Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Colors

I love that Fall is finally here, if only it weren't still 90 degrees here in Florida. I love the warm scents of cinnamon and pumpkin, and mostly the fall colors that they embody.... red, yellow, and orange.

While we may not have the changing of leaves to these beautiful, vibrant colors, we do have beautiful flowers that can mimic the change in our homes. Recently at the grocery store, I found lush blooms of Gerbera daisies and Chrysanthemums on sale for $5 a bunch. I quickly snatched up the blooms and took them home. With a little flower fertilizer in the vase, these blooms lasted about 2 weeks with a simple stem trim and water change every couple of days. It is an easy way to bring fall into your home!

Stay close in the next couple of weeks for lots of cute decorating tips for fall, as well as some scary Halloween delights, and great recipes for those football get-togethers!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Bubble Room - Red Velvet Cake

The Bubble Room is a famous restaurant on Captiva Island, Florida. While the restaurant itself is one of the most unique and fun places to eat, their desserts are the true treat! Its founder, Katie Gardenia, sold the restaurant a few years ago, but it still makes her grandmother's legendary recipe for Red Velvet Cake. This cake is large, rich, and truly sinful! Here's the recipe:

3 3/4 cups Self Rising Flour
2 1/4 cups Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Baking Cocoa
3 Eggs
2 1/4 cups Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 cups Whole Buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp White Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
3 oz (3 boxes) Red Food Coloring

Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking cocoa in a bowl. Add the eggs, vinegar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and food coloring, and mix well. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spoon the mixture into 3 greased and floured 9" round cake pans. Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the layers separate from the sides of the pan and poking the middle with a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in pans for 10-20 minutes. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting:

16 oz Cream Cheese
1 1/2 cups Butter, softened
2 (16oz) boxes of Confectioners Sugar
Whole or halved Pecans

Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until light. Beat in the confectioners sugar.

Finally, remove one layer of the cake and place on a serving dish. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the cooled cake, and then place the second layer of the cake. Repeat with the third layer. It is easiest to coat the entire 3 layers with a thin base of icing, and then let the cake cool for an hour. Then take out of the refrigerator and top the rest of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with pecans, or make decorative shapes or designs with them.

Enjoy this cake with a large glass of cold milk and some friends. It is large and rich, so thin pieces are all you need to enjoy it. It is such an amazing cake, I served it at my wedding. I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Day of Summer Salad

In honor of the last day of summer, here is a quick and easy salad, made entirely of ripe, end-of-season vegetables. Fresh and delicious, it is a great way to savor the last bit of summer.

1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
1 Cucumber, seeds removed
Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives , halved
8 oz Feta Cheese, cubed

Chop all vegetables and combine in a bowl. Add Kalamata olives and cubed Feta Cheese last. Then mix with the following dressing:

2 cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Toss and serve. This salad can also be chilled for up to three hours before serving. Enjoy this salad with these last moments of the warm summer sun.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anniversary Party - Food

In planning the Anniversary party, we really had to sit down and think about food. When you are expected to feed 50+ people, you really have to set a budget and figure out how much food you will need. We went with a simple and cost-effective approach, since we really wanted to spend money on good wine. After much debate and about 2 hours at Sam's Club, we spent $200 on ALL the food for the party. Yes, you heard me correctly. Usually that covers dinner for 8 at a moderately priced restaurant these days, but not 50+ people. So what exactly did we serve? Scroll down for the results.

First, since our food theme was wine and cheese, we spent a good deal of money on big block cheeses, and luckily, Sam's Club had a wonderful selection. We chose cheeses that guests could cut themselves and add to an array of crackers. We had Brie, Goat Cheese, Blue Cheese, Sharp Cheddar, and Asiago. While there are many other wonderful options, like Gruyere and Jarlsberg, we wanted simple and recognizable cheeses that most everyone would like. They were plated on large wood cutting boards with cheese knives, and had wine cork place cards to identify them.

We had other delicious goodies to accompany the cheese. A fruit plate of red and green seedless grapes, and fresh strawberries was paired with a vanilla Greek yogurt sauce. The vegetable spread featured broccoli, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, red, yellow, and orange peppers, and was paired with hummus. Even though they sell prepared trays of fruit and vegetables at any grocery store, it is cheaper to buy in bulk and take a few minutes to prepare the trays yourself. This gives you a better looking spread, and while it may not save you time, it does save you a ton of money, and truthfully, they can be prepared the night before! We also served shrimp cocktail, tortilla chips with a homemade blue cheese dip, and marinated olives to complete the spread.

