Thursday, December 19, 2013

A tasteful holiday + a Nespresso giveaway

NespressoI am pumped about the HUGE giveaway in this post. Be sure to scroll down to enter for your chance to win one of these beautiful Nespresso machines!

Last Saturday I hosted a cookie baking party. There were five of us gals, two toddlers and one newborn. We had a busy, fun day. And while the day was far from successful from the baking perspective, it was an awesome time laughing and hanging with friends.

Isn't that what the holidays are really about? Celebrating with friends (and family) and laughing through all the chaos that the holidays bring? In our case chaos came in the form of one cookie baking disaster after another. I loved that we were able to laugh our way through the day and have a great time. The holidays can be stressful and I've learned to embrace the imperfections along with all things merry and bright.

Now onto the really good stuff. 

Nespresso contacted me to partner with them on a post to share my thoughts on what a Tasteful Holiday Season means to me. I already had this cookie baking party planned and I thought an espresso table would go nicely with all the treats we would be baking up that day.

I covered a small table with a festive, red tablecloth and added a small chalkboard to label the drink offerings. I lined up coffee mugs, the Nespresso machine, coffee capsules displayed on a small cake stand and chocolate wafer cookies as an accompaniment to the coffee.

To add a little sparkle I lined the back of the table with holiday lights. They provided a lovely glow especially as the day turned to evening.

NespressoI received a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso machine plus the Aeroccino milk frother a week ago and I've made a latte every day since. I am a huge lover of coffee (did you know that I used to be a barista for a short stint in my mid 20s?). I drink coffee each morning. It starts my day off right and my caffeine need is real and it maybe is weird to say but isn't caffeine such a beautiful thing? Warming my hands on a hot mug of coffee...well, that just may be one of my favorite things ever.

I'm no fan of stopping in the coffee shop every day and spending all that money on an espresso drink. But I still enjoy a latte every once and a while and always view it as a special treat. Now that I have this this Nespresso I can enjoy a latte every. single. day. And in just about 30 seconds I have a smooth cup of espresso and perfectly frothed milk. And the Aeroccino froths almond milk wonderfully. I tend to add unsweetened vanilla almond milk to my coffee but let me tell you that frothed almond milk takes things to a whole new level.

Make your way to the end of this post because I am giving away a Pixie Aluminum Nespresso plus an Aeroccino milk frother to one lucky reader. This is a huge value of $330!
NespressoOther than making really lovely cups of espresso, the machine itself is beautiful. The design is sleek and small and seriously competes with my Kitchen Aid Mixer as one of the prettiest kitchen appliances that I proudly display on my counter top.
NespressoHow awesome are these? My friend Sarah brought over adorable hot chocolate, marshmallow and Bailey's in a mason jar to pass out as favors. These make awesome hostess gifts. They were a very nice touch to the coffee table set-up.
NespressoIn addition to baking a cookie recipe, each of us provided an appetizer to share. Sarah brought this delicious shrimp and avocado salad and Libby brought hearty lasagna dip with bread.
NespressoI made this creamy, awesome warm kale and asiago dip. I found it really satisfying to mix a bunch of mayo, cream cheese and asiago cheese with super food super healthy kale. Because honestly, the holidays are not about being super healthy, are they?  NespressoI always have a simple cheese tray at any gathering. This is a jalapeno havarti.   NespressoSarah is anti-bake so she made pretzels dipped in almond bark and different toppings like peppermint, chocolate chips and heath toffee.  NespressoThese were great and a huge hit. They make festive favors if you add a bunch to cellophane bags and wrap with a ribbon.  NespressoNespresso also sent me these Grand Crus which each have different aromatic profiles. There are also a few flavored espressos and so far my favorite is the Vanilio (vanilla flavored).  Nespresso Nespresso NespressoI love this holiday download, from Lindsay Letters. I display it on my mantle, but for the party I added it to the espresso table.

So about the cookie chaos...Deanna made sugar cookies with a peppermint Hershey Kisses and Libby accidentally sent every single cookie flying onto the floor when she knocked over the cooling rack they were on. Oops. Deanna brushed it off saying the cookies didn't turn out that great anyway. Well, we'll never know if they were or not!

