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Showing posts with label easy entertaining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy entertaining. Show all posts

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Baked Goat Cheese Drizzled with Honey | Easy Appetizer

I'm not a huge horsd'oeuvres person.  In fact, if you come to our house for dinner, you'll likely find a bottle of open wine, a bowl of nuts and some sort of crostini.  In the Summer, I serve the crostini with a bowl of fresh tomatoes, basil & delicious olive oil.  In the Winter, I like something a bit heavier like a hot spinach dip (an oldie but a goodie).

Recently, Mike and I branched out of our regular dining routine and headed to a new "hot spot" in town...  I say that because we normally go to dark and cozy bistros that have been around for years instead of the new trendy place.  Hard to break old habits.  We had a fabulous meal, but my favorite part was our appetizer - Baked Goat Cheese drizzled with Honey, sprinkled with fresh Thyme, Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt.  It was served with warm grilled bread.  I could've eaten the entire thing.  And almost did.  

I love how simple it seemed - ingredients and preparation.  It has been our go-to snack this month.  It is salty, sweet, tangy and the perfect thing to schmear on toast.

Baked Goat Cheese

with Honey
Soft Goat Cheese
Fresh Thyme
Sea Salt
Cracked Pepper
Olive Oil

Prehead broiler in oven to 400 degrees.

In a small oven-proof bowl or ramekin, spread soft goat cheese. 

Prepare baguette by slicing into thin pieces.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Just before serving, bake under broiler in oven for 5-8 minutes, just until slightly warm.

At the same time, toast the bread under the broiler as well for 2-4 minutes until browned on the edges.

Remove bread from oven and rub with a raw clove of garlic that has been cut in half. 

Drizzle honey on warm goat cheese.  Sprinkle on fresh thyme leaves, sea salt & fresh cracked pepper.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Emma's 2nd Birthday | Cookie Decorating & Family Party

Two years ago, we were at Emerson Hospital in Concord, getting ready to bring Emma home - I can't believe it.  Time flies.  If I try really hard, I can still feel what it felt like the instant she was born.  So surreal.  

For her birthday, I wanted it to be a day (ok... weekend) that would be all about her favorite things.  It started with a whimsical morning of snowflake balloons, a doll house and glittered packages.  I invited her cousins and aunts to decorate Snow Day themed sugar cookies that morning, then we had the rest of the family for dinner that night for a casual night of pasta and cupcakes.  After dinner the girls took horse-drawn carriage ride to look at Christmas lights.  It was such a great weekend filled with thrills for Emma - and Mom and Dad.


I wanted her be surprised when she woke up and came downstairs, so I picked up some balloons to decorate - clear 16" balloons with silver glitter inside.  I had last minute inspiration to hang snowflakes (paper-source, $5) from the streamers, when I saw the chance of snow in the overnight forecast.   It took about 5 minutes and completely delighted her.  She had the sweetest little smile on her face when we carried her in the living room.

Mr. Darcy is more interested in the packages than Emma.

She skipped right past the doll house and packages to gather all of the snowflakes.  This has me rethinking my plans for Christmas gifts... maybe just a room full of balloons?

She did love the glittered packages - "Pixie Dust" wrapping paper.  (Paper-Source)

Back to gathering snowflakes!

Her new "dollies" got her attention!

Emma spies her....


Everyone was shocked to find out that Mike and Emma made the cupcakes.   They made the cake part the night before while I had fun picking up my party supplies.

I frosted them with a pale pink frosting, topped them with sanding sugar and an "Emma's Room Pink" (of course) Celebration Candle.

We made "homemade" cinnamon rolls the night before, let them rise overnight and baked them while we opened her packages.  Here is waits patiently in her gingham cookie decorating apron (Pottery Barn Kids) and party hat.

I put together a quick centerpiece for the table while Emma put her party dress on.  Magnolia leaves, cedar sprigs, white hydrangea...

And a really beautiful white Amaryllis.  I love using Amaryllis in a cut arrangement.  This stem of 4 blooms was $12 and worth every penny.  Last year, I did 3 pale pink Amaryllis for Emma's Birthday, also with magnolia and cedar.

A simple table with preserved topiaries, candles and my flowers.

My Birthday Girl and her dollies.

We invited Emma's cousins and aunts over to decorate Snow-y Christmas Cookies.  I wanted the girls to have fun with the cookies, but I wanted them to be "pretty" as well, so I opted for a couple of colors of icing, then three different types of white sprinkles.  The snowflake sprinkles were definitely the most popular.

I had boxes, ribbon and tags ready to go for packing up cookies for everyone to take home.

I used my Snow Day themed cards - I love them because they are holiday-ish, but not too Christmassy, since this is Emma Birthday.  I think they'll be fun in January, too, to take treats around to neighbors on a snowed-in day.

Patiently waiting to decorate...

She had to go back and check out all of the sprinkles one more time.

She decided she would practice and pretend while she waited.

Emma and her cousin Sam starting on their cookies.  I can tell this is the first one, because sprinkles and icing soon covered every surface in sight.

Emma had a signature one blob of blue, with a few sprinkles. 

Sam had a signature giant pile of icing covering every morsel of cookie, then completely covered with snowflakes.

Kate is still working on her technique.  Mostly licking.

Here are some of their works of art, with a few of mine in "kid-style" to fill in the gaps.  Beautiful!

Gramp Gramp and the two youngest girls... both babies just last year.

Uncle Josh & Claire joining in on the fun.

We had our own concert with Emma's new set of instruments.   She's really going to town with her "trumpet."

