Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting Party

February 21st 2010

coffee grains 8314 10 Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting PartyWith winter still hanging on these days and my time to garden still weeks away, my thoughts turn to more ways to entertain my friends indoors. Instead of a traditional dinner party, I decided to try a weekend Coffee Tasting Party. If you’ve ever wondered what those different roasts or all those different flavors available at the coffee shop taste like, here’s your chance to taste them.

I love everything about coffee, and these mugs from CasaModa are no exception. With such adorable retro coffee images, they are perfect for a coffee tasting party. Set your party up like a potluck and have a few friends bring over other necessary supplies. Have each guest bring a coffee to try and an extra coffeepot. Try to get whole beans if a grinder or a coffeepot with a built in grinder is available. The flavor of whole bean coffee is fresher and stronger than already ground and vacuum-packed varieties. Coffee is at its best within the first twenty minutes of brewing, so you won’t want to have too many pots brewed at once. Between each cup of coffee, have unsalted crackers available to clear everyone’s palate. Have a coffee station with creamer and sugar and spoons for guests who don’t like black coffee.

coffee Chase Away Winter with a Coffee Tasting Party

I also like to provide some sweet treats with coffee as well. It also gives me a great reason to bring out my CasaModa retro coffeehouse plates which match the mugs. Biscotti, scones, chocolate covered rolled wafers or shortbread cookies are favorites with my friends, especially those who like to dip their treats into their coffee.

After a weekend brunch or weekend dinner out would be the best time to hold your party if you are concerned about caffeine consumption. A nighttime party might keep everyone awake late into the night, so it may not be a good idea to do on a night where everyone has to be at work early in the morning the next day.

A Coffee Tasting can be a welcome addition to any event that might last a long time. We have friends who come over to play games that sometimes can last for hours. The losers of each round has to brew and fix the next coffee to taste for the winners. If you are having a movie or TV show marathon party, a coffee tasting would be a great way to take a break in between shows. Have fun with ways to present your coffee tasting and your friends will no doubt have fun as well.

Posted by Myriam under Drinks & Winter Entertaining | 1 Comment »

Snow Day!

February 1st 2010

snowman Snow Day!Parties come in all sizes from giant to just your own little family. A snow day is a perfect opportunity to have a family party to celebrate the day off school and work.

Bundle up and get outside and enjoy the white stuff. Find a nearby hill and take the whole family sledding. Make sure everyone is bundled up tight, and you might want to bring an extra pair of  mittens along for the youngest of your tribe.  Make sure to bring a thermos full of hot chocolate just in case it gets too cold.

Once you walk back home make sure to decorate your yard with some snow sculptures. You could make a few traditional snowmen or really get creative. Who knows, you may have a modern art piece that the whole neighbor will miss once the temperature starts to rise.

Don’t forget to make some snow angels while you’re at it. Once you stand back up go ahead start a snowball fight. You might even be able to get some of your neighbors involved. Just make sure to call a truce before anyone gets too worn out.

When you come in make everyone’s favorite snowy afternoon lunch – tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Make some homemade croutons and they can go straight form the oven into the steaming bowls of soup. Really, any soup is the perfect way to warm up. My friend loves to make a huge slow cooker of vegetable soup in the coldest weather and eat from it almost everyday.

Keeping the kids busy will prevent them for the dreaded boredom. A perfect activity is baking. Kids of almost tan age can help with cookies or decorating cupcakes. Older kids may even be able to invent new cookies. Make a basic sugar cookie dough and get out all your extras like nuts, chocolate chips, even cocoa and crushed peppermint sticks.

After they eat more than a few cookies, you may find your whole family sacked out in the living room. The end to a perfect snow day.

Posted by Myriam under Children & Party Food & Winter Entertaining | No Comments »

Don’t Forget the Centerpiece

November 24th 2009

sm fallcenterpiece Dont Forget the CenterpieceThanksgiving is growing nearer and I’m confident that you have your menu ready. You’ve already arranged to get extra chairs, folding tables, and even silverware if you need it. But have you put any thought into your table centerpiece yet? Don’t get me wrong, the food is the focus of this holiday, but it’s always nice to add a special touch on the table as well.

You can go the traditional route and have some Indian corn cobs, or a basket filled with the season’s beautiful winter squashes. Of course, whatever you pick needs to go with your table linens. You could try a tall rectangle glass vase filled with autumn leaves and pine cones. You could get a square glass vase and fill it with popcorn and a pillar candle. You can even get colored popcorn for a more unusual display. Remember, if you add anything in with a candle; make sure what you add not flammable.

Another vase idea is to find some branches in your own backyard and put them in a large vase. You can add in some flowers as well, to make it a spectacular addition to your family’s meal. Hollow out mini pumpkins or gourds, then add a votive inside. They are delightful candle holders.

Don’t forget about your houseplants. They can go on your favorite Noritake dish surrounded by leaves or mini pumpkins. Use a cake plate to raise it up from the table. Doing this gives any center piece more dimension, and catches the eye more readily. Fresh flowers are always a welcome sight on the table. Try for warm orange colors if you can find them. Also don’t be afraid to get some poinsettias early and use them as well. The white ones are my favorite to have before the Christmas holiday kicks in.

Big trifle bowls of apples, pomegranates, and pears is another dynamic center piece. Plus it’s one you can eat for dessert too! A bowl of citrus can be pretty too, especially when you add in some kumquats and satumas. My favorite functional ‘center piece’ is sliced oranges, limes, and lemons in big glass pitchers of drinking water. It add great flavor and is amazing to look at too.

