It’s Game Time, Baby!

With this post, I’m finally caught up after all of my blog difficulties last week. Don’t go expecting every day posts anymore. I know, you’re crushed.

Football season is upon us. To me, it is a time of lazy Sundays on a couch, friends, and of course some pretty fatty though totally delicious comfort food.

Chili. Sliders. Chips and dip. Wings. Pizza. Yum.

To kick off the NFL’s first weekend, I thought I’d share some yummy recipes I saved to make the next time I host a football Sunday.

Always first in my mind at any football gathering: chili.

Here’s a great recipe for a white chicken chili, to change it up from the same old beef and bean chili.

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I’m also a big fan of bite sized snacks for game watching.

These taco cups using wonton wrappers certainly fits the bill.

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As do these pigs in a blanket (easy to make with hot dogs and crescent rolls).

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I also think these buffalo chicken bites are a great idea.

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Way less messy than traditional wings. For ease, make the chicken mixture from scratch, but just use store bought pizza dough (I really like the kind from Trader Joe’s) instead of homemade.

Finally, and probably the easiest of all, set out a ton of chips and a variety of dips.

Dips

Guacamole, salsa, spinach artichoke, chili con queso, taco, etc. Don’t be afraid of store-bought stuff either. I love to cook more than most, but on game day, I spend my time watching the games and not in the kitchen.

I can’t wait for Sunday’s game. Bear Down!

Late Luau

I hosted my annual luau last Thursday. The post title is apt in 2 ways. One, it was a last minute decision to have a luau this year (somehow, the summer got away from me and I almost forgot about it). Two, my blog website has been having issues since last week, and I have been unable to post since last Tuesday night. Finally, it seems to be working again.

Back to the luau. To keep things easy, I set it on a Thursday evening, when my friends and I usually get together anyways.

As it was low key, so are the party details.

First of all, the scaled down party made it’s first appearance in attire. Last year, we wore sun dresses.

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This year, not so much.

For decoration, I re-used the paint chip bunting I made for my start of summer party with Dan’s family last year.

To go along with that color scheme, I dug out some of the leftover paint chips from the bunting project. Using my trusty flower hole punch (also used for the wedding pomanders), I made a bunch of mini flowers.

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I decided to create an ombre-like effect for the table centerpiece using the flowers and some short white candles.

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I originally thought about creating a whole table runner, but (1) punching out that many flowers would take a really long time, and (2) the table is pretty small, so keeping the centerpiece small seemed best. Still, I really like the way it turned out.

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For food, it was mostly potluck. Friends brought veggie/fruit trays, cheese and crackers, and homemade wine. I rounded it out with some fresh guacamole and chips and made coconut brownies for dessert.

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The coconut brownies are quite simple. I started with standard brownies made from a mix (don’t tell anyone). I did liven them up with some vanilla extract and extra baking chocolate, so I guess they’re semi-homemade.

The thing that really made these guys delicious was the frosting (recipe is from here).

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And finally, the drink of choice for the evening: skinny strawberry daquiris.

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I started out with a skinny mix (less sugar added) and some white whiskey. Yes, whiskey. It’s a fine substitute for white rum. Throw the alcohol, daiquiri mix, and ice in a blender and you have a delicious cocktail.

And finally, here’s the obligatory group photo.

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Thanks for a fun night, ladies!

Patio Birthday Party

Monday was my birthday. We celebrated all weekend long.

Dan organized a lovely backyard party in my honor on Saturday night. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

He kept it simple with the decorations. He asked me to gather up all the candles and jars we had, to create a light and non-fussy atmosphere.

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I found clear containers, mason jars, and all of the citronella votives I had on hand. He spaced them around the table, stairs, and patio.

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He also used the patio lights that were already there – both around the railing and in the rafters of the pergola.

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For food, again he kept it simple and went with two different kinds of crostini – proscuitto and goat cheese and peach with bleu cheese. He grilled the baguette and peaches and let the crostini warm on the grill once they were assembled.

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To drink, we had sangria – both red and white.

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Making it was a breeze, and we were able to do it the night before to save some prep time on the day of the party.

