I have been hosting monthly dinners for 13 years, so when COVID-19 shut down schools, events, and all other gatherings I needed to think creatively. I still wanted to get together with my friends as we usually do every month, but I knew we couldn't do that in person as we always had. I decided to host our dinner virtually, but did not want to leave out all of the creative aspects that make these dinners fun. Read on to hear how I adapted...
Invite: This virus is very serious, and I know that we are all constantly on edge about the dangers and the statistics in the news. I wanted this dinner theme to play with the lighter side of this pandemic to bring smiles to my friend's faces rather than so much grim. I designed the invitation with a Corona bottle with a surgical mask on and used green/yellow virus images. As stated on the invite, I dropped off meals to each guest along with the other goodies I created for them. Then we all got on Zoom to eat and swap stories as we normally would at monthly dinners.
Fun Details: One of my favorite details of this dinner was my napkin. I used empty toilet paper rolls and wrapped 6 squares of toilet paper around each one. I secured it with a graphic I made that said "All I Can Spare'" Napkin. With everyone freaking out about running out of TP and stores selling out, I thought this would add a bit of humor to the situation.
Another thing I created for the meal was a blow up of my guest's face and a surgical mask for the to-go container that had their meal. I bought large to-go bowls at Target, measured the inside of the lid, and then used PhotoShop to manipulate each guest's photo to fit. After printing, I cut them out and placed them on the lid. I made the surgical masks with blue card stock and rubber bands. The blue card stock was hard to fold and manipulate because it is thick, but it is all I had at home to use. I would recommend using tissue paper or regular blue typing paper instead if you have it, but I didn't have these at home, and we are trying to stay inside during this quarantine.
Menu: I wanted to serve a simple one-dish meal since I was dropping it off on each guest's porch. I decided to make chicken bowls. I seasoned my chicken with a Corona-Lime marinade. I used chicken thighs for my bowls because they are easy to keep tender even in reheating. I marinated the chicken for about 8 hours, then placed it on a baking sheet. I put it in the oven at 425 for 30 minutes. I made cilantro lime rice (bottom of bowl). The yellow onion, red, yellow, and orange peppers I also put in the oven for 30 minutes (same temp). When assembling the bowls, I added black beans, cheese, avocado, a ramekin of pico de gallo, and a ramekin of sour cream.
I am currently on the Keto diet and two of my guest's are as well. For these guests, I put a baggie of spinach/romaine salad (so they could take it out to heat the rest of the meal), baked chicken without the Corona-Lime marinade. and then the peppers, onions, cheese, and avocado. The pico de gallo and sour cream they could include if they wanted.
For dessert, I made Corona Lime cupcakes. These were pretty easy to make. I couldn't taste them because of my diet, but the girls said they were super tasty.
For a favor, I was going to give hand sanitizer, but I couldn't find it on my one trip to Target. I went with bars of soap instead as it is so important to wash your hands during this time. I created a cute tag with a silly little poem -
Although we must be far apart
You monthly dinner girls are in my heart.
Can't wait to see you tonight on Zoom
So wash your hands & join our chat room!
Once everything was assembled, it was time for delivery. I mapped out my drive to try to be as efficient as possible delivering to 5 cities and 8 houses. I left the items on their doorstep and texted them as I left to let them know it was there.
Did you know Corona also makes hard seltzers? I didn't, but I discovered this at the grocery when I did all the dinner shopping. I gave these to the Keto girls as they have zero sugar or carbs.
Then it was 7:00 and time for our Zoom meeting of this monthly dinner! We ate, we chatted, we laughed, we all had a great time. Not as great as in person, but still great. We even had one of our monthly girls who moved to Texas be able to join our chat and catch up.
Grateful for the ability to spend moments like these with my friends even amid this terrible pandemic. Keeping connected is so important to bring joy in times of stress and anxiety. Be sure to call or video chat will all those you can during this quarantine.