My girlfriends, Libby, Kristin and I have “dinner club” every so often. That basically just means we get together at each other’s houses and make a fabulous meal and drink wine. Dinner club used to be weekly but us gals get busy! So lately it has been monthly.

Well I am very excited for our dinner club this evening and we’re testing the “Lavanda”, a pretty, pretty cocktail recipe I found in a recent issue of Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine. The recipe calls for dried lavender which I found at Penzey’s spices in Uptown Minneapolis. I don’t know if there is anything as lovely as lavender, it smells delicous and I am sure will taste even better infused into this drink.

Here is the drink and the recipe as seen in the magazine (photo credit Everyday with Rachel Ray).
Lavanda (aka the prettiest drink ever)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon fresh lavender leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried lavender leaves), plus 1 sprig for garnish
3 tablespoons gin (I am NOT a big fan of gin, so I will be substituting vodka instead)
Ice cubes
Prosecco, chilled
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/4 cup fresh lavender leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried lavender) and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Let cool. In a shaker, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon fresh or dried lavender leaves, the gin and 1 1/2 tablespoons lavender syrup (reserve the remaining syrup for another use); muddle, using a wooden spoon. Add ice cubes and shake. Strain the mixture into a champagne flute and top with prosecco. Garnish with the lavender sprig.
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My friends/coworkers, Siobhan, Diane and I had a fabulous lunch on the patio at Masa last Friday. Masa is an upscale Mexican restaurant on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. With the economy in the tank, I have had a pretty strict “no dining out” policy for the past few months. It hasn’t been a huge deal since I love to cook, but every once in a while I miss being waited on and not having to do the dishes.

As I mentioned in a couple posts below, Siobhan is moving to another country (Colombia to teach English) which means opportunities to sit on a patio during lunch with her are dwindling (ps. Siobhan if you are reading this PLEASE DON’T GO!!).

So when the weather was sunny and perfect last Friday we agreed to an outdoor lunch. We chose Masa because we recently discovered it has a great lunch special that they don’t advertise on their website. Since most people are on a budget these days, good deals are a must! The lunch deal they have is a “choose 3 for $10” that includes tacos, mango salad, a green salad, guacomole, tortilla soup and tortas. Lunch also comes with complimentary tortilla chips with delicious tomatilla salsa.

Siobhan loves ceviche and ordered that. She said it was great.

Photo credit: Masa’s website

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“Tea tempers the spirit and harmonizes the mind, dispells lassitude and relieves fatigue; awakens thought and prevents drowsiness.” (Lu Yu, 5th Century Chinese Poet)

Do you ever do something you’re not looking forward to and it ends up being a lot of fun? That was my experience with “Spring Tea” at my mom’s church last Sunday. She called up all the women in my family and invited us, how can you say no? So we went; my mom, aunt, sister and sister-in-law and actually had a great time. The tea was delicious, the dainty tea sandwiches were adorable and yummy and the scones were homemade. We laughed a lot and had some solid bonding time. Overall, there must have been at least 80 women at this tea and some even wore hats and brought in their own intricate tea cups!

Needless to say, it inspired me to think about hosting a tea get-together at my house with all the ladies and I can try my hand at making tea sandwiches and different herbal teas. I guess you really don’t always need wine and cocktails…

Here is the menu from the “Spring Tea”

Dainty tea sandwiches
– Chicken cashew
– Egg salad
– Cucumber triangles
Strawberries and grapes
Cream scones with devonshire clotted cream (I have no idea what this is but it was freaking awesome) and lemon curd
Trifle
Tea by the pots

Here are some (not so great) pics from our tea time.

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There is something really special about sitting at a dinner table with good friends, good food and plenty of wine. Especially when it is with a dear friend who is about to move to another country, which definitely added a bittersweet note to the evening.

Siobhan and I met a little over three years ago when she got a job at the advertising agency I work for and was seated in the work station next to me (that is really just a fancy word for cube). We instantly bonded over a love of happy hours and cooking. One of my first memories with Siobhan included frying plaintains with a delicious cilantro oil dipping sauce.

Siobhan is an amazing cook. She cooks with a lot of patience (the bolognese sauce below simmered for hours and hours) and a lot of flavor. Some of my favorite meals are ones that she cooked for me, not only because they are delicious but because they always include a lot of wine and great heart-to-heart conversations.

In addition to the bolognese sauce, Siobhan made a spring green salad with homemade vinaigrett and bought fresh pasta from Broders, a pasta bar in Minneapolis.

The recipe for the amazing bolognese sauce is from Food Network’s Tyler Florence.


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Did I mention how much I absolutely love weddings? Planning weddings, attending weddings, reading wedding blogs, contributing to wedding forums and community boards…ever since I got engaged in September 07 I have been pretty much obsessed with weddings.

Yes, yes, weddings are really about love, the coming together of two people, etc. That’s all lovely and nice and don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband, but for us the wedding was also about entertaining and throwing a darn fun party. And if you are anything like my husband and I, we LOVE throwing a good party. Just ask us about our annual summer BBQ bash complete with a hot dog eating competition (we’ll save that for another post).
Back to weddings, one thing I loved so much about wedding planning was determing the menu. Wedding food is so…pretty and tasty, gone are the days when you go to a wedding expecting a bland chicken buffet dinner.
We chose the University Club of St. Paul as our venue, partly because it was big enough to hold the masses (we invited the entire world to our wedding, well, at least the entire city of Napoleon, ND), it was a beautiful space and they have a great reputation for serving great food.
Here is the menu from our wedding day plus some pics, photo credits to Sewell Photography.
Alcohol
Champagne with raspberries/wine/beer/cocktails
Butler-passed hors d’oeurves
Roast tenderloin of beef with garlic croutons and roasted red pepper mayo
Moroccan chicken tenders with spicy tomato sauce
Shrimp skewers with mint pesto
Salad
Mediterranean Bread Salad
Crisp greens tossed with focaccia, roma tomato, red onion, pepperoncini, black olives, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinaigrette
Entrees
Charred New York Strip Steak (12 oz), Poblano chili cream, scallion mashed potatoes, baby carrots and roast corn pico
Breast of Chicken, chardonnay chive sauce, stuffed with spinach-truffle mousse, rosemary roasted potatoes, bouquet of vegetables
Vegetarian open-faced ravioli, balsamic tomato jus, tri-colored pasta sheets layered with shiitake mushrooms, baby artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, braised leeks, spinach, asparagus and feta cheese
Dessert
Wedding cake

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My girlfriends and I created the Slender-tini a couple years ago when I was on my 80th Southbeach diet kick and I trying to go lo-carb. The diet sucked and I am no longer a fan of Southbeach but the Slender-tini was one good thing that came from it.

I’m sure this is a fairly common drink, so I am by no means taking credit for it. If you haven’t tried it, you must, it is a favorite among my girlfriends and I because is it low-sugar/low calorie and delicious. The inspiration is the Cosmopolitan. Every girl loves a good Cosmopolitan, right? Well, sometimes for me they are a bit too, vodka-y and sweet. And sometimes you take that first sip and think to yourself, it’s going to be one of those “one and done” nights out.

Slender-tinis (it’s not really a martini, more a cocktail, but we always drink them out of martini glasses and they are PRETTY!)

1 shot of vodka, about 1.5 fluid ounces (good vodka like Grey Goose or one of my new favorites, Prairie-it is organic and made in MN)
2 fluid ounces of club soda
Splash of light cranberry juice
lime slice

Put all ingredients into a martini shaker with lots of ice and then strain into the glass with the lime. Drink and be fabulous!
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