Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yummy Holiday Sangria

Just in time for Christmas Morning! Try this delicious cocktail instead of the traditional mimosa this Christmas. I made this beautifully simple sangria for a holiday brunch & bottle swap that we hosted this past Sunday. It was a BIG hit and super yummy. The tart fruits and sweet sparkling cider combine to make a deliciously bubbly concoction.


2 bottles Pinot Grigio
2 bottles Sparking Cider
Fresh Cranberries
2 Granny Smith Apples
2 Gala Apples
3 Valencia Oranges 


Core & slice apples. Slice oranges, leaving rind in tact. Place sliced fruit & oranges in your sangria container. Top with white wine. Allow to soak overnight. Add Sparkling Cider right before serving to keep fresh & bubbly. Stir to combine & ENJOY!

This recipe makes a pretty large batch. I think we had about 15 people at brunch and it nearly lasted the whole event... we had a lot of leftover "booze fruit." I may or may not have eaten an obscene amount of said fruit after all of our guests left. For a smaller gathering just make a half batch... only one bottle of wine and cider each and half the fruit.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

DIY Personalized Bridal Hanger

I'm sure a lot of you have seen the "Mrs" or "Bride" wedding dress hangers on Etsy or Pinterest. You can buy them for $20 + shipping (on average) but I've learned you can make them at home for a fraction of the cost and it's surprisingly easy to do!

These are my go-to bridal shower/bachelor party gift. All my friends EXPECT them from me now. I need to start on my "Mrs. Garrett" ASAP (wink wink).

I struggle with perfectionism and the fact that sometimes I'm not so great with the more artistic projects so the first time I decided to make one of these hangers I set aside my whole day, expecting multiple failures, temper tantrums, and screaming before getting the look I wanted... but I was wrong! These actually only take about 15 minutes to make and are super easy!


Wooden Hanger ( I bought a 5 pack for $5.99 at Target)
16 Gauge Wire ( 200 ft for $6.29 at Home Depot)
Super Glue
Wire Cutters

I can make an obscene amount of hangers with 200 ft of wire!! With these supplies I can make 5 hangers for about $12 and have enough wire for about 20 more hangers! They're handmade and from the heart...making them the perfect gift for friends! 


1.) Assemble your tools. On some scrap paper (I used a paper bag), trace the inside of your hanger and write your desired Mrs name (or other text) in the style that you want. Make sure to connect every letter as if it's made out of a continuous piece of wire (cursive). This is your guide for bending and shaping the wire. Make sure that the beginning and end of the name touches the traced hanger line - this is where you will be inserting the wire into the hanger.

2.) Cut a workable but long enough piece of wire from the roll. I cut the length of my "wingspan" - stretch the wire from one hand to the other with arms completely outstretched. Leaving at least 6 inches on the end, start bending your wire using your guide to make sure it will fit in the hanger properly. 16 gauge wire bends easily and I did not need any tools to bend it in the "loopy" text style that I was using. If you desire "sharper" angles you can squeeze the wire with some pliers to get a more defined angle. 

Some names are going to be easier than others and can be done with 1 single piece of wire. I ran into some difficulty with the "B" in Booth and wound up improvising a little and attaching the "B" by itself, I personally didn't like the look of the wire doubling back on itself. Improvising is OK! It still came out looking great!

Some names are really long, this can also make things difficult, but you can always make more than 1 line of text! I put the "Mrs" on the top line, overlapping the wood of the hanger a bit, leaving me with plenty of room for a longer name! 

3.) Align your finished wire on the hanger as you want it to hang. With a sharpie mark the spot on the hanger where the you will need to drill (this is where the wire will need to be inserted on the underside of the hanger). Cut off excess wire, make sure to allow enough to sit into the drilled holes, mark the spot on where the wire comes about halfway through the hanger and cut with wire cutters.

4.)  Drill holes on marked spots on the underside of the hanger. Drill slowly into the wooden hanger as not to split the wood or drill too far. I drill about halfway through the wood which leaves enough room for the wire to be secured. Choose a drill bit slightly larger than your wire - (I used a 5/64). This allowed for the wire to slide in nicely and still feel secure once glued. 

5.) Insert small amount of super glue into drilled holes and small amount onto the ends of the wire. Insert wire into place, adjust as needed before it dries. Allow to dry 1 hour before handling. 

Voila! You have the most beautiful bridal gift!

For Monica: Mrs. Semones
Photos courtesy of Brent Gulledge Photography - Charlotte, NC 

For Jamie: Mrs. Booth
Photos (top of the page & below) Courtesy of Maya Anna Photography - Garner, NC

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Mongolian Beef

It's really easy for me to fall into the take-out dinner routine. I work LONG hours and on top of that I have a substantial commute so when I get home from work all I want to do is pass out in front of the TV and binge watch some of my favorite shows. The remedy to this problem? Simple, affordable, FAST & EASY meals to make that I can get excited about.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs - Damned Delicious and it will be making multiple appearances on my dinner table, for sure! This can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and tastes way better and lighter than it's cheap, chinese-food-takeout counterpart.

