Hostess Gift Guide

Hostess gift

When someone invites you into their home, they’ve gone out of their way to do so.  What do you to do let them know how much you appreciate their kindness and hospitality?  There are lots of creative things to do, and I got to share a few fun/frugal ideas on my daughter’s You tube channel today.  I hope you’ll go here and check out the whole video we did together!

My mind has been reeling since we filmed that video and I’ve thought a whole list of other ideas you could give to say Thank you!

  1. Buy single, large plates as you  find them on sale or at Goodwill shops.  Use them to fill with piles of cookies or goodies.  No need to return the plate!
  2. A special book or cookbook is a long-remembered gift.
  3. Bags of Coffee or a box of Teas, as well as a container of cream, if you know their preference.
  4. Room Spray in a mild fragrance
  5. Bath splurge items – Bath bomb, bubbles or special soap
  6. Special Kitchen soaps and dish cloths
  7. Oven mitts, or hot pads tied together with a pretty ribbon
  8. Olive oil – Even special flavored oils would be nice, accompanied by dipping spices
  9. Bakery or homemade bread and a jar of jam (maybe even also homemade!)
  10. Gift card for a special place for dessert
  11. Pretty pads of paper for kitchen memos and a pen
  12. A guest book for them to log the guests that come into their home.
  13. Cloth napkins
  14. Spices or herbs in pretty jars
  15. Holiday cookie accessories – Sprinkles and/or cookie cutters

Don’t go empty handed this holiday season.  Be a gracious guest and let your hostess how much you appreciate them inviting you into their busy lives and home!

Do you have another suggestion for a hostess gift?

Denise Signature 150 px

 

Bridal Shower & Fun Food

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I love hosting showers – Bridal showers, Baby showers – they’re just so much fun!  It’s great to get a little creative with the display of the food, as well as the decor, but then the food can be a whole mixture of things you wouldn’t normally put on your menu, like snack foods.

I got to host a bridal shower here a couple weekends ago and using the Theme “Fall in Love” I decorated with fall items, and fixed fall-type foods.  Here was the menu:

Chili Bar
Fritos ~Hot Dogs~Crackers
Cheese Ball
Munch & Crunch Mix
Veggie Tray ~ Hummus ~ Ranch Dip
German Chocolate Cupcakes
Cider~Iced Tea~Coffee~Water

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Today I’m going to highlight and share the Crunch & Munch Snack Mix – it was a new recipe to me and I loved it!  From the way it disappeared during the shower, I think everyone else enjoyed it, too!  It’s another Gooseberry Patch recipe. It’s the perfect blend of a little spicy and a little sweet. It mixes up in ten minutes and takes 25 minutes to bake.  I doubled the recipe, and would advise you to do the same.  You have a whole bag or box of each of the ingredients; it only makes sense to use it while it’s fresh!

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup mini pretzels
  • 1 cup corn chips
  • 1 cup oyster crackers
  • 1 cup roasted, salted pumpkin seed kernels
  • 1 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper – I left this out.  Add if you love spicy foods!

Toss together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; set aside. Whisk together butter and remaining 6 ingredients in another bowl; pour over snack mix, stirring to coat. Spread mix in a roasting pan; bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring after 12 minutes. Cool completely; store in an airtight container.

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For the decor, I used large, square flannel scarves as “runners” and then used all my fall pumpkins, gourds, bittersweet branches and even some branches from outside.  I filled a tall vase with the real branches and tied cardboard leaves on.  I asked each guest to take a leaf off and write her best piece of marriage advice for the bride-to-be.

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We had a great time honoring the bride and the fellowship we enjoyed around the fall foods was a special blessing!

I hope you’ll try the snack mix – it would be great for any gathering or even movie night at your house!  You might make up small bags-full for your favorite Halloween Trick-or-Treaters!

If I told you the snack mix was my favorite thing I served that wouldn’t quite be true because THE CUPCAKES…Oh my!  You’ll have to wait until next Monday for that recipe, though.  Until then, enjoy Crunching and Munching!!

