Category Archives: Entertaining Company

All of the things I know and love about having company in my home; whether it is for brunch or dinner, fellowship, a holiday or a long weekend. I love it all!

You Win Some and Some You Just Don’t Even Show Up For

Here it is, April 5th and I am writing my first blog post in forever.

If that fact is not lost on you or you have noticed my absence, thank you friend for noticing.

Truthfully, you probably weren’t surprised and just though I decided to leave the country, go into hiding or simply never show my face on cyberspace again after that … Super Bowl game.

I can’t believe I just mentioned it. Out loud. Well, kind of.

Really, I just whispered it in that sort of painful rasp that barely escapes clinched teeth. You know the one. That particular method of communication reserved especially for a disrespectful child who has inundated you with repeated arguments over why he should be allowed to take his skateboard down the slide and how you are so mean and just don’t understand his needs, conversation before coffee or the profession of great shame like … oh, I don’t know the acknowledgement of an epically disastrous, horribly embarrassing, absolutely unfathomable, Super Bowl.

You’ve missed my crazy tangent laced run-on sentences, haven’t you?

Yes, you might think after going on and on about the Broncos, declaring my allegiance, professing my love, turning my back on my Seahawk heritage, that it was all just too much.

Broncos-Flag-2

And yes, while that game was ugly and painful and seemed as if it would never end (kind of like the last few paragraphs I would imagine), thankfully, when all is said and done, it is after all – just a game.

So, I am okay. My husband is getting there; I asked him this morning if he would like to say anything for the post – “no comment” was all I got in a clenched tooth rasp. Really, he’s getting there. We are still Broncos Fans. All is well.

On the bright side, we got to have a party and spend the afternoon with friends and eat great food. And regardless of the outcome, I would still like to share the party with you – even if it is April and I should really be talking about spring and gardening and Easter. I must finish what I started. So, a Super Bowl wrap up it is!

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The day started with a happy optimism and a lot of team spirit!

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And team effort, including some last minute sprucing up and decorating. This is how a 6 year old who is watching the outdoor patio TV helps wash peanut butter fingerprints and doggie nose smears off of the door. That would be by barely moving the cleaning rag while staring hunched over, mouth agape at said TV. Fitting really as we were getting ready to watch football. Ugg, caveman child clean window.

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I’m not really an artificial turf table cloth kind of gal so my Super Bowl decorating was more of a “nod” to team spirit. Okay, so the flag was a little “in your face” but the blue and orange edible foodie centerpiece was subtle. While peppermint patty candies and tangerine Jelly Bellies do not really taste great together, the colors were perfect so they were forced to get along.

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Orange sparkling soda and blue solo cups kept the team spirit going at the drink station.

I shared my party menu with you in my last post but since that was a really, really long time ago, here it is again …

  • Crockpot Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
  • Crispy Hot Wings with Blue Cheese
  • Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
  • Pigs in a Blanket Bites (for the kids) with ketchup and mustard for dipping
  • Veggie Tray with Hummus
  • Relish Tray
  • Chips and Dips
  • Broncos Cupcakes
  • Beer, Iced Tea, Lemonade and an “Orange Crush” Cocktail

That was my plan and it did come together, mostly. The cupcakes didn’t happen but thankfully friends brought a huge tray of cookies and a cheesecake so all was not lost. The “Orange Crush” cocktail became beer in a cooler and a last minute add of Disaronno and diet coke – which tastes just like Dr. Pepper if you didn’t know. I guess you could just drink a Dr. Pepper, but what fun is that?Superbowl-Food-Relish-Tray

Relish trays are one of my favorite things to do for a party. Yes, they are an old school appetizer but they don’t have to be. There are so many ways to jazz them up and limitless fun options. For this particular tray, I chose items that could pull double duty as toppings or were a good accompaniment for the pulled-pork sandwiches that were my main dish.

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Browse the pickle/olive and condiment aisle and be adventurous. Then just arrange your selections on a tray and you have a fun, easy and versatile appetizer. As “Tessa” would say (that’s what Nathan calls Ina) “now that’s a relish tray with the volume turned up!”

Pigs-in-a-Blanket-Party-Dis

I found this adorable tray at Tar-jey in the home decorating section. Not safe for food use. Whatever. That’s what parchment paper is for. Sadly, a large portion of “pigs in a blanket” were wiped out by grabby little fingers before I could get a decent photo but this was a really fun way to serve them along with the accompanying condiments.

Could I have just a moment please and ask you to take notice of my phone in the background. Top left corner. Yes, there it is.