Bonus: It makes GREAT leftovers!


1 pound Flank Steak, thinly sliced across the grain
1/4 cup Cornstarch
1 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Green Onions, thinly sliced

For the Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons vegetable oil


For the sauce, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 1/2 cup water. Heat mixture in a medium saucepan until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes; set aside.

While your sauce is cooking. Combine flank steak and cornstarch in a large bowl. Toss to coat.

Heat 1 cup vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add beef and fry until browned and cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil.

Add beef to soy sauce mixture and over medium heat cook until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in green onions. Serve immediately. Garnish with sesame seeds and finely sliced green onion, if desired!

I served this over white rice with a side of steamed broccoli - and it was a very classic, perfect combination of flavors! Aaron and I agreed that while this dish was absolutely delicious it would be fun to add some spice in there and really kick things up a bit - I'll keep you posted on any spicy developments! 

Honey Grilled Pear, Brie & Rosemary Crostini

I'm always looking for quick and easy party appetizer recipes to share with friends and this one sure did hit the mark! I made these for a friend's recent birthday celebration and yes... they're as good as they sound!

A short ingredient list and easy prep make these the perfect party time appetizer while at the same time being simple, elegant and super tasty!


1 French baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Brie cheese, thinly sliced, rind removed
2 pears, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
Fresh rosemary


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grill to medium-high heat. This is one of those recipes where it's key to have all your ingredients prepped before you start. While everything is pre-heating this is the perfect time to slice your pear and remove the rind/slice your brie. 

Brush pear slices liberally with honey. Grill until soft and marked nicely with the grill grates - just a few minutes per side.

Place bread slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet, top with sliced brie, bake in oven for about 5 minutes or until the brie is melted.

Pull bread from oven, top each slice with grilled pear, arrange on serving dish and sprinkle with fresh rosemary... now, didn't I tell you that was easy? Best served while hot! 

Sweet Potato Sliders with Greek Yogurt Sauce & Avocado

I served these yummy sliders at +Aaron's birthday party a few weeks ago and they were a hit with the vegetarians and carnivores, alike! I have been toying with the idea of making sweet potato burgers for a while now, but never had the time to really research and develop a solid recipe. I planned on serving burgers & brats for the party and found it to be the perfect opportunity to add a little vegetarian flare to the menu!

These little burgers are smoky, sweet, and delicious!

Roasted Garlic & Maple Greek Yogurt Sauce

2 bulbs roasted garlic
2/3 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
1 tsp Maple Syrup
Salt & Pepper to taste

To roast garlic: cut off the top of the bulb to reveal the garlic cloves. Rub/peel off excess skin (papery stuff) of the clove. Top each clove with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and let soak for 10 minutes. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil, bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Press roasted garlic cloves into food processor, add remaining ingredients, pulse until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Sweet Potato Sliders

Makes approx. 10 sliders (or 4 normal sized burgers)

2 Large Sweet Potatoes
1 can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
4 Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed
1/3 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup Flour
1 Large Egg
1 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1/8 tsp Cumin
Olive Oil/Cooking Spray for pan frying/searing
Roasted Garlic & Maple Greek Yogurt Sauce
1 avocado, sliced
Slider Buns

Microwave sweet potatoes for 5 minutes, flip and microwave for additional 5 minutes or until soft. Slice in half and allow to cool. Scoop potato from skin into a large mixing bowl. 

Combine potatoes, beans, garlic, bread crumbs, flour, egg & spices into large bowl and mix until combined (I used my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer on low-medium for about 5 minutes.) For best results, refrigerate before forming patties. 

Form into small (slider sized) patties. They will be sticky to work with, so plan on getting your hands messy.

Cook the patties for about 5 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. For the party, I used a large electric griddle and some cooking spray to cook the sliders and they turned out quite tasty, however I recommend pan frying them with a little olive oil - they turn out much crispier that way!

Top sliders with the Roasted Garlic and Maple sauce and sliced avocado.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Penicillin Cocktail

Without a bartender, having fancy cocktails at a party can be really difficult. As a hostess I'm usually running around crazy - cooking, making sure everyone has everything they need and trying to socialize, so bartending is not feasible. For +Aaron's 30th birthday party last weekend I wanted to have a "signature cocktail" - something delicious but manly enough, and something that I knew he would love. I decided on the Penicillin, did some math and pre-made mix so that party guests could easily make their own drinks.

The Penicillin is a blended scotch-based cocktail with fresh lemon juice, sweetened Honey-Ginger Syrup and a delicate pour of aromatic Islay Single Malt for the necessary smoke on the nose - it's perfect! To make a single batch see the official recipe from Sam Ross - http://www.sipsmokesavor.com/index.php/sip/cocktails/482-pencillin

The key to a good Penicillin is quality, fresh ingredients. So I was quite nervous about pre-making a mix but it turned out absolutely fantastic! I made the honey-ginger syrup and squeezed lemons the day before the party and they were both still fresh and perfect for the party!

