I love trying new things, especially when it comes to dips. This sweet pea hummus surprised me on so many levels. Firstly, it’s made out of sweet peas instead of chic peas, which gives it a sweet and lovely taste. Secondly, it is super easy to make… you don’t have to soak or prep anything. In fact, it took me less time to make the dip than it did prepping the vegetables for the veggie board.
I used a Vitamix, but feel free to use a food processor instead. In fact, I think you will be happier with the texture if you like your dips a bit more chunky rather than creamy.
Another thing I love about this recipe, is its very customizable. Feel free to play with the ingredients as much as you like. I used mint for my herbs, but try it with basil or rosemary and see if you prefer those herbs more. Also, I recommend you use fresh herbs instead of dried. Unfortunately, we are going through challenging times now and my grocery store does not always have all the items I need. But that’s okay… this dip is very forgiving. I also love to use the juice of a whole lemon in my dip, but I recommend you start with a half a lemon and evaluate the taste. When it comes to peas, use the frozen variety (instead of canned) and follow package instructions on cooking them.
Last but not least, salting this dip is the biggest thing you should consider. I did not use an entire TBSP of salt, however, I do salt my dips strongly. Although it may taste salty when I try it on its own, once you dip vegetables into it, you need some seasoning to make it stand apart from the veggie. If you are using salted crackers or chips, you can ease up on the salt. But if you are serving raw veggies, you may want to add some kick to it with more salt than usual or even a spice or two for some extra heat.
For a full video of this recipe, click below:
2 cups of sweet peas (Frozen peas are best for this recipe)
1/4th cup of olive oil
2 TBSP mint (Fresh mint is preferred but you can use dried mint if fresh is not available)
1-3 Cloves of garlic (Depending on your garlic tolerance)
Salt to taste (Be ready to use a lot if you are planning on dipping veggies into the dip. If you are using salted crackers or chips, you will need a lot less salt.)
Juice of a half a lemon
Prepare the frozen sweet peas according to package instruction.
Once the peas are prepared and cooled, put them in either a food processor or a Vitamix with a bit of olive oil, garlic and mint.
Start pulsing and add olive oil if necessary. Start salting as you are pulsing. Stop and scrape the mixture.
Periodically taste the mixture to see how much salt you need. Make it slightly salty if you are serving with veggies and less salty for crackers.
Add lemon juice. Feel free to add more lemon if you find it necessary.
Once the mixture is at the texture and taste you prefer, empty it into a dip bowl and enjoy.
If you’ve never heard of tapenade, it’s a Provençal name for a dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, and anchovies. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas.
What I love most about this dish is that it is easy to make, healthy, and can be used as a filling or a dip. You can also easily make it vegan (simply omit the anchovies) and still maintain the integrity of the recipe.
I was inspired to create this dish while visiting St. George, Utah and enjoying lunch at a local restaurant named Xetava. Their tapenade was served with Lavash crackers and I fell in love with it. So, when I got back home to St. Louis, my first thought was to try re-creating the recipe but adding my own twists. The beautify of tapenade is that it is very customizable and you don’t even have to have the exact measurements to make it. Just know that black olives (you can use green as well or mix the two) are going to be your main foundation. I typically start out by using a full cup of olives which I rough chop, and add ingredients little by little tasting and chopping the mixture as I go. If I’m throwing a party, I’ll add just one clove of garlic for flavor. If I’m making the tapenade for myself, to have for lunch, I can add up to three cloves of garlic… I LOVE GARLIC! I do the same with lemon juice. I can add the juice of a half a lemon if I’m making the appetizer to take to a party or add the entire lemon if I’m making it for myself. Just depends on how I’m feeling that day or who I will be serving it to.
The key to this recipe is to taste as you go. Once you hit your perfect flavor, you can finish it and serve. And don’t forget to put your own twists on this recipe. Some people add roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and so much more. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients, herbs, and seasonings. This dish allows you to customize as much as you like.
Most people use a food processor to make this. However, I just chop by hand as I go. Each time I add an ingredient, I mix it into the mixture and continue chopping. By the time I add the last ingredient, my tapenade is chopped to the consistency I want. To see all my techniques for this recipe, here’s a link to a full video.
Last but not least, I decided to omit the bread and instead, serve the tapenade in mushrooms (these mushrooms are fresh, not cooked). It makes for a filling dish that not only tastes fabulous but also good for you. If you omit the anchovies, this dish becomes vegan. If you’ve never worked with mushrooms, watch the video, which I linked above. It will show you tips on working with mushrooms.
Below is the recipe as I like to make it, but feel free to add more or less of each ingredient… if you hate anchovies, don’t use them. If you love capers, use more. Same goes for any of the ingredients listed below. As long as you are using olives as your foundation… you are good!
