celebration · Uncategorized

Bachelorette Parties – A Recipe for Success

If you are in your twenties or early thirties it is inevitable that you will have one of those years where every weekend is devoted to weddings.  Your calendar will be filled with showers and ceremonies, or trips to the Bed Bath and Beyond bridal registry.  This is my year, people, I am experiencing a wedding filled 2017.  I am in three weddings, and invited to attend many more.  I didn’t know I had so many friends!  But I honestly shouldn’t complain, one of my college friends had a year where she was either in or attended 11 weddings!  But even with my whopping 7 weddings on the horizon, it is making for a very busy fall.

Because of this, I have gotten really really good at knowing just what to do for each event:  what to buy, what to wear, and how to plan.  This became even truer the past two weekends when I was the host of two very different, but very fun bachelorette parties.  It seems like I’ve got a bachelorette party formula down with only slight alterations necessary to fit each bride.

Here are some simple tips and touches that will make your bestie’s bachelorette bash one for the books:

  • Know Your Bride  

Does anyone still hire strippers for bachelorette parties anymore?  Surely someone is out there doing it, but chances are, the bride to be isn’t all that interested in a sweaty man (other than her own) bumping up on her.  The point here is, plan activities around what your bride might actually want to do.  It’s a day or a weekend to celebrate her, after all, so keep the bride’s style in mind.  

Is the bride a party animal?  Good, take her out to a club, let her dance the night away.  Is the bride shy?  Cool, so maybe don’t make everyone stare at her while she opens gifts.  Pick activities that your bestie is sure to enjoy, that won’t make her feel uncomfortable, like a *cough cough* stripper.   If you’re in her bridal party, then you know her best, so make sure her style is in mind when you’re planning her bash.

Tess - Bach party - Chicago
My bachelorette bash in Chicago in 2015
  • Bride First, but Guests Second

You want the celebration to feel true to the bride’s style, but remember that you’re still the hostess of a party, and you have to entertain the other guests too.  This means picking activities that everyone can enjoy.  If you’re in my group of friends, that means drinking.  A bachelorette party formula that has always worked in the past is starting the day with brunch, then heading out to a pool for some fun in the sun.  Not too many people I know would object to that.  Keep the activities light so that everyone can have fun.  Make sure there’s good music playing, and enough food and drinks for everyone.

On that same note, be sure to have a variety of food and beverages.  A bach party I threw recently had two girls in attendance that had gluten allergies.  That meant ensuring we ordered pizza with gluten free crust and had some hard ciders on hand.  We knew that the rest of the group would want to drink wine and champagne, so those were the drink options.  This goes back to being a good host, know your audience, and prep accordingly.

  • Don’t Skimp on the Photo Ops

This is a weekend to remember, but also one where things get a little bit fuzzy, if you know what I mean.  You will want this fun filled weekend well documented.  In an era where everyone has a phone in their hands 24-7, take this opportunity to have extra special pics of the bride and her gals.  My recent Columbus bach extravaganza was full of great photo ops.  One of the bridesmaids made an awesome photo cut out with the bride’s name.  We also had big balloons in our hotel room to pose around.  My next bach party started out at my house, so I made a little photo booth area for guests to pose in front of.  We also live in a magical time of Snapchat filters, so make your own geo-filter for the night.  It’s quick, cheap, and really ups your social media game.  

 

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, make a bachelorette party hashtag.  You can go online and get hashtag options generated, or come up with one yourself, but it’s a great way to catalog the weekend events, and something the bride will probably want to look at time and time again.  Hashtags are the future people!  And if you’re still coming up short, ask me for help.  It’s one of my greatest joys in life.

  • The Devil is in the Details

I’m typically not one of those girls that thinks that every party needs to have a theme, but sometimes with a bachelorette party, it helps.  For big bachelorette parties, like the one in Columbus, a theme helps keep everything organized, like party favors, and decor.  Because my friend’s bach party fell on the same weekend as the Lollapalooza music festival, we decided to make the bach party a festival theme, we called it Bride-a-palooza.  We had flower crowns, VIP passes, temporary tattoos, etc.  We set up a tepee in the hotel room for the bride’s gifts, tie-die plates and cups.  Everything went down to the smallest detail, and it made all the difference.  

Again, not everything has to have a theme, but you still want the party to feel cohesive.  My Dayton bach party didn’t have a theme, but I made sure to put effort into creating the right atmosphere with food, cocktail napkins, and decor.

