May 12th, 2009 |

Sips & Dips: A Cocktail Party

sips-dipsI fell in love with this invitation from Tiny Prints – Sips & Dips – what a perfect theme for my next cocktail party!

I’m having some old friends over to catch up, and I want to put together a party that is casual but chic.  A few great cocktails, some tasty appetizers and maybe a few delicious desserts – add in some creative presentation and I’ve got myself a party!

There are a few key components for creating a visually appealing appetizer spread.  Let’s take a look at a few ideas:
Sips & Dips

To give it a modern look, I’m going to use all-white serving dishes. The food really stands out, and it will give my table a uniformed look.

Instead of just throwing the food on a plate, I’m going to neatly place the individual pieces of food in tidy rows on their trays maintaining an equal distance between them. This works especially for things like mini pizzas, tiny quiches, small crab cakes, and individual desserts.

A couple of more ideas I like to remember: you can also add some some interest to your plates by adding another element or pop of color under your food.  For example, arrange pot stickers on a bed of green beans (see photo above).  Try thinking outside the box when it comes to the serving pieces you use – instead of arranging a veggie platter the traditional way with the dip in the middle of a pile of vegetables, try using small esspresso cups to serve your dips, and place the veggies standing up in glasses – place all on a tray for a colorful presentation.

Hmmm….now all I need to do is figure out what I’m serving!?!

Images: sips & dips invitation (tinyprints.com), martini’s (socialdesign.com), outdoor patio (cocomale.com), orange tulips (aboutdetailsdetails.com), appetizers (brides.com)

May 7th, 2009 |

Farmer’s Market Dinner Party

Farmer's Market Dinner Party (small)

With the arrival of spring finally here, I am so enjoying cooking with the  light, fresh flavors of the new season. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries – oh, the list could go on and on!   My favorite source for peak-of-season produce? The local farmers’ market.   Not only do I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, many markets also offer locally produced breads, cheeses, other specialty foods……not to mention gorgeous flowers!  When I’m planning a Spring or Summer dinner party – it’s one stop shopping – I can pick up my ingredients and supplies for my centerpiece all in one place!

To help make your farmers’ market shopping more pleasurable, here are a few tips from Williams Sonoma:

Bring plenty of small bills plus shopping bags or baskets. Arrive early for the best selection—and to avoid the crowds. Before you buy, stroll through the market to see what’s available and to compare prices and quality. Many farmers encourage customers to taste before buying. And be sure to talk with the growers. They’re happy to introduce you to new and unusual ingredients and to offer cooking suggestions.

Farmer’s Market’s are a great place to gather fresh ingredients – but there is a way to make it even easier on yourself to eat locally and seasonally, all the while supporting farmers and taking advantage of the abundance of each season: by subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  Local Harvest is a CSA program that offers subscriptions all over the country.  Each week, you’ll get a box brimming with that week’s harvest.  No requests – you will get what is in season at that time and the selection varies from region to region and from farm to farm.  But if you like to experiment and love to try new things – this could be a great program for you!

Now that my local Farmer’s Market has begun, I have decided to host a dinner party in the garden using all fresh produce.  When you’re cooking from the farmers’ market, keep preparations simple so the garden-fresh flavors can shine.  I am going to serve a salad of mixed greens and toasted baguette slices topped with warm goat cheese, and fish fillets with asparagus and orange.  For dessert, something lemony…  stay tuned for ideas!

I love the idea of setting up an outdoor dining room – use your table as the central focus, place some throw pillows on the chairs, hang a light fixture or lanterns from the trees above the table to define the space.  Set up a bar on a garden work bench, and enhance with bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Create some ambiance by decorating the space with lanterns.  A few ideas for setting the table – use cotton linens and create a loose centerpiece of seasonal blooms and fruit (have a bunch of grapes overflowing, or a few baby artichokes or lemons placed into the arrangement).  Use woven charger plates to add a natural feel to the table, and enhance your napkin with a raffia tie and fresh vegetable such as a radish or carrots.

This Famer’s Market dinner party is a recipe for success – great, healthy food, a stunning setting and good friends!  What could be better?!

Images: radish napkin (bhg.com), goat cheese salad (williams-sonoma.com), white ceramic and woven dishes, outdoor bar (potterybarn.com), garden table (artfool.com)

May 7th, 2009 |

Tangy Lemon Treats

Tangy Lemon Treats (small)

There’s just something tantalizing about the tanginess of lemon….it’s light and fresh….and I could eat an entire plate of lemon bars if you were to put them in front of me!

These tangy desserts offer an intense burst of citrus flavor that will compliment any Spring meal:

1. Lemon Madeleines

2. Lemon-Raspberry Ice Cream Bombes

3. Creamy Lemon Bars

4. Icy Lemon-Mint Parfaits

5. Marbled Lemon Tart

May 1st, 2009 |

Friday Night: Pasta Party with Friends

Pasta Party (small)

I don’t know about you….but it’s been kind of a boring week!  One day it’s nice, the next day it looks like it could snow again.  I decided we needed a little excitement as we moved into the weekend.

Invite friends over for a Pasta Party – all you need is some good wine, some fresh pasta and a few good recipes to give your guests a lovely evening!

