Monday, January 31, 2011

$10 Dinner Party

Saturday night, I hosted a wine and appetizer night at my house. The gathering was small - about eight of some of my closest family members were in attendance - and the cost of hosting the party was also tiny. I offered to provide all the food, and had each of my guests bring their favorite bottle of wine.


On the menu: Roasted Chickpeas, Black Bean Hummus, crackers with two kinds of cheese (Monterey Jack and jalapeno), olive penguins (courtesy of my mother), and Newman's Own Spinach & Feta pizza, sliced up into "appetizer-sized" slices.





How cute are those penguins?! Later this week, I'll provide recipes for both the Black Bean Hummus and Roasted Chickpeas. But I had to share this first: The total cost of this wine/appetizer party? $10.28. I already had most of the ingredients in my kitchen, and only had to buy some crackers, the two cheeses, and the pita chips for the hummus. Plus, it was nice to keep the menu simple to spend less time in the kitchen and more time catching up with my family. 

Stay tuned: Later this week/next week, I'll be reviewing one of CSN Store's wonderful, economical products! CSN Stores sells everything from kitchenware to modern dining room furniture, and I'm excited to share one of their EE-friendly products with you!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dinner at Ole Mexican Grill + First Attempt at Video

On Wednesday evening, Z and I used his Rue La La coupon and enjoyed (basically) a free meal at Ole Mexican Grill in Cambridge.


To celebrate my new meat-free diet, we started our meal with a Silver Flight of tequila, which included a shot of Sauza Tres Generaciones, Herradura Blanco, El Tesoro Platinu and a spicy tomato juice chaser.


The waitress brought us some complimentary chips and fresh, smoky salsa, and then we ordered the housemade guacamole ($10), prepared right at our table. (See below for my first video attempt - complete with a cameo by Z):

video

The finished product.


Oh man. Ole's guacamole is hands down the best I've ever tasted. The avocados used were perfectly ripe, and there was a perfect amount of fresh cilantro, tomatoes, lime juice and red onion. I even told Z I could eat their guac with a spoon. It was that good.

Since we filled up on chips and tequila, Z and I decided to order some of Ole's small plates for our entrees.  Like the bad blogger that I am, I didn't write down the names/prices for these dishes - and for whatever reason, they're not listed on Ole's website. But, I can say that both of our meals were delicious and perfectly portioned after scarfing down a vat of guac. Z went for the corn pudding, which was served with fresh beets and a delightful, well seasoned sauce. The corn pudding was crispy on the outside, with a soft, corn-bread-like inside.


I ordered the roasted poblano pepper stuffed with ooey, gooey cheese and garnished with a pureed, refried bean-type sauce - and smothered with more cheese. 


Our meal at Ole is one of the best meals I've had out at a restaurant in a while. The food was spectacular - and the menu options were surprisingly authentic and innovative - the staff was friendly and attentive, and the atmosphere was clean and inviting. I can't wait to go back!

What's your favorite Mexican restaurant in the Boston area?

Olé Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon


Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Life-Changing Decision

As some of you may noticed, over the last few months, the recipes on my blog have become increasingly meat-less. And as most of you know, my other half is a vegetarian. Z and I have been dating for over two years, and during that time, I have eaten less and less meat. Two of the things we enjoy most are going out to eat and cooking together - and my palate has changed. When we go out to eat now, I find myself ordering breakfast sandwiches without bacon (I never thought that would happen), and choosing homemade black bean burgers over the beef or turkey varieties - all by choice.

In addition to my changing palate, I have also recently read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and am now (finally) reading Fast Food Nation - two novels that have given me a horrific look into the meat-packing industry. I've discovered that the majority of meat I grew up eating isn't really meat at all. And since my diet has included less and less meat over time, I actually feel ill after eating a regular meal's worth of it.

Over the last several years, my almost meat-less diet has also made me feel better, mentally and physically. I can honestly say I've never felt healthier - and I've always been a pretty healthy girl. And at the end of the summer, Z and I will be moving in together - another exciting bit of news! - and I know I won't be cooking a steak in a pan that he will later have to cook his own vegetarian meal in.

