Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wedding Gifts: Shower Hosts!

The whole process of getting married is just so special! From the time you get engaged to when you say I Do, you are surrounded by love. We are so blessed to have some wonderful friends in our lives and while they were working hard on our behalf, I wanted to make sure I worked equally as hard to make sure they felt loved and appreciated for their efforts. This post is dedicated to those people and an ability to share some fun gift giving ideas for others looking for them.

Engagement Party Hosts - "Date Night" Recipe Basket
I cannot believe I didn't get a picture of this gift but I found a graphic on the wonderful world wide web that was similar enough to the gift basket created.
For our Engagement Party, we had some wonderful family friends offer to throw this celebration. These families have been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. I've cooked many meals in the Fulton kitchen and they know what foodies Max and I are so to make this extra special for us, they wanted to hand prepare all of the food for the event. They spent hours getting ready and creating a menu that served so many of our favorite things from pesto hummus and caprese skewers, to a crab remoulade and pork sliders. To thank them, I wanted to make something for them that was from our hearts, share something with them that is special to us. I had years of practice creating baskets of goodies for silent auctions, so I took that concept and applied it to their gift. I wanted to make each of the three host couples a "date night" basket with our favorite pasta recipe and everything they would need to make it. I filled the wicker basket with pasta noodles, ingedients for the sauce (including a mini vodka bottle), baguette bread, chianti wine and gadgets, such as a salad dressing emulsifier and cheese grater, stuffed it with crinkle paper and then wrapped with cellophane. I created a recipe card to attach, then used the back space to write a heartfelt message of thanks and affixed that as the gift tag.

Ladies Shower Host Gifts Linnea's Lights Vanilla Noir Scented Soy Candle at

For my Ladies Shower, I had four hosts that again I have known as long as I can remember. These sweet ladies have been dear friends of my mom and have watched me grow up. Having met all of them while growing up at University Park United Methodist Church, I wanted to gift them something that would reflect that. They led my Disciple Now weekends, taught me in Vacation Bible School and Sunday School, were chaperones on mission trips... these ladies each impacted my faith journey and were extensions of our own family for over 25 years. In Dallas we have the most fantastic store for home goodies and gifts called Sample House, where I found beautiful crosses and then paired with a candle for each host.

Couples Shower Host Gift

Mr. Max and I have some very special friends, the Rumplers. They have been a couple that has been apart of our relationship from very early on and they are apart of our wedding party. The Rumps gave us a lovely couples shower and we wanted to give them something fun in return. The store we purchased our wedding invitations through, Paper Affair, had a line of fun decorative cutting board platters that you could personalize. I was able to pick out a pattern and color that matched their home and have their name added to it. Liddy is a natural hostess so I thought this would be a gift I know she would appreciate. The week of that shower, I had a luncheon through work featuring the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond. I got to meet and talk with her, as well as the chance to buy her newest cook book and have it personalized. I put it all together in a basket with a floral arrangement.

Thanks again to our wonderful hosts, we hope you know how much we appreciate you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wedding Gifts: Bachelorette Favors!


I have been lagging on food posts because all of my creative energy the past two months have been spent on wedding planning and work event planning. It has left little room to stay creative in the kitchen but I thought I'd post about a prominent and favorite part of the planning process right now - the gift giving! I wanted to share some of the fun things in the world of gifts for shower hosts, bridesmaids, the groom and more. 

To start off this series of posts over the next few months, we have bachelorette party favors. My bachelorette party was this past weekend and my MOH's planned an incredible weekend in the Texas Wine Country! Two of the attendees are fellow hobby-bloggers and did their own recaps so I'll let their work over at Kitten and Pitbulls and Average Insanity give you a little peak into our fun. It was more special than I could have ever dreamed and I feel very blessed to have each of those girls in my life!

In preparation for the weekend, I wanted to create a fun little favor to thank my guests for coming and spending their weekend with me. I had a lot of fun brainstorming different options and this box of goodies was born. I was really lucky to find some great deals to help me do this on a budget, while still being able to make the most out of it for each girl. Each box consisted of a bottle of wine with personalized wine label, a personalized wine glass, a wine yoke, and a sleep mask. The grand total for this? Roughly $8.11 a person. HOW you may ask? Let's break it down...

