Category Archives: partays

Got a Texan in Your Life?

If so, make ’em one of these!

If you know any Texans, you know that they are in love (obsessed?) with their state. I mean, I think the world of my beautiful home state of Tennessee, but apparently (according to what I’ve heard from Texans) God lives and manufactures goodness in Texas. So—to pay homage to this supposed greatness—I’d originally hoped to make a Texas-shaped cake for my roommate Nancy’s birthday. But there was no way to get a Texas-shaped cake pan in time for the party, so I decided to improvise with the round cake pan I actually had.

This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but I was pretty proud of it because it turned out just as I’d hoped it would. Nothing here is homemade: The cake is a white cake mix, and the icing was supplied by my reliable boyfriend, Duncan Hines. But I’m proud to say that I managed to make this thing without ever having taken a cake decorating class in my life.

Start out with two layers of cake that have cooled completely. Use white icing between the layers and on the outside (I used 1.5 containers of store-bought icing in toto).

Dye some of that icing blue, and some of it red, but remember to leave some white. With a big piping bag and a flower-shaped Wilton tip (I think mine was #108 or #109), pipe the left half of the cake with blue.

I also piped a few little flowers on the NSEW sides of the cake, just because I had extra icing to use. Next, pipe the lower right corner with red; the top right with white; and a big, important, Texan lone star (“emblem of freedom!”) on the left with the remaining white.

Holler, it’s like the flag of Texas! Seriously, if I can do this, anyone can. The best part, though, was the inside.

SURPRISE! I dyed the layers red and quasi-blue, just to up the Texas ante. It was almost as good as a dinner of Texas-shaped waffles and chips.

Anyway, it’s an easy way to show a Texan you truly care. I think Nan had a good enough time.

What about you all? Have you got any creative ideas for how to spruce up a cake mix?

xoxo,

Joce

*Disclaimer: do not attempt if you (or anyone else coming to partake-of-cake) is allergic to dye. This cake includes about ten lbs. of Red-40.

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. . . and Kate Saved the McQueen

Ay-up, bezzy mates! Is anyone else still experiencing post-royal-wedding ennui as badly as I am? If so, read on. But if any of you feels/felt the same way that internet sensation Mad Melvin felt about the royal nuptials, then this post is probably skippable.

Aside from the mini-breakdown I had midday on that Friday upon realizing that Prince William had actually, really, truly married someone who is NOT me, I’d say the whole royal-wedding-shebang was as much fun as I’d hoped. Like millions of other crazy people, I woke up at 3:00 in the morning to watch the ordeal of the arriving guests, the hats, the tails, the fancy cars, and—of course—the dress. Though I’m pretty sure I slept through the wedding homily, I think I saw the most important stuff—including, but not limited to:

The Queen, who I must say looked just adorable and cheery in yellow Angela Kelly:

Beatrice and Eugenie, in Valentino and Vivienne Westwood respectively, taking some risks with unforgettable Philip Treacy hats:

Of course, these dudes:

Pippa M., whose derriere has now garnered international fame:

And the star of the day, Kate M., now the Duchess Catherine of Cambridge:

I must say: WELL DONE, PRINCESS KATE! Though the press had done a pretty good job sleuthing and figuring out that Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen was going to be designing Kate’s gown, I still found it to be a lovely, lovely surprise. I adored the combination of the lace sleeves with the sweetheart bodice/neckline, as well as the manner in which her veil never obscured her face. Without going into much detail, I thought it was very dramatic and elegant, yet simple at the same time. And good grief did it photograph well!

So basically, I had already watched the royal wedding before our royal wedding watch party ever began; but it worked out well, because then I could tend to all the party goings-on. And the party was great, by the way—thanks mostly to great friends who brought great food. It’s my philosophy that any party will be successful if you have at least those two key components.

Here are some of the early arrivals posing with the gigantic Union Jack we hung from the front of the house:

We set up the table with red roses and white tulips; our Union Jack bunting and runner; some very hilarious diamond-ring doodads; and of course, the nosh.

