Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Risott-Oh So Good

Almost every recipe made for our second Thanksgiving hosted at our house was a repeat from past parties or holidays and already featured in a past post, so pardon the Turkey Day skip over as I highlight another recent meal that has been added to the rotation.

I had a year long subscription to Cooking Light in 2007 and will pull out an issue every once in awhile to plan a week of home cooked meals. From some tasty garlic/thyme/parmesan mashed potatoes made with a pack of yukon golds and a whole bunch of butter....
to the Ham and Sugar Snap Pea Risotto below. The ooh la la candlelight is courtesy of me attempting to burn down all of the votive candles from the wedding.
Link to the risotto is in the name, happy cooking!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Littlest Pinterest Projects

The Halloween and fall decor have been sent back to its bin and put back on its shelf. Exchanging 1 bin for 5 in the garage storage space, the Christmas decor is slowly being put into place! No tree yet at the Kamicar household - this seems like a good project for next weekend - but I did take advantage of a couple recent pins on Pinterest to spruce up the holiday decor without spending any money.

First up, the idea of a toy car with a tree on its roof was too cute to pass up. (sources for pins listed in image).
I dug out a Mini Cooper from my box o' random stuff and, using string, attached a little tree to its roof. Luckily, the windows are open on this little car so I was easily able to rope the tree to the car.
The second project took exactly two minutes to put together. I loved the look of these holiday scenes in apothecary jars and considered them much less messy than the snow globes I tackled last year with varying degrees of success.
A few scoops of epsom salt made for fake snow, and a little fawn was placed amongst different sized trees. These figurines were left over from the snow globe project and they were happy to find a home.

The decorations are definitely still a work in progress - stay tuned for a full write up to see where these little projects end up in the house. Here's a sneak peek into how some of those wedding centerpiece lanterns are being put to use.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thank Ya Very Much

There are several ideas that stick in my head for years until I have the opportunity to use them:

1) My perfect cat names.....a few years later, meet Sonny and Fredo
2) Literally Saving the Date
So when it came to our wedding thank you cards, I looked at Bob with a "pretty please" smile and hoped he'd go along with this one.

Here's the deal: show our friends and family how thankful we are for their generous gifts by showing us using them. A few weeks after the wedding, my brother in law lent us his camera and photography skills while Bob and I donned our bride and groom attire and put all of our lovely gifts into action.

Mmmm....ice cream maker attachment! We also made the waffle cones, but that machine was a gift to ourselves a few months back.
We spent a lot of time in that corner of the kitchen with all of our new gadgets, even the stovetop got in on the action. Not so fun fact - I am stirring nothing!
We love our new towels. Notice my "tan" from our Belize Honeymoon. The most color I'm ever going to get.
New DVD Player? Consider us glued to the couch.
We even headed outside to feature our new picnic set and cooler. Why yes, we did get strange looks in the elevator!
Our cupboards were stocked with great white dishes, flatware and entertainingware, so we consolidated a few photos by creating a sit down breakfast!
For those who gave us gift cards or cash, we shared a photo of us digging into boxes from our registry store, Crate & Barrel!
I picked up a big pack of blank cards from Michaels and attached photos to the front with glue stick and photo corners. Since I put the photos on last, it was important to remember which ones were vertical and which were horizontal. Let's just say we messed up a few times until we listed them all in a spreadsheet tracker.
It was a nice feeling to wear the wedding dress again - I still haven't taken it in to get drycleaned, one of these days! In the meantime, maybe I'll throw it on another day just for fun? I can't help but think it would have been nice to have my amazing hair and makeup team from Pin Me Up Chicago with me for the thank you cards - I didn't quite accomplish an exact replica of what they did for me on August 25!
(photo by GReyes Photography)
We tried to be as timely as we could be in getting our thank you cards out, we wanted to make sure everyone knew how humbled we were with their generosity and good wishes. We had a goal of one month post wedding, but it ended up being closer to 2. Bob was in charge of writing most of them and I must say he does a lovely job of taking his time personalizing each one and his handwriting is loads better than mine!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Appsgiving

Bob and I have been planning this party since the day after our wedding and we had a chance to assess just how much liquor we had leftover. It had also been almost a full year since our last party (a housewarming holiday party last December). After missing a year of our starting-to-be-annual Harvest Dinner Party, we decided to increase the size of that squash, pumpkin and apple themed dinner to a bigger bash. And so Appsgiving was born. With the help of Pinterest and my "Let Me Entertain You" board, we culled together a list of Thanksgiving themed apps.

The bar area was set up with an extra table of mixers - I did not take into account how many times these bottles of soda have been moved since we bought them, and learned the hard way after not one, but two explosions and sticky messes to clean up.
I used another Pinterest idea to save ice while keeping the mixers cold. Frozen water balloons mixed in with the bottles also added a bit of color to the bin!
We spent the last couple days cleaning up the place and arranging to entertain. This included buying pumpkins ON Halloween (for a discount!) and Bob trying a new carving. Not sure how we decided on an alien octopus attacking the John Hancock Building, but after adding some paint to accentuate the creature we were proud to display.
 I added 2 strands of orange lights to the interior of the gas fireplace and used an extension cord to reach a nearby plug. It offered a wonderful glow to the library all evening, without having to worry about tending to a real fire or our place heating up too much with so many people!
Okay, on to the food. Here's the run down:
Crisp Pear with Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Honey
Turkey Dinner Tartlets
Squash Soup Shooters
Mini Pie Pops
Sweet Potato S'Mores
and Cheese, Cheese and more Cheese.

