Housewarming Party Spread

Hello again, friends.  I hope you all had a good weekend.  I’m hanging on the sofa, enjoying today’s chilly afternoon.  Dave has RedZone football on, and I’m still reeling from a wonderful party at our new house.  Yesterday, we *finally* threw our housewarming party after moving into our home in late May.  It’s been a journey and a lot of work getting the house together… buying some new furniture, painting a few of the rooms, hanging up pictures, etc.  It’s nice for everything to be coming together.  The housewarming party was a great success- lots of friends and family came to visit and we had a great time.  But, more importantly… the spread was fantastic.

IMG_3489

After lots of planning, stress, more planning and more stress- I landed on what I hoped to be enough food for the 60+ people we were expecting.  I wanted to share my party spread and the corresponding recipes with you, in the hopes of maybe making YOUR next open house party less stressful.

Our party was awesome, and the food was absolutely perfect.  There are a few tips I’d first like to give before diving into the yummy recipes I’m sharing.

  1. When you’re going to try and cater your own party, you can never have too much planning.  My first step of planning was for our menu.  I saved recipes with links to the original pages on an email draft, and added as I thought of more.  At the same time, I made my grocery list.  Every time I added a recipe, I would open it up and jot down the ingredients I’d need to buy for it.  I’ve found this to be SO helpful while I’m at the grocery store.
  2. For your menu, come up with a variety of options.  Finger foods are always ideal, less waste and clean up required.  A few hot items, a few cold items are nice… as well as a good combination of veggie-friendly and carnivore-friendly.
  3. Next, plan when you’re cooking EVERYTHING.  If there’s anything you can prep before hand, do it.  The less you have to do the day-of, the better.  Trust me.  Things get crazy and stressful and this will make your life so much easier.
  4. Double check your ingredients.  I had to go back to the store twice, after not remembering to save my onions, or buy extra limes.  Your prep will run smoothly if you check all of your ingredients before starting on your recipes!
  5. Map out your serving plan just as precisely as your recipe plan.  Know what serving utensils, dishes bowls, and space you’re going to use before making up your mind.
  6. Labels.  Label your food and drinks, please.  You wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste because someone doesn’t know what’s in the cheesy dip no one’s touched yet.  People feel more comfortable eating food when they have an idea of what it is… don’t you?
  7. Ask for help!  Grab your spouse, Mom, friend, anyone who offers to help you.  It’ll be nice to get to delegate some of the work, but also getting another opinion when you’re stuck with a last minute decision is clutch.

Now that you’re ready to plan… let me share my menu with you!

Before the madness

Before the madness

For our food spread, I wanted to go with most recipes I could make before the day of the party.  I’m a huge fan of dips, so I always have a few of those.  I also had a few cheese plates we got for our wedding that I wanted to show off, so I definitely wanted to do some fun cheeses.  Adding in a few other apps here and there, and Dave’s requested Chick Fil-A nugget platter, we came up with a great variety of food that was pretty much gone by the end of the night!  It was a huge success.

Soft Pretzels:  Being in Philly, I had to order our favorite soft pretzel tray from Philly Soft Pretzel Factory.  I like to get the full tray but only include salted pretzels and everything pretzels.  Yum.  Dave picked these up about an hour before the party started.

Cheese Plates with Crackers:  I ALWAYS try to buy my cheese from Trader Joe’s.  They have an awesome variety and great prices and if you’re not sure what to do, their staff is very helpful.  I went with a crunchy, aged sharp cheddar, a 1000-day aged Gouda, the always reliably delicious and creamy Saint Andre, a nutty Manchego, and a slightly stinky Blue Stilton.  We had a few accompaniments to go alongside the cheese and crackers- Fig Butter, Honey, Dried Cherries, and Truffle Marcona Almonds.  Nommm.

Caprese Skewers:  This is probably my new favorite entertaining snack.  It’s healthy, it’s easy, and everybody loves them.  These bad boys are simple… buy yourself some small wooden skewers, stack a grape tomato, basil leaf, and chunk of fresh mozzarella.  You can drizzle with balsamic or put a small dish in the center, like I did, for your guests to dip.  I recommend doing this day of so the tomatoes and cheese don’t dry out.

