Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Shopping Day @ Nicole's

My dear friend Nicole hosted a fun day of shopping and snacking last weekend. It turned out to be a rainy cold day most of the day so shoppers were a little sparse. I had a little "booth" for Simply Sassy Paper and enjoyed seeing some friends and meeting new people.

We had a great time and there was tons of yummy food all day long. The Pampered Chef rep, Shawnne, had some great tasting and great looking appetizers. I loved this one and she was nice enough to share the recipe:

Sun-Dried Tomato-Pesto Brie

1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, patted dry and chopped
1 T prepared basil pesto
1 4-inch round (8 oz.) Brie cheese with
rind, room temperature
1 loaf (16 oz) French baguette
Vegetable oil or Extra Virgin Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Coarsely chop the pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. Combine with the basil pesto. Cut Brie in half horizontally. Place one half of Brie, cut side up, onto center of Large Round Baking Stone. Spread 1/2 the mixture evenly over bottom half and top with remaining half of Brie, cut side up. Spread with remaining mixture, sprinkle with remaining pine nuts.

Using the bread knife, cut baguette on a bias into 24 1/4 inch thick slices. Arrange baguette slices around Brie, drizzle with oil. Bake 8-10 minutes or until baguette slices are golden brown and rie begins to soften. Remove from oven; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I think it took about 20 or so minutes for the Brie to be devoured. It was delicious and fancy looking! Makes a great appetizer for any party!

Zoo trip on Spring Break Friday!!

Well, I'm sure I'm crazy for taking my kids to the zoo on the Friday of Spring Break for everyone in the Houston area!! We arrived about 15 minutes too late (my personal estimation) to get a parking spot in the parking lot but after a couple of circles around the zoo, Hermann park area, we found the police were parking cars along the road in front of the zoo in the "no parking" area! Yippee! We DO get to go to the zoo today!! Perseverance paid off! We were all very excited about this! So we haul out the double stroller and make the 1/2 mile trek to the main entrance! No lines, no problems, just walked right in with my tickets in hand. What a beautiful day too!

We were definitely not alone...but we could still move around everyone and got to see most of the animals! It was super fun actually!

Anyway, we HAD to start in the reptile house b/c my kids are all about their rubber "snakee" snakes right now. I can't believe I didn't get a photo of those toy snakes!!...and we came home with one less...appears someone else loves snakes a lot too and swiped it! Oh dear! We'll be ok though b/c mommy knows where to find another one just like it!

So, after we are in the snake pit place for about 5 minutes, the lights all go out! Can't see anything! They shoo everyone out of there and we were a little upset by that and wanted to just wait outside until the lights come back on...but after waiting a few minutes, we eventually decided to go on and see some more animals. So on to the giraffes!
Are we as big as the giraffes?

Here's the sneaky leopard that came out of hiding while we watched.

The jaguar making a leap...he was having his lunch.

Pretty flamingos.

Mommy & baby "zaboomafoo" monkeys. This is an action was jumping on and off mommy's back.
(taken with my cell phone)

We found luck at the lunch area and managed to secure a table for 3! Then we were off to ride the carousel and Emma was hoping to get to ride the snake if they had one. Of course, we didn't know for sure if they did, b/c we never have really been this interested in snakes before. But lucky for us, there was a snake and we just happened to be quick enough to get to it before all the other snake lovers! We are so happy now!!
Who knew snakes would ever be a favorite?

We even had a good photo pose session for mommy.
Aren't they adorable??
(Kinda looks like nobody else was there! HA!!)
All in all, it was a very fun day to go to the zoo and we all enjoyed it! Now we are enjoying rest/nap time and I think it's a great day to join them for a small nap myself! :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Luck O' the Irish St. Patrick's Day Bunco

I recently hosted the March Bunco at my house. It was a St. Patrick's theme... clover, Irish food, the whole thing. It was really fun to prepare and everyone seemed to really like the Irish food! My friend Leigh Ann helped with the appetizers and decorations too! Here's the menu we served:

Apple & bacon salad with cheese dressing. I got the recipe here. It was ok, but I wouldn't make it again like that recipe. However, I loved the butter lettuce and will use that again! It was fun to serve it like the chef shows on TV to each person as we "plated" the salad!

We served Irish Soda Bread with the salad and the main dish too, since I made 2 loaves. This is the easiest bread recipe I think! I made a brown flour version and it turned out pretty yummy. Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread was my favorite one but I will definitely be making both of them again for many occasions! All the soda breads have buttermilk but don't really need kneading or rising which is what makes them so easy to me! And this one listed caraway seeds and raisins, which I used but I would like to try it without the caraway seeds next time. Those are pretty flavorful little tiny seeds! It took me forever to figure out what they are so I'll let you in on a secret...they are on the spice aisle at the grocery store at about $4. I was looking in the bulk nuts area and produce thinking they were like sunflower seeds! Anyway, super easy recipe and goes great with butter and the main dish of...

Irish Stew. Here's the recipe I used with some variations. It also includes the 2nd Brown bread recipe. I used one pound of lamb (it was kinda pricey and after reading the reviews, looked like you could sub the beef), and probably 3-4 pounds of beef for stew. I was pleased to see it was already cut up in the meat case! The pearl onions were available loose in my Kroger store and I chose about 30-35 of the smaller ones. They have a great flavor for stew. I used about 5 carrots and 4 cans of chicken broth and a little more water. I bought a 6 pack of Saint Arnold Stout and used 2 full bottles. The fresh thyme is key. This stew takes just a few minutes to prepare & about 2 hours to cook, so easy, low-stress party food! And it was hearty and tasty to all!

The best part of the meal was the dessert! This one is so yummy, everyone is waiting for the recipe, so here it is!!

Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

1 loaf French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup whiskey (I used Jim Bean)
1 cup raisins (soaked in whiskey overnight) - I used currants (can also omit them)
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

Soak the raisins in the whiskey overnight. Put the cubed bread in a large casserole dish and pour the whipping cream over it, allow to soak in. Combine sugar, eggs, chocolate chips, raisins and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Pour over the soaked bread and stir together thoroughly. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until brown and bubbly.

Whiskey Sauce:
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 eggs, beaten
Bourbon whiskey to taste (1/8-1/4 cup)

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Gradually stir in powdered sugar using a whisk to keep it in suspension. Remove from head and add beaten egg a little at a time. While whisking, allow to cool and add whiskey to taste. Spoon 3-4 Tablespoons whiskey sauce over each serving. Serve warm. Delish!! Note: don't leave out the whiskey sauce! The picture above shows what was left over.

Then we played BUNCO!
The most wins winner was Leigh Ann! YEAH GIRL!

And it just so happened to be that it was her Birthday that day! What a fun birthday gift to win some birthday bunco money!! We all sang Happy Birthday too when dessert was served. And she was a little impressed with how good it sounded.
Here she is being so impressed!

The "boobie prize" winners were excited about winning their lucky
Irish Lotto tickets and stationery from Simply Sassy Paper!
Catherine, Robin & Kathy

It was really a fun time with Bunco friends and here are some more photos from the night:
Katie, Kathy, Catherine & Robin having some salad

Denise, Nicole & Sheri having the salad

Julie & Katherine eating the stew

Katherine, Cammie, Catherine & Sheri checking their scores

Kathy, Leigh Ann, Robin, me & Katie

Who is this sexy hot mama?

Can't wait for the next fun Bunco night!! Let me know if you try any of the recipes and how it comes out! Or better yet, bring me some! :-)