1 cup of black or green olives 2-3 anchovies 1/4 cup of capers Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 cloves of garlic 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil 1/4 cup of olive oil 10-12 fresh mushrooms (peeled and cored)
There are few things that get me excited more than cheesecake. It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures and to be honest, one of the easiest desserts I have ever made. Sure, it takes a bit of time to bake, cool, and set but since I love to prepare most of my party food a day or two prior to the actual party, cheesecakes are the ideal make ahead dessert. And once you’ve figured out the basic techniques, you can go crazy with the flavors with just a few tweaks here and there.
Best of all, this particular cheesecake is a bit “out of the box” since it incorporates bananas. Plus, it’s so easy to decorate. With a bit of whipped cream (home made or store bought), lemon soaked bananas, and vanilla wafers, you will be able to create a gorgeous dessert without having to be a professional cake decorator.
If you are visual, you will enjoy watching my YouTube tutorial where I show you all the preparation techniques. The link is below. Enjoy!
1 1/2 Cups Finely Crushed Vanilla Wafers 1/2 Cups of crushed cashews 1/4 Cup of melted butter 19 Vanilla Wafers (or enough to fit entirely around your springform pan) 3-4 Ripe bananas (diced) Juice of one lemon 2 Tbsp of brown sugar 3 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese, softened 1 Cup of granulated sugar 3 Large eggs 2 tsp of vanilla extract 1/2 cup of crushed/broken vanilla wafers
Garnishes: Sweetened whipped cream, vanilla wafers, sliced bananas tossed in lemon juice
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a food processor, process vanilla wafers, cashews, and melted butter. Once it is well blended, press mixture onto the bottom of a greased and floured springform pan. Stand 17-19 vanilla wafers around the springform pan, pressing gently into crust to secure. Put the springform pan on a baking sheet (to prevent butter from leaking on to the bottom of your oven) and bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely for approximately 30 minutes.
Combine bananas and lemon juice in a small sauce-pan. Add brown sugar and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the sugar has melted into the mixture, approximately 1-2 minutes.
Beat cream cheese at low to medium speed. Make sure your cream cheese is softened since it will help prevent cracks in the cream cheese during the baking process. Once the cream cheese is ready, gradually add eggs, beating until blended. Make sure to add eggs one at a time and wait until each egg has fully blended into the mixture. Add vanilla. Add the cooked banana mixture. Pour batter into the prepared crust.
Bake at 350 (on a baking sheet) for 55-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove cheesecake from oven; gently run a knife around the edge of cheesecake to loosen. Let cool for 20-30 minutes then sprinkle the top of cheesecake with crushed wafers. Remove cheesecake from springform pan. Cool completely for an hour. Place in refrigerator, cover, and chill for 8 hours.
As many of you know, I am obsessed with anything party, so when this annual event rolls around in the spring, I’m the first to get my tickets. Best of all, proceeds benefit the Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Endowment Fund for Camp Rhythm, a summer camp specially designed for children with heart problems. Why do I love it so much? Because so many fabulous St. Louis designers create spectacular tables that literally blow my mind! When I published St. Louis Entertains magazine, I also participated in this event and Sandra Fulton, our floral designer, created a fruit/citrus themed table. Here is a link to another blog post featuring this event. Click Here To See It
The theme for 2017 was special events. Special events such as baby showers, birthdays, holidays, weddings, etc. Each table chose the event they wanted to design and went all in! There were many beautiful tables, but I have to say, these are my very favorites. So without further delay, here they are!
If you are from St. Louis, you may be familiar with one of the most beautiful stores in the area, Mary Tuttle’s. Located in Chesterfield, Missouri, it has become one of the “must see” retail establishments in the area. Why, you may ask? Because the people who work there, sales associates, designers, and floral artists, have created a home decor oasis that is unlike anything you have ever seen.
This fall, they did not disappoint with a table dedicated to a garden harvest theme.
The designer who created this table was Michael. He’s sort of a living legend at Mary Tuttle’s. He’s worked at the store for many years and has truly created a legendary flair.
Micheal’s creation has WOWed everyone, including myself. As someone who has enjoyed and studied table scapes for many years, I can truly appreciate the creativity that went into this design. Here are my top five favorite design tactics which Michael has incorporated into this table.
As you can probably tell, this table is a retail display, so it may not be designed to fit a realistic table setting. However, I love Michael’s concept of layering. He has used serving platters as placemats. Which, in and of itself, is a unique approach to setting the table. I also love how he layered the centerpiece. With olive trees for height, and the green leaves for fullness at the base. Within the leaves, he added another layer of pumpkins, gourds, and acorns to mimic a garden where you would harvest your favorite items.
STICK WITH A LIMITED PALETTE
Michael used green as his dominant color and brown as his secondary color. Perfect to elicit a feeling of earth and nature. Also, these colors tend to be soothing and relaxing. He infused additional fall colors but only slightly, in the most interesting way, to draw your eye around the table.
