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Menu and Party Ideas

Wedding Taco Bar Recipes

These are recipes and stories from Cody and Chanté Howard’s amazing wedding weekend in northeastern Arizona over Mother’s Day Weekend in 2018. You may go to this LINK to see the complete taco bar with all the chopped toppings that are not included in this recipe list.

Photo courtesy of griffithimaging.com




Signature Cocktails:

2022 Christmas Potluck Appetizer Party Menu

Tortilla Roll-up Christmas Tree with Salsa

Tuscan Sausage & Bean Dip

Gentleman’s Whiskey Bacon Jam

Pickled Pepperoncini Deviled Eggs

Cranberry Meatballs

Antipasto Squares

Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates

Jalapeno-Cornbread Mini Muffins

Best Ever Stuffed Mushrooms

Smoked Salmon Bites with Shallot Sauce

Cocktails 1

Friday the 13th Dinner Party Menu

We had an absolute ball at this “lucky/unlucky” themed dinner party. Initially, I was going to have a total of 13 attendees. But one of my BFF’s, Anne, wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to make it until the day before. She brought the headcount up to fourteen. Luckily, that worked for the theme too. You see, there are French socialites called Quatorziens (fourteeners), who are available to fill in as a 14th dinner guest to rescue the other 13 attendees from bad luck. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt also believed in this superstition and refused to have 13 guests at dinner parties.

13th collage

Party Theme & Decor

Lucky 13 Pomegranate Cocktail

Black-Eyed Pea Salsa

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

Zucchini-Basil Crostini

Garlic Confit & Chevre on Toasts

Long Noodles with Buttery Garlic Shrimp

Lentil Salad with Wild Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

Grilled Marinated Bavette Steaks

Banana Cake with Boiled Brown Sugar Frosting

Roasted Strawberry & Toasted Coconut Cream Pops

Spring Reunion Menu

This is a fun dinner party I hosted for six. Our dear friends and former neighbors, Jonathan and Lori, were in town for a visit. Lori and Johnathan met our other wonderful friends, Steve and Tram, at Marissa’s wedding, only 4 months earlier, and loved each other as much as we love all of them. So much so, that a couple of months after the wedding, Tram and I took a girls’ trip to Chicago to visit and stay with Lori and Jonathan and had the time of our lives. So, of course, the dinner party was “a must” when they came to Arizona. Not only do you have the menu below but check out this LINK for the tablescape too.


Fresh Fruit Smoked Salmon Spread

Pumped Up Hummus

Lori’s Honey Paloma Cocktail

Jonathan’s Bourbon Lemonade

Layered Fruit and Mozzarella Salad

Grilled Chicken and Asparagus with Creamy Goat Cheese

Grilled Shrimp, Vegetable and Farro Salad

Holiday Potluck Cocktail Party

As I explain in the post about this party, for years I hosted a fun holiday party that all my friends loved and looked forward to. These recipes are from my resurrection of the theme when I hosted the party again in 2015. All of the recipes below are linked to my post about the party …. read about it and then scroll down the post to be linked to each individual recipe. Trust me, it’ll all make perfect sense when you get there.

angry frenchman

Grumpy Frenchman

Meatball Subs On-a-Stick

Creamy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

Herb Cheese Monkey Bread

Caramelized Onion Dip

Parmesan Crusted Crab Cake Bites

Sweet Corn Cake Chorizo Poppers

5 Layer Greek Dip with Fresh Pita Wedges

Avocado Feta Cheese Orzo Salad

Book Page Bridal Shower

Two of my dear friends, Barb and Kim, along with my sister, Sloane, hosted a bridal shower for my darling daughter, Marissa. Marissa has always been an avid reader and has a long and ever-growing list of “must read” books. So, book pages was the theme. I worked on the theme and the decor, while the hostesses put on a scrumptious spread and provided us with a stunning venue. Here are the details from Marissa’s May Bridal Shower.


