Potato fest It may be surprising but I had never made aioli before last weekend. Whoa have I been missing out. It’s amazing. And very, very easy.

On Saturday, my girlfriends (Emily, Shannon and Natasha) got together for a “potato fest” dinner. Us four gals get together about once a month and we try to rotate cooking at one of our houses with going out to eat. For the dinners, we often choose a theme and then plan our dishes around that. We’ve had mushroom fest, seafood fest and now potato fest.

Of course potato fest was my idea because I’m pretty much obsessed with potatoes. I rate restaurants based on how good their french fries are. I would choose fries over any dessert any day of the week. Except for when I was pregnant with Juliet. I basically subsisted on cake for 9 months. Ok, not really but I did eat cake a lot.

Potato fest was a bit random but it was sure delicious.

Here is a run-down of our meal (which we really approached more like a bunch of appetizers and sides):

Chorizo hash browns
French fries with garlic truffle aioli (recipes below)
Spiced sweet potato and roasted broccoli toast
Savory spinach and parmesan creme brulee (basically a crustless quiche)
Sweet potato bread

Potato fest I loved the evening light I caught as I was snapping photos of our dinner. 

These sweet potato roasted broccoli toasts were made by Shannon and they were awesome. The recipe was pretty complex and had a lot of great flavor. This was probably one of the favorite dishes of the evening.

We had a few bottles of wine but this was by far our favorite of the evening, a Sterling Vineyards Cabernet. Really delicious. We spent a good half hour trying to recall whether or not we stopped at Sterling Vineyards when we went to Sonoma about 6 years ago. After some Googling we realized we had never been there, but decided it will definitely be on the list for the next trip to wine country.
Potato fest Potato fest Emily made these chorizo hash browns. I really liked these hash browns, the chorizo gave it a spicy, bold flavor. It wasn’t an easy dish though, Emily shredded the potatoes, squeezed out all the excess liquid, browned the chorizo and then cooked it all on the stovetop.

All my girlfriends are really amazing cooks.
Potato fest Natasha cheated and made a dish sans potatoes. But don’t get me wrong, this savory creme brûlée was really tasty. This is a crustless quiche, or even a strata but she got the recipe out of her creme brûlée cookbook, so creme brûlée it is.

Of course I made french fries because my love for fries runs deep. And now that I have made aioli I am more crazy about fries than ever.

Homemade baked, crispy french fries

2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice potatoes into long, thin slices (I leave the skin-on but feel free to peel them if you prefer). In a large bowl, soak the potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes (this removes excess starch and helps them crisp up in the oven). Drain, rinse potatoes one time and then dry well (pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel).

Add the olive oil and toss to coat.

Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and add fries in a single layer (don’t overcrowd).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper (don’t be too modest with the seasoning, fries should be somewhat salty in my opinion).

Bake for about 25 minutes, flipping fries about everything 7-10 minutes. Remove when fries are slightly browned and crispy.

Garlic truffle aioli (recipe adapted Life Ambrosia blog)

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 – 3/4 of a lemon
2 egg yolks (I used organic eggs but for optimal safety use pasteurized eggs)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons black truffle oil

Preparation

In a food processor combined garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, lemon juice, parsley and egg yolks.

Process until garlic is fully minced.

Slowly pour in the olive oil and then the truffle oil until the mixture emulsifies. It should be smooth but somewhat thick. If it seems too thin add a bit more olive oil.

Taste and add more of any of the ingredients that seem lacking (in my experience, this will be obvious. I tasted mine and knew it needed more salt and a little more lemon).

Not surprisingly, us gals were sufficiently carb-loaded and full after our potato fest. But what a fun evening it was.

Do you and your friends have dinner clubs or themed dinners? I’d love to hear about it, please comment and share!

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Spring brunchSpring is in the air, right? Well, maybe not so much. But it’s totally in my heart. I am just willing it to come. We need warm weather. It was 10 degrees when I left the house the other day and it. was. cold. Freezing. And something about that just made me angry and put me in a terrible mood. And I wasn’t the only one. All of us in MN are so sick of the cold. Our bones are permanently chilled.

Ok, enough weather talk. Technically it is spring. And if I can’t feel it in the air at least it can be felt through my entertaining endeavors.