INGREDIENTS : Makes 30 oz (About 15 drinks)

6.5 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
6.5 oz Honey Ginger Syrup
17.5 oz Single Malt or Blended Scotch
Laphroaig Scotch (1/4 oz per drink)
Large ice cubes/spheres 
Candied Ginger for garnish

For the Honey Ginger Syrup

2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups water
1 fresh ginger root, thinly sliced

Combine ingredients in saucepan. Heat over low heat until ginger has incorporated nicely in the syrup ( you want a STRONG ginger taste). I did this for about an hour while I prepped some other items for the party. Remove and discard the ginger. Strain into air tight container. Refrigerate until ready to use. I made the syrup and squeezed the lemons for the lemon juice the day before the party.


Combine 6.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice, 6.5 oz honey ginger syrup and 17.5 oz single malt/blended scotch in an airtight container. This will act as your drink "mix." ( I made 3 bottles for a party with 30 to 40 people in attendance). Refrigerate until ready to use. 

For your guests set up a drink station for them to make their own drinks with. You'll need your pre-made bottled mix, ice, Laphroaig, candied ginger, measuring devices, and instructions. 


1. ) Combine 2oz drink mix in shaker with ice.

2.)  Strain into rock glass, ideally with one very large ice cube (dilutes the drink slowly). 

3.)  Float 1/4 oz Laphroaig over top of drink.

4.)  Garnish with candied ginger.

The drink was a BIG hit at the party and even appealed to the non-scotch drinkers in attendance. My favorite part is the peet aroma and taste from the Laphroaig. I used a very inexpensive blended scotch for the mix and the quality of the drink overall was still superb. Be Careful...These bad boys are potent! 

Pro Tips:

I thought I'd give you the links to some of the cool tools I used to make these drinks absolutely perfect!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hello Autumn! Pumpkin Carving and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

For those readers living in Raleigh, you know that we've had a long stretch of dreadfully depressing weather the past couple weeks. It's been rainy and gloomy. I can't remember the last time I've seen sunshine. This weekend I decided that despite all the gloom and despair I was going to rally and get into the autumn spirit! Obviously this means pumpkin carving.

We brought our dog, Bernice, with us to go pumpkin picking. We went to this really cute place up Lake Wheeler Road a bit - Porter Farms & Nursery, they have a great selection of a variety of different types of pumpkins and some pick-your-own fields BURSTING with gigantic pumpkins!

Rustic Camper Pumpkins

If Cinderella goes camping, I imagine this is how she does it. I saw a similar project to this in an old Better Homes & Gardens magazine and just had to do it!


2 Pumpkins; one taller and slimmer, one short and stout.
3 small gourds
Pumpkin Carving Tools (I used a steak knife and a box cutter)
3 Bamboo Skewers
2 Thumb Tacks


The first thing I did was sketch my design on the pumpkins with a marker. The smaller pumpkin is the "car" and the larger one is the "camper." For the car I made a large front windshield, a side door and side window. For the camper, I placed the pumpkin on it's side and drew a door, 2 windows (with drapes), and a racing stripe for authenticity.

Next I carved round holes in the back sides of the pumpkins (NOT the top where you usually carve pumpkins) - this is for goop removal. Using your hands or a spoon, scoop out all the guts/seeds.

Now you're ready to carve! Carve out all the solid pieces first. Then carefully carve the outlines of the doors. Make sure not to make your outlines go all the way around or else the entire piece will become dislodged from the pumpkin. Use your box cutter (or vegetable peeler, or other tool) to scrape away the outer orange skin of the pumpkins for the window drapes, bottom of camper door, and racing stripe. Wipe off any remaining marker. 

To attach the wheels (gourds), poke bamboo cooking skewers through the pumpkins. Make sure about 1/4-1/2 inch of the skewer sticks out of the pumpkin, press gourd onto skewer to hold in place. I used 2 gourd tires on the car and 1 on the rear end of the camper - kind of as if the car was towing the camper. 

Place the thumb tacks on the doors for door handles. VOILA! You have a cute pumpkin camper!

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you're carving pumpkins you HAVE to roast the seeds - it's mandatory. I like to make my pumpkin seeds with a little "kick" to the taste buds. 


1 1/2 - 2 cups Pumpkin Seeds
2 tbs Melted Butter
2 tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Sea Salt to taste


Pre-Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Separate your pumpkin seeds from the goop. I usually do this by hand as I carve, placing the guts and goo and a bowl and the seeds in a colander - that way I'm ready to roast as soon as pumpkin carving is done. If you need to you can rinse the seeds with water to get any excess goop and guts off. 

In a bowl combine seeds, melted butter, oil and seasonings. Toss to coat pumpkin seeds evenly.

Spread seeds onto cookie sheet in a single, even layer. Bake for 45 minutes, mixing occasionally.

Yay for Autumn!