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Archive for the ‘Entertaining Ideas’ Category

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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a company that had a unique, acid free ornament storage system.

They asked if I’d like to see a sample and blog about it.

So, of course I said,”sure!”

Oh, my goodness gracious!

I never expected the “sample” to be incredibly awesome!

The company is Ultimate Christmas Storage.

The sample they sent is called the 830 Ultimate Ornament Box. And it is the ultimate.

First, I was impressed with the size of the box. Measuring 22 x 16 x 7 1/2 inches, it is meant for some serious storage.

The beautiful red moire fabric covering the box is quite dazzling and gives it a very luxurious appearance. And it came in heavy vinyl zippered bag for storage to keep everything dust-free and protected.

Once I took the lid off the box, I was even more impressed. The top tray holds 28 ornaments and the compartments are adjustable. The 4-inch deep bottom compartment holds 16 oversized items, again with adjustable compartments.

These storage boxes are a little pricey up front, but when you think of the years and years of use you’ll get out of them, it seems like a good investment.

Ultimate Christmas Storage offers several fabric options for the boxes as well as sizes.

They also have everyday storage boxes and archival supplies. From the sample I received, this company knows how to offer high-quality item meant to last.

For more information, visit their website at http://www.ultimatehomestorage.com

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1733682/1721374.102069278/?v=a

 

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From the creative folks at FlowerCard – check out this fun infographic!
This Flower That Room

– See more at: https://www.flowercard.co.uk/blog/this-flower-that-room#sthash.pGIqSG7G.dpuf

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Juicy steak on barbecue

I’m super-excited today to share some great summer cookout tips from Jack Vogt, Tony Roma’s Pitmaster just in time for the summer barbecue season!

How to prep for an Unforgettable Summer Cookout

 

Before you fire up the grill, you’ve got to get your backyard kitchen aka THE GRILL prepped and ready. Here’s a checklist to get you set for your first summer cookout:

 

  • Grill. If you already own a grill, drag it out of storage and give it a good scrub. Use a stiff wire brush to scrape off the grate and follow the directions in your grill’s instruction manual for cleaning the rest of the grill. If you’re new to the grilling game, check out this list of grills and smokers from AmazingRibs.com to help you find a grill that matches your needs and budget.

 

  • Fuel. If you’re working with a gas grill, you’ll need to fill your propane tank. While you’re there, grab a spare. You never want to get halfway through grilling the perfect prime rib and discover you’re out of gas. If you have a charcoal grill, pick up a bag of charcoal briquettes, a chimney starter and a few pieces of newspaper to get the fire started.

 

  • Grilling tools. Many stores sell BBQ or grill tool sets, but you can also buy each tool separately depending on what you already have at home. The most important tools to have handy are tongs, a spatula, a basting brush and a fork. You may also want to pick up a few metal skewers for kebabs (and everyone’s favorite dessert – s’mores!).

 

  • Instant Read Thermometer. Using a meat thermometer will ensure your meat is properly cooked – no one wants their guests to leave with a stomachache. A thermometer will also help you gauge when to pull the meat off to avoid an overcooked, dry dinner.

 

  • Flashlight or grill light. If you think your summer party will extend past daylight hours, you’ll need some direct lighting on the grill. You can buy a grill light that clips onto the side of the grill so you can work hands free. If you’re using a flashlight, enlist a friend to assist you.

 

Now that you’ve got the grill prepped, here are a few of my tested tips to make this summer’s cookouts the most successful (and delicious) yet!

 

  • Choose the best cut. The best cut (and type) of meat may depend on your budget and the number of people at your party, but these three are my favorites.

Baby back ribs are the most tender cut. While they are one of the pricier options, this cut is sure to please your guests. You can start cooking ribs before your guests arrive and finish them on the grill when you’re ready to eat.

 

Chicken breasts, legs and thighs are all great options if you’re feeding a group. Chicken is less expensive than ribs and it is easy to cook (read: hard to mess up!), so it’s a good choice if you’re a grilling novice.

 

Beef skirt steak may have a bad reputation as a tough cut of meat, but it can be real crowd pleaser when cooked on the grill. Plus, it can be cooked quickly (about four minutes on each side) so you won’t have to worry about keeping hungry guests waiting.

 

  • Marinate to perfection. Marinades are used to enhance the flavors of your chosen meat and your marinade options are almost limitless. Most marinades consist of a fat (like olive oil), an acid (like citrus or wine), and flavoring (herbs and spices), but as always, there are exceptions to this rule. Whether you are making your own marinade or using a prepared one, you’ll want to make sure you give the meat enough time to soak up all the flavor.