One of the easiest ways to entertain is with brunch. Guests are always happy with a glass of champagne in-hand. I think it’s the bubbles, or maybe the fact that they’re drinking before noon. Either way, brunch is awesome and one of my top favorite things ever in life.

I’m thinking of starting a new content feature that is all about “how to’s” when it comes to entertaining. These posts will provide inspiration for hosting your own parties. They’ll include menu ideas, recipes and decorating tips, all in the Eat Drink Pretty style.

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Mini quiche lorraine{Photo taken with the iPhone 5 and edited using Afterlight}

You most likely know by now that I love quiche. Regular sized, mini quiche, vegetarian, meat-filled, puff-pastry, pie crust, etc. I love all of it. Egg bakes and stratas rank pretty high up there, too. If I ever published a cookbook a quiche cookbook would be at the top of my consideration. It’s so versatile. Of course the obvious brunch entree comes to mind, but quiche works great at dinner as well and it also can be transformed into minis for a cocktail party.

So when my colleague hosted a “Paris at Midnight” themed gathering last Saturday mini quiche lorraine seemed like a great choice. Savory little bites filled with bacon and cheese? Sign me up.

This is an easy recipe that creates a really delicious appetizer. We had a blast at the gathering and the quiche was a hit. In addition to my quiche, we had about 5 baguettes (seriously!), tons of cheese, crepes for dessert, lentil pate and many bottles of champagne. Savory/salty food pair really well with champagne. That’s not obvious but it’s so true. Even potato chips go well with champagne. French fries, too.

Ok, now I’m getting way too hungry. 

Mini quiche lorraine (recipe adapted via iVillage)

Ingredients

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (to keep things easy I purchased already cooked bacon)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
1 15 ounce package refrigerated pie crust
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24 cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray or butter. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yolk and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon each). Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, use a 2 1/2 inch round cutter to cut 24 rounds out of the piecrust (the mouth of a glass works, too). Press the rounds into muffin cups.

Divide crumbled bacon and cheese evenly between the lined cups, then divide egg mixture between cups. Sprinkle oregano between the quiche.

Bake until quiche crusts are golden brown and egg mixture is puffed and completely set in the center, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the quiche to cooler racks. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

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Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothieHappy first day of spring! Can you even believe it? Well the answer for me is, quite frankly, no. It’s still in the 30s in MN and my entire body is craving warmth that only the sun can provide.

Two years ago I was on maternity leave and the weather was amazing. Spring came early to MN and I was outdoors pretty much every day beginning in March. We hit 70 degrees and even had our first BBQ of the season on March 15. The number of picnics and BBQs we had that season were seemingly infinite. It was bliss and pretty much the best 3 months ever with my little babe.

Now that spring is here(?) I’m starting my bucket list for outdoor activities I hope to do. Picnics are always at the top of that list. Looking back at the hundreds of posts in the Eat Drink Pretty archives I found lots of lovely picnic experiences that we’ve enjoyed including:

A picnic at the lake with friends
A picnic during a fun cabin weekend with Erik (this was featured on The Kitchn)
A Mother’s Day picnic in our backyard
The first picnic of the season

I pulled together a list of fun items to help you enjoy your spring picnic from Uncommon Goods, an online marketplace that has tons of creative and high quality items (especially perfect for gifts). Check out all their offerings here for outdoor dining and here for garden goods. There are so many great ideas for sprucing up the outdoor space for all your outdoor entertaining.

Here is a list of items to checkout for your upcoming picnics:

Glassware outdoors is never a good idea so these shatterproof wine glasses and carafe are the perfect solution. If you are hosting a more sophisticated outdoor soiree like a dinner party, these set a much more complementary tone than plastic glasses.

Honestly I’ve never considered doing fondue outdoors but why not? How awesome and fun. This fondue pot’s steel frame protects the burner from the wind. And now my mouth is watering thinking of bread dipped in melty cheese.

Anytime a picnic or outdoor dining is involved we usually have lawn games as well. I love these wine glass holders, you can set your glass down when it’s your turn to throw bean bags and not worry about the glass tipping over in the grass. Anything that conserves wine is at the top of my list.

This wine sack is a covert way to bring wine out in public during your picnic, sign me up. Much less obvious than pouring straight of the bottle. What’s with public drinking being against the law anyway?

