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31.3.16

Birthday Dinner Party | Baked Shrimp Scampi, Penne Pasta, Strawberry Layer Cake



Make Ahead Birthday Dinner

Last weekend we hosted a birthday dinner for Mike's Mom, Joy.  It was on Friday night and we had a packed day starting with Emma's ballet class in the morning, Disney on Ice (with Mimi for her birthday) in the afternoon, then straight to our house for the dinner.

Because we were all heading here together around 5pm after Disney on Ice, when we left the house on Friday morning the house had to be ready to go for a party and everything had to be ready to go for dinner.  Knowing this, I planned the entire menu around ease and the ability to be made ahead.

We had 8 adults for dinner + two preschool aged girls, so we also had to make sure we had a menu that would suit everyone... and be easy to execute while toddlers and grandparents were running around.

The menu details are below.


I set the table on Thursday afternoon to get that checked off my list (and is also when I took these photos).  I used Lexington Wheat Tapers in my pewter candle holders.  I just love the soft, buttery color with the bright blue of the muscari.  This color of candle is a staple in our house. 



The adults sat at this table, and the girls had their own small table.  
 I have found when entertaining with kids/toddlers, the evening works best when we feed them just before we sit down, then let them watch a show or do an activity while the adults enjoy dinner.  I know that some might not think that is ideal, but that strategy has worked for us and allows everyone to relax a little and enjoy ourselves.   It can almost seem like a magical moment for us parents, actually getting to sit down and have a real conversation over dinner (especially when we have friends over with kids and the parents rarely every get to actually sit and relax - ever!).  

I don't love the TV, but I love the TV for 30 minutes while we sit down and enjoy our company.  We pick our battles around here... and every once in a while Mom and Dad get to win : ) 
Just trying to keep it real, in case you thought we were perfect.  With all of the "perfection" (ick, hate that word!) that happens on social media, I always find it refreshing to let people know that it is ok to be normal!


I love how the muscari look in these Blue & White (Elizabeth) planters, 2 for $18.  It is almost a week after the party and they are still on my table looking great.



I also made a purple hyacinth and muscari planter in one of the larger Brown & White Square planters... also still going strong day!

Make Ahead Dinner Menu

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesean
Birthday Strawberry Layer Cake

I don't like to take photos when we are entertaining, so these are photos from the recipe posts I've made in the past.


Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella Toasts

This is one of my favorite appetizers... but not really make ahead.  They were delicious, but did add a little bit of work when we got home.  Next time when we are trying to make it easy, I will probably make a baked dip instead, but this is so delicious if you have the time!


So good!


Baked Shrimp Scampi

Oh my gosh.  This is so good.  So full of flavor.
In the morning, I put the shrimp in the baking dish and made the butter mixture.  Just before I put it in the oven, I added the panko crumbs to the butter and crumbled it over the top.  It bakes for about 20 minutes and is so, so good.


Penne Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes & Spinach
(this recipe link includes adding grilled chicken, but for this dinner I didn't)

I wanted something light and fresh to go with the shrimp, so I thought this pasta would be perfect.  I made the sauce, sliced the cherry tomatoes before the party and washed the spinach.  On the night of, I cooked the pasta, reheated the sauce for a couple of minutes (while the pasta was cooking) and then added the tomatoes, pasta and spinach to the sauce.


Roasted Asparagus with Parmesean

I can't believe I don't have this recipe on my site because it is a staple in my home.  I put the asparagus on a Large Baking Sheet ($8), add some sliced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.  I also add big shards of parmesan cheese.  I baked it in the oven for 15 minutes (along with the shrimp!).  It is so good and soooo easy.  I will do an official recipe post of it soon.

  I really wanted to make a Lemon Layer Cake with Blackberries, but Emma saw this cake in the Barefoot Contessa Parties book (that we were browsing for ideas) and got her heart set on it for her Mimi.  So, I made 2 round white cakes, whipped cream and let the two girls build the cake... just like this one.  They spread the whipped cream and piled the berries, then topped it with a lot of sprinkles and Gold Celebration Candles.  It was quite the site and the perfect birthday cake for Mimi : )

30.3.16

Shirmp, Baby Portobello & Spinach Pasta in a Creamy White Wine Lemon Sauce

Mike has been out of town this week.  Boo.  One upside of having the house to ourselves is that I get to make "girly" food for dinner.  In our house that means shrimp, angel hair and mushrooms.  This is definitely my go-to dinner every time Mike travels because it is one of my favorite things and I know it is not his favorite - thought he would never say it!

I'm pretty sure this is one of my favorite dinners because it has a lot going for it - easy to make, pretty light, contains mushrooms and shrimp, and the fact that it is pasta automatically makes it great.