 

If you’re working with seafood, a short marinating time is best; an hour or two is plenty of time to infuse seafood with flavor. You can soak hard vegetables anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and softer vegetables for about 30 minutes. You have more leeway when it comes to meat, which can be marinated anywhere from one hour to overnight (which may be the most convenient if you are planning a party for a lot of people).

 

Keep in mind that the thinner the food is cut, the less time it will need to marinate. Marinades that are high in acid also require less time as the acid breaks down tissue and can toughen the meat if left to soak for an extended period of time.

 

Safety tip: Don’t ever reuse a marinade as it can contain harmful bacteria.

 

  • Seasoning is everything! You may think that since you’ve already marinated your meat, you don’t have to worry about seasoning, but think again! Seasoning with salt and pepper will help bring out the flavors you have infused into the meat. Even if you decide to skip the marinade and go with a dry rub, you still want to make sure you include salt and pepper.
  • Pre-cook meat. Before your guests arrive, heat the meat most of the way so all you have to do is finish on the grill. You can also purchase pre-cooked ribs, pulled pork or chicken at your local supermarket. Easy to prepare and ready to serve in about 15 minutes, they’re the perfect option for entertaining, plus you’ll have more time to socialize and more room on the grill for other dishes.

 

  • Maintain the correct temperature. Cooking your meat to the proper temperature can mean the difference between a juicy steak and a dry one. Use your grill’s lid and vents to help you control the temperature.

 

The difference between using your grill’s lid and leaving it open is like the difference between oven and stovetop cooking. The lid is useful in trapping not only heat, but also smoke and flavor. If you don’t use the lid, you’re only cooking from underneath, which is preferable for thin foods, but not for foods that are more than ¾ inch thick.

 

Basic rule of thumb: If the food is thin or you need to watch its color, leave the lid off. If it’s over an inch thick, close the lid and use a high quality grill thermometer.

 

The key to successful grilling is to remain in control of the heat. It’s also important to remember that the charcoal or wood is not the only fuel- oxygen also plays a role. Grills have an intake vent and an exhaust vent, and by manipulating these vents you can control the temperature. The intake damper brings oxygen to the fire, and the exhaust damper helps the intake vent do this, while also allowing gases to escape.

 

Below are a few recipes to cook on the grill this summer!

Open-faced Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese Sandwich

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes | Total time: 50 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 8 slices Texas Toast
  • 4 cups prepared macaroni and cheese, warmed
  • 2large onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices Gouda cheese
  • 8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pkg. (2 cups) Tony Roma’s BBQ Pulled Pork
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high, about 400°-450°F, and lightly oil the grate.
  1. Place sliced onions into a 6-inch square piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Close foil around onion slices.
  2. Set foil packets on lower rack of a gas grill or directly on top of hot coals on a charcoal grill. Cook for 30-35 minutes. While waiting for the onions to caramelize, heat Tony Roma’s Pulled Pork as per package instructions.
  3. Butter both sides of each slice of toast. Layer each with one slice of cheddar cheese, ¼ cup macaroni and cheese, ¼ cup pulled pork, ¼ cup caramelized onions, and one slice of Gouda cheese.
  4. Working in batches of four, cook the sandwiches until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, about 5 minutes.
  5. Drizzle with barbeque sauce and enjoy!

 

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Prairie-Style Weddings (Rustic and Romantic Farm, Woodland, and Garden Celebrations) by Fifi O’Neill makes me want to rush outside and start planning a grand party.

Bestselling author Fifi O’Neill has earned a  reputation for her unique development of prairie style. As an executive editor overseeing several successful, magazines including her latest, Prairie Style, The New American Country, she’s known as a talented stylist who often creates prairie style editorial for dozens of other publications.

Working with talented photography Mark Lohman, O’Neill created a book that is not only gorgeous, but packed full of marvelous, creative notions.

The book’s blurb says: “Rustic barns and gardens are popular settings for the intimate, personalized weddings that are today’s top trend. Stylist Fifi O’Neill knows how to transform such venues into gorgeous “prairie style” celebrations that seamlessly blend ruggedness and elegance. This beautifully illustrated look-book with more than 150 photographs is filled with unique ideas for planning the perfect bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception. From a cheery garden-shed party to a dinner set amid a lush cornfield, Prairie-Style Weddings shows how to achieve an effortless look that is rich in personality and bursting with charm. Ten simple DIY projects add a homespun touch to any wedding event.”

Each page holds a treasure-trove of ideas, pops of color, and a definite romantic feel.