This picnic backpack is modern and sleek and includes tablesetting for two as well as an insulated pocket for your food.

Shouldn’t all picnics include a cheese board? I think so. This cheese bark board would fit right into any rustic picnic setting. Cheese and bread is such a simple way to add a little sophisticated to any event.

And no picnic is ever complete without delicious food. You can keep things really easy with sandwiches or spend a bit more time whipping up a pasta salad or bruschetta.

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothieHere is a list of recipe ideas for your spring picnic:

  • Pasta salad with goat cheese and tomatoes
  • Buttermilk pudding cakes (so easy, these are made in muffin tins. Bring a container full of cut strawberries and a whipped cream and build them on-site)
  • Bacon, avocado, turkey and tomato sandwiches – pile all the ingredients onto a rustic bread
  • Caprese skewers (finger foods at a picnic are ideal. So easy and always everyone’s favorite)
  • Bruschetta in a mason jar (easiest recipe you’ll ever find for bruschetta)

And don’t forget your picnic supplies:

  • A picnic basket or cooler
  • Parchment paper: for wrapping sandwiches, breads, cookies, etc
  • Plates/napkins/silverware/glasses: either disposable or reusable if you don’t mind packing up dirty dishes to wash later. Definitely the more environmentally friendly route.
  • A big blanket: your location may have a picnic table but if not a picnic right on the ground works great as long as you remembered your blanket.
  • Hand sanitizer: I love this natural spray from Honest company
  • Phone: no not to check email and social media but to put on music to set the mood.
  • Wine/beer/lemonade/water: I’m a big fan of booze at my picnics
  • Activities: anything from bean bags to a frisbee to a kite for flying with the little ones

Now I’m really itching for a picnic. Perhaps I’ll just bundle up the family and have a spring picnic in the snow? I better be sure to include a thermos full of hot soup!

Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is coming up in less than two months! Uncommon Goods has a ton of great gift ideas like these for you to peruse and then (subtly) drop hints to your partner. It worked for me last December for my anniversary (I got this wood cookbook stand that I wanted and I love it).

Happy spring.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Uncommon Goods. All opinions are my own. 

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Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothieWe love smoothies with a capital L in our house. Almost every morning I whip one up while Juliet waits impatiently yelling “moonie! moonie!”.

I hope she always calls them “moonies”. 

I recently purchased some fresh pineapple from Whole Foods and it was a delicious addition to our smoothies. Pineapple added such a nice brightness and freshness. It was also a nice change from our regular strawberry, banana spinach smoothies.

This bright green smoothie was also perfect for St. Patrick’s Day earlier this week.
Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothiePretty straw from Target

I am always experimenting with smoothie combinations. When I’m on Weight Watchers I like smoothies made with water instead of milk because it keeps them at 0 points, which is awesome. For Juliet’s smoothies I always include milk and sometimes yogurt. If the smoothie doesn’t taste sweet enough I’ll add a little honey or pure maple syrup. The other day I made a simple banana, frozen strawberry, whole milk, yogurt smoothie and Juliet exclaimed “ice cream!”. It was thicker than the usual smoothie so I put it in a bowl with a spoon and she was one happy girl.

Pineapple, banana and spinach smoothie

Ingredients

3/4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular milk)
1 banana
1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple
A couple handfuls of spinach
Few ice cubes

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a blender (if using a high powered blender like a Blendtec add the milk first, followed by the spinach, banana, pineapple and ice) and blend until smooth.

I have a Blendtec Designer Series blender and I love it. In a big way. Full review coming soon.

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Brown soda bread and reuben dipHappy St. Patrick’s Day! Have you already celebrated or is that happening today? The answer is both for me. Erik and I had my family over on Saturday (last minute plans) and I cooked up a storm. And today is the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at work so the chances of much work getting done are not good (the party begins at 11:30am).

I mentioned I had a baking bug last Friday and I seriously spent about 3 hours in the kitchen making:

Brown soda bread, recipe below
Reuben dip (and rachel dip,which just swaps out turkey for the corn beef), recipe below
White cheddar topped shepherd’s pie (one with beef and one with lentils. I followed this recipe pretty closely but swapped chicken stock for the water and added frozen peas)

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