October 5th, 2012 |

The Perfect Fall Muffin

I’m looking forward to a crisp, Fall weekend here in Chicago….which makes it the perfect time to try out this recipe from Glorious Treats!  If you have been reading the blog this week, you saw Casi’s ideas for hosting a Fall brunch here and here.  This recipe would be the perfect addition!  Here is the recipe from Glory:

INGREDIENTS

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1- 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

2/3 cup water

STREUSEL TOPPING INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

BATTER: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F., and place cupcake/muffin liners in a muffin pan. In a large bowl, gently whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices). In another large bowl (or the bowl of your electric mixer), add oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and pumpkin. Blend well. Add water and blend until fully incorporated. While slowly mixing, pour the dry ingredients in with the wet. Mix until just combined.

STREUSEL: In a medium bowl mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nuts (if desired). Pour in the melted butter and stir gently until the mixture is combined, but some small lumps remain. Scoop muffin batter into prepared pan, filling liners about 1/2-2/3 full. Top each muffin with a spoon full of streusel topping.

Bake muffins about 20 minutes (for standard sized muffins). Bake extra large muffins (as pictured) 25- 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but no wet batter.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

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October 4th, 2012 |

Personalize Your Placesetting

Add dimension to your placesetting by introducing new elements to your table. Use a galvanized tub, a small colander or a basket to contain your napkin, silverware and a fall embellishment, such as a pumpkin or gourd. Personalize a leaf with a metallic pen to serve as the placecard.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

October 4th, 2012 |

Easy Entertaining: Chili Bar

When entertaining a crowd this Fall, consider setting up a Chili Bar! A one-pot- wonder that appeals to guest young and old. You can make your chili ahead of time and set up a bar full of toppings, so it is self-serve for your guests and leaves you time to be having fun at your party instead of being stuck in the kitchen.

My favorite chili recipe is Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Chili. It’s lighter than a normal beef chili, simple to make, and freezes beautifully. It’s the perfect crowd- pleaser for when I gather my friends and family on a crisp Fall day to cheer on our favorite teams. I gather up my toppings on one big tray, and place it on the bar, close to the action.

 

People can pile up the cheese, bacon, sour cream and crackers to concoct their personal favorite combination. Here are some of my suggestions for enhancing your bowl of chili:

 

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

October 3rd, 2012 |

Simple Menu Ideas for a Fall Brunch

Fall is one of my favorite seasons for entertaining, and a family friendly brunch is just the ticket.  Yesterday, I shared ideas for decorating your table, and today I am back with some simple menu ideas:

Serve up Peach Billinis with fresh peaches, champagne, a hint of fresh lemon juice and a little sugar. Accessorize the glass with a slice of peach and personalized charm with your guest name. It’s all about the little details!

Pancakes topped with blueberries are a hit. Go mini too! Top it off with raspberries, blueberries and a dab of syrup. If you want to get fancy, put an lollipop stick through them for easy pick up. Looks pretty too!

Use fresh fruit when it comes to decorating the table top. A simple trick is filing a glass bowl with fresh green apples, pine cones and a delicious smelling vanilla candle. It makes the perfect centerpiece!

Georgetown Cupcake has the perfect mouth watering fall flavors for brunch: Maple Walnut, Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple and Toffee Crunch. Adorn them with fondant leaves for that added touch of Fall.

Resources:
Oxford Creek Casual Country Dining Table + Chair, Sears  |  Yellow Felt Flower Pillow, Target  |  Sheer Table Runner, Lattice Placemats, Hummingbird Dessert Plates, Decorative Glass Goblets, Juice Glasses {Parafaits} & Spoons, White Square Tray, HomeGoods  |  Glass Bowl, Yellow Condiments Bowls {used for candles}, TJ Maxx   |  Jardins Ruby Dinner Plates, Beehive Large Pitcher, Creamer & Sugar Set, Juliska  |  Personalized Wine Charms, Handmade Affair  |  Cupcakes,Georgetown Cupcake  |  Flatware, Pfaltzgraff 

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

October 1st, 2012 |

Stylish Kids Parties…..THE BOOK!

I’m having a little party over here today.  Why you ask?!  Because I finally get to share some amazing news with all of you….

I know I have been dropping hints about some BIG projects we have been working on lately around here…. I can’t spill the beans on all of them yet, but for today, today I can share with you that I am writing a BOOK!

“Stylish Kids Parties” (F+W Media, Inc.) will be launching Fall 2013 and feature unique, never seen before parties by WH Hostess Social Stationery, DIY party ideas and more. I’m beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to bring you even more party inspiration, and do what I love best…..styling kids parties that put a smile on both the kid and parent’s faces!  This really is a dream come true and I can’t wait to share more details with you!