A. It is hard to stage good photos while feeding people at the same time. My friends already think I am a weirdo for always photographing food before they can eat it. Imagine if I fussed over stuff in the background too.

B. Now, could we just observe a few seconds of silence as that phone has since taken a swim in the toilet and is no longer with us. When you pee and try to play Angry Birds at the same time, your mom’s phone can fall into the toilet. Let this be a lesson.

I’ll bet this is the only blog you have read today that hopes to share appetizing food and party ideas and then talks about pee in he same post. Welcome new readers.

Perfect-Football-Crock-Pot

Allow me to redeem myself. I could not let this post hit the internet without sharing my friend Lindsey’s awesome football crockpots with you.

Perfect-Football-Crock-Pot-

Yes, she filled them with a really yummy dips but the important thing for you to know that she is also a crafty, party planning, down to the last detail weirdo too. She is also our Kindergarten’s Classroom mom so she is actually even worse than I am. Ha! And that is why I love her. Well, one of the many reasons.

Pulled Pork Teaser …

Crockpot-Pulled-Pork

I promise, I will tell you all about it sometime soon (remember, in my world “soon” is relative). Yes, those are all of “Tessa’s” cookbooks in the background. Every. Single. One. She’s my girl.

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So that was it, our Super Bowl Party. Great friends, great food, really bad game.

Oh, I almost forgot …

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The Jalapeno Poppers and Hot Wings (no picture – too busy with hot oil and everything) I told you all about, they were both a big hit.

Thankfully, there were actually a few poppers left over so we were able console ourselves with a really amazing breakfast the next morning.

Leftover-Jalapeno-Poppers

Bacon always makes things better.

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As always, thank you so much for reading and for continuing to stop by – especially these days when even I don’t stop by as often as I should.

Thankfully, I think that season is behind me and I’ll be back to regular posts!

I’ll explain a bit more next time. For now, let’s just say my absence is due to the fact that I am “That Mom”, or so I’ve recently been told.

Next week will be all about Easter so come back and visit.

You are always Welcome Company!

 

 

 

 

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How to become a Broncos fan and make the best hot wings; just in time for the big game!

This coming Sunday is no ordinary Sunday. If you haven’t heard, there is a scheduled sporting event that consumes a large percentage of the American population.

The “Big Game”.

The championship of a sport that consumes a large percentage of the American population for roughly five months out of the year.

Football. The Superbowl.

In this house, we are among the football obsessed masses. Broncos Fans. We bleed orange.

Broncos Logo 1

Photo Credit

And this year, we are going to the Superbowl!

And of course, that means a Superbowl party.

I am going to share with you a great Superbowl party menu and my thoughts on how to make the best hot wings, which are a must on game day, but first just a little background on how I came to be a Broncos fan.

Oh come on, Indulge me.

It is a bit Ironic that I am a Broncos fan as the Seahawks are also going to the Superbowl this year. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest by Seahawks fans, immersed in Seahawks culture. Some of my fondest memories of my dad center around the many Sundays we spent watching football together; the foam brick shaped “Hawk Block” being hurled at the TV over and over and over again – the Seahawks weren’t very good for a really, really long time.

And then the day came when I sought my independence, my freedom and I boldly confronted my father and informed him that from that day forward, I was officially going to be a Broncos fan. I offered the small concession that I would still root for the Seahawks too, unless of course, they were playing the Broncos.

Rebellion. Mutiny. Treason.

“A Broncos fan?! You can’t be a Broncos fan, you’ve never even been to Denver. And … they are in the same division as the Seahawks!”

“Yes, I can. I am a Broncos fan.” 

“But why? Why the Broncos?”

And then I said this, “because they have a horse on their helmet and I like horses”  and his face contorted into the strangest gaze as he slowly exhaled the breath from his body.

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Photo Credit

And so it was. On that day, I broke away, turned my back on all I had know and became a Broncos fan.

I’m sure my dad thought it was just one of about a million passing fancies but it was not. It stuck. To his credit, my dad made the most of it and a friendly rivalry developed, which, as it turned out, was even more fun than rooting for the same team. Especially since the Broncos were a whole lot better than the Seahawks.

Yes, I chose my team because they had a horse on their helmet. For what other reason would a young girl choose a team of her very own? Still, there is a bit more to it than that.

Truly, it was destiny.

The Big Guy knew that someday, I would meet and fall in love with the most fanatical most devoted Broncos fan ever to walk the earth. It would not be my charm, quick wit or perfect apple pie that would win his heart; no, in the end it would be my Elway jersey.

