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August 27, 2009

Workshops | Fall & Holiday Schedule

September 29th : Fall Harvest Entertaining
Seasonal gourds and heirloom pumpkins are the star of this class.  Learn simple techniques to create a fabulous table setting with fall foliage and how to make butternut squash pasta, harvest hors d'oeuvres, and a spiced apple pastry.

October 20th : Spooky Halloween Celebration
Learn how to artfully decorate your table for Halloween and create a spooky feast for your friends!

December 1st : Festive Holiday Entertaining
Elegant and simple hors d'oeuvres and festive floral arrangement for your upcoming Holiday party.  Also learn the tricks of setting the perfect party scene : music, ambiance, lighting and more.

Jenny's workshops are held at A Thyme for Everything, a gourmet store in Lee's Summit.  Visit their website to find out more class details.

Jenny also teaches private classes for small groups - perfect for a party!  Email jenny at jenny@occasionskc.com to inquire.

August 25, 2009

Home | Closet Makeover into a Bar | Inspired by Eddie Ross


Last week, I came across this post by Eddie Ross - he transformed a useless closet into a functioning bar space for entertaining.  I had the perfect closet to transform - it was in our dining room that was used as a media closet for the previous owners.  


Before : The closet (that we had always found awkward and pointless) was in the dining room, but held our wireless router and sound system for the home.  The closet was perfect for Eddie's Closet Makeover - it already had lighting and some shelving installed.

I painted the inside a light grey that has a slight tint of blue... looks better already!  Notice the file cabinet still remains (no where else to put it!) and our wireless router and sound system is stashed in the retractable tray that once held their keyboard.  


Here is Mike installing the cubbies for our wine storage shelf.  We installed a hardwood counter top (a 4'x2'x2" piece of oak that we stained) and accented it with a piece of stained baseboard trim.  The result is a thick looking countertop that looks expensive... but it only cost $10.   I made a curtain out of a piece of natural linen and hung it on a curtain rod to disguise my files.  



To stock the bar, I added (left to right) linen cocktail napkins that I purchased at an estate sale, a small bowl of cashews (I'll store the entire bowl and nuts in a large tupperware container to keep it fresh), my collection of cocktail shakers, and a large pewter bowl for iced beers, and an ice bucket.


I hung the wine opener on the wall so we'll always be able to find it in wine emergencies...  I also have a couple of silver trays ready to go for a delivered round of drinks.   


Done!  Our dining room bar closet is complete - and ready for a party.  I am using the closet not only as a useful entertaining device, but as a way to artfully display my collection of glasses.  I love the way the pale grayish blue paint looks with the oak, glasses, silver and pewter pieces. 

Thanks for the inspiration, Eddie!

Oak Board for Counter = $9
Wood Trim for Counter = $3
Painting Supplies = $10
Curtain Rod = $5
Linen = $6
Extra Wood for Cubbies = $17
Total = $50



August 20, 2009

Recipes | Blue Cheese Stuffed Bacon Burgers



In my posts, I usually start off by telling you how healthy my recipes is... not the case here.  Sorry : )  The best advice I can give you for this one is portion control!  

I based this recipe off of Blanc Burger's Inside Out Burger - Blue Cheese stuffed ground beef topped with Bacon.  

1 pound of ground beef 
8 ounces of blue cheese crumbles***
Salt & Pepper
Whole Wheat Buns
Heirloom Tomato
Bacon, cooked
Mayonaisse 
Dijon Mustard
Ketchup
Horseradish (optional) 

To make the patties (4), divide the beef into 8 flat patties.  Top 4 of the patties with 1/4 of the blue cheese - be sure to keep the blue cheese concentrated in the center of the beef so it doesn't show on the edges.   Top the blue cheese topped patties with the remaining 4 patties and press the edges to seal the two together.  Salt & pepper generously.  Grill on a hot grill for 4 minutes on each side.  

