Run for the Roses!

The Kentucky Derby is taking place Saturday. And regardless of whether you are hosting a full out party, or just a few friends at home it is imperative to have a mint julep, the official Kentucky Derby drink in hand, along with a large hat on your head.

According to the official Kentucky Derby website, the Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. Early Times Kentucky Whisky has provided the whiskey for the past 18 of those years. Each year, almost 120,000 Early Times Mint Juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. That’s a feat that requires more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.

Want to make your own Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail? Of course you do!

Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Early Times Kentucky Whisky
  • Silver Julep Cups

Directions:
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

As mentioned above, one must wear appropriate Kentucky Derby head attire while watching the race. Lady Diane Hats is a famous and wonderful custom milliner who can outfit even the pickiest of women with a great hat. Had I attended, I would have picked one of the following hats:

 There is always next year, right?

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May 7, 2011. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Helpful Houseguest Tips

 

I take hosting houseguests very seriously. I love having people visit, and I enjoy opening my home to others, but I also recognize that ensuring a guests comfort and enjoyment while not being in the familiarity of their own home is almost an art form. This may be a “female” thing however, as the hubs would never in a million years think that anything other than providing a pillow and blanket makes a guest comfortable.

I learned the art of entertaining houseguests from my mother who regularly had family and friends staying at our house growing up. To this day, her 4 guest bedrooms are always filled around holidays. While not everyone has the luxury of multiple guest bedrooms (especially those of us living in a city), there are certain tricks one can do that will make every house guest especially comfortable whether they are sleeping on your couch, floor or in your guest bedroom.

Here are my tried and true (and inexpensive!) houseguest tips:

  •  Clean Sheets: This may sound like a no-brainer, but I have definitely stayed at places where clean sheets were nowhere to be found. Always make sure you have clean sheets on hand so your guests aren’t subjected to dirty sheets. Clean sheets should include: a fitted bottom sheet, a top sheet, pillow cases and a blanket/comforter/duvet.
  • An Already Made Bed: Unless the guest is a last-minute invitee, when you guest arrives their bed should already be made, or, if the bed isn’t made when they arrive, you should not leave the bed making up to the guest.
  • Extra Pillows: I like 1 pillow, the hubs needs at least 2. Everyone has different pillow needs so always make sure you have extra pillows placed on the bed, or on hand, to accommodate your guests’ needs. Personally, I have 4 “sleeping” pillows on my guest bed with 2 “king size” pillows for extra comfort.

 

  • Carafe of Water By the Bed: Ever wake up thirsty in the middle of the night in a strange house and you don’t want to wake anyone up nor do you know where glasses are in the kitchen? I’ve been there – and it is no fun. A simple glass or carafe of water left by the bed ensures that your guests don’t have to scramble in the night.

  • Fresh Flowers: The hubs will argue that this is highly unnecessary, and perhaps it is, but I enjoy it nonetheless and would argue that my guests enjoy it as well. One flower in a bud vase, or a pretty bouquet – it doesn’t matter. The pop of color will add a nice touch to any decor.

  • A Decluttered Room/Area: Whether you have a formal guest bedroom, or merely a loving couch, decluttering the room/area will eliminate the chaos and frustration for your guests that can unfortunately go hand-in-hand with traveling. Not to mention that a cluttered room/area screams “not clean.”
  • Clean Towels Laid Out: Sometimes it is uncomfortable to be a houseguest. You don’t want to bother or inconvenience your host if you can help it. And asking for towels falls into the category of uncomfortable. Always make sure you have a clean towel and face cloth laid out for each guest. Many women prefer to use 2 towels, so don’t forget to keep that in mind.

  • Extra Toiletries: Forgot your toothbrush? toothpaste? shampoo? No problem. Having a few extra toiletries on hand helps guests avoid having to use their finger as a toothbrush or the midnight run to the drugstore. A word of advice: always keep the travel/mini/sample-sized toiletries on hand instead of full-sized items. Gingivitis and other bacteria can be spread by sharing toothpaste and soap with others. Don’t want to spend the money to keep travel sized toiletries on hand? Next time you travel, bring the minis home from the hotel.

What are your houseguest ideas?

And, for your amusement:

May 6, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

5 Great Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Here are my 5 tops ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo:

1. Indulge in a Last Minute Getaway to Mexico: What better way to celebrate the Mexican Army defeating the French forces than by traveling to Mexico to party in person.  Thanks to Last Minute Travel, you can book a flight and hotel right this minute.

2. Prepare a Mexican Fiesta: Don’t have your passport handy? Then bring a bit of Mexico to you. Create some authentic mexican cuisine to enjoy with friends while enjoying some cervasa (Taco Bell does not count as authentic).  Here are two great recipes that are easy to make and will impress your party guests:

Guisado de Puerco con Tomatillos (Pork Stew in Green Salsa)
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (3 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatillos
  • 1 (7 ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream, divided
  • 6 sprigs cilantro

Directions:

  1. Stir together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and cumin in a large bowl. Place the cubed pork into the mixture, and stir well to coat the meat with the seasonings.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Working in batches if necessary, place the meat into the hot pan in a single layer. Pan-fry the pork until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove the pork to a bowl, and cover to keep warm.
  3. Cook and stir the onion in the hot pan over medium heat, adding more olive oil if necessary, until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Return the meat to the pan and stir in the garlic, tomatillos, chiles, marjoram, chopped cilantro, and water. Check seasoning and add 1 pinch of salt to taste, if needed. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Skim excess fat off the stew before serving in bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a cilantro sprig on each bowl.

