Category Archives: parties

FIESTA THEMED SHOWER spicy cantaloupe margaritas

TA-DA!  Here are some images from the baby shower that Treadmill Mom and I hosted last month.  A lot of our inspiration came from a fiesta themed birthday party featured on Hostess with the Mostess.

In addition to the origami paper banners, we made tissue flowers.  They were so easy and fun to make:

We followed the simple tutorial from MADE, and used floral wire to secure the tissue flowers to bamboo skewers.  They are so bright and cheerful that I can’t bear to take them down yet.

Our mamacita-to-be is having a boy, so we made this pennant (which now hangs in his nursery).  Inspired by Andrea at Strawberry Chic, you can download the alphabet letters from Martha Stewart:

The menu included Smoky Shredded Chicken Tacos (recipe coming soon), homemade Corn and Cheese Tamales, Pineapple Skewers, Mango and Black Bean Salad, Spiced Up Brownies, and Limeade Cupcakes (adapted from the Tasty Kitchen, I substituted limeade for lemonade).

And because every baby shower should come complete with cocktails, we made margaritas.  Inspired by our dinner at The Mission in Scottsdale, Treadmill Mom and I spent approximately a gazillion hours making cantaloupe sorbet for these suckers…. but it was soooo worth it.

SPICY CANTALOUPE MARGARITAS: 

Sorbet:
Following Test Kitchen’s recipe, we stock piled cantaloupe sorbet in our freezers:
1 medium sized cantaloupe, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
Pinch Salt
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP vodka
Process ingredients in food processor until smooth, then refrigerate until chilled.  Pour into ice cream machine and run until it resembles soft serve.  Store in freezer (I used large yogurt containers, sealed with plastic wrap and lid) for up to one week.

Tequila:
Infuse a 750 mL bottle of tequila with one habañero pepper that has been seeded and sliced in half.  Peppers can vary in spiciness, so check your tequila after 5 hours–you may need to remove the pepper as it will get HOT.  Our peppers were duds, so we left them in the bottle and it was fine.

Margaritas (yields two):
6 scoops of sorbet
1/4 cup spicy tequila
1 shot triple sec
4 ice cubes
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Blend until smooth!

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DIY: Origami Paper Banner

Happy freakin’ summer!  Not sure what exactly is in the water, but it is baby-palooza all up in here.  Many of my friends have either just had babies, or are expecting soon.  In early June, Treadmill Mom and I had a blast throwing a “Fiesta Baby Shower” for our dear soon-to-be-mommy friend.  More on that later (insert Spicy Cantaloupe Margarita teaser), but first, here is a sneak peek at one of the decorations that we made.

These banners were sooo easy to make.  Inspired by Martha (who else?!), they came together quickly.  I love the bright colors and fun patterns of origami paper, so I opted for these instead of tissue paper.  Then, I used my herb scissors to cut the fringe along the bottom.

origami paper, herb scissors, glue, tape, twine

STEP 1:   Hold two sheets of origami paper together (patterned side facing out), and fold the top down about an inch.  Dab a bit of glue between the crease and  the twine.  Secure with a clothespin while the glue dries.

STEP 2:  Tape the top edges down, then cut fringe along the bottom of the banner (I used my herb scissors, which made it go very quickly).  DONE!  Bam.  It’s that easy!!

I made about five of these suckers…because I was really crazy in the zone.   Fortunately my “friend”, ahem, went around the house and pointed out all the papers that I forgot to cut fringe into.  Note to self: check your work before the guests arrive.

We found this “Baby Mama” papel picado banner on ETSY.  So.  Fun.