As the main course, we decided to have a mini sandwich bar in which guests could make their own from an array of options. We purchased small dinner rolls, roast beef, ham, and turkey, and had toppings of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, bacon, olive tapenade, tzaziki sauce, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, horseradish and the usual mayonnaise and mustard. We figured the amount of sandwiches to be about 85 total, since there were 50+ people, and some (mostly the hungry men) would want more than one.

And who could forget dessert? Not us! We served another beautiful spread of homemade chocolate, dark chocolate, and spice brownies, lemon poppy seed cookies, curry vanilla bars, and a store bought chocolate cake.

All the food paired wonderfully with the good wine and casual atmosphere. While it doesn't look like that much of a meal, guests were constantly hovered over the food tables, and not one of them left hungry!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anniversary Party - Ambiance & Extras

In planning a party, its the little extras that really bring the rest of it together. You have to consider chairs, tables, activities (besides eating and drinking), serving ware, and ambiance.

Since our event was an Anniversary Party with a wine and cheese theme, we had to accommodate everyone comfortably around the pool. We set up card tables, and with beautiful wine-colored linens from a local rental place, we vamped them up a bit. Folding chairs went around the tables, and scattered in pairs around the pool and lanai. We own a bunch of these Terje chairs, and they are the most wonderful things to have for any party!

For the large food and drink tables, again we had them covered with wine colored linens. We also made candle centerpieces for all the tables, using glass vases, leftover corks and candles - super easy! Some of the lower vases had pillar candles, and taller ones had taper candles. Beware of the taper candles though... you have to blow them out once they burn down a little, since cork does burn!

Since it was an Anniversary Party, we also had all three couples bring their wedding albums for other guests to go through. We encouraged guests to look at them away from the food and drinks, as you would like to preserve the pictures without a glass of wine having been spilled on them. We set up a table inside so that guests could come at their leisure to reminisce about the pictures and possibly their own wedding back in the day!

Serving ware is also important. For a nice party, you do not want your guests eating on white paper plates and napkins! Since paper is easier to clean up when accommodating a large party, we used gold paper plates and festive paper napkins. But because it was a wine party, the last thing I wanted guests to drink out of would be plastic cups. Splurge and spend the money to rent wine glasses, and make sure you have extras in case guests drop one or would like to change their beverage.

And lastly, have something for your guests to do besides mingle and eat. Like I mentioned earlier, music is key for guests who just want to sit down and enjoy themselves, but other activities also promote interaction with guests who don't know each other. We have a pool table and ping pong table inside off the lanai, however, we had some lawn games like corn hole and lawn golf set up in the yard. The simplicity of the games got people to play, and even some to watch, and made the event more fun.

Not every detail is remembered by your guests, but careful planning and special touches really pull the other party elements together, making it a big hit!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Anniversary Party - Playlist

Since we were hosting an outdoor party, we had to cater the music not only to the age of the crowd, but the size. Since we had a large group, we needed music that was both modern and old school, and nothing too loud to drown out the conversations between guests. Since my parents love music, we took the easy route and used their iPod for the playlist. I have made a small collection of the songs that played here:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

As you can see, they like a little bit of everything! If you can't use your iPod, just set up your computer and make a free playlist here. You can add up to 180 songs on one playlist, which is perfect for an entire night of fun!

Check back soon for more party ideas from our fabulous party!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anniversary Party - Invitations

This year celebrated my parents 30th wedding anniversary in May, and a couple of months ago, we figured out that my in-laws 35th anniversary was also this year in September. What became even more of a coincidence was that my sister-in-law Michelle's parents also were to celebrate their 30th in July! The three couples, all related now by marriage of their children, were planning on just going to dinner to celebrate together, but Michelle and I had a better idea... A party with their families and some close friends!

We decided to host the party at my parents house, a Mediterranean meets Florida style home on the water. The party would be casual and outdoors on the lanai and pool deck. We wanted a simple invitation, and decided that wedding photos of their special day 30+ years ago would also be humorous and perfect for a fun party! The invite we made is below(click on the invite to enlarge), but personal information of our parents has been removed - Pictures from the day of their wedding are embarrassing enough to post on the Internet! This invitation was made with Microsoft Publisher, a super easy program to create all sorts of designs and invitations (I used it for all of my wedding papery), writing an original poem, and a little raiding of some old photo albums. We printed the invites on heavy, shiny card stock at a local print shop, which also helped us enhance the pictures. They came out simple and fun, just like our party was to be!

Check back soon for more party ideas from this great event!