Happy Birthday Babe!

My husband is an identical twin born in 1969. If I’m counting right, that means he is 50 years old now. While I have no problem whatsoever with his age, the passage of time does have me thinking about the fact I’m not too far behind him and that does bother me. I know that 50 is the new 40, or is it 40 is the new 50? Well, whatever the phrase is supposed to be, I am pretty sure someone is trying to convince us it is not really a whole half a century OLD. Since I don’t ‘feel’ nearly 50, I am not even sure how we got this old. Regardless of how we feel, look and behave, it sounded like a good reason to host a party and even though he would have been content with a quick trip to the brick oven pizzeria, I had to have a little fun.

Theme is always my first step to planning a party. He’s a guy, a 50 year old guy at that and what is his greatest vice? BEER. I don’t remember beer being such a significant staple in our home until we lived in Europe for 7 years. All of a sudden, he was a self proclaimed expert on craft beer, Belgian beer, US beef, pale ales, stouts, lager, pils, you name it, there was beer involved. So, the theme was pretty darn easy.

Cheers & Beers, Here’s to Brett’s 50 Years….

Theme in hand, I could also quickly decide on decorations. Since beer cans stack pretty easily, I scoured Google and Pinterest for quick ideas for creating a beer can tower. Easy, peasy, 50 cans of three different beers (one per level), I was on a roll.

I thought about how I have cooked with beer sufficiently before, so what if I build a menu around beer as the ingredient? Now, if you know me, you know I don’t drink beer. Not a drop! I never have and I seriously doubt I ever will. So, some will think this was quite a stretch for a non-drinker, but it’s really not much different than cooking with wine. I can’t taste it, and the best part is you definitely cannot smell it, and that is usually what sends me to the hills. Keep in mind, my father has grown malt barley for Budweiser for over 30 years and my husband and son drink probably more beer than water but I don’t even like the smell of it. Just like you, the internet and my collection of cookbooks served me well as I set out to select my menu. I can’t take credit for any of the creative genius, merely the pairing and delivery.

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Kicking up Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?chocolate chip cookies

I do! And it’s the infamous Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

However, I don’t use Toll House chocolate chips anymore… not since I discovered Guittard chocolate chips! They are big chips of heaven and the chocolate is soooo much better than Hershey’s, Nestle or Toll House. The 11.5 oz. bag is perfect for a single batch, unless you’ve stumbled onto the 2 lb. bag at World Market and you opt to make two batches with a single bag. That works out to 16 oz. of chips per batch, but who am I to say too many chips in a batch of cookies is a bad thing?! My grandmother, however, would have gotten out her kitchen scale and measured out the appropriate 11.5 oz. because she knew how to ration food (and tin-foil) like the best Irish/German farm woman raised in the depression. Either quantity will still be heavenly. Read More

Ladies Day In

When we moved into our new house in December, a few of our good friends were unable to join us. Thankfully, I have an incredibly thoughtful friend for whom that scenario “just wouldn’t do!” So, we scheduled a ladies only brunch so they could see the new house and we could have a relaxing day indoors.

Well, today was the day! A snowy, very cold February Monday brought me three dear friends, a salmon fritatta, fresh fruit, blueberry bran muffins and plenty of chocolate!  I provided the venue, mimosas (and of course, tea & coffee) and a warm fire and they brought brunch.  I set the table with square Lenox Butler’s Pantry plates I purchased about 15 years ago at the factory in Italy over chocolate brown woven chargers topped with my grandmother’s ivory cloth napkins. I love, love these plates and I simply do not use them enough! I specifically bought them for ladies luncheons and so, they had to be featured on this special day. Please do keep in mind, I am not a stuffy ladies luncheon kind of person — but I was a military spouse for 25 years and sometimes you have the privilege (or responsibility) of hosting a whole lot of wives for a social or luncheon and I wanted to be prepared. Read More

Cookies, cookies…

If you are looking for a cookie recipe that is sure to please, you are in the right place! No matter the season (or day) I make either treat, they never stick around for long.I’ll start with a family recipe from my grandmother, Shirley. She made these every Christmas and they are my dad’s favorite, hands down. As a result, I have received the torch and have committed to continue the tradition. I have no idea where she got the original recipe, so she gets the credit this time around. 

Vanilla Icebox Cookies
Serves: 4-5 dozen cookies1 1/2 c. butter, softened
3 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 c. chopped nuts (I prefer pecans, Shirls always used walnuts)
4 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. vanilla

Mix thoroughly all ingredients, starting with the butter, sugar & eggs. Roll into 8-10 inch long, 2″ diameter logs after dough is chilled. Store logs in the fridge in wax paper, twisting the ends of the paper to seal. Refrigerate overnight before cutting in thin slices. Bake at 400º for 4-5 minutes, depending on how thick you cut the slices. I typically bake one log at a time, so the dough can last in my fridge for up to a week. After all, fresh out of the oven is always best for any cookie! 

Salted Caramel Cookies
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies Read More

What is your inspiration?

Yes, this is a new adventure for me and I am at the point where I am truly inspired. It’s a project that has been on my mind for months, letting any excuse repeatedly get in the way of moving forward. There’s risk when starting something new. There is a trade off toward the other ways I was spending my time, and there is always the unknown. After attending Rachel Hollis’ documentary last week, Made for More I simply decided…. NOW IS THE TIME to let my inspiration become a reality.

If you have read the About page,  you know fullsizeoutput_42efthat I recently hosted a housewarming party in our new house.  I LOVE to bake, so of course no party is complete without something sweet. The good news is my husband has a very gracious team of colleagues who are happy to enjoy any leftovers, regardless of the purpose or event.  My waistline appreciates their support!

This gorgeous sterling silver tray was my grandmother’s. When she moved into an assisted living cottage so my grandfather could receive memory care, I was blessed to receive several of her beautiful serving dishes. Thanks to The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s cookbook Year of Holidays, I found the perfect finale for the party! The Lemon Creme Pie, Cherry Cheesecake & Chocolate Caramel shooters were a hit and pretty darn easy to make.  Since I don’t have 50+ shot glasses in my china cabinet, I hit the digital waves to purchase some clear plastic mini dessert cups with demitasse spoons. This option made clean up easier too – what’s not to love about that?! Read More