Our friends brought everything from tea cookies to cucumber sandwiches to delicious cheeses and nutella. We served Irish soda bread, sausage rolls (recipe included below), stewed mushrooms, Framboises St. George, and Cottage Pie (Will’s childhood favorite). Everything we cooked came straight out of the book Eating Royally by Darren McGrady, who was at one point private chef to Diana. I was most proud of my super-easy raspberry dessert, which was supposed to look like St. George’s Cross.

The party flowed smoothly between the kitchen, the makeshift drink bar, the watching area, and the yard, where we had a lively game of nighttime croquet. Of course, my friends let me win because they have royally good manners.

All in all, it was a capital day! I think I can say confidently that we had a better time than Grace Van Cutsem.

Recipe for Sausage Rolls (adapted from Eating Royally)

I’ve made these twice now, and they are extremely easy and tasty. And they look kind of fancy, too, so I’d recommend them for any event that requires posh-looking finger-foods.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pork sausage
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package of puff pastry

Preheat your oven to 375F. In a big bowl, mix together one egg with your sausage and dried herbs. Add salt and pepper. Make sure the herbs are incorporated thoroughly into the meat.

Take your puff pastry (make sure it is somewhere between frozen and thawed) and roll it out a little. Cut the pastry into thirds, along the fold lines. (I placed the pieces I was not working with in the freezer, to keep them from getting too mushy.) At one long edge of the pastry, begin forming a log of sausage about 1-inch thick. Once your log is in place, brush the other long edge of your pastry with the other beaten egg. Carefully tuck the sausage log into the pastry, rolling it up tightly. The egg wash should help to seal pastry into a sturdy roll.

If the roll is too mushy, place it back in the freezer for a while. If it’s still cold enough to handle without sticking, begin cutting the log into half-inch pieces. (A very sharp knife helps here.) Repeat this entire process with both pieces of pastry (6 rolls in all). Place them on a baking sheet (no need to grease it), and bake for 15-20 minutes. Before you know it, you’ll have 50+ little appetizers that look like this:

from clairesyummyrecipes.blogspot.com

So what about all of you? What did you think of the wedding? Beatrice’s hat? The Archbishop of Canterbury’s glorious eyebrows?

Cheerio, loves!

*Joce

A Royal Wedding Countdown!

It was just a few weeks ago when I woke up, turned on the television, stumbled out of bed, and yelled down from the banister to my roommate: “Nancy, it can’t be true!”

Nancy—ever more productive, efficient, and ahead-of-me-in-every-way—replied something along the lines of, “I’m devastated! My plans have failed! WhatEVER will happen to my plans for a Pottery Barn lifestyle?!”

I remember taping cut-outs of Prince William inside my high school locker; and Nancy, upon seeing the Prince himself in London last summer, got so frazzled with joy that (rather than snapping a photo of him) she instead took a photo of the sidewalk. So it only seems fitting that we celebrate the death of a dream with an enormous party, surrounded by friends, food, and festivities.

Remember this, girls? Be still my teenage heart.

To get ready for our “Watch Party,” I’ve been scouring the internet for party ideas and any new information I can find about the royal fashions. Though I had read earlier (and blogged about the possibility) that Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen might be designing Kate’s dress, I also read that Sophie Cranston of Libélula might be in charge.

from Vanity Fair's website

While the dresses from the Libélula website are just lovely, I’m still hoping for something gigantic and dramatic. You know, like Queen Victoria’s:

Or Carrie Bradshaw’s:

Or the dress Project Runway winner Leanne Marshall envisioned for Kate:

Or even Princess Giselle’s:

Just kidding. (Sort of.)

Anyway, I guess we’ll find out at our party on Friday! On the docket for the shindig:

  • food and drink, including: Cottage Pie, Irish soda bread, Croque Monsieur, and Buck’s Fizz
  • a DVR-d replay of the coverage, since we aren’t dedicated enough to watch it in the wee hours
  • royal wedding bingo
  • maybe a hat-and-jewels contest
  • tea sampling
  • croquet in my SUV-rutted yard (weather permitting)
  • probably lots of fake-English accent-speaking (although we can’t go too far, since our friend Victoria—who is bona fide British—will be there, and might get sick of us)
Right now I’m working on some Union Jack bunting to hang around the house. If I can make it, so can you. All you need is:
  • blue fabric
  • red and white ribbon of various sizes
  • hot glue (with gun)
  • scissors
  • white bias tape
  • and a rotary cutter

I’m making at least one or two more strands of the flag buntings, but here’s the first one:

What about you all? Are you geeking out as much as we are, or are you over it already? Are you going to watch it live, or will you wait until morning?