Personalized wine glasses:
I bought wine glasses from IKEA and personalized each glass with paint pens. I did their initial with polka dots and then wrote "Fill it Up, Drink it Down, Repeat" on the bottom.

Wine Labels and Bottle: 
I found a website that I could customize and order wine labels for just $0.99 each. I made a commemorative wine label and was so excited to reveal my tagline, "You Had Me at Merlot!"

I asked my MOHs to find out from each girl if they preferred Red or White wine and gave it to them accordingly. For the wine, thank heavens for friends in high places! I was able to work with a wine distributor who I've developed a great working relationship with. I told her what I was looking to do and asked if she would be able to sell me two cases at whole sale cost. She did me one better and GAVE me the bottles of wine! For her, it was promotion. For me, it was awesome.

I soaked off the front but left the back label with brand information on it so it didn't defeat her purpose of giving them to me. I then took the commemorative wine label and affixed one to each bottle. If you are going to soak bottles, the best method that worked for me was to fill a bathtub or kitchen sink with hot water to a shallow level. You only need enough to cover the label, not to submerge it. Squeeze a little bit of dish soap in, and place the wine bottles in, label-side down. Leave for several hours and use a razor blade to help remove the label and residue. My first soak was 4-5 hours, then I just decided to do them overnight and that was easier.

Sleep Masks: 
Dream Essentials Snooz™ Airline Style Eye Mask
I mean, who doesn't love some serious shut eye after lots of wine consumption? I spent some time googling and comparing, finally finding a fabulous site to bulk order these sleep masks. I got a fun hot pink color and I think they came in handy. I know I was able to use one on the way home when my lack of sleep caught up to me.

The Wine Yoke:
This was an impulse purchase, I had already finalized everything but I was in World Market and saw the Wine Yoke. I sat there and had a left-brain/right brain conversation to myself for about 3 minutes. I decided to leave it to fate and if I could find them online for under $3/each, I would order them. Sure enough, I did, AND they were pink which is only right for a girls bachelorette weekend! Order placed, shipped, delivered.

The Packaging:
Working in events, you bulk order a lot of stuff and know where to get some good wholesale prices for things such as crinkle paper. I was able to go to a wholesale store by our office to get a box of the crinkle to use as padding in the boxes and add some flare. The Duck brand corrugated boxes were ordered from and were easy to assemble!

My MOH's also included a cute little favor of their own for the girls with personalized cups, 
straws, beads and blinkie rings. 

 To close, here are some of my favorite group shots with the girls...

Some of us posing after breakfast, getting ready for the bus to come pick us up

 Group at Pedernales Cellars for first tasting, with wine yokes in tow

The full group at Hondo's for dinner to start the night off - I love all the colors going on here!

Thank you friends for helping me celebrate the best weekend of my life,
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tortilla Soup (Lightened Up)

With the barbecue pot roast and this soup, it has been a week for comfort food! Both Mr. Max and I have felt a little puny with fall allergies on top of being generally run down from a very hectic September. Experiencing a bit of real fall weather, we decided to make a big batch of our favorite soup for the week. Giada's Tortilla Soup has been our go-to the past few years, it is so easy to make and truly delicious, but this time I decided to change it up a bit.

I wanted to turn up the heat a bit to help clear some serious sniffles so cayenne pepper was included, I added black beans for additional protein, and used a low-sodium vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. 

Nutritional facts can be found here, calculated through; one serving of soup is 3 WW points. 

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 7-8 servings
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 oz. can of roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 12 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • Cheese for garnish
To start, combine the vegetable broth, diced tomatoes and peppers in a pot on medium-high heat. Add the cayenne, chili powder and oregano.

Take an immersion blender, or dump contents of pot into a blender, and blend the diced tomatoes and peppers until smooth and creamy. In a different pot, begin to saute the onions in canola oil over medium heat. Add more cayenne pepper and cumin. After cooking for about 10 minutes, add the garlic until fragrant.

Pour the soup mix into the pot with the onions, then add the black beans, shredded chicken and cilantro. Let simmer for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to conjure, or until you are ready to serve.

Add the avocado to each individual bowl, garnish cheese and additional cilantro then ladel and enjoy!

