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Posts from — February 2013

appetizer buffet

For some strange reason – while making 13 different recipes in two days (eight appetizers,  four recipes for the sit-down dinner, and one recipe for the dessert table) I didn’t manage to take even one cooking photo. Imagine, too busy to stop and take pictures of the process!


Oh well, I did manage to get pretty decent photos of the food on the table itself, at least for the appetizers, which is what I present to you today. Some of these are new recipes which I’ll provide here and others are recipes I’ve previously posted. For those, click on the link to take you the original post.

Here we go…


Brie with Pears and Brandy

12 to 16-ounce wheel Brie cheese, cold
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large Bosc or Red Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
8 walnut halves

Slice cheese wheel in half crosswise; set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add diced pears, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in brandy, and cook 1 minute more. Add rosemary, and stir to combine. Remove from heat, and spread pear mixture over the bottom half of the cheese wheel, reserving 2 tablespoons of mixture for garnish. Transfer cheese to a serving plate.

Return skillet to stove, and heat balsamic vinegar and honey until simmering. Simmer mixture until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.

Pour half the glaze over the bottom half of the cheese with the pear mixture; top with the remaining half of the cheese wheel and top with the 2 tablespoons of reserved pears. Drizzle with remaining glaze, and garnish with walnut halves and rosemary. Serve immediately.


Blue Cheese-Apricot Bites

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup crumbled Roquefort, room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
32 dried apricots
Snipped fresh rosemary

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add walnuts and sugar; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until walnuts are lightly toasted. Stir in rosemary; cook and stir for 30 seconds more. Transfer nuts to a foil-lined baking sheet; cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine Roquefort cheese and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

Spoon about 3/4 teaspoon of the cheese mixture on top of each dried apricot. Sprinkle with nuts. If desired, garnish with additional fresh rosemary.

Makes 32

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February 28, 2013   3 Comments

time to party!

Before I share more party details, I want to wish my dear friend, Karen Mock a very Happy Birthday!

Karen was a bridesmaid at my wedding. I think everyone should have a bridesmaid like her. She carried out her duties like a pro! I mean, it is not easy being a bridesmaid at your friends’ wedding – you have so much to do! From managing the bride’s emotions as she approaches her big day, to organizing her hen party (you could click here to find some ideas for yourself), it’s just a big roller coaster ride. Hats off to Karen for pulling it off!

At the time of my wedding, she was pregnant with her first child, Nick. Dave and I are Nick’s godparents … so yes, Karen and I have been friends for a long time and I love her to pieces. Happy Birthday, Karen! I look forward to celebrating with you on Friday! xoxo

On to the party ….


Peggy arrived a little early so she’d be there to greet her guests, and I was actually ready to greet her and the guests too. That doesn’t always happen. More often than not, I’m still scrambling and getting ready at the very last second before a party at our house begins. But not this time, and here is why –

I had gone to Sweet Salvage the day before the party with my friend and colleague, Kim Howard. (after all the party posts, I’ll share with you what I got that day – it is so cool!)

I was telling Kim about the party plans and she said, “Let me come help.” I resisted at first because I’d already hired two servers and a bartender from Elite Events AZ. Kim insisted and I finally came to my senses and took her up on her generous offer. Kim and I work together at Les Gourmettes. When I teach my series of classes there, Kim works right beside me. We’re a great team and I knew that having her in the kitchen, finishing off the dishes, overseeing everything, and doing things exactly as I would do them – well I knew that I wouldn’t have to worry about a thing and I could really relax and enjoy my own party.

That is exactly what happened! Maybe I enjoyed it a wee bit too much if you know what I mean! So, thank you, Kim. Thank you, Jana, Cami, and Jeanie from Elite Events. And thank you, to my adorable son, Connor, who was the lone man in the kitchen, there to help with whatever the ladies asked him to do!


Anne and I, gave Peggy her official birthday kiss.


Peggy with her darling parents, her brother, John, and her sister-in-law, Lorraine. Take note of Peggy’s pink crown and scepter. The Birthday Princess!


Anne and Dave at the appetizer buffet. The bar is in the background…


… thanks Anne for taking this picture of the bar, I can see your reflection in the window and I see myself in the kitchen. What am I doing in there?! I think I was cutting green onions for the mashed potatoes and talking to Kim about the recipes. This was prior to the guests arriving. Well, of course, Anne was a guest too, but she was and is much more than that! She helped me so much in putting on this gala event. Love you girl! xoxo


Along with the full bar, we offered two signature cocktails…

pink pear

The Pink Pear

1 1/2 ounces pear vodka
3 ounces mango nectar or pineapple juice
1-ounce cranberry juice
Lemon juice, for rim
Pink or gold sugar, for the rim

Dip the rim of a clear “highball” glass in lemon juice, then dip into sugar. Fill the glass with ice.