Shower Overview

Invites and Book Page Table Runner

Vintage Book Succulent Planters

Book Page Crafts and Decor

Clementine and Avocado Salad with Poblano Buttermilk Dressing

Asparagus and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Tart

Prosciutto, Fig & Mascarpone Bruschetta

Roasted Red Bell Pepper & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil Bruschetta

Lemon Glazed Blueberry Bread

Salty-Sweet Butterscotch Cookies

Lemon-Poppy Seed Cookies

Chewy Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

“Milk Bottle” Coffee & Tea Bar Details

“Cocktails & Cupcakes” Bridal Shower

This menu is from Megan’s Bridal Shower. Megan loves cupcakes and what goes better with cupcakes, lovely young women and a beautiful Arizona February after than cocktails? Yes, it was perfection!

Cocktails Cupcakes

Classic Tom Collins

Maple Old-Fashioned

Rojo Sangria

Moscow Mule

Bloody Mary Shrimp Spoons

Korean-Style Meatballs with Sweet and Spicy Glaze

Build Your Own Nicoise Salad

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Toffee Crunch Mini Cupcakes

Maple-Bacon Mini-Cupcakes

Mini-Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Stout and Irish Whiskey Cupcakes with Bailey’s Irish Cream Frosting

Wedding Day Bridal Party Lunch

My beautiful niece, Maureen, was married on New Year’s Eve 2014 in Chicago. I prepared a lite lunch for the bride and her bridal party to enjoy while they were getting their hair and make-up done for the wedding. What an honor and a joy! This is the sort of party where a big neon sign would be perfect to pose in front of for all of those romantic wedding selfies. I didn’t get one this time around, but somewhere like www.neonfilter.com has a huge range of custom neon signs that would be perfect for any couple’s special day.

mo's lunch

Pine Cone Goat Cheese Ball

Raspberry Honey-Mustard Dip for Fruit & Crudites

Individual Frittata Muffins

Asian Chicken Endive Spears

Antipasti Kabobs

“Mad Men” Cocktail Party

These are my top five “go to” hor ‘d oeuvres which I use over and over again, along with an easy “group cocktail”. Coincidentally, each is a sort of updated old-school cocktail favorite, hence, the “Man Men” reference. For the actual cocktails; a full bar is a must, plus a Signature Cocktail to get the party started. Have it ready to hand your guests, at the door, as they arrive. Say something like, “This first drink is on me, after that- you’re on your own, the bar is right here, please help yourself!” I raise my martini to Don Draper and friends.

blue cheese grapes

Lemon Mandarin Orange Champagne Cocktail

Caesar Dip with Crudites

Pigs in a Blanket, Upscale

Spinach Deviled Eggs

Blue Cheese Grapes

Peperoncini Peppers Stuffed with Smoked Salmon

European Dinner Party

This lovely dinner party was for just four of us. Since I don’t enjoy or excel at baking, I didn’t make a dessert. Instead, I bought a few little bites of sweets from Trader Joe’s. If you’d like to add a dessert of your own, I’d suggest this very easy crème brûlée.

Vanilla Pomegranate Sangria

Vanilla-Pom Sangria

Spiced Apple Cider Sangria

Spanish Tapas Plate with Marinated Chickpeas

Brussels Sprouts & Roasted Garlic Crostini

Bitter Greens Salad with Pomegranates & Parmesan

Artichoke Soup

Lamb Shanks with Rustic Potato Topping

4th of July Pot-Luck Pool Party Menu

Here are a few fun, festive and fantastic menus for not only the 4th of July but any summer outdoor gathering!

paper star

The 4th of July Decorations 2016

Rose, White & Blue Sangria

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

Olive & Salami Picks

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Ridiculously Easy Pasta Salad

