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Throwing An Awesome Superbowl Party

It’s been the most talked about news for the last few days – and I’m not talking about Beyonce’s  pregnancy announcement. Superbowl fever is here again and come Sunday, the whole of America – well OK, those who are not seriously cheesed off by their teams not getting through -will be on the edge of their bar stools as they wait to see whether it will be the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons who’ll emerge victorious. Those who know me know that I haven’t got a sporting bone in my body but as I’m now a New Englander, I obviously want the Patriots to do well (sorry everyone!)

 courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

Last year I was pretty chuffed to have got to America just in time to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Superbowl 50. And just before that we also watched the Patriots suffer a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down too well with the locals!

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

I’ll admit I won’t have a clue what’s going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times – but then why would I?

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Sporty I may not be but one thing I can understand is the excitement of the country right now. I may not be a football/soccer fanatic but I’m jumping up and down as much as the next person during World Cup and Euro Cup seasons and never miss an England match (yeah let’s not talk about that!) and always make sure I have the best seat in the pub when I’m watching a game – complete with cider and a plate of pub grub of course. It’ll be no different in America on Sunday with packed bars across the country as everyone desperately waits to see who’ll be the new NFL champions.

But I know that not everyone will be watching the Superbowl in a crowded bar or pub. Superbowl parties are very much the rage here and some people will be celebrating with family and friends in the comfort of their own homes rather than “pay the over hiked prices in bars” – and why not? I think a Super Bowl party sounds like a great idea. As everyone knows entertaining is very much my thing, and I have to say it definitely sounds like my kind of party: there’s no pomp and ceremony, you don’t have to get your glad rags on, and there’s this mixture of a laid back, chilled out vibe combined with a feeling of excited anticipation as the guests get psyched up as much as the players!

As a relative newcomer to America and American football, I had to ask around in order to find out how to put together an awesome Superbowl party. I now wish I hadn’t left it so late in the day to throw a party myself but… There’s always next year!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

  • Decide who’s coming: invite your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, your hairdresser, local barista… Invite who you want but be sure that you have enough space to accommodate your guests and that you can cater for large numbers.
  • Work out your budget for food, drinks and the necessary extras.
  • Get some bedding handy for anyone who might be staying over because they’re too drunk to drive – or heartbroken!
  • Alternatively keep the number of a reputable cab firm handy!
  • Ensure there is adequate seating for everyone as you don’t want any of your guests to stand the whole time. Drag in your garden chairs if necessary; borrow folding chairs and bean bags. If worst comes to the worst people won’t mind the floor or stairs.
  • Get the tables ready. You’ll need one large table to hold the food, and then a few smaller tables within people’s reach to rest plates and glasses on.
  • You may not know for sure until the day but consider whether you need to move the TV from its current location and position for maximum viewing benefit. After all, people are there to see the game so you don’t want any disgruntled guests!

DON’T FORGET:

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

  • Drinks coolers and ice buckets –  it might be cold outside but who wants to drink warm beer?
  • Ice
  • Bottle openers – a must unless you want people opening bottles of beer with their teeth, or worse, your furniture!
  • Napkins – cloth not necessary!
  • Disposable cups, glasses, plates, and cutlery – it takes a brave woman – or man – to get out their best crockery and silverware knowing that they’ll have a never ending mountain of washing up to do afterwards! Just make sure you choose good quality cutlery because if there’s when thing I can’t stand it’s plastic  cutlery shattering when I attempt to use it.
  • Serving platters, trays and bowls
  • Condiments

DECORATION

For one day you can go absolutely football crazy in your home!

  • Use flags, posters, pictures, footy gear or anything else that screams football!
  • Get inspiration for your colour scheme by using the colours of the teams that are playing.
  • Decorate the main food table to resemble the football pitch.
  • Decorations don’t have to cost the earth. Streamers and banners are relatively inexpensive, and use ordinary latex balloons rather than helium ones if you want to keep the costs down.
  • Get crafty by creating decorations from crêpe or tissue paper.

DRINKS:

 Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

  • Beer, beer and more beer!
  • Punch
  • Hard lemonade
  • Sodas
  • Juices
  • Sweet tea

FOOD:

I figured that much of the food would be classic American fare – and I wasn’t wrong. The food doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ – not something my mother would ever want to hear – it should be quick and simple to prepare and serve and if it’s something that can be prepared in advance, so much the better.

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

The food tends to be fried or baked finger food, a little on the stodgy side with little need for cutlery, although you should provide some anyway. There’s no need to try to ‘elevate’ any if these dishes ( this isn’t Masterchef!) and food is generally served buffet-style so guests can help themselves as and when they want and load up during the game.