Lower heat on the grill.  Butter the buns, and place on the grill for about 2 minutes.  To make the special mayo, mix together equal parts of mayo, ketchup and dijon.  Add salt, pepper & sugar to taste.  I also added a little prepared horseradish for an extra kick.

Spread the top bun with special mayo, top the burger with bacon and a slice of tomato.



August 18, 2009

Press | Bathroom Makeover on CookieMag.com




Our bathroom renovation is featured on Cookiemag.com!  The new site is a "Stylish Parenting Magazine for the New Mom: Home Decorating, Parenting Tips & Family Fun"

Click here to read the article written by Sarah Newell!





August 17, 2009

Home | Closet Makeover by Eddie Ross in Real Simple

This closet was remodeled by Eddie Ross and featured in Real Simple.

I think this is very inspiring... Look at the transformation!  


We have the perfect closet to do this in our dining room - might be a great rainy day project for today!  Time to get to work... 

Recipes | Roasted Chicken, Smashed Potatoes & Green Beans



Yesterday it was dreary and rainy in Kansas City, so, I turned to my 'comfort food' recipes - Roasted Chicken (ala Barefoot Contessa : stuffed with lemon and garlic), smashed red potatoes, and steamed green beans.  Roasting a chicken may seem daunting, but it is THE easiest dinner you can make.  The entire dinner can be made for under $10 and it is super healthy, too.  I know, you don't often associate mashed potatoes with gravy as healthy, but it surprisingly is.  The gravy is made with only 2 tablespoons of 'drippings' and 2 tablespoons of butter - and that feeds 4+ people.  

Shopping List :

Whole Chicken - $.99/lb x 3.5lbs = $3.50
Red Onions - $1.00
Red Potatoes - $1.50
Green Beans - $1.50
Chicken Stock - $1.00
Lemon - $.30
Garlic - $.30
Total = $9.10

Roasted Chicken :

Whole Chicken
Lemon, cut in half
Head of Garlic, cut in half
2 Tablespoons of Butter, softened
Salt & Pepper
1 Red Onion

Generously salt & pepper the inside of the chicken.  Stuff the lemon and garlic halves in the cavity of the chicken.  Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels.  Spread the outside with butter, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Tie together the legs of the chicken with twine.  Cut up red onions into large pieces, then scatter around the chicken.  Roast for 50 minutes (longer for a larger chicken) at 425 degrees.  



Smashed Potatoes :

1 pound of red potatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of milk
Salt & Pepper

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and fill with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender.  Put potatoes in mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Add butter milk and salt & pepper.  Mix on low until the potatoes start to 'smash'.  Continue until you reach the constancy you like - chunky for me.

Green Beans : 

1 pound of Green Beans
1 tablespoon of Butter
Salt & Pepper

In salted simmering water, place green beans that you've trimmed the ends and cut in half.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Drain.  Place butter in in the hot pan, then toss the green beans in the butter for 2 minutes.  Salt & pepper. 

Gravy :

2 tablespoons of Drippings from the roasting pan
2 tablespoons of Flour
1 cup of Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons of Butter
Salt & Pepper

In a sauce pan, combine drippings and flour - stirring for 2 minutes until the flour has cooked.  Whisk in chicken stock.  Add butter and salt and pepper.  Cook on low until thick.   

Approximate calories per person : 450 calories

August 16, 2009

Entertaining : Cheese Platter with Grapes & Pears



Last Friday night, I got together with some friends to see Chicago at Starlight Theater (in Kansas City).  The plan was to meet at our friend's home for a couple glasses of wine and a few bites to eat before the show. I had promised to bring a sort of hors d'oeuvres, but I had had a pretty long day and I wasn't in the mood to spend any time in the kitchen or much money at the store.  My solution?  A cheese platter with grapes, pears and crackers.  $15  Looks like a lot more, doesn't it?! 


Shopping List :

Havarti Cheese - $3.50
Extra Sharp Cheddar - $3.50
Table Water Crackers with Sesame Seeds - $2.50
Red Grapes - $3.50
Bartlett Pears - $2.00
Total = $15.00

Tips :

*Anytime I assemble a platter I think about color.  I always have something green - in this case the pears, something red usually berries or grapes, and two colors of cheese.  If I use a soft goat cheese, I roll the log in chopped parsley to give it color.  

