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The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



Junior League Cookbook Giveaway (and Chicken with Gnocchi recipe)

I love looking at community cookbooks. Whether it's a slim pamphlet cranked out at the local print shop or an elegantly designed hardcover volume, nearly all offer a "slice of life" perspective while contributing to a fundraising goal. Win-win!

Among the most prized are Junior League Cookbooks. So when a fellow Junior League of Chicago member asked if I'd share our urban chic cookbook, Peeling the Wild Onion, of course I said YES! Peeling features recipes from top Chicago restaurants and chefs, and is organized by season. And...

I'm giving away three copies!

What a marvelous Christmas gift this would be! Perfect for a gourmand, a cookbook collector, or someone who loves our fair foodie city. 


How to enter:
1) Visit the JLC web site and take a look at our community projects. Leave a comment on this post (include your email address) telling me which one resonates with you.
2) You can also tweet the following: Calling all cooks: @SecndCitySoiree is giving away a beautiful @JuniorLeagueChi cookbook! http://su.pr/27Z7aZ
3) Contest ends Friday, Nov 18 2011, at 10pm Central. The winners will be randomly selected and announced by the following Monday.
4) Rules: one comment and one tweet per person. Must be US citizen 18+

This contest is closed. Congratulations to readers Dante, Eulalia and Heidi, who are now owners of this lovely cookbook. A very big thanks to all who entered and took the time to look over the JLC's many wonderful projects!

And now, an elegant recipe from the book. I made this last weekend, and it was delicious...

Whole Roasted Baby Chicken with Potato Gnocchi, Honey-Glazed Parsnips and Young Beets

From the Junior League of Chicago's Peeling the Wild Onion
This recipe was provided by the Executive Chef of Naha.

1 small organic chicken
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Several sprigs fresh thyme

1 pound beets
2 to 4 parsnips
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ready-to-cook gnocchi
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
1 1/4 cups white wine

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, Stuff the thyme into the chicken. Truss the chicken with clean cotton string or kitchen twine. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy sauté pan. Add the chicken and cook until browned all over, turning occasionally. Remove to a roasting pan. Dot with l tablespoon of the butter. Roast in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 1 hour. Remove the chicken and let stand until cool. Pour the wine into the roasting pan and reserve the juices. Cut the chicken into smaller pieces, discarding the bones.

Cook the beets in cold water to cover in a large pot over medium-high heat until tender. Cool and peel the beets under running water, gently pulling off the skins by hand. (Wear plastic gloves to avoid stains.) Trim the bottom and top of the beets and cut them into halves or Wedges, depending on the size.

Peel the parsnips and cut them into desired shapes. Saute the parsnips in 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet. Remove to a roasting pan and roast in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drizzle with the honey. Roast for 10 minutes or until glazed and caramelized.

Boil the gnocchi in water using the package directions. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan and saute the gnocchi for 15 minutes.

To assemble, place the chicken on an ovenproof serving plate. Surround the chicken with the sauteed gnocchi. Top with the glazed parsnips and beets. Reheat in the oven, Drizzle vvith the extra-virgin olive oil or with the reserved pan juices.

Yield: 4 servings


How to host THANKSGIVING in a SMALL space

Today's post is part of the #HolidayHQ Blog Hop. See the links below for more posts from the best party and entertaining experts!

Dinner a la coffee table.
This recipe is from the Junior League of Chicago cookbook. I'll share the recipe and do a book giveaway next Wednesday!

There's no doubt about it - small houses are the trend! Whether it's due to the economy or eco-consciousness, Americans are settling into cozier nests. For all the pluses of small-space living (easier to maintain, often close to more shopping, culture, restaurants, etc.), entertaining can be a challenge. Thanksgiving is a particularly tricky holiday, what with all the expectations of recreating that Normal Rockwell moment around the turkey. How to do it in your petite pied-à-terre? Let's address the issue of table space and kitchen space...


Table Space

No table? Remove the doorknob and hinges from a closet door and place it over two sawhorses (sometimes available for rent at a home improvement store). Cover with a festive tablecloth and no one's the wiser. OR arrange tray tables in a tight circle. Cover each with solid-colored fabric in different autumn hues for a pretty "fall leaves" effect.

Tiny table? Cover your dinette set with a protective piece of fabric. Put a large piece of plywood over that, and then a decorative tablecloth over the plywood. Voilà...bigger table!


Kitchen Space

Want to keep beverage-seekers out of the kitchen? Set up soda, wine, and craft beer in a cooler in the living area. I know, plastic coolers are not chic. So keep the cooler open and nicely arrange the bottles within. Cover the outside of the cooler and the open lid with festive fabric. You might have to replenish the ice once, but no one will mistake your Thanksgiving soiree for a tailgate BBQ.

Itty-bitty oven? Use your crockpot, darling! You can cook multiple Thanksgiving menu items in a slow cooker, including a turkey breast.

Not enough stovetop burners? Supplement with a hot plate or portable induction cooktop. Induction cooktops do not get hot to the touch, although you do need a clad pot in order to make the induction magic happen.


Housewife Bliss  |  Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Celebrations at Home  | How to Host a Fall Pizza Party
The TomKat Studio | Delicious Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Tatertots & Jello |  DIY Thanksgiving Place Cards
Second City Soiree  | How to Host Thanksgiving in a Small Space
With Style and Grace | Small Bites for a Thankful Crowd
Party BluPrints  |  The Thanksgiving Kids' Table
The Daily Basics  |  Fall Door Decorating and the Best Recipe for Pumpkin Pie
The Gracious Girl  |  The Gift of Gratitude

Join us on Twitter this Thursday, November 10th 8pm EST for another #HolidayHQ chat. Get Thanksgiving ideas, recipes & tips from top crafting, foodie & entertaining experts


Behind the SCENES with Bertolli & TODAYSHOW.COM

Many months ago, my friends at Bertolli asked me to participate in a sponsored spot for the Today Show's "Cooking School" web site on MSN! On a hot morning in September, we drove from our hotel in Manhattan to the location in New Jersey and filmed "Becoming Soup Savvy". I shared soup etiquette and serving tips, in conjunction with the launch of their Meal Soup line. Check out some behind-the-scenes photos and the finished product:

Lights, camera...


