I’m Not Going to Lie…I Throw a Killer Party

So I know I promised months ago that I’d tell you about our housewarming party, but then LIFE happened…and the housewarming party came and went…and definitely got put on the back burner. But here it is in all it’s gaming glory.

I wanted to throw a game-themed party. And actually I wanted to get crazy into it with a different game theme in every room and people playing games everywhere. I had HUGE plans. I was going to set up a whole CLUE scenario. I was going to have little Jenga pieces for everyone to put house tips on. I was going to make cute little favors for everyone. But, as many of you already know…shit doesn’t happen the way we plan it. We closed on our house on October 15. We moved on October 25. And we threw the housewarming party on November 15. We’re lucky the house was clean and there was food to eat.

Throw an awesome housewarming party

Part of the quick turnaround was because I NEEDED to have an organized, put-together house in order to survive. I would have gone bonkers if we were living amidst boxes and bags that hadn’t been opened and organized. (There are still a few of those, but not many…and none of mine). Part of the quick turnaround was the timing. If it was around Christmastime, I would have had to have Christmas up and running perfectly…and then we were hosting Christmas dinner and it would have been a disaster of too many parties in quick succession. If it were after Christmastime…well let’s just say we’re still recovering and Christmas is still lingering in unseen areas of our home.

ANYWAYS. So we threw a party. Pretty quickly. And had about 65 people show up throughout the day (while expecting about 35-40!). We opened our house up to guests from noon until whenever (which ended up being around midnight), and ran ourselves ragged with tours and food replenishing and beverage duty. We had some wins and we had some fails, but all in all it was a total success.

While no one really played games, the theme was pretty evident throughout the house.

How to throw a game-themed housewarming party (without killing yourself or your partner)

Decor

Set up an AWESOME food display in an open area, where people can grab food, mill around and start one of the bazillion tours you’re about to give.If you don’t have a lot of decorations elsewhere, that’s okay (YOUR NEW HOUSE is the decoration that everyone’s dying to see). I was a caterer in another life, so the buffet set up can be super baller if you know how to use levels and fluff the hell out of tablecloths or fabric. (I use milk crates and similar containers to create my levels). Because I have so many Scrabble boards and pieces from my wanna-be-a-crafter box (and that one time I made Scrabble Christmas ornaments for everyone), I thought that using them on my buffet would be a hit! I labeled all the food with tiles (and even used the board to get all the ingredients for my Blue Cheese and Date Spread on Endive. I also pulled a few more game boards and pieces for good measure, adding just the right amount of nerdy gameyness.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

Setting up buffet tables is one of my special skills. I used to be a catering manager so this sort of thing really tickles my jollies.

dice and trvial pursuit

Food

Choose food that is SUPER easy to make and replenish. I’m a big fan of Crock Pot apps and snacks, so I went with BBQ weenies and buffalo chicken dip. I actually had another Crock Pot in the kitchen with more buffalo chicken dip for easy replenishment. My mom made several deli platters for sandwiches and it was cold enough that we could keep the reserves outside.Obviously there was a cheese platter. I like to to a lot of fan faves and choose one crazy concoction that I hope works out (that would be the blue cheese and date spread – which worked out). I made ALL of the food the night before, so the day of I could focus on the insanity of hiding all our crap in boxes and corners and shit.

BBQ weenies

Note the chess pieces, trivial pursuit cards and scrabble tiles for a mix of beloved classics

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Gratuitous cheese photo

Gratuitous cheese photo. Please note. I spelled cheese wring and am completely ashamed of myself. But don’t you love the risk board below?

Dessert

I REALLY wanted to make domino brownies. And I REALLY didn’t want to do a lot of baking. So I baked chocolate chip cookie bars and gluten-free brownies (both from mixes, homies) and picked up a giant brownie cake thing from Sam’s Club. I sliced the brownie in Domino-size pieces and dotted them with frosting. And it fucking worked.

Domino Brownies

I seriously thought these were going to be a huge Pinterest fail. And then they turned out alright.

mint chocolate chip cookie barsDrinks

We had wine galore. We had beer. We had the soda stream. We had two Keurigs. And we had some epic fails in forgetting to get bottled water and cans of pop. Not realizing just how many people would come, we thought that we’d be fine with soda stream and filtered water from the fridge… Go buy cans of pop and bottled water. Save yourself. Seriously.