Tortellini Skewers w/ Pesto Dipping Sauce:  Another SUPER simple recipe.  I bought a huge serving of the pre-cooked tortellinis from BJ’s and cooked them up day of.  Throw two tortellini’s on each skewer and then again, either drizzle or offer a pesto dipping sauce.  I wanted to do this instead of a pasta salad, that people would probably serve themselves too much of.

Roasted Shrimp w/ Cocktail Sauce:  This was a great make-ahead snack.  Bought a giant bag of Extra-Large frozen raw, tail-on shrimp from BJ’s.  Shrimp can be expensive, so definitely try to get them in bulk!  I thawed the shrimp, then spread them in a foil-lined, pam-sprayed cookie sheet.  Then, I sprayed the shrimp with coconut oil spray (olive oil drizzle would be fine too!) salt and pepper.  Popped them in the oven at 400 for about 4-5 minutes on each side.  I put those in a tupperware until the day of, when I served with cocktail sauce.  Simple, yet these were the first snacks gone!

BBQ Salami:  Two Hebrew National Salamis- score and place in foil inside a baking dish.  Cover the salami with BBQ sauce.  Sweet Baby Ray’s is a family favorite (and gluten free!).  Bake in the oven for about 45 min or until the BBQ sauce starts getting all carmelizedy on the salami.  Cut or slice and pour any extra BBQ sauce ontop.  Serve with mustard, again, family preference is Nance’s Sharp and Creamy.  Another big hit.

In case you're like me and had no idea what kind of salami to buy :)

In case you’re like me and had no idea what kind of salami to buy 🙂

IMG_3491

IMG_3494

Roasted Shrimp and Green Bean Salad

Roasted Shrimp and Green Bean Salad

Now, onto the Dips.

Caramelized Onion Dip w/ Wavy Chips:  Based off of Ina’s Pan Fried Onion Dip.  This was a new recipe to me and I’m pretty much obsessed.  This was the first thing I came to when people were leaving and it was my turn to eat.  YUM.

Recipe- 2 Large Sweet Onions, 4 T Butter, 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil, 1/4 tsp Cayenne, 1 tsp Kosher Salt, 1/2 tsp Black Pepper: Cut onions in half.  Make thin slices with the cut side-down (half moon shape).  Cook the onions for about 30-40 minutes with all other ingredients listed so far in a saucepan.  Put aside and let cool.  Meanwhile, in a mixer, combine 4oz Light Cream Cheese, 1/2 cup Fat Free Sour Cream, and 1/2 cup Olive Oil Mayo.  Once the onions are cool, add them to the mixture and combine.  I tried to remove the onions from the grease, and did not just dump them in together.  

Spinach Dip w/ Carrots and Celery:  A classic staple for us.  I make this all the time just to have for Dave and I to snack on during the week.

Recipe- One container fat free sour cream, 3/4-1 cup of Olive Oil Mayo.  Mix with one package of cooked chopped spinach (I drain mine using cheese cloth.  SO MUCH BETTER than paper towels, i promise it’s worth the small investment), one small can of diced water chestnuts, and one package of Lipton Vegetable soup (dry mix only).  Serve with raw vegg.

Buffalo Chicken Dip:  I never make this because everyone does, but it was a specific request from Dave… so of course I made it again.  Check out my fav recipe here on the blog, not too long ago.  I like to serve this with crackers or my favorite, Fritos Scoops.

Roasted Jalapeno & Honey Hummus:  Another repeat for the blog, but my favorite and really the only hummus in my life anymore.  It’s so good.  I used only 2 peppers, without seeds and it was pretty hot.  Not sure how I used 4 as I talked about in the original post, but go for it if you like heat.  I try to keep things on the less-spicy side for big parties.  Served this with Pita chips.

Cheese, Salad, Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Dip

Cheese, Salad, Hummus, Buffalo Chicken Dip

Spinach Dip and vegg

Spinach Dip and vegg

Time for the “main” dishes!  Not too heavy, I tried to still stay with finger food.

Chicken Nuggets:  I’d like to say this was for the kids we were expecting, but I’m pretty sure the adults devoured them just as much.  Saved myself some time and ordered the biggest party tray available at Chick Fil-A.  They’re the best.