If you’re pushed for time and/or cash you could:

  • Kindly ask everyone to bring a platter. This will also ensure that most dietary requirements are covered.
  • Make big batches of dishes like chilli or lasagna which can be made in advance and frozen.
  • This isn’t Come Dine With Me so if you can’t make everything from scratch, don’t be afraid to order in food or visit the freezer section at the supermarket.
  • Its always good to offer a selection but don’t feel as though you have to give the kind of selection found on a restaurant menu!
  • My own personal choice would be a minimum of six different appetizers; two mains, and a minimum of desserts.
  • Don’t forget the sides for your main dishes and the accompaniments for the desserts.
  • If you choose to go for one main only, you could always set up a build your own tacos, burritos or even sandwiches station with all the components laid out and your guests choose what they want. This way thry feel as though they’re getting a choice but how practical this idea is depends on space and the number of guests – there is also likely to be a bit of a wait.
  • You could always choose one type of dessert e.g. brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies etc. Whip up a huge batch of the batter or dough, then divide them into portions and give each a different flavour. Once baked, you could give them different toppings.
  • Its OK if you wish to forgo mains and dessert. But if you choose to serve snack food only, ensure there is a reasonable selection to choose from and make sure quantities are plentiful. It’s going to be a long game and people will get hungry. Furthermore, its also a good idea to have some ice cream in the freezer for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Obviously you can serve any kind of food you wish during the game. Use the suggestions below as a guide.

APPETIZERS/SNACKS

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

  • Chicken wings
  • Chips and dips
  • Potato wedges
  • Pizza rolls
  • Fries with cheese and bacon
  • Soft pretzels with cheese dip
  • Mini blooming onions
  • Pull apart garlic bread
  • Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
  • Anything battered or breaded including shrimp, calamari, chicken bites, mushrooms or zucchini.
  • Loaded potato skins

MAINS

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

  • Chilli
  • Pizza
  • Ribs
  • Lasagne
  • Fajitas
  • Steak sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Sandwiches
  • Fried chicken
  • Pulled pork
  • Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers
  • Sliders
  • Chilli nachos
  • Quesadillas

SIDES AND ACCOMPANIMENTS:

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

  • Fries
  • Potato wedges
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green salad
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cornbread
  • Bread rolls
  • Sweet potato mash/fries
  • Onion rings

DESSERT

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Fruit pie bars
  • Blondies
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice-cream cookie sandwiches
  • Churros

TO SERVE WITH DESSERT:

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

  • Ice-cream
  • Whipped Cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Fruit flavoured sauces

Whatever you’re doing on Sunday, I hope you all have a great time – and may the best team win!

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All Sweet At Boston’s Beer And Sweet Fest 2016

EVENT: Boston Beer & Sweet Fest

HOSTED BY: Drink Craft Beer

PLACE: Space 57, 200 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

DATE: 4th-5th November 2016

TIME:  Session 1 – Friday, November 4th: 6-9:30pm
Session 2 – Saturday, November 5th: 1-4:30pm
Session 3 – Saturday, November 5th: 6-9:30pm (the one we                     went to)

When I started  writing this post I was slightly hungover – and its all the fault of my sister and brother-in-law!

When I left London in October to join Mr. D. in Massachusetts after finally being approved for my Green Card (go me!) My sister and her husband decided to treat me and the fella to tickets to this year’s Beer & Sweets Fest that was being held in Boston. I love alcohol; I love sugar; I love alcohol and sugar; I love sugar and alcohol – proof that my sister and brother-in-law really do know me too well!

SO WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL ALL ABOUT?

The Beer & Sweets Fest is an event thrown by Drink Craft Beer, who in the past have hosted events celebrating all that is good about, well, craft beer! As everyone knows that it’s not much fun drinking without having something to munch on, so these beer events are usually teamed up with a food item of some kind. So there’s been the Beer & Cheese Fest, the Beer & BBQ Fest (Mr. D. would have loved that!) Beer & Chocolate, Beer & Ice-Cream (whatever will they think of next???)… Well now it’s the turn of sweets.

WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL LIKE?

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An indoor festival, there were a series of stalls where vendors from different companies were offering unlimited, free samples of either beer or sweets. Each company generally offered three different items for people to try.

And naturally most sweet treats were paired with a beer or cider from a neighbouring vendor – as suggested in the festival guide – which complemented it.

ON ARRIVAL

After having our IDs checked and receiving the obligatory wrist band, we then had to pick up a biodegradable tasting cup for all our drink samples (great way to cut down on waste) a festival guide and a pencil so that we could mark off all the goodies we’d sampled.

