One Year Wiser

Below is a snapshot into the first day of 27 for me; I think it is going to be a good year.

Looking for an amazing winter cake recipe? My sister Kara made me this Blood Orange, Almond and Ricotta Cake and it was awesome!

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Poppin Grapes

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I spent NYE in Madrid with coworkers on a “work” trip. I put quotes around work because I can’t really call it work if I’m in Madrid. I was able to see a few places I haven’t been and visit an old favorite. First I was able to go inside the Royal Palace of Madrid which in my opinion is possibly better than Versailles. Manuel Azana, president of the Second republic, was the last monarch to live in the palace around 1940. It is now used ceremoniously and for tourists to explore.

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The nativity scene in the Alabarderos Room.

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I also went to the beautiful and charming city of Toledo this trip which I had never been before. Toledo is located about an hour outside of Madrid and is located on the Tagus River. The city is surrounded on all four sides; the river on one side and stone walls on the other. It is known as the “City of Three Cultures” because Christian, Muslims, and Jewish people all lived within the city walls.

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And the old favorites I visited of course involved food. We made a stop at Mercado de San Miguel and then had an amazing tapas night at a restaurant close to Puerta del Sol.

On NYE we got our wigs and were ready to party! Everyone should do Madrid for NYE what could be more fun than wigs and grapes (explanation in a second). We started with a Flamenco show which was amazing. The performances were so intense it was hard to look away. We then headed to a restaurant where we enjoyed dinner and the grapes at midnight. Yes you read that correctly grapes. The Spaniards eat 12 grapes at midnight for the 12 strokes of the clock. This is a superstition and is supposed to give you good luck for the next 12 months of the year. I was beyond excited for the grapes. I also didn’t think it would be that hard to eat 12 grapes consecutively to the 12 dongs. Let me tell you I was wrong. I got like three in and then fell behind and started putting two in my mouth at a time. Then I dropped one on the floor and panicked it would be bad luck so I ate it anyways. I’m feeling like I did it pretty well and should be pretty lucky this year. Fingers crossed!

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The GRAPES!!

We All Scream for Pumpkin

A post I did for the Equator!

The season of the pumpkin is well underway and I would assume by now you have had your fair share of pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin bread, and maybe even a pumpkin whoopie pie…or two.

Whatever your vice of choice, our pumpkin flavored cravings are so strong that come October, it almost seems sacrilegious to say you don’t like pumpkin foods and drinks. And, since pumpkins are said to have originated in North America, it makes sense that we feel this way. However while we hold the pumpkin near and dear to our hearts, we can’t call it our own; all around the world, other countries have adopted the pumpkin and given it their own special twist.

The rest of the post…

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How to: Throw the Perfect Cocktail and Appetizer Party

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I recently had a ladies night which had a fall theme and it was awesome! Over the past couple of years I’ve loved hosting tailgate brunches, St. Patty’s Day dinners or brunch, and Thanksgiving dinner. From all of these I’ve come up with the fool proof way to through the best party. Here is how you do it….

Step 1- Think of theme and menu

Think of a theme so you can decorate and create a meal around it. I picked just general fall so I wouldn’t have to get a lot of decorations but just a few items to jazz up the apartment. I got a few tiny pumpkins for decoration and orange flowers. I also picked fun Halloween straws and brown stripped plates.

When planning the menu always think less is more. After a week of searching different sites I decided to serve bahn mi meatballs, crostinis three different ways, and pumpkin doughnut holes. When picking recipes think about what needs to be cooked in the oven and your time frame. Also think of recipes that you could do most of the prep before hand.

I was originally planning on doing three savory apps and then one sweet but scaled it down to two because I knew people would bring stuff even if I said they didn’t have to. This was a great decision because there was plenty of food and I didn’t kill myself. For the cocktail I picked an apple cider old fashioned. Once again here I almost changed my plan because I found a cool recipe that added ginger beer and I thought it looked cooler with cranberries on toothpicks. In the end I went with what was budget friendly and didn’t make me have to get extra “stuff.” The orange and apple slices I had planned were just “fun” in the drinks.

This was my first party I really tried to focus on this and I will never go back to my old ways. I saved a few extra dollars and nobody else knew about the other cocktail with ginger beer or the other appetizer I was thinking about—they just saw the festive fun stuff in front of them.

Step 2-Prepare with a list

This seems like an easy step but I think it is one that is frequently missed. What I mean by “prepare with a list” is the week prior to your party break down each day and what needs to be done. A grocery store day, a cleaning day, a prep night. If you break it down this way it helps you see how easily you can maintain your normal week like and prep for a party. It helps keep the stress down from the get go. Take a look at my list and you’ll see how I do it.

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Step 3- Prep night/morning

The night before the event, once the place is clean, put stuff out how you would for the party. I set up the bar and set up the table with the platters I would be using and the only things missing were food and ice. This way everything is set so you don’t have to worry about grabbing dishes and cleaning them or what to put where.