Stay tuned in the months to come for some behind the scenes and more information on the book.

October 1st, 2012 |

DIY Pumpkin Topiary

Things have been so hectic around here lately between some big projects, the start of fall parties, and finishing up {what I consider to be our BEST} holiday collection, so I haven’t had much time to decorate for the change of seasons.  I decided to take 30 minutes out of my Saturday to dress up my front stoop by creating a colorful pumpkin topiary.

Supplies and steps are very simple: I scoured my local farm stand for three pumpkins tiered in size and that would stack well atop one another.  I broke off the stems of the bottom two and used wood skewers (left over from summer bbq kabobs) to hold the pumpkins together.  To finish it off, I stuck a few leaves in between the pumpkins.

What do you think?  Will you try to recreate this for your front stoop?

October 1st, 2012 |

Goat Cheese + Fig Crostini

I hope you all had a great weekend!  Last week we took you along as we recap’d our recent adventures in wine country, and shared the details of a wine and cheese tasting party we threw inspired by the simplicity of Napa entertaining.  I’m back today to share a simple appetizer idea for your Fall parties: a goat cheese and caramelized fig crostini.

The instructions are S.I.M.P.L.E: slightly toast slices of a baguette in the oven, and then spread goat cheese atop them with a dollop of fig jam, and top with caramelized figs (see below for instructions).  It’s really that easy!

Caramelized Figs

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3 fresh figs, sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and salt. Add the fig slices into the sugar mixture to coat. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add figs and cook until the sugar and juices caramelize, about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to keep turning the figs over as they brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar, then return to the heat and cook to reduce the syrup, roughly 30 seconds, making sure to scrape up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat again and add butter and lemon juice; gently swirling to combine.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

 

September 28th, 2012 |

Napa-Inspired Wine Tasting Party

Inspired by our recent adventure in wine country, Charynn and I set out to throw the ultimate wine & cheese tasting party for friends….the perfect way to “celebrate the harvest.”

While in Napa Valley, we fell in love with the simplicity of entertaining in wine country, the lush greens that surrounded us, and the amazing tastings we experienced, with many meals being farm-to-table fresh. We learned about pairing: what flavors to match with the different varieties of wine. When we arrived home and we sat down to plan our tasting party, we knew we wanted to accomplish the following: share our new favorite wines with friends, pair them with a spectacular cheese plate, and design party decor in a lush, monochromatic green color palette.

Guests were invited with a crisp, new wine-themed party invitation from WH Hostess, and were greeted with a softly lit party space, full of candles flickering in the night. We lined our buffet table with clear wine bottles topped with candles, which created a soft glow but didn’t take away from the colorful wine labels and gorgeous food.

Centerpieces of green hydrangeas and red grapes sat atop a rustic, ceramic footed pedestal from Pottery Barn. Baskets full of seasonal fruit and corks also served as decorations.

We currated a fabulous selection of cheese to include on our tasting board (a lazy susan made from a former Napa wine barrel), along with accompaniments such as marcona almonds, dried cranberries, hard salami, figs and prosciutto.  Interested in how we layout a cheese plate?  Check this out…..

 

We also served a fabulous selection of small bites, including a fig and goat cheese crostini……. a recipe we will be sharing with you today!

In order for guests to keep track of their wine glass, we created a selection of DIY printable wine tags. You can download them here for use at your next party. We hope that the articles and parties featured in this issue of The Party Dress Magazine have inspired you to embrace the simplicity, natural gorgeousness that is entertaining in true Napa-style. Cheers!

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 26th, 2012 |

Moss + Candlelight

As the warm days of Summer are moving aside for the cooler temps of Fall, it’s time to start transitioning your home into seasonal decor. Inspired by my recent trip to Napa, CA and the natural elegance of entertaining in the Valley, I created this moss and candlelight centerpiece, which is perfect for a centerpiece for a Fall dinner party, or to be placed on a coffee table.

I used a gorgeous wine barrel serving tray from Pottery Barn, and gathered up all of the white candles I had laying around my home.  (clearly I have  a bit of an inventory on hand of those!)  Green moss was tucked into all of the nooks and crannies, and it made for a simple, yet beautiful centerpiece.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

September 26th, 2012 |

AD Hoc

If you have been following along on the blog this week, you have already seen this post about the recent trip I took out to Napa, CA with my friend and assistant magazine editor, Charynn Olsheski and our husbands.  One of the main draws to make this trip out West was this amazing opportunity that was presented to us: visit Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.