And then the fun began!

ONCE INSIDE

As each stall had about three items for everyone to try. Mr. D. and I worked out a strategy that we were going to go round the venue trying one thing from each stall before working our way around another two times so that by the end of the night we’d have tried everything.

Well at least that was the plan. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way because as much as I think I can consume sweet stuff and alcohol all day long, my tiny little body had other ideas and decided that it just couldn’t handle the buzzing, sugar rush it was getting.

Oh well we tried! And we didn’t do too badly either.

WHO WAS THERE?

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Celebrating all that was great about New England beer, were a total of twenty breweries and cideries from the region as well as eight companies providing delicious sweet treats such as ice -cream, cookies, doughnuts, and various types of confectionery.

Here’s a list of the breweries, cider makers and confectioners who were in attendance, as well as the samples on offer.

BEER AND CIDER

Allagash Brewing Co. (ME)

Black – Belgian-style stout

Fluxus – Belgian-style saison w/ ginger

James Bean – Belgian-style strong ale w/ coffee

White – Belgian-style wit beer

Bantam Cider (MA)

Hibiscus Mint

Rojo-Chocolato – Bantam Rojo cherry & black pepper cider aged with chocolate roasted cacao nibs

Wunderkind – Cider with flower-blossom honey

Castle Island Brewing Co. (MA)

Hoodsie TBD – American stout with cocoa nibs & vanilla bean

Oaverzealous – Double IPA with oats & New Zealand hops

Palmside – Coconut porter

Citizen Cider (VT)

Americran – Cider with cranberries

Dirty Mayor – Cider with ginger

Stan Up – Vintaged cider made from heirloom apples

Clown Shoes Beer (MA)

The Barista – Brown ale with coffee & milk sugars

Chocolate Sombrero – Stout with cinnamon, vanilla, & ancho chili peppers

Space Cake – Double IPA

Downeast Cider House (MA)

Cranberry Blend – Cider with fresh cranberry juice

Original Blend

Pumpkin Blend – Cider with fresh pumpkin & chai spices

Exhibit A Brewing Co. (MA)

The Cat’s Meow – American IPA

Demo Tape Five – American brown Porter

Demo Tape Six – Dry-hopped kettle sour

Goody Two Shoes – Kolsch-style ale

Far From the Tree Cider (MA)

karr-UH-mel – Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel Cider

 Cord – Oaked maple cider

Ember – Toasted chai cider with smoked vanilla & burnt sugar

Foolproof Brewing Co. (RI)

Emperor of the Yahd – Bourbon barrel aged Double IPA

La Ferme Urbaine – Belgian-style saison

Peanut Butter Raincloud – Peanut butter porter  with chocolate

Henniker Brewing Co. (NH)

Hometown Double Brown –brown ale

King Misanthrope – Russian Imperial Stout

Ora – Belgian-style golden ale

Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. (MA)

Brewery Maker – Lager wine aged in bourbon barrels

Framinghammer – Baltic Porter

Red Tape – Amber lager

Lefty’s Brewing Co. (MA)

Big Brekkie Stout – Breakfast stout with organic chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, maple syrup, & bacon

Graham Cracker Porter

Vanilla/Chocolate Wedding Daze – Imperial Stout aged on organic vanilla beans & organic cocoa nibs

Long Trail Brewing Co. (VT)

Citrus Limbo – IPA infused with grapefruit & tangerine

Cranberry Gose – German-style gose brewed with cranberries

Barrel Aged Unearthed – Bourbon barrel aged stout

Lost Nation Brewing Co. (VT)

Gose – Slightly sour German wheat beer w/ coriander & sea salt

Cask Pitch Black –  black ale dry-hopped withGalaxy hops

Cask Vermont Pilsner – pilsner dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops

Newburyport Brewing Co. (MA)

Das Kolsch – Kolsch-style ale

Joppa Grande – Foreign Export Stout

Plum Island – Belgian-style Wit

Night Shift Brewing Co. (MA)

Awake – Coffee porter

Furth –Hefeweizen

Trifecta – Belgian-style pale ale aged w/ vanilla beans

Peak Organic Brewing Co. (ME)

Nut Brown – Brown ale

Fresh Cut – Dry hopped hoppy pilsner

Happy Hour – Pilsner

Samuel Adams (MA)

Slice of Citrus IPA – Citrus IPA

Black Harbor Stout – Imperial stout with vanilla, black pepper, coffee, & cocoa nibs

Neighborino Flanders Red – Belgian-style sour red ale

Slumbrew (MA)

