Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dreaming of a spring picnic

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 smoothie Here 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. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quick peek at Juliet's "dreamy clouds" birthday party

Children's tea party{iPhone photos using the Pic Stitch app and edited using Afterlight}

This is going to be pretty light on the details but I wanted to post a quick peek at Juliet's 2nd birthday party from last weekend. For photos of the dessert table and a few other details check out my Instagram. The dessert table photo has the most likes I've ever received on Instagram. It came together really nicely and was a lovely vision of whites, golds and clouds. It's by far my favorite dessert table I've ever created.

Photos pictured left to right:

  • Paper items were made by Grace and Guy Paperie on Etsy (wait until you see her invitation!)
  • My little girl looking so pretty in her party outfit
  • This balloon cloud was such an awesome detail and it literally cost about $2.50 (all you need are about 30 balloons, string and tape). My mother-in-law made this after I showed her a photo on Pinterest (it took about 45 minutes). Thank you, Karen!
  • My sister-in-law, Nikki of Lovely Scribbles made this "Dream big little one" cake topper. It was beautiful and perfect and I loved it. She cut those letters out by hand!
  • Juliet's adorable dress was from Old Navy and I made her baby's breath crown with $4.50 flowers from Rainbow (I'll have details on how I made this in the full party post)
Callie V Photography took photos of the party which was awesome because I was too busy running around to take any photos with my DSLR camera. Once I get all the professional photos I'll be doing a huge post with tons of photos and details and of course, vendor credits. 

I haven't done all the math but I estimated that we spent about $400 on her party (not including photography). Almost all of the decor was DIY and therefore low cost. The food was appetizers, snacks (for the kids) and dessert and everything was purchased at Trader Joe's or Aldi (except the cake and cupcakes which were made by one of Erik's coworkers). We had wine and beer because I am a firm believe in booze at all parties, even kid's parties. Did I mention I cracked open a beer about an hour before the party began? It kept me relaxed and was a very good idea.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A kid's tea party lunch

Children's tea partyJuliet's little hand sneaking food while I try to take a photo is basically her signature move

I had the day off yesterday so Juliet and I had a momma/daughter day. We got tons of snow the night before which meant no leaving the house. We didn't leave the house at all the day before either so I was a bit worried that we would have a serious case of cabin fever. We need some ideas for things to keep us entertained.

My mom and I were texting earlier in the day and she suggested that I make Juliet a real tea party. She loves having tea parties after all and I thought it was an awesome idea. So I whipped up this little tea party which we had for lunch and it ended up being such a fun time.

I think there is a novelty for little kids to have lunch somewhere new (in our case on the kid's table in Juliet's playroom). At least Juliet really seemed to think it was an exciting adventure.She gobbled up almost everything I served and continuously clinked my plastic tea cup with an enthusiastic "cheers!".
Children's tea partyTea party menu:

Heart-shaped grilled cheese tea sandwiches (tip: use coconut oil instead of butter on the bread, it makes the grilled cheese perfectly crispy and so delicious). I use heart-shaped fondant cutters which works like a charm.
Coconut flour mini banana chocolate chip muffins
Banana chocolate chip baked donuts 
Edamame and carrots with hummus
Strawberries, blackberries and grapes (not pictured)
Animal crackers

We always have a bunch of frozen baked goods which helps with quick breakfasts and snacks.
Children's tea partyLittle sweetie is quite serious about tea time. Children's tea partyI even put a white lace tablecloth on the kid's table. This ended up being a terrible idea because Juliet got chocolate all over it. Oh well, it went straight to the washing machine.

Everything was served on pretty little plates that I found at Good Will years ago.
Children's tea partyCheers!

It was the perfect activity for a wintry day. And the best part was it didn't require any extra effort then making a regular lunch for Juliet and yet adding this little tea party touch made it really special for her.

I thought I'd post our tea party adventure as a tip for any of you mommas with little ones (not that having a tea party is a unique idea by any means, but I never thought of whipping one up for her on a regular day like today). This would actually be a fun lunch for girlfriends as well, though you might want to swap out the grilled cheese for tea sandwiches (though who am I kidding, grilled cheese is the bomb).

