Tuesday, August 25, 2015

White Bean Ragout with Smoked Sausage and Spinach

My brother-in-law is a chef in Denver.  Whenever we visit him we get to eat some of the best food around.  Not only does he feed us well, but he introduces us to his chef friends and takes us to all of Denver's hot spots.  One of our favorite places to eat is Z Cuisine.  It's a wonderful Parisian Bistro with an Absinthe Bar next door.  I'm not an Absinthe drinker but I did have the most refreshing drink there that I can only describe as a Grapefruit/St. Germaine Granita.  Seriously, if you're in the Denver area, check it out.  Growing up with a chef for an uncle has been great for Little Devil.  She's never been a picky eater, but when a guy you already think is really cool tells you to try something YOU TRY SOMETHING.  The last time we ate there she enjoyed Z Cassoulet de la Maison au confit de canard which translates to a duck dish, made with pork belly and sausage, cooked "andouille style" in a white bean ragout with wilted chard and kale.  Now I can't begin to pronounce, let alone cook anything like that but boy does is sound fancy and it tastes even better.  In homage to this dish at Z Cuisine I made this White Bean Ragout with Smoked Sausage and Spinach.  Which also sounds fancy but if you think of it as French Style Beenie Weenies then you can not only pronounce it, you can accomplish it.  I'm very proud of how it turned out, and next time my brother-in-law is home for a visit I'm going to make a pot for him!
I'm not a chef, but I think it turned out really good...
The Cannellini beans and spinach were a great
compliment to the hearty smoked sausage.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Groom's Gals Spa Brunch

Recently my sweet nephew got married.  And like I explained in my Titanic Themed Rehearsal Dinner post, not only is he extra special, he's just like a son to me.  Now besides the rehearsal dinner, there's just not a lot for the mother of the groom to do.  And certainly not a lot for the grandmother of the groom, the great aunt of the groom, or the cousins of the groom to do.  So I decided to throw a brunch for the ladies in our family to celebrate his big day.  My cousins were here from out of state, and basically all the women from the groom's side of the family were included.  I even invited my friend Courtney, who is a make-up artist, and my friend Britani who is a hairstylist to come and help make us all beautiful.  It was pouring rain outside, but inside the house was bright with food, fun and laughter.  With my nephew and Mr. Devilish Dish out of the house, we transformed it into a giant beauty parlor and had loads of fun.  I used both my dining room, and breakfast room as well as setting up a large folding table in the living area.  I cleared off the bar and added a lighted make-up mirror.  We took turns sitting on the bar stools and letting Courtney make us look awesome.  We used the guest bathroom as the hairstyling center where Britani worked her magic on our hair.  On the large folding table I used a disposable plastic table cloth so folks could eat or paint their nails without a mess.  The table in the dining room was decorated with family wedding pictures and all kinds of beauty products that doubled as the party favors.  Everyone had a blast reminiscing over the old family photos.  I used the table in my breakfast room for serving an array of brunch items and I brought in my Coca-Cola Summer Drink Station from the patio and served bottled Cokes, Diet Cokes and Mimosas.  We had a fantastic, relaxing day together.  It allowed us to spend time together as a family since that's what coming together for Cade's special day was really all about.  Plus we enjoyed a little pampering as well! 

A great way to get the ladies together
and celebrate a special day!
Here's the invitations I sent out.
The spa brunch was really just for family
and close friends, and invitations weren't
really necessary, but I needed a cute way to get the info
about the make-up services out to everyone.
I've included the invitation blank
as a FREE PRINTABLE for you.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Right click and save to your computer.
Open with the software of your choice
and print. These images are my exclusive artwork. 
Please be courteous when using these printables
and remember they are for personal use only.
Here it is entirely blank for you,
in case you'd like to have a spa party
that isn't wedding day themed.
I wanted the brunch to have a wedding theme,
and I used vintage family wedding photos.
Not only was it a great way to honor some family members
who are no longer with us, but a beautiful tribute to
the lasting love in our family.  Not one of these couples
were ever divorced and several were married 50+ years.
I got a variety of gold and silver finish frames at Dollar Tree.
The quality isn't super good, but for a one-time use
project like this, they worked great.  My mom even took the
framed photos home with her after the party.  She has
them displayed on her entry table now.
In addition to decorating with the fun family photos, I used
my beautiful candelabras.  They belonged to my great
aunt (who is pictured on the far left.)  They proudly sit
on my dining table year round.  I just change the candles
according to holiday or season.  For the wedding brunch I
used cream colored candles.  The tablecloth is a fancy, sheer
tablecloth that my mom uses for special occasions like
showers, wedding receptions and anniversary parties.
It provided the glamor I was looking for.
I also decorate this table with my collection of vintage
bride and groom cake toppers. 
(There really isn't anything I DON'T collect.  I've been
randomly hoarding these for sometime, and finally had
an occasion to use them.)  Also the photo pictured
front and center is the groom's grandparents.  Aren't
they adorable?  It was really fun looking at all of
these photos and Little Devil got a kick out of the
varying wedding dress styles.

