Tag Archives: guests

Blondies

It’s so rare that I sit behind my home computer anymore.  Honestly, these days with work the way it is (insane), the thought of getting back onto a computer sounds about as appealing as having my head shaved. Thus the reason I stay away. Kind of sad actually, because I was given this recipe almost exactly a month ago. I know, I’m pathetic.

I finally give you….

Blondies.

1 ½ c. (7 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
12 T (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¾ c. packed dark brown sugar
½ c. white sugar (a little shy of ½ c.)
2 large eggs
1 ½ t. vanilla extract
¾ c. semisweet chocolate chips
¾ c. white chocolate chips

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.
Pan prep/trick for easy removal:
Spray 13 x 9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inch pieces of parchment paper or foil lengthwise so that one piece measures 9 inches wide and the other measures 13 inches wide.
Lay one piece along the length of the pan then the other one across the width of the pan. Make sure to press the paper or foil down into the corners so they lie flat. What you are going for is to have the pieces criss-crossed with rather clean corners in the pan . . . but with extra length hanging over each side. The extra length makes “handles” to remove the blondies after cooking and cooling. Spray the sheets with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the melted butter and sugars together in a medium bowl until combined. Add the eggs (beat first) and vanilla and mix well.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture just until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. Fold in the semisweet and white chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Use the spatula to gently pull the batter into the corners and try to get a uniform thickness.

Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool the pan completely on a wire rack. Remove the blondies from the pan using the foil or parchment handles and transfer to a cutting board.

Use a large bread or serrated knife to cut into 20 or 24 bars and serve. Hint: To have clean edges, you can use the knife to trim all the way around the bars before cutting into squares.

*Okay, I have to admit, I didn’t follow this recipe exactly. I used bleached flour and light brown sugar because well, I had them on hand. However, even though they tasted fantastic, they weren’t as great as my friend Mark’s version.  So yeah, you might want to actually use the ingredients that the recipe calls for. 

*Ps. I wish I could say I didn’t eat one of those blondies in the photo. Well, actually, technically, I didn’t eat one.  Nope. I ate them all.

Happy Saturday everybody!

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White Trash Wednesday! Bacon Pimiento Cheese

bacon pimiento cheese

My afternoon with Chef Natalie was full of learning, photos, and food, both healthy and white trashy. In addition to the mango-pineapple smoothies, Natalie stepped it up a notch by making bacon pimiento cheese. I’m not sure if you’re aware, and I know Chef Natalie had no clue, but pimiento cheese is nothing short of heaven for me.

For real.

Growing up I thought it was the food of the devil. I mean, the name itself…pimiento…was utterly repulsive. Little did I know it was nothing more than sharp cheddar, pimientos, and mayo. Now that I’m older and wiser, I know the truth.

But Natalie took it one step further. Instead of making the conventional version, she added bacon. And for this, she is officially my new best friend. And although technically pimiento cheese is a tad bit white trash, this recipe is nothing short of a mouthwatering treat.

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bacon pimiento cheese

Bacon Pimiento Cheese
roasted peppers
cholula hot sauce
sharp cheddar, shredded
mayo
bacon
diced chives
salt and pepper to taste

Mix peppers, cholula, cheddar, mayo, salt and pepper well.
Top with crumbled bacon bits and chives.

Serve on garlic bread.

And if I were you, I wouldn’t reserve this recipe solely for your white trash enjoyment, I’d make it for your next tailgating adventure too.

Just sayin’.

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Smoothies by Chef Natalie

Since being healthy is nothing more than an exercise in futility for me, Chef Natalie was kind enough to indulge me by preparing smoothies for our little get together.

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She made us mango-pineapple smoothies.
And because they were so simple to make, I’m already making smoothies for myself. {I know, it’s as if hell has frozen over.}

Natalie made a few simple changes to a normal smoothie recipe and it tasted delicious…and I didn’t even notice that it was in fact completely healthy.

Mango-Pineapple Smoothie
{printable recipe}

frozen mango chunks
frozen pineapple chunks
greek yogurt
honey
vanilla soy milk
2-3 pieces candied ginger, optional

Toss all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.

{Last night I even prepped a berry smoothie for my morning commute. I’ll be healthy yet…even if it kills me.}
Thanks Natalie for giving me this kick start! My jeans thank you as well.

