Happy 22nd Birthday to my fabulous son, Connor!
Please know that even though I’m not with you today, you are in my heart and on my mind. I love you from here to the moon and back! xoxo
Here is the classic and easy to make chocolate sheet cake I made for my boy. With lots of pictures showing each step. I was camera happy this day!
May 24, 2013 4 Comments
Today is Sloane’s birthday. She is my baby sister by 5 1/2 years. I may have mentioned before that all four of us siblings are adopted. I vividly remember the day we brought her home.
I had an older brother and a younger brother but I wanted… no, I Needed… a baby sister! I was so proud and excited to be getting a baby girl, of my very own! As you can see in the picture above with us standing in front of the Catholic Social Services building, I was all business and raring to get her home. I can’t tell what all I’m holding there, but it looks as though I’m taking the responsibility designated to me, quite seriously!
Before Sloane turned one, we had new puppies too!
There’s nothing better than a new baby and new puppies!
At least, not when you’re the six year old big sister! Pictured L to R: Dennis age 7 1/2, Andy age 2 1/2, Linda age 6, and Sloane age 6 months.
I love you, Sloane!
Then, now, and forever!
April 30, 2013 9 Comments
Happy Birthday to two of my dearest friends. Two women whom I adore.
Their birthdays are only two years apart, but I won’t reveal who is older or their exact ages.
Let’s just say that one is a tiny bit more than decade younger than me and the other is just less than a decade behind me.
Yeah, they’re young and they are both gorgeous, inside and out!
You may not be able to see, but they are both in the image above. You can easily see that I am cooking with Tram Mai on the old Valley Dish. We are making Amy’s Famous Taco Soup. Because it is Amy’s recipe, I’d brought along a framed photo of Amy and her family… you can barely see it down in the lower right corner of the image. Can you see it?
Since then, Amy and Tram have been together at my house a couple of times, but unfortunately, I’d never gotten a photo of them together, so until I do, this will have to do!
Before our mutual friend, Lori, moved to Chicago, we used to celebrate Amy (on the right) and Lori’s (center) birthdays together.
Happy Birthday, Amy! I love you!
This fun photo was taken in August 2010 when Tram invited me to cook with her on stage at Phoenix Cooks. Good times!
Happy Birthday, Tram! I love you!
March 21, 2013 6 Comments
mishmash: noun \’mish-mash, -mäsh\
- A collection containing a variety of miscellaneous things.
- hodgepodge, jumble
- A popular Bulgarian summer dish made with tomatoes, peppers, onion, feta cheese, eggs, and fresh herbs.
That is what today’s post is; a mishmash of items. Plus a recipe for Mish Mash!
First and foremost I want to wish a Very Happy Birthday to my dear friend and former neighbor, Lori Vento.
Lori is pictured below, doing what she does best, looking beautiful and giving back to others! This is a photo from when she generously hosted one of many charity events at her home … while posing with two little angels.
Lori, her sweet husband Jonathan, and their gorgeous daughter Kylie, moved to Chicago nearly 2 years ago. I miss them so much! Kylie is attending college in Michigan, while Lori and Jonathan are now doing business and living in Tokyo … temporarily. I hope Jonathan has some very special Japanese plans today for Lori’s big day! I wish I could be there to celebrate with her. But sending my love, admiration, and thoughts across the miles and through the cyberspace will have to suffice. xoxo
Secondly, let’s talk about stress and old people!
Stress and Crazy Old People!
I’m quite certain I haven’t previously mentioned the fact that my mom has Alzheimer’s. Fact is, she does.
When I say Crazy Old People, from here on out referred to as CrOP, I’m not only referring to the Alzheimer’s because, trust me, my mom has been crazy for my entire life! Ask anyone who has known me for more than a few years and who has met my mom, they will confirm that I’m not being mean when I say so, it just is!
Anyhow, my sister, Sloane, and I (more so Sloane, than I, until recently) have been dealing with trying to convince our mom and her husband, Bill (her 3rd husband, by the way) to move into assisted-living. Mom turned 78 on March 8 and Bill turned 90 in February. We believe that Bill has Alzheimer’s as well, he is being tested for it next week. They need more help than we can provide!
Sloane and I found the place and had the lease papers drawn up yesterday. We then took the papers to their house to have signed. We stayed and packed for several hours while the two CrOP, followed us around and repeated themselves and asked the same questions over and over and over for the ENTIRE time!