*When I want to save on the budget, I don't go to the gourmet cheese area - I go to the pre-packaged cheese section, then look for the cheese that were wrapped by the deli.  These cheeses are usually cut from the deli's large blocks of cheese, therefore they are a higher quality than the Kraft type cheese, but much less expensive than the specialty gourmet cheeses.  And guess what?  When presented on a platter like this, no one will be the wiser.  

*I love the really simple Carr's Table Water crackers with sesame seeds.  They are elegant and the perfect compliment to a flavorful cheese.



August 14, 2009

Grilled Halibut & Lemon Chive Risotto


Last Saturday night, we opted to stay in for dinner.  I was in the mood for a lite "Bistro-ish" dinner.  Mike was in the mood for a steak.  Solution?  His and hers grilling accompanied by a fresh and creamy lemon, chive and parmesan risotto.

Grilled Halibut with White Wine Lemon Butter Sauce

1 pound of Halibut
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
1 whole lemon
1/3 cup of white wine 

Drizzle the halibut with olive oil, the sprinkle generously salt & pepper.  Grill for about 5-6 minutes on each side.  For sauce, melt butter in a small sauce pan, squeeze in the lemon and add wine.  Reduce for 2 minutes.  Pour over fish.


Lemon Chive Parmesan Risotto

1/2 cup of risotto rice, uncooked.
2 tablespoons of butter
1 quart of chicken stock
2 tablespoons of cream
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons of chives
1/2 cup of grated parmesan

Melt butter in a sauce pan, then add rice.  Toast rice in butter for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.  Add 1 cup of chicken stock, and stir until stock is absorbed.  Continue adding stock until it is all absorbed, or until the rice is completely cooked and creamy.  Add cream, lemon juice, zest, chives and parmesan.  Stir and serve immediately.  

August 13, 2009

Cooking Classes in Kansas City | Entertaining & Cooking Workshops - Fall & Holiday

I'm putting together a schedule of Seasonal and Holiday Cooking Classes & Entertaining Workshops at my home in Fairway, KS (Kansas City).  Would you be interested in attending?  What kind of things would you like to learn?  Here are some ideas that I'm tossing around... let me know what you think!

Halloween | Spooky Halloween Party Ideas, Decor, Crafts, Halloween Recipes & Desserts
Autumn Entertaining | Harvest Dinner Party Menu, Fall Table Settings, Simple Centerpieces of Gourds, Pumpkins & Fall Flowers
Holiday Home Decorating - Fresh Garlands, Wreaths, Beautiful Gift Wrapping for the Holidays, Crafts & Flower Arranging
Holiday Entertaining - Festive Cocktail Menu, Holiday Drinks, Decor & Table Settings
Cupcake Class - Learn how to make and decorate fun cupcakes!

Please post a comment below or send me an email at jenny@occasionskc.com if you are interested in attending any of these classes!  

Do you have any other great ideas for cooking classes in Kansas City?  Send them my way!

August 11, 2009

Entertaining | Simple Summer Menu for a Birthday Party

I created this event for a client's surprise 30th birthday party for 60 guests.  We wanted the event to feel like a casual (but well designed!) backyard barbeque that was a little more special than brats on the grill.  So, we selected The Simpson House (in Kansas City, just off of the Plaza), as the venue and prayed for good weather so we were able to utilize the beautiful gardens and lawn.


This was the food display - a simple 4 foot table covered in a 90x90 sage green linen.  Above, I strung mini lanterns and puffs made of tissue paper.



The Menu was a bit of a challenge.  The hostess was a very chic woman, but the birthday party was for her husband.  So, we created a menu that was 'guy-friendly' but was presented in a way that was, well, 'cute'. 

