October 10th, 2018
Loving this beautiful Halloween Cake with Green and purple witches fingers.
I have thrown fun Halloween parties for many years. I usually throw a party every week in October… yes, every Friday, I will have some sort of a Halloween party. I like to call them “taste testing parties” since the guests are bombarded with fun Halloween goodies and they get to choose their favorites. Sometimes I create all the items for the buffet, but most of the time, other parents bring their creations and we all just watch the kids devour their favorites. It has become one of my most fun and exciting events which I look forward to. As you will see, I try not to do anything super scary, although I have been known to create some gory dishes on occasion (like my severed fingers hot dogs, which is a Pinterest favorite!).
Here are some fun photos from one of my parties, which I like to call Purple Witch’s Finger Cake (shown above). You may say… “Why Arina, I had no idea you were a cake baker!” Well, rest assured… I AM NOT!!! If you know me, you know that I am well aware of my limits. Throwing a party for 60 children means I do as much outsourcing as possible. This cake was ordered from Sam’s and I simply chose it from one of their cake catalogs, available in the bakery section.. It came with the purple, green, and white frosting, clouds and bats. The cake bakers did a great job making a two tiered cake. There were times when I would order the three tiered ones, but they always came out crooked, so I stick with the two tiered cakes.
To customize it to be a Witch’s Cake, I went to Michael’s and purchased the fingers and witch silhouettes separately. I have NO idea how the colors came out so perfectly, but even if they didn’t match, … my motto is and will always be… kids don’t care! I was very happy with the cake and so was everyone else. Oh, and it was soooo affordable, only $40!
Cake with fun Halloween plates, my friend Heidi gifts me with every year.
My sons’ decorations.
Buffet set-up for Halloween Party
I typically do a buffet set-up and provide the cake and a few other dishes. Then, the parents of the guests bring their favorites. Parents are always invited to the parties and are encouraged to stay and enjoy the festivities.
Here are some of the fun and creative Halloween inspired desserts created by my guests’ parents.
Adorable cupcake ghosts created by my friend Deborah.
Cheese Stick Ghosts… so clever and easy!
My friend Nina prepared these wonderful and healthy cucumber eyes made with cucumber slices, cream cheese, and black olives. She sprinkled a bit of cumin for the “red”
These wonderful Donut Monsters were created by my friend Maureen, who is incredibly creative and no stranger to wonderful Halloween parties. Apparently, they took her no time to create. She purchased ready-made donuts, then stuck fake teeth and skeleton arms inside them and some candy eyes. That’s it! The kids loved playing with the fake teeth afterwards and took them all home as favors.
Yummy and healthy pumpkin bread, prepared by my friend Dana.
This is such a wonderful and easy Halloween dessert, created by my friend Nicole. They are witch’s brooms. Two ingredients … Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups and Pretzel sticks… you’re done!
This skeleton appears in different parts of the house at every party. At this party, he’s hanging out in the sunroom!
I re-use many of my decorations at each Halloween Party. As I said, kid’s don’t care and there is really no reason for me to keep buying decorations when I have plenty stored away from my previous parties. Sometimes, I even get decorations gifted to me by other moms who’s kids may no longer be living at home. I truly believe that re-puposing and re-using, as well as borrowing is the best way to decorate for a party.
Fun table place settings
· Posted in Buffet, Decadent Desserts, Desserts, Food Holidays, Guilt Free Party Snacks, Halloween, Parties, Party Hacks ·
October 9th, 2018
As I was going through my photos, I stumbled upon this beautiful fall wedding which I think is wonderful to showcase during my October post. My husband’s cousin, Elliot, married the love of his life, Dawn, in St. Louis. Their reception was at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens and it was spectacular. I loved all the beautiful fall details as well as the personal touches Dawn incorporated into their wedding design. Beautifully done, Dawn and Elliot!
My husband and I enjoying the setting at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens wedding reception.
Wedding dinner buffet filled with a large assortment of delicious cheeses, fruit, and appetizers.
Dawn and Elliot’s dinner buffet was overflowing with delicious menu items which included fruit, nuts, crackers, breads, and lots and lots of different kinds of artisanal cheeses as well as a huge selection of hot appetizers.
Hot d’oeuvres were also served and they were absolute perfection!
Bite sized sandwiches as well as shrimp cocktail shots were also on the buffet. They were displayed with such clever creativity.
More hot d’oeuvres! Bacon wrapped scallops… YES! I love how the serving platters are all different.
The reception was outside, the weather was perfect, and what a beautiful view!
Love this simple yet creative centerpiece. You don’t have to spend a ton of money for perfection! LOVE IT!!
Obsessed with this pumpkin cart filled with white pumpkins for guests to take home. Who doesn’t want an adorable pumpkin to take home and enjoy in October?