Next up:  tissue flower tutorial and SPICY CANTALOUPE MARGARITAS (seriously….so good).  But first…I’m off to bike camp.  That’s right.  Because I’m twelve.  Adiós…

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LAS TAPAS tortilla de patata

We  just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón for our book club.  If you haven’t read it yet, you are in for a real treat.  I periodically forced myself to put it down, so that it wouldn’t end too quickly.  It’s that good. Ruiz Zafón has artfully woven together a story of suspense, romance, and fantasy that reads like poetry. Oh…and it is set in Barcelona, my favorite city on the planet.  So, it’s no coincidence that I had a mad craving for Spanish tapas while reading this little gem.  As it was my turn to host, I had a good excuse to make a few of my favorite things…

Las flores

El Menú
Almendras  Marcona Almonds
Aceitunas   Jumbo Queen Olives from Andalucia
Pisto Manchego  Roasted Vegetable Purée
Champiñones al Ajillo  Mushrooms sautéed in garlic, olive oil, & dry sherry
Ensalada de Espinacas y Garbanzos  Spinach and Chickpea Salad
Albondigas  Spanish Meatballs in Saffron Sauce
Queso   Assorted Spanish Cheeses (see below for list)
Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet (recipe below)

Pisto Manchego

Los Quesos de España

Los Quesos
Queso Mahón Cow’s Milk Cheese, Mild
Queso Manchego  Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Sharp
Queso Azul de Valdeon Tangy Blue Cheese
Ibérico Curado Cured Sheep & Goat’s Milk Cheese, Sharp

Tortilla de Patata

 Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet
Of all the tapas, this is the one that transports me right back to my dining room in Sevilla.  In Spain, the word tortilla refers to an egg omelet, and they are consumed as midday or evening meals.   The pros cook their tortillas on the stove top (if you’ve spent a summer in Spain, without A/C, you know why), but I’ve had mixed success with this.  I follow the Test Kitchen method of starting it on the stove and finishing in the oven.

8 Eggs
2 Russet Potatoes (small), Peeled
1 Yellow Onion
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
Salt
Flat Leaf Parsley

Using the smallest slicing disk, thinly slice the potatoes and onion in the food processor.  Heat oil in a 10 inch oven proof skillet (no bigger!!!), and sauté the potatoes and onions for ten minutes, until soft, salting throughout.  Beat eggs with one teaspoon of salt, and pour into skillet.  Allow to set around the edges of the pan for about two minutes.  Transfer pan into 425 degree oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the sides puff up, and the egg is done when cut into the middle.  Transfer back to the stove, over medium high heat, and cook until a golden brown crust has formed–use a spatula to peek.  Let it rest for a few minutes, then use a spatula to loosen the tortilla around the edges.  To unmold the tortilla, invert a plate over the pan, then grip both firmly, and flip the omelet on to the plate, browned side up.  Finish with a sprinkle of coarse salt and chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a little vino….

Los Vinos de España

Most of the wines pictured above were less than $20!  Here are some of my favorites:

Vino Tinto  Red Wine
Ergo Tempranillo Rioja
Marqués de Riscal Rioja
Sexto red blend

Vino Blanco White Wine
Albariño
Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo
Cava Spanish Sparkling Wine

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KENTUCKY DERBY INSPIRATION – lemony mint juleps



This particular entry is long overdue, but worthy of a post nonetheless.  A month ago, we celebrated my dear friend’s birthday, Kentucky Derby style–and had so much fun!  The menu was a Southern inspired team effort–and each person brought it!  The fare included: BBQ ribs, mac ‘n cheese, green salad with roasted beets and shallot vinaigrette, cornbread with honey butter–and of course, lemony mint juleps.  Here are some photos from the day, followed by the julep recipe (thanks to teammate Kerry Lee!).  



LEMONY MINT JULEPS from Summer Cocktails by Penelope Wisner
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1 1/2 oz mint syrup *recipe below
1 lemon wedge
1 sprig mint
Fill a highball glass with crushed ice, then add ingredients.  It will produce a small (but STRONG!!!) cocktail.  


*Mint Syrup: 
4 cups sugar
2 cups water 
bring to a low boil, stir to dissolve sugar–about 5 minutes, remove from heat to cool


1 1/2 cups tightly packed mint leaves: 
blanch herbs in boiled water, just til they wilt,  drain immediately then plunge into ice water bath.  Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can, chop coarsely.  


In small batches (to avoid explosions), put hot sugar syrup and chopped herbs into a blender and puree.  Strain into a container and store in the refrigerator. 


PHOTOBOOTH FUN!
As a side note, we also had a kickass, DIY, photobooth (shout out to the boys at Dirty Fingers for donating a huge bicycle box to such a worthy cause).  It provided some serious entertainment….I highly recommend one for your next party!  A few tips to ensure photobooth success: 

  • use a camera that has a remote attachment and tripod
  • props make a huge difference
  • invite fun people to your party
Abide by those simple rules, and you too can witness the following shenanigans: 



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Things we love: BRUNCH!

