After a long, cold winter, many people have “spring fever.” There is no better way to celebrate the snow melting, warmer temperatures and birds chirping than to throw a great party for spring. Many hosts know that before a party can be enjoyed; there are hours of planning and shopping that must be done. I love throwing parties in spring as it allows those of us who hibernate indoors during the winter an opportunity to get outside, mingle and have fun.
The first thing, you need to consider when throwing great spring parties are the invitations. Spring is all about vivid colors! If you wish to purchase your ready made invitations at a store, glue dried flowers on them for a personalized touch. One year I attached a small label I purchased at an office supply store to packets of seeds and sent those as my invitation. As you can imagine those were a huge hit!
You may want to consider party favors for your guests. But the question arises, what can you give guests that attend a spring-themed party? How about giving your guests a small basket full of seeds they can grow in their garden or home? Of course, you will want to select seeds for their specific zone. If seeds aren’t your thing, many people enjoy candles. Present your guests with small flower scented candles such as lilac, rose or gardenia.
Decorate your landscaping with white lights hung in the trees. Paint aluminum cans, poke holes in them, fill 3/4th’s with sand and place lit candles on the sand for an added outdoor decoration. If you own a portable fire pit use it for nighttime lighting. Don’t forget about decorating with flowers and greenery as well. I like to place clear bowls, filled with water and flowers as table centerpieces for my spring parties. If I have an ample amount of flowers, I will strategically place them on tables as well for an additional touch of color.
You can’t have a party without food. When throwing a spring party, consider picnic style dining, perfect for spring when it’s not too cold and not too warm. Finger foods, such as, sandwiches and sliced fresh fruit and vegetable allow the guest to mingle and eat. If you are anything like me, you may want to serve finger foods early during the party and then fire up your barbecue later on. Guests will enjoy the aroma of your ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs or chicken. Serve with side salads such a potato salad or macaroni salad. Remember that choosing table settings can be the best part, you might have a little work to do after the party but the results will be worth it.
Entertainment is important at any party, even at spring parties. If you have the lawn space, consider setting up croquet or badminton. If space is limited for outdoor fun, you may want to consider horseshoes or bocce ball. Children and adults alike will get in on the action! If you have younger guests or guests that cannot get around as easily as they once could, set up a flower arrangement table where the guests can create a small flower arrangement they can take home. This allows everyone an opportunity to have fun at an activity, and those that arrange flowers will have an extra party favor to take home!
Setting the mood is important. Remember to have soft music playing in the background of your spring party.
The settings on the slow cooker (and I believe this is the common choice for most slow cookers) are 4 hours, 6 hours, and 8 hours. Having different options is important for when you want to leave your slow cooker unattended. Whether you’re going to be gone all day or only a few hours, there will be a setting that you can use to ensure the food cooks just the right amount of time.
For my first meal, I decided to try something out that I’ve cooked many times before on the stove: A simple beef stew. I know it’s not very creative or adventurous, but I wanted to try out something easy the first time. Also, since I’ve never used a slow cooker before, I didn’t want to leave it unattended until I got to know it a bit first.
One thing I instantly noticed about the slow cooker recipe is that it called for a lot less ingredients. With the traditional way of cooking beef stew, I normally have to use flour and vegetable oil in order for it to taste right – at least with the recipe I’ve always used. I’ve tried omitting these ingredients before, and it just didn’t come out well, so I was a bit nervous.
Aside from the McCormick packet that contains the beef stew mix, all I used for this meal was one package of beef chunks and three potatoes. After peeling and chopping the potatoes into bite-sized chunks, I just threw everything in the slow cooker and topped it all with the beef stew mix. I’m not really a fan of vegetables, so it’s just a personal preference of mine – but you could add any other vegetable you want.
The recipe gave me the option of cooking it on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours; of course, the high temperature setting still isn’t very at all. I opted for the 4 hour option since it was already late in the afternoon.
The next four hours were pretty uneventful, but I mean that in a good way. There were no issues or reasons for me to feel apprehensive about leaving the slow cooker unattended next time. Plus, it made my apartment smell great!
When it was finally time to eat, I was more than pleased with the results. The meat and potatoes were tender and full of flavor, and the fact that I was able to omit the flour and oil and get the same taste was a big plus, too – less calories! The cleanup was simple and quick, with the cooking dish being removable and dishwasher safe.
I’ve used the slow cooker a couple times since then (pork roast with sweet potatoes one night, and meatballs for a spaghetti dinner another evening) and while I wasn’t home, without any problems at all. I’m eager to try out new recipes for the slow cooker, and it was definitely worth the thirty bucks!
What do people say is the way to a man’s heart? Uh hum … food. Turns out that was exactly the way into this girl’s heart! Round one of my boyfriend’s grand scheme to steal my heart was on our third date when he prepared the most delicious Mediterranean Chicken. It was after this meal that my carefree single life soon became a distant memory, but it turns out this amazing meal is entirely attainable for mere commoners, and not just princesses like me (wink, wink.)