BRING IN A FUN SURPRISE
Incorporating a “surprise” element is always welcomed! I love this concept with interior decor, food preparation, and all aspects of entertaining. Guests love it when they “discover” something on the table. Michael used a whimsy surprise by incorporating these adorable wool lambs at every place setting. Each lamb carries a pumpkin and is covered in fall leaves. They were hand-crafted by a local artist who creates these lambs throughout the year.
ADD THEMATIC ELEMENTS
Of course, you cannot create a “fall” table without incorporating decor that is reflective of fall. Michael did that by bringing in Plush Pumkin (R) pumpkins to the place settings.
These pumpkins are soft and beautiful and would be perfect as gifts for your dinner guests to take home. Or, they can remove them from the plate and set them on to the center of the table, adding to the centerpiece.
DO SOMETHING OUT OF THE ORDINARY
Although we’ve already covered the “element of surprise” I do love it when the host or hostess take something that we are very accustomed to and think out of the box. With this table, Michael took the napkins, which we are accustomed to seeing somewhere on the table, and placed it hanging off the chair. So CLEVER!!
If you would like to see more beautiful entertaining ideas. Stop by Mary Tuttle’s, in Chesterfield Missouri. No matter the season, they are sure to have beautiful inspiration from Michael and the entire design staff.
My friend, Jane, has incredible taste and she happens to be a fabulous hostess. When she invited a small group of friends for a Chanukah celebration, no one knew what to expect, since none of us celebrated Chanukah. Jane made sure to tell us prior to the evening, that we weren’t expected to do anything special, just to come and enjoy the beautiful dinner she prepared for us.
First, I noticed the elegance of the table. Jane didn’t dress the table with a lot of items, just a few beautiful elements that played off each other. Her centerpiece was a wire and bead art piece which traveled across the table. Her placemats mimicked the look with a silver wire design. Jane also mixed her metals to bring in the gold of the chocolate coins and the silver of the table decor. Of course, she brought in some blue with the small votives at each place setting.
The menu was full of home-made foods which looked beautiful but simple to prepare.
To end the evening, we toasted champagne and mentioned how grateful we were to have each other in our lives. I love experiencing my friends’ hospitality. As always, Jane did an outstanding job creating a warm and loving atmosphere which we all cannot wait to experience again.
My friend Rachel has a saying…”It’s not Thanksgiving at Arina’s until the Golden Turkey Appears!”
She’s right, when the golden turkey makes its way to the kitchen, Thanksgiving can officially commence! Of course, I start displaying the golden turkey waaaayyy before Thanksgiving. We change its placement in accordance to the party theme. For cocktail parties, you’ll find it at the bar or appetizer table. For family dinners, we’ll display it on the buffet section of the kitchen. Sometimes, I’ll even place it in odd little nooks just to be funny, it’s a lot like an elf on a shelf except you can touch it, rub it, reposition it, bend it, and pretty much have fun with it! It’s quite the conversation piece.
We acquired this big bird at a garage sale and I probably paid $3 for it. Ironically, it has given us so much entertainment and fun that it has become one of our cherished family pieces. I know my boys will be fighting over who gets the golden turkey (HA! Probably not!).
I guess my point is, consider having one or two fun pieces that you traditionally display during the holidays. In addition to the expensive crystal, fine china, or grandmother’s silver, maybe you too can find yourself a golden turkey!
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.
I truly enjoy working with Mary Tuttle’s, a beautiful home décor and fresh flower retailer in Chesterfield, Missouri. I’ve worked for them for over seven years creating their marketing campaigns and developing their marketing strategies. Walking into their store is like walking into a magazine. Every nook is filled with inspiration on interior design and entertaining.
Each year, they are part of a tabletop event for a local St. Louis publication. This year, they chose to create a holiday table with the centerpiece that didn’t include a Santa, Christmas Wreath, or Christmas Tree. This year, their centerpiece was a bunny. A cute stone bunny that was tied with a burlap bow, wearing a necklace of cranberries, nestled inside a tartan napkin filled punch bowl… and I’m not done yet…sitting on top of a cake plate covered in pine clippings. Yes, that was the centerpiece and it was DIVINE!!!
The tablecloth was a simple burlap and the place settings were all different, with primarily holiday themed Juliska plates in Country Estate Winter Frolic. Even the wine glasses were different which added a casual feel to the table which still looked festive and holiday themed.
I love the new tartan napkins and beautiful napkin rings. And of course, a gold votive at every pacesetting is such a wonderful touch.
So for your holidays this year, step out of the box a bit and bring out those bunnies to create something unique and unforgettable! Oh, and most importantly, if you live in St. Louis, stop by Mary Tuttle’s and get inspired with a lot more creative ideas.
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.