Oh. And get these shots – which were a HUGE hit.

Twisted Shots Twisted ShotsPlaying HostessI discovered Twisted Shots while at BlogHer in San Jose last summer. They actually sent me a lovely little box of these delicious treats for my housewarming party! After 7, I figured it was time to get the party going (and most of the touring had ended), so I brought out the shots. I played server and convinced almost everyone to try a shot or two. With flavors like Sex on the Beach, Buttery Nipple and Porn Star, you know you’ve got a good thing going. Almost everyone was down with these sugary sweet twisted shots full of colorful booze that tasted mostly like candy. Even my whiskey-loving friends found a few shots that were right up their alleys.

Tours

Plan on basically spending the majority of the time touring and put someone else in charge of food and beverages once the party starts. Even if there are two of you, you’ll be switching off with the tours on a pretty serious cadence…and I think there were a few moments when we ran out of food. But I don’t know for sure because I was racing all over and mingling and busy and reveling and all of the things! (Yes, that sentence is supposed to give you anxiety.)

In the end, though, all you really want is for the people you love to come over and eat your food, drink your booze, and tell you that your house is pretty. And that’s what happened. I heard all sorts of positive things in regards to our first event in the new place (and then we hosted Second Thanksgiving…and then we hosted Christmas. So there was that.)

Blog friends, tell me about your party throwing experiences? What have you learned? What have you done well? What would you have done for a game-themed party?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Random Food Staples Always in our Kitchen

Normal people have a regular supply of certain foods always in stock. You know, things like mustard, ketchup, chicken breasts, American or cheddar cheese, pickles, Ritz crackers, olive oil…Sure we have some of these things in our fridge and pantry from time to time. Some of these normal foods even remain as staples in our home. But more often than not, my “must-have” food items are a little surprise quirky. I mean, you know we always have 5-10 different types of cheese hanging around in the cheese drawer. And for Brian, we ALWAYS have to have a back-up to the back-up of pico de gallo and tortilla chips. And the twelve different types of hot sauce…You can never have too much hot sauce. But these are some of my other favorite foodie treats.

Cheese drawer

This is the cheese drawer. Yes. I use cheese paper. It’s the best thing ever.

 

Arugula

Boring plain old lettuce is for chumps. Spinach? Chumps. I use arugula as a substitute for lettuce AND spinach. It’s flavorful. Green. Chock full of healthy. It’s amazing. I buy the Rocket Salad from Trader Joe’s, at $1.99 a bag, but you can find arugula in most grocery stores. TIP: If it starts to get wilty, cook it up in some  pasta or soup. You don’t need the perfect fresh arugula, and then you’re not wasting delicious $1.99/bag lettuce. At 0 Points Plus, it’s a great hearty side to any meal.

Pine nuts (Pignolias)

The nutty answer to almost everything. They’re a little lower in fat content that some other nuts, and you still get that nutty flavor that you’re looking for. Plus, a little goes a long way. Again, I buy mine from TJ’s.

Truffle Oil

I’ve used several different brands of truffle oil, and I like some of the more inexpensive oils better than the pricier options. I recommend taste testing some of the cheaper ones to start, just to see whether you’re a fan of the truffle aroma, or not…this one’s an acquired taste, a lot like me. So you’ll either love it or hate it.

Now go mix all three of the previously mentioned items together for an amazing salad of JOY. If you’re doing Weight Watchers, this little salad is 3 Points Plus for 2 cups of arugula, 1/2 oz pine nuts and 1 tsp truffle oil. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and you’re ready to go… Just saying. And if you’re not on weight watchers, add parmesan cheese. Oh hell, even if you are…it’s worth the extra points.

Tarragon

Tarragon

I have a friend who gets me spices for Christmas every year. She’s got a sweet hookup and we’re Polish…so we like deals. I think this conversation pretty much speaks for itself. She actually gave me saffron one year and dared me to make something with it. I threw it in one of my “throw shit in a pan and hope it works out” recipes. It worked.

Speaking of which…that leads me to…

Smoked paprika

Forget regular paprika. This smoky sister to the standard spice brings out ALL the FLAVORS. So much delicious in EVERYTHING. Yumm-o. I use it on meat a lot (chicken, pork, lamb, beef – makes no difference to me). And in my chili. And sometimes on  veggies.