Love the chalk-board menu!
· Posted in Appetizer Platters, Appetizers, Cheese, Fall Season, Parties ·
September 27th, 2018
Had book club at my house again and wanted to create a beautiful “fall” appetizer table… but nothing too complicated. I had some hummus left over from the weekend… beet hummus and basil hummus. Additionally, I prepared some quinoa Mexican inspired salad with corn and beans. It was DELICIOUS!!! I also prepared a beet salad because I LOVE to add red to my menu.
For a healthier alternative, I served greens so that people can build a salad foundation with lettuce and spinach and then top it off with the quinoa or beet salad.
The appetizer platter was very simple. It included bread and crackers, for the hummus, as well as various kinds of cheese. Last but not least, I purchased a flatbread at my local supermarket’s frozen food section, right next to the pizzas. It was easy to bake and my friends thought it was a wonderful addition to the table. I mean, who doesn’t love some freshly baked flatbread with their salad?
· Posted in Appetizer Platters, Appetizers, Book Club, Buffet, Cheese, Parties, Salads, Uncategorized, Veggie Platter ·
September 27th, 2018
Appetizer platter and hummus dips
I am obsessed with appetizer platters. I love making them a bit unique and always try to incorporate my own personal twist. We had friends stop by and I wanted to create something that would remind us all of fall. So, I made my three favorite hummus dips … Avocado Hummus, Beet Hummus, and Basil Hummus.
My cheese party platter.
Then, I brought in the different cheeses. I included Cheddar, Parmigiano, Brie, and a super neutral mild cheese. I also added some baked cheese, just for fun.
I also added some fruit, such as pears and grapes, because they seem to be a favorite among this group of friends. Of course, crackers and chips are also a favorite, not only with the cheese but with the hummus dips. The crackers were all store-bought name brand. Nothing fancy or expensive, since this group of friends had no preference for fancy crackers and to be honest, I think they are a total waste of money.
Last but not least, I added some fun elements which my friends may have not expected. A little bit of honey (which is DELICIOUS with the baked cheese) as well as almonds, preserves (for the Brie) and dark chocolate which goes wonderfully with the parmigiana cheese.
· Posted in Appetizer Platters, Appetizers, Cheese, Parties ·
September 25th, 2018
I love it when I get to be chosen to host a parent coffee. Breakfast is such a fun buffet to prepare, although I’m not always keen on waking up super early to get everything organized. The good news, is if you plan it right, you can have mostly everything prepared the night before and simply lay things out the morning of the party.
These photos are from a parent coffee buffet I quickly created.
Deviled eggs, bagels, croissants, and fruit.
I made the spicy deviled eggs the night before, which is perfect because it gave them a chance to really soak in the flavor. The bagels and pastries were purchased that morning, after I dropped the kids off at school. I had also prepared the butter and cream cheese the night before and stored them covered in the fridge.
Quiches, cheese, and crackers.
The simple quiches were made on the morning of. They are super simple to make and best of all, they make the house smell delicious for when the guests arrive. I added the cheese and crackers (because it’s so European and delicious) and as you can tell, they are simply Triscuits and cheddar cheese. Just scooped them out of the packet… nothing too fancy.
All in all, the parent coffee was a huge success and I enjoyed putting it together.
· Posted in Buffet, Parties ·
August 30th, 2018
Beautiful patriotic party by my friend, Gina.
Not long ago, my beautiful friend, Gina, invited me to a creative and patriotic BBQ. Her family created an unforgettable buffet filled with delicious food and beautifully arranged table. She served fruits, vegetables, chips, dips, nuts, and so much more. It was truly unforgettable.
I love how Gina used red, white, and blue bandanas to create a patriotic feel to the party theme. The bandanas served as table runners and had different designs to bring some creative interest.
She also used baskets, melamine, crystal, glass, metal, and other dishes to make a fun eclectic look rather than making everything matchy-matchy.
Being able to use all the items you have in a creative way is one of the best skills a hostess can have. Many times, each piece has a story. I like to ask my friends how they came in possession of certain serving pieces. Sometimes they are fun stories with lots of laughs and others are just simple like “I picked it up at Homegoods or Target”.
Again, bandanas are used as napkins, tying in the decorations from the buffet. Also, her daughter made the place cards and added little fireworks images to tie in with the props they used as place card holders. Just LOVE the creativity!!
· Posted in 4th of July, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Parties, Vegetable Plate ·
August 29th, 2018
I forgot to post this oldie but goodie on my blog. A few years ago I did a fun segment on Better Kansas City on how to create a delicious and easy S’Mores Bar. This idea is super simple and requires very little prep. Prior to my party, I created my platter with the Godiva Chocolate Squares. Then, for the “extras”, I just prepared some sandwich bags filled with the ingredients I wanted to include inside my S’Mores and when it was time to serve, I just quickly put them into white plates and Voila…. DONE!! We used stereos for our fire source inside the house.