Just yesterday, we celebrated 18 years of marriage. Love, commitment, hard work and a united front on the field of play (well, at least on the couch watching the field of play). Friends, that is the secret to making a marriage work. It is okay, even expected, to have a rivalry with your dad but with your husband it is best to root for the same team. And it is ALWAYS best to root for the Broncos.

So there you have it. A Broncos fan not by birth but by choice.

I am proud to say that we have been able to properly influence at least part of the next generation.

Connor-BroncosConnor, my first born nephew, my first baby love.

He’s had my heart from the moment I laid eyes on his pink wrinkly self and he just keeps charming his way into my heart. Like at the age of three when he told his mom he wanted to wear makeup so he could be “pretty like Aunt Dani”. Sweet, smart boy. I can share that story with you because I guarantee without doubt that not one of his friends reads my blog. And because his mom said I could so if it scars him, it’s her fault.

And then, a few summers ago when he came down for a visit and asked me to teach him how to make a soufflé. We made two, blue cheese and chocolate.

Come to think of it though, it was on that same visit the he ditched me at the mall, giving me the first indication that I was no longer completely “cool”. Apparently a 14 year old boy shopping with his aunt is style cramping and just not done. What is even more sad is that I actually did not expect it.

I still thought I was cool.

Imagine my shock; “seriously, you don’t want to shop with me? Or be seen with me?” Luckily, he left me feeling old and uncool right in front of the Forever 21 store so I could pop in there and feel better about myself. [sarcasm]

Not to worry though, all has been forgiven because with no undue influence, bribery or coercion, my sweet, smart, awesome nephew has chosen to be a Broncos fan. All on his own. All by himself. No undue influence. None.

Alex-Broncos

And low and behold, my niece Alex, Connor’s little sister (she’s on the right), has also chosen the to walk in the light. In fact, she and the friend pictured here with her wore their full Broncos gear to school on “Seahawk Day”. From what I hear, the school administration frowned on this anti-Seahawk treachery. Whatever. That’s my girl! I’m just so proud. Upon further examination of this photo, I believe that is actually just one pair of Broncos socks and they are sharing. Sharing socks. Still, I’m proud.

She likes horses too. In fact, I chased her escapee pony through razor sharp wheat field stubble more than once. In shorts. But she’s cute and I love her and she’s a Broncos fan so I hardly notice the scars on my shins. [complete exaggeration] Or the sock sharing.

Colin, Brenton and Grace I love you too and will mail Broncos jerseys to you when you come to your senses and realize you are really Broncos fans.

So, readers, if you actually read all of that and didn’t skip ahead, bless you. I am pretty sure that you are ready for me to get to the food. I know Connor is, if for no other reason than to be certain I don’t pull out anymore embarrassing cute stories. Oh, I’ve got plenty but for now, we’ll just move on to talking wings.

How to Make the Best Hot Wings

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Hot wings are pretty much a game day must but not all wings are created equal.

Personally, I am extremely picky about wings. Mostly because I don’t like to eat chicken off the bone. It truly gives me the heebies. In fact, the thought of eating a drumstick makes me break out into a cold sweat. Really, it does; you know I am not at all prone to exaggeration.

Wings are smaller so I can eat them if they are crispy. And I mean CRISPY. C.R.I.S.P.Y. As in not one teeny tiny, itty bitty little bit of fatty smooshyness. Yes, I am using a made up word. It is the only way I can accurately depict the absolute grossness (that might be made up too) of biting into a soggy wing. Cold sweat shudder.

So, now that you are hungry for wings, lets get to it.

This isn’t really a recipe as much as it is a preference of technique. I hate to be the one to tell you this but the best way – by far – to make hot wings is to fry them. Deep fry them in HOT oil.

Why do I hate to tell you this? Because it is messy. And a bit tedious. And somewhat perilous. But in the end, oh so worth it.

While it is far easier to just throw a bag of pre-sauced, pre-cooked frozen wings into the oven and heat them up and it may seem healthier to bake homemade wings, there is NO WAY to ensure an acceptable level of crispiness in the oven. And I for one, just cannot risk the horror of biting into a mushy wing. Really, I’ve got to stop talking about it.

Also, they just don’t taste as good.

So, let the frying begin.

Start with fresh chicken wings from the meat counter. You can buy raw frozen wings that have already been prepped but I really prefer the fresh whole wings as they have less moisture and fry up better.

