entertaining

You know it’s all about that Game…

‘Bout that game, ’bout that game. No trouble!

Are you still looking for some fun ideas to serve your family and friends tomorrow? Because it’s time for the showdown of one of America’s favorite pastimes, Super Bowl LI! And let me start by giving credit to Hosting & Toasting for the watermelon cut-out of a football helmet. I love it! And they have some other cute ideas too.

We are a house divided this year. Two of my sons and I are rooting for the Patriots; my husband, daughter and baby boy are cheering on the Falcons. (To be honest I really don’t have a lot emotionally invested in the game.) Even though I am rooting for New England, I can appreciate how my husband has got my two-year-old going around doing the “dirty bird.” It’s fan-tastic. (Get it?)

Something we can all agree on are the snacks… not really. But we do all like to eat, so there it is! There are a few foods that seem to coincide with game day. I like to stay classic, but still venture into new flavors. However, I can say with confidence that finger food is the way to go! (Naturally, my very first food suggestion breaks the rule. Back and forth, back and forth…) Because people want to watch the game, not sit at a table!

But this table from Kara’s Party Ideas is pretty cute, am I right?

Almost everyone likes a game day chili and it really doesn’t get much easier. “Chop chop in the pot,” as Nancy Fuller would say. (I watch way too many food shows.) Here is my basic version of the classic, “Kid Friendly Chili“. It’s a family fave.

 

Last year I came up with a Yogurt Chicken Chili for a Chobani challenge. It was an instant hit at home. But if my chili dreams came true, this year I’d make Pat’s Famous Beef and Pork Chili recipe from Food Network. It’s got 5 stars out of 449 reviews… and bacon. Did you catch that? Bacon!

Pizza is a football watching staple. Of course ordering from your local “pie shop” is the easiest. Next, you’ve got some frozen options. I don’t judge. My kids love Annie’s organic pizza bagel bites. We like to make our own Pizza Bagels too.

But if I had my pizza way, I’d have something like this Chipotle Candied Bacon and Smoked Blue Cheese Pizza from How Sweet Eats. Now that’s a game day to remember!

Chicken wings are almost synonymous with Game Day food. You can buy them ready to bake. You could dip chicken tenders in buffalo sauce. Eating tasty food isn’t really complicated. Southern Fried Chicken is about as exotic as my kids will venture with chicken on the bone. But for the mature people out there, there are thousands of Buffalo style chicken wing recipes. Furthermore, this is what I consider “finger licking good,” Sticky Honey-Soy Chicken Wings from Tyler Florence. (I wish these were available with delivery.)

Loaded potato skins are up there with all things you eat while watching football. I like mine crispy and traditional. I think The Pioneer Woman nailed it.

Of course you need to wipe your hands (and face) after handling all of this food. I love this idea from HGTV:

Really you can make things as detailed or keep them as simple as you want. This year I’m keeping it pretty low key, but that’s not to say that next year I won’t be busting out my football field replicated party dip… like this one from everydaygoodthinking.com:

The key is to have fun with your family and friends! Have a great weekend! And Go Patriots! (Unless you’re rooting for the Falcons) 😉

Hannah’s Birthday Tea Party

Firstly I need to apologize for not bringing a nice camera to Hannah’s first birthday party; to her family- because my photos do not do it justice, and to my readers- because my photos do not do it justice. Phew! Now that is out of the way.


We were invited to the most lovely tea party the other afternoon to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the birth of our dear friends’ daughter Hannah. The event was stunning! It included a beautiful backyard tent and a vast assortment of delicacies…


It was hard to contain our excitement.

tea sandwiches, dainty scones and sugar cookies,

darling pots of tea and tea cups,

a gorgeous cake,

a wonderful hosting family,

and great memories to share.

I wish everyday had a tea party…


So we could have our cake,


and eat it too!

Loving Lately 🍽

Loving Lately: Outdoor Entertaining

Obsessed is such a strong word. So please note I use it lightly, but not very lightly, when I say I am obsessed with over-the-top outdoor entertaining ideas.

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You really can’t get overly dramatic for me. Candlelit chandeliers? Antlers? Gardens worth of fresh flowers? Bring it.

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Naturally, since I am still recovering from a nasty fall, I am pining over what could be.

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Just think of the possibilities… if I was at full strength… and money were no object…

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Or if I had 100 candles and lanterns.

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Don’t you just love the thought of being surrounded by your loved ones, breaking bread, on a perfect night of weather, on your own farm? (Because obviously that is how it always happens.)