Do you have any suggestions for fun activities to keep young ones entertained?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Juliet's "dreamy clouds" 2nd birthday party inspiration

Juliet's dreamy clouds 2nd birthday partyI really shouldn't be blogging right now and prepping for Juliet's party instead but I'm tired and have already worked on a few projects this evening (for a peek at those projects check out my Instagram). Juliet went to bed early because she isn't feeling the best. I really really really hope she is feeling better by Saturday. Last year she got strep throat a couple days before her party and while she was no longer contagious she was a bit out of sorts on her birthday.

I am so excited about her party on Saturday and so is Juliet. She has mastered singing happy birthday and she knows her birthday is February 16th. She tries hard but can't quite figure out how to hold up two fingers yet. Maybe by the weekend.

I can't really explain my creative process and how I came up with the theme "dreamy clouds" but I think it had to do with the fact that Juliet loves these two lamb stuffed animals that she calls her "yammies". I pondered doing a lamb-theme but that didn't feel right and then I started thinking about an all white cloud theme playing off lamb's fluffy wool. When I thought all white I thought that sounded really dreamy and loved that idea. I added in some sparkly gold and there you go, "dreamy clouds".

My party philosophy is all about celebrating the guest of honor with lots of pretty details, great food and personal touches wherever possible. It's really not my style to spend a ton of money on the parties I host so I always do a lot of DIY projects and try to find deals wherever possible. Juliet's party dress was $16 and from Old Navy and it is absolutely perfect. I'm using baby's breath because it's so airy, light and pretty and also it's super affordable. I am planning on making Juliet a little baby's breath headband to wear but my gut is saying she won't keep it on so maybe I won't bother.

I'll have a few activities for the kiddos (there will be about 9 kids between the ages of 10 weeks and 5 years) like coloring, glueing cotton balls to make little clouds on paper and most importantly, a dance party. Juliet loves to listen to her favorite song (Move It Move It) and dance like crazy. It's one of my favorite things to watch her do.

I'm also really excited for the kiddos party favors. A couple of my favorite kid's product companies are providing product for the favors and we'll have a 4-pack of Little Green Pouches and puzzles from HABA toys as well as a few things I'll be adding.

As far as food we are serving appetizers, snacks and dessert. The party is 3pm-5pm so we don't need to do a full dinner which is nice because appetizers are my favorite anyway. And it'll be easier with the kiddos to just serve snacks. We'll have a blend of healthy and not so healthy snacks (from fruit to animal crackers to smoothies in Little Green Pouches and mac n cheese bites).

Dessert is going to be a white and gold candy table (candy is being provided from Sweet Works, they have gold Sixlets! So awesome) and I am making cloud sugar cookies with royal icing, plus we'll have a cake and cupcakes. I should probably apologize in advance for the sugar rush the kids will have.

I am working with Shannon from Grace and Guy Paperie on Etsy for all the paper items. She designed incredibly perfect invitations and is making placecards and signs (including signs with my favorite dream quotes to display around the party). If you are in need of paper goods for an upcoming party I suggest checking her out. She does really nice work and is super responsive and reasonably priced.

Here is my Pinterest board for the party if you're interested in seeing more. And be sure to follow me on Instagram as I'll definitely be posting a few photos the day of the party.

My baby girl is almost 2. The past 2 years have honestly been like a really good dream, so this theme is very fitting. I couldn't possibly love her more. 

Photo credits/links:

Cloud cake 
Cloud cookies 
Chiffon-rosette tulle dress
Baby's breath headband 
Follow Your Dreams print
Powered sugar donut tower

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sparkling cranberry white cake

Sparkling cranberry white cakeErik and I hosted a dinner party for 8 of his colleagues on Friday night. After a busy and stressful week at work, I knew we needed to keep the menu relatively simple and light on the prep work.

On the menu:

Appetizers
Brie and blue cheese with crackers and baguette
Caramelized onion tarts with asiago cheese
Cream cheese with pepper jelly served with crackers

Main course
New York strip steaks
Creamy mashed potatoes
Roasted asparagus

Dessert
Sparkling cranberry white cake with lemon filling

After seeing this beautiful image on Pinterest, I was inspired to do something similar. But I knew there was no time to make a homemade cake. That's when Target bakery saved the day. On Thursday morning I called and put in an order for an 8 inch white cake with lemon filling (lemon and cranberry pair quite nicely together). I told them white frosting only and please keep it simple (I didn't want any ruffles or edging). They agreed to put the order through even though they typically require 48 hours. And the cake was only $16.99. Thank you Target.