Balsamic Roasted Veggies:  I like to have a healthy option and a good hearty veggie option since Rachel my sister-in-law is a vegetarian, I always try and remember that not everyone can eat meat!  During my prep day, I sliced two eggplants, a few lbs of zucchini, carrots, asparagus, and multi-colored bell peppers (keep those whole!) and threw them in the oven at 400, sprayed with some oil salt and pepper.  I roasted the veggies for about an hour, flipping every so often and turning the bell peppers.  For the bell peppers- you’ll want to get those nice and browning, then toss them in a paper bag.  Let them steam for about 10 minutes, then remove the skin and seeds once they are cool.  I placed all the veggies in a tupperware with balsamic vinegar poured overtop.  Served these room-temp day of.

Strawberry Salad w/ Lime Basil Vinaigrette:  You can make the dressing ahead, but definitely do the salad day-of.  I simplified the salad but used the dressing from this recipe.  Mixed greens, tossed with fresh strawberries, raw slivered almonds, and crumbled blue cheese worked great with this light dressing.  It looked like it wouldn’t be enough, but once I tossed the salad with the dressing, it somehow dressed the whole salad.  Don’t panic if you  make the dressing and it looks small!

Dressing- 1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice, zest from the lime, 1/2 cup Olive Oil, 1 T Honey, 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, Salt, Pepper.  Blend in a blender or food processor.  

Italian Green Bean Salad:  This recipe is a favorite of my friend Erin’s family and was passed along to me for my party!  A great additional healthy option, and is perfect room temp.  I did make the salad day of and dressing during my prep day.

Recipe- 2lbs Fresh Green Beans, 1 pint Grape Tomatoes (cut in half), 3 T Balsamic Vinegar, 1 T Dijon Mustard, 1/2 tsp. Salt, 9 T olive oil, 1 large red onion (diced and soaked in cold water).  Drop beans in boiling water.  Cook for about 4 minutes, then drain and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Mix the dressing, then toss with the beans, tomatoes, and onions.  Serve room-temp.  

Raspberry Chipotle Meatballs:  Another staple for parties of mine.  Easy, sweet, spicy, love it.  I bought a 5lb bag of Turkey meatballs from BJ’s and doubled my original recipe I found years ago from Southern Living.  Made these during prep-day, then threw the cold balls into my crock pot a few hours before game-time.

Recipe- 2lbs meatballs, 1 28oz BBQ Sauce (again, Sweet Baby Ray’s for me), 1 15oz Jar Raspberry Preserves (I use All-Fruit brand!), 3 chipotle peppers + 1 Tablespoon of sauce from a small can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo (found near mexican food in grocery store).  Mix everything but the balls in a large pot, add 1 1/2 cups water and whisk.  Add meatballs and cook until heated through or about 45 min.  Re-heat or place in a crockpot to keep warm.

Roasted Veggie platter

Roasted Veggie platter

Pretzels, Nuggets, Salami, and Meatballs

Pretzels, Nuggets, Salami, and Meatballs

Our desserts were completely provided by our fabulous Moms!  My Mom made a decadent chocolate pizza with marshmallows ontop, chocolate covered pretzels, and her famous “White Trash” (white chocolate rolled chex mix, peanuts, and M&Ms).  Dave’s Mom brought us her famous Magic Cookie Bars, Raspberry Bars, Lemon Bars, and my favorite fall-appropriate Pumpkin Bars.  My mouth is watering again!

Dessert Area

Dessert Area

No party would be complete without the libations!  We bought beer, and provided one mixed drink option and two sangrias.  For each of the mixed drinks, I doubled the recipe.  I’ve made the red before and am a huge fan, but the favorite by far was the seasonal Apple Pie Sangria.  I’ll be making that again!  These can be made before the day of, but if you add the fruit in before, take that out day of and replace with new fruit.

Also, with any of the drinks, I’d recommend leaving out the ice and having your guests put their own ice in their cups.  That way, the ice won’t melt and water down the drinks.

Red Sangria, a Bobby Flay Recipe:  I used Spanish Red Wine, and omitted the Blackberries, as they are not in season.
Recipe- 2 Bottles Table Red, 1 cup Apricot Brandy, 1/2 cup Triple Sec, 1/2 cup Raspberry Liquor, 1 cup Orange Juice, 1 cup Pomegranate Juice, 2/4 cup simple syrup, orange slices, apple slices, blackberries, one cinnamon stick.

Apple Pie Sangria:  Followed this one exactly.  The Caramel Vodka we bought was Smirnoff brand called “Kissed Caramel”.