I used my prettiest crystal bowls and silver platters
to display a variety of masks, and other beauty
items for the guests to use.  I wanted everyone to come
in their comfy clothes and enjoy a day of pampering.
Who says you can't use a gorgeous bowl
to hold cotton balls?  The best part is most of these
bowls and platters were wedding gifts from MY wedding.

I provided little packages of tissues.
I assumed everyone would be crying.
If you understood how important
Cade is to our family, you would know
it was a little hard to let him go.
He's very much loved by all of the
women who attended to brunch!

I found this groovy gold cake stand at an
estate sale recently.  It was perfect for holding
a variety of nail polish products for the guests.
A glass vase made a great holder for these
colorful emery boards I found at Dollar Tree.
The tubes of hand cream doubled as party favors too!
I also displayed the Sign the Wine Bottle from the Rehearsal Dinner the night before.  That way
anyone who missed out signing it at the rehearsal
was able to add their sentiments for the bride and groom.
The wine is to be opened and enjoyed on their
first anniversary.  Finally I included printed
instructions with directions to the
wedding locale, as well as parking information
for the out of town guests.

I used my breakfast room table for serving a
variety of brunch foods.  My kitchen and breakfast
room are Mickey-Mouse themed and the colors are
red, black and yellow.  It seemed only natural to carry
that theme on to the table.
Here's the table all set the night before.
I used a plain black tablecloth and borrowed the
glass plates and forks from my mom. Almost
all of my serving pieces are red or black,
so they looked great with the decor.
For the centerpiece I used the cake topper
from MY wedding cake.  It's usually on
display in my china cabinet but stuck on a
black wooden candlestick made a fun,
appropriate centerpiece.  I've
had over 20 awesome years with
Mr. Devilish Dish.  How can you not
 set out on the road to happiness when you
start off with Mickey and Minnie
on your wedding cake?!?

I also included this adorable perpetual calendar.
It normally sits on my bar, but I cleared everything
off for Courtney to do the makeovers.
I thought having the wedding date accented
was a cute touch.  And yes, My oh my,
it was a wonderful day!
I used my gorgeous black cake stand
with glass dome to serve Raspberry
Sweet Rolls.  I can't even begin to describe
how delicious these are.  You can find the recipe
HERE.
We also enjoyed
South of the Border
Chicken Salad Sandwiches.
A huge hit.  Easy to prepare and totally different.
Try them for your next brunch or as an
appetizer at your next party.
You can find the recipe HERE.
Caprese Skewers are like a Caprese Salad on a Stick!
Cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella pearls and
cheese tortellini make a fun, colorful appetizer.
Served on a skewer for a delicious twist.
You can find the recipe HERE.
No brunch would be complete without fruit salad.
This is my mom's version and it's so yummy.
Fresh fruit and canned pie filling combine to
make a super simple, but fabulous fruit salad.
You can find the recipe HERE.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How I Make Deviled Eggs

There are many ways to make deviled eggs and while I often make "fun" versions like my Southwest Deviled Eggs, my favorite version is the way my mom makes them.  Nothing fancy.  Just plain deviled eggs.  I don't even like paprika on top.  Mr. Devilish Dish always tries to get fancy with the garnish and I have to stop him.  Just eggs, prepared mustard, Miracle Whip (NOT mayo!!!) salt and pepper.  That's it.  Mom's way equals the best way.  Maybe it's just me being sentimental.  OR maybe it's just enjoying a deviled egg in its simplest form.  A deviled egg that tastes like a deviled egg. 