There are definitely more random food items, but I figured I’d start you off small. If you haven’t tried these beautiful creations, go forth and get the fuck on it. Because they’ll make you happy.

Hot sauce

This is a portion of our hot sauce/hot peppers. We also have a variety of salsas and pico de gallo. We don’t fuck around with spicy.

What are some of the strange things you always have in your fridge/cabinets? Are any of my choices on your list? What’s your favorite herb or spice?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: The Ten Best Cheeses to Eat Solo

Listen up. I know that cheese makes EVERYTHING better. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dessert…Cheese can play an integral role in any dish. But in honor of National Cheese Lover’s Day (January 20th, yo!) I’m going to encourage you to DEVOUR some delicious cheese from around the globe…without a cracker, dipper, chip, entree, bread, sauce, or any other accouterments. Because while cheese makes everything taste better, cheese itself is like Mary fucking Poppins. Practically perfect in every way. This list is in no particular order. Because I can’t just organize my love of cheese. Try arranging your children by favorite to least favorite…I mean…uhhh…

Eat some cheese.

I love eating cheese by itself. Honestly, I love eating cheese in all its glorious forms. But these cheeses taste great solo, and as a cheese connoisseur, I can assure you they're delicious.

Midnight Moon by Cypress Grove

Do you remember my GUSHING love letter to Cypress Grove? While I’ve tried many of Cypress Grove’s decadent and amazing goat cheeses, Midnight Moon, which is a creamy, nutty magic blast of goat milky goodness, remains at the top of every cheese list. If I had to pick one beloved cheese to rule them all…this might be the ringleader.

Farmstead Bay Blue by Point Reyes

This buttered-cracker flavored blue is AMAZING. It’s semi-firm and likened to a Stilton.  If you like blue cheese, this a really delicious cheese that I like to just sort of…eat. Who needs crackers anyway when you have a spoon?Cheese Sign

Apple Harvest Cheddar with Cinnamon by Maple Lead Farms

Oh man, you guys. So this is a family favorite. I think my cousin almost kissed me when I brought her some home from Wisconsin. You can more frequently find their cranberry and blueberry varieties, which are still pretty tasty…but it’s really hard to compare to this apply-cheddary goodness. Om nom nom.

Chocolate Cheddar by Trader Joe’s

This mecca for tasty, yet not too expensive cheese has a seasonal variety that should be making its way back into stores soon. Cheddar cheese with flecks of chocolate make this a dessert, breakfast or delicious snacking cheese. You’re quite welcome.

2014-11-15 14.22.20

Raspberry Bellavitano by Sartori

Sartori makes a lot of amazing cheeses, including an espresso bellavitano, but my favorite is still the raspberry. A flavor cross between a cheddar and a parmesan with a hint of raspberry makes this magic in a wheel.

Wisconsin Cheese Curds

If you are ANYWHERE near Wisconsin, might I recommend a day trip to pick up some fresh squeaky cheese?

Merkt’s Swiss

If you’re absolutely disgusting, like I am…you’ll appreciate eating spreadable cheese with a spoon. If you’re not…well try not to judge too much. Sometimes the calories are wasted on crackers when they’re completely unnecessary.

Photo from Merkt's Website

Photo from Merkt’s Website

Smoked String Cheese

Forget the regular string cheese and find yourself this smoky variety that tastes like fucking camping. CAMPING!

Mariek Gouda (any flavor)

You can find several styles of this creamy, flavorful gouda, including caraway seed, mustard seed, foenegreek (which gives it a maple-y flavor), and burning nettle melange. If you like gouda, I recommend giving one of these flavors a go.

Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona

This cheese is very mild & a little sweet with a  hint of chocolate flavor from the light dusting along the rind. I’m a huge fan of Carr Valley-they’re one of my favorite Wisconsin cheese labels. If you come across something from Carr Valley, give it a whirl. Oooh Marisa is a great Carr Valley option too!

This was a recent SnapChat post. Looks like dinner to me!

This was a recent SnapChat post. Looks like dinner to me! The middle cheese is Carr Valley Marissa, the front right is Midnight Moon. I’m not sure of the other two, but I’m sure they were delicious.

