Friday, July 31, 2009


Every Hostess needs a good apron. I don't just mean a plain colored apron that covers most of what you are wearing underneath it in the event you splatter.... I mean a FABULOUS apron that looks just as good as your party attire. There have been countless times when I am cooking or wrapping up a last minute spruce of the house, when - ding dong!- the first guest arrives early. Instead of hiding the fact that you are not completely party ready, look festive while putting together those final touches. A good friend gave me the apron above with a matching oven mitt for my birthday, and it was the perfect Hostess gift, pun intended! Find your own fab apron here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Childhood Revisited - Part 2

When planning the party, and stocking up on food items, I began to throw in lots of candy into our shopping cart. My husband Logan said "Why are you buying all that candy?", and I told him it is for his Candy Bar. "We don't need that!" he replied, to which I protested, since candy went perfect with our nostalgia theme. Let me just tell you...


Here's how you do it:
Get several clear glass containers in various shapes and sizes. These can be found for cheap at Michaels, Pier 1, and the Dollar store. Next, you need candy... a good mix of chocolate and sugar is best, and I like to keep it all brightly colored if possible. Also, choose candy that will relate most to your audience. Since I was throwing a party for a 30 year old, I chose candy that he loved growing up in the 80's:

-Peanut M&M's
-Reese's Pieces (remember ET?)
-Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (Logan's favorite)
-Kit Kats
-Starburst Fruit Chews
-Pixi Stix
-Double Bubble Bubble Gum (like you would get out of a gumball machine)
-Jelly Bellys

I recommend buying the chocolate candy items in bulk at a wholesale store, but the sugary items can usually be found in good quantities at the Dollar store. You just need enough to fill the container you want to put it in, so each quantity of candy will vary. The last things you need are bags and scoops, so that guests can take their candy home with them, or carry it around the party to snack on, which can also be found at the dollar store. Because the candy is already brightly colored, I printed out simple signs with the candy names on them, and tied them around each container with ribbon. And as simple and cost effective as that, you have a full size candy bar to satisfy the sweet tooth of your guests!

If you would like to create your own candy bar, but aren't sure what to serve, there are some great online resources for nostalgic candy for different eras. Check out Nostalgic Candy or Groovy Candies for party packs and candy by decade. A candy bar is a simple and easy way to take anyone back to their childhood!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Childhood Revisited - Part 1

This past Saturday, I hosted a birthday party for my husband Logan who turned 30. To mark the milestone, I came up with a nostalgic theme, complete with food and lawn games that would take our friends back to their childhood. While I found the theme fun, I never realized how party perfect it would all turn out! For food, we chose some of Logan's favorite finger foods he had growing up....

I think my new party rule will be to serve kid food.... seriously, I have never had a party where all of the food was GONE at the end of the evening, and chips were the only things left over. I got more compliments on the food, and I didn't even make any special FTH recipes!!!

In addition to kegs of beer, we also had Margarita Punch. My good friend Andrea passed along this recipe, and it truly is the best party alternative to beer and wine, mainly because it has both beer and liquor in it, so you can drink anything after the punch and not get a headache from mixing your alcohols!

2 cans Frozen Lime-aid
2 Coronas
1 can Tequila (use the lime-aid can to measure)
1 can 7-Up (use the lime-aid can to measure)
Slices of fresh lime

Mix and serve in a big pitcher or drink container over ice. This recipe can easily be doubled, and is surely a hit as a deliciously refreshing drink at any summer party!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Great Gazpacho

A friend gave me the Dean & Deluca Cookbook (find it here) and swears by their Gazpacho recipe. Since my father-in-law is Spanish, this is a cultural dish that I love and take very seriously, so I decided to try the D&D version. It was creamy and light, and very refreshing!

1/4 lb crustless French bread, torn into coarse chunks
1 lb ripe red tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
6 oz, cucumber, cut into coarse chunks
6 oz, red bell pepper, cut into coarse chunks
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
salt and pepper

Pour water over the bread, and then squeeze out the excess. Add the bread to a food processor. Place the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. Before serving, thin with a little ice water, and top with cracked black pepper and diced cucumber. I like to make some crispy garlic bread to serve as a side. A cool, filling meal on a hot summery day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wine Your Worries Away

"I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food."

As a hostess, the one thing I always have on hand is a good bottle of wine. I try to always make healthy meals for dinner to have better eating habits, but the ulterior motive is that my husband can have ice cream for dessert and I can have a glass of wine. Even with takeout, a glass of wine just seems to make everything taste better.

Recently, someone asked me why I haven't featured wine on my blog, especially since I love it so much. After much thought, I decided that reviewing wines every now and then wasn't good enough, since there are so many wonderful ones we have every week. So, I created Wino Wednesday, a blog that updates every Wednesday with a new wine review. I will also be featuring an occasional review here that compliment FTH recipes.

