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Wednesday
Apr042012

COCKTAILS that say SPRING

Today's post is part of the #HolidayHQ Blog Hop. See the links below for more posts from the best party and entertaining experts, and join us tonight at 8pm EST on Twitter for our #HolidayHQ chat.

 

Happy spring! Did anyone else get a sunburn on St Patrick's day this year? Personally, I've enjoyed this fair weather trend and have happily sent my wool coat and boots to the back of the closet. It's also a time to change up menu offerings, and that includes drinks. I found the four spring-appropriate recipes below, just in time for Easter brunch. Cheers to warm days ahead!

 

Butterfly Martini Cocktail by Grey Goose

1.5 parts lemon-flavored vodka
2 parts White Grape Juice
3 Basil Leaves
3 Mint Leaves
1 tsp Elderflower Cordial
1 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Lemon Rind
Fill a cocktail shaker with shredded basil and mint leaves, and combine with all other ingredients. Shake with ice and strain through a fine sieve. Top with a squeeze of lemon rind. Serve in a cocktail glass and garnish with an edible flower.
 
 

Lemon Drop Sparkle by Korbel

(12 oz.) can lemonade frozen concentrate, thawed
1 bottle of extra dry sparkling wine
4 oz. Tuaca liqueur
1 1/2 cups sparkling water
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/3 cup lemon drop candies, crushed

In a pitcher, stir to combine lemonade concentrate, champagne, Tuaca and sparkling water. Using a slice of lemon, moisten the rim of each glass. Dip rim into crushed lemon drop candies. Pour in the champagne mixture and garnish with sliced lemons or lemon twist.

Source

 
 

Sapphire Revelation by Bombay

3 parts Gin
2 drops rose water
1/2 part elderflower liqueur

Stir in a mixing glass filled with ice then strain into a chilled martini cocktail glass. Garnish with a single rose petal.

Source

 
 

Bacardi 8 Rum Julep

2 parts Bacardi 8 year old rum
6 parts mint leaves
2/5 part sugar syrup
2 dashes peach bitters
Cubed ice
Spring of mint to garnish

Gently bruise mint with sugar syrup and bitters, in the base of a mixing glass. Then pour rum, add ice, and stir well. Fill a high ball glass with crushed ice, pour the liquid from the mixing glass using a strainer, stir, and add more ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Source

 

 Don't forget to pop in on my friends' posts. There are lots of great ideas here...

Housewife Bliss  |  Easter Brunch for Chocolate Lovers
Celebrations At Home  | Spring Garden Tablescape
PaperandPigtails.com  |  Polka Dots & Pastels - Free Printables
The Partybluprints Blog  |  "Little Peeps" Easter Table Centerpiece
Second City Soiree  | Cocktails that say Spring
SkimbacoLifestyle.comEuropean Easter Traditions Galore
Thoughtfully Simple | Simple Easter Brunch
Valley & Co. | Table Top Elements for Marvelous Easter Brunch

Thursday
Mar292012

Simple + Seasonal: Sensational Sunchokes

Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, aren't pretty, but they sure are tasty. Although they look like ginger roots, these tubers are members of the sunflower family and are so named because of their slightly sweet, nutty taste that is reminiscent of artichokes.

Sunchokes were brought to Europe in 1605 when a French explorer named Samuel Champlain found them in Cape Cod. They are native to North America, not the Middle East, so there's some dispute as to why they are also called Jerusalem artichokes. One idea is that people called them "girasole," or "flower that looks towards the sun," which sounds like Jerusalem. Another idea is that European settlers relied on these tubers and called them food for the new Jerusalem.

No matter what you call them, sunchokes are a great source of Vitamin C and iron. They are also rich in inulin, a substance that turns into fructose when digested and is, to put it politely, really good for your digestive system. Cooking helps cut down on any socially undesirable effects though!

 

Look for: Firm, wrinkle free knobs that are free of sprouts. Some sunchokes may be smooth and really, that makes no difference from a bumpier one as far as taste is concerned. It just makes it easier to prepare if peeling.