What’s your favorite cheese to eat solo? Do you prefer cheese on stuff or plan? What will you eat tonight to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

EASY Toaster Oven Lunch Plan – Spicy Baked Tilapia and Truffle Goat Cheese Sub

You guys know I love me some Gorton’s Seafood, right?

Easy, fast, and delicious fishy goodness. Perfect when you’re forced to cook seafood for one…or when you go to your parents house to cook a meal for everyone except your boyfriend because he hates seafood…

Well, I recently discovered that these delightful little Simply Bakes are PERFECT for lunches at work (if you have access to a toaster oven or full-size oven – which we have both). I decided I’d pack everything I need for a tasty little tilapia sammy. I wanted it to be simple and flavorful. I had a French baguette waiting to be used, so I sliced a sandwich size chunk and bagged that for work. Then I grabbed a toaster oven sized panto put the Simply bakes bag in. I knew I had tiny packets of Tabasco sauce at my desk, and figured cheese was a necessity in this venture. When I left for work that morning,  I grabbed the baguette, the fish from the freezer and Trader Joe’s truffle goat cheese from the fridge, threw them in the bag with the pan and jetted to the train.

Spicy Baked Tilapia and Truffle Goat Cheese Sub at Work

Spicy Tilapia and Truffle Goat Cheese Sub

Ingredients

  • 1 Gorton’s Seafood Simply Bakes Tilapia fillet (if you only have access to a microwave, you can use the Gorton’s Grilled Tilapia, but it won’t be as saucy)
  • 6-inch French baguette
  • 1-2 oz truffle goat cheese
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

Process

  1. Preheat toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Put the fish in the toaster oven for 20-25 minutes
  3. Remove fish and let stand in bag
  4. Toast the baguette
  5. Spread goat cheese on one side of the toasted bread
  6. Flake the fish over the cheese
  7. Drizzle sauce from the bag into the sandwich
  8. Top it all off with a healthy spray of Tabasco
  9. Devour

This healthy(ish) and delicious recipe is a result of working with my friends at Gorton’s. This month, they’ve partnered with SparkPeople to focus on realistic resolutions. Now, you’ve all seen my 2015 resolutions, and I wasn’t kidding. I’m not doing anything to lose weight this month. But I couldn’t just send you to a site without checking it out. That’s not my style. So, I signed up for an account and set my SparkPeople goals to maintain my current weight. I decided that I would check out the Realistic Resolutions 30-Day Challenge, and I’m really glad I did. SparkPeople offers a great tracking tool and community for you to get started on your weight loss (or maintenance routine). The challenge has 30 daily tasks, all of which are pretty simple changes to make if you’re interested in getting started on a healthy journey.

The Giveaway

In addition to leading you to The SparkPeople and sharing my new favorite lunch recipe, I’m hosting a delightful little giveaway for some goodies. All you need to do is comment below with your favorite seafood recipe or dish.

One lucky winner will receive:

While you’re playing the giveaway game, you can enter the Gorton’s Eat Smarter Sweepstakes to win $5,000 or one of many daily prizes.

This giveaway has ended.

Blog Friends, what’s your favorite seafood dish?

This post is brought to you by my friends at Gorton’s. I was not paid to write nice things, but I did receive free products in order to give you my honest opinion. You can get social with Gorton’s and like/follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram using the hashtag #RealisticResolution.

Gorton's Blogger Giveaway
Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Meet the McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger – My McDonald’s Create Your Taste

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take my pal Cletus over to a McDonald’s near-ish me in Downers Grove. We used to live in Downers Grove, so this was near and dear to me. They closed the McDonald’s that I knew and loved, and opened a new one a mile down the road. And this new McD’s was special.

KioskThe first of its kind in Illinois, the Create Your Taste menu offers a build-your-own burger feature. When Cletus and I walked into the McD’s we were greeted by one of the many helpful team members, who showed us how to operate the order menu screen.

Building my own sammy in DG at @Mcdonalds #MyPerfectSandwich ##McDPtr

A video posted by Quirky Chrissy (@quirkychrissy) on

With so many menu options to choose from, I could make whatever burger I wanted.

And I wanted all the cheese.

The menu boasts three different cheese options including a pepper jack, white cheddar and the traditional American.

Now, I’m not a big fan of American cheese in a lot of circumstances, but there are some food stuffs that are classic and nostalgic and exactly what  I want…and a cheese burger with American cheese is one of them.