Shrimp, Portobello & Spinach Pasta
in a Creamy White Wine Lemon Sauce

1 pound of angel hair pasta
sea salt
....
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 pound of shrimp
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of cream
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1 lemon, juice of
2 cups of spinach
....
good olive oil
parmesan cheese

Begin by boiling water with salt for the pasta.

In a large saute pan, brown mushrooms on medium high, then add shrimp and cook for just 30 seconds, then add garlic.  Add white wine, cream and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, cooking for about 2-3 minutes.  Add lemon juice and spinach and turn off the heat.  

At this point, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook for just 2-3 minutes.   Strain the pasta from the water.  Rinse with cool water, then add it into the sauce.  Toss together.


29.3.16

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Vanilla Pound Cake with Lemon Curd Creme, Blackberries, Blue Berries & Black Plums





This morning, I'm flashing back to one of my all favorite posts.  I remember the day I shot it - Emma was about 4 months old, it was a Saturday morning (back when I would do all of my work on Saturday!) and Mike and Emma watched me while I set up everything on our old porch in Concord with my favorite blue backdrop and old table.  I can't believe that was 4 years ago - it feels like about 10!  

This cake was made in my 6" Round Cake Pan - which has been restocked, again.  You can use this recipe for my Lemon Pound Cake, or you can use a box white cake mix.  If you are in the mood for chocolate, leave out the lemon curd layer and make a chocolate cake layered with whip cream and berries.  The combinations are endless.  I really just like this idea of a casual, rustic layer cake that is perfect in its imperfections - and unbelievably easy.
.....

Vanilla Pound Cake with Lemon Curd Creme, Blackberries, Blue Berries & Black Plums

I love assembling desserts.  When I'm entertaining, any shortcuts that result in something scrumptious looking and delicious is welcome in my kitchen.  I set out to make a trifle... but I somehow have misplaced my trifle bowl.  Funny- I don't think I ever actually used it for a trifle before, but I used it all of the time when I was catering as an elevated bowl for salads, dip, fruit, whatever- and now that I actually need it for a trifle, I can't find it.  Of course.  I think I even had two from the catering days... multiples of everything. 

Anyway, I really wanted to make an elegant, yet slightly rustic and well, sloppily decadent looking dessert.  I decided to make a trifle-looking layer cake with pound cake, lemon curd cream and whipped cream topped with berries.  It turned out beautifully.  I think.


Vanilla Pound Cake with 
Lemon Curd Cream, Whipped Cream & Berries




6" Round Cake (homemade or purchased, my lemon recipe here)
Recipe of Lemon Curd
1 pint of Whipping Cream
1/4 cup of Sugar
Berries & Fruit
Lemon, zested

Whip the cream with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form.  Add sugar and whip for another 30 seconds.   Slice cake into 3 layers with a serrated knife.  Layer with whipped cream and lemon curd cream between each layer.  Top with whipped cream, berries, fruit and lemon zest. 


I bake my cakes with a piece of parchment cut to the shape of the bottom of my pan.  You can easily use a store-bought pound cake for this 'assembled' dessert.  I baked mine because I wanted a round cake that would fit on this cake stand.


A serrated knife is also known as a bread knife - essential for not tearing up your cake.


Put lots of lemon - half of the recipe between each layer!


Big dollops of whipped cream - enough to smoosh over the sides.


Next layer, please...  This is really just silly simple.  I think a cake made in a loaf pan - traditional pound cake - would look great, too. 


Pile it on.  The messier the better.


Now the pretty fruit.  You really can't mess this up - just make it look bountiful, the secret to all great looking food!


Lemon zest adds...


Just the right thing amongst the dark berries.  Isn't she a beauty?  Wow.  She's messy and pretty at the same time.  Can I say wow about my own creation?


She looks great, piled high and overflowing, as part of a Mother's Day Spring table setting.

24.3.16

Easter Brunch Ideas | Brunch Menu Ideas | Easy Easter Centerpieces


I had to reach way back in the archives for this one!  This post was from 2012.  Emma was 4 months old (instead of 4 years old!) and I can't imagine how I had time to write this... oh yeah, because I basically just held her all day, and when she slept I worked on my laptop : )

Enjoy this round-up of more Easter Brunch ideas.  I'm still debating what our menu will be... of course!

..........

I can hardly believe it is Easter already.  With the weather swinging every which direction, I can't decide if I'm ready for Christmas or The 4th of July... which actually does sound like Easter.  When we were little we never knew if we'd be battling rain or snow on Easter morning - somethings never change!  Here is a little rundown of some posts that might inspire your Easter celebration!





Cranberry Scones with an Orange Glaze




Mrs. Ross's Blackberry Cobbler



Bacon, Potato & Chive Skillet Omelet




Homemade Herbed Ricotta Cheese on Garlic Baguette Toasts


Chocolate Glazed Donuts




Cherry Almond Cupcakes


"Homemade" Cinnamon Rolls from Frozen Bread Dough


Banana Pecan Pancakes Recipe 

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