Last weekend we hosted our very first Dinner Club in our new home! It was so nice to be settled enough to entertain friends (although, believe me, we still had plenty of unfinished projects going on in the background – welcome to moving!).
Anyway though, just as a refresher, our Dinner Club started 5 years ago and consists of 4 couples (adults only!). We take turns hosting every other month and in-between rounds the most recent host picks a restaurant for an out-to-dinner gathering. So each couple ends up hosting about once or twice a year, which makes it feel totally manageable in my opinion.
For our menu this time we went with a New Orleans theme because honestly I’ve made homemade gumbo (a family recipe of ours) a hundred times, and with our recent move still so fresh I just couldn’t be much more creative and experimental than that. As as result, I just let the decor be pretty simple so our brand new dining room could speak for itself – even though I was channeling Mardi Gras beads and feather masks in my mind (oh well, next time!). And I must give a quick shoutout to my friend Erin for helping me with the lovely centerpieces – she is great at keeping things classy and simple!
Each time I host I love to print a menu because it’s an easy way to “up” the special occasion factor. I even got my 8-year-old to help – she chose the gold font and the background paper and cut everything out too! That girl likes things fancy. :) She also helped me set the table.
For appetizers I made Crab and Corn Cakes (with gluten-free flour since we had one guest with an allergy – recipe below), Cajun Spiced Pecans, and Smoked Trout Dip. I’m including a Smoked Salmon version of this dip in my next cookbook so it was a great excuse for me to experiment!
Here’s a little snapshot of how the plated dishes turned out below, which (per the pictured menu card) were Grilled Artichokes with a Lemon-Oregano Aioli (from Martha Stewart’s American Food cookbook), Seafood and Smoked Sausage Gumbo over Brown Rice (I used our family recipe and successfully subbed a gluten-free flour blend), and Homemade Beignets with Fresh Berries (I offered our gluten-free guest some dark chocolate with her berries).
When I was finalizing the menu I asked my husband if I should make Bananas Foster or Beignets for dessert and my man – with his barely-there sweet tooth – voted for Bananas Foster. What can I say? Clearly I didn’t sway from my homemade donut day dreams! I’d honestly never made beignets from scratch before (I’d always used that Cafe du Monde boxed mix) so I was a little nervous about how they’d turn out with no time to test them out beforehand. But clearly they turned out GREAT, and I even let my daughters have the leftovers for breakfast the next morning! Like I said – hard to go wrong with fried dough topped with powdered sugar. At least in my opinion. :) (Beignet recipe courtesy of the Commander’s Kitchen cookbook.)
So I’m excited to share one of the recipes with you today …the Crab and Corn Cakes (below)! I thought I’d still have plenty of those leftover with all the other food I was serving, but everyone cleared house when it came to this dish. I hope you and your family (or friends) enjoy them just as much as we did. They’d make a great pot luck appetizer this holiday season!
Sponsor Shoutout: Lunchbox Love Cards
Speaking of the holiday season, I want to quickly give a shoutout to our wonderful sponsor – Lunchbox Love! It’s no secret I love to tuck these adorable little cards into my daughters’ lunches, but did you know they’re also a great way to share kindness and gratitude throughout the holidays? You can not only give them to the kids in your life, but also coworkers, teachers, the mail carrier and even your favorite barista. Why not? I’ve even given newly purchased packs of these cute cards to my mom-friends during the holidays, and they were so excited to use them for their own kids. So if you’re looking for creative gifts this holiday season – be sure to give this sponsor of ours some love! :)
Crab and Corn Cakes
- 1/2 cup whole-grain cornmeal, finely ground
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, or gluten-free blend
- 2 tablespoons green onions, diced, white and green parts
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 6-oz can lump crab meat, drained and picked over (to remove any shells)
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- olive oil, or clarified butter (ghee) for cooking
In a large bowl whisk together the cornmeal, flour, green onions, baking powder and salt. Make a well (hole) in the center and pour in the milk, egg, and melted butter. Stir with a fork until well combined. Carefully fold in the crabmeat and corn (no need to defrost).
In the bottom of a large skillet warm up a thin layer of olive oil (or ghee) over medium heat. Drop in spoonfuls of batter (smaller spoonfuls for finger food and larger ones for a plated appetizer). Cook in batches for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown on the outside and no longer runny on the inside.
Note: If your pan is too hot they'll get brown on the outside before they cook all the way through on the inside - so getting the temperature right is key!
Transfer the warm cakes to a platter and top with sour cream (a squeeze bottle can help make it look pretty) along with diced shallots and/or parsley. Serve warm and enjoy!
1. We recommend organic ingredients when feasible.
2. Recipe can be made gluten-free buy substituting gluten-free all purpose flour, preferably whole grain.