UNION by Somerville Brewing – Barleywine

Yankee Swap 2016 – Rotating big beer

TBD Sour Brown Ale

Wormtown Brewing Co. (MA)

Blizzard of ’78 – English-style brown ale with cold brew coffee

Blonde Cougar – American blonde ale with honey

Norm – Oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs & toasted coconut

Spices Like Us – Imperial Russian Stout

SWEETS

Blackbird Donuts (Boston, MA)

Grapefruit and Cracked Pepper Glaze Donut

Cinnamon Spice Donut

Vanilla Sugar Donut

Chocolate Therapy (Framingham, MA)

The Cure – Dark chocolate truffle with cinnamon, bay leaf, cayenne, and Aleppo pepper

Fix – Smooth dark chocolate truffle topped with crunchy cocoa nibs

Honey Hops – Dark and milk chocolate truffle with Citra hops and honey

Honeycomb Creamery (Somerville, MA)

Apple Cider Donut with Caramel Swirl ice cream

Brown Butter Apple ice cream

Spiced Pumpkin ice cream

Kitchen Millie (Somerville, MA)

The Peanut Patriot – Peanut butter cookie

The Sugar Blizzard – Sugar cookies with sea salt and cinnamon

The Unrivaled Classic – Chocolate chip cookies

Miam Miam Macaronerie (South Boston, MA)

Chocolate Stout macaron

Salted Caramel macaron

Vanilla Bean macaron

Spindler Confections (Somerville, MA)

Salted Vanilla Caramels

Apricot Pate de Fruits

Peanut Brittle

Sweet Lydia’s (Lowell, MA)

Coconut Marshmallows

Turtle Bark – Caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate

Mexican Chocolate Stout S’More – S’more with vanilla marshmallow, ganache made with Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero stout, and graham cracker crumbs

Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA)

Toffee Almond Sea Salt

Maple Pecan

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice

WHAT WE THOUGHT

To say that Mr. D. and I had a fab time is an understatement. There was such  a good vibe from the time we entered the venue and the purple-shirted staff members were so polite, helpful and accommodating. The vendors were an absolute delight (I’ve been to similar events back in London and this has not always been the case) and we managed to sample some fabulous, top quality food and drink. I don’t know who comes up with these innovative, highly original flavour combos but we had great fun tasting them.

Admittedly I’m not much of a beer drinker – that’s more Mr. D.’s thing – so I was thrilled to see that there were quite a few cider makers there that night because I am most definitely a cider girl!

Although we did enjoy almost everything, if I’m honest, I was disappointed that a very delicious and unusual sounding cider  – which shall remain nameless- had to be tipped into a waste bucket because neither Mr.D nor I could finish even that little two ounce sample which had an extremely strong taste which we did not find appealing. That’s not to say that it was rank – just not to our taste but that was the only thing we ditched that night.

WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

Oh you bet! We had such an amazing time there that if there was ever to be another one next year, we would definitely go. It wasn’t just the food and drink that was on offer that made it worth it, but the vibrant atmosphere, helpful event staff, friendly vendors and fab festival goers that made this event such a pleasant experience.

And let’s not forget that it’s events like these which give local breweries, cideries and confectioners the chance to put themselves and their products in the spotlight,  and make themselves known to a wider audience.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO…

Although we thought everyone was amazing, there are some people who really stood out.

CITIZEN CIDER

Mr. D. and I sampled some great tasting cider but it was the vendor who really stood out as much as those cups of appley goodness! He had no in engaging the festival goers in conversation and seemed oo have time for everyone. The fact that he complimented me ookn my accent means that he gets a zillion house points!

SPINDLER CONFECTIONS

The vendor was very welcoming and took time to explain what the samples were and invited is to try them. And they were gooooood!

SWEET LYDIA’S

I found that this company were very generous with their samples. I’ve seen restaurants who serve up mingier dessert portions! They were all incredibly tasty and even though I’m not normally a huge coconut fan, I really loved the taste and texture of their coconut marshmallows.

FAR FROM THE CIDER TREE

Mr. D and I were very impressed with what we tried, and I loved the flavour of the vanilla sea salt caramel cider. The vendor was also a very cheery, laid back dude!

BLACKBIRD DOUGHNUTS

Okay, I was disappointed that there were no vanilla sugar doughnuts, and I really wish that their grapefruit and pepper doughnuts – which were created especially for the festival – had a greater hit of grapefruit. But I can overlook all of the above because Mr. D. fell head over heels for their cinnamon spice doughnuts, and I can’t say I blame him because they were pretty yum!

HONEYCOMB CREAMERY

Mr. D. couldn’t get enough of their apple cider ice – cream – especially when he teamed it up with the cinnamon spice doughnut from Blackbird Doughnuts. And I loved the bits of roasted apple in the butter brown apple ice-cream.