I've been wanting to make sparkling/sugared cranberries ever since I saw them on 101 Cookbooks 4 years ago. I had to go with a super modified version because I waited until the very last minute to prep the cranberries on Friday evening. And they turned out great.

When the cranberries were sugar-coated and sparkling and absolutely gorgeous, I literally dropped them (gently) by the handfuls on the cake. I assumed the bigger the pile and the bigger the cranberry mess I made atop the cake, the lovelier it would be.

And I was right. 

Sparkling/sugared cranberries (recipe adapted via 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients

1 bag of fresh cranberries
3/4 cups water
2 3/4 cups sugar

Preparation

In a small sauce pan bring 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Let simple syrup cool for about 20 minutes then add cranberries to the pan (be sure it has cooled down quite a bit because you don't want the cranberries to burst). Let cranberries steep in the simple syrup for at least 15 minutes to overnight (my cranberries were only in the simple syrup for about 20 minutes).

Remove the cranberries with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes (this gets them nice and sticky). Add 2 cups sugar to a large bowl. In about 1 cup batches, drop cranberries into the sugar and fully coat them. Remove and transfer to another baking sheet. Continue with remaining cranberries until all have been coated.

Allow cranberries to dry for at least 30 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and serve or add to cake (or cupcakes or tarts, etc).

Eat and enjoy!

Fresh cranberries are so tart, I was wary these would be edible because I didn't allow them to steep in the simple syrup for very long. But trust me, they were perfect. The sugar coating gives you a sweet burst as you bite into the tartness. This balance is just awesome. Even Juliet loved them and kept asking for more.

I posted this photo on Instagram on Friday and it was quite a hit. Our guests devoured the cake and loved the cranberries. I ate the leftover cake right out of the container standing over the countertop yesterday. Yum. Yum.

Be sure to head over to this post to see if you were the winner of the Nespresso giveaway. The winner is announced in the Rafflecopter widget and I will be contacting them on Monday. Thank you so much for all the entries, I was super pumped about the response!

I'll be posting regularly this week (I'm off work all week after Monday, hooray!). We are staying in town for the holidays and will be eating great food and enjoying time with family.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

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.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Green bean casserole quiche bites

green bean casserole quiche bitesWith the holidays fast approaching I wanted to dedicate a post to these awesome green bean casserole quiche bites. I made them for the family holiday appetizer party I hosted a couple weeks ago and they were a big hit.

They have all the flavor of the favorite holiday casserole but in mini form. I love the texture of the creamy filling topped with the crunchy fried onions. And by using store-bought pie crust this is a really easy appetizer to whip together.

They are pretty, delicious (I'm partial to mini quiche, I just love them) and can be served at room temperature. These are a new favorite appetizer of mine for serving around the holidays.
green bean casserole quiche bitesHere are some other great holiday appetizers:

Cranberry-goat cheese canapes
Goat cheese crostini with roasted red peppers
An easy cheese tray with at least 3 different cheese varieties, crackers, dried fruit, grapes, baguette

Green bean casserole quiche bites (recipe via Chef Jonathan, Aldi test kitchen)
Ingredients
10.5 ounces can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Large Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/8 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
16 ounces Extra Fine Green Beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used frozen and thawed before adding)
1 package Pie Crust
1 cup French Fried Onions
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soup, cream, eggs, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and nutmeg. Add green beans, stir until combined.
  3. Take pie crust out of package, roll with rolling pin to 1/8" thickness.
  4. Cut out mini pie crusts using a 3-inch round cutter. Repeat and re-roll pie crust to maximize dough.
  5. Lightly press each mini pie crust into a muffin pan. Fill each pie crust with 2 tablespoons of filling.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven and top with onions. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cranberry orange sherbet

Cranberry orange sorbetI made this pretty cranberry orange sherbet for my family's holiday appetizer party a couple weeks ago. The sherbet was refreshing and had a nice, semi-sweet tartness that balanced the heavy, savory appetizers we had that day.

I've never made sherbet before and it was relatively easy. It's a light dessert and a nice change from all the pies, cookies and cakes that are typically served around the holidays. Cranberry orange sorbetI'm having a bunch of girlfriends over on Saturday for more cookie baking and hanging out. I am going to whip up another batch of this sherbet and see how it tastes dropped into a glass of champagne. Best idea ever?

