What “they” say is proving more and more to be true. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it applies to my planned appetizer tray for our small at home New Year’s Eve celebration. The crowd loved it at Thanksgiving so much it has been requested for our New Year’s Eve culinary celebration.
Simple works, and thank the entertaining gods it does! Seafood dip picked up from the deli, pita chips, white cheddar Melba toast, and port wine and pepper jack cheese balls will start the hors d’oeuvres ball drop. I found the recipe for Fireside Cheese Spread over at Taste of Home and it looks like it will be a delicious addition to the lineup.
We will be having a rather laid back celebration this year with good music and great company.
That’s our house blend. My crystal ball tells me the combination will go well with a pepper jack cheese ball, spiced pecans, dates and a newly discovered treat, sweet potato tortilla chips. What holiday cheers do we have here?
Pomegranate Fizz Cocktail
2 cups of pomegranate juice
¼ cup of grenadine
1 bottle of champagne
mint and pomegranate seeds for garnish
In cup, combine your juice with grenadine and set to the side. When you are ready to serve, pour mixture into a glass and top with champagne. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint
Here’s a celebration saver tip for when the bubbly isn’t so bubbly:
If the champagne goes flat it’s a raisin to the rescue! Before pouring, drop a raisin into the champagne bottle. The carbon dioxide adheres to the raisin and it’s Don Ho time. Tiny bubbles, get it?
What are your plans for ringing in the New Year?
The time is now to mull over the Thanksgiving dinner holiday checklist. This most wonderful time of year that should be embraced for what it is- a time to eat, drink, decorate, table set, and celebrate with family and friends.
From kitchen to turkey to table, the more Thanksgiving dinner holiday checklist help I can offer, the merrier and less holiday rushed things will be.
A holiday checklist comes in holiday handy, and is the hostess gift that keeps on giving.
And away we holiday go…
I’m sure to some extent you’ve been in recipe and menu planning mode already.
There’s no time like three weeks out from Thanksgiving to decide which recipes you want to make.
Narrow down what dishes you can realistically pull off without having a culinary nervous breakdown.
Adopt an out with the old to make room for the new. Clean out accordingly in order to make room for grocery items coming to a refrigerator, freezer, and pantry near you.
Begin picking up non-perishable items, spices needed, dry goods, and any kitchen tools or cookware while shopping.
Grocery ads are beginning to look a lot like Thanksgiving dinner sales, and kitchen items are popping up on sale as well.
Creating a handsome holiday table and finalizing the scrumptious dishes worthy of c’est si bon distinction is the objective.
Plan, tweak, adjust, set, and finalize the menu and the tablescape.
Delegate and Dish
Don’t be a holiday hosting hero.
Say yes to the offers of what can I do-what can I bring.
Make a list of who’s bringing what, and thoughtfully delegate and dish from there.
Take an inventory of the pantry staples, spices, seasonings, and required recipe ingredients you will need.
Make out your grocery list.
Bookmark store ads and coupons on your mobile device.
Add the finishing touches to your selected tablescape theme.
Stake out the vases, rose bowls, trays, dough bowl, or clear glass jars you’ll be using for centerpieces and spot arrangements.
Take a count of the number of candles you will need.
If you will be using new or on hand LED candles, make sure you’ve got plenty of batteries.
Take inventory of table linens, cocktail napkins, china, glassware, flatware, and serving pieces.
Iron the napkins, polish the silver, and dust the lighting fixture(s).
I’ve been known to replace the chandelier and light bulbs as a proactive holiday hostess “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” Murphy’s law defense.
Ready. Set. Go to the grocery store for the turkey and non-perishable food items.
When deciding on how big of a turkey to purchase, allow 1 to 2 pounds of meat per person.
Make sure your roasting pan is large enough to fit turkey.
If you don’t already have one, now is the time to purchase a meat thermometer to help take the guesswork out of when the bird is done.
What’s for dessert?
Easy hacks to take a cake or pie from store bought to homemade include a generous drizzle of caramel ice cream topping over a Dutch apple pie.
Top a pumpkin pie with mini marshmallows, sprinkle with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, and bake off in the oven until marshmallows melt.
Spike up the taste of a pecan pie by topping with bourbon whipped cream.
Bourbon Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon bourbon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
In a medium bowl, add whipping cream. Beat on medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add bourbon and maple syrup, and beat until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Select serving pieces.