THE CHUBBY CHICKPEA

They weren’t giving away  any beer or sweet samples but instead were selling reasonably-priced actual food – for which Mr. D. and I were extremely grateful because as fabulous as sweets are you need food to mop up all that alcohol!

I ordered the falafel which was cooked to perfection – light on the inside and beautifully crisp on the outside. And Mr. D. loved his chicken schnitzel sandwich. Both were served with hummus – Mr. D’s fave – and a type of salsa.

My only complaint? Guys, ditch the bread roll/bap thing and go for a flat bread instead!

These guys have a food truck located in parts of Boston so catch them if you can.

EVENT STAFF MEMBER

Mr. D. and I need to give a massive shout out to a bespectacled, shaven-headed male event staff member on the Saturday night we attended – for having a heart of gold. Thank you.

MY SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW

Thanks guys for this amazing gift. If it hadn’t been for you two, we wouldn’t have had such a great night out. Next time, leave the kids at home and come with us!

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Well done to Drink Craft Beer – you excelled yourself.  Here’s to next year!

Thanksgiving Chez Mr. And Mrs. D.

 

 

Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!

Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)

Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!

So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!

So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’

1. TO CHURCH IN THE MORNING

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For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance  to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now so there won’t be a special Thanksgiving mass in any of the churches but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.

2. PANCAKE BREAKFAST

 

Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to  number 5, you’ll understand why!

3. ROAST TURKEY DINNER

 

What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I put it very politely.

We always have turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.

And of course there’ll be a round of sandwiches the next day!

4. TURKEY MUST BE TOPPED WITH BACON

I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey, do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!

5. A VERY, VERY, LATE DINNER

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This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!

I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!

6. FAMILY MOVIE MARATHON

 

Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!

7. GAMES WITH FRIENDS

 

If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.

8. DEATH AT A FUNERAL

 

This may seem like an odd choice but it started out as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, we’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.

9. CANDLES

 

There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.

And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.

10. CHEESE BOARD

 

OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition  as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.

I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.

11. I AM THANKFUL POEM

I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:

I AM THANKFUL

I am thankful for…

The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.

The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.

My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.

A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.

The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.

All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.

My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.

The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.

The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.

The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.

Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

The Cosy Coming-In-Out-Of-The-Rain Supper

As everyone knows, I really like the cooler months of the year rather than the blazing hot ones ( I don’t need to be told I’m strange – I already know that!) So I didn’t mind when it was pelting down with rain last Friday. I didn’t mind at all. I just wished I could have been at home watching the rain come down from the comfort of my own home rather than be outside in the rain, freezing in my lightweight summer clothes while carrying three times my weight in groceries!

 

 

Thankfully Mr. D. was on hand to give me a, um, hand with the shopping but even that couldn’t take away from the discomfort I felt as the rainwater slowly began to seep into my totally inappropriate ballet-style pumps. Just then an image of a steaming hot mug of  chocolaty goodness with enough cream and marshmallows to concern Jamie Oliver flashed into my head.

 

“You know what?” I began as I turned to Mr.D. who makes carrying a multitude of grocery bags look so effortless, “this is perfect hot chocolate weather.” All I wanted to do was get home, change out of my damp clothes and into comfy pjs, and sit by the fireplace, sipping gloriously thick hot chocolate and munching on toasted goodies. OK, so I don’t have a fireplace but the radiator with a few candles around it would do! Then I realised – we didn’t have any hot chocolate. And we hadn’t thought to pick any up. But then again why would we? Summertime’s all about the Pimm’s and cider. Or perhaps I should say, it should be all about the Pimm’s and cider. But at that exact moment all I wanted was hot chocolate and I could very easily have kicked myself for not buying any, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt as though I had a swimming pool at the end of each foot!

It seems strange to be writing a post that’s better suited to the Autumn months than in what should be a blazing hot July, but it did get me thinking about cosy and warming suppers; the kind that’d be a real treat after a trip out in the cold, wind, rain, and possibly even snow. Or when you’re indoors, all snug and cosy while it’s chucking down buckets outside. Or perhaps you’re just in need of some good old-fashioned comfort food. There’s no special occasion for this supper; you can prepare this when you need something warm and comforting. None of the following should be served cold; everything should be either piping hot, warm or lightly toasted. You could serve all the following courses as a kind of high tea if you really wanted to go to town, especially if you are having friends over. But the main idea here is to keep it simple (who wants to do a whole lot of cooking when you’re looking for some much needed comfort food?) so I would pick one or two of the food items and serve it with a hot drink. Furthermore, unless you’re going for your own brand of comfort food, a lot of the foods listed here are deliciously stodgy and high in carbs, so I would choose carefully! Oh, and a lot of it will most probably be dripping in butter…

The good thing about this kind of supper is that even if you’ve invited your friends to come over and join you, there’s really no need to go to town on dressing up or creating an elaborately decorated table. The key here is simplicity, comfort and warmth. So comfy trackies, sweaters, pjs, robes and slippers are ideal. Oh and don’t forget the blankets!

