There was much debate this year over what to serve our party of 16 for Christmas Day Dinner. We don’t have a “traditional” Christmas meal – we switch it up every year. We have had everything from a pork crown roast (gorgeous presentation), filet mignon, standing rib roast, leg of lamb, etc. This year we settled on an Italian theme – anitpasta, Caprese salad, vegetarian lasagna, chicken parm, etc. The Italian stores on Long Island cannot be beat – nothing is better than their fresh pastas and cheeses. The husband and I are looking forward to a change from the usual hunk of meat – which is huge for someone like me who is usually a stickler for tradition.
What is your family’s traditional Christmas meal? Do you stick with one thing from year to year, or go with what strikes you?
Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, Banana Bread
Afternoon Snack: Feta Pesto Spread (Farrell wasn't kidding- this stuff is amazing!)
Dinner: Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli
The mac and cheese recipe (basically from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook) is my favorite. It takes a little bit of time, but with the right cheese, it blows other recipes out of the water. The base is a white sauce, which is somewhat hard to master, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't work the first time!
1/2 lb Pasta (although somewhat untraditional, I like rotini b/c it really "holds" the sauce)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk, heated
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour. Whisk the paste for a few minutes until it bubbles but before it browns. Slowly start adding the hot milk (I keep this heated on a burner on the stove.) The idea is to add a little bit at a time whenever the mixture starts to thicken. Stir constantly or the sauce will separate! Once all the milk is added, continue to stir until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Add one cup of cheese. Continue to stir until cheese is incorporated. Mix cheese sauce, pasta, and remaining cup of cheese in baking dish (a loaf pan usually works well). Add extra cheese, mustard, and cayenne pepper to taste. I find that the recipe can be a bit bland without these additions, so experiment with different cheeses and see what suits you the best! - LG
To make them yourself, you will need: parchment paper, small pretzels, chocolate chips (white, dark, milk, whatever) and sprinkles (in holiday colors). Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Dip the pretzels in the chocolate about halfway, one by one, and arrange them in a circle of 4 or 5 on the parchment paper. Then stagger another layer on top to make it look like a wreath. Shake the sprinkles over the middle and wait for it to harden. The ones we received were packaged in a cute holiday bakery box, but the possibilities with that are endless.
Fruited Champagne Punch, Seasonal Beers, White and Red Wines
Sesame Chicken Satay, Greek Stuffed Mushrooms, Baked Crab Rangoons, Sicilian Meatballs, Parmesan Pastry Spirals, Goat Cheese-Basil Pastry Rounds, Crudite with Horseradish-Gouda Dip, Cheese Board with crackers
White Chocolate Eggnog Fudge, Mini Fudge Rum Cakes, Holiday Oatmeal Bars, Puppy Chow
It was a great time (until we had to clean everything up this morning).
I’ll post some pictures of the food and décor soon, as well as some recipes, but for now, I will leave you with a shot of what happens when you put a bottle of prosecco in the freezer “to chill” and forget about it until the morning.
A classic from Brooks Brothers:
Two fun options from Vineyard Vines:
And finally, a great pick from my favorite men's store in Richmond, Peter Blair:
Now if someone could just show me how to tie a bow tie! - LG
1. If you have a very round face, don't wear a scoop neck dress.
2. If you don't usually wear a lot of makeup, fake eyelashes can give you some ooph and still allow you to look like yourself on your wedding day.
3. Michael C. Fina suggests you order your wedding bands three months in advance.
4. If a DJ company tells you they will give you a deal so you can have a DJ and an MC, you will probably end up with a professional DJ/MC and a kid from the record store.
5. Red lips and cat eyes are very trendy for makeup right now.
As we are finally in the midst of the “official” holiday season, here is a fabulous cocktail recipe from our friend, Lindsey:
Flaming Mandarin Martini
splash of cranberry juice
Muddle the serrano first and then add the liquids. Mix 1 part vodka to 1 part non-alcoholic liquid combination (can be modified depending on your strength/taste preference). Shake all the ingredients with ice and then strain into glass with fine-sugar coated rim. Garnish with sliced serrano.
Some people love Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Christmas. I love the day each fall that Oprah airs her Favorite Things show.
It is fabulous.
I love to watch to get gift ideas for others, see the reactions of the audience as they find out what fabulous prizes they are getting! Although some of the gifts are a little out of my reach (I mean, is a stainless fridge with a built-in LCD TV on your wish list this year?), it is fun to check them all out. The Blood Orange Sorbetto was already one of my favorites (and great to serve as a summer dessert), so I was glad to see it hit the list!