Here’s a beautiful Godiva S’Mores Platter. Includes Godiva chocolates, graham crackers, pretzel sticks, marshmallows and more!
· Posted in Decadent Desserts, Desserts, Game Night, Parties, TV Appearances, TV Spots ·
February 16th, 2018
Robin’s beautiful Girls Game Night Buffet filled with a variety of food items to accommodate various dietary options.
I treat invitations to parties a lot like invitations to dance, I NEVER SAY NO! Unless we have a conflict that evening or we’re out of town, I try my best to attend, bring something delicious, and have a fabulous time. However, there are caveats. Brace yourselves, I’m about to share something crazy… I’m not a big fan of game nights… there… I said it! Most people love game nights, but I’m a bit more complicated than most people, especially if the host does not want to disclose what game we’re playing… I guess you can call me a bit of a control freak!
But recently, a friend of mine sent me an invitation to her Girls Game Night. As I always do, I asked “What can I bring?”. She asked me to bring a fruit platter and my mind was immediately at ease because at that moment I knew… FOOD WILL BE SERVED!!
Party food is my weakness, I will show up practically anywhere to partake in delicious party fare. I love seeing what hosts have put together in order to impress their guests or what menu they feel is relevant to their occasion. Yes folks, this is my passion. I especially love appetizers. You can even ask our friends. If you expect my family to come over for dinner, brace yourselves because we will clean off all your appetizer plates, my children included. I’m sure we are breaking some or even ALL the rules of being a good guest, but that’s just the way we are. We may take a few bites from your dinner buffet, but your appetizer set up will disappear! This goes the same when you come to our house for dinner. Most guests are shocked at how many appetizers we put out and truth be told, if we could JUST serve appetizers, we would! So, when I was invited to a party where I knew most of the food will be appetizers (like a game night), there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on that! Plus, Robin is one of those stealth hostesses. She never talks about entertaining, but come to one of her parties, you will be amazed at how she entertains like a pro!
Robin’s Girls Game Night was fabulous. First of all, I have to give her credit, she knew her guest list well. This all female group was sure to have some dietary restrictions. Carb free, gluten sensitivities, vegetarian, and we’re just talking about ME. But there were also guests who just wanted to eat healthy and avoid red meat. Yet again, Robin handled everything like a pro.
Here are the five tips I learned from her party.
DON’T OMIT THE CARBS! Unless you know that every person you are inviting is on a carb-free plan, don’t forget to set a few delicious carbohydrates on the buffet. They help fill people up, plus… they are delicious!
Robin’s beautiful Girls Game Night Buffet filled with a variety of food items to accommodate various dietary options.
2. CONSIDER AN INTERESTING SELECTION OF SALADS. Salad for a game night? Yes, especially when you want to keep it healthy. I’m not a big fan of just finger food on game night, simply because I hate having to clean my game board or game pieces of powdered cheese or red sauce. I’ve read on various blogs that if you can’t eat it with your fingers or a stick, the food item should not be served on game night. I disagree! Having food items which can be eaten with a fork is totally OK. In fact, it gives people the opportunity to take a break, step away from the game table and serve themselves. I loved Robin’s idea of serving pasta, cucumber, and Mediterranean style salads.
Girl’s Game Night Buffet… loved the fruit and vegetable platters. A must at any party!
3. VEGGIE + FRUIT PLATTER ARE ALWAYS WELCOMED. No matter the guest list, a fruit and vegetable platter is a must. These platters can accommodate any guest and bring beautiful color to the table.
4. CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE. This is another great platter to incorporate into any game night buffet. It appeals to the low-carb guest and it’s wonderful accompanied with a complementary wine, if you are planning on serving alcohol.
5. SURPRISE YOUR GUESTS WITH SOMETHING UNIQUE. There’s a significant difference between a girls game night and a super bowl party! You don’t have to think potato skins, chicken wings, pigs in a blanket, meatballs, or the many expected dishes during a sports game night. Women love to be surprised with a unique and healthy dish, something they may even try to prepare on their own in the future. Robin served salmon which paired wonderfully with the hand-crafted olive bread, salads, and vegetables. The presentation was so beautiful and the salmon disappeared! We all wanted the recipe!
· Posted in Appetizers, Cheese, Game Night, Guilt Free Party Snacks, Low Carb, Parties, Salads, Vegetable Plate, Veggie Platter ·
February 14th, 2018
Cheese Fondue, perfect for a Valentine’s Day treat.