Talk about clever – who would have thought to make a chandelier out of vintage silverware and candles? And I want every single plate in the top photo on the right!

How fun are these chairs for a newlywed couple? Seriously, there are just pages and pages of unforgettable style.

barn weddingI absolutely love this idea! I can’t even begin to tell you how every girly cell in me screams out to jump into the photo and attend this celebration. The soft pastel colors, the lace, the candles and the chandelier combine for a perfect ideal of romance against the rustic barn setting.

heart laceI think this lace heart is one of my favorite details. And you don’t have to be planning a wedding to make a few. You could hang them in a window, outside on your porch, on a guest bathroom wall…

If you are a romantic at heart, love beautiful photography, or host parties, this book is a great selection to add to your collection. Especially, if you’re planning a wedding!

Available from Chronicle Books, the book can be found at Amazon and other retail outlets.

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awonton gooeyI have three words that are gonna rock your world.

Won Ton S’mores.

That’s right, Won Ton S’mores.

If you’ve never had them, run to the store and get the simple ingredients as fast as humanly possible to rectify the situation!

Are you heading to or hosting a Super Bowl Party this weekend? If so, you’ll be the MVP if you make a batch of these decadent little devils.

The wonderful folks at Nasoya recently gave me the opportunity to test out their Asian Style Wraps. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was “how can I make dessert with these?”

Below, you’ll find the Won Ton S’mores recipe along with a few other tasty treats using Nasoya’s Won Ton and Egg Roll Wraps.

awonton ingredients

Ingredients

 

Place a miniature chocolate candy bar in the center of a Won Ton wrap.

Place a miniature chocolate candy bar in the center of a Won Ton wrap.

Add mini-marshmallows. If you use more than three it's almost impossible to get the wrap to seal.

Add mini-marshmallows. If you use more than three it’s almost impossible to get the wrap to seal.

 

Moisten the edges and fold the corners into the center. Press all the edges together to seal. This is very important!

Moisten the edges (use water or egg whites) and fold the corners into the center. Press all the edges together to seal. This is very important!

Heat oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and fry for just a few seconds on each side until wrap is brown. Do not overcook! If you do, your marshmallows will disappear.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and fry for just a few seconds on each side until wrap is brown. Do not overcook! If you do, your marshmallows will disappear.

Drain on paper towels.

Drain on paper towels.

Yum! You dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you wish.

Yum! You can dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you wish.

 Won Ton S’mores

1 package of Nasoya Won Ton Wraps

1 bag of miniature marshallows

1 bag of miniature chocolate bars

Place one chocolate bar in the center of a wrap then add three marshmallows. Using water or egg white, moisten the edges of the wrap. Fold the corners of the wrap up into the center  and press edges to seal.

Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a heavy skillet and warm over medium-heat. When oil is hot, add S’more and fry on each side for just a few seconds, until lightly browned. Remove and drain grease on paper towel, then savor the crispy outside and deliciously gooey inside!

***

Sausage Cups

Sausage Cups

Sausage Cups

These are incredibly easy and unbelievably tasty. They’ll score a touchdown with all your football fans!

Four ingredients - that's it!

Four ingredients – that’s it!

Line a min-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps. Gently fold them into the cups.

Line a min-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps. Gently fold them into the cups.

Cook the sausage and drain, then mix with cream cheese and shredded colby-jack. Spoon into cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, until edges are brown.

Cook the sausage and drain, then mix with cream cheese and shredded colby-jack. Spoon into cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes, until edges are brown.

Sausage Cups

1 package Nasoya Won Ton Wraps

1 pound sausage

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fry sausage and drain grease.

Mix sausage with cream cheese and shredded cheese. Set aside.

Line a mini-muffin pan with Won Ton wraps by gently folding a wrap into each muffin cup. Spoon sausage mixture into each wrap and bake for about eight minutes, until edges of the wrap are brown.

***

Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls

burger roll plated 2If you enjoy a good bacon cheeseburger, give these easy wraps a try. Full of great flavors, you won’t fumble by serving these to your hungry guests!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Brown the hamburger and drain, then mix with bacon and  cheese.

Brown the hamburger and drain, then mix with bacon and cheese.

Spoon filling onto an egg roll wrap. You'll use about two tablespoons of filling.

Spoon filling onto an egg roll wrap. You’ll use about two tablespoons of filling.

Fold the wrapper (take one corner toward the middle, then fold in the two ends, then finish rolling. Moisten edges with water or egg white to seal.