Cranberry orange sherbet (recipe via The Vintage Mixer)
Ingredients
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 ounces)
1 ½ cups of orange Juice
1 cup water
½ to ¾ cup sugar 
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Pinch of salt
2.5 teaspoons gelatin or 1 packet (I use Great Lakes Unflavored gelatin. Gelatin can be found in the baking aisle of your grocery store) 
1 extra large egg white
Instructions
In a medium pot add the cranberries, orange juice, water, sugar, lemon juice, thyme and salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer until all of the cranberry skins pop. Remove the pot from the heat and drain out the liquids through a mesh sieve. Taste the liquid for sweetness and adjust to your palate. 

Chill of the mixture for 20 minutes. While the mixture is cooling mix 3-4 tablespoons of the juice from the pan with the gelatin and whisk to dissolve the powder. Once dissolved place the gelatin mixture in a heat safe bowl tall enough to fit in a small pan with a few inches of simmering water (or you can use a double boiler). Whisk the mixture until it is transparent.

When finished with the gelatin, place the cranberry mixture in a blender or food processor and turn on. Through the top of the processor, pour in the gelatin and the egg white. Blend for a minute. Place in a container and freeze overnight.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cranberry-goat cheese canapes

Cranberry goat cheese canapesSunday was my family's third annual holiday cookie baking party. This year we baked at my sister-in-law and brother's house because they have 2 ovens. Even with 2 ovens we were still waiting in line for the next open spot.

I love our cookie baking parties. All the ladies in my family get together to bake and the guys get together and eat chicken wings and watch sports. If any of the guys wanted to bake they would be more than welcome to join us, but so far we've had no takers.

Our cookie baking party always starts off pretty chaotic. The ingredients crowd the kitchen, mixers are whirling, toddlers are running around. But I love this day. We end up with tons of cookies to take home and always have a lot of fun, despite the chaos.

This year we each brought an appetizer to share and I brought these cranberry-goat cheese canapes. Ever since my sis-in-law made this cranberry cream cheese dip I've been crazy over any recipe with cranberries.

This app was super good but I was missing a key ingredient that would have made it a thousand times better, cilantro. I actually had cilantro but when I went to use it I realized it had started to go bad. And since it was freezing and snowing yesterday I didn't feel like going back to the grocery store for more. The cilantro would have added a brightness, a freshness that would have been awesome as well as pretty green flecks to make this appetizer the quintessential holiday app (the jalapeno gives the dish a hint of spiciness. Delicious).

Cranberry-goat cheese canapes (recipe via Southern Living)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh jalapeno pepper (about 1/2 of a jalapeno)
3/4 tsp. grated fresh ginger
Baguette (or other canape bread), sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 5.3 oz container spreadable goat cheese (or a plain goat cheese log at room temperature)

Preparation

1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Spread each baguette piece with goat cheese, and top with a small spoonful of cranberry mixture.

I'll be back tomorrow with a holiday cookie recipe from our baking party. Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A holiday appetizer party

Holiday appetizer partyMy family gathered for a holiday appetizer party a couple weekends ago. Instead of sitting down to a full dinner, we mingled and ate apps the entire time. It was awesome. My family is big on appetizers and always tend to fill up and then get too full after the meal. An appetizer party is the perfect solution.

I've written a couple posts on my recent experience with Aldi. I've continued shopping at Aldi the past couple of months and have totally incorporated it into my weekly routine. There is no doubt it saves money and I completely love their organic selection and organic prices.

Be sure to read to the bottom of this post because I am giving away a $50 Aldi gift certificate. And believe me, $50 goes a long way at Aldi.

I shopped at Aldi for the holiday appetizer party for my family and was pumped to see a ton of awesome holiday entertaining-style food options. And for really great prices.

I set up a pretty little table just for the occasion.