Check out our first wine review: Carmel Road

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Twist On Breadsticks

Here is a quick and delicious appetizer:

Italian Breadsticks
Crumbled Blue Cheese

Take a piece of proscuitto and lay it flat. At one end, sprinkle a little crumbled blue cheese, and place the breadstick over the cheese. Gently roll the proscuitto and breadstick together, pressing the cheese between the two layers. This will help hold it all together.

I served these with a balsamic sour cream for just a hint of sweetness. Take an 8oz. tub of light sour cream, add 4 Tbsp of Balsamic glaze, and mix. Make sure it is the glaze and not regular balsamic vinegar... you really want the sweet glaze to balance the saltiness of the proscuitto and blue cheese. Spoon the mixture into a decorative bowl, or design on the plate, and serve!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wonderful Watermelon

I was reading Food and Wine magazine when I came upon one of the most unusual recipes. Its odd combination of ingredients sparked my curiosity (and palate!), but it was its chef, Jacques Pepin, that had me sold. All the ingredients can be prepared the night before, and then combined just before serving. I served this as a Fourth of July side dish, and it not only got rave reviews, but will now be a summer staple in our house.

8 lb. Seedless Ripe Watermelon
1 Sweet Onion, chopped
1 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
8 oz. crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 cup Mint leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
Pinch of Salt and Pepper

Cut the watermelon into cubes, or use a melon baller to make them into rounds in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the lemon juice, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Add the onion, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and mint to the watermelon. Pour the lemon and Tabasco mixture over the salad, and gently toss. I like to chill this for a few minutes before serving. If you have leftovers, be sure to drain a bit of the juices before serving. Enjoy this fresh and surprising dish!

Monday, July 6, 2009

LD's Award Winning White Chicken Chili

Every year, my husband and his brothers have a cook-off, complete with judges (guests), prizes, and most importantly, street cred! They pick one dish to compete... they have made pizzas, cheesecake, brownies, and chili, just to name a few. This was my brother-in-law's winning chili recipe, and because it is a white chili, I feel it is one you can enjoy year 'round!

3 Limes (including zest)
1/2 cup Tequila
Red Pepper Flakes
2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1 lb Great Northern Beans (I used canned)
2 Large Onions, chopped
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
5 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 (4oz) cans of Chopped Green Chilies
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp cumin
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper, divided into 1 tsp proportions
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
6 cups chicken stock (I used the boxed kind)
3 cups Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
Sour Cream
Chopped Fresh Chives
Fritos Scoops (as an added bonus!)

To marinate the chicken ahead of time in a covered dish, zest one of the limes and then juice all 3 limes and pour juice and zest over the chicken breast. Add tequila, 1 tsp of cumin, and 1 tsp of cayenne pepper. Sprinkle on a few red pepper flakes, and marinate the chicken for 3 hours.

Heat olive oil in stock pot and saute onions until translucent. Add garlic, green chilies, cumin, cayenne pepper, and cloves, and continue to saute until all are mixed. Then add beans and chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, or until beans are tender.

While the beans and onions are simmering, take marinated chicken out of the fridge and grill for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from the grill and cut into small pieces. Just before serving, add the chicken and 1 cup of cheese to the chili mixture and stir until all the cheese has melted. Ladle into bowls and top with remaining cheese, sour cream, chives, and Fritos.

I hope you enjoy this chili as much as I do. Its tangy chicken and savory beans surely make it more than just an award winner!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Presentation Is Everything

Tableware is one of the most important things in entertaining. It is what you use to present your food, and even if it is store bought, you want it to look good.

When my husband and I were registering for our everyday place settings, we wanted something neutral, but not white, and could be used for both a casual dinner or a festive dinner party. And then we found Vera.... Vera Wang for Wedgwood, two amazing companies who know about table style and presentation, have teamed up to create the stoneware Naturals line. We chose the Leaf color as our set, which you can see in my recipes and above, is almost khaki with a hint of green. The more we use it, the more we love it, and the way all our food looks on it too!

The point is, your everyday dishes should be versatile and presentable, in the fact that you will use them daily for EVERYTHING. White is classic, and while this was my first choice for tableware, we decided to be just a little different. Also, my mother had always LOVED the Fiesta Dinnerware, and after 25 years of marriage and boring plates, decided to ditch her old place settings and splurge for all her favorite colors of Fiesta. She just loves how the vivid colors of the plates really bring food to life. Since ours are neutral, I love to incorporate other colors into our dinner presentations. As you may recognize from pictures, we have red bamboo plates, and orange baroque plates from Pottery Barn. I am also a HUGE fan of Nora Fleming's line of off-white dishes with "mini's" to decorate for any occasion.

No matter what you are cooking and serving, always remember that presentation is a dish's first impression. You want to be sure to serve it on something that you love as much as the food itself.
Photos courtesy of Wedgwood, Nora Felming, Pottery Barn, and Homer Laughlin China Company.