So, I was at a wedding in Richmond, VA this past weekend. Following is an interesting situation I encountered…
At the reception, when it came time to cut the cake, I happened to be standing next to the wedding coordinator. The happy couple cut the traditional slice of cake, put it on a small plate, and then paused while they looked at it for a moment, presumably pondering if they were to serve it to each other with their fingers. I nonchalantly turned to the wedding coordinator and said quietly “Do you have forks for them to use?” She looked at me a frankly said rather loudly “You don’t use forks for this, you use your fingers.” Not being able to help myself, as usual, I said “Oh, when I got married (5 months ago), we used forks.” Without skipping a beat, she responded with “Well, I have never seen anyone use a utensil to feed each other cake, but it MUST be a Southern thing. Where in the world did you get married?” Again, I couldn’t help myself and let her know that I, in fact, also got married in Virginia (apparently in the part where it is okay to use utensils). She just looked at me and walked away. My friends and I just couldn’t help ourselves and dissolved into silent giggles – apparently in her world, Southerners don’t use forks.
1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/2 cup dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon apple jelly
Preheat oven to 450.
Slice pork in half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through the other side. Open the halves, laying the pork flat. Place pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap and pound to 1/2 inch thickness using a meat mallet. Sprinkle figs and blue cheese over pork leaving a 1/2 inch margin around the outside edges. Roll up the pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting with long side. Secure at 2-in intervals with twine. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper and place on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes. Brush jelly over pork. Bake an additional 5 -10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160. Let stand for 10 minutes. Discard twine; cut pork into 12 (1-inch) slices.
I have made it a few times, and it is great. Enjoy!
We did everything we could to handle meal requests, but there were some last minute issues. One man in particular had some dietary needs that could not be accommodated. The next time my co-worker walked by his table, she saw a lot of banana peels on his plate. Well, he had just eaten the centerpiece!
I guess you really never know what might happen at an event!
They produce all types of design typography. Everything from cute sayings to monograms (so cute) that are printed on a very thin, matte adhesive vinyl. Once placed on your wall (or wherever) they look as though they were professionally painted on. The ones that I saw in person were great – monograms in bedrooms and some of the Wonderful! Designs in the kitchen and children’s playroom.
Wonderful Graffiti gets great reviews and is definitely worth checking out!
Feta Pesto Spread
8 oz. cream cheese softened to room temperature
2 oz. grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup basil pesto sauce
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray shallow 2 -cup oval baking dish with cooking spray
Mix cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, stir in pesto, mix well
Stir in Roma tomatoes and red onion, mix well
Place mixture in baking dish
Sprinkle top with feta cheese
Bake for 30 min. or until bubbly
Serve warm with crackers, flatbread, etc.
On Monday I represented my company at a Lela Rose couture gown showing. This was not nearly as exciting and glamorous as expected. Although I arrived right on time for my 5:00pm appointment, knowing that everything in Manhattan runs a little late, I found that they were already packing the dresses at 5:01! I don't know what happened, but I do know this: I loved the Thread Design bridesmaids dresses. I think the company is pretty well known for using traditional, preppy fabrics (seersucker) in more fashion forward shapes. I do love those designs, but I was excited to find that they have some other options that definitely pass the "would the girls wear this again" test. On the down side, one hopes they would wear them again, considering the price ($450?). Anyway, if you have bridesmaids with big budgets, consider Thread Design. My favorite option is to the left. - LG
We helped UVA ring in a great win over Pitt this weekend, all kicked off with a five hour tailgate in Charlottesville. Night games really are just so much better for tailgating.
We had some great food and fun with good friends. Searching for some excitement in a sea of Miller Lites and bourbon and ginger ales, I decided to try the much-talked about Beer Margaritas. As a connoisseur of margaritas, I was a bit skeptical, but these did not disappoint. The addition of beer to these (Corona in my case) really cut the sweetness that sometimes overpower traditional margaritas.
They were a hit with the entire group!
I love a well-wrapped gift, and consequently have quite an array of gift wrap and accessories. Since we are not quite at the level of the Spellings, who have an entire room in their mansion dedicated to gift wrap, I needed to find a way to house all of my wrapping supplies efficiently. The Container Store (one of my favorites), carries a great hanging organization system. While surfing the internet last night, I saw that one of my favorite magazines is also featuring the same system online! After making room in my closet this past weekend, I am going to head back out and pick up two – we have too much for just one – immediately. Hopefully this will free up the under-the-bed space that our gift wrap currently occupies for more shoes!
More to come on this soon, but for now, one of my favorite tailgating hors d’oeuvres courtesy of my parents’ best friends from high school:
Buffalo Chicken Dip
4 boneless chicken breasts, boiled & shredded
12 ounces Franks Red Hot Sauce
Mix in a 13x9" baking dish.