Chicken-Wings-1

Crazy enough, I can’t stomach the though of eating (let’s just call them gross as to avoid anymore unfortunate made up words) a gross wing but I have no problem dispatching a whole wing into “hot wing” parts. Not grossed out a bit.

I like to use a very sharp, heavy chef’s knife. First, remove the tip of the wing. I put the tips in a baggie and then freeze them so I can add them to the pot the next time I make chicken stock. Next, pull the wing gently open and carefully run your knife between the two parts, cutting through the soft spot at the edge of the joint, separating the two pieces.

Once they are all separated, pat the wings dry.

If you are using frozen wings, be sure they are completely thawed and all of the excess moisture is patted off. If they are too wet, you are going to have just a bit of excitement when you put them in the hot oil. Dangerous excitement.

Speaking of oil, this is by far the number one tip I can offer. Do NOT fill your pot too full with oil. If you do, it will bubble over which is messy and dangerous. I fill a enameled cast iron pot about 2/3 full with canola or vegetable oil and then heat the oil on med-high heat to 380 degrees.

Frying-Oil

Use a candy thermometer for an accurate temperature and adjust your heat up or down as needed.

Kitchen-Spider

If you don’t have a kitchen spider, I highly recommend getting one as it is the perfect tool for removing the wings and draining the oil off of them quickly. I use mine for all sorts of things.

Frying-Oil-2

I gently place the wings into the hot oil with a long pair of metal tongs that keep me a safe distance from the pot. DO NOT drop, plop or toss the wings in, think careful and gentle. On that note, it is also a good idea to use a back burner if possible and to keep the kids and pets out of the kitchen just to be extra safe. You can never be too safe or cautious with hot oil.

Frying-Chicken-Wings

Fry the wings in small batches, about five at a time, for 6-7 minutes. I have seen recommended cooking times anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes but 6-7 seems to work best for crispy, juicy wings. Carefully remove the wings with your spider.

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Place the wings on paper towels to absorb any residual oil. If you are doing a lot of wings, you can keep the cooked ones warm on a sheet tray in a 250 degree oven while you finish up the remaining batches.

Hot-Wings-1When you are done frying, it is time to get those wings dressed for the party. Traditional wing sauce is a cayenne pepper based sauce. We like Frank’s RedHot and follow the recipe right on the back of the bottle, with just a couple of tweaks.

For 2 1/2 pounds of wing pieces you will want to mix 1/2 cup of hot sauce with 1/3 cup of melted butter. I just put both the butter and the sauce in a small saucepan and heat them up together on the stove over medium heat. Once the butter is melted I add a pinch of salt and several twists of the pepper grinder. I don’t know if it really matters that much but I add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper to everything. Even my bath water. Not really but I’m thinking maybe I should try it. You can also add cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste for extra heat.

Whisk everything together (except the bath water) and incorporate well. Pour the wing sauce over the wings and toss well to coat.

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Serve them with celery and carrot sticks, any extra wing sauce and blue cheese or ranch dressing.

After you’ve enjoyed the game and the most amazing wings, you’ll wander back into the kitchen happy (because the Broncos won) and full only to face the pot of used chicken oil mocking you from the stove.

Not to worry, click here for tips  on re-using or disposing of the oil.

That’s it! I hope you will give these wings a try for your game day festivities and of course, I hope you’ll be rooting for the Broncos.

I will share another game day appetizer and the rest of my Superbowl Party Menu and plans with you in the next few days.

Oh, and for all you 49ers fans out there, we welcome you brothers and sisters.

United-in-Orange_broncos

 Photo Credit

 Even if for only one game.

Go Broncos!!

What’s for Dessert? A Gelato Bar!

It is time to talk dessert.

For the MVMT Dinner, we decided not to have the caterer provide a plated dessert and opted instead to put together something a little more fun.

A Gelato Bar.

I have “talked” your ear off in my last two posts about putting together an Art Deco themed event; The MVMT Dinner. So I am going to keep this one simple. Or at least I’m going to try. Really, I am. I am just going to tell you what I did (briefly – oh that is so hard for me) and let you see for yourself.

First, however, I must apologize for the less than stellar photography. A) I am not a professional photographer – although I do love it and aspire to be better at it. B) The lighting did not help. C) Running around like a, well, person putting on a dinner for 175 people and trying to snap a few pictures here and there at the same time, did not help.

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No, this gelato bar was not served on a cruise ship listing slightly to port. I did warn you.

Since I am starting this post with a disclaimer, I might as well fess up to another oops. I did not actually get a picture of the gelato portion of the G.E.L.A.T.O. bar.