Valentine’s Day is a special day in our house. This is the day we have dedicated to two things…expressing our LOVE for each other and making fondue!! Although we love to make fondue on more than one occasions, we’ve had years go by when the fondue pots were no where to be seen, so making fondue a Valentine’s Day tradition in our family, guarantees that no matter how busy we get during the year, there is one day that fondue will DEFINITELY be served! Our fondue meal consists of two courses… the cheese fondue, which we serve with various meats and dippers and a chocolate fondue which also include lots of delicious dippers such as fruit, Rice Krispies, marshmallows, and pretzels.
Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fondue with LOVE dessert plates.
There are also a few other Valentine’s Day traditions we try to incorporate. Our goal is to show our children that you can have a day of love, celebration, and appreciation, even if you are not romantically involved with someone.
Here are a few other traditions we incorporate:
1. GOING AROUND THE TABLE AND TALKING ABOUT WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT EACH PERSON. This is such an easy and fun activity and certainly should not be reserved just for Valentine’s Day. We should tell our family how much we love them, every day… but you have to admit, there is no better day to do it than Valentine’s Day and you can make a point of being especially mushy and lovey! For instance, we talk about what makes each person at the table special and unique. It’s not the easiest thing for some people to talk about (especially my boys), but once they get started, they typically have no problems expressing themselves.
2. BRAINSTORMING ON HOW TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE IN OUR LIVES FEEL LOVED. We enjoy teaching our kids that gestures of kindness and appreciation do not have to be grand or complicated. Sometimes we talk about what they can do for their grandparents (maybe draw a picture or write down some of the things that make their grandparents special). Sometimes we brainstorm on ways to make our friends feel good, especially if they are down or feeling lonely. Even quick gestures of respect, like saying thank you, excuse me, or holding the door open for someone, can generate a smile.
3. WATCH A FUN VALENTINE’S DAY MOVIE AS A FAMILY. Movie night is always fun, but you can make it extra special on Valentine’s Day by snuggling up together on the couch and watching a fun Disney movie such as Lady and The Tramp, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, or even the Sound of Music.
4. HAVE A SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY MEAL TRADITION. For our family, a fondue dinner is our big Valentine’s Day event. But you can create something that is unique and special to your family. What about a red dinner and red dessert (lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs in a red sauce and red velvet cake)? Heart shaped Pizza? Heart shaped pancakes or waffles for breakfast? I read in an article that a man and his wife always had a picnic on Valentine’s Day (they must have lived somewhere warm). Another family started celebrating February 15th, when all the chocolate would go on sale… you have to admit, pretty clever! Whatever you choose, it should be a reflection of what your family loves and enjoys. Even something as simple as sharing a box of chocolate with your loved ones, on Valentine’s Day, can be a memorable tradition.
5. LOVE NOTES. Instead of spending money on commercially made Valentine’s Day cards, encourage your children to write you love notes and you should do the same for them. This tradition doesn’t take much time or money but can be the most valuable of all, especially if your children decide to keep their love notes for years to come!
· Posted in Fondue, Valentine's Day ·
February 10th, 2018
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of being a regular guest on Better Kansas City. Mother’s Day was coming up and the producer wondered what great ideas I may have to save people time and money. I came up with three cake hacks which were easy to implement and didn’t cost a lot. As Lisa Teachman, one of the wonderful Better Kansas City hosts, was preparing for my interview, I was quickly assembling these cakes on set. Believe it or not, this was my easiest assembly EVER! Typically, I’m assembling my food and setting up to the very moment my segment is about to start. This time, it was so easy, I had a chance to even chat a bit with some of the audience members.
My first two hacks were simple store-bought cake decorations. For one, I used fruit. Simply adding some fruit on top and around the cake made for a much prettier presentation than the store-bought cake decorated with sprinkles. My second cake had fresh flowers and feather butterflies. I made sure the roses were organic and were not sprayed with any type of chemicals. The feather butterflies were purchased at Michaels and came on a metal twine which I sterilized and inserted into the cake. None of these items are edible, but if you are having a party and you want to display your dessert, this would be a stunning way to do it. Just remove the flowers and butterflies before you cut and serve the cake. You can also use edible flowers, if they are available in your area.
M & M Magic Waterfall Cake
For the chocolate lover, this M&M Magic Cake is super easy to create and will WOW your guests. Just cover a pretzel stick in chocolate, roll it in M&Ms or Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, and insert it into the cake. Arrange candy to look like a waterfall and pool the rest around the cake. Place the wrapper of the candy on top of the pretzel and it will look like the candy is cascading directly from the wrapper. Trust me, you’ll get ooooh and ahhhs from your guests.
· Posted in Desserts, Party Hacks, TV Appearances, TV Spots ·