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Chef Natalie

This whole blogging adventure has opened up a new world to me and in turn has introduced me to some pretty incredible people. One of those people is Chef Natalie, a personal chef here in Atlanta. We met a few months ago at a blogging workshop (don’t judge) and I knew immediately that Natalie could teach me – a lot. Sitting down with her yesterday, she taught me in a matter of minutes how to roast a pepper and garlic. (Disclaimer: I’m a moron in the kitchen.)

natalie

Aside from being incredibly sweet and down to earth, Chef Natalie has quite a passion for food. And not just any food, well thought out meals and locally grown food. She supports several local CSA programs including Taylorganic Farm, Serenbe, and Riverview Farm. (If you live in Atlanta, you can find several of these guys around town at local farmer’s markets.)

My favorite story Natalie tells is that while she was studying Art History in Paris, she began leading tours of her fellow students to Le Cordon Bleu. Guess you could say she was destined to be a chef. She ended up attending the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta. And now, she runs her own company, Food Optimist.

Much like my friend Chris, the pastry chef, Natalie is doing exactly what she loves. And not only is she preparing really wonderful food, she’s teaching people like me how to eat well in the process.

Thanks Chef Natalie!

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White Trash Wednesday! Hot Dog & Veggie Stir-fry

A quick thanks to you guys for continuing to forward me some pretty spectacular white trash recipes.  From Becki D’s black ‘n blue pancakes to Amy’s fire pies, you guys do not disappoint.

And this week’s white trash recipe is no different. Thanks to my good friend Lindsey (sadly, no blog to link up, but she was the original guest blogger at YAWYEOR) for shooting the following email to me last night:

“Please make this.  It’s educational too…I had no idea what “julienne” meant.” 

She’s a funny one alright. You’ll understand in a second.

So I clicked on the link and it lead me to this glorious recipe:

Hot Dog & Veggie Stir -fry*

  • 4 to 6 hotdogs or 1 can of SPAM or 8-ounces of baloney
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 large carrots
  • 2 or 3 stalks celery
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Garlic Powder, Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Cooked Rice

“When you prepare this recipe, you may use whichever meat you have available. They all taste good in this recipe. Try to cut the meat into narrow “match-stick” sized pieces. This shape is called julliene. I cut the hotdogs by slitting them long-ways into 4 to 8 long “worms”. Then I quarter them short-ways to get a lot of pretty, skinny julliened hotdogs. Baloney can be stacked after removing the red plastic, and then cut into long skinny strips. Cut the Baloney in half, or thirds the other way and you will have pretty pieces. The SPAM is easy to cut and stack and slice into slivers.

The carrots are cut into narrow slices and then each slice is cut in half. The celery is cut into thin slices and the onion is halved and then sliced into thin half-moons. After preparing the vegetables and meat set it all aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetables. Stir-fry the veggies for at least 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to turn tender. Add the hot dogs or other meat. Cook and stir until the meat browns slightly. Season with Garlic, Salt & Pepper to taste. Add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to the skillet. Stir quickly until the water evaporates. There, you are done. Serve the stir-fry over cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.
The spiciness of the meat, the sweetness of the carrots, the subtle bitterness of the celery and the piquancy of the onions make this dish quite good.

VARIATION: If desired you can add 2 or 3 cups of finely sliced cabbage in addition to the other vegetables. Add them to the dish along with the other veggies.

Homemade bean sprouts are also a nice addition. Add them at the end, right before servings. Bean sprouts are best if they aren’t overcooked.”

 Recipe courtesy of the hillbilly housewife.

*Please note that nothing was altered (spelling, punctuation, grammar) so as to not affect the authenticity of this recipe.  It simply is this brilliant.

Happy hump day everybody!

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{take you…} on a cruise

My parents just returned from what might be one of their best vacations ever. The ‘rents took a cruise around the Mediterranean and saw some insanely amazing destinations…
Rome (my personal favorite), Turkey, Athens, Cinque Terre…you name it, these kids experienced it.

But…because they were on a cruise, this particular vacation was all about the food.
The copious amounts of food.
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The tarts, the danishes, the pasta, the omelets, the lamb, the tuna, the sorbets…
Food was king on this cruise. As I’m fairly certain it is on all cruises.

My creation

So knowing this, why have I never been on one?
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Clearly, this would be my mecca, right?

{thanks to mom and dad for taking tons of pictures so that i could blog about it. you guys are the best!}

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a comment

The other day I received one of the funniest comments this blog has ever seen with a recipe request for Red Velvet cupcakes.

