Summer Entertaining

Well happy July — Almost August. Where did summer go? We have spent the better part of our summer traveling between home, Napa and Lake Tahoe. I feel so lucky that we are right in-between two beautiful places. My husband’s family is located primarily in Napa. We had out of state family visiting as well as my niece’s wedding and a surprise 50th birthday party for Steve’s brother. It was a lot of family time and amazing moments. Tahoe is just close enough to escape the heat. We did a few day trips, a camping trip to Camp Richardson and then a 2 night getaway to The Resort at Squaw Creek. It was go, go, go but every minute was wonderful.

I am a bit of a decorating and entertaining dreamer. I literally lie in bed at night and think of things I can decorate or parties I could throw. I thought I’d share some fun finds for summer entertaining. It’s a bit of decor, food, drinks and just all around fabulous party ideas.

First we have to start with some pretty decor.

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I love these jars of flowers that I found on Pinterest. Original source unknown.

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I love this simple tables cape at Style Me Pretty. You could use cloth napkins with a simple piece of rosemary or lavender sitting on top as well. I also love that using mixed patterns has become quite trendy and it’s a great way to up cycle as well. You never know what fabulous new pieces you might find at garage sales, flea markets or thrift stores.

 

Summer-Lemonade-BarGiggles Galore shared this adorable make your own lemonade bar. Kids would have a blast creating their own concoction.

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Of course a grown up version of a beverage bar would be a hit. So how about a mojito bar?

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Gourmande in the Kitchen shares this appetizer using herbed flatbread and then topped with arugula, almonds and fresh parmesan. It looks light and refreshing. Plus it’s gluten and grain free.

 

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I had to throw in a tomato recipe since tomatoes are in season and there really is nothing better then a fresh garden tomato. How about some grilled tomatoes with a basil vinaigrette? Yum! This was over at My Recipes.

 

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These kabobs at Natasha’s Kitchen would make a great main course. You could of course sub chicken or even shrimp for the beef if you wanted.

 

Delicious-Very-Berry-Cheesecake-Oat-BarsBeauty and Bedlam gives a step by step tutorial on these mouth watering berry cheesecake bars.

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Peach Cobbler is a great ‘go to’ summer desert. With fresh peaches available at Farmers Markets, you just can’t go wrong.

If you feel like throwing a little summer soiree I have given you some funny summer entertaining ideas. ;) Do you have go to receipts for hosting summer dinners? Please feel free to share.

 

Summer Fun

I decided to do a little searching for some creative summer fun ideas. Ya’ll know where I went first, right? Yep to my Summer Board over at Pinterest. My boys are getting big. One is 11 {going on 13} and the other is 9. They are all about being social. They would be happy just playing XBox and swimming all summer long with their friends. I should mention that we don’t have a pool. Thank goodness for amazing neighbors who fill this void. In my little Pinterest ‘hunt’ I found some stuff that just screams summer. Freebies, party ideas, bucket lists …

I love this idea of hosting a Sidewalk Chalk Festival over at My Kids Eat Off the Floor {formally June Bug Parties}. What a great idea to entertain the kiddos while the adults mingle and perhaps have some cocktails? ;)

invitationSew Home Grown created this fun printable. Wouldn’t it look great framed on a mantel with some fun summer accessories?

summerprintableI am a sucker for all things chalkboard related so this sign from Scrapping with Liz jumped out at me instantly. It’s a bucket list created on a chalkboard. Swoon.

swl_bucketlist_digitalscrapbook3Its a Lovely Life shares some sweet popsicle recipes. I think these are on my bucket list for tomorrow.

PopsiclesI’ve always wanted to host an outside movie night for the kids and their friends. Prairie Hive shared their version of a movie night complete with cute decor.