So, earlier this week, I made the executive decision - after a long time coming - to become a full-blown vegetarian. Now, I still don't know if that includes me eating seafood or not - I am going to play that one by ear - but at this time, I'm planning on a lacto-ovo diet. And I'm pretty damn excited about it.

Now, this does not mean The EE will become an all vegetarian, all the time blog - no way. I still support eating meat 100%, and plan to have more guest blog posts with omnivorous recipes. I will also still support and promote local restaurant's events, etc. that involve meat. Nothing on this blog will change except for the fact that I won't be eating meat.

When I started out as a food writer back in 2005, I never thought the day would come that I would never eat meat again. I pored over Jeffrey Steingarten's work like an obsessive teenager, and dreamed of the day I would travel the world to eat things like Haggis, beef tongue, and other exotic dishes. But over time, and after falling in love with a vegetarian who has a passion for food as strong as mine, the desire to eat meat has increasingly diminished. I still plan to travel the world and do as many restaurant reviews as possible - it will just now be from a healthier, meat-less perspective. A perspective I secretly wish I developed years ago.

If you're not already a vegetarian - would you ever consider sticking to a vegetarian diet? Why or why not?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chard and White Beans

Earlier this week, I wanted to make Z a special dinner. These last few weeks, I've been one giant stress ball, and wanted to make up for my recent 'tude by cooking Z something delicious. After much Google searching and brainstorming with my Twitter buddies, I finally decided on this Eating Well recipe for Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chard and White Beans for Two.

Believe it or not, I have never cooked with acorn squash or chard before. I was a little intimidated by this recipe, but knew the short ingredient list and easy-sounding directions would make this a pretty straightforward recipe to follow. And is it turns out, it was. The only hiccup: I don't have a microwave - by choice, so I had to make the acorn squash soft by baking it in the oven at 400 degrees until it was "fork tender." I could have left the acorn squash in the oven longer than I did (it was in there for about 10 minutes), but it still came out well.

This dish was really simple to make, and using ingredients I don't normally cook with made this dish feel like we were celebrating a special occasion - even though it only took me about 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

I'm sharing big news on the blog tomorrow - life-changing news, in fact. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Hidden Gem in Tilton, N.H.

On Saturday, Z and I went snowboarding at Loon Mountain with a few friends of ours. We had to be back in Boston Saturday evening, but we were both in the mood for a quick, yet delicious dinner on the long ride home. We both were in the mood for a slice of pizza, and after visiting a few pizzerias off the Tilton, N.H. exit that didn't serve pizza by the slice, we finally stumbled upon Tilton House of Pizza - a hidden gem in the quaint town of Tilton.

Tilton House of Pizza, unfortunately, also doesn't serve pizza by the slice, but the aromas of their pies drew us in - and we ended up purchasing a large pizza, topped with onions and green peppers, knowing we'd have some leftovers for later on that evening. While we waited for our pizza to cook, Z and I rested in one of THOP's comfy, clean booths and watched the Celtics game on their flatscreen TV.

Before we knew it, our pie was done, and we grabbed some paper plates and crushed red pepper, and went back on the road to Boston. Z and I both devoured two slices in no time, and we were both impressed with the thick, yet airy and crispy crust. The pizza was insanely cheesey and the toppings were plentiful - two characteristics of a pizza that I think are critical, especially when there's a worthy crust holding everything up.

For future reference - if you ever happen to find yourself in Tilton like we did - Tilton House of Pizza's prices are also very inexpensive. Z, the wonderful man that he is, paid for our pie, but I know it didn't cost more than $8 or $9. On the tables, THOP also advertised their beer mugs and pitchers, which ranged from $1.50-$3. Just sayin'.

What did you do this weekend?

Tilton House of Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dinner at Om Restaurant for Half the Price

Earlier this week, Z and I used a Groupon we had at Om Restaurant in Harvard Square. Om serves up American and Asian fusion cuisine inside a beautiful, Indian-Asian inspired interior. It was Z and I's first time dining at Om, and it's one local restaurant we've been dying to check out. After our meal, we were both very happy we finally did.

