After our three days in Paris, it was time to make our way to Belgium. We had two full days to explore Brussels. It was our first time there and we had heard from many people that two days would be more than enough to explore the city. When we arrived, we were surprised to realize that there was so much to see and do! We decided to do the Hop-on/Hop-off bus, which runs two completely different lines. We did the first line and spent our day eating waffles, checking out an outdoor market, sampling chocolate, browsing the Smurf museum and enjoying a marionette show of The Three Muskateers. On day two, we did the second line of the bus tour and stopped at the Atomium, Mannequin Pis, and then spent the rest of the day shopping and eating the lovely Belgian offerings before heading back to London to fly home. Check out some pictures!
Oscars 2012- The Party!
I hosted a girl’s night tonight in honor of the Academy Awards! It was great fun! My punny foods were a hit and everyone left with a movie themed swag bag!
Because I wanted to enjoy the party, I tried to keep the cooking and prep to a minimum. I used a lot of store-bought items and made a few things that I couldn’t find or thought were too processed. Read on to see how I pulled it all together!
I found these free printables here from Gwynn Wasson Designs. I love the color scheme and how the Oscar statuette is incorporated into the design!
I filled swag bags with bottles of Coca Cola, movie candy like Twizzlers, Milk Duds, Whoppers, Raisinettes and Goobers, microwave popcorn, peanuts, Jelly Bellys and Cracker Jacks. They were decorated with foam glitter stars from Target. That’s where I picked up the bags, too. I printed up a ballot (they can be found all over the internet) and had my guests complete it during the red carpet show. The winner went home with a $25 AMC movie theater gift certificate.
The Girl with the Dragon Fondue: I used two packets of the prepared fondue from Trader Joe’s. You can find it in the cheese section in a box. It doesn’t look like the most appetizing stuff when you’re squeezing the cheese from the pouch, but once it’s melted, it’s quite delicious. I picked up a bag of broccoli florets and haricot vert and steamed them. I also bought a bag of baby carrots, three peppers (red, yellow, orange), and some celery that was cut into sticks.
The Artist’ian Bread: I bought a loaf of rosemary bread and sour dough bread from Trader Joe’s and cut them into bite-sized cubes along with a few honey crisp apples and bosc pears.
Tinker Tailor Sausage Spy: These were Chicken Apple sausages from Trader Joe’s grilled whole and then cut into bite-sized pieces. They were great on their own or dipped in the cheese!
Midnight in Pear’is Tarte: This was from the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s. Ten minutes in the oven and done.
Minnie’s “Terrible Awful” Chocolate Pie (sans “secret ingredient”): I couldn’t find a pie that wasn’t filled with crap like high fructose corn syrup and tons of preservatives, so I searched the internet for Minnie’s Pie and found the one I linked to. I was skeptical because it did not call for flour and only filled up the crust half-way. But I followed the recipe plus the additional tips in the comments (including a pinch of salt, extra chocolate and baking it longer) and it got rave reviews, even if it looked a little funky right out of the oven. Nothing a little whipped cream couldn’t help!
War Horseradish Hummus: I was all set to pick up a tub of this at Trader Joe’s. A quick internet search showed that they carried (at one time) a Horseradish Hummus. Apparently it is either discontinued or my TJs doesn’t carry it. Instead I bought a tub of their original hummus and stirred in two tablespoons of prepared horseradish. Easy peasy. I linked to a recipe that was my back up in case the short-cut didn’t work. I am sure it is yummy.
Billy Beane Dip: I knew with the light colored hummus that I wanted to do a black bean dip. A quick search on the internet yielded this recipe. I had pretty much everything on hand, so it was a quick whizz in the processor and done.
Eggstremely Loud and Incredibly Delicious Deviled Eggs: I bought a bag of hard-boiled, peeled eggs at Trader Joe’s and mixed up the yolk filling with a little mayo, relish and mustard. A sprinkle of paprika finished them off. I loved not having to peel a dozen eggs!
I bought three bags of the “Movie Popcorn” from Trader Joe’s and filled up some popcorn boxes that I picked up at Target. The candy is from my most recent Foodzie box delivery. It was all movie night related in honor of the Academy Awards. Fun!
The Gin & Tin Tin Tonic was one part Bombay Sapphire and two parts tonic. I had ice and lime slices for garnish.
Not pictured: The Tea of Life Iced Tea which was made from two Green Tea tea bags and two spiced herbal tea bags. I steeped the bags in hot water to make a tea concentrate and then added ice and water to the pitcher before service. Crazy Stupid Punch which was so delicious. I followed this recipe and doubled it. I stored the extra punch in the apple juice containers.
All in all, I was happy that I didn’t try to make everything and that I used shortcuts where appropriate. I was really pleased that I was done in the kitchen by the time my first guest arrived. This allowed me to have a drink and enjoy my friends without the hassle of being in the kitchen all night.
Red velvet and lemon cupcakes & mint chocolate chip and raspberry rose macarons purchased at Scratch Pastries in Scottsdale.
via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/HYLQEsSqsp/
I am excited for Christmas this year (as everyone in a 5 mile radius can attest to). I am excited to put up the tree, write Christmas cards, bake cookies, watch Christmas movies, listen to the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio stations, make the huge turkey dinner, and spend time with friends and family. It’s not really a secret that I am trying to work double-time to make up for the lack of Christmas I had last year. Frankly, I’m going to Christmas the Christmas out of this Christmas.
In my efforts, I’ve been compiling a list of Christmas and Holiday freebies on the web. Instead of keeping those bookmarks to myself, I thought I’d share them with you… ’tis the season, after all.
50 Best Holiday Cookie Recipes from Real Simple magazine
12 Easy Recipes for Homemade Gifts from MarthaStewart.com
Fresh & Easy Holiday Party
My guy and I were invited to attend the Fresh & Easy Holiday Party. It was held in downtown Phoenix on the Penthouse floor of the Orpheum Lofts. The loft was amazing! Exposed brick walls, gorgeous modern furniture and excellent food and wine to sample. Everything prepared and served was directly from Fresh & Easy.
The evening started with lite nibbles like hummus, cheese and crackers, and fruit. When we stepped out onto the rooftop terrace, we were immediately handed a glass of prosecco and invited to mingle and sample. We chatted to a few fellow AZ foodbloggers and took in the gorgeous downtown view.
Once all 30 or so guests arrived, we were invited inside for a wine tasting and sampling of holiday foods. The Fresh & Easy wine buyer spoke about the affordability of the wines the store carries and how each pairs with different holiday dishes. We tasted two, a white and a red, with the option of sampling two additional wines.
Then the parade of food began: prosciutto wrapped shrimp, mozzarella, arugula & pesto crostini, shooters of roasted butternut squash soup & spiced pumpkin soup, brie and cranberry filled phyllo puffs, cranberry, almond, & cinnamon tart, pumpkin cheesecake, and the showstopper- the tiramisu eggnog trifle. Amazing! Chef Cindy circled the room and made sure everyone was sufficiently sated.
Once the food was enjoyed, the Fresh & Easy staff raffled wine, gift cards, and more wine, handed out goodie bags and sent us back into the real world a little better prepared to entertain our friends and family this holiday season.