In the middle of that, while removing and packing up thousands of dusty framed photos from a dusty floral wallpapered hallway, I cut open my wrist on a nail that was invisibly protruding from said nasty floral wallpaper. It would not stop bleeding. It made me nauseous to look at. I finally got it under control and now it just aches. Anyhow, at one point in the middle of all that fun, Bill actually said to me, “You know that you and your sister will be going to heaven for this!” Amen to that!
OK, enough of that drama and downer news. Back to some more fun and uplifting mishmash!
The next fun thing – my horoscope for today – it is spot on! I am working like a fiend on “the space around me,” so this horoscope must be correct. The final full sentence, you can not see, is “Beautiful changes are coming.” I believe that indeed they are!
March 12, 2013 3 Comments
I received several emails from readers who wanted to know how to make the pocket fold on the napkins I used for Peggy’s birthday dinner.
Making them is easy as can be. Here is your step-by-step guide.
1. Spread the napkin right side up on a flat surface.
2. Fold the bottom of napkin up, in half, to meet the top edge.
3. Take the top layer and fold it down to the fold line on the bottom edge. The top layer will now have a fold line along the center of the napkin.
4. Carefully turn the napkin over. Be certain that it stays folded.
5. Fold over the left side of the napkin to the center.
6. Now fold the right side of the napkin in, to meet the left side, in the center of the napkin.
7. Fold the napkin in half so that the two sides meet.
8. Tuck flatware or flowers or a menu card or whatever you’d like into the pocket.
Ta-dah – that’s all there is to it!
Sadly, this is the very last birthday party post. How about a few final photos of the fun night?
March 4, 2013 1 Comment
For dessert, I put out a pink-candy sweets tower, a gorgeous pink birthday cake, and individual mini Bourbon-Butterscotch Puddings.
I bought the birthday cake from Honey Moon Sweets, a bakery in Tempe that my sister uses all the time. Sloane is the wedding and special event coordinator at The Buttes Resort in Tempe. Birthday cakes were also ordered from Honey Moon Sweets for My Dad’s 80th birthday party and for my 50th Surprise Party.
I requested a pink obmre ruffle layered cake like one I’d seen on Pinterest, and the pastry chef at Honey Moon Sweets made it exactly as I imagined it would be. So Pretty!
The pudding recipe came from Bon Appétit. I doubled it and used mini-flare dessert dishes instead of ramekins, otherwise I made it exactly as it was written.
Anne, Lorraine, Connor, Peggy, Stevo, Samme, and Natalie – happy after enjoying dessert!
March 3, 2013 4 Comments
For our sit-down birthday dinner we had stuffed pork loin, green onion and Parmesan mashed potatoes, and a cold succotash side dish. The potatoes and the succotash have been posted here before, there are links to those recipes near the bottom of this post.
Peggy is not a big fan of beef. Occasionally, she’ll indulge in a hamburger, but put of plate with beef tenderloin in front of her and she turns her nose up at it. (I know, sometimes I think there is something wrong with that girl!)
It was a blessing when you’re feeding 25 people, though! Beef tenderloin would have been on the expensive side, to say the least. But a pork loin – now that is doable!
I was initially planning to use pork tenderloin, but when I compared the price of the loin to the tenderloin – well that made the decision for me. I purchased two huge pork loins at Costco, they were about $18.00 each.
This recipe would work just as well using beef tenderloin, so choose whichever you prefer. If you can’t find Manchego cheese, use Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack instead.
March 2, 2013 1 Comment
The table before dinner…
… and during dinner.
We started with Rosé champagne and a toast to the birthday girl.
Peggy’s brother, Mark, made the first toast – and her brother, Vince, said grace.
As we enjoyed our first course salad – many of the guests toasted sweet Peggy. When Peggy got up to speak… well, there wasn’t a dry eye at the table.
Peggy and her gorgeous kids; clockwise – Peggy, Stevo, Samme, and Natalie.
Quinoa Salad with Baby Greens, Summer Fruit, and Herbs
March 1, 2013 5 Comments
For some strange reason – while making 13 different recipes in two days (eight appetizers, four recipes for the sit-down dinner, and one recipe for the dessert table) I didn’t manage to take even one cooking photo. Imagine, too busy to stop and take pictures of the process!
Oh well, I did manage to get pretty decent photos of the food on the table itself, at least for the appetizers, which is what I present to you today. Some of these are new recipes which I’ll provide here and others are recipes I’ve previously posted. For those, click on the link to take you the original post.
Here we go….