I started off the night with a glass of pinot grigio ($8), and Z went for an Allagash White ($5).


While we sipped our drinks and perused the menu, our waitress brought us over some complimentary popcorn with truffle butter, which was wonderfully rich, salty and addictive. 


For a meal, we decided to split two appetizers and an entree in order to sample several dishes on Om's inventive menu. With only a few vegetarian options to choose from, we decided on the Sweet Potato Ravioli ($10) and Vegetable Momos ($7 for 1/2 dozen) as our appetizers. 

Sweet Potato Ravioli.
Vegetable Momos.
Both of these dishes were elegant and delicious. The sweet potato ravioli, prepared in wontons and smothered in a brown butter cream sauce and garlic chives, was luxurious, yet light. The momos, which were also served with three vibrant dipping sauces (that Blogger unfortunately won't let me upload properly) were also tasty, but unfortunately rather bland if not dipped in the accompanying sweet and sour sauces. 

For an entree, Z and I split the Chinese BBQ Tofu ($18), which was organic crispy tofu served with Chinese broccoli and Himalayan red rice.


Due to the price, I never would have bought this dish just by looking at the menu without a Groupon, but due to the taste - I'd definitely order it again. Z and I both commented on how perfectly cooked the tofu was, and the Chinese broccoli - my first time having it - was beautifully bitter, and complemented the sweet & tangy tofu sauce and rice just perfectly. 

Overall, our dinner at Om Restaurant was a great experience. Although the prices are a little steep for my normal budget, it was nice to experience a "special occasion" restaurant for half the normal price, and have a great meal to boot. 

OM Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spinach, Mushroom & Black Bean Enchiladas

On Tuesday, it did nothing but rain and snow here in Boston. The dreary, chilly weather forced me to crave an apartment full of the smells of something baking in the oven. I knew I had some leftover frozen spinach at home, and, after much brainstorming, decided to incorporate the leafy green veggie into a Mexican-inspired dish.

Spinach, Mushroom & Black Bean Enchiladas
Yields: 4 servings

-1/2 bag frozen spinach
-5 white mushrooms, roughly chopped
-1 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese, divided
-1 10 oz. can mild enchilada sauce, divided
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-1 tbsp. minced garlic
-Cayenne pepper
-Cumin
-Salt and black pepper
-4 whole wheat soft tortillas

Directions: 
1.) Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add frozen spinach and cook until mostly thawed. Add black beans and mushrooms; stir, and cook for 2 more minutes.

2.) Add garlic, and season with desired amount of cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 can of enchilada sauce and about 1/2 cup of the cheese, and stir until melted throughout.


3.) Prepare square casserole dish by greasing with a little olive (or canola) oil. Fill each tortilla with a few generous spoonfuls of the spinach mixture, and roll up like a sandwich wrap. Place each of the four tortillas open side-down in the casserole dish. Top enchiladas with the remainder of the cheese and enchilada sauce (I also had some leftover filling to put on top).

4.) Bake in 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve with brown rice and a dollop of sour cream.



Oh man. These came out good, if I do say so myself! And they are also really nutritious, if you can look past all that cheese. And thanks to the nutrients in the spinach and mushrooms, one enchilada left me perfectly satiated. 


Since I had most of the ingredients used in these enchiladas already in my kitchen, this entire meal cost me under $10. Here's the cost breakdown:

Black beans: $0.80
Mushrooms: $1.99
Sour cream: $0.99
Enchilada sauce: $1.79
Tortillas: $2.19
Cheese: $2
Total: $9.76

The best part about making four dinners for under $10? I didn't even use all of the sour cream, mushrooms or cheese - so I can still incorporate those in other recipes throughout the week and weekend.

How have you stretched a dollar lately?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

One More Reason to Love Cambridge 1

Over the weekend, Z and I met his family at one of my favorite restaurants in Harvard Square, Cambridge 1. I've been there with Z and his family before, and one of our favorite ways to enjoy their menu is to each order half of a pizza and share. Cambridge 1's pizza is charcoal grilled, extra thin and crispy, and the toppings are always fresh, innovative and downright flavorful.

