Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Food is Love!

The other day, my friend and TGG reader sent me this bumper sticker.  She said she thought of me when she saw it and I am flattered!  Food is love.  I know this now but maybe I didn't when we were younger.  Sometimes we dismissed my mother's efforts to make a delicious meal and requested sugary cereals and soft drinks - items she forbade in the house - instead.  When asked why not she'd simply say, "Because I love you, that's why."  My father is just as loving.  Every morning, as he still does today, he is up at dawn cooking a breakfast feast for the family.  It was our greatest lesson: family first.  We started the day at the table together.  It was brain food, he called it.  It was last minute test prep and extra encouragement to begin the day.  It was our only time at the table as a family once our over-scheduled extra curriculars took over.  It was, and still is, love. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Housewarming Success

Remember Itold you I recently moved into a new place? Well a couple of weekends ago LC and I hosted our housewarming party and it was a total success! We served up a full bar and some easy and delicious hors d’ oeuvres to our friends and family that came to the party. Remember that hosting should be enjoyable and not stressful. Pick some easy recipes that won’t take long to prepare and spend the rest of your day lounging waiting for your guest to arrive. Here are some pictures of what I chose to serve to up to our guests.  

Photo: Grab some smoked sausage and puff pastry dough for some super easy and delicious pigs in the blanket.
Photo: I admit I did a subpar job but take your pastry dough, cut it into squares, place sausage in the middle, egg wash the corners of the dough, wrap in a "taco" form and egg wash the top of the dough to keep it sealed. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes.
Photo: My pigs in the blanket turned out to be more like pigs on a bing bag but they were delicious nonetheless. Serve with some spicy stone ground mustard and viola, your guests will LOVE them.
Photo: Harry & David Pepper and Onion relish is one of only three ingredients for my next recipe. Easy crock pot meatballs!
Photo: Add 1 can of madarin oranges (only drain 1/2 the juice), a can of Harry & David Pepper and Onion relish and some meatballs (I opted for Turkey meatballs to save some fat and calories) and place in crockpot on low for 4-6 hours. Super easy and super delicious!
Photo: Okay, I cheated here and served a store bought spinach and artichoke dip, but it was on sale! Serve with tortilla chips.
Photo: Last but not least is my favorite, we pairs a goat cheese, roasted red pepper, pesto and pine nut torte with Manchego cheese, Boursin garlic & herb and Boursin Shallot and chive cheese with various salamis and Italian meats. Add some Carrs water crackers and you've got the perfect meat and cheese platter.
Photo: The whole spread!


Monday, November 28, 2011

{We’re Obsessed} Pettigrew Associates

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the Catholic Charities of Dallas Hope for the Holidays event with some of my closest friends. My friend T’s parents recently purchased a design, furnishing and lighting business and they hosted the special night at their new Dallas showroom. I initially attended the event to support a good cause and because I’m always looking to expand my philanthropic horizons (okay, the open bar and catered dinner didn’t hurt either) but was treated to so much more. It’s no secret I am a lover of décor so when I stepped into the Pettigrew warehouse I was literally breathless as I scoped out all of the custom furnishings and the amazing chandeliers. I managed to snap a few photos of some of my favorite pieces but check out more of their amazing stuff here and DEFINITELY take a visit to their showroom. All of their pieces are unique designs and perfectly crafted. Seriously, I can’t get over how beautiful their stuff is! Wait! Did I mention they also have an amazing selection of fabrics and wall coverings for all your DIY projects? Seriously, they can do it all! It’s no wonder why we’re obsessed. 

Photo: Amazing chandelier with pink, amber, clear and emerald colored crystals.
Another amazing chandelier with blue and white colored crystals.

Photo: Furniture Makeover. Before & After accent chair.
Photo: The finished product! Amazing grey and white chevron patterned chair.(sorry so blurry)
Photo: I was DROOLING over this desk and chair set. SO elegant.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe: Brussels Sprouts Four Ways

A favorite fall vegetable of ours is Brussels Sprouts and they are a healthy, hearty addition to any meal.What's better is that there are multiple ways to prepare them so I will go ahead and share my personal favorites.  For each variation, you will need a 2-3 pound bag of Brussels Sprouts, stems removed, rinsed and halved.

1.  Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Sprinkle sprouts with a pinch of Kosher salt.  In a small bowl, combine 3-4 tbsp. olive oil, a pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Pour over sprouts, tossing to coat.  Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and roast in 375 degree pre heated oven 30-40 minutes, turning once.  Remove from oven when lightly browned.