Do you have 30 minutes, a food processor, and want to make a WOW! meal tonight? (Add 10 minutes for manual chopping if you don’t have the food processor.) As a bonus this is a one-pot recipe that works best in a Dutch oven or 12” skillet with tall sides. Many of us shy away from cooking because we think of it as difficult or confusing. As part of this recipe I’ll teach you a simple preparation method so that you look like a master chef and feel cool and confident as you proceed. Perform your prep work (chopping, measuring) before you even turn on the stove. Collect each group of ingredients added together in a bowl or on a plate. Really, it’s that simple.
Prep 30 minutes
Total 1 hour 15 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pound of zucchini
2 red bell peppers, seeded
4 celery stalks
32oz can of whole plum tomatoes, drained and quartered
8 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
4 chicken breast portions, with bone and skin, about 1 1/2 lbs
1 cup of soft cheese with garlic and herbs
More olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
Preheat oven to 375F.
Loosen the skin of each chicken portion, without removing it, to make a pocket. Divide the cheese into four portions and push one quarter underneath the skin of each chicken portion in an even layer.
Cut the zucchini, bell peppers and celery stalks into similarly sized pieces. (Here is where the food processor comes in.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat over a large burner. Once the oil shimmers, add the onions and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.
Add the zucchini, bell peppers, and celery. Turn heat to medium high and cook for 5 more minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, and balsamic vinegar. Season well with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken on top, cheese side up.
Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the juices run clear or the internal temperature reaches 160F with an instant read thermometer. (Don’t worry, the chicken will continue to cook for a few minutes after removed from the oven and the internal temperature will reach the recommended 165F.)
Once again, the same principal for tablecloths applies to place mats and napkins. I tend to keep the same place mats and napkins every year because they are already a great holiday color (green) so you might want to just use your normal place mats and napkins if they are a neutral or holiday color. You may want to consider purchasing a new and separate set, however, since they will become dirty after the meal.
I stick to the same plates that I use all year long; they are a plain white so they do the job and do not clash with any of the holiday colors. However, these are some cute holiday-themed plates from Crate and Barrel if you really want to go out for this year’s holiday dinner.
Serve up your delicious side dishes, such as mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, in these festive green bowls available Kohl’s. Price varies by size, but the four piece set is currently on sale for $58.49.
No holiday table would be complete with a traditional ceramic gravy boat and butter tray. Even the littlest things make a difference!
For any spills and cleanups, keep one of these festive kitchen towels handy.
These snowmen mugs from Kohl’s are great for coffee, hot apple cider, or some hot chocolate.
Are your pants starting to feel a little tight? Maybe your demanding schedule is pushing you into bad eating habits, like eating frozen dinners filled with salt and preservatives, picking up fast food and cramming yourself with empty calories? If you are like me, you want to eat right but a healthy option is not always easy: lunch break at work it’s difficult to find something satisfying and quick; when I get home from a long work day I’m hungry and will eat junk food if something healthy isn’t a quick and easy option. So, here’s a remedy for our woes.
I found out about this nutritious, quick, and yummy system from my boyfriend when we were first dating. After lamenting my bad eating habits on the phone with him because of my busy work schedule, he decided to do something about it. In a couple of hours, on a weekend, he fired up his stove and cooked the most appetizing dinners and vacuum sealed them for me. My little baggies were filled with chicken breast sautéed and covered with sauces like apricot-orange sauce or sweet-tart sauce with tomato and thyme, or hearty brown ale sauce with a side of broccoli florets or black beans. While some women might have received a bouquet of flowers, I was lavished with a bouquet of frozen gourmet baggies and I couldn’t have been happier.
You’ll need a vacuum sealer: it makes tidy packages that freeze and travel well. Good quality vacuum sealers are available for less than $150. We recently purchased a nice vacuum sealer at Costco for $120. The cost of the sealer is quickly recouped if you eat your own cooking instead of eating out.
Now you are ready to get cooking! All the recipes can be found in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which is the cookbook we reach for first out of a bookshelf full of cookbooks. You can also look for other sauces at epicurious.com.
Pound boneless chicken breasts to uniform thickness to ensure even cooking. Place the chicken breasts in a gallon freezer Ziplock and pound them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer mallet or a cast-iron skillet. Also, breasts cooked to 160 degrees will be perfectly cooked every time.
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (not olive oil)
Whisk the flour, salt, and pepper together and then spread in an even layer on a plate. After you have pounded the chicken, dry with paper towels. Immediately before adding to the skillet, place the chicken in the mixture of flour, pepper and salt, making sure it has a nice coat of the mixture.
