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the birthday dinner

dinner plate

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.

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March 2, 2013   1 Comment

first course

The table before dinner…


… and during dinner.

party people

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

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March 1, 2013   5 Comments

appetizer buffet

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.

Makes 32

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February 28, 2013   3 Comments

time to party!

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…

pink pear

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.

Serves 1

pink chihuahua

Pink Chihuahua

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.

Serves 1


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 …

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February 27, 2013   7 Comments

party prepping


I began working on Peggy’s 50th Birthday Celebration about a month ago. As with any party, the first thing the host needs to decide on, is the theme. Well, 50 was the theme but a color scheme is what I’d build the party around. I decided on pink and gold. Pink because Peggy is such a beautiful sweet girl and I’m sure she was a girly girl when she was little. And if not, she sure is now! Gold because she is the gold-standard when it comes to friends. You know the song… “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” She is Gold to me!

I believe this is the first time I’ve emailed a formal invite instead of sending it snail-mail. I’m glad I did because I was able to put so much more info in the email than I would have on just the mailed invite.

For instance, I was able to let invitees know that “The attire is casual-elegant – whatever that means – just wear something comfortable – weather permitting, we’ll be outside.”  Turns out that was an important thing to let people know considering it actually snowed here only three days before the party.

I could also let people know that “The ‘theme’ is Elegant 50 ~ no ‘over-the-hill’ shenanigans!”

Once I had my color scheme, I went to town to carry it out!

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February 25, 2013   2 Comments

a recipe for love and healing

joyful joey

Five years ago yesterday, a loving little boy, I have known since he was in preschool, officially turned into a young man, an adult.

January 5, 2008 was Joey DeBolske’s 18th birthday.

SHS Hockey

Joey was in Colorado that day, celebrating and skiing/snowboarding with his father, Kevin. He was in his element. Joey loved to snowboard, he loved his dad (this was an annual trip Kevin made with friends, and this was the first time he had invited Joey to join him), and he loved Colorado.

In fact, he was considering attending college in Boulder, the following fall, after he graduated from Saguaro High School (my alma mater) later that spring.

cell photo

Five years ago today, on his way back home to Arizona, that little boy, who had grown into an amazing young man, whom we all adored, who is the son and oldest child of my best friend, Peggy Murrietta, died in a horrific bus crash in Mexican Hat, Utah.

The photo above was retrieved from Joey’s cell phone. It is time-stamped 1/6/08, taken on the mountain that last day. Peggy so treasures this photo, knowing that Joey was living life to the fullest, doing something he loved to do.

the fab four

Also left behind, are Joey’s adoring siblings; Samme (then 16 – now 21), Natalie (then 13 – now 18), and Steve (then 11 – now 16).


Joey was the consummate big brother. He was their protector. Their defender. The peace-maker. Their beloved big brother.

Peggy and Joey

Joey was all that and more, not only to Samme, Natalie, and Steve, but also to his beautiful mom, Peggy, and to his friends, including his buddy and my son, Connor.

Joey and Con

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January 6, 2013   11 Comments

Eighth Day of Christmas Gift

This gift from the kitchen would be perfect to give my best friend, Jennifer. Coincidentally, today is Jen’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Jenny Jen, I love you and I’m thinking of you today! xoxo

This would be perfect gift because Jen loves smoked salmon and this fennel cured salmon would make her so very happy.

On the eighth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me:
Fennel Cured Salmon
Spicy Guinness Mustard
Two Jars of Mustard
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Homemade Kahlua Liqueur
Lemon-Sugar Hand Scrub
Cranberry Citrus Vodka
and a bottle of Tomato Dust

Gravlax is similar to lox, which is cured salmon that has been cold smoked. You want to make this food gift within a few days of giving it away. Home cured salmon has a shelf life of 7 days after the cure is removed. It can also be frozen and will keep for about 90 days before it begins to deteriorate in the freezer. So if you finish curing on Christmas Eve and you give you gift on Christmas day your gift tag should say something like:

Homemade Fennel Cured Salmon
Please enjoy by New Year’s Eve
Place in the freezer and use
by Valentine’s Day

I learned to make this recipe back in 1993 after attending the Sonoma County Wine Auction. Dave and I attended the Sonoma and Napa County wine auctions several times. This recipe and the memory of those events makes me want to go again in the coming year.

BTW – You may substitute the same amount of dill for the fennel fronds… if that is easier for you to find… of course, then it would be Dill Cured Salmon. 

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December 3, 2012   3 Comments

Happy Birthday baby girl!

Marissa Lynn

Today is my sweet Missy May’s 25th birthday! This is one of my favorite pictures of her. That shear joy in her face… it’s still there!

Evident in this photo of Marissa and her boyfriend, Jeff.

I believe they may be on the roof of her house in San Francisco. Not sure if I like that. It’s three stories high and it’s not like there’s a rail around it or anything. I know, I know, she’s 25, for goodness sake. But I’m still her mom!

And as such, I’ll never stop thinking about her happiness, health, safety, and well being.

Here I am with her Godmother, Laura, preparing her dress on her baptism day. Isn’t she just the most beautiful baby? She is still that beautiful, inside and out!

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December 1, 2012   3 Comments


I’m having a bit of a birthday hangover today… not from too much alcohol… rather from just Too Much!

Dave went way overboard when it came to gifts this year. The flower arrangement arrived on Friday. Aren’t they beautiful?

On Saturday morning, he and Connor left the house to “run some errands” which I knew meant they were off to wrap presents at Dave’s office.

I was busy making the soup, that I promise to post tomorrow, when they arrived home and made about a half dozen trips from the car to the breakfast table with stack upon stacks of wrapped boxes. It looked like Christmas, just without the tree! There were 22 gifts! What? That is crazy!

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October 28, 2012   7 Comments

We gon’ sip


I had planned on putting up the soup recipe using THIS chicken stock today, but to be completely honest, I’m still working on it.  So instead, I shall do what I have done that last three October 27ths of this blog…


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October 27, 2012   4 Comments