Storage: Sunchokes can keep for up to two weeks when refrigerated.

Preparation: Sunchokes can be eaten raw and appreciated for their pleasant crunch, similar to water chestnuts. They may look intimidating, but you can treat them like you would a potato-- boil and use as a thickener for soups or mash them for a tasty side; bake or fry them; eat them skin on or peeled; or try roasting them (see recipe below.) One note though, if you peel them, add a little lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.

Personally, I love slicing sunchokes, leaving the skin on, and roasting them. They get crunchy, sweet and nutty and add wonderful texture, such as for this salad which you can serve as a first course for an early spring dinner party.

 

Roasted Sunchoke, Pear and Arugula Salad*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Take 2 pounds of sunchokes and slice them crosswise, about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the sunchokes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Lay out the sunchokes on your prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, flipping the pieces over about halfway through cooking time, or until pieces are golden brown and crisped at the edges.

While sunchokes roast, whisk together 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, juice of half a lemon, 1 teaspoon of agave syrup, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss 1/4 inch thick slices of 2 ripe Anjou pears and 2 cups of baby arugula leaves in the prepared dressing. Add roasted sunchokes and toss to combine. Plate individually or serve on a platter for a buffet or family style dinner.

Serves 4 to 6.

*Your vegan friends will rejoice, as this salad is totally animal product free!


Simple + Seasonal Cooking by Christina Wong
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Christina is on Twitter @cj_wong. Read her full bio here.

Tuesday
Mar272012

Wedding Registry 101

Registering for your wedding can be one of the most exciting tasks for some brides... but also one of the most daunting for others. Couples these days are innundated with endless options, so here are some helpful tips to consider as you register:

 

1. Assess you lifestyle and determine what fits you. Do you really need the fancy china? Or perhaps you frequently entertain so you do need the nice china and the sterling silver. It's all about what works for you personal lifetstyle. 

2. Determine your “NEED” vs. “WANT” items and then add all the items you “need” to your registry first. That way, as the important stuff gets purchased, add the fun items that you “want” so you get the best of both worlds! 

3. Consider registering for a few extra sets of dishes, silverware, glassware in case they get broken or lost over time. If certain lines get discontinued, you'll have a few extras on hand.

Kate Spade New York Dinnerware, Villeroy Bosch Signature Collection

4. Don’t register TOO early - 5 – 6 months is perfect! Stores often change their inventory seasonally and those linens you absolutely loved may not be there come time for your wedding.

5. Choose at least 2 – 3 stores, ideally ones with an internet presence so that you can set up and manage everything from the comfort of your couch.

6. Keep your guests in mind; are they older and more traditional? Then they may appreciate Bloomingdales. Or are they mostly younger and comfortable with less conventional stores such as Amazon.com?

7. Choose some “Couple friendly” stores where you can get appliances, tools, exercise equipment, luggage, etc., and avoid squabbles! Sears or Kohl's are great registry options that offer everything for your home, including man-friendly items. 

8. Research, research, research. Know the store’s registry reputation before making your choice…their customer service, reliability of their online registry site, return policy, completion policy, etc. These days, you can easily find all this information online ahead of time.

BerHoff BBQ Set, Sunpentown Wine Cooler

 

9. Along the same lines, make sure the stores you choose have a great return policy because there is no doubt you will change your mind about some items! 

10. Consider alternative registries such as gift card, honeymoon, and charity registries.

 

Where are you registering, and do you have a favorite store?

 

Weddings by Charlene Liang
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Charlene is on Twitter @SweetchicEvents. Read her full bio here.

Friday
Mar232012

How to DINE like the MAD MEN

Do I even need to remind you that AMC's Mad Men is coming back this Sunday? The 17-month hiatus has been a too-long separation from one of my favorite shows. The decor! The wardrobes! The stories! The...food?

Actually, yes. My inner anthropologist loves seeing what Betty serves for a party or what Don orders for lunch. Is there ever a bad time for deviled eggs and rumaki? I should think not, and happily, Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin agree.

