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Slice of Life

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    Pick a fruit that gets almost no publicity, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one less represented than the fig.
  • Blackberries taking center stage
    Every family has a child who, while just as talented, beautiful and beloved as the rest of the brood, is overshadowed by the achievements of siblings. Such is the fate of the blackberry.
  • Know sugars to sweeten choices
    I’m standing in line at the local farmers market and what was obviously a grandparent watching an obviously overtired, overstimulated and downright cranky 2- or 3-year-old while the parents were debating the merits of a green vs. red vs.
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Easy recipe
Five-Minute Cookie Strata
14 chocolate chunk cookies (homemade or store bought)
1/3 to 1/2 cup coffee liqueur
4 bananas, sliced
1/2 to 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
Cocoa or chocolate shavings
Quickly dip each cookie in a bowl with the liqueur and line the bottom of a 10-inch square dish with seven cookies. Slice two bananas over cookies and cover with half the whipped topping. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with cocoa and pecans and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Serves 10 to 12.

Rules for throwing low-stress parties

We have all had that moment of panic when we think that the specific amount of food or events we have planned for casual entertaining during the weekend isn't going to be “good enough.”

How to counteract the panic? Welcome to Casual Weekend Entertaining 101.

Entertaining is supposed to be fun, and it's fairly simple to ensure that any guest (planned and unexpected) will feel like they are the most important people on the planet while you're able to actually relax and enjoy your own party. The best piece of advice I can give is to keep it casual and simple and to ask for help. Nobody can do everything themselves.

So what if the bed isn't made (just close the door) or the laundry is piling up (again, just close the door, it will still be there after the party)? Your friends are coming over, they don't care.

So here are my rules for casual entertaining:

•The company matters the most. No matter what you plan or do no party is perfect so ditch that idea that you can achieve it and lighten up. Remember that guests are coming to spend time with you and to enjoy themselves. The more relaxed you are, the more fun everyone will have.

•Delegate to everyone. When someone asks, can I help, say yes. Just know that having people give you a hand is not a sign that you are not a good hostess. It says you're a smart hostess.

•The 80/20 rule applies to parties, too. The 80/20 rule says focus on the most important – 20 percent – of a project and that will take care of the remaining 80 percent. If you focus on what is most important to you for the event (food, drinks, theme) and then let the rest go, you will find your stress level will be lower.

•Set the table the day before, if possible.

•Don't serve anything that will keep you in the kitchen while the guests are hanging out elsewhere.

•You will always need more ice than you think you will.

•Don't be afraid to serve pre-made, store-bought items or even takeout food.

•Think about rearranging furniture so people have places to sit.

•If there are kids at the party, think of activities to keep them busy or hire a baby sitter to play with them and organize games.

•I'm all for paper plates, napkins, etc., for larger events. Makes clean up so much easier.

•You can never have too many garbage cans and bags out in all of the rooms. The easier it is for guest to throw away their trash, the more likely they are to do it, which means less cleanup for you.

•When you start to feel stressed, take a deep breath, tell yourself to relax and treat yourself to some of the goodies you made. After all that work, you deserve it.

Eilen Goltz writes the Slice of Life food column, which appears Sundays in The Journal Gazette’s Living section. Contact Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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