It was too funny not to share. And don’t worry, I asked for permission first.  I swear.

I have to make cupcakes for a family picnic this Saturday and while I love anything related to any kind of cake in a cup, my baking skills are, shall we say, someone get me a Tums awful. Last family function I ruined those pre-made cookies that you just unroll and bake. Yeah, ruined them. I was thinking of trying your black bottom cupcakes because they look fantastic. I had promised though to do a red velvet. Why when I can barely make plain old vanilla, who knows. It probably has something to do with my wanting to live in a house made of red velvet that I eat myself out of. Anyhoo, by any chance, is there a red velvet cupcake recipe that you dig? I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. Thanks!

So I of course I went on the search for an easy red velvet recipe and a good cream cheese frosting recipe for good measure and sent it onto her.

The other day I received this response: 

Katie, the red velvet cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting were a hit. The family was going in for seconds and you should have seen the looks on their faces when they heard who made them I am officially off the blacklist. Well, for now. I am supposed to make macaroni and cheese next. You don’t know how much wrong you can do to a comfort food until you have had a seat at my dinner table. Ok, gotta run. Just whipped myself up a batch of the cream cheese frosting. Dinner time! Many thanks again for the recipe. If I had your address, my family would be sending you thank you notes and gift cards. I’m pretty sure they are already discussing how they can kick me out and adopt you. If I can’t find my place card at the next family wedding but see one for Katie, I’ll know…

All I know is that not only did this email make me laugh, it made me REALLY, INCREDIBLY happy.  I know there are quite a few of us (you know who you are people) who shy away from picking up the flour and the baking pans, but guess what, you can do it.

It all begins with that first step…and a cute apron.

(For more funnies from Mary, head on over to her blog.)

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White Trash Wednesday! How to Host a White Trash Shindig!

After such a great response to sweet Helen’s incredibly helpful blog post on how to host a dinner party, several of you guys, ahem, Amy, Emily, Brooke, Melissa all pointed out the obvious…that I should do the White Trash version. I’m embarassed that I didn’t think of this myself. So thanks to these lovely ladies, I went on a mission to find someone who is more familiar with WT parties than I am.

Luckily for me, my mother in law, Rhooby Sue, is.  After all, she’s hosted her very own White Trash party.

So by default, she is today’s guest blogger. Lucky her!

White Trash party tips by Rhooby Sue.

Let’s start with the basics:

You need to remove ALL knick-knacks, wall art/photos, and nice furniture.  Store all valuables in your garage or in an unused room.

You’ll need to wrap the upholstered furniture in plastic (you can get plastic in a huge roll at Lowe’s, doesn’t cost much) because all “nice” white trash families want to keep their upholstered stuff looking good. Don’t clean the house for about a week to make sure there’s plenty of dust on the floors and tables. To step it up, rent (from a junk store at minimal cost) some trashy “art” – for example, naked lady statues, UGLY lamps, etc…. You will also need some trashy calendars to hang on the wall, along with pictures of Elvis, any Nascar driver, Jesus (preferably a velvet version of The Last Supper), and anything else perceived as trash.

If you can, prop up an old Coke Machine in the living room for good measure. Make sure to include a toilet on your front lawn because nothing says white trash more than the porcelain god as lawn art.

toilet rhooby
Be sure to put fake flowers in the outside toilet and while you’re at it, plant them in the yard.  Because let’s be honest, most white trash neighborhoods grow nothing except weeds, so fake flowers are perfect.

Don’t forget to place several bags of trash outside as well. If you have children, toss their toys across your front yard. Hang laundry on the front porch so that people will have to move the laundry aside to walk through the door. Hang underwear (not yours, hit up Wal-Mart, clothing centers for extra, extra large sizes, bras included) inside the house. Throw clothes, blankets, and all kinds of junk over your furniture.

A classy white trash party hostess will place Aqua Net hair spray in every room so that the ladies can “touch up” when they feel their hair drooping.

As for the menu, might I recommend the following:

Appetizers:
Cheetos
Vienna Sausages
spam fondue

Main Course:
Potato chip sandwiches
Hamburger Salad Sandwiches
White Bread Pizza

Desserts:
moon pies
White Trash Brownies
browniescooked

 

Libations:
RC Cola (and jack)
PBR
Whiskey Slush Punch

And don’t forget the games!
1. using Twinkies, see who can put one the farthest down their throat (no, it doesn’t look very nice, but it’s pure white trash).
2. who can throw the cow chip the farthest (unless you live in a barn please use moon pies to do this).
3. and it’s not a white trash party without a seed spitting contest.