IMG_0630

Because it’s still a party, it’s important to have a little fun with it.  The bride we were celebrating in Dayton is getting hitched to another bride, so penis straws were out.  Instead, I baked boob cookies, that’s right, nipples and all.  

boob cookies
The gooooregous Dayton bride, posing like a lady

As with every party I throw, paying attention to those extra details may mean a little extra time, but it will translate to your guests as an extra special event.  This is your best friend, we are planning for, right?  That extra mile will mean the world to her, so plan around a theme, buy those balloons and make those boobs!

  • Be Gifted

Bachelorette party gifts are sort of a strange territory.  I can’t tell you how many times over the course of attending or planning a bach party I’ve asked my friends “So, what are you getting for her?”  A bach party is not the time or place to buy the bride something off of her registry, it’s a time to have fun with her present, be a little silly.  Some brides want wedding night lingerie options.  I did not, no no, I did not want to hold up panties the size of a tent in front of my friends.  Good gifts include personalized jewelry, fun clothing, undergarments, and even a silly *gasp* toy can make for very good options.  

M bach photos

Bachelorette parties have really transformed from the days of drunk girls stumbling around with veils on their heads.  Trust me, there are still plenty of drunk girls, but they have become a much different type of party, a party that requires more effort than penis shaped crowns and tequila shots.  It’s the last chance to get super silly with your girlfriends, have a ball, and throw back a few drinks (or chambongs, because, let’s be honest.)  Keep these few bits of advice in mind and your bride-bestie is going to have the time of her life, and that’s what it’s all about.

Baking · Uncategorized

Happy 4th of July!

This year the Fourth of July has been particularly pleasant because it felt like one long, glorious weekend.  Even though I literally just got back from a week long vacation, I dove back into work head first with little time to rest.  Because of that, I took the opportunity to fully enjoy the long, holiday weekend and focus on the type of things that make me really really happy.  I floated around the pool, I went for a long, leisurely hike, I entertained for the fireworks with watermelon cosmos and some yummy snacks, and I baked.  Oh man, did I bake.

watermelon cosmo snacks

I started the weekend off right by making an American bakery classic: Angel Food Cake.  This cake is lighter than air, fluffy and delicious.  I used Mary Berry’s recipe, even though she’s a British bird, but just like that first independence day, I broke off from the english recipe and did things in my own style.  I frosted the cake with a classic, homemade whipped cream, and a berry curd.  As you know, I’m an absolute sucker for curds, and I’ve been messing around with different kinds lately.  Here is my recipe for the perfect berry curd.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Preparation:

  • In a small saucepan over medium low heat, cook down the strawberries and blueberries in water, and a pinch of sugar, about 10-12 minutes.  Let berries come to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • When the berries have reached a nice consistency, whisk in the remaining ingredients quickly.  Since the berries are already warm, you want to whisk aggressively so as not to scramble your egg yolks.  
  • Remove from heat and strain the curd, removing any large chunks of fruit from the curd.
  • Cool at room temperature, and drizzle on cake.
  • Top the cake with additional berries for decor, and enjoy!

The angel food cake calls for 10 egg whites, so when you are separating the eggs, simply set two of the yolks aside for the curd.  

angel food cakeI hope you all had a very happy and relaxing Fourth of July!  Cheers and Ciao!

Baking · cocktails · Food · Uncategorized

Much Ado About Rhubarb

The start of summertime means that my Instagram feed is filled with cakes, pies, and fruity desserts.  There is one constant ingredient that I’ve noticed more and more of every year:  rhubarb.  You’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant or bakery out there without rhubarb popping up somewhere on their menu.  Maybe it’s gaining popularity, or maybe I’ve just begun to notice more, but either way, it’s hard to miss and I realized I knew close to nothing about it.

So what is rhubarb exactly?  It’s a stalking vegetable, think of celery with a bad sunburn.  Rhubarb grows large leaves that are actually poisonous, but the stalk which is edible, produces a beautiful tart flavor.  Even though rhubarb is indeed a vegetable, it is often treated like a fruit in baked recipes.  With just a little sugar added, rhubarb makes for a delicious dessert.

I’ve consumed many a rhubarb concoction, but I have never attempted to make anything with it myself, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m not into pie, but I’m a sucker for a good curd, so I whipped up some Rhubarb Bars which are not only delicious, but fun to say.

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I worked off of a recipe from blogger Broma Bakery.  Sarah, of Broma Bakery, has gorgeous pictures,  inspiring and delicious recipes.  You should definitely give her a follow.  In her recipe she teaches you how to cook the rhubarb down, make a delightful shortbread crust, and the ratios for a perfect curd.  The recipe called for some red food coloring, as the bright red color of the rhubarb fades slightly when cooking.  I opted not to add an additional coloring as I am an au naturale type of gal, but the flavor was top notch.  A great dish to bring to a party.  Recipe included here.