Fold the wrapper (take one corner toward the middle,  fold in the two side corners, then finish rolling. Moisten edges with water or egg white to seal.)

You can bake these in the oven at 400 for about eight minutes.

You can bake these in the oven at 400 for about eight minutes.

Or you can fry them for just a minute. Of course, we liked the flavor of the fried better than the baked!

Or you can fry them for just a minute. Of course, we liked the flavor of the fried better than the baked!

burger roll platedServe with ketchup or barbecue sauce… and don’t forget the pickles!

Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls

1 package of Nasoya Egg Roll Wraps

1 pound of hamburger

1 cup of bacon bits

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Season hamburger with your favorite seasonings and brown. Drain. Mix with bacon bits and cheese. Spoon about two tablespoons of meat mixture onto the center of an egg roll wrap in a rectangle. Fold the end of the wrap nearest you into the center. Fold in the two side edges, then roll the wrap, sealing the edges by moistening with water or egg whites (I used water, and it worked fine).

You can either bake or fry these.

If baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for about eight minutes or until edges start to brown.

If frying, heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry one side, then the other (takes about a minute total).

Serve with a side of ketchup or barbecue sauce for dipping.

***

Fruit Ravioli

a fruit ravioli pile2 It’s a guaranteed score with these little fruit pies!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling onto a Won Ton wrap.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling onto a Won Ton wrap.

Top with a second wrap.

Top with a second wrap.

This step is really, really important. Moisten the edges of the wrap and fold them up once. Then moisten the new edges and roll them inward.

This step is really, really important. Moisten the edges of the wrap and fold them inward once. Then moisten the new edges and roll them inward.

Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. If you don't get them sealed, the juice will explode out while you fry them. (Not that this happened to me.)

Crimp the edges with a fork to seal. If you don’t get them sealed, the juice will explode out while you fry them. (Not that this happened to me.)

Fry them in oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. It should take a minute (or less) to brown both sides.

Fry them in oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. It should take a minute (or less) to brown both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

Drain on paper towels.

 

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Fruit Ravioli

1 package of Won Ton Wraps

1 can of fruit pie filling

powdered sugar

*Note – You can use any flavor of canned pie filling.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of pie filling into the center of a Won Ton wrap. Top with a second wrap. Moisten the edges of the wraps and fold them inward. Moisten the new “edge” and fold it inward a second time. Using a fork, crimp the edges to make sure they are sealed.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry each side for about 30 seconds, or until brown. Drain on paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar then stand back and watch them disappear!

***

Enjoy the Super Bowl and party safely!

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garnishing

If you are looking for one go-to guide to dazzle your guests, check out Garnishing & Decorating Ideas for All Seasons by Georg Hartung.

This delightful little book offers step-by-step instructions for creating edible art guaranteed to earn you the title of hostess with the mostess. Arranged by the season, you’ll find everything from spring ideas through winter treats.

Snowman

Isn’t this marzipan snowman adorable? I definitely want to make one of these. There are also directions for making marzipan roses, a hedgehog, piglet and mouse.

White chocolate mousseThis recipe for White Chocolate Mousse looked to yummy, I was momentarily tempted to lick the page. Love the garnish of kiwi and red currant that make it so festive.

Moz skewers

Lest you think I’m all about the sweets (which I totally am), check out this colorful and lovely presentation for Mozzarella Skewers. I want one right now! Just looking at the balsamic drizzle makes my mouth water!

There’s also suggestions for tools, tips on how to make a piping bag and more!

Published by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., you can find his book on their website at schifferbooks.com

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I’ve shared this recipe before, but it bears repeating. Sooooo yummy!

Happy Halloween!

These are easy to make, quick to bake and just as yummy as traditional pumpkin pie. Especially piled high with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon!

 

Pumpkin Pie Bites

Crust:

1./2 cup butter

3-4 ounce of cream cheese (3 oz. if you have a small pack or cut a large pack in half)

1 cup flour

Soften butter and cream cheese, blend together with flour until a soft dough forms. It will be sticky. Cover and chill for one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a greased mini-muffin tin, roll dough into walnut-sized balls and drop one in the tin. Use a tart tamper (or the back of spoon – or a shot glass if you have one) to smoosh the dough into the bottum and up the sides of the muffin cup.

Fill with pumpkin filling and bake for about 15-20 minutes until pumpkin is set and dough is starting to brown. Remove from oven, let cool, devour.

Pumpkin Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

3/4 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup evaporated milk

Beat egg, blend in pumpkin and milk then stir in dry ingredients. Mix well. Pour into crust-lined muffin cups and bake.

Garnish with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

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