Try mixing and matching some of the ideas above to create your own master piece. You could create a vase of white roses in a clear vase lined with kumquats. Or add a houseplant into the center of a bowl of Indian corn. Mix dried leaves in with mini pumpkins and pears. The possibilities are truly endless.

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Fall Entertaining & Holiday Entertaining & Thanksgiving | 1 Comment »

Turkey Alternatives for Thanksgiving

November 17th 2009

dinnerware turkey Turkey Alternatives for Thanksgiving

Sometimes a tradition seems like a perfect fit, but it’s always ok to stretch your culinary muscles. Some families do ham instead of turkey, but I want to get you thinking about a few main dishes that are less ordinary. In fact, they’re so delicious you’ll want to serve them all year round.

One reason to skip the turkey this year is to avoid all the leftovers. If you are just a couple or small family, you’ve probably had enough of turkey sandwiches and tetrazzini to last a lifetime. While you can always freeze turkey for another time, you could choose something less expensive and put that money towards holiday presents.

You could stick close to the usual theme and cook up some turkey cutlets. Rachel Ray cooks up some Turkey Cutlets with Corn, Sage and Prosciutto Stuffing. Or try Bon Appétit’s Turkey Cutlets with Brussels Sprouts and Dried Cranberries to pack all the flavors of the holidays into one dish.

Make a vegetarian traditional dish, stuffed winter squash. You could use your favorite stuffing, add your favorite sausage (meaty or veggie), apples, and celery in butternut or acorn squash. Take a look at this recipe to get a few ideas, Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Hazelnuts and Dried Cranberries.

Pot pie is an American favorite. You can fill it with minced poultry meat or leave it just veggies. Add in a cream sauce, cheese, or mushroom gravy to top your filling and sandwich it in 2 pie crusts. Meat loaf is another cheap and easy option. This Turkey Meatloaf with Mushrooms and Herbs is a step above the everyday meatloaf.

Make a stew in a pumpkin, a seasonal risotto, or try a pumpkin lasagna out. You don’t have to be without gravy for your mashed potatoes. You can even buy organic turkey gravy in the soup section of Whole Foods, and you can make mushroom gravy with no meat drippings. Why not try some stuffing muffins to go under all that tasty gravy? You can eat a couple and then freeze the rest for another meal.

Don’t forget your side dishes. If you do lasagna or pot pie, you will need to skip the mashed potatoes. But you can still make an assortment of vegetables, and without spending all that time on the turkey you’ll have time to make some new favorites. Add a spinach salad, cooked greens, Brussels sprouts to the traditional sweet potatoes and green beans. It’s your Thanksgiving. Start some of your family’s traditions this year.

Posted by Myriam under Holiday Entertaining & Seasonal Entertaining & Thanksgiving | No Comments »

Plan Your Way to an Easier Thanksgiving

November 13th 2009

dinnerware pumpkin with autumn corn Plan Your Way to an Easier Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is coming up fast, so you need to start thinking about it now. No matter how busy you are now, it will only seem worse the closer to turkey day that you begin. Making a plan isn’t doing all the work at one time. You will be making a chore list to make your life easier.

The first order of business is to order a turkey if you want a fresh one. You can try local farmers to see if they still have any organic ones. They may cost more, but the taste is worth it. If you’re not interested in a fresh turkey, go ahead and buy a frozen one. Don’t wait too long, or you may find yourself without a turkey on the big day!

Make a menu plan for the big day. If you are having guests bring something, make sure that they tell you what they want to bring now. This way you can fill in any holes yourself. A typical menu would look something like this:

  • wine – I suggest a mix of red, white and rose to give everyone something they’ll like.
  • soda, sparking water, juice
  • slow cooker pear delicata squash soup or other winter squash soup
  • field green salad with chopped apple and dried cranberries
  • turkey
  • cranberry sauce
  • stuffing
  • mashed potatoes
  • green bean (regular or in casserole form)
  • sweet potato (baked or in casserole form)
  • creamed corn
  • dinner rolls
  • pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or another of your favorite desserts

Make a shopping list so you don’t find yourself running out to the store at the last minute. Include baking supplies, seasonal vegetables, stuffing mix, and add some Indian corn and mini pumpkins to decorate your table with. Order the list by each store you need to go to make it easier.

Make a list of anything you may need to rent or borrow from friends. I always borrow a few extra chairs and a card table myself. Think about silverware, serving platters, and dinnerware too, are you sure you have enough? Now is a perfect time to bring out you best Noritake plates, and your best silver.

The day before give the bathroom a thorough cleaning and vacuum and mop all the floors. Go ahead and make your pie(s) and soup if it will reheat well. You can even begin to set your table if you don’t have cats that are likely to nap on your clean pressed linens. Take your frozen turkey out of the freezer and put in the fridge for the night. Chill the white and rose wines.

You can setup to have a separate kids table, like the one we all knew growing up. If you do it separate or together cover the tables with matching tablecloths to add some extra ambiance to your dinner. Make a center piece by scattering the Indian corn and mini pumpkins on various places on your table. Go ahead and put wine glasses and coffee cups on the table, so you have less running around to do during your dinner party.

The morning of Thanksgiving cook the Turkey, stuffing, and other dishes that need to be made the day you eat them. Set the table early if you didn’t set it the night before. Open the red wine to breathe. Go ahead and open the chilled wines as well and put them in an ice chest to keep it cool.

Most importantly take a half hour before your guest arrive and enjoy the feeling of having everything ready before the last minute!

Posted by Myriam under Decorations & Holiday Entertaining & Hostessing & Seasonal Entertaining & Thanksgiving | No Comments »