With love from my country kitchen,

Denise Signature 150 px

peppers 1a

My dream of being a gardener is happening slowly, but at the steady pace of a novice.  I really have not much of an idea what I’m doing.  My husband is becoming quite the green thumb, too, as he helps plant, water and harvest our little raised beds. We have three now, and I was so excited to receive my newest edition of Southern Living this weekend and find an article about raised bed gardening! I really want to expand each year.  There’s just something so special about growing herbs, flowers and vegetables that you get the pleasure of using in your home and cooking!

One plant that was producing quite well last week was our Banana pepper plant.  I like them pickled, but I wondered how I could use them fresh.  Wellllll, I found a special appetizer that was A.Maz.Ing!

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These sweet peppers got filled with a little cream cheese mixture that had sweet red pepper, red onion, Cheddar Cheese, diced cherry tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.  I kept it mild.  There are some recipes that call for hot peppers, but we aren’t crazy about those spicy varieties.  So for our tastes, we kept it on the sweet and savory side, and it was wonderful!  I forgot to mention that the pepper gets wrapped in a little blanket of bacon before it’s popped under the broiler for a few minutes!  If you need a killer appetizer for a summer party, this is it!  Here’s the recipe and a little tip as to how I put mine together.

Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Banana Peppers

  • 6 large banana peppers
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes – I used cherry tomatoes for sweetness!
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ½ small sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 thick cut bacon slices, cut in half – I found that 1/2 slice of bacon was plenty for each pepper,but if you want to go crazy with the bacon, use a slice for each pepper.
Directions:
  1. Cut tops off banana peppers. Remove seeds.
  2. Combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese, tomato, onion, bell pepper, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Fill a small plastic bag with the cheese mixture.  Cut a hole, about 1/2 inch in one corner.  Squeeze the cheese mixture into the peppers. (See picture below)
  4. Wrap with bacon slice. Secure with a toothpick. Place on a rack with broiler pan. Broil for 4-5 minutes per side until golden and oozing.

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peppers 1

If you have access to banana peppers, you need to try these appetizers.  They’re so good you might want to make them the main course!

Who else is gardening this summer?  What are you growing?

With love from my country kitchen,

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(L)Oven Monday – Entertain with Appetizers

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Last week I had a group of women over for a night of fellowship and I wanted to serve refreshments that were tasty, but not too heavy.  So I dug into my recipes (some I’ve share here on the blog) and pulled out three appetizer dips!  I had a couple that were sweet and one that was savory.  Appetizers are fun because you can make a little meal with them.  The ladies enjoyed them and it was fun to watch them go back for more.  Here are the ones I chose for our party.

Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

S’mores Dip

bean dip

This Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip is great as an appetizer or served with a meal of Mexican foods!  It’s super good and really fast to put together!  You can make this ahead and pop it into the oven or microwave to warm up.

Tex-Mex Black Bean Dip
Ingredients
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained – I always use Bush’s Beans
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup mild picante sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preparation

Place beans in a bowl; partially mash until chunky. Set aside.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add beans, tomato, picante sauce, cumin, and chili powder; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add cheese, cilantro, and lime juice, stirring well. Serve warm or at room temperature with fat-free corn or flour tortilla chips.

*If you want to make this extra decadent, put softened cream cheese in the bottom of the dish and spread to cover, then pour the bean dip over top of it.  Yum!

 

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Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

If you want to do this ahead of time, mix up your fruit, but wait to add the sweet things into it right before your party.

Ingredients:

  • Variety of fruits, diced – Strawberries, blueberries, fresh pineapple, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used strawberry)
  • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas (or use Stacy’s cinnamon chips or cinnamon graham crackers)
  • melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray
Cinnamon sugar:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes. This is best made the same day and not too far ahead of time so your apples don’t start browning and the fruit gives off so too much juice and it gets runny.. This salsa can also be serve with cinnamon graham Crackers. Best when made and eaten the same day.

For the Cinnamon Chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spray again with cooking spray (not necessary if using melted butter).
  3. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture.

 

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This dip is heavenly!  It literally takes less than ten minutes to make and have ready to serve!  It’s always a winner!!  And if you don’t leave the party with marshmallow or chocolate somewhere on your face, you did NOT have a good time!  Ha!!  I think it’s impossible to eat this dip and not wear it!!