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Step 5- Stay calm and cook/bake on

This is the key point; stay calm. I found it hard because I got out of work a little later than planned so I was behind schedule but when time came for the people to arrive at 7 pm they helped out with the final dishes being cooked. I was frazzled because my goal was to have everything done before people arrived which now that I look back and realize what I was trying to get done in an hour was not realistic. So set realistic goals so you aren’t stressed. It is very normal to be cooking while people are arriving so build that in if need. I also found that it was great to give someone bar duty so that kept people busy while I was finishing things up in the kitchen. I gave this duty to my sister Kara and it was easy for her take on because I printed out the recipe and directions so there were no questions. Also no matter how your dishes turn out remember what Julia Child said, “No Matter what happens in the kitchen never apologize.” So present your dishes proudly and enjoy a drink you deserve it!

The Perfect Fall Party Menu (Serves about 12 if others bring some things like cheese and wine)

Looking to have a party but don’t know what to make? I have you covered. This is the perfect menu for a 20 something’s fall party.

Apple Cider Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Banh Mi Bites

Crostini’s A la carte

For the crostini’s I cut two french baguettes into a two inch slices. I drizzled olive oil on each side and baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or golden brown. I topped each with a dollop of ricotta before adding the toppings below:

  1. Butternut squash and sage- I peeled and chopped butternut squash into cubes and coated with olive oil and salt and pepper. I roasted that for about 30 minutes or soft to a fork and then let cool. I did this the night before so the corseting was served at room temperature. I topped each with chopped sage.
  2. Roasted tomatoes- I drizzled olive oil and salt and pepper on cherry sized heirloom tomatoes and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  3. Pear, prosciutto and honey- I sliced pear and added pieces of prosciutto then topped with a drizzle of honey.

Pumpkin Doughnut Holes

Cream cheese dipping sauce

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Telluride

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This past August we made the long journey, seven hours, from Denver to Telluride; impressively enough we made it starting at 5:30 pm and arriving at 2 am, thanks to John’s mad driving skills. We set up camp in the dark and awoke to a beautiful area. We were camping at Alta Lakes and it was an incredible spot—though a very scary drive to the actual lakes and camp site. You drive up a road that on one side is a major cliff. You can not do this with a low clearance vehicle.

(Alta Lakes)

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Telluride is incredible. The town is located in a box canyon that was originally founded as a mining camp. At the head of the canyon you will find Bridal Falls which I’m sure you can figure out how it got that name. You are able to drive up a road then do a really easy hike to the top of the falls. We had lunch up there.

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For dinner we made a pretty luxurious camp fire dinner if I do say so myself—lunchables as an app and hot dogs and cheeseburgers for dinner!

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The next day we did the most amazing hike to Hope Lake. The wild flowers were in full bloom and I must say it is one of the top five best hikes I have ever done.

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We spent the afternoon in the town of Telluride and were lucky enough to stumble upon the Mushroom Festival that was happening. We drank beers and margaritas and got take out pizza from Brown Dog Pizza and went back to the camp site to watch the sunset and hammock.

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This town is so charming and inviting. When you are there all your worries and daily concerns leave you and you are just present. Leaving the next morning was very, very, hard—but Henry didn’t hate the ride home.

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Prost to Oktoberfest!

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Oktoberfest is in full swing right now! It is currently day 14 of Oktoberfest in Munich and there are two days left. In Colorado there have been multiple celebrations from Denver’s Oktoberfest on Larimer that was the last two weekends in September, South Pearl Street’s Oktoberfest, to ones in the mountains like Breckenridge’s Oktoberfest; which is the one I attended! It was a day filled with drinking of Hefeweizen and Märzen that spilled over into the night. With two more days till the taps run dry in Munich make sure to join in on the celebration to get yourself a stein, brat, and pretzel to close out the celebration!

Prost!

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Notes Your Average Cookie

IMG_3807 Another one of my college roommates had a bachelorette party! And though I was not able to make it I was able to be there in spirit or in cookie. My friend Melissa is an amazing singer so I knew besides my inappropriate cookies I would go with musical notes for her! I themed them off of her color palette.

Cap Cake

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When I wasn’t pretending to be 21 while visiting my little sister for her graduation, I was baking. One night I made cheesecake with strawberry sauce. I made an America’s Test Kitchen recipe and it was great. It almost had a soufflé consistency to it. As you can see in the pictures though the sides got a little burnt, luckily it didn’t change the flavor but it did make it not so pretty. As I continue to bake and test recipes I am learning an oven thermometor would come in handy and is starting to become necessary; the oven was clearly too hot. On graduation night I made a cake and it had to be graduation themed. With that thought I decided to make an upside down cap. I carried the cakes on the plane, standard, and then froze them. This made it easy to frost the the next day and kept the cakes fresh. The cake was a recipe I’ve done in the past, lemon poppy seed.


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21 Again!

This past weekend I went back to one of my favorite places…East Lansing, Michigan for Michigan State University’s graduation. I went to watch my litter sister graduate and of course act like I was in college again. The first day I was there I went to Burgerama which might just be my heaven. It is day drinking beer only out of pitchers, burgers, and awesome music. What more could you ask for?

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The next night things got real young when my sister, brother-in-law, and I went to my little sister’s house party. We tried to fit and…

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We also made sure to visit out most fav late night eats places, below is Conrads! Though the menu has changed my love for them has not.

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Guac Off!

Yesterday for Cinco de Mayo we had a “Guac Off” at work! I entered mine as the Green Guac-ess and won! My secret ingredient is cucumber!

The two winners!

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