Cheerio, loves! Will check in with news or updates—

*Jocelyn

fine. FINE. a delicious summer dinner, blogged.

A few weeks ago (okay maybe more like a month), we fixed a dinner from the book What’s to Have for Dinner from Martha Stewart’s people: img_16391

Roommates have been using negative reinforcement techniques to try to get me to blog. I GUESS IT HAS WORKED. GEEZ GUYS.

The pictures in this book were slobberingly pretty, and we were in  a summer mood, so we picked a summer menu of salmon sandwiches, slaw, salad, and OMG BERRY COMPOTE OF THE ARCHANGELS. The recipes in this lovely book are arranged by season and then by complete meal (genius).

First course was a summer slaw of carrots, fennel, and green beans in a ginger/ lemon/ poppyseed sauce. Sounds fussy. It was. We slawed up some carrots w/ my julienne peeler (I mistook it for a regular peeler at the TJMaxx). img_16291

Just scrape its little teeth over the carrot and you have magical strings.

Next we painstakingly cut up green beans. I bitched and moaned about it the entire time, while gory visions of sliced fingers and aborted guitar careers danced in my head. Jocelyn, as usual, was very graceful. She has skills in child management.

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There are some ugly bean slices for you. We discovered this week that there is A GADGET that will do this for you.

21jekqkzdgl_sl500_aa280_It is called a Frencher or a Slicer or something.  This is still hanging on the gadget wall at The Curious Gourmet where I left it in a fit of self control. We stopped in this weekend when we were strolling down Main Street in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, home to every unnecessary thing that I could ever want to buy. This cook shop is the worst because it is full of things that I neeeeEEEeeeeed (like tiny bags for your soup herbs),  it has a cupcakery attached to it, and it is staffed by attractive young men with pretty blue eyes. Jocelyn got bamboozled by a little pot made just for asparagus and left $30 poorer. But 300000x happier.

Slaw. Chop up some fennel (also awkward), add some sour cream/ poppy seed/ lemon juice/ ginger dressing and, voila, you have a pretty good slaw.

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Dressing there.

Then we grilled up some salmon in a soy glaze (soy sauce + powdered mustard), which we later slapped on toasted bread w/ some wilted arugula. YOM.

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Made a quick salad w/ goat cheese, little ‘maters, cucumbers, oil and vinegar, and wedges of lettuce:

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Cutting things into wedges makes me feel sophisticated. Kind of like cutting things on an angle. Although if I had to choose between this salad and a bucket of KFC…

Dessert was a berry compote. THIS IS THE BERRY COMPOTE TO END ALL BERRY COMPOTES.

Raspberries + Blueberries + Blackberries + Strawberries + Sugar

img_16221and thennnn……

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GAH CHERRY BRANDY. Just a few tablespoons. Let it swim around together and then add torn mint.

This is one of those things that’s just so simple that it’s hard to believe how freakishly good it is. It is now on my list of impressive things to make for people worth impressing. THANK GOD CHERRY BRANDY COMES IN BIG BOTTLES.

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There are some happy campers w/ a tasty, welcome-to-summer meal.

CONSIDER IT BLOGGED :).

Love,

Jennifer

Fete for a Fetus

Don’t you just hate the title of this blog? 

So, just to update you on my party-planning misadventures, I think things actually turned out pretty nicely today for my dear boss’s baby shower. Many thanks to the ladies of 2137; coworkers Stephanie, Ami, and Natalie; and of course, my perpetually-party-planning ma. 

Speaking of my ma (let’s affectionately refer to her as “Nanch”), she all but forced me to make what I’m about to show you here. To be honest, Nanch, it wasn’t really something I think I’d ever choose to do on my own. But in the end it turned out adorably, and it didn’t tip the whole shower into the “cutesy” category that I was oh-so-earnestly trying to avoid.

So without further ado . . . 

baby cupcakes

PACIFIER CUPCAKES!!!