On this particular evening, we all shared the arugula salad ($8) and bibb lettuce salad ($8) before our pizzas arrived at the table. The arugula salad is made with fresh, shaved parmesan cheese, and dressed with an unnecessary amount of extra virgin olive oil. The bibb lettuce salad was also over dressed with dijon vinaigrette, but the addition of grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and creamy gorgonzola helped to take my mind off of it.

For my entree, I ordered the #4, made with portobello, asiago cheese and roasted onion pizza ($8 for half). The subtle sweetness of the portobello mushrooms paired beautifully with the salty asiago and sweet onions. I'm a huge fan of thin, crispy pizza crust, so Cambridge 1's crust is addicting to me. Half of a pizza there is also easy for one person to eat, thanks to the airy, non-filling crust.

All in all, we had another successful dinner at Cambridge 1. Other pies I love there: The #5, made with potato, fontina, parmigiano, romano, rosemary and garlic ($8), as well as the #12, made with spinach, artichoke hearts, chevre, and slow roasted tomatoes ($8).

Have you ever been to Cambridge 1? What's your review?

Cambridge, 1. on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hummus Turkey Burgers

It's amazing how some blog posts can inspire dinner. Last week, I came across this post on Cooking Whims for Hummus Turkey Burgers with Cucumber-Feta Cheese. Sounds fantastic, right? Well, the recipe (and photos) had me craving these gems all damn day at work, so by the time I got home, I, naturally, had to make them - with a few modifications, due to what was already in my kitchen.

I had to buy the ground turkey meat (I bought organic, which only cost $1 more than the "other" packages) and the whole wheat rolls, but otherwise, I just used what was already in my kitchen. Here's my modified recipe.

Hummus Turkey Burgers 
Yields: 4 burgers

-1 package organic ground turkey
-1/2 cup hummus, plus extra for spreading (I used a combo of Trader Joe's original and roasted red pepper)
-Dried parsley
-Cumin
-Salt and black pepper to taste
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-4 slices cheddar cheese
-8 tomato slices
-Toasted whole wheat burger buns

Directions:
1.) Mix the turkey, hummus, parsley and cumin in a bowl. Season with your desired amount of salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into 4 patties.

2.) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add the patties and cook until browned and cooked through. This can take anywhere from 5-7 minutes on each side. They’re done when there is no pink in the center of the burger. (Organic turkey meat is also a lot more delicate than "regular" turkey, so just be extra careful when flipping). Add a slice of cheese to each burger once there's 1-1 1/2 minutes left of cooking time, so cheese melts accordingly.

3.) Spread some hummus on each half of the burger buns. Set the burger on top and garnish with the tomato slices (2 slices per burger).


I served my turkey burgers with some baked sweet potato fries, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little chili powder.


Now, I love a good turkey burger, but the addition of the hummus made them incredibly moist. The roasted red pepper flavor also added a nice "kick" to the burger's flavor. Even using organic meat made a huge - in a positive way - difference in the texture and taste. I will definitely be making these again! Plus, burgers are easy to freeze, so if you only eat two, you can easily freeze four for a future lunch or dinner.

Do you normally buy organic meat? Why or why not?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nutella Brownies

Oh yes. I went there.

Due to yesterday's blizzard here in Boston, I had the luxury of working from home. Once the afternoon rolled around, I needed a pick-me-up - it gets tiring doing work all day in your pajamas on the couch. I flipped through a few of my cookbooks, and came across a recipe for Double Chocolate Brownies in the Easy Chocolate cookbook. I didn't have any semisweet chocolate or white chocolate chips, as the original recipe asked for - but, I did have Nutella.

Nutella Brownies
Yields: 9 servings

-1/2 cup butter (or 1 stick), softened, plus extra for greasing
-1/2 cup Nutella
-1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
-Pinch of salt
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-2 eggs
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:
1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a square cake pan with butter.
2.) Place the butter and Nutella in a saucepan; stir on low heat until smooth.


3.) Let cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well until blended.
4.) Add the flour and cocoa to the brownie batter and beat until smooth.