Gently layer the vodka, then the nectar, then the cranberry juice into the glass for an ombre cocktail.

Serves 1

pink chihuahua

Pink Chihuahua

Coarse pink salt
1-ounce tequila
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
3/4 cup grapefruit juice
Grapefruit slice, for garnish

Dip the rim of a clear “rocks” glass in lemon juice, then dip into sugar. Fill the glass with ice. Pour tequila and Grand Marnier over ice.

Top with grapefruit juice and stir. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit.

Serves 1


Also on the bar, were bowls of the ever-popular Ranch Oyster Crackers, also known as Crack Crackers. These are seriously addicting!


Another fun 50th birthday party touch was a little something else I found on eBay …

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February 27, 2013   7 Comments

the big 5-0 photos and the tablescape

Before I continue to tell you about the party planning for Peggy’s 50th – I first have to say…

Happy Birthday, Peggy!

Today is her actual birthday.

50 photos

One of the wonderful party ideas I found on Pinterest was to take a bunch of photos of the honoree and create a huge “50” with them. I gathered photos of Peggy, scanned them onto my computer, edited each one into gray scale, and printed them out.

new paper backing

Next, I taped sheets of newspaper to my marble fireplace and taped the photos to the newspaper.


I then carefully took down the numbers and placed them on a flat surface to trim the newspaper backing.


The “5” was on the fragile side, so I reinforced the weak center area with a bit of cardboard on the backing.

big 5 0

This was all done about a week before the party, so into the garage staging area, the numbers went to stay out of harm’s way until party time.

I was able to buy two pink crinkle taffeta 117-inch round tablecloths, four pink crinkle taffeta 60×126-inch tablecloths, six gold organza runners, one embroidered chair slipcover, one fuchsia satin chair sash, 50 gold, pink, and fuchsia napkins, and one 90-inch gold organza overlay for only $107 – and that included the shipping! They all washed up perfectly too, no ironing was needed. I could not have been happier with the selection of table linen cloths I had. I’ve always thought that how you decorate your tables is the backbone of any event; it sets the theme and tone.

test table

Here is what the preliminary “mock table” looked like in my staging area.

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February 26, 2013   9 Comments

party prepping


I started planning Peggy’s 50th birthday party about a month ago. But first and foremost, I needed to thoroughly clean the entire space so that the guests were not put off by the presence of dirt anywhere.

That is why I thought I would look for professional floor and Window Cleaning service providers to clean the places that had a lot of stubborn stains. But then I decided to do it on my own. So I washed as much as I could and decorated the rest of the space to draw our guests’ attention to the beautiful styling.

Anyway, as with any party, the first thing the host needs to decide on is the theme. Well, 50 was the theme but a color scheme is what I’d build the party around. I decided on pink and gold. Pink because Peggy is such a beautiful sweet girl and I’m sure she was a girly girl when she was little. And if not, she sure is now! Gold because she is the gold standard when it comes to friends. You know the song… “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” She is Gold to me!

I believe this is the first time I’ve emailed a formal invite instead of sending it by snail mail. I’m glad I did because I was able to put so much more info in the email than I would have on just the mailed invite.

For instance, I was able to let invitees know that “The attire is casual-elegant – whatever that means – just wear something comfortable – weather permitting, we’ll be outside.” Turns out that was an important thing to let people know considering it actually snowed here only three days before the party.

I could also let people know that “The ‘theme’ is Elegant 50 ~ no ‘over-the-hill’ shenanigans!”

Once I had my color scheme, I went to town to carry it out!

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February 25, 2013   2 Comments

all you need is love…

heart leaf2

Happy Valentine’s Day and thank you for reading this blog. You fill my heart with joy.

February 14, 2013   No Comments

super bowl food

Here is some of the stuff I’m thinking about making for Super Bowl Sunday. It’s only going to be Dave, Connor, my dad, and me – but hey, we still need fun Super Bowl food!

pull bread

Jalapeno Popper Pull Bread

fried olives

Fried Goat Cheese-Stuffed Olives with Remoulade Dipping Sauce

avocado chicken salad

Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad

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February 1, 2013   8 Comments