The recipe calls for 3 cups of chopped rhubarb, which cooks down to about 2 cups.  However the recipe for the curd only calls for 1 cup of the rhubarb puree.  What’s a gal to do with an extra cup of tart, delicious, colorful rhubarb puree…?  Make cocktails, of course!  I made two cocktails, one for Tim and one for me.  Just kidding, they were both for me.

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The first drink I made was a Bloody Rhubarb Old Fashioned. IMG_7246

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices blood orange
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters
  • ½ oz rhubarb puree
  • 2 oz rye whiskey

In your rocks glass, muddle together the blood orange slices, simple syrup, and bitters.  Then add the rhubarb puree, whiskey, give it a good stir.  Top the drink with ice and enjoy!

The drink is boozy, tart, and slightly sweet – some of my favorite things.  It also turns out to be a deep reddish hue.

The next drink I made is what I like to call a Millennial Spritzer.

Ingredients: IMG_7249

  • 1 oz rhubarb puree
  • ¼ oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz. rosé
  • 2 oz. Berry La Croix

Combine all ingredients in a wine glass, stir, add ice, enjoy.

 

Apparently us millennials are drinking all the rosé in the world, and practically overdosing on La Croix.  I chalk it up to the fact that we all have really really good taste.

So, no matter what form Rhubarb takes, it is bound to be delicious: tart, sweet, and satisfying.  Sometimes things like stalking vegetables, pink wine, and carbonated water are worth the hype, after all.  

 

 

Uncategorized

Baking to Perfection

When I was younger I was a ballet dancer with a pretty strict, but pretty damn good youth ballet company.  Our director was a bit of a tyrant, she’d scream and yell, she was hard on us, and she wanted us to be hard on ourselves too.  I remember falling in class once and she stopped the music and said “Are you mad at yourself?”  I said yes, and she said “You should be.  You should be furious with yourself.  You messed up, don’t do it again.”  This was no Montessori ballet training, we weren’t all winners, some of us sucked, and when we sucked, we were pissed.  I carried this trait with me to adulthood.  If I made a mistake on a test, if I couldn’t hold a pose in yoga, if I the burnt toast, I was MAD at myself.

I used to think this was a good attribute; it held me accountable for my behavior, it allowed me to hold my actions up to a certain standard.  I made dinner one night, I thought it was only decent, but my husband loved it.  I began to go through the laundry list of things I’d do differently: add more salt here, cook 30 seconds less, add this spice, remove this vegetable, on and on I went.  My husband finally said “Just enjoy the food, it’s delicious, and it’s ok that it isn’t perfect.”  It made me realize that I have set unrealistic expectations for myself.  Not everything has to be picked apart, analyzed, criticized; some things are allowed to be just okay.

This idea is still something I have to work towards.  Earlier this year I had a bit of a meltdown at the restaurant where I work.  I was making red velvet cake to serve on our pre fixe Valentine’s Day menu, the pressure was on for it to be perfect.  It came out of the oven, it cooled, it was iced, it was cut and served…it was dry.  Like, bone dry.  So what did I do?  Sat on the floor and cried.  I ruined everyone’s Valentine’s days.  Instead of ending their meal on a sweet and sexy note, they were going home to write on Yelp that their meal sucked, right?  What I should have done instead of having a meltdown was start over again and do it better the next time, but I got in my own way.  This is a habit of mine.

Recently I came across a show on Netflix called the Great British Baking Show (or GBBS as we’ve come to call it in our household.)  As you can put together from the name, it’s a bunch of british people baking.  But it’s so much more than that, the contestants are all home bakers, not professionals, competing for the title of ‘Star Baker.”  It’s a delightful show and safe to say that I’m obsessed (you should watch it, it’s awesome)  But the reason I mention it now is because there have been more than a few times contestants have had similar meltdowns where they cry, or throw their bakes in the “bin.”  But the bakers who come out on top keep their cool, their creations aren’t perfect, they have flaws, they are a little dry, or a little messy, or whatever, but they keep their heads on, they present their bakes with pride, and they know they will do better next time without beating themselves up every week.
In life, but particularly in my cooking and baking (which consumes a majority of my life,) I have to learn to take it in stride, to accept my mistakes and do better next time.  I will have to practice a bit of patience with myself, strive for perfection, but know that it’s okay to screw up once in a while.  I tell myself that now, but as I gear up to bake my next boozy baking concoction, there will most certainly be tears…but here’s to trying harder next time.  Cheers and ciao!