5.) Pour the batter into the greased cake pan.
6.) Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is evenly colored and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out almost clean.
7.) Cut brownies into squares and devour.


Let me just start off by saying if you don't have a sweet tooth, don't make these. These babies were decadent, sweet, and full of Nutella flavor. I also really liked these brownies because they weren't ultra chocolate-y - the hazelnut flavor from the Nutella definitely helped to make these brownies lighter than they otherwise could have been if made with semisweet chocolate.


What went on in your kitchen during the snow storm?

Side note/plea: Would you mind taking a second today to vote for my Coconut Curry Chickpea & Potato Soup in the New England Country Soup's Soup Challenge? Thank you in advance - I really appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Best Way to Save Stock

I've been having issues buying chicken and vegetable stock. Most of the time, I only need a little stock in a recipe, like for baked chicken or pork. But stock is always packaged in boxes or cans in larger quantities that I need for one particular recipe, and the rest of the package goes bad too quickly for me to use it. I've tried freezing the leftover stock, but then never use all the leftovers after the initial de-thaw. What's a girl to do?

Courtesy of www.plasticbubbles.co.za/store.


My mother shared with me this brilliant idea: Pour the stock into ice cube trays and take out the amount you need every time. That way, no mass amount of leftover stock goes wasted, and it can last me as long as possible. Um....genius, right?! My mom said she's seen this trick on several cooking shows, but I have never even heard (or thought) of it. Now I can have a constant supply of stock in my kitchen, without wasting my money or leftover stock on a regular basis. 

Obviously, I'll just need to buy "stock-only" ice cube trays, so my homemade iced coffee doesn't start tasting like homemade soup. 

Have you ever heard of this trick before? Have I been living under a rock?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cheating on Risotto

On Friday night, I drove to New York City to surprise my best friend from college for her birthday. It was a long trip, but well worth the mileage. By the time I got home Saturday night, however, all I wanted was a comforting, home-cooked meal. I knew I had some orzo in my pantry, as well as a box of organic vegetable broth (they were 10 for $10 at Stop & Shop a few weeks ago), so I made do with what I already had in my kitchen.


Once I realized I also had some frozen spinach and parmesan cheese in my fridge, the idea came to me: easy, delicious 'risotto.' I call this dish "Cheating on Risotto" because I felt guilty making it - but it was oh-so-good eating it. 

Cheating on Risotto
Yields: 5-6 servings
-1 pound box orzo
-2 cups vegetable stock or other broth
-1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
-1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-3 cups frozen spinach, cooked and thoroughly drained
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Squirt lemon juice

Directions: 
1.) Bring a pot of salty water to a boil, and cook orzo for 4-5 minutes, until softened but still hard in the center.
2.) In a separate saucepan, bring stock and thyme to a simmer. Add orzo and stir well.
3.) Simmer orzo in stock, stirring regularly, until all the liquid is absorbed.
4.) Off the heat, stir in cheese, butter and spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Squirt a small amount of lemon juice over the pasta and serve.


The end result: Luxurious, cheesy, perfectly cooked 'risotto.' It was the perfect meal to savor after a long trip - and to eat right before crawling into bed. 


What did you do this weekend?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dinner at Olde Magoun's Saloon

The other night, my cousin, Carolan, and I met up over some long overdue beers and dinner. Since she had a Groupon to Olde Magoun's Saloon in Somerville, we decided to meet up there.

I've been to Olde Magoun's once before for Trivia Tuesday, and I loved the pub-style atmosphere, diverse craft beer selection, and friendly service. I only ate some of their Saloon Nachos ($8) the first time I went, so I was excited to actually have dinner there this time around.

After catching up and perusing the menu for a few minutes (while sipping on Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ales), I finally decided on the Portobello Melto ($9.95), which consisted of a marinated portobello mushroom with grilled veggies, goat cheese and pesto between two slices of ciabatta bread.


This sandwich was surprisingly flavorful, and the thick, marinated mushroom complemented the tangy goat cheese and subtle pesto flavor beautifully. The bread to veggie ratio was a little off, but it was a delicious sandwich nonetheless.