Perhaps it’s time for a new cake plate or tiered tray to add to this year’s holiday finery.
Plan the beverage menu and stock the bar.
Prep dishes, flatware and stemware.
Take a chair inventory.
Aunt Myrtle’s disco decor days have gone the way of avocado green appliances, wall-to-wall shag carpet, and the Merry Mushroom dinnerware straight out of the housewares department at the local Sears.
Her get down tonight may not be able to get up today if she is forced to sit in the bean bag chair from the kids playroom.
Know your audience, friends.
Buy, borrow, or rent the extra items to meet your holiday hosting needs.
Fill salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl and artificial sweetener dish.
Remove turkey from freezer and place in refrigerator to begin the thawing process.
Curb appeal doesn’t take a holiday.
Lawn and garden for your holiday gathering by cutting, edging, clipping, blowing, and prettying up the porch, walkway, patio, etc…
Clean house accordingly.
Decorative baskets and storage cubes come in mighty handy as a stylish storage solution.
So do closets.
Let’s keep it real here, folks- time and tidiness is not always on our side.
Open up a closet (or two), throw the stuff in it, and come back another day and redistribute.
Transfer the frozen items prepared in advance, baked goods, and pie dough/crusts from the freezer to the refrigerator.
Take inventory of holiday hospitality guest room essentials.
Clean and stock guest bedrooms and bathrooms with fresh linens and paper goods.
You know that lightly damp dishtowel left over from last night’s KP duty?
On your way to the laundry room with it, hit the holiday table and chairs dusting high notes.
Two tasks taken care of with one swipe.
Set out candles, arrange centerpiece, set table with linens, place mats, chargers and place cards.
Peel and chop up onions, bell pepper, garlic, herbs, and root vegetables. Place in plastic storage bags or airtight containers and store in the refrigerator.
Make cornbread for dressing.
Let the dessert baking begin!
Cakes really do taste better the next day.
All the flavors and spices get in there and do their thing, bringing forth the next day flavor c’est si bon.
Set out hand soaps or refill dispensers and place a new roll(s) of paper towels in the holder(s).
When it comes to paper towels in the holiday kitchen, the more the merrier rule of spills and splatters applies.
Life and the holiday kitchen is messy.
Grab a paper towel and clean it up.
Set out dinnerware, glasses, serving pieces, dishes, bowls and platters.
Turn over or cover with dishtowels until next day.
Take turkey out of refrigerator, season to taste, and place in roaster.
Approximate roasting time for a thoroughly defrosted 12-14 lb. unstuffed turkey is 3-3 ½ hours roasted at 325°F until done.
About a half hour before the turkey’s finished, take it out of the oven.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.
You’re looking for a temperature of 170 degrees F.
Allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to saturate the meat evenly.
Prepare other side dishes, salads, and desserts while turkey is roasting.
Prep coffee maker for after dinner coffee.
Take a deep breath.
Remember to enjoy the beauty, food, fellowship and fruits of your holiday labor of love!
Sufferin’ summer succotash salad! If you like baby Lima beans, fresh corn, tomatoes, red onion, the Cajun trinity better known as onions, bell pepper and celery, mayonnaise, garlic, fresh parsley, salt and pepper have I got a cold salad recipe for you! Summer Succotash Salad is fantastic. I prepared it for our 4th of July celebration last year, and the flavors lit up our culinary celebration like the 4th of July! With that tasty memory in mind on this first weekend of summer guess what was on the Places In The Home dinner menu? This salad brings its flavor A game to the table with chilled fresh ingredients and a marriage of flavors that complement the tastes of the summer season.
Succotash Summer Salad
1 12 ounce bag frozen baby Lima beans
6 ears fresh corn, husked
1 ½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 large red tomato, chopped
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½-1 teaspoon fine black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Cook baby Lima beans according to package directions; drain and cool.
Boil fresh corn until tender.
After allowing corn to cool, cut kernels from the cobs.
Chop the Cajun trinity also known as green onions, bell pepper, and celery to desired thickness.
Chop the red onion, red tomato and fresh parsley to desired thickness. Halve grape tomatoes. Place all in large mixing bowl.
Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and mayonnaise. Stir all ingredients together to coat.
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
It’s that time of year again to get the summer party started with outdoor entertaining tips.
Outdoor areas dressed out for backyard grilling and chilling take center stage this time of year.
