Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Near East Home Party

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a Near East Party Kit including free Near East product which I distributed to party guests, and I received a set for myself, as well. I received no compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

I am always looking for an excuse to have fun with my friends, and often we let too much time go by between our girls' nights. Luckily for me, Near East sent me a party kit that gave me a great excuse to have friends over to hang out.

I have to admit that I haven't had the Near East cous cous before, although a few of my friends had. I love cous cous, but I just never think to make it at home. And since I make so much from scratch, buying a flavored cous cous didn't even cross my mind.

My mind has been altered. This stuff was actually really good.

But first, the party!

Seven of my friends were able to join me for the fun, and we made it a pot luck event. Knowing that we had the Parmesan flavor of the cous cous, we decided to have an Italian themed night. Good call, even though we did end up with three different types of tomato and mozzarella appetizers - and somehow no bread. It was all great.

Some of my friends prepared their foods ahead of time (or stopped at the bakery before my house!), while we made others together during the party. It was so much fun to cook with friends, and we ended up one rockin' dinner party.

Once we decided to really start our eating, we moved into my dining room where we pretty much devoured the appetizers - and a couple bottles of wine. We weren't expecting the entree course - sauteed spinach, the cous cous dish, and a chicken and vegetable side dish - to be super filling.

Boy were we wrong. The Parmesan cous cous turned into an absolutely fantastic dish. One friend had three helpings - it was truly that good - and somewhat unexpectedly so. It wasn't processed tasting at all, which is what I had expected.

We made a chicken cous cous that used the spice packet that came with the product, sauteed chicken and garlic, tomatoes, and feta. W.O.W. I am pretty sure that we will all be making that one again - and the recipe is right on the back of the box. Shhhh don't tell anyone that we left out the broccoli!

Our whole dinner was great - and we ate in the true Italian style. We cooked together, we ate the meal late, and we ate slowly, savoring each bite. The variety of flavors we made actually worked really well together without being too heavy a meal, something I'm sensitive to in summer!

It was almost 11pm before we finally broke it up - and that's the true sign of a good party on a weeknight! Everyone who made it wants to know when I'm hosting my next one, and a couple people who had to cancel at the last minute are awfully jealous after hearing about it.

The best news for me is that a pot luck means that I had less mess than normal to clean up, and the cous cous was a one pot dish - score!

When it was time for everyone to leave, I handed out the goody bags, and the box of cous cous they took home put a smile on everyone's face.

With Near East having introduced several new flavors, there's an opportunity for you, too! They have a Near East Around the World in 5 Sweepstakes where you can enter for a chance to win prizes including a 7-day Mediterranean Culinary Adventure Cruise (sorry, that one's mine!). You can enter until August 31, 2010 here.

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