Holiday appetizer partyAldi had cranberries for .99 cents a bag. I use cranberries for so many things over the holidays; decorating, drink embellishments and cooking. They are so versatile and with the right dish, taste awesome.  Holiday appetizer partyAldi has a great variety of cheese. I purchased a double creme brie ($2.99), havarti ($2.99) and an herb goat cheese ($1.69). I added crackers for just $1.49. A cheese platter is a great party appetizer because it's always a crowd favorite and requires minimal effort from the host/hostess.
Holiday appetizer partyMy sister-in-law brought a cranberry cream cheese dip and it was the hit of the party. I had no idea how amazing cranberries taste paired with cilantro, jalapenos and cream cheese. It's the perfect combination of flavors from salty to sweet to tart plus a hint of spicy.  I'm going to make this for my next gathering with friends.  Holiday appetizer partyWe gathered on a Sunday evening so we opted for sparkling juice ($2.49 per bottle).  Holiday appetizer party Holiday appetizer partyI made these green bean casserole quiche bites from this recipe on Aldi's site. These were very popular with my family and a nice departure from the traditional casserole. I'm not usually a big fan of cream of mushroom soups from the can but for the holidays I make an exception. This is an awesome holiday appetizer.

My sister Katie brought mashed potatoes in a huge crockpot. We had a mashed potato bar with all the fixings (cheese, sour cream, bacon). You can never go wrong with potatoes of any kind, in my opinion.
Holiday appetizer partyI made amazing turkey meatballs. They were seriously the best meatballs I've ever had. Instead of the Italian seasonings the recipe calls for, I substituted rosemary, thyme and sage (2 teaspoons of each). The meatballs tasted like little bites of Thanksgiving. I served these with a small roll and gravy so people could build turkey meatball sandwiches. My brother's fiance brought stuffed mushrooms. They were tasty and I was glad we had leftovers the next day.

I loved hosting this appetizer party and I think it may be a new tradition. When done potluck style it can be a stress-free party to host. And when getting the items from Aldi, it can be a very affordable party.

Do you want to check out Aldi or are you already a loyal shopper? Either way, be sure to enter to win a $50 Aldi gift certificate. The giveaway will be live for a week and I'll announce the winner on December 12th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure - I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. As always, all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chili, corn bread and a bloody mary bar

Last Sunday Erik and I hosted friends over to watch the Vikings game. I'm sure I've mentioned that Erik is pretty fanatical about his football team. He has season tickets and never misses a game. I love the social aspect of football season; hanging with friends on Sundays and football food. But no so much football itself.

I set up a bloody mary bar with a bunch of add-ins and we had a chili bar with all the fixings. I also served corn bread, pumpkin scones and vanilla pumpkin malts. Stay tuned for the vanilla pumpkin malt recipe (so easy!) on Friday.
The bloody mary bar included a spicy mix, vodka, pickled asparagus, olives, shrimp, cheddar, pickles, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. We lined up mason jars and let guests build their own
I also set up a chili bar with a huge crockpot of chili (recipe below), sour cream, cheddar, onions and pickled jalapenos. We also had corn bread and chips with a spicy sausage queso dip that my friend Libby brought. It was delicious.  Erik grilled up a bunch of hot dogs so that people could make chili dogs. The guys especially seemed pretty happy about that. I've made quite a few chili recipes in my day. This one is really good. It's made with 2 bottles of lager beer, which gives it great flavor. I ate this chili for a few days this week and the flavor gets better over time. You can definitely add cayenne or other spices to give the chili more heat. I wanted Juliet to eat it so I kept the cayenne out. She's had it for dinner the past couple of evenings and likes it!

The corn bread recipe is below. It's an easy recipe that starts with cornbread muffin mix. Add yogurt, corn, eggs and you are all set. I over-cooked the corn bread a bit so it was a tad dry, but overall very tasty.

Beef chili (recipe via Real Simple)

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 12-ounce bottles lager beer (I used Stella Artois since that's what I had in my fridge)
  • 2 19-ounce cans kidney beans
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • toppings (such as sour cream, pickled jalapenos, cheddar, red onions)

  • Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

  • Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

  • Add the beer, beans, the tomatoes and their juices, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the corn bread and toppings as desired.

  • Rosemary Corn Bread (recipe via Real Simple)
  • Ingredients
  • 2 8 1/2-ounce boxes corn-bread mix
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 8-ounce container plain yogurt
  • 2 7-ounce cans whole-kernel corn, drained
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves

  • Directions

  • Heat oven to 400º F. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. 