Are you ready for spending quality time in the backyard on the patio, porch, courtyard, or deck entertaining and enjoying the summer?
I know I am!
Here’s a few outdoor entertaining tips for getting the summer essentials prepped and ready to go.
To deter bacteria from finding a home in the cracks and on the cutting surface, wash the block or board with mild dishwashing detergent and warm water.
Allow the butcher block or cutting board to completely dry.
Cover the butcher block or cutting board with a thin layer of coarse salt to draw residual moisture out of the cracks.
Wipe of excess coarse salt and use a clean cloth to apply mineral oil, rubbing with the grain.
Let dry overnight.
Searching for an easy and inexpensive grill degreaser?
Try baking soda and a steel wool pad.
Apply elbow grease and voilà!
Keep the comfort and color, lose the mold, mildew, and dirt with a solution of 2 teaspoons borax, 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid, and 2 quarts warm water.
Mix and pour solution in spray bottle.
Liberally spray each cushion down with solution and allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes.
Hose off cushions with water hose and hang from clothes line or stand up to dry.
The heat and humidity will melt those ice cubes soon enough, but with flavored ice cubes watered down beverages retain their deliciousness.
This is so simple- fill ice trays 3/4 full with the beverage of choice and freeze.
Take the taste to the next level by adding fresh mint to iced tea or punch cubes, rosemary sprigs to lemonade, pearl onion or halved seasoned green bean to Clamato for bloody marys, or a blend of cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and strong coffee for iced coffees.
Grab the blender (or food processor) and purée watermelon slices or fresh strawberries for a summer kick over watermelon or strawberry flavored ice cubes.
Weeds between patio pavers, bricks, and deck boards are unsightly summer sights.
Let the sun shine in and down on weeds that have been sprayed with a solution of 1 gallon white vinegar, ½ cup of dishwashing liquid, and 2 Tablespoons salt.
Fill a spray bottle with the mixture, set to stream, and spray the mixture on the weeds.
This works best on a warm and sunny day.
The heat from the sun aids in the process.
Talk about buzz kill!
Keeping these pesky uninvited guests away is outdoor priority number one.
Citronella candles, tiki and table top torches, and decorative lanterns come in a wide assortment of styles, sizes and price points.
No, it’s a dryer sheet!
Strategically placed in an apron pocket, under table linens, or pinned to the corners of a tablecloth, dryer sheets help to keep bees at bay.
Enjoying the summer good life can get messy, sticky, sweaty, and smelly.
Hand sanitizer and wet wipes work well, but I also like to make individual “freshen up with a twist” packs.
Place two damp paper towels in a Ziploc bag – one with a drop of liquid soap (I love the fresh scent of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Lemon Verbena Liquid Soap) on it for cleansing, and the other for rinsing.
Include a slice of lemon for an extra twist of fresh.
Lemon softens your skin and is a natural odor eliminator.
Place the packs in a gallon Ziploc bag, seal it tight, and place it in a lunch tote or outdoor fridge to keep them nice and cool.
Getting things ready for spending time outdoors entertaining and enjoying the best of summer goes with the backyard territory.
My friends, summer is making its presence known.
Get summer ready, get outdoor entertaining prepped, and go!
Stress free holiday entertaining ideas put the merry in a holiday good time.
From the planned casual holiday soiree to the not so planned we saw your lights on holiday surprise drop-in, these stock items can cut the stress, welcome guests, ward off the holiday bah humflubug, and make things festive.
Let me share with you some of the staples I keep on hand and filed under tried-and-true stress free holiday entertaining ideas.
It’s not only the holidays, but the cold and flu season as well.
Votive candles instantly add that cozy and homey feel to the setting.
I don’t know if it’s the warmth they exude or the soft glow, but votive candles create a relaxing atmosphere.
Stock up on these home decor and entertaining staples.
Put out the welcome mat.
Head off mud, slush and dirt at the door.
Festive need not be expensive.
The package sells the product, and a festive presentation impresses the harshest holiday critic.
My darling maternal grandmother taught me through her gracious example.
She loved Lady Borden Vanilla ice cream- her signature dessert offering.
She lived alone, and with single serving sizes not yet on the market, the large container ice cream would often fall victim to freezer burn.
What the ice cream lacked in taste was more than made up in serving presentation.
She always served two scoops of Lady Borden Vanilla in a glass sherbet dish accompanied by a sterling silver spoon.