UnknownDo you have any fun and fabulous Summer plans? I’d love to hear them. Creative, fun, different .. feel free to share. Happy Summer friends!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2013 Menu

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Happy Fall Y’all! A fellow blogger and friend of mine shared her Thanksgiving menu and I thought, “what a great idea”. So I am being a bit of a copy cat. Hopefully flattery will get me everywhere ;) Charene’s blog is Copper Lantern Cooking. I actually found her a few years back when she had a local cupcake business and was generous enough to donate to a fundraiser at my kids school. We have since become Facebook friends and recipe sharers. I love social media for just these type of friendships. I get to meet people that I otherwise would not and share fun things like well, food!

So let me preface by saying that I have a pretty straight forward, stick to the classics type of family. However, I like to mix it up so I’ve added a few things with flair.

Appetizers

  • Salami, cheese and crackers – we grew up with this on hand at every family function. My dad is adding deer salami which I do not like so I asked for regular ol’ salami for me.
  • Black olives – you know, for wearing on your fingers.
  • Deviled eggs — another dad specialty

Main Course

Desert

My dad is in charge of deserts. I am the queen of baking in my house but for Thanksgiving, I appreciate the pies that show up in my kitchen. We get various versions of apple pie from Apple Hill, a banana cream pie from Buttercream Bakery and the pumpkin pies are from Costco. Trust me, I make it up with the loads of cookies that I crank out throughout the rest of the holiday season. Oh, I’ll take a little credit cause I do make homemade whipped cream for the pies. Homemade. No canned or Cool Whip {yes, I know some people love it but I have to make the real stuff, I’ve even added a little bourbon for a kick.}

Do you host or travel for Thanksgiving? Do you have a standard menu or do you serve things unique? I’d love to hear about your families favorite recipes.

However you spend Thanksgiving, I wish you a happy one. Count your blessings everyday.

French Breakfast Puffs

These might be one of my most favorite recipes of all time. I don’t think you can go wrong with something coated in dripping butter and then rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Tell me if I am wrong! I saw The Pioneer Woman whipping these up on her TV show a few weeks back and immediately made them for our breakfast for dinner that same night. They were irresistible and gone in a flash. I’m pretty sure I drooled as I waited for the rest of our dinner to finish cooking.  I made these ham breakfast cups to go with the muffins. It was one of the best breakfast for dinners I have ever had.

French Breakfast Puffs

Photo Source

French Breakfast Puffs

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2/3 cups Shortening (Crisco)
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1-1/2 cup Sugar
  • 3 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 2 sticks Butter

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a different bowl, cream together 1 cup sugar and shortening. Then add eggs and mix again. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

In a bowl, melt 2 sticks butter. In a separate bowl combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Dip baked muffins in butter, coating thoroughly, then coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

These are amazing fresh from the oven and just as great the next day {I’ve tried both — don’t judge! ;)}

Cinnamon & Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pie Cookies

Heeeeelllllo Fall! So it’s that season {yeah yeah yeah .. I’m so redundant in expressing my love of Fall, sorry if it gets annoying but I just can not help myself} for baking. Today I had three goals, #1 – Bake with pumpkin, #2 – make some goodies for our schools Fall Festival Cake Walk tomorrow and #3 – Appease my neighbor who has been relentless in reminding me that I have not made anything pumpkin for him yet. So I went to my recipe book Pinterest and found these goodies which were over at Keep it Sweet Deserts. I whipped them up and of course had my delivery boy run them to the neighbors house which resulted in a text telling me that it was a keeper. Oh whew! ;) Then I bagged them up for the cake fight. Oh yes, prior to these two things my taste tester and I sampled the goods and yes, this recipe is a keeper.

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Cinnamon & Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pie Cookies

Yield: Makes 5 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips

Cooking Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and pumpkin pie seasoning; set aside
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla; beat in pumpkin until well-combined
  5. Stir in dry ingredients just until combined
  6. Stir in chocolate and cinnamon chips
  7. Use a cookie dough scoop or tablespoon to place cookie dough mounds (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart
  8. Bake 9-11 minutes or until cookies are puffed up and no longer wet
  9. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack before serving

Crock Pot Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I love Fall and one of my most favorite parts of this season is the food. Pumpkin and apple everything? Yes please! I also love crock-pot meals for the convenience. With a little bit of prep you can have this yummy soup simmering for dinner. Serve with a fresh loaf of french bread and a side salad and viola, dinner is served!