2- 8 ounce packages cream cheese (the regular version melts better than the reduced fat)
16 ounces ranch dressing
1 cup chopped celery
Mix and heat in saucepan till smooth.
Pour over chicken mixture.
Top with 1 block Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Bake 375°F for 45 minutes.
Let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips, celery or carrot sticks.
*I usually bake this before leaving home in a Pyrex dish and then transport in an insulated case. It can also be reheated on the tailgate grill if needed!
No one ever said tailgating was good for your waistline!
Ceremony Set Up overlooking the Vineyard and mountains
Bluegrass Band playing at Cocktail Hour on the Winery Deck
Just a quick note- I am now working at an event production company in New York, and we are planning a luxury bridal event in Los Angeles at The Four Seasons. If you know anyone who is engaged in that area, I would love to talk to them about attending the event- readers of The Plan and their friends will get a great discount on tickets. There will be high end vendors (who have worked with Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera, etc.), the unveiling of the most recent Badgley Mischka bridesmaids line, food, champagne and...a fantastic gift bag. If you (or any of your friends) are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks everyone! -LG
Friday afternoon, the bride’s aunt hosted a lovely bridal luncheon at The Inn at Court Square. Located in downtown Charlottesville, this quaint inn is filled with eclectic décor and cute sleeping rooms. The three course luncheon could not have been more fabulous. We were served: freshly made tomato basil bisque (the aroma of the freshly picked basil filled the Inn), chipotle lime chicken salad served over greens with fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of raspberry reduction, and a still-warm apple tart with fresh whipped cream and mint oil. Add a glass of white wine or two to this, and we were stuffed!
Below are a few pictures from the Inn.
So, one of my least favorite things to listen to is people complaining that they are REALLY busy (ranking right up there with really broke, really tired, and really stressed). I mean, aren’t we all REALLY busy – to some degree.
That said, I won’t make many excuses for not jumping right back into blogging this week. Lauren is still working out her internet situation in NYC (she's only been there 4 days, so we are going to give her a break), and I am preparing to head to Charlottesville tomorrow for a fun filled wedding weekend with our friends Emily and Jeff. We have a full schedule for the weekend, including hitting some favorite college haunts like Mellow Mushroom and Little John’s (how long has it been since my last Wild Turkey sandwich), a bridesmaids luncheon at Inn at Court Square, wedding morning yoga for the girls, an outdoor ceremony at Veritas Vineyard and Winery, and a Bodo’s Bagel brunch on Sunday.
Next week promises to provide many fabulous wedding event pictures and recaps!
In keeping with the wine theme, we threw a “wine tasting” engagement party. Surprisingly easy, we made a trip to Trader Joe’s for 3 interesting whites (including one from the honeymoon destination, South Africa) and 3 interesting reds. The food included: an antipasta display, a bruschetta bar, fun cheeses, potato sausage puffs, miniature fruit tarts, and mini chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. It was easy, and we jazzed it up with food/wine varietal labels propped up in corks and some interesting wine charms found on eBay. All in all, it was a great success!
The basic border stripe (in any color) is always a good choice:
I love other people’s weddings. I love the planning, the decisions, the drama, the year full of wine-drinking occasions, the showers, the registry-stalking, the program-assembling, etc.
Through all of these weddings, I admittedly have never been subject to a heinous bridesmaid dress (knock on wood).
However, I have also never been privy to, despite the brides’ best intentions, a dress that I will ever wear again. Ever.
Consequently, I have a section of my already crowded closet devoted to these dresses. Lately, I have been seriously considering seeking out somewhere to donate the dresses. Perhaps someplace like the Cinderella Project that donates them to girls who need prom dresses. I am sure there is someone who would be thrilled to wear them, right?
Anyway, this brings me to my current quandary – also a reader request – how long is appropriate to hang on to the dresses after the actual wedding date? Is there a time limit that you are obligated to hold on to them, or are they up for grabs immediately after the big day?
Our friend Lindsey really knows how to make the most of her money. She emailed me recently and let me know that she had found a great banana bread recipe. If you live by yourself (or even with one other person) a banana bread recipe is great to have on file. After all, who ever eats a whole bunch of bananas before they start to go bad? This recipe is so easy, and the results are great. To the left is a picture of my handy avocado masher mid-mash. Keep in mind that the bread bakes for a full hour, so plan accordingly. - LG
Aside from the fabulous recipes and entertaining ideas, I am continually mesmerized with the nail polish worn by Everyday Italian’s Giada deLaurentiis. It always looks clean, sexy, and polished (no pun intended), like she just came from the manicurist, no matter how many times per episode she is dipping her hands in soapy water, olive oil, etc. The rumor on the internet is that Giada only wears OPI Bubble Bath. Although my signature nail color is, and has been since high school, usually a dark, rich blue-red (think OPI Quarter-of-a-Cent-Cherry or My Kind of Brown or Essie’s (sadly) long-discontinued Real Red), the next time I am looking for a clean, light, fresh manicure, I am signing myself up for a Bubble Bath.