Tastefully yours,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Barbecue Pot Roast


This is a recipe that I can't wait to share! When you have something that you just loved to make and eat, it's really fun to run and tell everyone about it in hopes that they can then enjoy it like you did. Mr. Max and I have simply not been very creative with meals lately. We've had a lot of repeats or easy meals like salads, or simple fish and chicken breasts with roasted veggies. Blame that partially on a whirlwind event schedule and needing the ease, and maybe partially on trying to eat very basic because of the wedding that is approaching.

I can't say that I've been a dieting bride necessarily. I know how to eat well and I know what's good and what is not so good for me. I've just become a little more diligent on those what's good with more veggies and protein, and really strict on the consumption of the not so good like unneeded sugars, excess carbs or salty foods.

Well.... all that is fine and great but sometimes you just need some comfort food! Feeling slightly under the weather and having just one of those weeks, I decided that a pot roast seemed appropriate because it gave me a perfect reason to make a cauliflower and potato puree - mmm potatoes! Pinspired by the fabulous Plain Chicken blog, I used this for reference but made my own version based on what I had in the fridge.

Nutritional facts can be found here, and they were surprisingly not as bad as I thought; this is 8 WW points per serving.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields six servings
  • 2 lb rump roast, trimmed (rump is leaner than chuck roast)
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. BBQ sauce (I used our favorite, Austin's Own, Medium Heat)
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha
  • 2 cups carrots
  • 1 cup celery (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water (optional)
To start, sprinkle your roast with the garlic salt and pepper, then place in the crock pot. Surround with the celery, then the carrots. I thought I got most of what Plain Chicken used but come to find, I did not. I didn't have a Coke, and didn't want to use one, so I subbed the taste of apple cider vinegar for a little bit of tang and to help compensate for the missing liquid. I decided to start with just 1/4 cup so that it didn't over power and could somewhat keep sugars low, and that amount was perfect. In a bowl, mix the chili sauce, apple cider vinegar, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire and sriracha together until blended. At this point, I looked at it and thought I needed to "water" it up more so that is when I added the water.

Once mixed, pour the sauce over the contents in the crock pot, put the top on and walk away. If you are cooking for over 6 hours, cook on low-medium heat. If you are cooking for under 6 hours, cook on high heat.

When you come back, test the roast to see if it falls apart at the touch and move the contents around to get everything a little saucy.

When the roast is ready, scoop the meat and veggies into a bowl, top with some extra sauce and serve! 
 Served with cauliflower-potato mash

Kate's Easy Cauliflower-Potato Mash
Boil 1 large Yukon gold potato, cut in on inch cubes 
and 2 cups of cauliflower florets.
When soft, drain and add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt,
with 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tsp. butter.
Use electric beaters to mash until smooth and creamy
Serves 3-4

Tastefully yours,

Monday, October 8, 2012

Barbecue Kolaches

This is an easy recipe to whip up for brunch, tailgates or a potluck need. In April, I was making kolaches one morning and as I stared at the little smokie, I thought to myself: self, you love dousing these and cooking them in BBQ sauce, and you love them rolled up as kolaches. Why couldn't they be both? I decided they should be, but then filed that thought away for another day.

That day came in August when I decided to try it out for a fun girl's potluck brunch hosted by sweet Sara. The result was a very delicious combination that was gobbled up, and if it was gal-approved, I was certain the boys would love it too.

As football season began, my friend Elizabeth and I planned our spread for the first upcoming home football games on the SMU Boulevard. This is our 5th season on the Boulevard together and for all that time, our boys have been talking about someday when they have a tent spot. Their someday came this year when the group was able to finally get a coveted lot in a prime location on the Boulevard. This meant fabulous food spreads would be made, decor would need to be set and a TV with satellite to keep the boys distracted from realizing their tent was becoming a picture out of Southern Living.

Elizabeth and I brought a number of things and this was one of my contributions to the first game day spread. I hope one that you can enjoy them for your next tailgate! They are a little messy to make but sometimes in the kitchen, you just have to get your hands dirty.

Grocery List:
Recipe yields 32 kolaches
  • 1 package of your favorite Little Smokie brand sausages (I got Hillshire Farms)
  • 1.5 cups BBQ Sauce (I use Austin's Own with a little heat to it)
  • 2 packages Pillsbury Reduced Fat Crescent Rolls 
  • Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese
To start, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and set out two cookie sheets, greased with non-stick spray. Place the little smokie's into a pot, then smother in the BBQ sauce. Cook them like this on low heat for about an hour. Note: the time frame is really up to you, I like to think that the flavor penetrates the longer it is cooked.