My Mom's way.  Which I think is the best way.
Isn't that what we should all think of Mom's cooking?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Apricot Nectar Cake Balls

Recently I hosted a brunch and three of my cousins were in attendance.  I've told you before about my precious Great Aunt Nona and her famous Apricot Nectar Cake.  My cousins and I grew up with this cake, and it's a family staple when we get together.  Since Gran Gran has passed, I've taken up the torch and now I make her cake.  I even have her cake pan and cake stand which are very dear to me.  I've had Oreo Cake Balls and Red Velvet Cake Balls.  But never Apricot Nectar Cake Balls.  Until now.  Not only were these delicious, but nostalgic as well.  I didn't tell anyone what they were, I just let them bite into it and figure it out for themselves.  It didn't take long before everyone was asking, "What's in these white things?  It tastes like Gran Gran's cake!"  It was a fun twist on an old family recipe and absolutely party perfect!

Gran Gran's Famous Apricot Nectar Cake
with a fun, new twist!

Friday, June 19, 2015

CHILE PEANUTS: Nuts About You Dad-Father's Day Treat

Father's Day is this Sunday and I can predict what all of the fathers in my family will be doing.  They'll be parked in front of the television watching the U.S. Open golf tournament.  Which is fine by me.  Dad deserves to do whatever he wants on his day.  And since he'll be watching TV all afternoon, then why not make him a snack?  Chile Peanuts are the perfect Father's Day snack food.  Savory and just a little bit spicy.  And if you're lucky enough to find a Coke with his name on it to wash the peanuts down, then even better!

We're all NUTS about DAD!
Show him how much with a delicious treat to eat!

Little Devil and I went through hundreds of
Cokes.  We finally found Bill (my dad),
Greg (Mr. DD), Larry (my father-in-law) and
Keith (my BFF's husband.)
What a chore that was but so fun.
Who doesn't love peanuts and Coke?
The perfect man food.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cherry Vanilla Bean Donuts

I'm so excited about this post.  I've been waiting a long time to share it with you, and frankly it's hard for me to keep a secret.  But I did!  This is a recipe swap I did along with some of my blogger pals.  Each of us were assigned a blog to choose a recipe from, and today is the day everything gets revealed!  It's just as much of a surprise for all of us as it is for you.  Join me on this fun adventure:


I was tasked with choosing a recipe from my pal Jenny's blog, Honey and Birch.  Let me tell you, that was not an easy thing to do.  Her pictures are absolutely gorgeous and I was drooling over everything I looked at!  I was really torn between the Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Hummus (because hummus is yummus) and the Homemade Buffalo Sauce for Wings because I love anything that has Buffalo Sauce.  I've never made my own, and after looking at Jenny's blog I will be soon!  Then I went to the grocery store and found the biggest, brightest, juiciest cherries.  I bought them for their beauty with no particular recipe in mind.  As I was browsing Honey and Birch, I found Jenny's recipe for Baked Cherry Vanilla Bean Doughnuts, and I knew immediately what I would be making for this post.  Fresh cherries baked into a yummy donut, flavored with vanilla bean?  There's no way you can go wrong with that.

One of the hardest parts of keeping my recipe choice a secret was National Donut Day.  The day I made this recipe, everyone was talking about National Donut Day on social media.  I wanted to share a picture so bad and tell everyone about the donuts that I was making!


This recipe went together in no time.  As Jenny suggested, I had all of the ingredients ready to go, including pitting and chopping the fresh cherries.  Do you have a cherry pitter?  I don't.  But don't fear, I found the perfect way to improvise:
If you've got a frosting tip from a pastry set, then that's all you need to quickly pit a pile of fresh cherries for these delicious donuts!

Here they are freshly baked and cooling in the donut pan.  It was so hard to wait on these.  I was dying to try one as soon as possible!

And cooling completely.  Aren't they a gorgeous golden brown?  I could have stopped here, but what's a donut without a glaze?  Jenny's Very Vanilla Bean Glaze was perfect atop these donuts!

Yum!  Three donuts for a serving isn't too much right?  I put these out on the platter to photograph but I decided they were missing a little something...
A cherry on top of course!  Everything is better with a cherry on top.  Now there is no mistaking what flavor these donuts are.