Watermelon, Basil & Blueberry Salad

Broccoli Raisin Salad

Red White & Blue Berry & Burrata Salad

Grilled Corn on the Cob Three Ways

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Lowcountry Shrimp Boil

Tram’s Famous Key Lime Pies

Mason Jar Lid Hand Pies

All-American Berry-Cherry Flag Pie

Mason Jar Ice Cream Bar

Another Patriot Picnic Menu
Barbecued Chicken with Blueberry Bourbon Sauce
Succotash Salad with Creamy Basil Dressing
Creamy Dijon & Dill Potato Salad
Root Beer Baked Beans
Red, White, & Blue Trifle

Lazy Sunday Morning

If only every morning could be a Sunday morning, how sweet life would be! The big newspaper delivered to the driveway; complete with colored funnies pages. The relaxed attitude and laziness of the day. Are you old enough to remember when all businesses were closed on Sundays? It feels like 10 lifetimes ago, but it’s true all the same. As a tribute to those “good old days” be sure to buy everything needed for this late morning breakfast a day or two beforehand, so you don’t need to run out to the grocery store. Stay home, get the family to take part in the cooking, serving, and clean up. Then lounge around and read a book, play a card game, or watch the football on the tube.


Brown Sugar Bacon

Blueberry Pancakes

Breakfast Potatoes

Juice, Coffee, and Mimosas

Pizza Party

When I think back on what pizza was to me when I was a kid… so much different than now! It wasn’t until I was in 8th or 9th grade that we knew about “delivery” pizza. We never had homemade pizza; didn’t even think about it and wouldn’t have known where to begin even if we had. My only exposure to pizza when I was young, was every once in a while, after my brother’s Little League baseball games. The whole team and their families would gather at a pizza parlor in Scottsdale on Hayden Road near Thomas or McDowell. This happened maybe once or twice a year, that was it for pizza in my life. How things have changed… during college and my own kids’ younger lives, pizza was a mainstay, especially delivery pizza. Now, we forego the chain delivery and make our own. So much so, in fact, that the third post of this very blog was a full pizza menu, CLICK HERE to check that out! Here are some of our family favorites.

my pizza kids

Caribbean Flatbread

CPK Thai Chicken Pizza

Lavash Vegetarian Pizza

Detroit Chop Salad

Chocolate-Hazelnut Pizza

Romantic Dinner for Two

Honestly, a romantic dinner can consist of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti with meatballs, it all depends on the couple, the day, and the mood. But for a special occasion- plan ahead dinner, this one will fit the bill nicely. Beginning with a cool and calming martini, followed by a leisurely salad/tart combo. You could easily stop right there and go directly to the smooth, creamy, scrumptious chocolate dessert; or forge on with the full menu… you decide!

cucumber martini

Cucumber Martini

Artichoke and Olive Tart atop Mixed Greens

Pomegranate Molasses Lamb Chops atop buttery mashed potatoes

Haricots Verts with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Chocolate Pudding, Old-Fashioned

Black Friday Cocktail Party

This is such a fun “girl’s night out” party idea. If you don’t want to have to do all the cooking immediately after the big feast, dole out the recipe to some of your BFF’s and ask them to be your co-hosts. It’s a great way to get together with friends before the “holiday crunch time” really kicks in. Click on the party title above to get some cute decorating ideas too.

hot feta-tomato

Hot Feta and Tomato Spread with Pita Chips

Edamame Hummus with Crudites

Potato, Parsnip, Pear, and Parmesan Shooters

Blue Cheese Marinated Mushrooms

Rustic Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Balsamic Onions

Feta Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper, and Pine Nut Dip

Splits of Freixenet
Red and White Wine

“Over the Top” Birthday Party

This is a birthday party menu for a sit-down dinner for 30. “Over the Top” because of the rich menu and because you’re going to need to have some deep pockets to pull it off.


Avocado-Mandarin Orange Salad (x4)
Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish-Brandy Sauce (x3) and Brandied Mushrooms (x6)
Parmesan Roasted Asparagus (x5)
Balsamic Roasted Red Onions (x6)
Green Onion Parmesan Mashed Potatoes (x6)

Lemon “Nothing Bundt Cakes” birthday cake

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