Place it in the skillet once it is heated. Make sure that you don’t place the chicken in the skillet too early or you won’t get the nice browning of your chicken. Of course if it’s too hot you’ll scorch the chicken and it will be bitter to the taste, so be mindful of your chicken.
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-heat until it just begins to smoke. This can take several minutes.
2. Gently lay the floured chicken in the skillet and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Check after 5 minutes and adjust the heat down if chicken is too brown.
3. Place the chicken on a plate and set aside while you start to cook your sauce.
4. Return skillet to stove, add more oil, and follow the sauce directions.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup orange juice
1 orange, peeled and chopped medium
1 cup dried apricots, chopped medium
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Salt and Pepper
Add the butter to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until the butter has melted. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the orange juice, chopped orange, and apricots.
Simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in any accumulated chicken juice. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Allow the chicken and sauce to cool for 15min. Place a chicken breast (or a half breast) in a vacuum bag then put 1/4c of sauce on top.
Add fresh frozen broccoli florets and/or black beans for a complete meal. Vacuum seal according to product directions.
Reheat by placing vacuum bag on a plate and piecing multiple times with a sharp knife. Heat in a microwave on high for 5-8 minutes. Times vary according to microwave power and amount of food. Wait for a minute after removing from microwave, empty packet onto plate and enjoy!
Are you ready to start bake holiday sweet holiday treats?! Looking for an unforgettable dessert that will have your family and friends singing your praises and telling you that you’ve missed your calling as a pastry chef? Well, I’ve got just the recipe for you!
Not only do I have first-hand, taste-bud knowledge of this magnificent treat but, I also have witnessed a cluster of southern women fawning and begging for the recipe just a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving, where there had been an assortment of pies and cakes, but none took the limelight away from this pie!
The story of this pie starts in Jackson, Wyoming. My boyfriend and I had gone on a hiking trip. About to set off on my first hiking expedition, we decided to stop for lunch at the Snake River Brewery. It turns out they have the most amazing food menu. Included in it was a fantastic football-size calzone that I devoured in its entirety to my boyfriend’s amazement. We took dessert to go as there was no way I could have eaten one more bite.
Convinced by my novice pleas to shorten the route, we took the last boat of the day across the lake to the south end of Jenny Lake. We trekked through the cool forest to Hidden Falls and up another steep half-mile to Inspiration Point. From a black shale perch we looked upon the awe-inspiring view of the cobalt blue lake and the glacial moraine that formed it. Resting out feet, we sat down to savor dessert.
It was there that I tasted the most amazing combination of flavors I have ever encountered in a dessert. The piquant cranberries balanced the sweet richness of apple and cream, the streusel topping was a lovely crumble of dusty sweetness to the moist filling. It was heavenly. So amazed I was with this dessert that I proposed we go back to the same place for dinner and have it again. It was even more delicious with the ice cream gently melting into the warm treat.
So my boyfriend, being the culinary genius that he is, replicated the dessert turning it from a fruit cobbler to an apple-strawberry-cranberry pie with streusel topping. Now I am going to share this delectable dessert with you!
This pie is based on the Dutch Apple pie in America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (a great addition to any kitchen library, full reliable and excellent recipes.) The pie takes two kinds of apples, one firm to retain distinct shape during cooking and the other that cooks down to a sweet applesauce. Granny Smith and Fuji fit the firm-and-soft bill, respectively. While hand-made crust is best, using a ready-to-bake frozen crust cuts kitchen time in half. Make sure to pre-bake the pie crust according to the package directions, erring a bit on the undercooked side as the pie goes back in the oven to cook the streusel.
Place oven rack at lowest position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon fine-ground cornmeal
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
- Fuji Apples, (3-5) peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/2 inch cubes
- Granny Smith Apples (4-5), peeled, cored and sliced into ½ inch cubes
- 1 Cup Whole Frozen Strawberries (thawed, according to package directions)
- 1 cup of Fresh Cranberries (in a pinch you can use ¼ cup of Craisins)
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup heavy cream
For the filling: Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cranberries and continue to cook, covered, until some of the apples have begun to break down, about 7 minutes longer. Add the cream and strawberries to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the cream is thick and sticky and has reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Spread the apple filling in the warm, partially baked pie crust. Sprinkle with the streusel. Place pie on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust and streusel have browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving.
Enjoy! I know I did!
Get Weekly Steals and DIY's in Your Inbox!
- Yesterday, I was sending thoughts out into the Twitter-verse when I came across this gorgeous image from Elle Decor… »
- Gold Stones $Free, Allegra Hicks Placemat Set $9.99, Bracket Dinnerware $3.95-$6.95, Manchester Glass Set $128.00,… »
- Here is a breath of fresh air in the rug world. Lulu & Georgia carry accessories for all style types, glamorous,… »
Blogs To Check Out