The recipe:
2 bottles of wine (red or white)
Chopped fruit (apples, strawberries, peaches)
Splash of lemon lime pop (we used Sierra Mist Natural)

Just add all the ingredients together and let sit over night for best results. I thought we would need to add sugar, but it tasted great even without it.

For dessert, Dan truly outdid himself. He made homemade Italian Ice, following this recipe exactly,

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and Giada’s cranberry pound cake, minus the cream topping, using this recipe.

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I could not have been happier with the way everything turned out. Dan truly outdid himself, and I cannot thank him enough for putting this party together.

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I had a wonderful night filled with good friends, good food, and good wine. What more could I ask for?

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Blind Wine Party

Recently, Dan and I hosted a wine party for our friends. We decided it would be fun to do a wine tasting, with everyone bringing a bottle to share. I had come across the idea of a blind wine tasting, meaning you wouldn’t know what wine you would be tasting, and I thought that sounded interesting. We’re not a group of wine snobs, but the idea that we’d judge a wine just on its taste appealed to me.

So, I set up the wine bar with brown paper bags with numbers on them.

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As guests arrived, I took the wine bottle from them. Without looking at the labels, I put each bottle in one of the bags, and secured the bag with a black ribbon. This way, no one knew which wine they were tasting.

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We went through the bottles, starting with 1 and going through 8. We gave everyone a wine scoring sheet (Dan designed it to match the numbers on the bags), so they could take notes.

At the end of the tasting, you had to rate the wines. Your favorite was #1 and your least favorite was #8. We tallied up the scores, and it turns out, a less than $10 bottle of wine won – The Usual Suspect Cabernet Sauvignon by Big House Wine Company.

Of course, there were prizes. First place received two wine bottle stoppers and second place received some note cards.

With all that wine, I made sure we had some food to put in our bellies too. We had standard fare:

A cheese platter to eat with crackers, salami, and a baguette

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Mini cayenne chocolate bundt cakes with chocolate glaze

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A fruit/nut plate, and a ton of chocolate.

For decoration, I kept it simple and used the wine corks I had been saving to fill the bottom of glass candle holders. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to take photos. Boo.

I also put those spray painted wine bottles to use.

Two greeted you at the door for the “Red & White” party

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and the last one let you know where the wine was.

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Overall, I’d say this party was a success. Next time, I think I would specify whether people should bring a bottle of red or white. Surprisingly, 7 of the 8 guests brought a red wine. Only one person brought a white, and it was a sparkling prosecco. It worked really well that we had mostly red, which made comparisons easier.

Everyone had a fun time, and we turned an eight wine tasting into a four hour affair. We’ll definitely have this party again!

Football Cake Pops

Yesterday was the Super Bowl. We went to a party and brought a dessert to share.

Football cake pops!

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Making them was quite easy. Start with a boxed mix of your favorite kind of cake. We used devil’s food cake. Bake the cake in a 13×9 inch pan, according to the directions. Let the cake cool completely, then crush the cake into pieces – the smaller the better.

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Put a whole jar of your favorite frosting into the crumbs. We used milk chocolate.

Once the frosting and crumbs are incoporated, start forming the footballs. Put the footballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Let the cake pops chill in the fridge. We left ours in for about 30 minutes before we started working with them.

Heat up a bag of chocolate candy melts (we got ours at Michael’s for $2.49) and add some vegetable shortening to make a thin-ish consistency. Take a lollipop stick and dip it into the melted chocolate about an inch deep. Quickly, take a cake pop and insert the stick into it. Go through all the cake pops, allowing the chocolate on the sticks to harden.

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We put the cake pops back in the fridge for another 15 minutes or so to let them chill. A couple at a time, to keep them cold, take the pops out of the fridge and dip them one at a time into the chocolate. Put them in a styrafoam block to harden. 

Once you dip all the pops, and they harden, draw on the laces. I used a writing gel pen. The gel never hardened, but if you want, you can get a kind that will.

Dan went ahead and made a football field out of the green styrafoam block we used. He used puff paint to draw the yard lines and the logo for each team in the end zone.

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Though we made football cake pops, the procedure would be the same for regular cake pops. Just make them sphere shaped instead of football shaped.

These were a big hit at the party. I see myself making cake pops again, most likely by request, in the near future.