Fresh pasta is much lighter and tender in texture than dried pasta.  If you have the time – it makes a huge difference in your recipes.  Click here for tips on making fresh pasta from Williams Sonoma.  I think you should serve a buffet of 3-4 different pastas, so that people can taste a few.  Serve up a light salad, some fresh bread – oh, and don’t forget to have fresh parmesan to grate on top of the pastas!

Here are some of my favorite pasta recipes – hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Buon Appetito!  Bon Appetit!  (Enjoy your Pasta Party!)

Images: pastas (williams-sonoma.com), pasta prep (matthewmeadstyle.com), fresh pasta (angelayeung.com)

April 29th, 2009 |

Celebrate Mother’s Day on the Patio

Mother's Day on the Patio (small)

Celebrate the women in your life this year with lunch on the patio.  Outdoor entertaining can be easy – a simple menu, a refreshing cocktail and a clean, Spring-like table will set the mood for a festive day!

Set up your party out on the patio with a color palette of blue & white, with an accent of pink.  White dishes look fresh when mixed with a patterned placemat and solid napkin.  Mix together different shades of pink peonies, and tuck into a cobalt blue vase to use as your centerpiece.  You could also put a single peony into a small vase and place onto each place setting as a favor.

Serve a healthy lunch of grilled tuna with provencal vegetables, with frozen lemonade with blackberry puree to drink.  Throw a loaf of french bread on the grill to serve alongside the tuna.  For dessert – wow them with individual raspberry and chocolate tarts!

Looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift?!

mothers-day-gifts-small

Gifts:  Kate Spade Camilla Lane vases (macys.com),  monogrammed lucite tray (dabneyleeathome.com), Tory Burch handbag (toryburch.com), Kate Spade enamel bracelets (nordstrom.com), candle lanterns (crateandbarrel.com)

Images: peonies (flickr.com), place setting (traditionalhome.com), outdoor room (restorationhardware.com)

April 27th, 2009 |

Cinco de Mayo Cocktails

Cinco de Mayo Cocktails (small)

What better cause for celebration than Cinco de Mayo?!

Try serving up these festive drinks at your next fiesta:

1. Scarlet Margarita

2. Mango Margarita

3. Classic Margarita

4. Sangria Blanco

5. Beer ‘Garitas

6. Sangria

April 27th, 2009 |

It’s all in the Presentation…

Give an old favorite recipe a new look…

mexican-layer-dipI love, love, love this idea from Food Network….everyone has their own version of a Mexican layer dip….but wow your guests by updating the presentation.

Use small glasses as the vessel to create these individual dips.  Use a white, rectangular plate – place the dip and a stack of tortilla chips on it – and you have an instant update to one of my favorite snacks!

April 25th, 2009 |

Cocktails on the Patio

Now that the days are getting longer, and the weather is getting nicer – people are starting to socialize out on their driveways watching their kids ride their bikes and draw with sidewalk chalk.   These nice days are still few and far between….so when you have a good one – enjoy it!  Extend your day by inviting the neighbors back to your patio and serve up Patio Lemonade (via Hostess with the Mostess) and Shrimp Shooters.

Cocktails on the Patio (small)

April 24th, 2009 |

Kentucky Derby: Day in the Garden

Kentucky Derby Party (small)

For 135 years, the Kentucky Derby has been everyone’s race – from the dapper men and beautiful women, all in hats and sipping on frosty mint juleps, to the laid-back crowd who picnic on the in-field on fried chicken.

The Kentucky Derby is more than just a race — it’s an annual society event. Since the first Derby in 1875, the race has become steeped in traditions ranging from specific food and drink to proper Derby attire.

One of the best part’s of The Kentucky Derby is enjoying a lovely day outside.  Although you will be glued to the TV to watch the actual race – bring your party outside to enjoy the rest of the day in the garden.  Set up tables with bright linens, and centerpieces that are loose and colorful.  Serve a buffet of traditional southern food – fried green tomatoes, bourbon-marinated pork tenderloin, fried chicken, and blackberry & toasted pecan cobbler for dessert.

kentucky-derby-tickets-plumparty

No matter how you decide to celebrate the Derby this year – there is one tradition that everyone must do: you have to serve the official drink: Mint Julep. The cocktail consists of bourbon, mint and sugar syrup, and is traditionally served in a silver julep cup with a sprig of mint.

If you want to organize a friendly wager for the race – check out these tickets from Plum Party.

For those ladies lucky enough to actually attend the Derby, the biggest question leading up to the race isn’t in regards to who is going to win….it’s all about what outrageous hat they will be donning that day!  It’s about color, extravagance, and definitely a touch of drama!
Derby Hats (small)

Images: garden (fineartamerica.com), flowers (artfool.com), race (kentuckyderby.com), invitation (ashleybrookedesigns.com), mint juleps and food (southernliving.com), hats (latimes.com)

April 16th, 2009 |

Italian Tiles

tile-cookies-whippedbakeshop

Aren’t these italian tiles just beautiful?!

Wait…they aren’t tiles, they are cookies!

Whipped Bake Shop has crafted these scalloped, square, vanilla sugar cookies with almond royal icing.  These delicious and gorgeous cookies come wrapped individually in a clear bag.  They would make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift, or a perfect party favor for a bridal shower or birthday party.

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