At Magoun’s, you get your choice of side with your sandwich or burger (options include nacho chips, potato chips, homemade coleslaw, Cajun pasta salad, French fries, onion rings or a side salad). I opted for the French fries. The fries were definitely nothing special – clearly pre-frozen and ultra deep-fried – but I also wasn’t expecting hand-cut, gourmet potatoes. Plus, they were tasty – sometimes, bad food just tastes good.

Before Carolan and I parted ways, I enjoyed another beer: Mayflower Porter, one of my current favorites. I love how Magoun’s has a chalkboard above the bar of their current draft beers, too – it just adds to the local charm of the place. 

After having a decent dinner there, I think Magoun's is creeping up my list of favorite Somerville bars. I'm eager to go back, enjoy another delicious brew and sample some of their other pub fare (Beef Guinness Stew, anyone?).

Have you ever been to Olde Magoun's Saloon? If yes, what's your review?

Olde Magoun's Saloon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Amaretto Buttercream

Bring cupcakes to a New Year's party, and people forget about the booze...well, at least for 30 seconds.


Z and his cousin, Chris, hosted the New Year's Eve party this year, and I wanted to contribute something other than my charm and good looks....I knew they weren't buying much for dessert, so I decided to make a batch of cupcakes with a leftover box of Betty Crocker's vanilla cake mix that was in my pantry. I wanted to make these cupcakes extra special - and, preferably, "boozey," since it was New Year's Eve, after all - and I had a bottle of amaretto also in my pantry. After some Google searching, I came across this recipe for Amaretto Buttercream, and got to work. 

Amaretto Buttercream 
Yields enough frosting for about 18 cupcakes

-1/3 cup butter, softened
-2 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 cups powdered sugar
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons chopped almonds, toasted (I skipped these)

Directions: 
1.) Place 1/3 cup butter, liqueur, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. (I don't have a mixer, but I used a food processor for this step).
2.) Gradually add powdered sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt, beating just until smooth.
3.) Spread frosting evenly over cupcakes. (If you use the almonds, sprinkle them on top).



The frosting was very sweet - I think next time I'll omit the vanilla extract. However, I love the subtle cherry and almond flavors of amaretto, which blended beautifully with the moist, vanilla cake. Apparently, everyone at the party liked them, too - they were gobbled up before midnight!

How did you ring in the New Year?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Simple & Affordable Surprise Birthday Party

Last week, my sister, Theresa, had a surprise birthday party for my brother-in-law, Jason - who's daughter, Cassidy, also happened to be celebrating a birthday. To make things simple and affordable for everybody, Theresa had a small gathering right at their home with simple appetizers, wine and soda, and she also ordered a couple of pizzas for dinner. 

Originally, we were all going to go out to dinner to celebrate, but with a big crowd (including two infants) it would have been an expensive and possibly chaotic ordeal. I loved this idea of keeping things simple and inexpensive, yet still special for the birthday boy and girl. 

My sister served two kinds of cheddar cheese with crackers...



...as well as homemade spinach and chive dip, served with tortilla chips.


Theresa also had a bottle of white and a bottle of red on hand, plus some soda and water - something for everyone, but nothing extravagant. I didn't snap a photo of the pizza or cake, because I inhaled them so quickly - but she just ordered a cheese and pepperoni to please everyone's palate, and made a vanilla cake with chocolate chips. The cake alone was cheap and easy to make, but the chocolate chips added a special touch throughout.

Let's just say my brother and niece, with the hardest palates to please, were satiated. 


How do you keep things simple and affordable when throwing a party/small gathering?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Belated Christmas Recap

Now that I have finally have my camera back, I thought I'd share some photos with you all from my Christmas with my family. This year's celebration was no different from any other year - and I mean that in a very, very good way. My holiday consisted of a lot of food, family, friends, love and good times. Here's a little taste of why I am one extremely lucky lady (photos in no particular order).

Christmas morning!
\


My family's annual Christmas Eve "Picking Dinner."

My nephew, Ryder, playing with his new Bat Cave.


My Mom and I.

My older sister and my adorable niece, Aubrey.


Christmas dinner!


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, too - and a very happy start to the new year!!