S’mores Dip

Instructions:

  1.  In a cast iron skillet place two cups of chocolate chips.  Place in 400 degree oven for a couple of minutes, until chocolate begins to melt.  Smooth out chocolate with spatula.
  2. Cover completely with marshmallows.  Place back in oven and watch carefully until marshmallows turn a light golden brown.
  3. Serve dip immediately with Graham cracker squares.

All these dips are simple and so good!  A party like this would be great this summer!  You could even do your S’more dip on the fire pit!  I hope you’ll try these soon!

What is your favorite food to serve or to enjoy at a girl’s gathering?

With love from my country kitchen,

Denise Signature 150 px

 

 

(L)Oven Monday – A Healthy, Yummy Dessert

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Cooking Light has great recipes for Angel Food Cakes.  These cakes have no fat, making them a healthier dessert than most.  The nice thing about baking your own Angel Food cake is:

  1. They taste better
  2. You can add flavorings
  3. They cost pennies
  4. You can make it ahead of time and freeze it

This recipe  – Cafe’ au Lait Angel food has a coffee flavor and we love that!  Cafe’ au Lait means coffee with milk.  This recipe also has a custard-like sauce to serve with it,which gives the coffee flavor it’s “milk addition.  It takes regular old Angel Food to the next level, and certainly makes it company worthy!  Here’s the recipe:

Cafe’ au Lait Angel Food Cake

Ingredients

  • Cake:
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour – Don’t have any?  Try this – Take one level cup of AP flour, remove two tablespoons, and then add two tablespoons of cornstarch back in. Be sure to sift the flour to distribute the cornstarch well before using it in your cake batter.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules or 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 12 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Sauce:
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur) –  I didn’t use this or substitute
  • Remaining ingredient:
  • 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.

  2. To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk, and set aside. Combine espresso and hot water, stirring until espresso dissolves; set aside.

  3. Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and 1/4 teaspoon salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

  4. Beat in espresso mixture and vanilla extract. Sift 1/4 cup flour mixture over egg white mixture; fold in. Repeat procedure with remaining flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.

  5. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto plate.

    I had to work just  a little to loosen my cake from the pan, but it did come out whole after a few little “tugs” with my metal spatula.

    I saw that eggs are on sale at Kroger this week for .79, so it’s a good time to make one of these cakes!  I’m going to attempt to upload a video  this Wednesday of how to make this cake.  You can see just how simple it really is!  It’s really fun to venture out a little a make something a little challenging.  I hope you’ll give this a try!  Plus it’s just fun to say – Cafe’ au Lait!

    Happy baking!

    With love from my country kitchen,

    Denise Signature 150 px

    (L)Oven Monday – Successful Sunday Dinner Finale

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    Today is the last post for Successful Sunday dinner.  I will continue to share my recipes and what I served at my house, but as far as the 1,2,3’s, we’re going to wrap it up and get you ready to dive into that great Sunday meal for your family!

    Remember that if it’s your desire to make Sunday dinner special at your house, it’s going to take some intentional effort and planning. Here were the three crucial steps before getting the meal going:

    1. Ponder the needs –

    2. Plan the menu 

    3. Prepare ahead

    • Ponder the needs -Consider any allergies or health concerns, like diabetes.
    • Plan the menu around those needs, your time and budget.  Typically if I’m making a main dish or a bread that requires lots of time, I’ll make another part of the meal easier to prepare.
    • Prepare ahead by doing everything you can on Saturday (or before).  It will lessen your stress level!
      • Set the table
      • Chop all veggies
      • Marinate meat
      • Prepare the salad
      • Prepare the dessert
      • Get the side dishes started

    Let me give you a little rundown on how my week may look when I’m hosting a typical Sunday dinner…

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    Early in the week – 

    Wednesday – 

    • Make Rolls and freeze
    • Check to see if tablecloth or napkins need ironing

    Saturday – 

    • Prep chicken dish and  go ahead and bake it.  All it needs on Sunday is to be warmed up. I wouldn’t leave this dish in the oven during church – it would dry out.
    • Peel potatoes and place in water overnight
    • Cut up apples for salad and place in lemon juice/water mixture overnight
    • Make Vinaigrette for salad
    • Wash and slice strawberries
    • Make tea
    • Set table
    • Set out serving dishes

    Sunday – Before church

    • Mix salad ingredients, except dressing
    • Put potatoes in crock pot, turn on high
    • Set rolls out to rise

    Sunday – After church

    • Set out a light snack for guests, if needed
    • Warm chicken either in a large pan on the stove or in the microwave on a med setting.
    • Prep asparagus for roasting
    • Mash potatoes and keep warm
    • Bake rolls – Keep warm
    • Roast asparagus
    • Put into serving dishes

    Enjoy the meal!!!