And then there’s the invitation: handwritten on toilet paper. (It might take a while to do this because the sheets are fragile, but it will be worth every second!) Fold and put in plain white envelopes before mailing. Please make sure proper grammar is not used.

And last but not least, when hosting a White Trash Party, it is imperative that you and your guests not only dress the part, but act it too!

And take lots and lots of pictures because I’m dying to see them!

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Hosting a Dinner Party: Plan Well, Relax and Have Fun!

Yesterday, I admitted that I know absolutely nothing about hosting a dinner party.  And since I know so little, I enlisted the help of the incredibly gracious blogger/designer, Helen Young.  When I emailed her with my bizarre request, she responded back with an emphatic, “I do love to host parties!”

So friends, I give you Helen Young. Now go forth and learn from the master herself.
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I was so excited when Katie O. asked me to write a guest post on how to host a dinner party. I have loved parties since I was a little girl. I grew up with a mother and grandmother who love to entertain (and they both do it beautifully) and all that I know about entertaining I learned from them. As a child, both my mother and grandmother would let me help when getting ready for a dinner party – I got to set the table, pick out china, get out the cocktail napkins, put nuts in a bowl etc. My mom also let me be involved in the food selection too, a great learning experience. How I loved the anticipation before the party – and then all of the pretty dressed up grown ups would arrive! My brother and I would sneak around the party eating cashews and drinking the last sips in the glasses (we loved the taste of tonic water -still do!)

The most important thing to keep in mind is – HAVE FUN! Setting the stage and planning the party can be as much fun as the event itself. Give yourself plenty of time and make lists. A host or hostess who is having fun will have a relaxing, entertaining party. A stressed out host or hostess will have guests who can’t wait to go home. Hosting parties well takes practice. So if you start off small and work your way up to a big shindig, success will be yours. The old expression “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is appropriate here.

When I am preparing to host a dinner party the first thing I do is set the tone for the party. Is this a casual dinner party, a Sunday dinner with family or an elegant meal where I pull out all the best china and silver? Setting the tone makes all of the other decisions flow easily.

dinner parties

Once the tone has been set the next decision is whether or not to have the party be a sit down affair or is it walk around with plates? This is usually dictated by the number of guests and how much seating you have at the table. If you have room to seat everyone, they will be more comfortable and don’t forget that you can always rearrange your living room, add a card table or two covered with table cloths and you have doubled your seating. For this post let’s assume we are hosting a seated dinner party for eight. Eight guests for dinner is a wonderful number – lots of recipes work for eight, eight guests fit at most tables, eight guests work for multiple conversations or one at the dinner table. Let’s also assume that we are hosting an informal affair. Guests will dress festively, but not coat and tie – so the table will be pretty, but we won’t pull out the best china, silver and crystal (a formal dinner party is a whole other post – and so are invitations – which BTW let’s assume the invitation was by phone).

At this point I also decide where to set up the bar. My parents’ parties always had bartenders (but everyone drank the hard stuff back then so it was more necessary). If I am hosting a big cocktail party or really formal dinner party then I will hire a bartender and someone to help me in the kitchen, but for an informal dinner party I usually set up the bar in an area we designed specifically for this in our house -it’s my office when not being used for a bar. For a party, I take away all of the office paraphernalia and bring in the glasses, trays, cocktail napkins, wine buckets, and bowls for the nuts (I always have a bowl of nuts on the bar).
My creation

If you don’t have a designated bar area, then pick one that is in the middle of the party if possible, and also has at least two ways to access the area ( that way you have less of a traffic jam). At my Christmas party last year I set up two bars to keep people moving – congestion at the bar does not make people merry and bright!