I just roasted balsamic-glazed sprouts this weekend
2. Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Use same method of preparation as in version 1, only add 3 tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar to the olive oil mix.  Pour over sprouts.  Roast 30-40 minutes, turning once.  They are ready when lightly browned. 

3.  Lemon Brussels Sprouts
Follow directions in version 1, with the exception of adding 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice to the olive oil mixture.  Lemon juice can be added to the Balsamic version as well, using equal parts lemon juice, Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. 

4.  Doctored Brussels Sprouts
Pick your favorite method of preparation above (roasted, Balsamic or lemon), and add either pancetta or sliced bacon pieces, half of a Julienned red onion, and a 6 oz. container of rinsed button mushrooms.  Toss ingredients in a large bowl with Brussels Sprouts.  Pour olive oil mixture over vegetables (add extra olive oil if needed).  Pour onto foil-lined cookie sheet and roast 35-40 minutes, until sprouts and bacon have lightly browned.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Entertaining: Selecting the Menu

We will be hosting my in-laws this week and last week we decided on what is sure to be a delicious menu.  We will be preparing:
  • Maple-Bourbon brined turkey
  • a small ham
  • stuffing
  • roasted sweet potatoes
  • green beans
  • gravy
  • cranberry sauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • handmade dinner rolls
  • dessert
It is sure to be an eventful day in the kitchen, and that is one of the things I love most about the holiday!  We will also be serving wine, tap and sparkling water.  To start, I'll be stirring up a pomegranate-champagne cocktail.   For parties, I like to make a little beverage station near the dinner table and put out a spread of options, both alcoholic and not.

My iced beverage glasses with sparkling water and a pomegranate for decor
Pomegranate Cocktail recipe:
fill each fluted champagne glass with 1 oz. pomegranate juice (the 100% POM bottles are best)
top with 4 oz. champagne
garnish with orange peel and pomegranate seeds


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Entertaining: Setting the Table

When entertaining, I always set the table before I do any prep work or cooking.  Because food preparation can be exhausting, I've learned that waiting to set the table until just before dinner is served means my overlooking minor details and rushing the job.  The table setting should set the mood for the dinner you will enjoy.  My thoughts on the table scape is that is should reflect the work you've put into cooking your meal.  My New Year's resolution this year was to use my formal china more often, and so because of that, I've decided to set a formal table, minus the excess of silverware and multiple stemware per person at the table.  

So the first thing you will want to do is decide for yourself what kind of table you'll set.  We've found some inspirational table settings online to help guide your choice:

A harvest themed table with casual china and flatware, and occasional stemware, Pinterest

A casual table setting,

A formal table setting, Pinterest
Here is what I like to have at my table, regardless of whether it's casually or formally set:
  • fresh flowers
  • placemats
  • charger plates (find the ones I've used below, $12/set of 4, here)
  • dinner plates
  • salad plates
  • iced beverage glasses
  • wine glasses
  • silverware
This year, wishing to incorporate my formal china and monogrammed wedding napkins, I decided to go with a platinum and gold table theme.  

Our Thanksgiving table setting

Fresh flowers will be added come Tuesday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday, Good Grapes!  We hope you have a wonderful weekend.  We will spend ours preparing for fall parties and Thanksgiving.  It's always been our favorite holiday!  Come back next week for table setting ideas, recipes, wine recommendations and more!

A regular ceramic pot becomes a pilgrim's hat centerpiece.  Via Woman's Day Magazine

Thursday, November 17, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Cheapest Candelabra Ever

I wasn't looking for this one, but when I saw it for $3 at my favorite thrift store, I figured it was worth taking home and I could worry later about where to place it.  I couldn't distinguish the metal.  Whatever it was, it was old and rusty.  Nothing a fresh coat of spray paint couldn't fix.  Next, I added crystal accents that I had on my chandelier two homes ago.  I finished the look with a tassle (also left over from my old home's decor) and taper candles from a box that I already had.  $3.00 ended up doing a lot for our newest piece of furniture!

Before: a rusty base and cheap metal

After a glossy coat of spray paint and accessories

The candelabra adds height and elegance to this vignette

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

Hello grape lovers!  I wanted to write about a wine I tried for the first time and adored.  The bottle is 3 Girls (appropriate, no?) and the winemaker is Oak Ridge.  I bought this because it was on sale recently and because I am one of 3 girls in our family.  Get it?  Okay.  The wine was so delicious and perfect for the pinot lover who wants to get acquainted with fuller bodied reds.  It's a very light cabernet, easy on the palette.  I enjoyed this wine with homemade pizza.  Available at World Market for around $10 a bottle. 