Their nearly 300 page volume The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is part recipe book, part social history, part city guide, and all delicious nostalgia from a time when it was de rigueur to use the good silver on a regular basis.

Recipes reference both Mad Men episodes (Pete's California Dip from "Red in the Face") and mid-century hotspots where the Sterling Cooper crew might have dined (21 Club Vodka Gimlet).

Interspersed throughout the book is commentary on 1960s life plus dialog from the show. I was particularly amused by Betty's dilemma on how to dress up celery sticks without using capers. They get might get stuck in the carpet, you know. Try this recipe for your Mad Men viewing party, or any time you feel like inviting the friends over for cocktails. Just don't forget to polish the silver!

Betty’s Stuffed Celery

adapted from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (Hearst, 1963)

3 ounces soft cream cheese
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
8 chopped stuffed olives
10 minced blanched almonds
4 long, wide crisp celery stalks

1. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, olives and almonds in a small bowl.
2.  Stuff celery stalks with filling. Chill well. Cut into bite-size pieces, or 2-3 inch pieces before serving.
Yield:  About 8 servings
Reprinted with permission: The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin (Smart Pop, 2011)
Photo Credit: 30aeats

 

Get more Mad Men party ideas plus printable coasters:

Thursday
Mar152012

{scene} Garfield Park Conservatory: A Hidden Gem

Winter in Chicago is a long and dreary business. One thing that always saves my sanity is visiting the conservatories. Here, my eyes are filled with lush green and growing things, exotic fragrances fill the air and it’s warm and humid.

One of my favorites is the Garfield Park Conservatory tucked away on the city’s West Side. Designed by Jens Jensen, the conservatory opened in 1907. Jensen wanted to create naturalistic landscapes under glass, which gives Garfield Park a very organic feel to the spaces.

When I walk into the Palm House, my heart lifts at the sight of the huge trees brushing against the ceiling. The hyper-oxygenated air fills my lungs and I can hardly wait to find some tropical flower blooming around the next corner. 

 

I like to visit the Dr. Seuss-like pony tail palms in the Desert House and see the changing blossoms in the Show House. The Aroid House is filled with giant foliage and is graced by the Persian Pool filled with yellow Chihuly glass lilypads.

My favorite place, though, is the Fern Room. Here is prehistoric Illinois nestled in rocky valleys and musical waterfalls. Tree ferns and cycads stretch elegant fronds above your head. A lagoon filled with goldfish and koi reflects the saturated green of ferns, mosses, and vines. I can get lost here within moments.

Garfield Park gives me a chance to imagine new possibilities, refine ideas, and get inspiration. "We believe that plants change the way you see the world and all life on earth depends upon plants," commented Mary Eysenbach, Director of Conservatories for the Chicago Park District. "Here at the conservatory, we hope visitors take away a new way of seeing the world."

Beyond the indoor spaces, there are acres of outdoor gardens including the Monet Garden, City Garden, and Demonstration Garden. Here there are beds brimming with flowers, grasses and evergreens. Lily ponds greet you and children can explore natural areas.

Unfortunately, on June 30 2011 tragedy struck in the form a of a hailstorm that shattered 85% of the glass in the Fern Room, Show House and ten propagation greenhouses. Other rooms and halls were also damaged. The glass has been temporarily replaced with plastic panes and beginning this May, full restoration will begin.  This is a massive undertaking to replace not only the glass, but upgrade the infrastructure. There is still a need for donations and several ways you can be involved. Bryan Northup has created “Catching Hail”, beautiful fused glass pieces using the roof fragments. One Pane at a Time is the official donation campaign.

Perhaps the most fun, though, is the annual Fleurotica benefit, a runway fashion show of clothing created from plants and flowers. Held on March 23, this is a wonderful event for party-lovers.

I urge you to visit Garfield Park Conservatory and check it out for yourself. They even rent both the indoor and outdoor spaces. The neighborhood is in the midst of gentrification, so there is security present.  You can find out more about Jens Jensen and his vision at a unique exhibit at the Sterling Morton Library at The Morton Arboretum which runs through the end of the year.

 

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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