We were filming at a private house rather than a set, so our crew had to do some creative maneuvering with their equipment. Lots to trip over!


Setting Scene 3, where I discussed the dos and don'ts of soup. (Tip: it is not ok to faceplant into the bowl, no matter how good it smells.)


Hamming it up while waiting for the scene to roll. Next to me is Maria and then Margaret (you can just barely see her pretty curly hair) of ItalianAmericanGirl.com


And here's Paula of Bellalimento.com, filming her segment. After being Twitter pals for ages (ok, since we both got on Twitter...I guess 2008 is "ages ago" on the internet),  we FINALLY got to meet in person! She demonstrated how to make a fabulous pomegranate panna cotta in ten minutes.


Watch the video at MSN/Today Show Cooking School!


Six FRIGHTENING (but not gory) Halloween FILMS

A lot of people don't like scary movies, and I think that often, what they mean is they don't like gory movies. I totally agree. Films that twist your world and make you think are more my speed - The Sixth Sense, for instance. I've put together a short list of psychological thrillers you might not have seen before, some of which you can get on iTunes (links included). Pass the truffled popcorn!

The Others (2001)
Ah, my favorite scary movie! This period film takes place in the the 1940s and is loosely based on the novela The Turn of the Screw. Life is lonely for Nicole Kidman and her two children at their isolated house on the isle of Jersey. Just when she needs help the most, a group of servants appear and offer their services...
The Innocents (1961)
This BAFTA-nominated British film is also based on The Turn of the Screw, but interprets it from a much different angle. It stars Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave, with Truman Capote as a screenplay co-writer.
Stir of Echoes (1999)
When Kevin Bacon's character undergoes hypnosis, it opens his mind to a host of unwanted activity. Lots of Chicago shots, for my fellow Windy City dwellers.
The Presitge (2006)
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are rival stage magicians in 1890s London. Their stage shows turn into a deadly competitive game, with one constantly striving to out-do the other.
The Machinist (2004)
Another film staring Christian Bale, this time as a disturbed factory work with a repressed memory. As the memory bubbles to the surface, his concept of reality quickly becomes unhinged.
Momento (2000)
This Oscar winning film tells the tale of a man suffering from amnesia, struggling to uncover his wife's murderer. Two story sequences - one in color and the other in black and white - are seemingly separate until they come together at the end.

{gardening} HOW TO force spring BULBS

I have a brown thumb, and am forever asking my friend Heather (a horticulturalist) for help. Since she's made my rooftop garden a thing of beauty, I asked if she would share her tips with you, too!

Tulips! Daffodils! Iris? Yes, it’s nearly November, but with a little planning, you can enjoy a beautiful spring show in about 12 weeks. Forcing bulbs is a time-honored tradition for those of us impatient with winter’s grey skies. I prefer to force bulbs in pots of soil as you have a fair chance of them still thriving when planted outdoors. It also can be a thoughtful hostess gift for the person who has everything.

You will need:
• large, top quality bulbs
• containers that have a drainage hole and are at least four inches in size
• potting soil
• a trowel or scoop
• a watering can or hose
• gloves if you prefer
• a tarp, drop cloth, or sheet to contain spillage and for easy clean up


For this project, I’m doing both a gift and one for myself. A piece of gravel covers the drainage hole so your potting soil doesn’t spill straight out the bottom.


Add at least two inches of potting soil at the bottom to give roots room to grow.

My gift container will be one huge scarlet parrot tulip. For myself, I’m layering different bulbs to extend the blossom time to about six weeks, starting with a few of those red tulips.


Next, I’m adding poet-type fragrant daffodils with a bit of red in the eye of the trumpet. As you are picking out bulbs, consider pairing complimentary colors and contrasting shapes. The tulips are very upright, while the daffodils are more nodding. Don’t worry about stacking them nearly on top of each other, the bulbs will sort themselves out.


To balance out the large red parrot tulips and the bright white daffodils, I’m adding some cute little fragrant yellow tulips. This will also pull together the flashes of yellow in the tulips with the touch of yellow in the daffodil cups. They are planted right to the edge to allow the foliage to gracefully drape over the sides of the pot.


Last, but not least is a top dressing of miniature iris. These irises will bloom first and add a soft blue note to our dramatic red, yellow and white combination.


Top off your containers with about three inches of potting soil and water thoroughly.


Now, you’ll need to find a place for these bulbs to chill. They will need to be kept between 33° and 45° for at least 12 weeks in a dark place. This could be an unheated garage, the back porch in deep shade or even a refrigerator that does not contain fruit. Keep soil lightly moist and check it every week or so for dryness. You can loosely cover the containers, but make sure that mold does not form. Since I’m using tulips, they will need at least 12 weeks of chilling.

After the cooling period, and three or four weeks before you want the blossoms to appear, move the container to a moderately warm spot, about 60º. Keep it in indirect light for a few days, until shoots appear and turn green. Then move it into direct sun but someplace that stays relatively cool as the cooler the temperatures the longer the flowers will last. Water the bulbs as you would a houseplant, keeping the container moist, but not soaking. Before you can say "there's the first robin" you'll be enjoying gorgeous spring blooms!

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

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