I know. I set the topping portion of the bar up ahead of time and draped everything in black plastic table cloths. The gelato pans were placed in tubs of ice (black plastic dish tubs that fit two pans perfectly and actually looked great) but they were not brought in and “snuck” discretely under the tablecloth until after dinner had started. The gelato bar was not “unveiled” until dinner was finishing up and I didn’t want to be taking pictures of the gelato as guests were waiting to dish up. Okay, that isn’t entirely true, I WANTED to but just didn’t think it was in very good taste.

MVMT Dinner Gelato Bar InspirationAnyway, picture something like this – without the artful presentation on top (but I did have flavor cards). I love the artful presentation but the gelato looked pretty amazing on it’s own and I wanted it to be easy to serve from both sides of the table in order for the line to go faster. Okay, that really isn’t a good reason. I should have taken the time to put a little bit of artful presentation on top of the gelato.

Mental note made for next time. Spumoni? How does one decorate spumoni? Anyone?

The gorgeous inspiration photo above is from photographer Adrienne Gunde.

The gelato bar had nine different un-artfully decorated yet incredibly delicious flavors to choose from …

  • Triple Dark Chocolate (I suspended the “no sugar” rule for the evening and had this one)
  • Old World Vanilla
  • Sea Salt Caramel (and this one)
  • Cappuccino Hazelnut
  • Italian Pistachio (and a little bit of this one – it was just so hard to choose)
  •  Spumoni
  • Mango Sorbetto
  • Mandarin Orange Vanilla
  • White Chocolate Raspberry

I ordered the Gelato from Nick’s Gelato. The company is based in Phoenix but they ship all over the place. They were very easy to work with, even setting it up for me to drive downtown to the cold storage facility myself to save shipping and delivery costs. Budget. And most importantly, the gelato was delicious. I am a very happy Nick’s Gelato customer!

And then there were the Toppings …

Gelato-Toppings-Menu

So, just in case you can’t read the crazy blurry picture above, let me tell you a bit about the toppings.

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There were caramel bits, gummy bears and peanut butter cup mini’s – boy are those dangerous – “I could never eat a WHOLE peanut butter cup but what harm could 25 minis do?” They’re small.

There were also Andes Mints pieces, Toffee bits, M & M’s, mini-chocolate chips, chopped hazelnuts, wafer cookies and Pirouette cookies.

Gelato-Sprinkles

And of course, rainbow sprinkles. Rainbow sprinkles are a must.

I added a bit of Art Deco patterned ribbon around this cute bowl from the dollar store and then attached a pretty embellishment that I printed out on cardstock. Why? Because I had to find something to do with that perfect ribbon. I do love ribbon. Someday I might just tell you about my ribbon drawers, yes drawerS as in more than one. Remember Monica – from “Friends”? She only had ONE ribbon drawer. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the ribbon drawers. Forget I mentioned it. Let us never speak of it again.

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The fluted bowls also came from the dollar store. To give a little dimension to the table, I grabbed small candle sticks (also from the dollar store) and super glued them to four of the bowls.

Scoops

I found these great little topping scoops at Michael’s in the wedding section.

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I framed the table with a tall floral arrangement at the beginning of the toppings bar and a three-tiered silver tray filled with the wafer cookies at the other end.

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I purchased all of the toppings, every single one of them, at Wal-Mart.

Gelato. Toppings. What am I forgetting?

Oh, yeah – I got a little ahead of myself there. Before the gelato, before the toppings, the classic question “cone or bowl” had to be answered.

But don’t answer too quickly because these cones were dipped in chocolate …

Gelato-Cones

Cone or bowl?

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I dipped the “business end” of sugar cones in melted chocolate, some milk chocolate and some white chocolate, and then placed them on sheet trays lined with parchment paper to set. To serve them I bought a decorative cardboard 3-tiered stand and stacked them up.

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I also got to use my ribbon and hot glue gun again to attach a little bit of embellishment to the glass hurricanes I put spoons in.

Art-Deco-DetailingJust a bit more Art Deco flair!

So, there it is a fun and really easy to do Gelato Bar for an event big or small. It was such a hit that I am going to do an ice cream bar for Nathan’s upcoming birthday party and also tomorrow night for our first Cub Scout meeting. And yes, I will probably do the dipped cones again. I really love those little guys and am happy to spoil them a bit.

Ugg … “word count” over a thousand, my queue to wrap things up. So much for brevity.