Purdy darn precious, eh? Good news!!! They’re easy to make.

While I baked the cupcakes last night, I made the pacifiers out of candy earlier in the week. (oh yes, my friends, they are edible) You begin with white lifesavers and jelly beans in your colors of choice. I chose yellow, pink, and blue.

lifesavers/jellybellies

In order to create edible glue, all you need is royal icing. To make a full batch of royal icing, you need:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

In this case, you certainly don’t need an entire batch–so I’d suggest halving the recipe. In my photos I’m creating a full batch since it didn’t occur to me to do otherwise until much too late.

Beat the egg whites and the lemon juice.

royal icing 1

No need to whip it up for too long. Add the sugar a little at a time until it looks like this:

royal icing 2

The end! For the icing, I mean. Use it quickly and store the rest in an airtight container, because the stuff turns to glue in a hot minute.

Next, take the lifesavers and place them smooth-side-down on a cooling rack. Carefully, dip the side of another lifesaver in a dab of icing (just a dab).

royal icing etc.

And secure it into the nook of a lifesaver on the cooling rack. 

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Do not worry about them not sticking. The icing=glue, and it sets up faster than a jackrabbit on a date.

Pretty soon you’ll have a little army of lifesavers.

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Make sure the candies are dry and hardened before turning them over. (Notice I had to switch cooling racks because I wasn’t smart enough to use a slotted one the first time) Also used a bowl to hold my cooling rack up a bit, so that the bottoms of the lifesavers didn’t drag the table. You want them to be level for the next step.

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Like you did with the lifesavers, dip a jelly bean into the icing, just a dab.

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And place the jellybean icing-side-down into the lifesaver nook.

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Wait a minute . . . those kind of look like . . . wee pacifiers!

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And you know what? You can eat ’em. Great idea, Nanch! Duff should hire you to work at Charm City Cakes.

Has anyone ever eaten at the Magnolia Bakery in New York City? Well, on my quest for the perfect cupcake recipe, I found their recipe on the internets. I tried it out once and–while not as delicious as the cupcake I actually ate at the bakery–it was the best recipe I’d found so far. So I decided that the candy pacifiers would be presh on top of a yummaaay cupcake.

To make the supposed Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcake, you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs at room temp.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

This is an easy, easy recipe that produces a gorgeous yellow batter (perfect for bowl scraping/licking). So first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. With a mixer, cream the butter until it is smooth.

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See that action shot? Yowza! I ❤ my KitchenAid.

Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is delicious and fluffy-looking.

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In a separate bowl (you can also do this before combining the sugar and butter), sift together the flours.

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I love sifted flour. I think it is beautiful, like a beach or a desert sand dune.

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Aaaaaaaaah. Now shut up and set that bowl aside for a minute. Gather the eggs, milk, and vanilla.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, until all four are incorporated.

Take a break and play with cat.

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Play until he can’t play no more.

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Back to work. Take your flour mixture, and add it in three batches; alternate between adding the flour and the milk. 

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Nom.

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NOM! That batter is just as tasty as it is purdy. Mix in the vanilla to make it taste even nomm-ier.

Line your cupcake tins, and fill them 2/3 or 3/4 full of batter. This recipe EASILY makes two dozen cupcakes. 

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Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until they look a little golden. The toothpick trick doesn’t hurt, either.

When done, they look scrumptious.

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Just like my quest for the perfect man, my quest for the perfect cupcake has never yielded what I consider to be anything “perfect” in terms of icing (not even perfect-for-me). So far the perfect icing comes from my friend (and closest thing to the perfect man), Duncan Hines. I asked Jennifer and Steph to ice these while I set up the rest of the table. Place the candy pacifiers on top, and . . . 

Voila!

baby cupcakes

Adorableness. Notice that my homemade chocolate lollies turned out all right, too.

At the end of the day, I think the party was a success. People ate, drank, laughed, ooohed and aaaahed over all of the baby goodness. And my tables managed to distract me from the fact that I was trying to have a party in the most austere and unfriendly of corporate conference rooms.

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And I think the mom-t0-be had some fun, too.

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I mean, just look at all that stuff!

Cheers, 

Jocelyn