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But I’ll be honest, I’d be elated just to be outside with my family if it turned out like this…

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Because outdoor entertaining is the best. (And so is Pinterest for sharing all of these pictures with me).

Simple Summer Entertaining

It occurs to me that I haven’t contributed to my entertaining section of my blog in a while. And although I haven’t hosted any major gatherings lately, there have been several little ones. So here are some tips for those awesome summer days that turn into impromptu gatherings. I just love this time of year. 

1. Invite (or cordially accept) your friends over. Maybe the people you hung out with on the 4th of July? You probably like them.

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2. Whether you are sending out informal invites (phone calls or texts) or the neighborhood has migrated to your back yard, serve snacks. Everyone wants to eat- usually right away, and in my experience often all day. Keep corn chips and salsa on hand at all times. (If you happen to have avocados, tomatoes, onions and seasonings, a little guacamole is a fun seasonal treat.) Of course most kids (and adults) I know are happy with Doritos too.

3. The same goes with drinks. Sure it’s nice to have a cooler full of chilled pop (or whatever you like). If you have the time to stock up on beverages great! Maybe you have a limited budget? Hey, no worries, it’s just nice to be together… but at least serve water… iced is even better… and if you have time for lemon or limeade, they’re just classic.

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4. Just add water. In the northern midwest we have a short season where it is desirable to be wet while we are outside. I like to take full advantage of it. You don’t have to have a pool or pond or lake… The kids I know are happy with a sprinkler or slip ‘n slide or good old fashioned balloon fight!

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5. Now you are not obligated by any means to feed everyone a meal unless you have said you would, but I can’t imagine another way. If you’re not prepared, it’s always fun to order pizza. I think it’s a good idea to keep hot dogs and buns on hand all summer long. We’ve had parties where everyone brings their own meat (and/or veggie patties) to grill which can be fun too. Of course it’s always a winner when you put burgers and brats over the flame. Can you smell the summer in the air?

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6. The fun is not over until you serve something sweet. It can be cheap and store bought. It can be thoughtfully homemade. My suggestion? Make it something that’s going to melt. Popsicles or ice cream cones… Sticky chins and drips down shirts are what memories are made of this time of year.

 

Bakin’ Bacon

Have you tried baking your bacon yet? I’m sure by now you’ve seen a chef on Food Network do it, if you haven’t tried yourself. I remember watching the Barefoot Contessa layer it across a rack fitted into a baking sheet years ago. In one of my favorite cookbooks, Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant, she has a whole paragraph in her introduction titled “Bake Yo’ Bacon”. Let me be the first to say, I am quick to stand by the old school method of frying it up in a pan. And now that I’ve said that let me also say, you are going to love baking it in the oven.

The first time I tasted “baked” bacon was at a brunch party. The hostess had cut the bacon pieces in half lengthwise and baked them into a chewy crispy combination of perfection. The first time I tried doing it myself, I was responsible for bring 5 pounds of cooked bacon to a breakfast bar themed menu for my son’s school party. I didn’t have time to stand in front of the stove and get dressed before having to make and serve my bacon obligation. And that was it, I gave it a try. And then it was: “why haven’t I done this sooner?”

So here is my first entertaining tip: If you need to make a surplus of bacon for a crowd, or your stove top is loaded with pots and pans and you still need to make that bacon, or your just not in the mood to stand in front of a burner because you’d rather be sitting down and drinking your coffee… Bake it!

Barefoot Contessa suggests placing it on a rack first, Jessica Merchant suggests lining your baking sheet with aluminum foil. I just jam it on there… a method for everyone. The rest of the instructions are about the same. Preheat the oven to 375° and bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon. And save your fat! Pour it into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. (Great for biscuits, cornbread…)

Smokin’ Hot Potato Skinny’s

It’s Super Bowl season, time to gather up and chow down! And who doesn’t like watching the guys toss around the ole pig skin while munching on some potato skins? No one around here anyway! (Although to be honest, I can eat potato skins all year round.) This is a great and lightened up (aka “skinnier”) version of a family favorite, with all the flavor. It’s got Greek yogurt for a little tang and smoked Gouda to bring the BBQ flavor inside. It’s a crowd pleaser for men, women and children alike… which makes it a perfect choice for this family! Happy Game Day!