I'm so glad I found this recipe.  Not only was it a blast truly making donuts on National Donut Day, but that evening one of my best friends and her girls stopped by to drink a Coke.  I had these delicious donuts waiting on my counter for dessert.  The ideal way to celebrate National Donut Day.  With a cold drink and a good friend.


Baked Cherry Vanilla Bean Donuts

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 vanilla beans, cut down the middle, scraped of seeds (I used vanilla bean paste instead)
1 large egg
1 cup cherries, pitted, cut into 8 pieces

Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the donut pan with extra butter or cooking spray and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Combine the milk, butter, vinegar, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds and egg in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly until the butter melts.  Add butter mixture to flour mixture and with a wooden spoon, stir to combine.  When the mixture is combined, fold in the cherries.  Spoon or pipe the mixture into the prepared donut pan.  Bake for 13-14 minutes until the finished donut edges come off the pan. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute, then finish cooling on rack.  If using the same pan again, wait 5 minutes before filling the pan a second time.

For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl with a wire whisk.  Wait 1-2 minutes for the glaze to thicken before dipping the donuts in the glaze. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Coca-Cola Summer Drink Station (Repurposed from a Sewing Machine Cabinet)

When my sweet great aunt passed away, the family members got together and divied up her treasures.  The things I brought home I adore and use daily.  They remind me of her and the things we had in common:  reading, cooking and entertaining.  By the time I came along, she didn't sew much, so I was surprised to find a couple of sewing machines when we cleaned out her house.  One was an older model, still in its cabinet, stashed in the utility room under a lot of stuff.  In fact, in all my visits to her house I never even knew that was a sewing machine cabinet under there.  So I was surprised when I received a text from my cousin that said, "Do you want Gran Gran's sewing machine cabinet?"  Honestly I didn't.  No one really did.  I already have a modern sewing machine and a sewing table.  That's why it was still in her house sitting in the laundry room.  But like the rest of the family, I couldn't stand for it to be discarded so I said, "Yes."  And I stuck it in the garage and forgot about it until I saw some ideas for repurposing old sewing cabinets on Pinterest, and I immediately set to work.  With a little help from my Dad, we turned an old cabinet into a fun station for serving drinks and entertaining.  I really enjoyed working on this with my Dad, and I'm super happy with the results.  My best friend loved it so much that she wants me to help her with one this summer.  She has her mother's old sewing machine cabinet.  She doesn't sew and it's just sitting in the garage.  I think she'll get more use out of it on her patio, just like me.  And I think Gran Gran would have approved.  She would have loved that I drug the old thing out of the utility room and gave it a purpose for entertaining.  Don't be afraid to get some dusty old heirloom out of the attic, garage or barn and give it some love.  Some people might not approve of altering the sewing cabinet but it would have never been used and enjoyed otherwise.  I hope this inspires you to take something old and breathe some new life into it.  Get creative and Get busy!   
I knew right away I would paint it red,
because that's my favorite color and also
the predominant color on our patio and deck. 
I've had that old Coca-Cola bottle opener for years. 
I bought it in an antique store and it hung in our first home.
I dug that thing and out settled on a Coca-Cola theme for my cabinet. 
I used exterior paint so it would hold up well sitting on the patio.  With my Dad's help, it got several coats of paint.
Here's the old cabinet in Gran Gran's utility room.
(Sorry for the blurry picture.  It was the one I received
via text asking if I wanted the cabinet.  I'm so glad
 I said yes!)

The knobs on the drawers were
just wooden knobs that were glued on. 
We sawed those off and added
adorable knobs that look like
Coca-Cola bottle caps.
I found those at Hobby Lobby.
The Coca-Cola bucket was a
Christmas gift from my brother. 
It took a little sawing to get it to fit,
but it worked out perfectly. 
The best part about using the sewing cabinet
is the mechanism that raises
and lowers the sewing machine.
It allows the bucket to lower for storage.
With the cabinet folded out,
it creates the perfect surface for
drink service and folds for easy storage. 
The drawers are perfect for holding napkins,
straws, corkscrews and other barware.
The Cokes and Diet Cokes in glass
bottles are just the cutest.  And
there's a little extra space for some
Mimosas too!
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