Crisp Pear with Pancetta, Goat Cheese and Honey
This one came straight from an early Pinterest post. I learned how to core a pear, sliced them thin and kept the slices in a lemon water bath until ready to set out. Cooked pancetta slices topped with goat cheese, drizzled with honey. Great tastes when put all together.
 Turkey Dinner Tartlets
Bob gets full credit for this one! We picked up phyllo dough mini cups, the same type used last year for blue cheese and pear tartlets, and filled them with a bit of turkey, a dollop of Stove Top Stuffing and a 1/2 teaspoon of cranberry sauce.
 At the last minute (meaning 1 hour before the party start time), we freaked out on the number of shells we had and I was worried about the number of pears I had for the previous app. So Bob ran to the store for the second time that day and we ended up with 90 of these little guys. We had 10 left over this morning so I would definitely say they were a hit.

Squash Soup Shooters
I have made at least three different squash soup recipes over the years, but wanted to find something different for this time around. The appetizer version of this was planned to be served in small cups or shooters and I thought I had the perfect answer....
 We bought 84 votive candle holders for the wedding. I could clean them all out, washing them multiple times and following directions from Pinterest on how to get all wax out of the holders, and use them as the individual servers. However, after burning them all off and starting to clean them out, I was frustrated to learn that the metal ring at the bottom of each votive candle had burned into the bottom of the votive holder, leaving a rusty looking mark I couldn't clean off.....so I did not feel good about serving guests out of these!

Our liquor store had party packs of 5 oz. plastic cups that were the next big thing for us. I put in two ladle-fulls into the cups and garnished with a bit of thyme.
 Mini Pie Pops
Definitely the most intensive of the apps we tried out, partly because we made our own pie crust instead of buying pre-made Pillsbury Crust. I mixed several recipes found on pie pops, pie crust and filling options.
 After using a circular cookie cutter to make the crusts, I laid them out on the baking sheet, attached a lollipop stick (found a package at Bed, Bath and Beyond) and added the filling. I did half of them with pumpkin pie filling - with less evaporated milk added to thicken it up - and the other half were done with strawberry preserves.
 An egg wash and some fork action to crimp the edges, these went in the oven for 10-12 minutes. I was disappointed with the strawberry pies. The fruit spilled out of several of them, bubbling and burning on the pan. Also, the sticks did not stick in  for these, I can't figure out how other people have gotten them to stay. So instead of all pie pops, half were just "mini-pies."
All in all, I'm not sure if I would put the time in to make these again. They were cute, but you can't get a whole lot of filling in, so they ended up being pretty crust heavy.
 Sweet Potato S'Mores
We thought we had made this concept up, but I was certainly glad to find a blog post out in cyberspace because I wasn't sure where we were going to take this one! Roasted sweet potato + marshmallow fluff = tasty filler. 
We used our new toaster oven to heat these for 5 minutes at 325 degrees., the filling being wedged with 3 squares of a Hershey bar in between 2 honey graham crackers. I have never had a toaster oven before, but gotta say it is winning me over.
 Cheeses
When I found this photo on Pinterest, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to re-create the look.
We gathered the prettiest apples, a few extra pears and bunches of grapes to surround our cheese choices. A stack of plates, a bouquet of fall flowers and backed by wine bottles and glasses. I called the set up, "Abundance."
We picked up a couple hard cheeses and a half wheel of brie to set out along with many types of crackers, crostini and breadsticks. The brie was baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, topped with dried cranberries, thyme and toasted walnuts.
The pear and pancetta slices were added to this mix, partly to add to the "abundant" look but mostly because I ran out of room on the table! Needless to say, this display was pretty much demolished by the next morning. Who doesn't love cheese?
We loved having everyone over, getting ready to ring in the holiday season. One tradition from last year's housewarming party I plan on continuing for future parties is asking guests to bring a donation for the Lakeview Pantry, stationed just a few blocks from our house. The box we set out was quickly filled with peanut butter, whole grain cereals and canned goods. We ended up with over 50 items to bring in so a big thank you goes out to our guests!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Berry Berry Good

A recent hosting gig for book club got me back in the kitchen after a week of pizza, soup and easy meals with Bob out of town and me being ultra-lazy.

I picked the book Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. To try and make meal planning a bit more fun (and give me some ideas when I was coming up blank for creative apps), I thought about elements of the book to inspire the meal. A storyline about Antarctica led to a trifle dish filled with ice and topped with cocktail shrimp. I busted out a penguin covered platter from my holiday decor. And the baked ziti with gouda, spinach and tomatoes....had nothing to do with the book, but is a pretty good pasta dish indeed. Now, dessert was a winner and a recipe I think I'll keep in the arsenel.

Blackberry vines getting cleared out of a neighbor's yard are a plot point that translated to these Martha Stewart Blackberry Crumb Bars.
Aside from getting a seed caught in my teeth and bugging me for the following 2 hours until I could get it out, these were a hit.