8 Small Russet potatoes

3 Tbsp Olive oil, divided

1 Tbsp Course Kosher salt

1 tsp Freshly ground Black Pepper, divided

3/4 cup Whole Milk or Non-fat plain Greek Yogurt (such as Chobani)

8 oz. Smoked Gouda (or Smoked Cheddar), shredded

1 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic

1 tsp Granulated Onion

1 tsp Salt

3 Strips Regular or Turkey Bacon, cooked & chopped into small pieces (optional)

2 Scallions, sliced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°.

On a baking sheet, using a brush or your hands, coat the outside of the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and an even coverage of the coarse salt. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly for handling, and cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a sharp knife, outline a rim inside the edges of the potato skin, about 1/2 inch thick. Then using a spoon, scoop out the potato to make room for the filling. Reserve 1 cup of the warm potatoes for the filling. (Keep the rest for a couple breakfast potato pancakes?) Brush the potatoes with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of the black pepper and return to the oven for 4-5 more minutes.

In the meantime, place the cup of baked potato in a medium bowl, add the Chobani yogurt, 3/4 of the shredded gouda (reserving 2 oz. for topping), Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, and salt. Mix well until combined.

When skins are ready, carefully remove them from the oven. Spoon the potato, yogurt and cheese mixture into the center of each skin. Top the skins with the remaining shredded cheese, black pepper and bacon pieces. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until cheese is melted. Take the skins out of the oven, and top with the chopped scallions (and if desired more plain Chobani Greek yogurt). 😉

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Erica’s Sprinkle

When you have your first baby, you are given a party where gifts are bestowed upon you like rain. It’s called a shower and it is supposed to set you up in preparation with the things you and your newborn will need. Of course, by the time the next baby comes around you (most likely) still have all of the major items you need, plus experience so the transition is much easier. However, isn’t fun to celebrate the new baby anyway? And what mother wouldn’t mind a couple new onesies, stocking up on diapers and a few new outfits! Enter the “Sprinkle,” a gathering in honor of a mother-to-be (again) and the new baby. It is especially fun when the first born was, as in this case, a girl and the next arrival is a boy. Because it’s fun (and honestly refreshing) to add a little blue to the waves of pink. The theme of this party was woodland. The cake looked like a log and was adorned with forest animals.

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It’s perfect for this time of year, when there is a little chill in the air… and we can bust out the lumberjack inspired flannels.

Mom and dad (and uncle) to-be.

Mom and dad (and uncle) to-be.

The restaurant is a rustic lodge inspired eatery with open log beams and buffalo plaid covered stools. The centerpieces, made by Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ryan (from a fallen tree right in their back yard), were like something you could find along the edge of a picture perfect forest.

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The cake wasn’t the only place the little woodland animals showed up.

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True to a hike in the woods, everyone got to take home a couple varieties trail mix.

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We can’t wait to meet you Maxwell!

Tailgating Season!

So I’m not the biggest football fan, weathering the elements in the parking lot over a hibachi and a cooler. My husband is a big football fan, so I don’t mind going to an occasional game, but mostly I prefer watching them from the comfort of my home. However, I am a fan of the hibachi, or a grill, and any reason to get together with family and feast!

The Grill By the time I got to my camera most of the food had been cooked.

The Grill
By the time I got to my camera most of the food had been cooked.

I really do like the idea of loading up the back of a truck or what-have-you with a to-go party. A few years ago I saw an inspiring photo from a Paula Deen magazine with a nostalgic pick-up truck full of baskets and trays holding sandwiches and drinks with coordinating plaid blankets and thermoses full of soup. It was a vision I wanted to create with my own family… in the comfort of my parents back yard, around a large bonfire pit, where we were sure to keep warm and there is plenty of space for the kids to run around (and a nearby bathroom). So began a new tradition.

Things I never knew I'd love about a minivan... reverse folding seats!

Things I never knew I’d love about a minivan… reverse folding seats!

This year we had kind of an East Coast seafood theme, which I was really excited about because it is out of the norm for me. But being that I’m not a huge fan of seafood in general (it’s a work in progress) we had a steak option.

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Steak

Steak

Cheddar Biscuits

Cheddar Biscuits

Not pictured are the baked by grill potatoes, grilled broccoli and pumpkin lattes. However, I did manage to snap a photo of dessert…

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Sometimes I feel like there aren’t enough days in a week. We should really do this more often.

Dinner Club – Fall Soup

It had been a while since our last dinner club gathering. Summer is so full, then school it was starting… But I missed it, and was ready for it to begin! You might remember that we had put cuisines from all around the world in the drawing and at the last dining event had drawn Israeli cuisine. But to get back into the swing of things, I sent out a simple invite for a soup swap. It seemed timely and seasonal, and a nice way to fall back into the groove. It was a small and intimate group this time, 7 out of our now baker’s dozen, 13. It was so good to see everyone again around my dining table, and so great to try some new things! (If you are new to my blog and would like some background information, click on Dinner Club.)