When it comes to celebrity obsessions, both Charynn and I are starstruck when it comes to our favorite chefs. Thomas Keller being at the top of that list, we are huge fans of his popular restaurants, Bouchon, The French Laundry, and were beyond thrilled to be invited back into the kitchen of Ad Hoc, his latest restaurant in Yountville, Californa. We met with Sarah Zozaya, Pastry Chef and Katie Hagan- Whelchel, Executive Sous Chef (see the picture to the right), and passed along some of our readers’ questions to head Chef Cruz.

We took a poll on Facebook of questions that readers would like us to ask Chef Cruz, and without further ado…..

Can you give us a little background as to the mission of Ad Hoc and how it came to be established?

As the name implies, it was originally intended to be a temporary restaurant, a place that would only be open for a few months until a different concept was developed and realized. The impetus for the restaurant was based on the childhood food memories of Chef Keller. Things like fried chicken, beef Stroganoff and meatloaf were among the reference points that inspired the menu. Today our goal is still to touch on those food memories, we have just expanded the reference points. We serve dinner family style and invite our guests to serve each other, as well as dine with each other, just as we have from the start.

What local resources inspire the menu, and how does it change seasonally?

Surely, The French Laundry garden as well as our own garden in the back of Ad Hoc are great inspirations. They truly represent our location and the great bounty of the Napa Valley. They are wonderful because we get to be a part of the process – we have a say in what seeds are planted, and we get to be a part of the rearing, as well as a part of the harvest.

If people wanted to pull inspiration from Wine Country and their Ad Hoc visit to entertain once they return home, what would be your suggestions in terms of food and wine?

Serve what you love. I believe that in wine country, we make food we love to eat and produce wines we love to drink. If you carry that back to your own guests at home, you can’t go wrong. Have your guests be involved too. We get such joy in cooking for and serving our guests. We’ve begun to realize that most people enjoy it as well – they love getting in there and being a part of the process, knowing that they had a part in making the evening special. Keep it close to home.: we pick herbs from our backyard, and use many of our own vegetables that we grow. But we also have many relationships with producers very nearby that have great product and take immense pride in raising it. It’s a wonderful feeling to support people who are also our neighbors, especially when you know they care about their product.

The Ad Hoc cookbook is one of my personal favorites, what inspired this particular library of recipes?

Ad Hoc, plain and simple. These were among our favorite dishes to cook for our friends and, of course to eat. The cookbook was a wonderful way to share some of them.

We hear Thomas Keller Restaurant Group just opened a new outpost called Addendum. Tell us about it!

Addendum was inspired mostly by demand. We are fortunate to have many people who enjoy the fried chicken we make, as well as the barbecue dishes we do on alternating Mondays. We figured it was so natural to box it up neatly and eat it for a picnic in our garden, or somewhere outside nearby. Add some Napa wines and finish with a “hoc pop,” our own version of a push pop or a Creamsicle and it’s a great way to enjoy what the Napa Valley is about.

We had a fabulous experience at Ad Hoc and encourage you to visit on your next trip to Napa. In the meantime, Chef Cruz is sharing the famous Ad Hoc Fried Chicken recipe with all of us!

Ingredients

BRINE

1 gallon water

1 cup kosher salt

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

12 bay leaves

½ cup garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

About ½ ounce (3 large) rosemary sprigs

About ½ ounce (1 large bunch) thyme sprigs

About 2 ounces (1 large bunch) flat leafed parsley sprigs

COATING

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cayenne

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons

Two-2 ½ pound chickens

1 quart buttermilk

10 cups peanut oil

Kosher salt

Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnishing

Directions

For the Brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using. Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. With a knife and pair of kitchen shears, cut the chicken up into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast halves and 2 wings.

Bring the peanut oil to 330˚F. in the 6 quart sauté pan. Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl and place the buttermilk in a second container. Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet tray. When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of dark meat into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease. Adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature.

Fry the dark meat for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt. Carefully add the white meat to the oil and fry for about 6 to 7 minutes until cooked. Remove to the tray, sprinkle with salt and turn off the heat under the oil. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly. It is very hot when it comes out of the oil.

While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.

And remember: 

Be careful. The oil can spurt as the chicken is added and fried, making this is a perfect recipe to use a splatter screen. Place a thermometer in the oil to help monitor the proper cooking temperature. It is a good idea to make this brine a day ahead and refrigerate it. Do not add the chicken to warm brine and do not leave the chicken in the brine longer than the specified time or it may become too salty.

For more Fall entertaining ideas, read the latest issue of The Party Dress Magazine:

order a printed copy   |   download the ipad app   |   read the digital issue

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