Category Archives: Happy Hour

Appetizer / Favorite Things / Happy Hour / Savory

Easy Appetizers for a Crowd

November 6, 2013

We had my sister, brother and their significant others over for Halloween last week.  And while I did have a big dinner plan, I didn’t know when everyone would be showing up exactly, due to work, traffic, etc.  Because of this, I put together a little cheese appetizer spread to tide us all over until everyone arrived and dinner was ready.

This is something I put together often — usually about once a week.  Alexis generally comes over on Fridays after work for happy hour, and I’ll throw together a quick appetizer spread with whatever I’ve got in my cheese drawer and in the cupboards.

cheese spreadFor this particular spread, I had Camembert, Comte, Emmenthaler, and a chunk of some sort of swiss that was leftover from a previous night.  I also put out some of my mom’s homemade tomato jam (it’s delicious), honey, salami, turkey, and one of the green tomatoes from our CSA box, that I sliced up.  I added a pomegranate that I had broken apart just to make things look festive and seasonal (not to mention colorful!).  Then I served it all with some Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps (these are Trader Joe’s seasonal take on the more expensive Raincoast Crisps — which I love), regular water crackers, and some broken apart Rosemary Sea Salt Flatbread Crackers (also from Trader Joe’s).

Obviously, the giant bowl of Halloween candy is optional for a gathering — but I’ll tell ya, it was quite the hit at ours!

DIY / Happy Hour

Bar Cart DIY, part 2

October 1, 2013

Wasn’t that so rude how I totally left you hanging yesterday? OMG I KNOW. BUT, it makes today’s post so much more dramatic! (Not really, but let’s pretend!)

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how this project started:

photoAh yes, the tetanus cart.

And here’s the finished product:

photo (5)Because nothing goes better with bright green chairs than a farmhouse red bar cart, right? Right.

Obviously, there were a few steps in between the rust heap that we started with and the dazzling display of liquor goodness that we ended up with, so here’s how I did it:

How to Paint Metal (for non-crafty, whiney, non-DIYers like me)

Materials:

  1. I sanded the surface of the cart a bit to try and smooth out some of the unevenness. By “a bit,” I mean “barely at all,” because I hate sanding.
  2. Wipe down the cart and make sure all dust is removed.
  3. Cover wheels with plastic and tape in place (since you won’t want to paint those). *This was super annoying and KC finally stepped in an did it for me after I whined for like 10 minutes straight. (Like I said: not crafty, not patient.)
  4. Spray at least two solid coats of primer, allowing at least 30 minutes in between each coat to dry. Touch up after each coat.
  5. Spray at least two solid coats of paint, allowing at least 30 minutes in between each coat to dry. Touch up after each coat.

Ideally, you wouldn’t want to leave the cart out in the rain at this point — but that’s exactly what we did (not exactly on purpose). We had both been working outside (me: painting a metal cart, him: assembling an outdoor heat lamp and helping me with the annoying parts of painting a metal cart), and decided to grab Thai food after finishing up our projects. I asked if we should move the cart inside to dry, since it looked like it might rain. KC assured me that it wouldn’t rain and said we should just leave it outdoors.

It totally got rained on.

Luckily, this Rustoleum business seems to be pretty amazing and waterproof (one of the major reasons I chose it), so the cart wasn’t worse for wear at all.

So here are some of the steps in picture form:

Primed:

photo (2)

Painted:

photo (4)photo (3)

Ready for business:

photo(1)

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Date Night at Home / Dinner / Happy Hour / Savory / Snack / weekend

Date Night at Home Ideas: Dinner, continued

March 25, 2013

I have to admit that one of the things I love about going out to dinner is all the courses you can order.  Generally, I’ll have an ordering strategy before we even make it to the table at a restaurant — one that enables me to try a lot of the dishes on the menu.  (Luckily, KC is generally very amenable to letting me choose what we order.  He’s a keeper, that one.)  Obviously, when you’re having a date night at home, having to prepare all those courses would take up a lot of your precious time that you’d much rather spend gazing at your sweetie.  Or downing another cocktail.

One of the ways to get around the time in the kitchen/I want to eat more than one thing dilemma, is to create an appetizer spread for your date night.  Appetizers are fabulous, because they’re not too big (allowing you to eat a lot of different things without ending up feeling like you’ve swallowed some kind of large sea mammal), and generally don’t require too much prep time.

Here’s a spread I put together for KC’s birthday last year:

appetizer spreadIt may look impressive and time-consuming, but it’s really just three main things.

1. Cheese Board

I always start off with a cheese board, because a. I love cheese, and b. it requires zero cooking.  My general rules for a cheese board are to display 3-4 cheeses + toppings + pickled item(s) + bread/crackers.

Cheese: I like to have at least one soft/creamy cheese (goat or brie, generally), one hard cheese (like an aged gouda or cheddar), one semi-hard cheese (like a comte or emmentaler), and/or one semi-soft cheese (like havarti or jarlsberg).