A simple coffee or decorative holiday mug from the dollar store filled with hot cocoa and garnished with a peppermint stick and marshmallows or red hot apple cider garnished with a cinnamon stick is holiday comfort in a cup!
I recommend preparing this recipe for homemade marshmallows while listening to the ever fitting Christmas classic “A Marshmallow World” performed by the ever cool Dean Martin.
Marshmallows (French Laundry)
3 envelopes of unflavored Knox gelatin
½ cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dredging
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Soak for 10 minutes.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and incorporate into mixture. Scrape into a 9 x 9-inch pan lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: Lightly oil hands and spatula or bowl scraper). After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of plastic wrap and press mixture into the pan.
Let mixture sit for a few hours. Remove from pan, dredge the marshmallow slab with confectioners’ sugar and cut into 12 equal pieces with scissors (the best tool for the job) or a chef’s knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners’ sugar.
Yield: 12 large marshmallows
Baby, it’s cold outside.
I pick up inexpensive fleece throws when I find them on holiday special.
This little touch of homey and cozy is a big hit with our guests as we celebrate the holiday moments of our lives.
Tie them up with raffia,
attach a holiday gift tag,
and place them in a basket.
The inexpensive fleece throws make a nice holiday “from our home to yours” parting gift.
Hand them out to your guests to ward off the chill while watching a classic holiday movie or hanging out listening to holiday music.
Let’s not forget that a holiday playlist queued up and ready to shuffle is always a hit.
Holiday get-togethers as well as the unexpected drop in visit often turn out to be a stress free and fun time.
The Places In The Home summer salad series continues with a chilled salad recipe perfect for summer. This recipe for Chilled Black-Eyed Pea salad will not disappoint.
Chilled Black-Eyed Pea Salad
2 cups dry black-eyed peas
6 cups water
1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fine black pepper
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
Wash black-eyed peas. Drain black-eyed peas and place in a deep pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil.
Drain off the water, add fresh water and return to burner. Add powdered chicken bouillon flavor, garlic powder, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and cover with slight vent. Cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain off water and place peas in a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool.
Chop bell pepper, celery, onion, green onions, tomatoes, and parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and additional pepper to taste.
Pour into the vegetables and gently fold all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
I like a little salad with my pepper.
Serving trays have been on my mind over the past few weeks. One tends to give quite a bit of thought to food and drink presentation as she finds herself up to her spices during the season of cocktail parties, holiday open houses, and treat trays for neighbor and friends. When it comes to entertaining and presentation, I take a mental inventory of the formal or informal aspect of the occasion. Pulling out all the stops with the bells and whistles on the frou-frou presentation express is more in line with the treat trays given for corporate gifts than with the cookies, candies, and hot coffee industrial sized goodie trays prepared for Dave the Builder and his engineering c0-w0rkers. You’ve got to know your audience and the serving trays with style that corresponds to said audience.
These serving trays with style fall somewhere between festive, fun and fabulous. That latter point is beautifully made by this Croco serving tray.
Designed by designer Ibride, this large rectangular serving tray serves a whimsical take on artistic interpretation.
An all occasion choice that can be dressed up or dressed down, acrylic trays are a clear and chic choice.
Vintage maps and drawings from Home Decorators Collection make excellent conversation pieces with stylish functionality.
Antique serving trays of tole, toile and paper mache material, style and provenance from Charish.
Sips and snacks by the sea nautical themed decorative wood serving tray with handles sets an elegantly casual mood.
Is it a gorgeous statement piece or impressive serving tray? The beauty of rose quartz paired with gold leaf makes it both.
This trough style tray serves two purposes in my opinion, one as tray and the other as centerpiece.
These designer inspired serving trays from Bellissimo are fabulous by design and designer.
A toast to casual formality fittingly describes this set of La Maison Du Chiarello Wood/ Metal Serving Trays fit for a late afternoon sip and style spread.
Going pink Flamingo is always in season! It can be twenty below outside, but the mood and the vibe will warm right up when a Flamingo themed serving trays comes to meet, greet and serve good eats!
Food presentation is indeed an expression of artistic talent.
Outdoor entertaining tablescapes and cocktail carts are made for the casual and fun look of galvanized metal. These galvanized goodies from Pottery Barn keep the mood causally chic.
Unique serving trays with style add yet another element of visual flair to the art of food and beverage presentation.
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