Then Libby's cake pops were a huge disaster. First of all, the cake pop pan she purchased produced weirdly shaped cake pops and then none of the pops would stay on the stick. Then the white chocolate frosting was all clumpy and weird. Those ended up in the garbage, unfortunately. They still tasted great but Libby was not pleased and wanted all evidence of the failed attempt gone. I've tried making cake pops once and they didn't turn out at all. Tasted fine but were super ugly. It really makes you appreciate those beautifully made cake pops that you see on Bakerella.

That left my cookies, which actually turned out alright but I wasn't happy with how dark the bottoms of my gingersnaps got. Overall though, they were pretty good. Summer made chocolate chip cookies beforehand and those were delicious.

So not the best results cookie-wise but still so much fun. We laughed and laughed and had a wonderful time. Now that, to me, are what the holidays are all about.

Be sure to enter this AMAZING giveaway! The giveaway will end at midnight on December 22 and the winner will be announced on December 23rd. Eligible to US residents only. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: this post was made possible by Nespresso. I was provided with Pixie Alumium and Aeroccino machines for my own use and also to giveaway. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Brunch with Smirnoff Sorbet Light

Last Saturday I hosted a brunch with my girlfriend Shannon, Emily and Natasha. We drank cocktails and had a wonderful spread. The food is always amazing and the drinks are always flowing and the company is always awesome when I am with these gals.

Smirnoff contacted me a couple weeks ago and asked if I wanted to try their new flavors of infused vodka. Typically I like mimoas with brunch but after trying these infused vodka recipes I have a few additional cocktails that I will definitely be adding to my brunch regime.
I wanted to add some light, colorful touches to decorate my home for our girl's brunch. I kept it easy and used lemons in tall cylinder vases and bought a bouquet of pink tulips and placed them in small mason jars and glass vases.  My entertaining philosophy is to keep things pretty simple. I add special touches here and there but I try not to go overboard, and I don't spend a ton of money. I also always focus on serving good food, which doesn't always mean homemade. And I always, always have alcohol.

Another entertaining philosophy I have is to divide and conquer. I am a big fan of hosting events but not necessarily providing everything. My friends and family are awesome and without fail, offer to bring something. I take them up on it almost every time.
Smirnoff sent me three bottles:

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Mango Passion Fruit
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon
Smirnoff Sorbet Light Raspberry Pomegranate

We made three different cocktails with each of the vodkas. You will definitely want to check out these recipes at the end of this post. Two of the three of bubbly and perfect for brunch. The other is made with coconut water and is light and refreshing. Overall, this vodka has less calories than other dessert-inspired flavored vodkas. Plus, it's infused vodka, not flavored and it tastes way better.

The menu:

Strawberry bread
Fresh fruit
Bacon and egg strata
Bagels and goat cheese
Fruit tart
Cocktails!

Emily made an awesome strawberry bread and Natasha and Shannon made a beautiful plate of fruit with pineapple, strawberries, papaya and peaches.  Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch (recipe at the bottom of this post) and gluten-free bagels with goat cheese.

I purchased this bacon egg strata at Byerlies the morning of the brunch. It was delicious.The whole brunch spread. Let's just say none of us gals went hungry. I also purchased this beautiful fruit tart for dessert. It was calling my name at the bakery counter of Byerlies. I set up a little Smirnoff cocktail bar on my foyer table. Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini and Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch.

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Raspberry Pomegranate Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Diet Ginger Ale
1 oz Cranberry Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass (I like using champagne glasses but martini glasses would work too)
_________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Tropical Martini

Ingredients

1.5 oz Mango Passion Fruit Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2 oz Coconut Water
1 oz Pineapple Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon Pomegranate Punch

Ingredients

1.5 oz Lemon Smirnoff Sorbet Light
2.5 oz  Diet Sprite
1.5 oz Pomegranate Juice

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and strain into a glass
_____________________________________________

What an awesome brunch we had. Thanks to Shannon, Emily and Natasha for such a great time. Can't wait to do it again soon.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post by Smirnoff Sorbet Light. As always, all the opinions are my own.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tips for throwing a holiday brunch sponsored by Diet Pepsi

Diet Pepsi approached me earlier this month to create tips on how to throw a holiday party. It's no secret that I love hosting parties, but I especially love holiday parties. Cookie baking parties, festive dinner parties...but my all-time favorite holiday party to host is a brunch party.