However, Farrell and I have heard some negative comments about weddings on official holidays, so I was wondering what people think about this practice. Is it convenient for everyone, or a violation of what should be family time? Is there a distinction between holiday type? For example, is it more acceptable to do this on a government holiday than a religious holiday? What about weddings on New Year's Eve? Let us know what you think. - LG
As a recent newlywed, my household is in receipt of a plethora of fabulous new table linens, which I love to use when entertaining.
As much fun as it is to use those new linens, dealing with stains on them has become a challenging experience. The most difficult stain to get out has been from red wine on white cotton-based napkins.
After some research, it seems that the table-salt method is the most publicized method of quick red wine stain removal:
- Wet the stained napkin or linen to dampen thoroughly
- Sprinkle the stained area liberally with regular table salt
- Let it sit until you can wash (as per the instructions) it in the washing machine
I have also heard the commercial solvents Zoot! (sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) and Wine-Away recommended.
Does anyone else have experience with this? Or am I the only one with guests that slosh occasionally?
Sorry for our MIA status this week!
I just got in from Chicago late last night, Lauren is headed out of town for a long weekend, and I am currently waiting my turn to be interviewed at jury duty. Yes, I am today’s juror # 6. Please do not be jealous. Although, who knew that the jury lounges in my county all come complete with wireless internet?!? This is not quite as glamorous as what I see Benson and Stabler doing on Law and Order: SVU, but I am surviving.
Stay tuned for some fun posts coming soon!
*** Sorry for the brief/non-existent posts, by the way. Things are just crazy with the summer months. Farrell will be out for the first half of this week, and I'll be out the first half of next week. However, we will try to be back to a normal schedule soon!
People are turned off by avocados because of their high fat content. However, they are a great source of: Vitamin K, Fiber, Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and monosaturated fat (that's the good kind of fat- it helps lower cholesteral.) In addition, avocados can help you absorb all of the good nutrition found in other fruits in vegetables. I won't bore you with the science of it, but suffice to say that adding avocado to salsa or a salad will make the those meals or snacks even more beneficial.
When you are finished eating your next avocado, click here to learn how to grow a snazzy plant from the leftover pit. Just be careful- avocado pits can be fatal to pets. - LG
I am always on a search for some original designs in a sea of predictable clothing stores, so this find made the trip more than worth it!
The scoop is a great size, and the hidden bonus is that it is filled with a self-defrosting fluid that makes dishing up the ice cream a breeze. It will glide right through even the hardest quart of ice cream, producing perfect servings.
I will never go back to a regular ice cream scoop again!
If you are interested, check it out with your sound on!
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy)
1 small package chocolate chips
3 cups miniature marshmallows
4 cups Rice Krispies
Melt butter/margarine, peanut butter and chocolate chips together, stirring constantly until smooth. (It is ok if the chocolate chips don't melt completely.) Let stand for a few minutes. Add marshmallows (DO NOT MELT) and Rice Krispies. Press lightly into 8' square pan and let set. Cut into Squares
*** Update: I made these tonight using a 12 oz bag of semi-sweet chips. The chocolate did melt all the way, and I think they would have been a little bit better if not melted all the way. If your chocolate is room temperature, I would take the peanut butter/butter mixture off the burner before adding the chocolate. Follow with the marchmallows and Rice Krispies.
Additionally, I am in the process of packing up my apartment, so if anyone has suggestions about that, I would definitely welcome them.
There will be fun things later this week. Have a great night, everyone! - LG
Regardless, I thought I would share two of the items I enjoyed with the idea that they might be replicated at home. The first was a Pom Margarita. I'm not sure what the deal is with the pomegranate. Is it currently trendy? Is it over? Was there just a big buzz and it never quite fulfilled its promise as the next big thing? Who knows. However, the Pom Margarita was excellent. I ordered mine without salt, and it was equal in tanginess to a traditional margarita. A recipe can be found here on the POM Wonderful website.
One selling point of Rosa Mexicano is that they make your guacamole on a cart next to your table, specifically for you. I generally enjoy a basic lime juice and garlic infused guacamole, but their version was a great alternative. The ingredients (all very finely chopped) were onions, hot peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, and another herb that I never identified. The addition of hot peppers was interesting and different, but I really liked it.
Happy snacking! - LG
However, I was recently a guest at a Long Island wedding where they had, hands-down, the cutest tuxedo-clad ringbearer ever.