But before I go, I just have to ask one question – Cone or Bowl?

Or Waffle Cone Bowl?

You didn’t see that one coming, did you?

 

 

 

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

A post or two ago, I shared with you a recent event I did for our Women’s Ministry in which I brought a little bit of the beach to the desert.

Seaside-Beach-Themed-Buffet

In planning the food for the event, I kept imagining a picnic on the beach. Blanket spread out on the sand, a shady umbrella and a gentle salty breeze.

But what would I want to eat?

Something delicious and satisfying but not too heavy and easy to pack and transport.

Something perfect for a picnic. In this case, I also needed something that would easily feed a crowd with little effort.

As I thumbed through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (which is one of my favorite event/party planning rituals) I came across a recipe for “Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches” from Ina Garten, Parties!

Hmmmmm.

At first read they seemed more like a tea sandwich, with cucumbers and the crusts cut off, but as it is with so many things, it is all in how you see it. And I saw these little sandwiches in a picnic basket nestled next to chilled grapes, freshly baked cookies and iced tea; all ready for a day at the beach. Or an evening as it were.

Herbed-Goat-Cheese-Tea-Sand

For the Know Event, I doubled the recipe and made the sandwiches on a whole grain bread and a soft potato bread. While I couldn’t enjoy the sandwiches (no bread for me), the herbed goat cheese spread was another story! I made a batch for home and couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it on everything I could think of. Daddy and the big kids loved it too but Mr. Picky wouldn’t go near it; which is in fact a good sign that it is absolutely delicious – unless of course you too currently only eat  grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate pudding.

Mr.-Picky

“Ewww! I CAN’T like that! It is eesgusging!”

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

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The recipe is not “eesgusging” and is very simple to throw together and holds up well in the fridge for at least a week; if it lasts that long. Click the link above (the one under the picture of the picky 5 year old) and it will take you right to it.

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It whips up easily in a stand mixer but be sure to finely mince or even smash the garlic into a paste as it is pretty potent and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic. My husband thought the spread was a little heavy on the garlic so you may want to start with just one clove and see how it tastes to you.

The recipe calls for parsley and thyme, which is fantastic, but I am going to get a little creative with the herb combinations next time. Basil, tarragon, chives, maybe even olives or tapenade and sundried tomatoes; endless possibilities! I also think a bit of lemon zest would be delicious.

Barefoot-Contessa's-Herbed-

Recently, I made this spread as an appetizer for dinner with friends and served it with baguette slices that I drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes. They didn’t last long and the tantalizing crunch of those baguettes slathered in that rich goat cheese spread was almost more than this girl could take.

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So I toasted up some low-carb Joseph’s pita wedges and shared in the joy. Admittedly, it was not the same as a crunchy French baguette but it was still pretty darn good.

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For all of you Trim Healthy Mamas out there, this spread is fantastic rolled up in a Joseph’s lavash for a snack or just  add a little turkey and veggies for a satisfying lunch wrap.

One word … omelet.

My husband is the resident omelet maker around here and he’s pretty darn good at it. He makes one for me just about every weekend and I was most delighted to find rich and creamy herbed goat cheese pooling from every nook and cranny of this perfect Saturday morning treat (another good THM/low-carb breakfast).

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He also brought me a good strong cup of black coffee. I am a blessed woman indeed.

There are so many ways to enjoy this versatile spread, I’m thinking about piping it into cherry tomatoes or on top of cucumber slices the next time I need an appetizer.

I hope you will give it a try and play around with your own herb and ingredient combinations. Be sure to let me know what you come up with and as always …

Enjoy!

Avocado Mango Salad, a Cinco de Mayo Must!

This light and refreshing Avocado Mango Salad rounds out my Cinco de Mayo dishes for the week.

What a way to finish!

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I promise, it tastes as good as it looks! The sweet mango and creamy avocado combined with the richness of the chili powder and the deep flavor of cumin give this light salad just the right amount of punch. It is a flavor party perfect for Cinco de Mayo.

Avocado Mango Salad

adapted from Avocado Salad, Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 ripe avocados, cubed
  • 2 ripe mangos, cubed
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

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Whew! That’s a lot of chopping. And a little messy.

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But so, so worth it!

Directions

Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the avocados, mangos, tomatoes, onion and cilantro.

Add the dressing, toss carefully (don’t mush your mangos or avocados) and serve immediately.

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Add it to a main dish of Tequila Lime Chicken, a delicious side of Grilled Corn Salad , blue corn tortilla chips with your favorite salsa and a Blackberry Margarita and you have the perfect menu for a delicious Cinco de Mayo Celebration.