 

Big Family Dinner

I know, we just had Thanksgiving. That was a big family dinner. But in my family, another big dinner comes the day after Thanksgiving, on Black Friday. See, Dan and I still split Thanksgiving, spending time with both our families. But when you add in drive time, we don’t get to spend a ton of time with either family. To make up for it, we’ve started the tradition of hosting my parents for dinner the day after Thanksgiving, and we’re sure to see Dan’s family again over the weekend, to celebrate our niece’s birthday.

On the day were many people are out fighting for the best deals, Dan and I enjoy a leisurely morning without waking up to the sound of an alarm. We make a good breakfast, have some coffee, and stay in our pajamas most of the day. The part of the day I enjoy most of all is the decorating. Dan brings the Christmas decorations up from the basement and I spend the day putting out all the decorations like the the handmade poinsetta wreath I was given at my wedding shower, the teeny tree my mom gave me when I lived in my first apartment, and the sparkly ornaments that were always on my tree when I got home from college. Then, once all the smaller decorations are out, we turn to the tree. We put the Elf DVD on and took our time putting the ornaments on the tree. Many of our ornaments are the ones that were given to me growing up, so most have special meaning for me.

Once the house is glowing with Christmas spirit, we turned our attention toward starting dinner. When planning the menu, I tried to keep in mind that with the holiday season comes a ton of bad for you food – the cookies, the creamy appetizers, and all the dinners out with friends from out of town. To offset the food gorge I knew was sure to come, I tried to keep the meal we prepared reasonably healthy.

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We had scalloped potatoes,

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roasted parmesean green beans,

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and the main dish of zucchini and mozzerella chicken rollatini.

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None of these dishes tasted like they were made to be “skinny,” but they were.

We had a great dinner together.

Let the holiday season begin!

A Lovely Book Club Brunch

Every two months or so, my sorority sisters and I meet for book club. I’ll admit that at first, I was skeptical about our ability to keep up our book club meetings. But, it’s been almost a year since we started, and we’re still going strong.

Last weekend, it was my turn to host. The day that worked best for us was a Sunday, so we decided to meet for brunch. I usually end up making a ton of food for get togethers, so this time I tried to keep it low key.

The Menu:
Summer Pizza
Trix Treats
Mini Pancake Skewers
Bacon and Egg Cups
Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Pita Chips (made by the fabulous Ms. Erin)
And juice, coffee, and cucumber water to drink
 

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You remember the summer pizza from the multiple celebrations shindig Dan and I threw for his family back in June. Same summer pizza recipe, different veggies. This time, we used red bell pepper, green onion, celery, and carrots.

The Trix Treats was a new recipe for me, which I found here. It’s made sort of like Rice Krispie treats, except these are in ball form. They were pretty cute, though I did have some trouble with some of them staying together.

The Mini Pancake skewers were nothing difficult. This dish was all about presentation. I whipped up about a cup of pancake batter and made teeny tiny pancakes. Then, just stick through a skewer and drizzle with syrup.

The trickiest dish was the Bacon and Egg cups. Dan had seen the recipe and knew he had to try it.

Start by frying up some bacon. We used the whole package. Pheebs ate the three or so leftover pieces.
 

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Once the bacon’s done, spray some muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray and line them with bacon. We used one piece on the outside and a small piece on the bottom.

Crack an egg (try not to break it) and put it in the center of the bacon lined muffin tin. Top with your favorite kind of cheese (we used a mix of goat and cheddar), thyme, salt, and pepper.
 

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Bake at 400 degrees for about fourteen minutes, turning the pan at seven minutes.

Immediately take the cups out of the tin. If you’re using a non-stick pan, be sure to use a plastic knife to avoid scratching your pan. Serve hot.
 

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I almost forgot to serve these! Dan to the rescue. That’s why, in the shot of the table that my fellow book-clubbers told me to take (for my blog post, of course), the Bacon and Egg Cups are missing. Oh well.

I didn’t forget about the fruit salsa. It was really yummy. A big thank you to Erin for making it!

And finally, a quick note on the bunting I made. I cut some squares out of a piece of newspaper, hold punched a flower on each, then strung the paper onto some twine. Easy, and very book club theme appropriate.
 

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Looking forward to the next meeting, ladies!