SANDWICHES

Sandwiches should ideally be made with thick-sliced, soft bread and toasted:

Bacon and tomato

Sausage and mushroom

Chocolate and hazelnut spread

Jam/marmalade

Cheese and tomato

Cheese and ham

SOUP

Serve with warm crusty bread:

Tomato

Mushroom

Chicken and sweetcorn

Vegetable

BREADS AND PASTRIES

Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:

Crumpets

English muffins

Drop scones

Teacakes

Fruit loaf

BISCUITS

Shortbread

Oat and raisin cookies

Ginger biscuits

Flapjacks

SAVOURIES

Welsh Rarebit

Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits

Kipper with poached egg

Egg on toast

Mushroom on toast

Scotch eggs

Spinach and cheese muffins

SWEETS

Rice pudding

Chocolate brownies

Gingerbread

Banana bread

Apricot tea bread

HOT DRINKS

Tea – of any kind

Coffee

Hot chocolate – with a splash of your favourite liqueur for the adults

Hot apple toddy

Irish coffee

Hot milk with honey

 

And I’m well aware that we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a house with a fabulous fireplace (I know I don’t!) so we’ll just have to crank up the heating a notch and dream of romantic, roaring log fires! And you can always create that cosy glow with dimmed lighting, candlelight, and if you really want to push the boat out, fairy lights.

Easter/Spring Afternoon Tea

new-years-clip-art-12   Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • b9d882970272f55c1f2f15c626dfbf93 Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken and pesto
  • Ricotta and apricot jam
  • Egg and asparagus
  • Prawn cocktail

SAVOURIES

  • pea Scotch eggs
  • Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
  • Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
  • Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
  • Bite-size lamb samosas
  • Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
  • Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
  • Cheese and spring onion scones
  • Broccoli and spinach mini quiche

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

  • images10ARJEL0 Hot cross buns
  • Fruit loaf
  • Apricot muffins
  • English muffins
  • White chocolate and raspberry scones
  • Rosewater and vanilla scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

  • sim Lemon cupcakes
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Carrot cake
  • Simnel Cake
  • Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
  • Crème egg chocolate brownies
  • Pastel coloured macaroons
  • Chocolate whoopie pies
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
  • Mini chocolate and cherry trifles

DRINKS:

  • imagesE0VT0C19 Tea!
  • Lemon tea
  • Raspberry tea
  • Vanilla latte
  • Mint tea
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MACARONS imagesJ11H9KO3 INGREDIENTS:

Meringues:

  • 130g pure icing sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • 2  egg whites
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 4-5 drops of pink food colouring

White chocolate and raspberry ganache:

  • 50ml double cream
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 140C.
  2. Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
  3.  Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
  5. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Add food colouring.
  7. Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
  8. Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
  9.  Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  10.  Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
  11.  Stand until a crust begins to form  which should take around 5 hours.
  12. Bake macarons until firm.
  13.  Cool completely on trays.
  14. Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
  15. Remove from heat.
  16.  Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
  17. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
  18. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
  19. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Enjoy! imagesCAHZOS9O

Hassle-Free Cocktails and Canapes Chez Mrs. D

Entertaining must be my middle name – I LOVE it. I love nothing better than having a crowd of people over, and  dare I say it, I’m well known for my cocktails and canapés. If it were possible, I’d be having cocktail and canapé nights every night. It’s simple but impressive if you’re having a lot of people over although it can require a lot of effort. I tend to make very fruity cocktails so there’s a lot of chopping, crushing and pureeing going on. And canapés, unless you keep them really simple, can be quite fiddly to prepare. Furthermore, when ever I invite people over, it usually tends to be a very last minute thing so I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything ready in time before the doorbell starts ringing. Goodness knows what I’d do if I regularly put on four-course dinner parties!

That’s not to say that the hard work isn’t worth it because when I hear the raucous laughter and non-stop chatter above the already very loud music, see the empty dishes and knocked-over cocktail glasses (accidentally of course) and know that everyone’s having a damn good time, then it’s most definitely worth it.