I focused on tips for throwing a holiday brunch and the content is live on Diet Pepsi's site today! What's a fabulous brunch without a sparkly champagne cocktail bar and a mini donut tower?  These are easy tips that will help you host a quick holiday brunch or incorporate the ideas into your Christmas morning breakfast.  Be sure to head over to Diet Pepsi's website to check out my brunch holiday party planning tips and be sure to try for your chance to win fabulous prizes!

Disclosure: Diet Pepsi and I partnered to create content on holiday party planning tips and I was compensated by Diet Pepsi.  As always, all the opinions are my own.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Berry almond smoothie

I've been craving Jamba Juice type fruit smooties lately but instead of driving 10 minutes and spending $6 I decided to whip something up at home. I had a few essential ingredients and went from there. 

The smoothie was refreshing and yummy.  I was hoping its sweetness would suffice for the rest of the day.  Unfortunately, I still ate girl scout cookies and part of a chocolate bunny that was in Juliet's Easter basket.  Oops.
Berry almond smoothie

Ingredients

3/4 cup vanilla almond milk (unsweetened)
1 cup berries (I used strawberries and blackberries)
1 teaspoon honey

Pour all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy! Makes one serving.

*If I had kale or spinach I would have added a handful of that as well.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cranberry kiss mocktail and a Sierra Mist giveaway

I have a fun post for you today that includes mocktails and a giveaway.  Ok, so maybe it would be a bit more fun if the drink was a cocktail, but hey, I haven't had a drink in about 7 months so it's all about the mocktail for me these days.

The Cranberry Kiss mocktail is something I whipped up with the holidays and New Years Eve in mind.  The key ingredient is Sierra Mist Natural, which gives it those festive bubbles! Pretty, aren't they?


Cranberry Kiss (Mocktail)

Ingredients:

• 2 oz. Sierra Mist Natural
• 2 ½ oz. cranberry juice
• 1 mint leaf
• Fresh lime juice (about 1/4 of a lime)

Directions:

1. In a martini shaker, muddle one mint leaf with lime juice

2. Add cranberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain into a champagne glass

3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural

4. Garnish with three cranberries skewered on a toothpick

Now for the giveaway...Sierra Mist and I would like you to share a creative cocktail/mocktail recipe. One winner will receive a Sierra Mist Natural holiday gift pack which includes:
  • Martini shaker
  • Drink garnish/sugars
  • Party glasses
  • $50 Amex Gift Card (this will come in handy with all those after-the-holiday-sales) or perhaps you are hosting your own New Years Eve party? 
How to enter:

Leave a comment on this post with your own Sierra Mist Natural mocktail/cocktail recipe idea (it doesn't have to be exact...for example, you can write, "I would love a cocktail with Sierra Mist, vodka and a splash of pineapple juice")

I will choose one comment/winner using random.org.  Giveaway ends Friday, December 30 at midnight.  The winner will be announced on Saturday, December 31st.  US residents only.

Be sure to check out Sierra Mist on Facebook and submit your recipes on the Sierra Mixolgy tab!!

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Sierra Mist for this giveaway post. They provided me with the prize as well as compensation. The photos, recipe and opinions are my own.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sponsored post: a fun brunch and Sierra Mist Natural cocktails/mocktails

Yesterday Erik and I had friends Deanna and Nick over for brunch.  I thought it would be the perfect time to test some Sierra Mist cocktails/mocktails.  Sierra Mist is partnering with food/party bloggers in December to promote cocktail/mocktail recipes that are perfect for holiday entertaining (or anytime really).

To be honest, Sierra Mist never really came to mind when I was thinking of mocktails during this pregnancy.  And after a while, I have become really tired of ginger ale and cranberry juice.  Now I have a couple delicious go-to recipes for mocktails, which is great because I still have about three months to go before the baby is here.  And because of this post, I realized I actually really like Sierra Mist.  It's caffeine free, (I'm avoiding caffeine for the most part this pregnancy), is made with real sugar, no artificial ingredients and has 100% natural flavoring.

