Vail’s Colorful Cooking column: Quick and easy tips for a successful party |

Vail’s Colorful Cooking column: Quick and easy tips for a successful party

Tracy Miller
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

A few years ago when Valentine’s Day landed on a Saturday night, we hosted a party for 30 of our closest friends and their children. Our budget was really small, we didn’t have a lot of time to cook, and I was determined to have good food, drinks and fun.

The meal we served was a simple Italian spaghetti dish with bacon and pine nuts that I recruited my Italian friend Denise to help make. Towering antipasti plates served as delicious appetizers, and I bought a Valentine’s Day cake, which served as a table decoration and dessert, from my local grocery store. For drinks, we provided one specialty cocktail and everyone brought whatever else they desired.

At the time, most of my friends had small children, so we transformed our garage into an arts and crafts room stocked with colorful paper and crayons (and heaters). I purchased a bunch of crafty plastic cups online that the kids decorated, drank from and took home. Purchasing the cups and kid drinks in gallons was less expensive than if I bought individual juice and milk boxes. We hired two teens to supervise and encourage the kids to color and play nicely. This party cost us $200.

My point is, with some organization you can throw together an enjoyable gathering in little time and for little money. The key to a successful party is really thinking about your guest list. Had there not been a special place for the kids to play, adults would have been distracted and unable to mingle. If I asked everyone to bring food (which is OK), then my friends would have spent their Saturday shopping and cooking and I wanted everyone to be relaxed and ready to have fun.

Here are a few tips for an uncomplicated, successful party:

•-Have an activity for adults and children (pool, cards, watching football).

•-Menus with themes are easy to shop for, and ingredients can be reused in another course (parmesan cheese on antipasti platter and spaghetti dinner).

•-Recruit a few close friends to help. (I have a bottle of bubbly in the kitchen to share with helpers.)

For more easy party tips, join me at Colorado Mountain College on Feb. 3 for The Harriet Host class from 6 to 9 p.m. I will uncover by best secrets and tips on how to have a great party. Log onto or call 970-569-2900 to learn more.

If the Super Bowl is on your mind, a taco party is a fun way to entertain and deliver a meal most people like. Below you will find an easy, colorful, inexpensive recipe that will elevate your taco night. Include this with traditional beef tacos, and party success is yours!

Catfish tacos

2 pounds catfish

1 tablespoons ground Cumin

1 tablespoons smoked paprika

Corn Tortillas

4 cups shredded red cabbage

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup diced green onion (about three, using both green and white parts)

1/8 cup diced jalapenos (optional)

1 1/2 Tablespoons lime juice

Pulse 1/2 head (three cups) of red cabbage in a food processor for about 5 seconds. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, let sit for 30 minutes to release cabbage juices. Mix next five ingredients with cabbage, chill.

Wash and pat dry catfish. Mix cumin and paprika together and spread generously over both sides of fish. Heat saute pan over medium and drizzle with vegetable oil. Add fish and cook, covered, for 10-12 minutes, flipping once. Shred fish with fork and serve on corn tortillas with slaw. Garnish with diced mango or avocado.

Serves 4.

Tracy Miller is TV8’s in-house cook, features recipes Saturdays on “Good Morning Vail,” teaches cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards and hosts private cooking parties. Contact Miller at

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