Brie with Pears and Brandy
12 to 16-ounce wheel Brie cheese, cold
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large Bosc or Red Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus rosemary sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
8 walnut halves
Slice cheese wheel in half crosswise; set aside.
In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add diced pears, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in brandy, and cook 1 minute more. Add rosemary, and stir to combine. Remove from heat, and spread pear mixture over bottom half of cheese wheel, reserving 2 tablespoons mixture for garnish. Transfer cheese to serving plate.
Return skillet to stove, and heat balsamic vinegar and honey until simmering. Simmer mixture until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
Pour half the glaze over the bottom half of the cheese with the pear mixture; top with remaining half of cheese wheel and top with the 2 tablespoons reserved pears. Drizzle with remaining glaze, and garnish with walnut halves and rosemary. Serve immediately.
Blue Cheese-Apricot Bites
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup crumbled Roquefort, room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
32 dried apricots
Snipped fresh rosemary
In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add walnuts and sugar; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until walnuts are lightly toasted. Stir in rosemary; cook and stir for 30 seconds more. Transfer nuts to a foil-lined baking sheet; cool.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine Roquefort cheese and cream cheese. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.
Spoon about 3/4 teaspoon of the cheese mixture on top of each dried apricot. Sprinkle with nuts. If desired, garnish with additional fresh rosemary.
February 28, 2013 3 Comments
Before I share more party details, I want to wish my dear friend, Karen Mock a very Happy Birthday!
Karen was a bridesmaid in my wedding. At the time she was pregnant with her first child, Nick. Dave and I are Nick’s godparents … so yes, Karen and I have been friends for a loooong time and I love her to pieces. Happy Birthday, Karen! I look forward to celebrating with you on Friday! xoxo
On to the party ….
Peggy arrived a little early so she’d be there to greet her guests, and I was actually ready to greet her and the guests too. That doesn’t always happen. More often than not, I’m still scrambling and getting ready at the very last second before a party at our house begins. But not this time, and here is why -
I had gone to Sweet Salvage the day before the party with my friend and colleague, Kim Howard. (after all the party posts, I’ll share with you what I got that day – it is so cool!)
I was telling Kim about the party plans and she said, “Let me come help.” I resisted at first, because I’d already hired two servers and a bartender from Elite Events AZ. Kim insisted and I finally came to my senses and took her up on her generous offer. Kim and I work together at Les Gourmettes. When I teach my series of classes there, Kim works right beside me. We’re a great team and I knew that having her in the kitchen, finishing off the dishes, overseeing everything, and doing things exactly as I would do them – well I knew that I wouldn’t have to worry about a thing and I could really relax and enjoy my own party.
That is exactly what happened! Maybe I enjoyed it a wee bit too much, if you know what I mean! So, thank you Kim. Thank you Jana, Cami, and Jeanie from Elite Events. And thank you, to my adorable son, Connor, who was the lone man in the kitchen, there to help with whatever the ladies asked him to do!
Anne and I, giving Peggy her official birthday kiss.
Peggy with her darling parents, her brother, John, and her sister-in-law, Lorraine. Take note of Peggy’s pink crown and scepter. The Birthday Princess!
Anne and Dave at the appetizer buffet. The bar is in the background…
… thanks Anne for taking this picture of the bar, I can see your reflection in the window and I see myself in the kitchen. What am I doing in there?! I think I was cutting green onions for the mashed potatoes and talking to Kim about the recipes. This was prior to the guests arriving. Well, of course Anne was a guest too, but she was and is much more than that! She helped me so much in putting on this gala event. Love you girl! xoxo
Along with the full bar, we offered two signature cocktails…
The Pink Pear
1 1/2 ounces pear vodka
3 ounces mango nectar or pineapple juice
1 ounce cranberry juice
Lemon juice, for rim
Pink or gold sugar, for rim
Dip the rim of a clear “highball” glass in lemon juice, then dip into sugar. Fill glass with ice.
Gently layer the vodka, then the nectar, then the cranberry juice into the glass for an ombre cocktail.
Coarse pink salt
1 ounce tequila
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
3/4 cup grapefruit juice
Grapefruit slice, for garnish
Dip the rim of a clear “rocks” glass in lemon juice, then dip into sugar. Fill the glass with ice. Pour tequila and Grand Marnier over ice.
Top with grapefruit juice and stir. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
Also on the bar, were bowls of the ever popular Ranch Oyster Crackers, also known as Crack Crackers. These are seriously addicting!
Another fun 50th birthday party touch was a little something else I found on eBay …
February 27, 2013 7 Comments