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s.a.d. no more! trounce winter’s dark and chill with mini-parties by Katy Balcer |  1 2 3 4 
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For the uninitiated, it might be handy to keep a cheat-sheet around, in plain view, so folks can be sure they know what beats what, and don’t stay with a handful of red, thinking it’s a flush! One handy site to get the ‘lay of the land’ (as the host, you will be expected to know these things) is free-poker-rules.com/rules.html. Be aware, however, most online poker sites are intended for online gambling or downloadable software, not to teach you how to play it at home with actual people and cards. For this, there’s always Hoyle’s Rules of Games, a very popular reference to card gaming rules and tips. I have a feeling many a well-worn paperback copy live on in used bookstores, libraries, and online booksellers worldwide.

Munchies: Poker and beer go hand in hand. If you’ve stocked up on any seasonal brews this winter, this is a prime time to share. Good non-alcoholic options may include energy drinks or cola, especially if you’re aiming for a marathon gambling session.

Pretzels and chips are common card-game eats, but I always get cranky if my cards get slippery with chip grease. Plus, that fare is so predictable. Avoid the food-on-cards problem by serving little foods on toothpicks. Tableside trays make sure nothing clutters up the playing surface, and that no one has to get up to get anything. And “stuff stuffed with stuff”— yummies people can pop into their mouths without making a fuss or disrupting play—will be eaten long before one lucky player cleans out the pockets of everyone else at the table.

Stuff Stuffed with Stuff (3 options)

Bleu Cheese-Stuffed Tomatoes Mash ¼ lb. bleu cheese and thin it with 1 cup sour cream. Add a medium-sized grated onion and 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper. Stuff into cherry tomatoes or pile onto scooped tomato wedges.

Celery stuffed with Red Caviar Thin down a packet of Neuchatel or cream cheese with heavy cream. Beat in red caviar to taste. Add a dash of lemon juice and stuff into celery stalks cut to 2 inch pieces.

Stuffed Eggs Hard cook a dozen eggs (about 12 minutes). Cool, shell, and cut lengthwise. Exhume the yolks and set the whites aside.  With the yolks, add 4 Tbsps. of mayonnaise, 1 tsp. of mustard, 1 tsp. chopped chives and 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley. Add salt if you think it’s needed. Heap the yellow mixture into the whites and garnish with paprika. Chill.

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