This is the chance I’ve been waiting for to try out The Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Margaritas that she featured on her show a few weeks back. Oh my did they look good! Lime.Salted.Rims. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

remember to celebrate responsibly (but eat all the Avocado Mango Salad you want) and

Enjoy!

Easter, Friendship and Orange Sour Cream Cake!

So sorry I didn’t have a chance to wish everyone a Happy Easter yesterday but as you were hopefully enjoying a wonderful day with family and friends and not reading blogs, I’m thinking that even a day late it is still okay to say Happy Easter!

So, HaPpY EaSteR!

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We had a wonderful day, celebrating the Savior and enjoying friends old and new. A beautiful Spring day. Hunting eggs. Laughing. Breaking bread. Sharing life.

We do not have a lot of family close by but we are incredibly blessed to have friends who have become family.

Old friends. Friends who’s children have grow with ours. Friends we have cried with through the tough stuff (and there has been some tough stuff) and rejoiced with at the victories, the healing and the hope. Because there has been a lot of that too. They are moving to Texas this summer and I am reminded that life is filled with change. But they are family, that will never change, and distance doesn’t matter.

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Old friends we once lived next door to, shared a fence with. They are family too. I miss seeing them everyday; knowing they are right there, just over the fence. I promise, I do love them, I just didn’t get a picture of them yesterday. I’m still working on my “capturing the moment skills”.

New friends.  Isn’t it the best when your kid’s best friend has awesome parents?!  Not only are they good people but brave people, undeterred by the giant snake at the end of our driveway. At least it wasn’t poisonous.

Oh, how I wish I were kidding.

Easter-12One tiny tangent because I must forget about the snake and tell you what is in Eileen’s glass. Trust me, you want to know! It is simple but, wow; half lemonade, half Prosecco and a whole lotta delicious! Cold, bubbly, refreshing. Sooooo delicious! I see a few more of those in her an my future this summer.

One more guest and friend to tell you about. The Colonel. My husband’s former commander whom we love to visit with. His last name is Patton – if only he hadn’t retired and had become a general. I’d love to be able to say General Patton’s coming for dinner. Well, except that he’s Air Force. And nice.

So much and so many to be thankful for.

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We missed the family and friends we couldn’t be with and hope for many Easters to come where we can all be together.

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Oh, right, cake. I promised you cake. I’ll tell you about the cupcakes above some other time. The cake I promised is my Grandma Elizabeth’s Orange Sour Cream Cake. It was a big hit yesterday. I had to hide away one last little piece so that I could photograph it this morning.

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My plan was to photograph that last little morsel of cake with orange wedges but unaware of said plan, my husband ate my garnish. I plated one little slice of orange and stepped away for just  a moment; but around here, that’s all it takes. So instead, plan B, I threw in a few of the kid’s colored Easter eggs and I think it turned out pretty good. I’m not sure which is more fun, making the food or photographing it.

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Orange Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar, extra fine *see note
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside to be used later. Beat the whites until you just have stiff peaks. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly (3-5 minutes). *Note: the recipe calls for super fine (also known as caster sugar). If you don’t have any, you can make your own by pulsing granular sugar in the food processor a few times.

Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, making sure to thoroughly incorporate each. To the creamed mixture, stir in the orange zest and chopped walnuts (I leave the nuts out).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture, alternately with the sour cream; starting and ending with the flour. Beat well and then gently fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into a  well buttered and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack that has been placed on top of a sheet tray.

Orange Simple Syrup:

Bring to a boil 2/3 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes. It will not reduce much and is not supposed to as it is a syrup to flavor and moisten the cake and not a glaze. Slowly spoon the syrup over the cake to let as much as possible absorb in.

Let it sit for at least 30 minutes and then gently move to the serving dish. Garnish with orange slices and a dusting of powdered sugar if you like.

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This would be a great brunch cake. Enjoy!

And finally, just a few more Easter Highlights from the Brew Crew …

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We always color eggs the night before Easter. My family did it that way growing up and I now have some of the best memories of the crazy eggs my dad would color and the fun we had together.

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I want my kids to have that too.

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Every year, I have taken a picture of my kid’s egg dye stained fingers. I love their hands.

 Every year, the hands are bigger and not quite as stained.

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They are getting so big. Older and more careful.

Pretty soon there will be no more messy little hands to photograph.

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This year, only Nathans.

Actually, I’m pretty sure this boy will be makin’ a mess for a long while to come.