Recipe- 2 Bottles Reisling, 5 cups Apple Cider, 2 cups Ginger Ale, 2 cups Caramel Vodka, 3 honey crisp apples, 3 pears, 2 cinnamon sticks

Maui Moscow Mule:  Vodka, Lime, Ginger Ale, Pimms #1, Mint, Fresh Ginger and Lime Slices.  I made this one too strong at first, so I recommend tasting before serving so you can get the mixture right!  Like the sangria, I had the Ginger and Lime slices as well as mint leaves floating on top.

A pretty picture of my kitchen, where I did all this hard work :)

A pretty picture of my kitchen, where I did all this hard work 🙂

I hope this can inspire you when you’re going to make your own party next!  If you were one of the lucky ones at my party, you’re welcome ESPECIALLY for the Apple Pie Sangria recipe and thank YOU for coming!

Bobby’s Red Sangria

sangria

Our wedding is in 103 days.  OMG!  Can you believe it?!

This past weekend, I was showered with lots of love and amazing presents at my bridal shower.  It was so much fun!  I was able to be joined by all of my bridesmaids, lots of friends and family, and had a wonderful time.  (there was lots of good food too of course!)

Since the shower is really for the gals… Dave and I decided to have a really fun night out before the shower with all of our friends.  We decided to go to our absolute favorite restaurant in Philly- which happens to be a BYO.  I made an awesome Sangria recipe (my first!) and wanted to share it with you today.  It was delish!

Dave and I at our dinner :)

Dave and I at our dinner 🙂

Bobby’s Red Sangria

Ingredients:

2 bottles Spanish Red Table Wine

1 cup Apricot Brandy (or other)

1/2 cup Triple Sec

1/2 cup Raspberry Liquor (I used Framboise)

1 cup Orange Juice

1 cup Pomegranate Juice

3/4 cup Simple Syrup, or more to taste (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves, cooled)

Orange slices, Apple slices, Blackberries, One Cinnamon Stick

Directions:

1.  Mix the brandy, triple sec, and raspberry liquor in a large pitcher.  Cut half of the fruit and add to the boozy mixture.  Add juices and simple syrup.  Add the two bottles of wine and seal the container.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving.  

2.  Before serving, remove the old fruit and cinnamon stick and add the remaining chopped fruit.  
Recipe adapted from:  Bobby Flay’s Red Wine Sangria

This is the wine I used

This is the wine I used

Lots of booze, ready to rock and roll!

Lots of booze, ready to rock and roll!

I was confident that I couldn’t go wrong with a Bobby Flay recipe and started there.  With a few suggestions from friends, I added the raspberry and cinnamon which worked out great.  A great piece of advice is that the Sangria gets better with time… don’t try it right away and expect it to be good!  It has to sit with the fruit for a good amount of time before it is just right.  ENJOY!

P1020905

 

St. Germain & Muddled Grapes

It’s not like me to do a post about alcoholic beverages.  That’s because I don’t typically make any that are worth talking about.

I’m the type of girl that thinks all drinks are gross.  They’re all too strong tasting to me.  The typical girly drinks are too sweet.  I’m just very hard to please in this department.

Recently, I’ve been catching onto the craft beer obsession that’s taking over Philly.  I am so glad I finally don’t think beer is disgusting.

As of last year, I also don’t think wine is disgusting.  Is this me growing up?

And finally, after being introduced to a fabulous cocktail bar in the city… I now LOVE cocktails.

Inspired by a drink I had at one of my favorite neighborhood spots (SoWe), I decided to try out this cocktail at home.  I’m obsessed.  It’s SOOOOOO GOOD!

St. Germain & Muddled Grapes

Ingredients:

1 shot Vodka

1 shot St. Germain

1/2 cup Fresh Red Grapes

1/2 can Diet Sprite

Directions:

1.  Muddle the grapes into a cocktail shaker with the vodka and St. Germain.  Mash until most of the grapes are broken up.  Strain into a glass filled with ice, removing grape solids.  

2.  Top with diet sprite or club soda.  Enjoy!

If you don’t have a muddling stick, you can try to use a wooden spoon, it just might take longer, so be patient!

CHEERS!

