The Marriage Ref theme party

After a long wait of eight months, I finally got to watch my episode of The Marriage Ref air on TV. We (hubby and I) invited a few friends over for a viewing party this past Sunday evening. There was a themed menu and a lot of excitement in the air.

I asked the host Tom Papa what his favorite cocktail was (via Twitter), and he said “I gobblin martinis.” When the guests walked in, we asked them to have their pick between two house martinis – “The husband” which was a cognac based sidecar or “The Wife” a pomegranate martini. Our friends got a kick out of the whole thing! They hesitated, thinking this may be more than just a drink, and decided to stick with their own gender.

For dinner, I had asked everyone to bring a dish that I had specifically assigned (for the potluck). Every dish was inspired by a previous couple on the show, more specifically the title of their problem. I had to be very creative in terms of appropriately picking a dish to depict the title. I found the topics and the photos of the couples on NBC web site and made small cut-outs to go along with the dish. We had Gurdeep’s Cuddling Obsession – tortilla wraps (the chicken salad cuddled by the tortilla), Stripper Pole – breadsticks wrapped with prosciutto (meat on a stick), Jiab’s Mother in Law – lasagna (because mother in laws make  good lasagna), He will not eat it – veggie burgers (most men don’t like their burgers to be vegetarian), Bret’s Goat -goat cheese salad (I hope Bret’s wife makes it with her goat), Will’s Tavern – chicken wings (that’s what you would order in a tavern), Mouthy Witch – mozzarella sticks (crispy on the outside with cheese oozing out) and Tiny Problems -potato chips topped with smoked salmon, chopped onions, capers and chipotle sauce (its tiny and the whole thing falls apart upon the first bite).

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Desserts were abundant and the theme continued on. We had Jamie’s Pumpkin Obsession – a huge pumpkin muffin with pumpkin cream cheese frosting (representing the giant pumpkin Jamie grows in his backyard), Burned to a Krispy – Krispy Kreme bread pudding (a band, a donut and a dessert), Consistently Sexy –chocolate covered strawberries (they are always sexy), Carolyn’s Dollhouse – mini cupcakes (that little girls love) and Carrie’s Holistic Healing – double chocolate brownies (will cheer you up in no time).

A few people had not seen the show before so they were asking the story of the couples behind each dish. Others had a good laugh while they enjoyed the food.

We then settled down in the living room to watch the show. NBC had two back-to-back shows on starting at 9pm. Ours was at 10pm which actually turned out to be good. The people who had never watched the show before got a good idea of what it was all about. If ours had been the first one they ever watched, they would have been in for a shock!

Nobody knew what our argument was about until this point. A lot of friends had tried guessing and coercing out of us, but we kept it a secret all along. Once the show started, there was clapping, hooting, whistling and nonstop laughter. Friends were falling off their chairs watching us make our arguments on national television. The judges on our show were hilarious, especially Patti LaBelle. I think this was the most controversial episode thus far. During the break, we took a vote from our live audience on who they were voting for. To my unpleasant surprise, most of them sided with my husband. Even then, I remained calm and composed (I already knew I had won 🙂 and that they were wrong!

Once I made it to the top two, everyone was rooting for me. It was a close call but the other lady had a stronger argument (I would vote in favor of my husband to get a job too). There was a lot of energy flowing through the room during that one hour. Everyone was into it and having a blast. It’s one thing to watch a show that is funny; it’s another thing to watch your own friends on it. I think it makes it a lot funnier!

Hawaiian Dinner Party

I love themed parties! In fact, I always try to create a theme around any dinner party I host. It helps me keep the menu together, try new recipes and make things interesting for my attendees. In the past, I have organized a game night, pool party, grill day, just tapas, wine and cheese, TV show finales, Moroccan, Mexican, Indian, Italian and much more. But this was my first time hosting a Hawaiian dinner party.

With the help of my friend Sonia Viteri, and the assistance of the cooktop replacement service that I got through a company like First American Home Warranty that dealt with my cooker malfunction, we decided on a menu for 15 people who were part of the group, Dinner with a Passport, a once a month dinner adventure meet up founded in Atlanta. We had less than 24 hours to plan, shop, prepare and host! With a few emails, phone calls, and shopping trips, we settled on a easy and light menu that would beat the heat of the summer (in Hotlanta) while representing the fresh ingredients used in Hawaiian cuisine. We found most of the recipes on the internet and adopted some of them as we went along.

The best thing about this menu is not much prep work is required. Only a couple of hours of marinating and chopping is sufficient. Everything is cooked and assembled just before serving. Good option for a last minute party thrower!

We greeted our guests with lei’s and offered Mai Tai’s and wine for drinks. The first course was a coconut fried shrimp. We used beer batter and unsweetened dry coconut (toasted in the oven) and deep fried the shrimp as guests started to arrive. Sonia whipped up a sauce with mashed pineapples, chillies and mustard to serve with the shrimp.

For the second course, we prepared three different kinds of salads. The tropical fruit salad was mixed cut fruits served in the shell of a watermelon. There were kiwis, watermelons, pineapples and papayas (pretty much all the fruit we had left over from making other dishes).

The papaya cucumber salad with a spicy dressing was a huge hit. Cilantro, ginger, sugar and red chili paste worked their magic on each other to create this flavorful dressing that made the fruits jump up and down with excitement. Papaya pairs well with spicy, tangy sauces in case you never tried it before. We served the salad over a bed of fresh lettuce leaves.

Next was a crunchy watermelon salad with cabbage, fried noodles and green onions. The black sesame seeds and chopped mint leaves added a lot of color to this already colorful meal. It was refreshing with the right balance of sweetness and crunchiness.

For the main course, there was Huli Huli Chicken, grilled drumsticks marinated in pineapples, white wine, soy sauce and ginger. We marinated the chicken for 2 hours and then kept basting it with the marinade while cooking so its nicely caramelized. The chicken was sweet, tender and juicy after being on the grill for 30 minutes.

It was paired with a short grain jasmine rice cooked with coconut water and sesame seeds. The rice was served in frozen pineapple shells. It’s sole purpose was to remind you of the tropics, so we named it Tropical Rice. There were also Hawaiian rolls for those who preferred bread.

Dessert was a simple Hawaiian banana fritters. Small variety of bananas (lady finger) were cut in half and fried with butter and brown sugar. We made a sauce from rum, water and dark sugar and drizzled it over the bananas and vanilla ice cream. If you plan to make this, make sure the bananas are fully rips, else they won’t taste sweet.