Cheese

Of course, I clicked the buttons for all three cheeses on my burger.

How many burger patties? I only need one. I’ve already got cheese, cheese, and cheese.

What type of bun? I want the artisan roll – it’s the most like the original bun.

Add Bacon

Add bacon for a small charge? Yep. Definitely.

What sauce did I want? Oh, I’m thinkin’ the sweet barbeque (which is actually sweet and smoky).

What extras? Let’s go with pickles, lettuce and red onion for the win.

Fries? Oh heck yes.

When it was Cletus’ turn to order, he opted for a specialty build, instead of his own creation.

Build Your BurgerThe Hot All Over had pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, and was an obvious win for Cletus, though he was disappointed that he couldn’t find pineapple on the menu.

Specialty BurgersWhen a team member delivered our food a little less than 10 minutes later, he was SUPER helpful, offering to bring me extra BBQ sauce and ketchup. The fries were OMG served in the CUTEST little fry baskets, making this a serious happy lunch hour for this girl.

Fry basketI may have already eaten half the fries by the time I remembered to take the picture. Don’t hate.

McSmokyAnd of course, the piece de resistance. The McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger. The cheeses melted together in a magical cheesy burger land. The smoky BBQ added a rich flavor and the rest of the ingredients were exactly what I wanted on my burger. Thanks McDonald’s! This was delish.

Create your taste

The giveaway has ended, but I’m still curious…

What burger toppings would you put on your dream burger (and while pineapple is not currently on the menu at McD’s, you’re free to suggest it as a dream burger topping for your sammy Cletus’ orders)?

This post was created in partnership with McDonald’s. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Holiday Leftover Breakfast Pizza – It Sounds Gross, But Even Brian Liked It

Okay, so after Thanksgiving, my girlfriend Brookie Banosnapper Snapchatted me with her fancy “Turkey and hollandaise with poached eggs on flatbread” and “I’m making all the soup from Thanksgiving leftovers” I’m-cooler-than-you-videos.

In typical lady fashion, I had to one-up her.

I also had to use some of the Thanksgiving leftovers that I had in order to make room in my fridge for Second Thanksgiving food prep and such. It was a Saturday morning. I was bored. I was hungry. And I thought…what the hell? Let’s get experimental and crazy up in here.

So I did this. And OMG even Brian was down with it.

Holiday leftovers breakfast pizza

If you have Snapchat, why aren’t we friends yet?

The beauty of this breakfast treat is that it’s totally relevant after whatever holiday feast you’ve got going for you. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Random fancy-pants Sunday dinner if you do that sort of thing.

Holiday Leftover Breakfast Pizza Recipe

Holiday leftover breakfast pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 can of crescent rolls
  • 1 cup turkey
  • 1 cup ham
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cheese (or more) (I used brie on half and Vella Dry Monterey Jack on half)
  • 3 Eggs

Method

  1. Roll out crescent rolls in a circular shape on a round pan (I used my pizza stone, but you can use non-stick pans or whatever you prefer, really)
  2. Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the type of pan you used (longer for stoneware) and your preferred crustiness
  3. Slice or shred cheese (I sliced the brie and shredded the Jack)
  4. Dice ham and turkey (if you don’t have a cup of each, don’t worry about it…I’m really bad at that whole measuring thing)
  5. Add the meat to a non-stick frying pan (or a regular frying pan with your spray, butter, or oil of choice)
  6. Cook for a minute
  7. Crack the eggs over the meat and scramble in the pan (I prefer this method to pre-scrambling, but you can do it your scrambled way and it’ll work just fine)
  8. Set the scrambled eggs aside
  9. Remove the crescent crust from the oven and spread with cranberry sauce (I knew Brian wouldn’t want the cranberry, so I only used that on half the pizza)
  10. Evenly distribute the scrambled eggs on the cranberry sauce or crust
  11. Top with cheese (I used brie over the cranberry side and the Jack on the non-cran side)
  12. Return the pan to the oven to melt cheese (keep it on bake if you’re using stoneware, broil otherwise)
  13. Remove when cheese is melted
  14. Slice and enjoy

Brian was surprisingly impressed with my Thanksgiving leftovers breakfast pizza concept (and thankful that I didn’t include the cranberry sauce on his half). I had two slices for breakfast and two slices for lunch, while Brian ate 4 slices for brunch – he doesn’t wake up in time to eat breakfast with the laypeople. He also added a little sriracha hot sauce to his slices, and that was pretty damn tasty too.

