Summer BBQ

It’s summer in Los Angeles, which means it’s starting to get hot out! A heat wave hit the city this weekend and I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than host a BBQ! One thing I miss a lot from home are the nights my family would grill up dinner. My dad makes a mean steak, fish, burger, basically anything on the grill. There’s just something so satisfying about grilled food on a hot day. Like most of my gatherings, this little BBQ was thrown together very last minute but it sure was fun!

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The only concept I had in my head was that I’d have a table for food and blow my kiddie pool up so the ladies could take a dip if they so desired. I had a relatively small menu and everyone brought something along which made life so much easier! The only prep I really needed to accomplish the night before was carving the watermelon, assembling the grill (whoops), and putting together the ice box cake for dessert. I only accomplished two of the three; can you tell which one I missed?

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Everyone came over at 1 pm and most people stayed till 5! It was such a nice way to spend a hot day!

Here’s my simple BBQ menu!

MENU

Hamburgers
Grilled BBQ Chicken
Corn on the Cob
Zucchini
Mocha Chocolate Chip Ice Box Cake
Watermelon Mojitos

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For music, I’m a huge fan of Spotify’s Totally Stress Free playlist. What playlist do you like to have on during the summer?

Easter Brunch

I love Easter! It’s one of my favorite holidays. The pastels, the flowers, the brunch! The past three years I’ve been able to celebrate Easter with a pair of close friends in Los Angeles and it’s always a guaranteed good time.

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This year I volunteered to host and expanded the size of the group significantly! I invited 10 people over to eat. Now my table does not hold 10 people (or even 8) so it was fortunate that two friends couldn’t stay the whole time and two were coming later. 8 people was a manageable amount and an easier table to track down.

Since the weather has been absolutely perfect out in LA I was really married to the idea of having brunch outside. My lovely neighbor loaned me a table she had in storage and I started figuring out the rest!

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With the larger crowd I wanted to focus my energies on two bigger dishes and one munchy item. I decided on Ina Garten’s Bread Pudding and a larger version of the Frittata Cups I normally make (You can find a similar version in my Friendship Brunch post). A fruit salad, some Trader Joe’s croissants, jams, and mixers for mimosas completed my responsibilities as hostess!

Thankfully my friends brought champagne, scones, and an additional egg dish so there was food to spare!

After brunch, a few of us stuck around to finish the open champagne and play croquet. “It was so very.”

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend more time outside on a lovely day. Now that I have this massive table I’ll need to make an effort to have more meals out of doors.

Oscars 2017

It’s one of my favorite times of year! The Oscars are on Sunday! I absolutely adore watching the Oscars and always try to watch at least all of the Best Picture Nominees before the show. This year I’ll be attending someone else’s viewing party but I wanted to leave a few last minute ideas for people looking to throw something together on Sunday!

When I host an Oscar party I always make sure to set the scene. There’s a lot of gold and black decor. A bar area can easily be classed up with a black table cloth and some gold rimmed champagne glasses. An alternative option is to wrap your table in wrapping paper. I always love a good gold stripe. Another fun thing to do is serve a champagne punch with the label “Oscar Buzz.” It’s a cheeky nod to all the hype that surrounds the pre-nomination period.

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Make sure all of your guests fill out a ballot! I’ve included a printable download HERE! You can just use it for bragging rights or you could provide a prize! Last year I bought a chocolate gold oscar from Compartes and gave that to the 1st prize winner. 2nd and 3rd received Sugarfina cubes of Champagne Gummy Bears. Obviously the chocolate statues take a bit more planning, but any specialty candy or splint of champagne makes for a sweet prize.

Another fun game you can play is bingo! Pure Wow has these adorable bingo cards that you could print out and hand to your guests. It might be a bit more rowdy than the ballots but I’m sure it’ll be an equally great time! Use snacks or M&Ms to mark your spots.

If you’re worried about food have no fear Trader Joe’s is always a safe bet. I recently hosted a last minute soiree where I served several of their frozen appetizers. Their gruyere ham flat bread is an easy, elevated option. Slice it into several slices and you have a great appetizer for several people. You can also go more kid friendly with their delicious mac n cheese balls or parmesan pigs in a blanket. The fact of the matter is that Trader Joe’s allows you to create several different food options for a minimal cost, and no this post is not paid for by Trader Joe’s.

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If you’re looking for more themed options, individual servings of popcorn are always a favorite for a movie themed party. You can create a make your own popcorn mix station so every guest gets their perfect sweet and salty combination.

Enjoy the show!

Last Minute Get Togethers

Happy 2017! One of my resolutions this year has been to blog more. Another resolution has been to make more plans. So I decided to combine both of those and do a post on spontaneous dinner parties!

In the industry I work in almost everyone gets a two week break at the end of the year. Some people spend it with family, some travel, and some do a combination of the two. After coming back from the break I really wanted to catch up with my friends but wanted an informal setting to do it in. So I invited some of my friends over for a spontaneous dinner on Saturday and then invited another friend over to enjoy the left overs on Sunday.

