November 16th, 2018
Family at the Thanksgiving Table
Simple Thanksgiving Decor
Each year, my sister Anna, volunteers to host Thanksgiving and our family gathers at her home to celebrate the holiday. Anna is a wonderful hostess, I’ve said this many times. She and I are always stealing each other’s ideas and recipes. Unlike me, Anna does things very simply with a relaxed feel but always seems to WOW her guests. She never seems to stress over the details. Even the few times she’s asked me for help, Anna always seems relaxed and at ease while I’m running around stressing over pretty much everything. Nevertheless, we always seem to pull off a great party and when working together, we make a good team.
During this particular celebration, her table was simple with red placemats and a bouquet of fresh flowers. However, she added candlelight as her main decor element, creating a soft, warm, and quiet atmosphere. She used different style and height crystal candleholders which were set on mirror tiles to reflect the light. She also placed some candles in her silver candleholders on the back buffet. Last but not least, she added some votives to bring various levels of height. It looked so beautiful.
This look was very minimal but definitely brought the WOW factor.
Smoked Salmon Appetizers
It’s no secret, our family is ALL ABOUT THE APPETIZERS… Anna always prepares a wonderful appetizer spread that is easy and festive. Above are the smoked salmon appetizers which she serves at practically every function. They are served on small pieces of bread, smothered in plain cream cheese and topped off with a generous slice of smoked salmon. She finishes by sprinkling green onion on top and watches them disappear off the plate in a matter of minutes.
Veggie Plate and Hummus Dip
I’m always in charge of the veggie plates and dip.
Veggie Plate and Basil Hummus
This veggie plate featured my favorite basil hummus which I make for practically EVERY occasion.
I also love bringing my beet hummus which adds a vibrant color to an otherwise boring cracker bowl.
The dinner is typically traditional with turkey, cranberry source, her famous mixed roasted vegetables, and of course, mashed potatoes. Here’s my son and my parents enjoying her delicious buffet.
Last but not least, the dessert always comes from The Smoke House Market, which is a wonderful store in Chesterfield, Missouri. It is affiliated with Annie Gunns, which is a famous steak house in St. Louis, and sells many of their freshly prepared food creations. Their pies are in HIGH DEMAND during the holidays and since my niece worked there, we always had fresh pies for Thanksgiving… with a bit of vanilla ice cream on top.
All in all, my sister does a fantastic job with Thanksgiving. And I’m alway impressed with how beautifully and seamlessly she executes this annual celebration.
November 7th, 2018
I have a wonderful friend named Rachel who is obsessed with Smitten Kitchen. Rachel invited us to a fabulous bagel brunch at her home. The bagels were from a famous local bakery where they make water bagels and we were excited to finally sample a few. Rachel not only supplied the delicious bagels, but she also made several outstanding recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Dash and Bella. First, she made Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms. They turned out delicious! Secondly, she prepared a Persimmon Salad which not only tasted fabulous but was also one of the most beautiful salads I have ever seen. Rachel outdid herself and I had to share some photos as well as links to both the recipes. So, if hosting a brunch is in your future, the recipes in this post will be outstanding.
October 29th, 2018
Spooky Bloodied Eye Punch
Recently, I attended a SPOOKY book club which was beautifully organized by a mom from our school. “How did you do all this, Mini”, everyone asked. Mini wasn’t secretive about how she was able to create such a fabulous buffet while being a working mom…. she outsourced everything!
As a hostess who loves to outsource myself, I always keep an eye out for great places to contact when I am throwing my own shindig. Mini contacted Straub’s, which is a local supermarket that specializes in gourmet food. The book we discussed was Educated by Tara Westover, which is a wonderful book… I highly recommend it! But I have to admit, the highlight to my evening was the beautiful way Mini entertained her room full of guests and the delicious accompaniments to the wonderful book discussion.
I loved the stuffed mushrooms and the melted cheese with chutney. The chicken skewers were also easy to eat and delicious. However, my favorite part of the appetizer buffet was the Bloody Eye Punch. It was a mixture of juices topped of with a little champagne.
October 16th, 2018
Pumpkin cake I ordered at Sam’s
As you may or may not know, I love to throw my two sons Halloween parties. I invite tons of kids and their parents and it becomes a fun potluck. I ask the parents to bring one Halloween dish they would love to showcase and they NEVER disappoint. Here are some of the fun and easy Halloween dishes the parents brought to the party.
Healthy monster jaws.
I love these delicious apple, peanut butter, and marshmallow treats made to look like monster jaws. The mom also added a fruit roll-up as the tongue. This was a fun treat for the kids.
Monster, ghost, and pumpkin cookies from Sam’s
If you know me, you know that I outsource as much as I can, especially baked goods. When it comes to my annual Halloween parties, my favorite place to outsource from is Sam’s. I order my Halloween cakes from there as well as any thematic cookies. I would imagine Costco has the same fun desserts, but either way, buying in bulk is always a great thing for parties, so I highly recommend it! Best of all, these cookies were a fraction of what I would pay for custom designed cookies.
Dirt n’ Worms
You cannot help but fall in love with this adorable dessert created by my friend Zalina. Dirt n’ Worms! I love how she used fun black kettle containers. Needless to say, I don’t think we had any left over!! They are filled with chocolate mousse (or you can use pudding), crumbled Oreo cookes, and gummy bears.
Monster Eye Cake Pops
My friend Tara did NOT disappoint with these fun and funny Monster Eye Cake Pops! We all know how hard it is to make cake pops look perfect… well, with this theme, the more imperfect the eye is, the better! She made a regular cake pop mixture, rolled it, and dipped it in candy melts. Last but not least, she popped a candy eye on top and VOILA!!!
Fruit ghosts and pumpkins
Seriously… can these be any cuter? My friend Jenna created these adorable tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts. Adorable and healthy!!
Spider Web Dip
I’ve made spider web dips before, but mine NEVER came out so cute! This was a delicious seven layer dip created by my friend who is an incredible entertainer. This Halloween dip was a HIT and was the perfect savory accompaniment to all the sweet items on the buffet. DELICIOUS!!
Some of the kids enjoying the Halloween buffet.
The calm before the storm. This was early on in the party when just a few kids arrived. I typically have fifteen or more people hanging out in my kitchen which include adults and children. When the party starts, everything is so well organized and displayed. By the end of the party…. it’s not a pretty site!
Halloween Bat Wings
My friend created these fun Halloween Bat Wings from Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Oreo Cookies, and candy eyes. They are ADORABLE!
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
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?
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.