat eater, there is a recipe on the bottle tag to make burgers with the sauce mixed in. 
On to the important stuff....THE FOOD.
First off, I was so impressed at how easy the recipes were.  I was a little overwhelmed due to the mass of food we made.  We had about 12-14 guests throughout the night and we cooked two entrees: Chicken Chow Mein and Vegetable Pad Thai.  Aside from the large amount of food we had to cook, the recipes were really easy to make.  It is easy to get intimated by the amount of ingredients some recipes call for and I was pleasantly surprised that there weren't too many ingredients for any of the recipes.  Note to anyone else planning a party: chopping and prepping ingredients before you start cooking is key if you are cooking for a large group.)
Another thing I really appreciated about Annie Chun's product is their recipes are on the back of their packaging.  Nothing is more frustrating when making a meal that to hunt down a recipe when you are just ready to eat dinner.  The recipes on the back of the boxes were simple, easy to read, and included ingredient lists.  The website also has additional recipes sorts by diet type, occasion, and time. 
Secondly, the recipes were very easy to alter.  Our group of friends are split pretty evenly between vegetarian and meat eaters.  The Pad Thai recipe on the box of rice noodles was really easy to alter by leaving out the animal ingredients.  I substituted bok choy in the recipe and it was great.  Hindsight being what it is, I wish I would have picked up some firm tofu and added that to the mix as well.  (I wish they had some vegetarian appetizer options.  Since we live close to an Asian market, we picked up some spring rolls to use as additional appetizers.)
Good food fast!  I know I keep saying how surprised I was as I was cooking this meal, but it is true.  The recipes cooked really quickly (even for the large amount of food we cooked).  The thing I liked most about the food was it tasted healthy!  I have made stir fry in the past at home and I have always been knocked out by the sodium content in other brand's sauces.  The Annie Chun's sauces were great because they tasted amazing without being overloaded with salt. 
Annie Chun's = AFFORDABLE!  Very rarely can you afford to make a restaurant quality meal at home, but this Asian cuisine is the exception!  Even if we hadn't received the bulk of our food for free it still would have been an affordable option for a dinner party.  I know without a doubt Annie Chun's will be in our dinner rotation.  The noodles, sauces, and appetizers were all great prices.  We had to go to the store to pick up the appetizers (found in the frozen section) and we were pleasantly surprised at how affordable everything was: sauces, appetizers, noodles, and rice.  Next time we go to Whole Foods I am going to pick up some Seaweed Snacks to try.
While we didn't have the funds to throw an extravagant affair (we are trying to plan a wedding remember?), we did want to send our guests home with a little something....
During our trip to the local Asian Market we picked up some goodies: Haw fruit candy and melon gum.  (If you have ethnic markets in your city, I suggest you go!  It was such a fun afternoon for Danial and I.  We touched everything in the store, smelled things we have never smelled before and bought food we have never tried before.  We will definetly be going back.)  Haw fruit candy is a natual candy made from the Hawthorn fruit.  It was interesting and refreshing after a savory meal.  The melon gum reminded me of Chicklets but was AMAZING!  I may go back to the market just for the gum alone!  We also placed the coupons that Annie Chun's provided us in our guests' mini-takeout boxes.  While you weren't at the party to get a coupon, you can visit the Annie Chun's website to download your own $1 off coupon here when you sign up for their newsletter.
While I hope we win the contest, it really isn't about that.  It was great to be in the kitchen with Danial working on creating a great meal and an overall great evening for our friends and family.  It was also great to cook recipes we normally go out for.  At the end of the night we had already started planning our next party.  Thanks Annie Chun's!  It was a great night!
Enjoy the video.  Danial is narrating and it is hilarious to listen to.  I love the comments of "love" in the background. 

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