But there are ways of hosting a great cocktails and canapés night without feeling as though you are in danger of committing murder beforehand. Here are some great tips to hosting the perfect C&C evenings Mrs. D style:

BECOME THE COCKTAIL QUEEN

If like me you are very last minute dot com or you simply dread having unexpected guests, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some stand-by items ready in the fridge or cupboard. There isn’t really much need to stock up on ultra expensive ingredients that you’re probably never going to use again. We all remember the fairy tale about the magic stone soup and it’s true – with limited ingredients and a lot of imagination you can come up with something quite impressive:

  1. I always have at least one bottle of wine, rum or vodka ready to act as the base for a good cocktail so always make sure you have a bottle of something tucked away for ’emergencies’.
  2. Always make sure you’re never out of ice.
  3. You can cheat by using a cocktail mixer pack where all you have to do is add alcohol and serve.
  4. I can’t think of any fruits that can’t be used in a cocktail, either sliced, pureed or muddled and strained so let your fruit bowl be your best friend!
  5. Herbs and spices such as basil, mint, lemongrass and ginger and even chilli can really give your cocktails a much needed kick – just remember not to overdo it!
  6. Cola, lemonade, sparkling water and various types of juices make great mixers.
  7. Never underestimate the importance of the humble lemon (or lime.) The zest and juice can be added to the alcohol; the fruit can be sliced, and the peel can be used for decoration.
  8. When all else fails, cooled sugar syrup + lemon juice + alcohol + ice + soda + lemon slice = inexpensive yet impressive cocktail!
  9. Don’t forget to frost the rims of the glasses with sugar.
  10. If you do have time to prepare, freeze either fruit juice, coffee, cola, tea lemonade etc. to avoid watery cocktails.

Also remember that it’s not all about the alcohol (strange coming from me, I know!) as you may have guests who don’t drink. Where possible simply omit the alcohol in their drinks, substitute it with a flavoured syrup if necessary or top up with more ginger ale, lemonade, soda etc.

THE EASIEST CANAPES EVER

Canapés and antipasti platters are traditionally nibbles served to guests as they arrive and as they are a precursor to a main meal, they tend to be light. However, it’s not uncommon now for people to forgo a sit-down meal in order to serve an array of canapés, especially if they are having a lot of guests or want to keep things informal.

  • So unless you’re planning a party with lots of guests, keep the antipasto fairly simple so you don’t override the the main meal. You could perhaps serve two or three dishes from the list below along with some fruit, nuts and bread.
  • If you’re planning on serving a main meal, then the  antipasto should complement the meal you’re planning.
  • Think about the appearance and fragrance of the food; blending flavors, aromas and colours will create interesting antipasto plates.

We’d all love to do a Delia when it comes to entertaining but let’s face it – we don’t all have time to stuff quail eggs or make pastry from scratch. Neither do we have the patience or finances to track down obscure, expensive  ingredients which can probably only be ordered online. So if you’re pushed for time – or money – cheat! Make the most of your local, supermarket, grocer or deli. And if you’re fortunate enough to live near a farmer’s market, so much the better!

Here’s a list of simple nibbles you could include as part of your canapés:

  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts
  • Water crackers
  • Various types of cheese
  • Sliced or cherry tomatoes marinated in dressing
  • Olives
  • Cold meat slices
  • Different types of bread
  • Slices or chunks of fresh fruit
  • Jarred roasted peppers
  • Garlic hummus and pita bread
  • Sardines and sweet onions
  • Capers
  • Sweet pickles, chutneys and relishes
  • Cold shrimp
  • Roasted nuts
  • Homemade garlic bread
  • Grilled deli vegetables
  • Marinated fresh mozzarella
  • Anchovies

You could also decide what you’d like to be the key component in your antipasti platter ie. – meat, vegetables, fish etc. and then base other nibbles around them:

Meat:  a selection of natural deli meats – pepperoni, salami and prosciutto etc. — then add mixed olives, brie, deviled eggs, roasted vegetables and crackers.

Vegan: vegetable crudités, marinated olives or olive tapenade, pitta bread, roasted peppers, vegetarian stuffed dolmas and roasted garlic hummus.

 

Seafood:  fish roe, sardines, anchovies, seared fresh tuna and smoked salmon, crackers served with cream cheese, sliced marinated onions and capers.

Fresh Fruit and Nuts: Serve chunks of melon, figs and pomegranate alongside  deli meats, and then add toasted walnuts and roasted, salted pistachios.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese: roasted veggies e.g. – baby aubergines, beets, bell peppers,courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. (Look for roasted vegetables in the prepared foods section of the store, or simply toss raw veggies with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 450°F oven until tender.) Served with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego.