The next step is to plan the menu. If you don’t know the guests well, when inviting them on the phone be sure to ask if they have any allergies. If there are no allergies, then the next thing to consider when planning the menu is weather and time of year. You wouldn’t want to serve a big Beef Wellington, no matter how delicious, on a 100 degree summer night. In Summer I tend to keep the menu light and flavorful and in the Fall and Winter the food can be heavier and more filling. A word of caution – do not cook a new recipe for the first time at a dinner party. I have done this – and it doesn’t always turn out so well. For dinner parties I tend to cook recipes that I am comfortable with and that appeal to many people. If you must try a new recipe, then test run it the week before the party to make sure you know it will be successful. Once you have picked the main course then pick complimentary side dishes and appetizers. Also, remember to factor in how much oven space you have when planning the menu(if you have two ovens this should not be a problem). You will want to think through the cooking times and recipes at this stage to make sure you can have all of the dishes ready at the same time. I will frequently make side dishes that can be made ahead and popped in the oven if I make a stove top main dish. Unless you are a very accomplished chef, managing three or four stove top recipes at a dinner party will make your blood pressure go up.

Next decide on table decorations. Think about the occasion and what is appropriate and then pick your place mats,napkins, china, flat wear and flowers. I think fresh flowers, herbs or plants are a must on a dinner table. They don’t have to be fancy, just fresh and simple will work fine. I like to arrange flowers, so the floral component of a party is one of my favorites.

Make a list of everything you need for the party from the grocery store to Party City. Shop for paper goods or table setting components early so you don’t forget anything. I usually set the table two days before the party to make sure I like the way it looks and so if I have forgotten anything there is plenty of time to correct that. I shop for the food the day before the party so everything is fresh, including buying fresh flowers.

It’s important for your house to be clean and fresh for a party, so don’t forget to plan a cleaning day or two within a few days of the party. Make sure the powder room is sparkling and stocked with hand towels and soap for your guests.

The day of the party I first arrange the flowers early in the morning. Then I set up the bar and get all of the bar items in order. Next, I cook anything that can be done ahead so I can be relaxed later in the day (hardly ever happens though – I am always adding finishing touches right up to the first guest’s arrival). Any other food prep that can be done should be done now too. Mid-afternoon you should get off of your feet and rest for half an hour or take a short nap. It will pay off later.

An hour before the party get appetizers ready (heat in oven or take cheese out of frig) and make sure bar is stocked. When your guests arrive you should be ready to greet them and pay attention to them and not have to take care of anything in the kitchen for awhile. If you have a husband, wife, partner, better half, be sure to ask him or her to help you handle drinks and be available to help. If you know you have a willing helper you will be more relaxed. A few minutes after the first guests arrive I immediately offer them a drink and have the appetizers ready to go.

For a casual dinner party, I have begun to mostly serve the food in the kitchen on my island (I let the guests serve themselves). Growing up we never did this, and at parties guests were always seated and then served at the table. But since casual entertaining is the norm these days (and most of us don’t have serving help), the serve yourself mode seems to work best. You can also serve off of a side board or console in the dining room if you don’t want people in the kitchen. I do still like to clear the table for guests between dinner and dessert and will enlist the help of one guest to help me. If you can, keep the other guests at the table while clearing, it will be much smoother. Get the same guest who cleared to help you serve dessert and coffee. (Remember serve from the guest’s left and clear from the guest’s right).

Mostly, remember a relaxed host or hostess makes a party fun – so enjoy yourself (and plan ahead)!

Stumble It!

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Hosting a dinner party

Go with me here kids…I’m taking a slight turn from the normal food path to discuss something that needs to be talked about.
Hosting dinner parties.

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photo courtesy of Helen Young

It hit me like a mack truck that I have no idea how to truly host a dinner party.  Our friend came over for dinner the other night and my kitchen looked like a bomb had been dropped smack dab in the middle of it.  Granted, I’d just finished cooking in that kitchen (and used every single mixing bowl, plate, utensil within an arm’s reach) so technically, I had an excuse I guess.  But let’s be honest, Martha Stewart would not have approved.  She would have gone all Catholic nun on me and smacked my knuckles with a ruler until they were black and blue….or at least until the kitchen was spotless.

As you all are probably aware, I’m an amateur at best in the kitchen.  The cooking and baking are things I’m learning to do as I go along.  So now we can add hosting to that list. Maybe some of you out there are like me. You have no idea where to begin. How do you plan the meal? Set the table? Keep the dogs from jumping on the counter and stealing all of the food? Unfortunately, I have no earthly idea, but I’m happy to report that my sweet blogger friend, Helen Young, of Whitehaven Interiors, does.  And luckily, she’s answered my cry for help and has kindly laid it all out so simpletons like me can understand.

So kids, stay tuned because tomorrow Helen is here to save the day! Oh and just in case you were wondering, Tuesday will officially be referred to as How to Host a Dinner Party here at YAWYEOR.

Stumble It!

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