I apologize for the photography, my dining room has very little natural lighting to begin with, let alone in the evening. Because this is supposed to be like my version of a Girl’s Night Out, I make no apologies about the paper plates. (The last thing I want on my night out is a large stack of dishes…) So the place setting was kept simple. (Although for the picture it might have been nice if I had soup in the bowl. Hindsight…)

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But how beautiful is the centerpiece from the remaining flowers in Holly’s garden! After the first Dinner Club, we added this assignment. It’s essential.

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I divided the assigned tasks into 3 soups, 1 bread, 1 drink, 1 centerpiece, and a dessert.  I was assigned bread. And I am slightly embarrassed to say I took the easy way out (just this once). Although there are no rules one has to follow, in theory I’d like to challenge myself a little more. But hey, let’s be real… sometimes I’m just happy the house is ready for company and I’m dressed. So I bought the loaves at the store and the pumpkin cornbread was a box mix from Trader Joe’s. There. I said it.

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Fun dinner drinks is another thing I love. Catie made a great version of a recipe she found on-line with organic apple and pear juice with ginger ale, garnished with organic apple slices. (I hope I haven’t made my friends feel like if they’re bringing something to my house that it has to be organic…) Honestly, the pictures do not do it justice. It was so refreshing and delightful!

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How cute are the rustic apple slices to garnish the drink! They were fun to eat or add to the drink.

How cute are the rustic apple slices to garnish the cup! They were fun to eat or add to the drink.

We had trio of really delicious soups for supper. Rhonda (aka my mom) brought GG’s Beef Stew. It’s a tomato broth hearty and rustic stew, full of beef, potatoes, and carrots. It’s a family favorite where the meat and vegetables are perfectly tender -and never disappoints. Tara brought a scrumptious Autumn Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup from Once Upon a Chef. It was a gorgeous bright orange seasonal soup that I want to eat every day until December. It had a warm curry twist that I fell in love with. Molly brought a creamy cheesy Asiago Bisque from Chef in Training. Asiago Bisque! Need I say more? It had potatoes and bacon and every bite was better than the one before.


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My setting ending up looking like this.

We could have served the soups one at a time, like separate courses, but then I couldn’t have gone back and forth with spoonfuls of each one. And since they were all hot and ready to go, why not? A fall feast fit for a queen! (I really wish I was a better photographer.) But we didn’t stop there… We had to have dessert! Bailey the youngest member of our group made a white cake with a cream cheese frosting. I am also proud to say I did contribute something from scratch, Chocolate Brownies from Three Sister’s Bake.

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I had a great time as usual, and I can’t wait for our next get together! This time we will stick to the plan and try Israeli cuisine. For the recipes to any of the soups click on the name of it, highlighted in red. They are all worth it. For photography tips, ask someone who knows!

Loving Lately ❤️ Giveaway!

I have been wanting to do a giveaway for a while. Actually before I ever had a blog I was planning the type of things I’d like to giveaway. Now that I have been doing this for a for a little span, I think its time. I just can’t wait any more!! Thankfully my favorite non-familial home cook has put out a really adorable kitchen ware line! Yay! I think it’s befitting that my first giveaway is a piece from her new line, don’t you? I recently visited my local Walmart to check out the new items and basically wanted to take home one of everything. The practical side of me made, um, me limit myself to a few. I have to say my favorite is this beautiful pitcher!

Loving Lately #1: Pioneer Woman Dishes

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Here it is again in case you wanted to see it!

I really thought I was going to the store to pick out some of the those cute Pioneer Woman polk-a-dot glass bowls and cups, and maybe one day I will. But when I saw everything in person, I fell in love with the really sweet floral patterns.

To commemorate my 5 month achievement, thank my loyal followers and celebrate these cute dishes; my first giveaway is The Pioneer Woman Pitcher! I am limiting the giveaway to residents of the U.S. and Canada. (To all of my international friends out there, stay tuned for more giveaway opportunities in the future!) The Rules are simple: For entry, answer the posted question in the comment section of this post; Any new “like” or “follow” or “share” of this post via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest gets an entry.

For entry leave a comment below answering this question: What is your favorite kitchen apparatus?

(Only 1 comment per person please!)

Thank you for your participation and all of your support!

(Every ‘entry’ is assigned a numerical value. Entries will be allowed until 11:59 pm Saturday, October 10, 2015. Numbers will be randomly selected and the winner will be posted on Monday, October 12, 2015. Winner must provide an address in the U.S. or Canada to be eligible.)

This contest has ended.