Pictured above is a cocktail and mocktail called Frost Bite. More on the drinks below.
I made an easy, delicious raspberry coffee cake for brunch.  Also on the menu; french toast muffins (from Whole Foods), bacon, scrambled cheesy eggs, fresh fruit and roasted potatoes. 

Fresh berries, yum.
You would think one sweet item is enough for brunch right?  Wrong...I want as many sweets as often as I can get my hands on them!
Medium-sized mason jars with cinnamon sticks make an easy, seasonal-appropriate centerpiece.  And it smells amazing.
This cocktail and mocktail is called Meet Me At The Mist-letoe.
I LOVED the mocktails.  They are perfect brunch drinks; bubbly, fruity and delicious (but not too sweet).  And best of all, they are so pretty.  I felt like I was having a champagne cocktail and not missing out on anything.   

My favorite of the two was the Meet Me At The Mist-letoe.  I think it was the most festive of the two and just looks like the holidays. 

Erik, Nick and Deanna tried the other two cocktails.  Meet Me At The Mist-letoe was their favorite as well.  I think the Frost Bite cocktail may have been a bit much for a brunch cocktail but would be great for a cocktail party or later in the evening drink. 

Don't miss the great recipes below (note a couple modifications I made) and check out Sierra Mist on Facebook and "like" their page!

Which Sierra Mist Natural cocktail/mocktail would you like to try? And if you're pregnant like me, or just not a big drinker....you must try these mocktail recipes, they are awesome!  Stay tuned for a great giveaway from Sierra Mist next week as well as my own personal cocktail/mocktail creations that I'll be sharing!

Frost Bite (Cocktail)

Ingredients:

• 3 oz. Sierra Mist Natural
• 1 oz. Blue Curacao
• 1 oz. Coconut Vodka
• Fresh mint
• 1 oz. Pineapple juice
• Fresh blueberries (optional)

Directions:

1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix coconut vodka and pineapple juice
2. Add blue curacao, fresh mint and blueberries (optional)
3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

Modifications, I am not a huge fan of coconut so I used regular vodka.  I also used only a splash of blue curacoa, instead of 1 oz.

Frost Bite (Mocktail)

Ingredients:

• 3 oz. Sierra Mist Natural
• 2 oz. of White grape juice
• Fresh blueberries
• Fresh mint
• 1 oz. Pineapple juice

Directions:

1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix fresh lime juice and pineapple juice
2. Add white grape juice, mint and blueberries
3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

Meet Me At The Mist-letoe...Martini (Cocktail)

Ingredients:

• 2 oz. Sierra Mist Natural
• 1 ½ oz. Raspberry Vodka
• 3 Leaves fresh basil
• ½ oz. Fresh lime juice
• 1 oz. Blueberry juice

Directions:

1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to shaker
filled with ice
2. Add raspberry vodka and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and
strain into a martini glass
3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

Modifications, instead of using raspberry vodka, I used regular.  I added 4 raspberries to the basil and lime juice and muddled them altogether for fresh raspberry juice/puree.  Yum.

Meet Me At The Mist-letoe...Martini (Mocktail)

Ingredients:

• 2 oz. Sierra Mist Natural
• 1 ½ oz. Raspberry juice
• 3 Leaves fresh basil
• ½ oz. Fresh lime juice
• 1 oz. Blueberry juice

Directions:

1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to a shaker
filled with ice
2. Add raspberry and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain
into a martini glass
3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

Modifications, instead of using raspberry juice I added 4 raspberries to the basil and lime juice and muddled them altogether for fresh raspberry juice/puree. Yum.

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Sierra Mist for this sponsored post.  They provided me with recipes as well as compensation.  The photos and opinions are my own. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Homemade lemonade

{Photo credits: Martha Stewart}

Have you ever made homemade lemonade? It's the best. Before summer is over be sure to squeeze some lemons (also great for relieving stress!), grind up some sugar superfine and serve at your next BBQ.