Mini Sliders topped with Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onions  |  Chicken Satay with a Spicy Red Pepper Sauce  |  Petite Potato Canapes with Cheddar, Sour Cream and Chives  |  Bowl of Bing Cherries


The lawn was set with both cocktail tables and round tables of 6.  We strung lanterns and tissue paper puffs throughout the great trees to create ambiance.

An acoustic guitar player and a bongo drummer to provided great relaxing music during the evening.

August 10, 2009

Recipes | Chicken Tortilla Soup



Chicken Tortilla Soup :

2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes
6 cups of chicken stock
6 corn tortillas, torn into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons of canned chopped green chiles
2 ears of corn

Drizzle olive oil on chicken breast, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Roast the chicken on a baking sheet for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.  

In a stock pot (or medium sauce pan), cook onion, garlic and carrot in olive oil.  Add cherry tomatoes and chicken stock.  Bring to a slow boil, then add tortilla pieces.  Stir until tortillas are soft.  

Now, it is going to get a little strange, but trust me - it will be fantastic.  Put mixture into a blender and pulse 4-5 times, just until tortilla pieces are broken up - almost creating a creamy texture.  Pour back into the stock pot and continue to cook over medium heat.  Cut the corn off of the cob, then place the cob into the soup.  Cook for about 10 more minutes until the starch from the cob has helped to thicken the soup. 

Tear the chicken up into large bite, add it to the soup along with the corn that was cut off of the cob.  Garnish as you please - I've listed what I like below!

Toppings :

Tortilla Chips
Cheddar Cheese
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Avocados


KC Favorite | Creative Candles

Recently, I attended the Eddie Ross workshop hosted at Creative Candles.  In addition to learning how to make a simple and stunning table setting with candles and flowers, we learned all about the care that goes into creating the high quality Creative Candles.  

I left the workshop inspired - not only to set a table - but inspired by the passion and spirit that goes into operating a manufacturing company that creates something beautiful.  I've always been fascinated by how to create things - from crafty projects to factory assembly lines.  I even remember being mesmerized by the Crayola factory produciton reel featured on Sesame Street... I know, yikes.  So for me, this factory tour was a huge treat.




Behind everything great is passion - this company is no exception.  Led by husband and wife team Ken & Pam, the company is meticulously operated in every aspect of the business - from traditional methods and quality of materials, to innovative marketing strategies.   Here the president of Creative Candles, Ken Weiner, walks us through the process of making stately pillar candles.   Each candle is hand made, hand polish and hand packaged... a true craft.



Here is one of the taper drying racks for the candles - beautiful.  The colors are very sophisticated, don't you think?  There are a lot of people that do.  Creative Candles has a large national presence amongst interior designers, event planners, major retailers and brands - Nieman Marcus, Pottery Barn, Ralph Lauren, Martha Stewart... just to name a few!  Their candles have graced the tables of The White House, Waldorf Astoria, and countless dinners for celebrity parties and weddings.   



Here is the packaging center with some of the brand names for which they produce candles.  Notice the green candles hanging on the dipping racks - it would make a fun chandelier.



Read the Mrs. Blandings blog about her tour of Creative Candles here

For more information, visit the Creative Candles Website!


August 08, 2009

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue


I love looking back at old posts.   Sort of.  Sometimes I cringe at photos I took with my iphone, other times it brings back a great memory... and delicious dessert.  I've included one of my original first posts (5 years ago) below that I'm revisiting today - Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.  I realize that citrus season is in the winter, but for me, nothing is as springy as a lemon dessert.  Actually lemon anything.

Today, I'm making these in honor of Emma's Mimi's birthday - like me, she's crazy about any thing lemon and cupcakes.  While I haven't shared these cupcakes on the blog in years, they are one of my favorite to make: white cake topped with lemon curd and swiss meringue.

I've topped them with my 6" Celebration Candles in Lemon Curd - a new color for spring.  They are perfectly lemony in color with a beautiful natural subtle hue.