Seasoned Pork Loin and Vegetables

Fall is officially here and I am packing on the pounds with hearty meals.  This week we enjoyed a delicious pork loin with roasted vegetables.  This is a great dish for entertaining, as it's simple to prepare and serves six.  I kept it easy this time, adding only a bag of organic carrots and onions, but usually I include green and yellow squash with the vegetables.  You can really serve just about any vegetable you enjoy with this pork and seasoning!  

Easy vegetable prep: fresh cut veggies, olive oil, and seasoning
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp creole seasoning
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3-4 pounds pork loin
fresh cut vegetables of preference (pictured are a bag of organic carrots and a large yellow onion)

1.  Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl. 
2.  In a medium bowl, combine cut vegetables.  Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp of seasoning mix from step 1 over vegetables.  Mix.
3.  Rub 1-2 tbsp olive oil over loin.  Rub remaining seasoning onto loin.  Place in baking dish.  Arrange vegetables next to loin.  
4.  Cook in pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until done. 

Loin and veggies before being placed in the oven

Recipe, served with a side of lemon orzo pasta with mushrooms

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Underrated: The Carnation

At the start of this year, a good friend had a brilliant resolution: to keep fresh flowers on display in her home weekly.  She's done a fabulous job at keeping up and prepping bouquets for the season but recently she asked advice on how to keep her resolution without having to pay so much each week for fresh flowers.  The solution?  A bouquet of carnations.  I have always thought this flower is underrated and I think it's just perfect for buying to display in the home.  Available in a variety of colors and usually for around $3 a bunch, you don't have to worry about the color matching the season.  I'm thinking about adopting this resolution for 2012! 

via images

Tablescape via Pinterest

step-by-step to achieving the look in picture #2


Monday, November 14, 2011

We're Flattered!

Happy Monday!  I hope everyone enjoyed their weekends.  Ours struck the perfect balance of productivity with elements of fun, travel, rest and socializing.  I love those kinds of weekends.  Anyway, as I mentioned last week, we received a major compliment in the form of a Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you for the love, Carol, The Design Pages is one of our faves!

In following with the requirements, we are here to share 7 things about ourselves. Here we go!

1.   I really cannot drink soft drinks.  I'll think I crave a diet coke or something bubbly and I will take two sips and once again determine they are not for me.  - Ana

2.  I love getting dressed up.  Whatever the occasion, if there is an excuse to wear a dress, get my nails, hair and makeup done, I look to forward it.  I wear minimal makeup and boring clothes to work and otherwise live in leggings and tees, so I love any excuse for an all-out 'transformation.'  -Ana

Getting hair and later makeup done at Safar, Miami Beach
3.  My all-time favorite food is a mouth-watering burger.  I've searched my city high and low for the perfect burger.  The two best burgers I've ever had are at Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C. and at Love Shack, in Ft. Worth, TX. -Ana

Perfection.  Love Shack's 'love burger' with fried onions and jalapeno slices.
4. I love travel and have a special place in my heart for Italy.  I cook Italian better than I cook my own Mexican food (we are half Cuban and half Mexican), I pick up the language easily and, and I can even toss a pizza dough.  My mom swears I was Italian in another life.  -Ana

Wine tasting in the Chianti Region, Tuscany, Italy, January 20
5. I also have a deep love of traveling. Maybe it runs in our blood? I've always been an adventure seeker and make sure to turn every trip into an adventure. I've been (almost) everywhere on my bucket list and I'm only 25. The coolest thing I've ever done while on a trip was when I went skydiving in Interlaken, Switzerland with one of my best friends. It was absolutely amazing! - Cristi 

Photo: Skydiving in Switzerland

6. I am obsessed with journaling and photography. I have been through dozens and dozens of journals throughout my life and I constantly have a camera on hand—whether it be my iPhone, my Canon Powershot SD, my Nikon D3100 or (my favorite) Canon FTh that I inherited from my father. I truly believe a picture speaks 1000 words and love capturing special moments and manipulating images to create a truly artistic piece. And when a picture won’t do (although that is rare…) I journal. -Cristi

Photo: My Canon FTh (and my favorite Hemingway novel) on my desk

7.  I make a killer guacamole. I don’t know when it started but I guess I did it for family dinner one time. Our dad is always doing big carne asadas or “cookouts” and fajitas are a staple in every one of them. So naturally, you need guacamole to go on your fajita tacos. Ever since my first batch I’ve been designated the guacamole maker in the family and everyone always comments on how good it is. The trick? Keep it simple. I only add fresh lime juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder and sometimes paprika to the avocados. -Cristi

Photo: Kalyn's Kitchen c/o Google
And now, without further wait, a few versatile blogs we're happy to share our love with:
  1. Emerald Cidade 
  2. Sadie and Stella 
  3. Mint Love Social Club 
  4. Boubon and Bleu 
  5. Name 5 Things
Ana and Cristi

Thursday, November 10, 2011

{Thrifty Thursday} Hostess Essentials

First, let's get down to the thrifty.  Bloomingdale's is having a holiday friends and family event through Sunday.  20% off most sale and regular priced items when you enter code HAPPY at checkout.  Don't forget to also use code FREESHIP11 to qualify your order for free shipping. Bloomingdale's is my absolute favorite place to find beautiful dining and entertaining pieces.  I wish I could register all over again so that I could register off of their website!  