Toppings: I’ll generally do at least one type of meat (turkey, salami, and prosciutto are my go-to’s), tomatoes, and condiments (I love honey with goat cheese, grainy mustard adds a nice kick to semi-hard cheeses, jam is wonderful with certain types of brie, and TJ’s just started selling quince paste — I couldn’t pass that up!).  Other things like sliced fruit, nuts, and roasted peppers are also nice additions.

Pickled Items: There’s something about pickled things that I automatically associate with a cheese spread.  Also, things that are pickled last forever in the fridge, making them easy to keep on hand.  I almost always have cornichons (I’m obsessed) and green olives laying around; but you can always include other types of olives and/or pickled veggies as well (carrots, mushrooms, peppers, etc.)

2. Veggies and Dip

I like to include a vegetable-centered appetizer, to provide a little relief (and peace of mind) from the cheese + carb happenings which generally dominate my table.  My favorite one to serve is crudite with green goddess dressing.

IMG_1258

Green Goddess Dressing

  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I like Fage 2%)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use full-fat mayo)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 anchovy filet or 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 scallions, tops and bottoms removed, then cut into thirds
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves (basically a few handfuls)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper
  1. Using a regular or hand blender, combine all ingredients together, then blend until fully combined and pureed.
  2. Serve with any combination of sliced: carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, snap peas, zucchini, cherry or grape tomatoes, radishes… whatever you can think of.  It’s not great with celery though, just take my word for it.

3. Something Hot

Obviously none of the above requires any real cooking, so I like to include something warm to balance out the room-temp cheese plate and cold veggies + dip.  To make things easy on yourself, you could prepare a hot dip which could be served with the same bread you’re using for the cheese plate (artichoke dip yummmm).  Here I made ricotta crostini with prosciutto.

IMG_2130

Ricotta Crostini with Prosciutto

  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tub whole milk ricotta (I think it’s generally 12 or 16 oz)
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or lemon zest (use zest if you like it more lemony)
  • 1 small bunch mint, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup peas (fresh or frozen, defrosted)
  • prosciutto (thin slices cut into thirds)
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Lay out sliced baguette in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, turning to coat.  Bake 8-12 minutes, until browned and crispy, turning once halfway through.
  3. While the bread is baking, stir together ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice or zest, mint, and peas, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When bread is done baking, top slices with ricotta mixture, then top with prosciutto.

Budget-Friendly Weekend Fun / Cocktails / Date Night at Home / Drinks / Gluten-Free / Happy Hour / Sweet / Vegan / Vegetarian

Date Night at Home Ideas: Cocktails

March 21, 2013

Now that I’m sure y’all are gung-ho to have your very own date nights at home, I thought I’d post some recipes and/or links to a few ideas for the various parts of the evening.

Part 1: Cocktails

Let’s get liquored up.

  1. Mixed Citrus Margaritasmarg
  2. Skinny Mojitos: in a highball glass, muddle together the juice of 1/2 a lime + 1 tsp sugar + a few mint leaves.  Add 1 shot vodka (or gin, or rum) and ice.  Top with sparkling water.IMG_2162
  3. The Cuke: in a pitcher, combine and muddle 1 English cucumber, sliced + 3 limes, sliced + juice of 2 limes + 1/2 cup sugar + big bunch of mint.  Add 2 cups gin, then let sit for at least 30 minutes.  When ready to serve, pour over ice and top with sparkling water.IMG_2134
  4. Blended Strawberry Lemonade Margaritas: in a blender, combine 1 3/4 cups lemonade + 1/2 bag frozen strawberries + 1 cup tequila (silver recommended) + juice of 1 lime + small bunch of mint + squeeze of agave (optional).  Blend and serve.IMG_2045
  5. Vodka Lemon Sparkler: to make sparkling lemonade, combine 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice + 1/4 cup sugar + 5 cups sparkling water.  Add 1 shot vodka to a glass with ice, top with lemonade and serve.IMG_1678

Cocktails / Dairy-Free / Drinks / Gluten-Free / Happy Hour / Sweet / Vegetarian

Mixed Citrus Margaritas

February 11, 2013

A quick post to start off your Valentine’s week.  This drink pairs perfectly with the recipe I’ll be posting later this week — a hot and spicy (not to mention easy) meal for you and your valentine.  Yum!

marg

Mixed Citrus Margaritas

makes 4 cocktails

  • 1/2 cup tequila (I recommend using a silver tequila in these — I like Milagro)
  • 1/2 cup triplesec or cointreau
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice (plus extra lime wedges for serving)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 orange (or other citrus of your choice — tangerine or 1/2 a grapefruit would be delish)
  • 1-2 cups ice (add 1 cup for an “on the rocks” margarita, add more for “blended”)
  • Optional: salt to rim the edge of your glasses
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, then blend to your desired consistency.
  2. Take a lime wedge and use it rim the edge of your cocktail glasses, then dip the edge into salt to create a salted rim (if desired).
  3. Pour margarita into a cocktail glass over ice, garnish with a lime wedge.

These margaritas are great because they’re fresh and citrusy, as opposed to thick and sugary (as I often find restaurant margaritas to be — blech).  And no added sugar means you can have as many as you want!

Let’s get schnockered and make out.