What weirdo creations have you concocted with leftovers? Tell me your leftover war stories – the good, the bad and the ugly. Any kitchen successes that probably should have been fails or vice versa?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Martini Glasses Are Fucking Useless

Martini Glasses

I have a martini glass collection. It started as a joke in my early twenties, after I broke every single martini glass at the bar my family owned. I had an affinity for cosmopolitans (thanks in part to my Sex and the City addiction), and my body had an affinity for falling down and breaking shit. It was a match made in broken glass heaven.

After I broke all three martini glasses at our shot and a beer joint, I was no longer allowed to possess a martini glass in my hand at the bar. (Of course they replaced the ones I broke). At the time, my little brother was the bar manager. Every time he trained a new bartender, I’d sit on the patron side and test their mad skill. I’d teach them how to make a cosmopolitan. And then I’d giggle profusely, making them question my educational abilities. I’d grin at my brother, lift my glass and clink his imaginary glass in celebration. And then I’d take a big swig of that delicious vodka delight. And giggle some more.

He’d run over and tell the nervous bartender that I could drink cosmos all I want, but they weren’t allowed in martini glasses if they were being handed to me. I was banished from those ridiculous and easily breakable glasses.

So of course, my best friend Mark thought it would be funny to buy me a pair of martini glasses for Christmas.

They lived in my car for a few weeks before I finally, not-so-ironically broke one and took the other inside into my house. It sat on a lonely shelf in my bedroom for a few months. For
my birthday that year, I received one of those fancy pants Lolita martini glasses. I thought it was the greatest fucking thing ever. I was an idiot.

I decided that I would start a martini glass collection, and made it my business to find Lolita glasses on clearance to cheaply add to my collection.

Almost a decade later, I’m now the proud owner of a shelvy thingy full of useless. Fucking. Martini glasses.martini glass collection

You may remember we recently bought a house. I have a place to store and display those fancy fucking martini glasses. Except for the one I broke while I was unpacking them.

What you may not know is that I volunteered to host Christmas for 30-40 people this year. And that I’ve already hosted a couple of large gatherings. And you know what? No one drinks fucking martinis at house parties. They drink beer. And wine. And other shit.

Last week, after Thanksgiving with Brian’s family, I realized that if I’m hosting Christmas, I’m going to need cordial glasses for Bailey’s. And rocks glasses for Manhattans. And snifters for brandy or something.

So I called my mom, who was sleeping. Dad answered, so I asked him, “How many cordial glasses do you have?”

“Four?”

Oh God.

Okay.

When I cleared out the bar after we went out of business, I never thought to grab ALL the glassware. I took shot glasses and stupid shit…like a CASE of fucking martini glasses.  A case. A whole fucking case.

And now I’m a grown up who has to buy cordial glasses and rocks glasses, but has a fucking armory of martini and shot glasses.

So me and martini glasses? Not friends. Even though I have a collection of them hanging out in our dining room.

Do you have an unplanned collection of anything? What do you collect? Have you ever broken a martini glass? Do you think martini glasses are stupid & useless, too?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Blue Cheese and Date Spread on Endive

You know how sometimes, you throw a party and plan for certain types of food, and something inevitably goes wrong?

I had bacon-wrapped dates on the brain, but sometimes, things don’t turn out as planned. But I had all these dates, and needed to figure out something to do with them. After digging through my fridge, I decided on my favorite back-up plan.

Throw shit in a pan and hope it turns out.

I’m nothing if not resourceful. In all reality, this is a magical life skill that I learned as a catering manager. Make do with what you have on hand and improvise. Quickly.