The best thing about brunch is that everything can be done ahead, so that when the guests arrive,  you can kick back with a mimosa and enjoy the party.  We celebrated the unofficial start of summer by hosting Memorial Day brunch at our house.  Here are some tips for how to roll out of bed in your PJs and host a party: 


Tip #1:  THE DRINK STATION: although coffee and tea were readily available, (oddly) the Bloody Marys and Mimosas proved to be the crowd favorites.  There really is no need to make the Mary mix from scratch when you have delicious, local, all natural Lyle Style Bloody Mary Mix at your disposal–it’s tough to beat!


Tip #2:  SCONES: Flash freeze the scones, then pop them in the oven the morning of.  They taste fresh and the kitchen smells divine!  I made these lemon blueberry scones from scratch, then froze them on a cookie sheet.  They require a high heat for baking (450 degrees), but I turned it down slightly and extended the cooking time so they would not burn.  (*the cookies are the Belgian Butter Cookies from Trader Joe’s–they do not disappoint.)  

Tip #3:  FRUIT. Cut up and pre-wash fruit for the salad but don’t mix with the “dressing” until about 30 minutes before, otherwise it turns to mush.  Honeydew melon, mango, and fresh blueberries mixed with fresh lime juice, zest, and minced crystallized ginger. 

Tip #4:  STINKY CHEESE.  I bought the stinkiest brie I could find and paired it with a rustic baguette and mixed grapes.  Those who couldn’t handle the stinky brie moved on to the soft goat cheese and peach habanero pepper jelly, made locally at the Apple Valley Country Store

Tip #5:  BROIL THE MEAT.  For easy clean up, line a broiler pan with foil and then broil bacon (*we are fans of the thick cut KC bacon from Rosauers Grocery).



Tip #6:  MINI QUICHE.  Always a crowd pleaser.  I’m a big fan of the mix ‘n match aspect of mini quiche–everyone can find something they like.  I made an assortment of sizes and flavors.  I cheated and used frozen puff pastry and frozen pie shells (Trader Joe’s!).  I buttered and floured both standard and mini muffin pans then filled them with the following ratio of milk to egg:  

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
I used biscuit cutters to cut out the dough, formed them into the tins, then sprinkled in variations of  goat cheese or sharp white cheddar, pancetta, fresh herbs, mushrooms, then filled almost to the top with the egg mixture.  I baked them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes (the standard muffin tins required a few minutes longer).  I also experimented with flash freezing and it worked wonderfully!  The morning of, I baked them on a cookie sheet at 375 for around 20 minutes.  I’m happy to report that they didn’t dry out and weren’t watery.  As some of my friends have gluten allergies, I made one tin of crust free mini quiche:  spray the pan with vegetable spray, fill almost to the top with the egg mixture, then add cheeses and toppings.  Bake for slightly less time–until they are puffy and slightly browned on top.  



Finally,  I set the table using a vintage looking water bottle and an old milk jug full of freshly cut lavendar and chive blooms from the garden (inspired by a recent dinner at Sophie’s Restaurant in HR).  
As many of our guests arrived in their PJ’s, I will refrain from posting those pictures(*you guys can thank me later).  With hardly any remaining food and a recycle bin full of bloody mary and prosecco bottles, suffice it to say that a good time was had by all. 

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DIM SUM FOR EVERYONE!



This post was inspired by a recent book club meeting in which we discussed culinary traditions and family recipes that remind us of home.  Last Saturday I had the pleasure of participating in one such tradition with my dear friend, Jamie.  For years, she and her family have gathered in the kitchen to make Chinese steamed buns, also known as Hum Bao.  We shared a fantastic evening of Hum Bao, Sichuan green beans, fried rice, local wine and birthday cake (felicidades, Tara!!!) with our lovely friends.  

At the end of the evening we each broke open a fortune cookie.  Jamie crumbled hers to reveal the following…(of course!)
Jamie, I was honored to take part in your tradition and I am grateful for your friendship. Thank you for sharing this little piece of “home” with us….