Soup

Crock Pot Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package of Rice-a-Roni long grain and wild rice
1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
2 cups half and half (I used fat-free half and half)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup diced celery

Directions:

Combine broth, water, carrots, celery, chicken and rice (along with seasoning packet) in a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours. Take out chicken and shred with two forks and then add back into slow cooker. In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, and flour. In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour mixture by tablespoon to form a roux. Whisk in cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Stir cream mixture into slow cooker and then let cook on low for 15 more minutes.

Easy Peach Cobbler

Do you want a swoon worthy, super easy and delicious peach cobbler recipe? Well look no further. I whipped up this goodness served a la mode on Sunday for a BBQ and it was gone. No leftovers to be had which was a little sad. Lesson learned, next time I will make two. ;)

Peach Cobbler recipe from My Recipes

Peach Cobbler

Photo Source

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peaches, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional) a must!

Preparation

  1. Melt butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
  2. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter (do not stir).
  3. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter (do not stir). Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
  4. Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

This was a crowd pleaser and made my house smell delicious. I think it will become my go to recipe for late summer entertaining. Do you have an easy desert recipe that you like to repeat?

Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Gruyere Cheese Strata with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes

Oh deliciousness!! I had a couple of girlfriends coming over for brunch on Sunday and I had to find something yummy to share. I did a little Strata search and found this over at the Cooking Channel. It’s a recipe from Bobby Flay who always seems to have share worthy recipes.  It was so worth trying. My gal-pals loved it and I am about to enjoy the leftovers for lunch. Yum! The tomatoes are a great addition and make for a pretty presentation {if you like to have that ‘wow’ factor when plating your food}. Next time you are looking for a savory brunch meal, look no further cause this is a winner. My only change on this is that I used half of the spinach and I also used plain ol’ yellow onions.

StrataPhoto Source

Caramelized Onion, Spinach and Gruyere Cheese Strata with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes

INGREDIENTS

STRATA:
  • 6 cups cubed day-old French bread, with crust
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 large Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 10 large eggs
  • 2 cups grated aged Gruyere cheese
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

SAUTEED CHERRY TOMATOES:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives, plus more for garnish

DIRECTIONS

For the strata: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the bread on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Combine the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions, toss to coat in the butter, and then add the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, onions and spinach. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, 1 1/2 cups cheese, milk, heavy cream, mustard, 1 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, thyme and nutmeg.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch decorative baking dish. Add the bread cubes to the baking dish, and then pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and press down to make sure the bread is totally submerged.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake the strata uncovered until the mixture has puffed up slightly, is golden brown on top and doesn’t shimmy with uncooked custardwhen you shake the pan, about 1 hour. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the top during the last 10 minutes of baking. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

For the tomatoes: Heat oil in a large saute pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook until the tomatoes softened. Add the chives and remove from the heat.

Serve large spoonfuls of the strata onto plates and top with sauteed tomatoes.

I also served this wonderful coffee cake to add a bit of ‘sweet’ to compliment this savory strata.
Enjoy!

Little Pieces of July

Something funny about me? I was born in July. However, I do not love summer. I love Fall. So why was I born in the summer? Why did I get married in the summer? Interesting uh? Well I can tell you this, since becoming a mama — I enjoy summer more. I feel like I am transported back to being a kid and feeling the freedoms of summer. When I was a kid, I was a lot more heat tolerant. Now a perfect summer day for me is 85 degrees. Yeah, that hot spell we had over the 4th of July? I was pretty much in a permanent bad mood all week. I tried to fake happy but I was melting on the inside and out. Yearning for a breeze, some fresh air that wasn’t coming out of an air conditioning vent and barely keeping the house tolerable. I won’t go on and on about how Fall is my favorite season. You can read all about that here and here. Before I get all lost in a season that hasn’t even arrived yet, let’s visit July. July was full of fun for our family. Day trips, birthdays, ice cream, July 4th, visits with family — it was an action packed month full of fun memories.