One of the best parts about the whole meal is that I delegated a piece of it to each guest and the main course took less than an hour to make!

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Since this was a bit spur of the moment, I decided to make a chicken chili. The recipe I used all cooks in a dutch oven except for the chicken breasts that need to be baked ahead. But hey, a pan and a dutch oven is so much easier to clean then a bunch of pots and pans.

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Eunice has become my personal photographer

Eunice brought appetizers and accoutrements for the chili while Becky brought this amazing dessert from her trip to Japan! We ended the night playing some card games before we retired for the evening. It was such a relaxed night!

The next night I had my friend Allegra over and we feasted on the leftovers in front of the TV. A pretty great dinner and a movie for a Sunday night!

[Ingredients]

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green and red bell peppers
3 jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 cup water
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 (14 1/2 oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 (13 1/2 oz) can chicken broth
1 (12oz) bottle chili sauce
1 (16oz) can white beans, drained
Toppings of your choice

Coat dutch oven with cooking spray and place over medium heat until hot. Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeños and garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add chili powder, cumin and oregano; cook for 2 minutes.

Add chicken, water and remaining ingredients, except beans. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Add beans and cook 5 minutes. Serve when hot or refrigerate overnight.

Garnish with you toppings. I suggest cheese, avocados, or tortilla strips.

To make this an even easier meal, prep all your vegetables and the chicken the night before and you can just dump it in the pot in stages. Also I’m sure this could be an easy crockpot meal as well!

Enjoy!

Holiday Cookie Exchange

One of my favorite Holiday traditions is hosting a cookie exchange. Back in Connecticut my mother and I hosted a mother daughter cookie exchange for several years. It was always a lovely time to catch up with friends before the holidays and it helped anyone who was having company over to have a large plate of assorted cookies to bring home.

Now that I’m living out in California, I decided it would be fun to start my own cookie exchange tradition. I invited a few of my nearest and dearest to swap some cookies and get in the holiday spirit!

Since this party required bringing something I made sure to send out an invite with plenty of head notice and the requested amount of cookies.

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On the day of the cookie exchange I prepared a few brunchy bites and a few signature cocktails to sip on.

In my experience these parties are a lot like cocktail parties. You want to make sure the food you serve can easily be eaten with one hand and doesn’t require utensils. I decided on making frittatas in muffin pans, bite sized cinnamon rolls, and croissants. One of my guests brought Bagel bites and cream cheese for everyone to enjoy as well. It was such a thoughtful addition to the spread I had prepared.

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For the drinks, nothing says winter to me more than hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. I had a crockpot full of hot chocolate with a ladle on the side so guests could add as much hot chocolate, schnapps, or snowflake shaped marshmallows as their hearts desired. For a more sophisticated alternative I had a pomegranate cranberry mix guests could add to their prosecco. I also had a small bowl for people too add cranberries and pomegranate seeds to their drinks for a little flair.

Guests mingled and swapped cookies at their leisure. It was a wonderful day to set the mood for the holiday spirit! To help you get started on your own holiday cookie exchange I’ve included my playlist below!

Enjoy!!

Tea Time

Over the weekend I decided to host a tea party for my friend Eunice while we watched WAR & PEACE. We had decided we wanted to watch the series together and I thought a tea would be the perfect thing to accompany it. Honestly any excuse to have a tea party is a good enough excuse for me.

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I wanted to have the traditional items one had for a tea but update it at the same time while not breaking the bank. I decided to make three types of scones, have one sandwich, and a few treats at the top. This would all be with some sparkling wine and tea on the side.

For the scones I wanted a mix of savory and sweet. I decided to make a lemon poppyseed scone, Trader Joe’s new pumpkin scones, and of course my favorite ham and cheese scones. I bought mini jars of clotted cream for everyone as a parting gift or as a topping for their sweet scones.

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For the sandwich I ordered Le Pain Quotiden’s avocado tartine. It is to die for! I really need to figure out how they make it. I cut the tartine into finger sandwich size and placed that on the second tier of my stand.

For the sweets I bought Trader Joe’s macarons and lemon bars. Eunice wanted coconut macaroons as well so I made those that morning. Eunice, I’m pretty sure, ate all of the coconut macaroons. Julia on the other hand ate all of the ham and cheese scones.

Since this was also a viewing party I needed to have the set up in our living room. This added a challenge to my planning as I didn’t have any table cloths that fit our coffee table. I decided to use some kraft paper and emboss a design on to it. Thank goodness I happened to have tea stamps and gold embossing powder lying around! The stamps came out so well and really added a special touch to the otherwise plain covering.

We watched two episodes of the eight episode series before we had to depart but we all had such a marvelous time! I can’t wait to watch the next six later this month!