Recipes:

Lemonade, pink lemonade, limeade
Lemonade with blueberries

Add vodka as needed.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Boozy popsicles

{Photo credits: Bakers Royale}

Homemade popsicles with a bit of booze sound like a really good idea, don't they? I'm going to give these a try for my Hoedown BBQ on Sunday. 

Recipes:
Honeydew cucumber margarita popsicles
Blackberry prosecco popsicle

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spicy grapefruit margarita

{Photo credit: Bon Appetit}

I am a huge fan of margaritas.  I especially love sipping them on patio on a nice, summer day.  So when I saw this one in the latest issue of Bon Appetit magazine I was intrigued, habanero chiles in margaritas? 

What do you think, yes or no? 

Spicy grapefruit margarita (recipe from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons tequila
1-2 habanero chiles, halved
Kosher salt
6 cups fresh pink grapefruit juice

Preparation

Mix tequila and chiles in a large pitcher. Let steep 3 hours, or longer if a spicier tequila is desired. Discard chiles. Cover; chill.

Pour enough water onto a small plate to cover. Pour enough salt onto another small plate to cover by 1/4". Dip rims of eight 12-ounce. glasses into water, then into salt to lightly coat; fill with ice. Add grapefruit juice to pitcher with tequila. Fill with ice; stir until cold. Divide drink among glasses.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

White sangria

Yummy...an ice cold, fruit-filled glass of sangria is a perfect summery drink, great for BBQs.  I love making a big batch in a pitcher, it's pretty and delish.

White Sangria (recipe adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients

6 cups Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup white grape juice
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 cup white grapes, skewered on a toothpick
1 cup club soda

Preparation

In a large pitcher or other container, combine the wine and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients, excluding the club soda, and mix well.

Place the pitcher in the refrigerator and let the sangria sit for at least 1 hour (and up to 4 hours). The sangria will sweeten with time, so the longer it sits, the better.

Just before serving, stir in the club soda and ice cubes.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scotch. Bacon. And other manly things.

Erik and I had an awesome, long weekend.  One of my favorite events was a BBQ with our good friends Kiefer and Diane.  Diane and I drank cocktails, the boys had scotch and I tested a new, very easy appetizer recipe (bacon-wrapped lil' smokies, Erik's idea!).

Kiefer was a natural in front of the camera.
Quick back story.  Diane and I became friends through work.  Diane met Kiefer (one of Erik's best friends) and they immediately hit it off.  Unfortunately, Diane had plans to move to NYC shortly after they began dating.  So now they're seeing each other long distance, but it's working well.  We love hanging with them when Diane is visiting MN. Kiefer is potentially moving out to NYC so they can be together but Erik and I secretly (or not-so-secretly) hope they eventually settle in MN so we can have hundreds more BBQs like ths one.

Diane made Palomas, these were refreshing and perfect for sipping on a patio. 

Palomas

Ingredients

3 oz fresh grapefruit juice
3 oz club soda
2 oz silver tequila
Lime juice (from half a lime)
1 teaspoon agave nectar

Preparation

Mix all ingredients and pour into a glass with ice. 
Villeroy and Boch sent me these awesome scotch glasses and Erik was THRILLED.  We decided to do a "manly" post and I asked him to think of appetizer idea.  He said anything wrapped in bacon would suffice but we wanted to try something new. We've had bacon-wrapped shrimp, bacon-wrapped chesnuts, bacon-wrapped scallops, etc.  So he thought of lil' smokies.  GENIUS. 

Ok so bacon-wrapped lil' smokies don't really pair well with scotch but the scotch drinking happened before dinner.  The guys loved the glasses and the scotch. They would be a great Father's Day or birthday gift for the dudes in your life. 
Can you believe how cooperative they were with my annoying blog antics and all the picture-taking?  I suppose since they got bacon and scotch out of the deal they were fine with it.

It was Erik's idea to drizzle BBQ sauce over the smokies.  

Bacon-wrapped lil' smokies

Ingredients

1 package bacon
1 package lil' smokies
BBQ sauce
toothpicks

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the bacon in half. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and coat with cooking spray.  Wrap each smokie with half a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the bacon is cooked to your liking.  Dip in BBQ sauce.

Disclosure: the scotch glasses were given to me by Villeroy and Boch, but the opinions expressed are my own.