Food · Uncategorized

3 Tips for Menu Planning Your Party

Derby Day is just around the corner and I obviously don’t care about horse races, but I do care about booze and accessorizing, which means I am throwing a Derby party.  I’ve got a hat picked out and my bar is stocked with bourbon, so I’m halfway there to planning the perfect party.  The only thing I have left to do is plan a menu.  Menu planning is one of my favorite parts of throwing a party.  Keeping a few of my menu planning tips in mind, you are sure to plan a seamless soiree, where you might actually be able to (gasp!) enjoy yourself!  

nat and tess
My sis and me on Derby Day Last year…expect to see this hat on repeat!
  • Factor In The Clock

What type of party are you trying to throw?  If you’re planning on an evening event and want your friends to come over at 7:00, then you better plan for them to be hungry for dinner.  Not sure you want to serve them a full meal?  Plan an 8:30 start time instead.  My upcoming party starts at 2:00, so I’m past the lunch hour and can plan for smaller snacks rather than hearty, filling treats.  The fact of the matter is, if there is food laid out, people will eat.  However, you can control the time you spend prepping, and the amount of money that you spend on food by booking your party outside of regular meal time hours.  At the risk of sounding cheap, I often plan parties outside of typical hours.  If you’re buying some pre-cut cheese and sandwiches, then by all means, throw a noon-time party.  But if you’re like me, and you’re cooking and prepping every single item,  starting outside the lunchtime box means you can cut yourself some cooking slack.

  • Variety is the Spice of…well, your party

Make sure you make a broad range of snacks to suit all tastes and dietary restrictions.  My guest list consists of more than a few vegetarians, so I want to make sure I have snacks that are enjoyable and satisfying.  You can’t go wrong with a cheese board, but also, how many parties have you been to with a cheese board?  How about a smoked salmon board or a roasted veggie platter instead?  I like to switch it up once in awhile, keeping seasonality in mind.  Asparagus is popping up all over, so how about a chilled orzo pasta salad with grape tomatoes, asparagus and ricotta salata?  Your favorite fruit is in season?  Toast some baguette, spread mascarpone cheese across it, throw on those berries, a wisp of honey and a slice of prosciutto.  Get your assembly line going, it’s easy and different…and different is good for you.

  • End On a Sweet Note

No matter what time of the day you host your party, you should have something sweet to end the meal.  As Julia Child once said “A party without cake is just a meeting.”  I’m not suggesting you HAVE to make a cake (although, I’ve been working on mastering one, recipe to come later!)  but it’s nice to have something sweet for your guests.  If you’re not a baker, don’t stress about it.  You could honestly throw some peanut M&M’s in a bowl and call it a day.  Just make sure you keep that bowl filled!  In my opinion there are two ways to celebrate, with chocolate or with champagne, so don’t let your party go without either.  This is another great way to work with the seasons.  In winter think peppermint, in fall deep dark chocolatey flavors, but in spring and summer, I like to go with citrus.  I rarely come across a person in life who doesn’t like lemon bars, and my favorite recipe is from the New York Times made with olive oil and sea salt.  It has the delightful bite of lemon curd, and doesn’t cover it up with confectioners sugar.  Instead, the salt enhances and balances the tart lemon.  It’s a sophisticated twist on a classic, and the perfect last bite at a party.  lemon bars
Obviously, there is more that comes with planning a menu, but these are a few simple tips to get you started.  Then you get to make your shopping and prep lists (which the ODC part of my lives for!)  The more you plan, the easier each party gets and the more time you get to enjoy the company of your friends.  Cheers and Ciao!

Derby Day list
My list game is strong
cocktails · drinks · Uncategorized

Boozy Baking – Dark & Stormy

The saying goes: April Showers Bring May Flowers…well, May is going to be blooming because it is definitely showering around here.  When the weather is like this, I think there is only one drink that feels appropriate:  A Dark and Stormy.

The Dark and Stormy is a simple cocktail made up of only three ingredients, but it packs a big punch!  The drink consists of lime juice, ginger beer, and dark rum.  You float each layer on top of the next, ending with the rum to create a stormy atmosphere in a glass.  The lime is tart, the ginger beer is spicy and the rum serves up sweet molasses notes for the perfect spring cocktail. dark and stormy

Dark and Stormy: 

In a highball glass (that’s the long skinny one) add the lime juice, add ice, then begin to layer ginger beer and finally, the rum.  Garnish with a lime twist or wedge.  Cheers!

