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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 bottom half of cheese wheel, reserving 2 tablespoons mixture for garnish. Transfer cheese to 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 remaining half of cheese wheel and top with the 2 tablespoons 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 in my wedding. At the time 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 loooong 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, giving 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 rim

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

Underneath the photo collage you can see the linens I bought from THIS fabulous online site. It was so much more economical to purchase the linens rather then renting them.

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 needed. I could not have been happier with the selection of table linen cloth 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 began working on Peggy’s 50th Birthday Celebration about a month ago. 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 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

It’s OVER!

Today is supposed to be the last day of the 3-week “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse. But in reality, it ended for me on Friday night. I always knew that I was not going to participate in the last day because I threw a 50th Birthday Party for my BFF, Peggy, last night.


So although I thought that my last meal on the cleanse would be lunch on Saturday, I threw in the towel after lunch on Friday. I’d been cooking all day long for the party and just didn’t have it in me to make something from the cleanse for dinner that night. Instead, Dave stopped at Pei Wei and brought home Chinese food.  It tasted So Good!

For anyone doing the cleanse, here are the recipes for today – Day 7 of Week 3 – the LAST day!

Muesli Cereal

Spinach, Tofu and Brown Rice Bowl

Avocado and Black Bean Tacos

So what are my thoughts on the cleanse? It was OK. I would not do it again, that is for sure, but it wasn’t the worst thing either. The food was good tasting, for the most part. It was a lot of cooking, prep, and shopping.

I lost a grand total of 4 pounds – only 4 pounds after eating basically vegan the first week and only adding in fish the second, and eggs the third. No alcohol, no diary, no bread, no dessert, no fun – and only 4 lousy pounds! Yes, I know this wasn’t a weight loss cleanse, but still, it was disappointing!

Did I feel healthier, more energetic, less toxic. No, I didn’t feel anything but bored with the food and sick of it by the end of each week.

Now that it is over, I can concentrate on sharing with you all the party prep, photos, and recipes. That will start tomorrow. I’m a bit too hungover to share much more today!

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February 24, 2013   2 Comments

day 6 – week 3


Once again all of today’s recipes on the “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse are repeats from earlier this week.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you my overall feelings about the cleanse and the recipes.

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February 23, 2013   No Comments

day 5 – week 3

tasty cereal

Nineteen days down of the “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse – only 2 days to go!

Everything on the menu today is a repeat.

There is light at the end of the tunnel!


I’m feeling SO happy this is almost over.

Enough Said.

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February 22, 2013   2 Comments

day 4 – week 3


The dinner meal on this forth day of the third week of the “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse was my least favorite meal of the entire cleanse. Additionally this recipe didn’t make sense. It originally had you start with 1/2 cup cooked rice and 3 cups of water. What? The end result of that would be 1/2 cup of overcooked soggy rice floating around in 3 cups of water! Even starting with uncooked rice, as I did, resulted in a flavorless rice bowl. The recipe also never told you to heat the tofu before adding to the bowl. Oh, it would be so bad if you didn’t.

If you really want to try the recipe, use either the cleaning broth from the first two weeks or vegetable broth…  maybe that would help.


On the plus side – this is the closest thing to a soup this week – and yesterday (when I actually had this for dinner) was the perfect day for it because it was a dark, cold, rainy… and snowy day here in Arizona! Yes, snow in the Valley of the Sun.

The rice bowl is dinner today and is supposed to be lunch again on the final day of the cleanse… not sure I’ll give it a second chance.

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February 21, 2013   3 Comments

day three of week three

buckwheat muffins

The breakfast muffin recipe of the “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse originally made four muffins, that seemed silly, so I adjusted the recipe to make six.

Don’t be afraid when the recipe directs you to fill the muffins to the top, it won’t overflow the papers or spill all over your oven, I promise.

The muffins are surprisingly good and nicely filling.

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February 20, 2013   2 Comments

double trouble



For Day Two of Week Three of the “Detox Cuisine” Cleanse they had you eating the same thing for lunch and for dinner, which I have to guess was a mistake. As a result, I’m improvising and switching out the lunch for the thing that I think sounds best out of all the lunch and dinner meals… TACOS!

Another heads up for today – you have to start preparing your breakfast the night before – happily, I caught that in time.

The original muesli recipe had you soak the oats and dried fruits in 2/3 cup water overnight in the refrigerator. That doesn’t sound very tasty to me, I soaked mine in 1/2 cup almond milk instead. Very tasty!

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February 19, 2013   1 Comment