Blue Cheese and date spread on endive

So I came up with this recipe. I had bought endive with the intent of doing something experimental…I just wasn’t sure what. As it turned out, my blue cheese and dates spread was magical and delicious – if you like blue cheese. Which I do. Brian, unfortunately, does not. So he hated it. Other blue cheese lovers enjoyed it, plus it looked kinda pretty on the plate, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. If you try this, let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Trader Joe’s Medjool dates
  • 4 oz Amish blue cheese
  • 4 oz apple cinnamon goat cheese
  • 8-12 heads of Belgian endive
  • 1 cup blueberries or other garnish of choice

Method:

  1. Dice dates into small pieces
  2. In a medium crock pot, heat dates for 15-20 minutes
  3. Crumble blue and goat cheeses into a separate bowl
  4. Clean and prepare endive by cutting off the bottoms and peeling the leaves off in layers
  5. After about 15 minutes, add cheese and cook until the cheese is melted, stirring occasionally
  6. Turn off heat and spoon mixture into endive leaves
  7. Chill overnight
  8. Serve plated in a circle with a colorful garnish in the center

I love how endive is pretty much the ideal vessel for snacky treats like this one. The bitterness of the endive (pronounced “n – dive” when I’m around normal people and “on deeve” when I’m trying to sound fancy.) was minimal and definitely offset by the sweetness of the dates.

Are you a blue cheese fan? Would you have added or changed ingredients? What’s your favorite hors d’oeuvre?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Under Pressure

I’ve always been afraid of pressure cookers. Okay, I’ve been afraid of pressure cookers since I discovered their existence when Brian and I first moved into our apartment two years ago. He had one and tried to get me to use it. I laughed it off…in fear.

A few months later around St. Patrick’s Day, I used his mom’s, under the supervision of his mom and uncle to make a bacon roast thing (basically, bacon in hunk form). I made Brian deal with the pressure release.

About a month ago, we got this fancy pants Cuisinart electric pressure cooker. I was pretty excited about it, because it seemed much less scary than a traditional pressure cooker…but not as excited as Brian. Which is weird since he doesn’t cook anything besides frozen dinners, frozen pizza, cans of soup and grill food.

Except that the pressure cooker can create all his favorite things in half the time. So he went into this venture ready to tackle a new device. Me? I was planning on throwing stuff in the pot and hoping it turned out.

So we each gave it a go.

While I was sick a few weeks back, Brian prepared a tasty meal as I watched on with amusement…and my camera.

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He made a pork roast with parsnips, tri-colored carrots, potatoes and onions, which he seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

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As he was cooking, he showed me how to operate the machine (you know, since he had read up on it and read through the directions and such.)  It was surprisingly easier than I expected.
1. Select mode from low pressure, high pressure, brown, saute, simmer, and keep warm.
2. Add food. And water.
3. Close and seal lid (unless you’re browning – then you can keep it open)
4. Set the timer and press start.
5. Release pressure/steam (Brian did the quick release by turning the pressure knob dealie, and I did the slow release by not doing anything.)
6. Remove lid.

That’s seriously all.

So his pork (which he cooked on high pressure for 20 minutes) turned out pretty well, though I suspect we added too much water (we used a cup of water & opened it up to find a little more than 4 cups of liquid). The flavors were nice and it cooked wicked fast. To be honest, we probably over cooked it too, out of fear of under cooking. The browning feature was awesome as we browned it right in the pot without needing another pan.

So when it was my turn to try it out, I was ready. But not really at all. We still haven’t moved into the new house, but I thought I’d cook there one night with the pressure cooker.

I stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients for pot roast and made sure I wouldn’t have to cut anything. I literally threw it all in the cooker (after browning the pot roast) and went on with my day. I cooked at low pressure for 30 minutes, and I think I over cooked this one. I guess I can’t fault Brian, huh? I also used less water and still ended up with about 3 cups of liquid, so there’s that.

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Is it as easy to get right as I hoped it would be? Not really…BUT this is a girl who failed on slow cooker usage waaaay more (to the point of inedible). So, we’ll keep trying until we perect it, and once we have this system DOWN, I’ll be back with an update. Because the cook timing of this contraption is exactly what we need for home-cooked meals in our busy commuter schedules. Plus it’s WAY less scary than the other kind of pressure cooker.

Have you used a pressure cooker? Would you? Do you love roasts as much as my Irish boyfriend?

This is not a sponsored post. I was supplied with a Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker in order to review it and give my honest opinion, but I was not financially compensated.

I did use affiliate links in this post, so if you make a purchase, I might get a bitty commission.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Wine-Paired Dinner at Seared Petaluma

I’ve been dreaming of wine and cheese lately. I’m not sure why, since I happen to have a pretty decent stockpile of both wine and cheese in my fridge. But it happens.