Cheese and More Cheese: Look for out-of-the-ordinary cheeses like Rustica cheese with red peppers or black peppercorns, rosemary coated Manchego, Caciotta cheese with green olives, Gouda with mustard seeds or cumin, drunken goat cheese made with red wine and Sotocenere cheese with truffles and a hint of cinnamon. Then combine them with a few traditional ones like provolone or fresh mozzarella. Serve with crusty bread, olives, deli meats, fruit, crackers, pickles and chutneys.

 

I’ve included an example of a super simple antipasti platter and a quick and easy cocktail. Hardly any fuss at all with easily found ingredients.

ANTIPASTI PLATTER

 

INGREDIENTS:

125g grissini

240g sunblush tomatoes

225g queen green olives

70g Napoli salami

70g Milano salami

70g sliced chorizo

80g Parma ham

METHOD:

Arrange the selection of canapés on a breadboard or platter.

APPLE AND CINNAMON SPARKLE

 

INGREDIENTS:

200ml vodka

300ml sparkling apple drink

1 green apple, sliced

6 cinnamon sticks

METHOD:

  1. Mix vodka and sparkling apple drink.
  2. Pour into martini glasses.
  3. Garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.

What could be simpler! Enjoy!

 

Scrummy Redcurrants

 

I have just tried redcurrants for the very first time. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration as I’m sure I’ve had a tart, cake or some other dessert topped with a couple of redcurrants but this is the first time, I’ve properly tried them. I’ve wanted to try them ever since I was five years old and I saw them in my mum’s The Cookery Year cook book, as they looked delicious and ever since then I’d wondered what they taste like.

 

Well, now I know. Redcurrants are surprisingly tart but still quite yummy and I managed to demolish the whole punnet in one sitting. Mr. D tried some too as he’d never eaten them before. Did he like them? Well, it’s quite hard to tell with him but he did say that he found the redcurrants to be quite sharp and didn’t scoff them the same way I did, so maybe it wasn’t such a big hit with him. Oh, well – all the more for me!

 

Redcurrants are related to the gooseberry – which might explain the tartness – and are native to western Europe, although there are similar species in Asia and North America. They’re available from July until September which means that I’ve only just managed to try them while they’re still in season.  Despite their sharp taste, redcurrants are still slightly sweet enough to be eaten raw, although you’d obvious have to sprinkle them with sugar if you’d prefer them to be sweeter. They are quite rich in vitamin C and go well with other fruits and berries.

 

They are a surprisingly versatile fruit and can be served in a multitude of ways.  They can be sprinkled with sugar and served with cream or frosted to decorate desserts and puddings. Redcurrants are also usually used as part of the mixed berries that go into making a delicious Summer Pudding. Because of their high levels of pectin, they make great jams and jellies that taste great with toast or accompanying lamb or game. That’s right – they go quite well with savoury dishes too!

So here are two quick and easy  recipes using delicious  redcurrants. Make these lovely delicacies before redcurrants disappear for another year!

SPICY RED ONION AND REDCURRANT RELISH

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red onions
  • 2 small red peppers,
  • 1 bsp olive oil
  • 2  red chilli,
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2″ piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 300ml red wine vinegar
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 300g redcurrants, stripped from stalks

Method

  1. Peel onions and cut into thin slices.
  2. Cut red pepper into chunks then mix with the red onion and oil.
  3. Fry for 5-10 mins over a high heat until lightly charred and softened.
  4. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Deseed chillis and chop.
  6. Grate ginger and crush garlic before mixing with the chilli.
  7. Lightly fry chilli mixture before adding half the vinegar.
  8. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins.
  9. Add the onion mixture plus the remaining vinegar, all the sugar, spice and 1 tsp salt.
  10. Bring to the boil then bubble away for about 5 mins until thickened.
  11. Add redcurrants and simmer for about 5 mins more, or until they have burst, but still have some shape and the liquid is syrupy.
  12. Remove and pour into a large heatproof jar. Cover and seal while hot. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Taste great with sausages, cold meats and goat’s cheese.

ZESTY BERRY COMPOTE

 

Serves 10

Ingredients

100ml berry juice- any kind

100ml water

2 tblspn. Crème de cassis

50g sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1kg fresh/ frozen summer fruits (blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants)

10 stems fresh redcurrants

Method

1. Empty the jars of conserve into a large pan. Add the cassis and 200ml water. Heat until warm, then add the frozen fruits and heat for a few minutes until the berries are no longer frozen. Cool and chill.

2. Serve in glasses decorated with fresh redcurrants.

3. Also delicious served with cream, ice-cream or custard.

 

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