Nutty Buenlos
Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart oil for frying, or as needed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

    1. Whisk eggs together in a large bowl. Combine the cake flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt; gradually stir into the eggs to make a stiff dough.
    2. Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Pinch off walnut sized pieces of dough, and roll them out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface.
    3. Fry in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, turning once to brown evenly on both sides. Drain on paper towels, and cool. Drizzle honey over the tops, and sprinkle with chopped nuts.

3. Host a Tequila Tasting: Don’t feel like cooking ? Host a tequila tasting instead (although, make sure you at least have some chips on hand – it is equally as important to be a responsible host as it is to be a fun host). According to Wikipedia:

Tequila is a spirit made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 65 kilometres (40 mi) northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of the western Mexican state of Jalisco. There are two basic categories of tequila: mixtos and 100% agave. Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:

  • Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”): white spirit, un-aged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels;
  • Joven (“young”) or oro (“gold”): a mixture of blanco tequila and reposado tequila (Ex. José Cuervo Oro).
  • Reposado (“rested”): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size;
  • Añejo (“aged” or “vintage”): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels;
  • Extra Añejo (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels. This category was established in March 2006.

If your guests can’t handle tequila on its own – perhaps they would prefer a tequila sunrise?

Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
Ingredients:

1.75 Parts Tequila,
0.5 Parts Grenadine,
2 Ice Cubes,
Crushed ice,
fresh Orange Juice

Directions:

Place the Tequila and orange juice in a cocktail mixer with all the crushed ice and shake thoroughly. Pour mixture into a glass with the ice cubes already in it. Slowly add the grenadine, allowing for it to rise. Stir well before drinking for best taste.

Don’t forget to toast Mexican General Zaragosa and Colonel Diaz for a hard-won victory!

4. Make a Pinata: Looking for ideas the whole family will love? Create (or buy!) a pinata for a family-friendly celebration. Thanks to Chevron Cars, there is now a great step-by-step guide on how to create the perfect pinata:

Pinatas are found at almost every Mexican celebration. Pinatas were traditionally in the shape of a six-pointed star and were filled with fruit, candy, and small toys. Today they are designed in all types of shapes, including animals, plants, and flowers. At fiestas, the pinatas are hung in the air and children are blindfolded and take turns swinging at the pinatas. Eventually, the pinata is hit hard enough and it breaks releasing the candy and toys that it contained.

What you will need:

•2 cups flour
•3 cups water
•1 balloon
•Newspaper
•Paint, crayons, or markers
•Colored crepe paper
•String

Directions:

1.Blow up a large balloon and tie the end
2.Mix the flour and water together until it makes a smooth paste
3.Cut the newspaper into long 1 inch thick strips and dip into the flour/water mixture
4.Carefully place the strips on the balloon until it is covered, leaving a hole at the top
5.Set aside and let the balloon dry
6.Place another layer of newspaper dipped in the mixture over the balloon and let dry
7.Repeat with one more layer, making sure you leave the hole at the top
8.When dry, pop and remove the balloon
9.Paint your pinata with different designs and colors
10.If desired, hang colored crepe paper from the sides and bottom
11.Punch 2 small holes in the top near the opening and string a large piece of string through the two holes
12.Fill your pinata (through the hole you left at the top) with candy, toys, or any other fun surprises. You should also fill with strips of newspaper so the surprises are not all in one location
13.Tie your pinata in the air with the string and have fun!

You can be very creative with this project. You can design your pinata into any shape (animal, flower, etc,) with your imagination. Use thick colored paper filled with scrunched up newspaper and glue or tape to add any details to your basic pinata structure.

5. Dance the night away. The night isn’t complete without some Mexican folk dancing, or grupos folkoloricos.

How did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

May 5, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

May The Fourth Be With You

May 4th, according to Wikipedia, is a holiday celebrated by geeks and geekettes all over the wold in honor of Star Wars.

While I’m a day late in preparing for this year’s festivities, it isn’t too late to begin preparing for next year. Luckily, Williams Sonoma makes it easy to host a Star Wars party. Whether you have the time to create your own treats, or you find yourself only having time to open the bag, they have something that will appeal to all Young Jedi.

Some of my favorites include:

L to R: Heroes and Villains Cookie Cutters ($19.95); Darth Vader Flexible Spatula ($12.00); Sandwich Cutters with Vintage Tin ($19.95) 

L to R: Cupcake Decorating Kit Galactic Empire ($12.00-$19.95); Heroes and Villains Pancake Molds ($19.95); Mini Iced Cookies ($22.95)

If you are looking for some serious party inspiration, take a look at JustJennrecipes.com’s pictures from her recent Star Wars party…Hans Solo in Carbonite Jell-O, Cloud City Pops, Spicy Yoda Ears, Ewok Food…her ideas (and blog) are truly fantastic.

*As previously mentioned, this is day 1 of 5 great days in a row to host a party*

May 5, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

I’m Back!

As the title says – I’m back. I took a break from blogging to see if this is in fact something I really want to do – and guess what? I missed it. Dearly. Not to mention, I spent numerous nights out with friends being teased about how long it was since I posted and how they missed the blog. Embarrassed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

So, what made me come back today: 5 straight days of partying to blog about!

I’m humbly sorry to my regular readers that I left you for so long . Hopefully you will forgive me and come back as readers. I’m ready to put 150% into this blog so look out for great tips, party ideas and lots of recipes (with a few random posts thrown in to keep it fresh). As always, if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them.

xxx, Jen

May 5, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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