P1010909

P1010910

Brick American Eatery, Philadelphia

I know I’ve been MIA for what seems like forever now.  Sorry I’m not sorry!  I’ve been super busy this summer doing some life-changing things.  And I’m not talking about trying some new mind-blowing mac and cheese or the newest dessert fad.  I’m talking actual life changing.

Over the past two months, I have been busy getting myself started with a new career!  I studied my tush off and got my license to sell insurance.  I am working for a company who sells health/life/supps to individuals.  So, hopefully I’ll be helping people and making money finally!  It was a lot of hard work learning something totally new, but I am very excited to start this new chapter in my life.

Not only did I change careers over the past two months, but Dave and I just got back last week from our adventure in Ecuador!  We saw and did so many amazing things.  We went hiking in the Andes, explored Quito the capital, went rafting in Banos, and saw some pretty outrageous creatures in the Amazon Jungle.  I can’t wait to have a good chunk of time available to sit down and write about it for you… we also were able to bring my brand spankin’ new camera and took so many beautiful pictures.

You’ll just have to wait on that because today I want to tell you about our last date night in Philly, which just happened to be the night we were celebrating my passing the licensing exam.

P1000606

Dave and I have been itching to try Brick American Eatery in Philly for some time now… after hearing rave reviews from a friend and seeing the same of their Yelp page, we decided to buy a local groupon deal for here.  The funny thing is, we were all ready to go earlier in the summer, walked there in the rain, and had to turn around and go back when we got there- the restaurant had lost power in the storm!  I’m glad we went when we did because it was the perfect place to celebrate my birthday, my passing the exam, and my first time using my new camera.  🙂

Our deal allowed for us to get two small plates/apps, two entrees, and two drinks.

P1000601

What was perfect about going on this night was the beautiful weather that allowed us to sit outside:  not too hot, not too windy, not too humid… it was just right.  We started off with two fabulous drinks- I ordered the Peach Palmer (Iced Tea Vodka with Lemonade and muddled Peaches) and Dave went with the Brick Manhattan (Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Carpano Antica Formula, Whiskey Soaked Cherry).

P1000602

For our first course, we were just dying to try the special- Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls.  They were so different and absolutely yummy.  Crunchy and warm with a creamy sauce, we devoured these spring rolls right away.  We also ordered the Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Flat Bread which had a thin crispy crust and was topped with peppery Arugula and warm Roasted Tomatoes.  Y-U-M!

P1000608

P1000607

It was so hard to decide on the  main courses since they all sounded so good.  First, we chose the Sea Scallops (Beets, white beans, sun-dried tomato & rosemary cream).  We also were talked into (it didn’t take much I have to add) trying the Lamb Burger, as this Brick specialty was in the running for Philly’s Best Burger.  I obviously had to try it.

The Scallops were excellent.  I would also have to agree that the Lamb Burger should be on the list as one of the best burgers in Philly.  The juicy, flavorful Lamb Burger is topped with Spicy Onion Jam, Manchego Cheese, Worcestershire, and Mayo.

P1000611

P1000612

Looking at these picture is making me hungry right now…

Well, my friends, it is nice to be back!  Thanks for sticking by despite my neglecting you for the last month.  🙂

P1000609

P1000605

Loving this new camera too!

Trader Joe’s Spicy Chai Latte

When my family bought our Tassimo Maker (similar to a Keurig, but one that can make Cappuccinos), Dave discovered his true love… the Chai Latte.  He will almost never drink coffee at my house, as long as we have a Tassimo Chai discs left.

 

In all of my time working at Trader Joe’s and shopping at Trader Joe’s, it never occurred to me to buy their Spicy Chai Latte Mix.  Honestly, i normally avoid the coffee/tea area because I would buy everything from it… but this time I happened to stumble upon it and thought I had to bring it home for Dave.

I’m so glad I did!  This stuff is the best.  It is so easy to make, and at $3 for the entire tin, it’s a bargain!  All you have to do, is take a scoop (which is included in the tin) of Chai and mix it with hot water.  Pour over ice… add milk… and voila!  There you have it.  Just as good (if not better) than the Starbucks variety.  There are also directions to make it into a hot latte if you choose.

The finished product! ... the eggs were for breakfast, not the latte! Don't worry.

Here’s my secret:  I added two drops of Vanilla extract to make it just a touch sweeter.  🙂  For the record, the Chai Master loved it and even had two servings in one sitting!