Products used :

6" Celebration Candles in Lemon Curd
Jumbo Starburst Tip
18" Disposable Piping Bag
Brown Cupcake Liners






The cupcakes can come from a box, and the curd can be store-bought, or everything can be made from scratch.  If you're feeling ambitious today (unlike me) and would like to make everything from scratch, here is my recipe for Lemon Butter Cake that would be great to use for the cupcake element, and here is link to my Lemon Curd recipe.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

24 Cupcakes - Vanilla or Lemon (from a mix or homemade)
Lemon Curd (store-bought or homemade)
Swiss Meringue (recipe below)

Bake cupcakes as directed.  Let cool for 30 minutes before topping.



Gently split each cupcake to allow lemon curd to get into the cake.



Dollop lemon curd on generously.



Put Swiss Meringue in a large piping bag (18" Disposable Bags) fitted with the Giant Starburst Tip, $4.



Pipe meringue in swirls on top of the lemon curd cupcakes.


Optional : To toast the top of the meringue, place the cupcakes under the broiler (set to about 400 degrees) in the oven for 30 seconds.  OR, use a kitchen blowtorch, like I did here.










 
Swiss Meringue

4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1 pinch of cream of tarter

In the top bowl of a double boiler (glass bowl sitting on a sauce pan with simmering water), whisk together egg whites, sugar and cream of tarter.  







Cook mixture in the double boiler over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved.  If you rub the mixture between your fingers, you should be able to tell if the sugar has dissolved.




Transfer the mixture to your kitchen aid fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on high for 7-10 minutes.



The mixture will cool and froth into a thick meringue as it whips.  Beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to piping bag, or spread directly on lemon curd. 

Here is the easy-to-pin strip!























......

Now, you can enjoy a flashback of some fine photography from years past : )



For my friend's birthday party last night, I created these refreshing Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.  I picked these "Naked Ladies" (pink flowers) from my backyard - I love them in big bunches. 



Leah enjoying her Birthday cupcakes!


August 05, 2009

Recipes | Homemade Meatballs



Making homemade meatballs is one of those things that people find impossible - it takes too much time, too much hassle, too much skill.  All of those myths couldn't be further from the truth.  I make homemade meatballs on a weekly basis - and it takes about 10 minutes.  I'm not kidding.  I usually have most of these ingredients at home (parmesan, eggs, leftover bread, milk), so this is a very inexpensive dinner... $10 or less.  In the above photo, I paired the meatballs with my Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce.  

This recipe is unique because I use fresh breadcrumbs and milk (instead of dry breadcrumbs) to keep the meatballs moist.


12 Meatballs

2 pounds of ground beef
6 slices of bread  
1/4 cup of milk (not pictured)
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
salt & pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Start by removing the crusts of the bread and tearing the remaining into small pieces, then place into a medium mixing bowl.  



Pour milk onto breadcrumbs and stir.  Add cheese, parsley, salt & pepper, parsley and eggs.  Mix together.













Add ground beef to mixture and combine with your hands - be careful not to compact the mixture - try to keep it light.  Form into balls with an ice cream scoop and place on a baking sheet.  I line mine with parchment paper to reduce clean up.  Bake meatballs at 450 for 4-5 minutes until just browned on outside.  I like the middle of the meatball to remain moist.







August 03, 2009

Recipes | Goat Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breast


This is one of the favorites around our house - Goat Cheese and Herb Stuffed Chicken Breast.  I added chives and garlic to the goat cheese for some added flavor.  Other combinations of "stuffing" I've used include provolone cheese with artichokes and portobello mushrooms, and the classic combination of mozzarella, tomato and basil. 


2 chicken breasts
4 ounces of soft goat cheese
1/2 tablespoon of chives 
1 small garlic clove
olive oil
sea salt & black pepper

Cut a pocket into the chicken breast by slicing length wise on the fattest side of the breast.  Mix together goat cheese, chives and garlic.  Stuff the pockets with the cheese mixture.  Drizzle the chicken breasts with olive oil and salt & pepper.  Grill for about 6 minutes on each side.  You can also bake this in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.


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