Steamed Buns
(Hum Bao)
originally from: Anne & Lou Gehrig
BBQ SAUCE
1 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 lb pork (fatty cut, pork chops work well)
8 tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp peanut oil
4 tbsp oyster sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp green onion, minced
1/2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 cup minced green onion
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
2 pkg Rhode’s Bake N’ Serve Frozen White Dinner Rolls 12 count
Preparation:
Prepare frozen dough as directed on back of package allowing dough to rise for 3-5 hours.
Cut meat into 1″ thick strips.  Place in BBQ Sauce thoughly coating meat. Place meat in shallow baking baking sheet, pour remaining sauce over meat.  Roast in 350 degree oven about 45 minutes.  (Cut into meat to make sure no longer pink in middle.)  Let cool till able to handle, chop meat, including all fatty pieces, into 1/8″ pieces. Place all meat, pan drippings and sauce into bowl.
Prepare green onions and garlic.
Mix cornstarch.
Heat wok to hot.  Add 1 tbsp peanut oil.  When it is hot, add green onions and garlic.  Stir-fry a few seconds.  Now add all chopped meat, pan drippings and sauce.  Thicken filling by adding a little of the cornstarch mixture.  Turn out into small bowl.  Chill thoroughly.
Assemble Buns:
Using raised roll dough makes for about the perfect portion size for buns.  Working with a bit of flour to avoid sticking to counter, flatten one roll of dough with your hand to a rough circle. Work to not handle dough to much to avoid making it tough. Place about 1 tbsp filling in center of circle.  Bring up sides and ensuring that dough is fully sealed, tip: avoid sauce getting on dough at seal point as it will not allow seal to take place.  Turn over (sealed side down), on gernerously floured cookie sheet, allow space in between buns.  Let rise 30 minutes.  Bring a large pot filled 3/4 full to rapid boil. Generously spray bamboo steaming rack with nonstick cooking spray, place buns on rack, make sure they are not touching. Steam 12-15 minutes in bamboo steamer, till dough is fully cooked, dough will look slightly translucent when done.  (Can also be baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.) Will make about 24 buns.
You can also make your own dough:
CHINESE BREAD DOUGH (BAO)
1 tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 cu warm water
1 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 cu white flour
Sprinkle yeast over water.  Add sugar.  Let rest about 5 minutes till dissolved and water has bubbles on top.  Add sugar & stir.  Slowly pour into flour, mixing well.  Turn out onto well-floured board & knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.  Lightly oil bowl.  Turn dough a few times in bowl to cover surface with oil.  Cover with dry towel & let rise until 2X (about 2 hours).  Bread dough is now ready for use after adding 1/2 tsp baking powder.  Incorporate into dough and cut into pieces for use.


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TASTE TRIPPIN’

A few weeks ago my husband and I were invited to arguably the strangest party we’ve ever attended.  We stuffed our faces and consumed many shots.  How does this differ from any other party?!  For starters,  we were eating raw lemon while alternating between shots of balsamic vinegar and/or tabasco sauce.  DELICIOUS, right?!  According to various foodie blogs, “Taste Tripping” or “Flavor Tripping” parties are all the rage.   



“Miracle Fruit” is a berry native to West Africa, which distorts the sweetness receptors in taste buds.  It causes sour foods to taste incredibly sweet (we thought of it as LSD for the taste buds).  Don’t let the Chinese writing on the box fool you,  it’s totally legal.  It may be consumed as a whole berry or in tablet form.  We allowed the miracle fruit tablets to dissolve into our taste buds, then dug into a shmorgishborg of acidic, sour food.  Lemons were definitely the crowd favorite–imagine biting into the sour yellow fruit and tasting nothing short of sweet juicy candy. The trippy effects lasted for nearly an hour. 





In retrospect, it would have been ideal to sample less familiar items prior to taking the tablets.  About a week after the party, we went to our friend’s home and tried the raw unsweetened cranberry juice for a second time and were shocked to realize that it in no way resembled the sugary Ocean Spray type juice we remembered.  Frame of reference is key to taste tripping. 




I know what you’re thinking and the answer is: yes….we did have stomach aches later.  But nothing that would prevent us from any future Flavor Tripping fun.  

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