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But wild messes or not, his still sleepy Easter morning face is what mommy will remember. Snuggles with his new friends left by the “Easter Bunny” and the calm before the “wild”…

Easter egg hunting. Big yard. Lots of eggs. TONS of fun!

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And thankfully, Easter egg hunting still seems to be cool; or at least not totally lame.

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A well deserved break. After all, those eggs don’t hide themselves.

I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but there is a silver bowl that sits as the centerpiece on my dining room table (in the very first picture of this post). It was a precious gift from my aunt; something she knew I really wanted but would never buy for myself. It is precious not because it is silver but because of what is engraved around it …

“Together with friends and family is always the happiest place to be.”

Beef in Stout by the Fire in an Irish Castle

Beef in Stout … seriously does it get any more Irish than that?

Can’t you just picture yourself in the library of an old Irish castle

JohnstownCastle55843220Photo from advertising for Johnstown Castle, Ireland

(now a cozy hotel with every creature comfort imaginable, delightfully historic but with indoor plumbing, central heat and no ghosts or banshees or sieging Norman invaders), curled up in an overstuffed chair in front of a roaring fire, (yes, my post title was shamelessly misleading) soft tartan plaid cashmere throw draped over your lap.

A polite knock at the door, your dinner has arrived and just in time; that massage in the spa followed by several hours of reading by the fire have left you with quite an appetite. The handsome waiter, let’s call him Seamus, sets a large silver tray on the weathered walnut table by the window overlooking the lush green glens and rocky cliffs that lead down to the sea still glistening in the fading evening light.

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Yes, exactly.

Image from Discover Ireland.

Seamus ladles out steaming, heavenly scented bowls of rich stew topped with wedges of perfectly crusty bread. He flexes slightly as he pours two generous glasses of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, placing the yet to be finished bottle gently back on the table.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking … wouldn’t Beef in Stout, in Ireland, go great with an oh, I don’t know, Irish Stout? All I have to say to that is, I’m creating this travel fantasy so there will most certainly be French wine. Besides, a good French red goes with everything. Everything. And there are currently no invading Norman hordes, so we’re good.

Oh, and Belgian chocolate, that’s on the tray too. It also goes with everything. Truly.

And who is that second glass of fragrant red wine for?

Well, in my case, it is for my sweet, handsome husband who just came in from 36 straight holes of golf. Who did you think it was for?

Interestingly enough, I am picturing him in traditional Irish golf attire …

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I'll put it out there - just for the record.

I think it goes without saying, this is not one of my original photos, but I will put the disclaimer out there anyway – just for the record.

Just. Like. That.

No, I’m not poking fun. He could totally pull off the look. And besides, you don’t make it to seventeen years of marriage if you can’t laugh at each other together.

Incidentally, I am also picturing him preferring to have an Irish Stout with his stew. And darn it, he is just too full for Belgian chocolates. But what to do with that second glass of wine? Good thing I’m on vacation.

Yes, that was a lot of set up for a Beef in Stout recipe. The laundry I have to do, dishes waiting in the sink and errands I need to run may have something to do with my need for Calgonesque travel fantasies.

Poof. Back to reality. At least there’s still the stew. And Calgon.

Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings

from Irish Pub Cooking, Parragon Books, serves 6

Ingredients

Stew

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 carrots, sliced
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 lb braising beef cut into cubes, I used chuck
  • generous 1 3/4 cups stout
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper

Herb Dumplings

  • generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded suet – I know, use butter
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • about 4 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Heat the oil in an oven-proof cast iron casserole (like Le Creuset). Add the onions and carrots and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened.

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Meanwhile, place the flour in a plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper.

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Add the beef to the bag, close the top, and shake well to coat. Do this in batches.

Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the beef to the casserole, in batches, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned all over.

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Return all the meat and the onions and carrots to the casserole and sprinkle in any remaining seasoned flour. Pour in the stout.

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Add the sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook in the preheated oven for 1 3/4 hours.

To make the herb dumplings, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and stir in the parsley and add enough of the water to make a soft dough. Shape into small balls between the palms of your hands. Add to the casserole and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

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Remove and discard the bay leaves and serve, sprinkled with parsley.

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I have yet to visit Ireland and I gave up wine for Lent (well the second half of Lent anyway) but even so, I got to enjoy this wonderful stew with my sweet, handsome husband and the three little people who make reality (laundry, dishes and errands included) far better than any fantasy escape to a distant land could ever be.

Now where’s that Calgon.