Girls' Night In: Kitchen Gadget Swap

Those kitchen gadgets you would normally throw away after spring cleaning, put them to another use. Host a swap and exchange them for something you will actually use.

Everyone has small appliances and cooking tools that they never use. Host an after-dinner kitchen swap and trade up for something that fits your cooking style. Make the evening into a night for bringing something not so useful and leaving with a treasured new kitchen tool. Tell the guests to bring only clean, working items. Each person can leave with as many as she brought. Set up a few tables for all the appliances to be displayed. If possible, run an extension cord to the swapping area for "test drives." Any leftover gadgets and tools can be taken to a local charity.

The Bar
Fill the bar with tipsy coffee drinks for dessert-friendly sippers. To keep the party from spilling into tomorrow, make sure to make sure some of the coffee is decaf. With this much swapping to do, good drinks are a must. Set the bar up in the kitchen with lots of pretty coffee mugs or handled cups. Borrow a few thermal carafes to keep the drinks warm. Label each type of coffee with a small sign. Another option for offering a coffee bar is to serve brewed coffee with all the fixings, including some liqueurs for pepping up the drinks.

The Food
Desserts and cheeses are perfect for a little indulgence after supper. With almost everything on the menu done ahead of time, it's possible to get the kids ready for bed before you open the "shop" to your friends. Assemble a few favorite cheeses with some fruit and crackers to add to the menu.

The buffet is best set up in a separate room from the appliances to keep the shopping space from becoming too crowded. Stack up some salad small plates and some pretty napkins and you're ready for the grand opening.

The Extras
While you are in the mood to organize and clear things out from your kitchen, make sure that it is stocked with these 12 essential tools. As you are cleaning out your kitchen drawers and cabinets, why not think about organizing your pantry as well? Here's a checklist of essential pantry items for a well-stocked kitchen.

The Party Plan

One Day Before

  • Make cheesecake bars.
  • Make sauces and sprinkles for cheesecake bars.
  • Make trifle.
  • Make cheese spread.

1 Hour Before

  • Make coffee drinks. Keep warm in thermal carafes.

Before the Guests Arrive

  • Reheat sauces for cheesecake bars.

Rebecca Lang is a well-known cooking instructor, author, and food writer. She teaches Girls' Night In classes around the country and lives in Athens, Georgia.

Rebecca Lang, Contributing Editor

February 2010