    Serve dessert and then pray someone volunteers to help with the dishes!

    I hope this series has helped you to see that you CAN make Sunday dinner something special and memorable.  Start out small and work your way into more complicated menus.  Do what you feel comfortable with and keep trying to improve your game plan.

     

    Remember that the most important ingredient of any meal is THE PEOPLE!  Don’t make it about you and your inadequacies.  Make them feel welcome and important and they will love their time around your Sunday dinner table!

    Is there an unanswered question that you have?  I’d be happy to address it!  Leave me a comment here and I promise to answer you!

    Let’s eat!

    Denise Signature 150 px

     

     

     

    (L)Oven Monday – Memories of Sunday Dinner

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    The term “Sunday dinner” carries with it sweet memories of wonderful aromas and samplings of things like roast beef, gravy, Southern green beans, mashed potatoes, salad and rolls.  The meal was finished off with a special dessert – perhaps homemade pie or a layered cake.

    In my mind’s eye we are seated at the dining room table, cloth napkins in the lap and beautiful dishes before us to hold the prepared feast. All this wasn’t to impress anyone – it was tradition, whether it was just family, or if guests were invited.

    Sunday Dinner followed the morning worship service at church.  It was what happened after the gathering with believers for study, worship and the preaching of God’s Word.  We marched into the house after church, set down Bibles and purses, and  donned an apron over our Sunday clothes to finish the preparation necessary to get the meal on the table in a surprisingly short amount of time.

    Because of the prep that had been done ahead of time, it wouldn’t be long before the call to dinner came.  The table had been set, the roast promptly put into the oven before leaving for church, the salad made the night before, and potatoes peeled and bobbing in the boiling water in the crock pot so they’d be ready to mash.  The dessert stood at attention under the cake dome and dessert plates stacked beside it, ready to hold the finale – to most, the best part of the anticipated meal!

    In record time,  we’d set each filled bowl on the table, giving the meat platter the grandest place, like a bouquet of roses or a crystal chandelier in the middle of the table.  Those seated around the table held hands, and bowed their heads as they gratefully gave thanks – for not just the food before them, but for another opportunity to gather like this on Sunday, the first day of the week to worship at church, and now to share in this meal at home with all the warmth of fellowship, tradition and the best food on the planet.  It was time for “Sunday Dinner” and were thankful.

    I wonder if you have memories of Sunday dinner like I do?  Did your family gather for a meal that was different from the rest of the week?  Recently my daughter was telling me that she’s finding it hard to do those Sunday dinners because of the time it involves.  It does take time, but once you gather some recipes that work well to make ahead of time, and learn some skills in starting your efforts early so there’s not even a ton of clean-up afterwards, you will be able to pull off Sunday dinner without spending the whole weekend in the kitchen.

    Sunday dinner communicates to your family a desire to go above and beyond.  It gives that sense of family and belonging that I described earlier.  So why not learn and stretch yourself and go the distance at least a couple times a month for starters and make a fantastic meal and experience in your kitchen?  You’ll be making more than good food!

    For some future Monday posts, I’m going to be sharing some recipes that are good for Sunday do-ahead meals.  They’ll be recipes that you won’t have to spend tons of time working on once you get home from church.  Please leave me comments here with any questions or problems you would have about making a meal like this.

    • What stumps you when you go to prepare a “Sunday Dinner?
    • What keeps you from making a home-cooked meal on Sunday?
    • Do you feel intimidated to invite people over on Sunday?
    • Do you feel confident about the how-to’s of a meal like this?
    • How could I encourage you?

    I’m gathering some of my favorite Sunday dinner recipes and will have a list of entrees, sides, salads, and desserts that will be simple to make and serve to your family. I’ll also be sharing some TIPS that will make you feel confident to make Sunday Dinner a part of your weekly routine!

    Let the comments/questions begin!

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