#PetalumaMade Wine Paired Dinner

 

Remember back in July when I was all over social media with some of my new blogging buddies telling you how fantastic Petaluma, California is? Well, I absolutely HAD to tell you about the wine-paired dinner that we had at Seared. It definitely hit the level of meal-amazingness that our Disney dinner at Cat Cora’s restaurant had.

After a day of boozing and wining through the Petaluma countryside, we made our way back to Seared, a fine dining establishment in downtown Petaluma for dinner. We were greeted by a lovely collection of Petaluma business owners, wine growers and farmers.

Seared Wine Paired Dinner

While the 5-course dinner itself was exquisite, the experience was what truly made this meal magnificent. Brian couldn’t stop bragging about how awesome it was that the chef came out and described each course in detail, followed by a short description of the wines by the wine owners and growers, and in one case, the farmer who raised the quail. It was the ultimate in dining style.

Grilled stone fruit soup

The first course was a stone fruit soup garnished with baby greens, creme fraiche made of Purple Haze (a lavender and fennel pollen chevre goat cheese from Cypress Grove), preserved lemon and black pepper. The flavors melded together perfectly for a phenomenal soup.

Grilled Stone Fruit Soup with Purple Haze Chevre Creme Fraiche

Paired with the soup was Lelarge-Pugeot Champagne, which was represented by the lovely Clémence Lelarge, whose family vineyard produces this delicious Champagne in France.

Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This course was absolutely delightful and refreshing. Have I told you how much I love arugula? The cucumber was sliced thin, the tomatoes were amazing and the burrata complemented the salad perfectly.

Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with arugula, burrata and basil vinaigrette

This was my favorite course of liquid joy, featuring the Fogline Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay with a lovely introduction presented by winemaker, Evan Pontoriero. This wine was sunshine in a bottle. Brian and I came home with a few bottles of this brightly flavored wine.

Crudo

This delicious raw dish featured a flavorful albacore and a unique combination of accouterments to create a delicate balance of complementary flavors. Brian (who, as you may remember, despises seafood) and the vegetarians all received a similar dish with a trumpet mushroom instead of the albacore. The culinary geniuses in the kitchen made every effort to accommodate our entire group and all their dietary restrictions.

Crudo with albacore, avocado puree, grapefruit, pickled fennel, breakfast radish and Fresno chili

 

This dish was paired with the La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir from Keller Estate, as introduced by the delightful Anna Keller, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to during dinner. I love a good pinot, and this wine was decadent and delicious.

Devil’s Gulch Quail

Our main course was this amazing quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth and topped with spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins. After the chef discussed the course, we were treated with a short presentation about the quail and Devil’s Gulch Ranch from owner, Mark Pasternak. As I gently tried not to make an ass of myself, eating the quail with a fork and knife, both Anna and Mark were found teasing me for not just picking it up and going to town like everyone else. I was pretty proud of myself and the fact that not once during this meal did I dribble, spill, spit or splash!

quail, stuffed with a rib eye chorizo boudin surrounded by a smoked tomato broth, spinach, pine nuts, and golden raisins

The quail was paired with that tasty Luma-Rouge from Corkscrew Wines that we sampled earlier in the day at Azari Vineyards. A perfect pairing for a fine meal!

Black Pepper Panna Cotta

I had never consumed panna cotta until this event. I didn’t even know what it was. Cake? Pie? Pastry? Jello? Pudding? It was its own magical sweet dish that made me want to pick up the plate and put tongue to remnants. But I refrained. Because I’m respectable.

Black pepper panna cotta with aztec chocolate and red wine-blackberry compote

 

The panna cotta was finished with Enriquez Vineyards Tempranillo, which was the happy ending of an amazing meal. Cecilia Enriquez, wine owner and maker briefly spoke about the wine, which we had the joy of tasting earlier in the day, and she thanked everyone for their participation in this wonderful trip that was her brain child.

One of the most amazing aspects of this meal was the introductions from the winemakers and owners (and the rancher who supplied the quail!) describing their wines and their stories. This was an experience that could not have been matched, and I can’t wait to visit my friends in Petaluma again soon.

Blog Friends, what’s the best meal you’ve ever had? Have you experienced a wine paired meal? Tell me about it!

 

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!