In my constant quest to combine the two things I love the most: booze and baked goods, the Dark and Stormy seemed like the perfect marriage.  Ginger has a natural place in the dessert world, and rum has the right balance of sweetness to glaze a cake perfectly.  I went back to my favorite bundt cake for this month’s Boozy Baking installment.  I made a ginger and lime bundt cake with a rum glaze.  I candied lime on the top for a delicious and bright bit of decoration.  Here’s the recipe below!

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for pan)
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • ⅓ cup minced candied ginger (it’s really important that the ginger is minced very well, otherwise it will sink to the bottom of the cake)
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda DS Ingredients
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (fat is your friend, in this case)

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ⅓ cup Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Cake Preparations:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour bundt pan
  • In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until white and fluffy
  • Whisk together flour, lime zest, ginger, salt and baking soda
  • To creamed butter mixture, add eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition
  • Alternately add flour mixture in 3, and greek yogurt in 2.  Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Spoon mixture into prepared pan, create a level surface
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before turning out cake onto cooling rack.  Once cake has cooled completely, pour over glaze.  

Glaze Preparations:

  • Melt butter in small sauce pan
  • Add rum, lime juice and sugar
  • Stirring constantly bring glaze to a simmer to thicken slightly

DS bundt

Candied lime is optional, and sort of a pain in the ass to do, but it definitely makes for a pretty topping.  Here’s instructions on how to do it, because nobody does it better than Martha.  Cheers and Ciao!

 

cocktails · drinks · Uncategorized · wine

Wishful Spring Drinking

The calendar tells me that it’s spring.  However, here in Ohio, “spring” could mean a myriad of things.  It could mean rain, it could mean 80 degrees, it could even mean snow.  When I was younger I used to spend spring break in Florida, we’d get home, pull into the driveway and see that our tulips had bloomed… and then died of frost.  Unfortunately adulthood ensures that I never get to celebrate spring break, so I have to endure the seasons’ “awkward phase” where it doesn’t know what the hell it wants to do.  But, I know what I want to do…I want to sit on a god damn patio and drink a god damn cocktail.  So, until the weather makes up its mind and decides to be sunny and 70 degrees, I will just be over here wishing for spring and the delightful drinks that come with it.  Here are my favorite things to sip on:

Rosé

Rosé season is my favorite time of year.  Seriously, I don’t care a single bit about Christmas or my birthday…all I care about is the newest batches of rosé are being bottled and I get to drink them.   But also, because I’m basic, I like a good wine spritzer.  Spritzers are great drinks for warm weather (and compliment a hangover perfectly!)  So combine these two delightful things and you’ve got yourself a rosé spritzer.  True to form, I’ve gussied it up a bit:

6 oz. Dry Rosé (not white zinfandel, I’m serious…throw that away immediately)

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This little penguin is used to cold weather…much like Ohioans

 

2 oz.  Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic

Squeeze of fresh lime

Serve over ice

The elderflower tonic adds nice bubbles, a little touch of sweetness and lovely floral note to your wine.  Once rosé season really kicks off, I’ll be listing off my favorites for the year, but in the meantime I poured myself a glass of Italian rosé, known as Chiaretto.

Beer

I’m not a huge beer drinker, more often than not I’ll opt for a cocktail or a glass of wine, but if I’m out at a very casual restaurant enjoying “bar food,” beer is my drink of choice.  I recently tried Rhinegeist’s Bubbles Cider and I have become obsessed.  Highlighted with flavors of peach and cranberry, this cider drinks sweet, almost like a sangria.  But it’s got a crisp tartness that I love.  One sip of this and you’ll be feeling that Spring in your step, guaranteed.

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Cocktail

Something about those first few warm days of spring makes me want to sit out on a patio, and sip on something fancy.  My sister Natalie created this cocktail that sings of spring and is definitely worthy of a long night on a patio, and a basket of chips and salsa.  We call it a “Cosmopolita” because it’s all the cosmo fixings, but with tequila in place of vodka.  Because tequila is delicious and vodka is boring.

2 oz. silver tequila

½ oz. Triple Sec or other orange liqueur

½ oz. Lime juice

¼ oz. simple syrup

1 oz. cranberry

More than an ounce of cranberry and your drink turns red instead of pink, and I’m not sure if you’ve sensed a theme here…but apparently in spring I only drink pink.
So, now I hope you’re all very thirsty and ready to sit outside with a glass of wine…and possibly a parka.  Ciao!