  • Stir all the ingredients together. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

  • Bake 25 minutes or just until golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

  • When cool, cut lengthwise into 3 strips and then crosswise into quarters. Cut each square into 2 triangles. 

  • To serve, thaw and reheat in the foil in a 325º F oven for 10 minutes or until heated through.

  • We had a great time on Sunday and the Vikes won! Extra points for a happy husband. 

  • Interested in other game-day recipes? Check these out:
Buffalo chicken dip (terrible photos in this post but this is the best dip ever)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A fall picnic

{Photo credits: Midwest Living}

I love the idea of a fall picnic. Picnics in the summertime are pretty common, but once fall's crisp weather comes around picnics sort of fall off the radar. But who says you can't bundle up in sweaters and scarves and cozy-up to an outdoor meal?

I am sooooo doing this.

I got the inspiration as I was flipping through the recent issue of Midwest Living magazine. The beautiful fall colors, the warmth of a plaid blanket-turned tablecloth, the caramel apple bar.

Yeah, a caramel apple bar. How brilliant is that?  

{Photo credits: Midwest Living}

Erik and my house is surrounded by tall trees. In the fall it is a gorgeous explosion of reds and oranges. We can picnic right in our backyard or head to a nearby park.

As far as a picnic menu, here is what I'm thinking:

Hot apple cider in thermoses
BLTs and/or caprese sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper
Mac and cheese bites (Juliet would adore these)
Kettle chips
A caramel apple bar (as shown above)

or if you wanted to go for more of a brunch-style picnic:

Coffee/tea and hot apple cider in thermoses
Individual herb and blue cheese quiche (great option because they can be served at room temperature)
Fruit salad in mason jars
Homemade pumpkin pie pop tarts

Yum. I can't wait to do this. I'm guessing a temperature of 60ish degrees or higher will be needed, especially with a toddler. The nice thing about a picnic with a little one is they can run around and you don't have to worry about them whining about being stuck in a high chair.

Have you ever been on a fall picnic?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Real party: a French-inspired bridal shower

How decadent and lovely does this pink frosting look?

I love a pretty bridal shower as much as the next gal. Especially a shower with delicious desserts. This French-inspired shower was submitted by Katherine, who works as a librarian in an isolated area of Maine, but exercises her creativity with event planning. 

This sweet shower was thrown for Katherine's friend Keely. Here are the details as told by Katherine:

"The theme of the shower was a mix of French and floral, paying homage to the color purple, one of Keely’s favorite hues. The flowers featured included: purple tinted roses from Ecuador, purple anemone, the Picasso Calla Lilly, mauve hydrangea, and tons of sweet purple pansies.

As for desserts, I wanted to pay homage to all things French. We had French bulldog cookies, Eiffel Tower cookies, macarons in shades of pink and purple, perfume-shaped cookies that proclaimed “Love Is So Sweet” in French, and Marie Antoinette cupcakes in purple and pink. 

The food was perfect rainy day fare and was handsomely created by my co-host and her daughters. We featured a menu of light sandwiches, homemade soup, fruit, and chocolate mousse. In keeping true to our Maine location, we featured a sweet vintage cork-board where everyone could write their advice to the bride on whoopie pie-shaped paper cutouts. It was a truly fantastic day, and we capped off the Memorial Day weekend by taking Keely and her mother to the coast of Maine for seafood and lighthouses."
The dessert table atop a chevron tablecloth Amazing cookies that are too pretty to eatA beautiful and lush floral arrangement  Love the use of wine glasses for serving dessertI adore these bulldog cookies!And of course you can't have a French-inspired bridal shower without macarons! I'm not sure which cookies are cuter, the bulldogs or these Eiffel Towers?What a beautiful bridal shower. The food looked absolutely amazing and the desserts decadant. Thanks so much to Katherine for sending this soiree my way. I hope the bride Keely has a wonderful wedding day!

If you have a party to share please send to eatdrinkpretty{at|}gmail{dot}com. I'm always looking for gorgeous events to feature on Eat Drink Pretty!


Vendor Credits

Eiffel Tower cookies: FlourDeLisShop Esty
French bulldog cookies: Peapodscookies Esty
Perfume Cookies: Cookies with Character
Cupcakes: Torri Bell Huston
Flowers: Noyes Flower and Plant Shoppe, Caribou, Maine
Photography: Connie Carman Gagnon Washburn, Maine