As your sausages sizzle in sauce, roll out the crescent dough and cut each individual triangle in half to create two mini triangles. If my memory and math serves me correctly, you get 8 regular crescent rolls per package, so with this method, you should get 16 per package.

Now the first time I did this, I used finely shredded cheese, which I preferred. This time, I thought we had shredded cheese but we did not, so I cut slivers of the colby-jack cheese instead. This works but if you can do shredded cheese, I would recommend that because it melts better.

Top the dough and cheese slice with a bbq-drenched little smokie and start to roll from widest end to skinny end. This is where the BBQ sauce may cause a little bit of a mess, but that's okay!

Place your rolled bbq kolache on a greased cookie sheet and when ready, pop it in the oven for 15 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Remove and enjoy your little bites of barbecuey, cheesey, sausagey heaven!

Tastefully yours,

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make a Meal: Spinach-Basil Pesto Pasta with Caprese Chicken Stacks


For Labor Day, I had a fun little girls weekend with my two Maids of Honor. Amy and I went southbound 35 to visit Greer for a little time together, just the three of us and one thing I knew I could count on was a fun cooking night. We went to a local farmers market to find inspiration and ended up deciding on an Italian theme. We bought fresh vegetables and Italian peppers, then found a fresh pasta place where we bought three fresh pastas: a fettuccine, a spinach fusilli, and a pecorino-peppercorn cavatelli pasta. For sauces, we bought a vodka sauce from the pasta place then made our own fresh basil pesto. For toppings, we sauteed the fresh farmers market vegetables to toss with pasta and olive oil, then made some easy balsamic chicken chunks. When we put it all together, it was ahh-mazing. See below for our little pasta bar!

Fast forward to this week, Mr. Max and I were meal planning.  I was still having some serious food envy of all the leftovers that Greer had, and DVR envy from the ridiculous amount of recorded hours of The Hills, but that's another story. We may or may not have bypassed our Saturday plans to explore Austin so that we could watch 10.5 hours of that reality TV gold.

Busted. Name that scene! The "he's a sucky, sucky person" confrontation was one of the best between Lauren and Hiedi, next was the "you KNOW what you did" at Les Duex.

Back to the featured post dish, I was craving some pesto after thinking about the delicious stuff we made over Labor Day and decided to pick up some whole wheat fusilli to revamp my ever-changing chicken caprese. This recipe was quick and easy, I made it on one of my busiest work weeks of the year, meaning I was tired, maybe slightly grouchy and was ready to eat some dinner so I could go to bed. That said, this took all of 20 minutes from prep start to plated finish.

Nutritional facts can be found here.

Grocery List:
Recipe Yields 3-4 servings
For the Pesto Pasta (forgive me, rough estimates I tried to track as I went)
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 large pinches of Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 cups spinach, packed
  • 2 cups pasta (I made extra for Mr. Max's appetite and a lunch portion)
For the Caprese Chicken
  • 3 chicken cutlets (4 oz. each)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 thin slices of part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved  
  • Balsamic glaze

To start, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bring salted water to a boil and add the pasta noodles. Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until al dente. 

Next, combine the spinach, basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parm in the food processor and grind. Add the olive oil slowly and continue to grind until you've reached a smooth, desired pesto consistency.

Toss your tomatoes in just a splash of olive oil. Spread the halves over a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Roast in the oven for twenty minutes until puckered and slightly browned.

Take your chicken cutlets and cut them in half so you have small, slider size slabs of chicken. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to evenly coat the chicken. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

Place the chicken in a foil lined baking dish and place in the oven for 4 minutes to cook. After 4 minutes, remove from the oven, flip and add the sliced mozzarella to the top of each chicken. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and dry with paper towels. In a large saute pan, combine the pasta with the pesto and add the additional spinach to let wilt over low-medium heat.

Once the chicken is ready, make a bed of the pasta on a plate or bowl and then top with the chicken and scoop of roasted tomatoes, then drizzle with an ever so slight balsamic glaze. In the picture at the very top of this post, I had stacked the chicken with layer of tomatoes between and again on top. In the one below, the two chicken pieces are side by side.

Tastefully yours,
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