One of the things I would register for, knowing my love for hosting large dinner parties, are plates specifically for entertaining.  I already covered thrifty entertaining stemware in a previous post, and today we'll shop a few classic essentials for the rest of your dining table. 

First, you will want a set of 12 dinner plates.  Bloomingdale's offers a collection by 10 Strawberry Street that fits the budget of any hostess.  After the discount, you pay less than $30 for the set. 

Set of 12 dinner plates, $29 after discount
Second, I would buy 24 salad plates.  This is appropriate both for smaller dinner parties to use as salad plates or for larger parties where you want to serve mainly heavy appetizers.  10 Strawberry Street offers a great collection.

Set of 12 salad plates, $21 after discount
And last, I actually get the most use out of my Crate and Barrel appetizer plates.  I have 36 of them and find they come in handy for parties large and small. 
Set of 12 appetizer plates, $22.95 (10 Strawberry Street sells a set for $26 after discount)

Happy Shopping and holiday entertaining!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

Hello y'all!  Before I introduce a loved recipe, we would like to wish Carol over at The Design Pages a huge congrats for receiving the Versatile Blogger Award!  We love her blog and are happy someone else gave her fabulous recognition as well.  We were beyond flattered when Carol passed the award along to to us and that she mentioned us among her favorite blogs!  We are so tickled!  We will be returning the favor and passing the award on to some favorite blogs, so please come back Friday to read our post on that.  

Now, on to the recipe of the week!  We have two Thanksgiving potluck parties coming up and I always bring this dessert.  It is quite simple, in season, and exceptionally tasty.  Enjoy!

2 (8 oz) packages Philadelphia brand fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash each of nutmeg and All Spice
Graham cracker crust (either ready-to-use or make your own)

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs; mix until blended.  Remove 1 cup batter, add to small bowl; stir in pumpkin and spices.  

Pour original batter onto crust.  Top with pumpkin batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until center is almost set.  Cool.  refrigerate 3 hours or overnight to set.  Optional:  Garnish with whipped cream just before serving.

Photo: Kraft (This recipe is from my Kraft Make it Simple Book)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

From Blue to New

Remember I told you how blue was one of my favorite colors? Well, I did something unexpected this past week. Yes it’s true, I love the color blue but surprisingly, my new bedroom doesn’t have any blue. I think I can justify this because my living room is all white, black and blue. Anyway, I had this awkward little nook in my new bedroom space that I had NO IDEA how to fill. It wasn’t big enough for a large working space and when I tried to place my chair in the nook it looked like a time out corner in a kindergarten classroom. What would fill this awkward tiny space? The answer came to me in a visit to my parents’ house. When I was younger I had the most beautiful blue desk (really, it’s more of a vanity) and wing chair in my room. It was the perfect periwinkle blue and perfect size for the mini me. Once my parents redid my bedroom they wanted to toss my blue desk but I begged them to keep it—for simple sentimental reasons. So there it sat, misplaced in my “grown up” room look. Well, my blue desk is back in action with a new [usable] home! Only this time…it’s not so blue.

I figured my blue desk would be perfect for the awkward nook space in my new bedroom, but like I mentioned---I didn’t have any other blue décor. So of course, mom and I made a trip to Sherman-Williams with my bed skirt in hand and found a color to match perfectly. I carried my blue desk out to the backyard, said one last goodbye and converted my blue desk to this lovely dusty rose vanity for my new room. It was bittersweet, but I LOVE my new vanity. My next purchase is going to be a Louis ghost chair for the desk. Who knows…maybe if I ever get a niece she can inherit this perfect little vanity for her pink room. :) 

Photo: My beloved blue desk before its makeover
Photo: New dusty rose shade of my vanity
Photo: "New" desk takes its place in the new room
Photo: Replaced wooden knob with this lovely crystal knob with gold undertones ($3.99 from Home Depot).
Photo: Decorating the new space with art from Leigh Viner.
Photo: Decorating with my vintage Canon FTb, favorite Hemingway novel and eyeglasses.