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Some of my favorite parts of July 2013: Day trip to Silver Lake, Planning July 4th with my dear friend Stacie, celebrating my friend Kelly’s birthday {FYI: when the band doesn’t show, use a juke box to have a dance party and singalong}, kayaking with my family, Boeger Winery Sunset Sipping {Hangtown Cooler please!}, doing a little bedroom makeover for my littlest}, kids being creative with Legos, a day trip with my boys which included a hike, some lake time{and crawdad catching} and ice cream at Camp Richardson, back to school shopping, birthday creating and last but not least, celebrating Mason’s birthday on July 26th and wrapping the month up with my birthday which entailed a day trip to Sand Harbor.

I’d say by the looks of things, July was pretty awesome for us! Hope ya’all are enjoying the dog days of summer.

Summer Cocktails

It’s summertime and that means — yep, cocktails!! Not that you can’t have cocktails in the other seasons but there is something so refreshing about cocktails in the summertime. I love seeing how a slew of ingredients bring about something so yummy and delicious. I keep putting this post off assuming that I will pull it together and make/share a couple of my favorites and add pictures as well but … but … but .. you get the point. It’s not happening! The last time I had my two favorite concoctions was while camping and I just didn’t think to get photos. I will share the recipes with you though. You can just imagine how pretty they are in a glass with a cute lil straw.

Root-beer Float

My version doesn’t really entail any ice-cream but it tastes like a root-beer float. Anyone that has tried them is instantly hooked. First off, I am in love with these skinny glasses from Cost Plus. I have actually bought them for my girlfriends as they are a hot ticket around here. Add a straw and they are perfect for a pretty cocktail.

I add one shot of Whipped Vodka to a full glass of ice and then top with root beer. Voila. A simple and super tasty cocktail. Some people like to add whipped cream to the top. I think they are plenty sweet without.

Orange Julius with Whipped Vodka

These seem to be made a million different ways but this is how we make them. Now these are a main attraction while camping so they are served in non other then a Red Solo cup. I know, classy!

In a shaker combine: ice, 2 oz Whipped Cream Vodka, 1 oz Triple Sec, fill with OJ and then a squirt of canned whipping cream. Shake well and serve. This will serve two.

Both of these go down a little too easily so beware how quickly you feel the results if you know what I am saying.

I made this yummy sangria for the 4th of July. Again, I did not get a photo before it was all gone. What I loved the most is that it called for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which is the type of wine I always drink. It sold me on the recipe.

Summer Sangria at The Sassy Writer

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Of course have a Pinterest Board which is dedicated to Entertaining and that is where I save these little gems for later. Check out some of the yummy things I hope to make soon. All recipes can be accessed by clicking on the drink title and source above the photos.

Mexican Sangria at Design Sponge

Mexican Sangria

Sour Cherry Gin Slings at Food & Wine

Sour Cherry Gin Slings

Cherry Moon at Grey Goose

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Frozen Cherry Margarita at Girlfriend Getaways

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Gin & Tonic {one of my faves} at Drizzle and Dip

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Cayman Lemonade at Islands

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The Frenchy Cocktail at Intoxicology

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Marshmallow Cake-tini Cocktail at Tablespoon

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These look like tantalizing cocktails. I’d love to hear if you have tried any of these and what you think. Oh my last round up does not come with a photo {although I had two last weekend and I can tell you that they were delicious} is a drink called the Va Va Voom and it was at a local spot called Sauced. It had vodka, muddled mint and lime, simple syrup and hard cider and was served on the rocks. It tasted like a carbonated lemonade. It was so yummy {and it may have caused excessive dancing, just sayin’}.

Come on over and check out my million and one other pins at Pinterest :) Just kidding, I only have 7, 257  pins.

Cheers to Summer my friends {even though I long for Fall}.