Such a great weekend and filled to the brim with fun for Emma and great memories for us.  Happy Birthday to our sweet Emma.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Real Entertaining | A Dinner Party featuring East Hampton Hedge

I love our neighborhood.  I've dedicated several posts to the subject - about how crucial I believe a strong neighborhood to be and about how I've always longed for living on a street with fabulous neighbors.  Our street is just that.  Last December we hosted a casual holiday gathering to meet everyone on our street.  That party resulted in many so many fun friendships - a few different couples that we go to dinner with on a regular basis, a new golf buddy for Mike, a morning walking partner for me and the kind of neighbors that will check on Mr. Darcy (or visa versa...) if we're away for the day.

I also recently found out that one of my neighbors mothers is a famous designer... seriously.  We walked down to their house one evening (with our own half-opened bottle of wine) so Emma could play with their boys, and I find myself having a drink with someone that is regularly mentioned in Elle Decor, House Beautiful, etc.  She was fabulous - I was picking her brain for her favorite paint colors (Ben Moore, White, of course) and recommendations on everything I could think of.

The style of entertaining for neighborhood friends is the sort of entertaining I love.  When you think of having the neighbors over, it is casual, unpretentious and relaxed.  We often get together with our friends, Annie & George, for dinner.   It tends to works better for us to have them over to our house because we after Emma mingles for a little bit and we have cocktails, then we can put her to bed and enjoy a leisurely adult dinner.  Which for me means I can eat dinner with out someone sitting on my lap - or taking everyone's napkins off their laps and putting them back in the linen drawer... currently her favorite mealtime activity.

Obviously, I'm more than happy to host, but Annie & George always graciously like to contribute to the meal, since we're not always available to go to their house for dinner.  The last time they came over George made his famous Peach Cobbler.  It was unbelievable.  Unbelievable.  This weekend they brought a smoked chicken that he'd rubbed with a mesquite seasoning that was also soooo delicious.  You can see why I'm happy to have them contribute to the meal!   Here is our menu for the night - I'll be sharing the recipes later this week.

Menu :

Homemade Salted Soft Pretzels with Mustard & Cheese
Annie & George's Smoked Chicken
Heirloom Tomatoes with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Cauliflower Gratin with White Cheddar & Parmesan
Pesto & Peas Pasta Salad
George's Famous Peach (and Blueberry) Cobbler

So, they brought the chicken and I made sides and dessert.  Dividing up the menu is such a fun (and easy) way to entertain because everyone gets to contribute and feel a part of it... instead of one person running around exhausting themselves.  I used to shy away from letting guests bring anything, but after hosting my Barefoot Contessa Party in January (we all fixed something from her new cookbook), I learned how much more festive it can be - especially when you get together with the same crew on a regular basis.  It gives everyone something to be excited about... and lets the hostess concentrate on fun details like the table setting - something that can get overlooked when you have a really long to-do list.

For the centerpiece I used the wild flowering vine (apparently, it is called "Sweet Autumn Clematis, thanks to a comment below!) that is growing rampantly over our back fence.  It smells amazing - like the last sweet thing of summer.  I loosely arranged it in a pewter pitcher (Match Pewter, a wedding gift) and flanked it with a pair of "East Hampton Hedge" tapers ($10.50) from my store.

Since I opened my store (1 month ago!) my collection of taper candles has exploded, so I've been on the hunt for various candle holders.  I'm in love with these glass ones that are perfect with our wine glasses.  You'll never believe where I found them... target.  Yes, for about $9 each.  I love them.  And I love that I have them paired with an expensive pitcher that has rustic, wild flowers spilling out of it... such a mix of high-low accents.

This photo represents the true color of "East Hampton Hedge" well.  It is a natural, muted green that has a yellow tone.

About the East Hampton Hedge Color Collection :

I fell in love with the perfectly groomed hedges of East Hampton when we visited a couple of years ago.  You can read about our trip and our sighting of the Barefoot Contessa (we were seated right next to her at dinner), here.

When I saw this candle color (the manufacturer calls it Spring Green), I thought East Hampton Hedge was a perfect name for it.  I've matched an embroidery thread to it as well, so you can also get my hemstitch napkins embroidered to match (as pictured to the right).  And... I can print custom labels to coordinate.

East Hampton Hedge Products:

-12" Taper Candles, $10.50
-Linen Hemstitch Napkins with Monogram, $38
-Cocktail Napkins with Monogram, $22
-Custom Labels, $12

I love using this green color with white flowers because it picks up the color of the green vines and foliage.  They would be a good choice for any floral arrangement that features beautiful leaves or greenery... as they say, green is natures neutral.

I used hemstitch cocktail napkins for cocktails and appetizers.  The color looks a little dark here - I took this shot it in the evening.

The food prep was so easy - most done in the food processor.   I started by grating parmesan cheese in the mini prep, then made pesto.

I love this salad - the combination of the sweet peas, sharp pesto and the salty parmesan is soooo good.  Thanks to the Barefoot Contessa.

Then, without even needing to clean the food processor, we made homemade ranch dressing.   Emma was helping to squeeze the lemon.

 Homemade ranch is so easy - sour cream, milk, lemon juice, garlic, chives, salt & pepper.  Whirl.

  The Cauliflower Gratin was the most labor intensive - but really, very simple.  I steamed the cauliflower for a minute or two, then made a cheese sauce.  Topped with panko and parmesan - just bake for 20 minutes before dinner.

 I'm not sure where the inspiration for this came from, but I really wanted homemade pretzels.  I used Rhodes frozen bread dough (the same that I use for my "homemade" cinnamon rolls) and made it into pretzels.  They were so good!  I need to perfect it a little bit before I post the recipe and final photos (they weren't sooo pretty), but stay tuned.

I served the tomatoes on a plate and the ranch dressing on the side for everyone to drizzle.

Pesto, Peas & Pasta Salad

 Bubbly and cheesy cauliflower gratin.

 And... George's Cobbler!

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