At one point, I was going to be a high-powered journalist. My pencil would be ever-sharp, mob bosses would confess their guilt before my waiting tape recorder, and I’d eat a giant Snickedoodle Bagel with Cinnamon Crunch Topping every morning for breakfast.
I will admit that this mental picture has a few snags. Actual journalists probably haven’t used tape recorders since Home Alone days (shout out to the Talkboy!), and I’m about as likely to confront a mob boss as give up chocolate (ahem, never). The Snickedoodle Bagel, however, is non-negotiable.
How to make an impression at your first neighborhood party: bring a pan of bars loaded with booze, browned butter, brown sugar, and Grade A Wisconsin maple syrup. Nice to meet you. May I offer you a Maple Brown Sugar Bourbon Bar?
As much as I love to cook and bake, bringing food to parties—especially parties where I’m meeting people for the first time—completely stresses me. When people hear that I’m a food blogger, I assume their expectation is that a beam of heavenly light will shine from above upon first bite. It’s the sort of pressure that causes me to speak unnaturally loudly when stating the name of the recipe (“BOURBON BARS!”), forget the name of my own blog, or even overbake my most perfect and foolproof batch of chocolate chip cookies. Continue Reading →
I am now epically, exhaustingly, and grammatically acquainted with the term, “fall.” It’s in the crispness of the air, the flavor of these Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Pulled Pork Tacos, and it’s really really in the 140 bags of leaves that Ben and I raked this weekend.
When we bought Ben’s childhood home from his parents, I vaguely recall a bit of commentary about the leaves. A few neighbors advised me to, “get ready.” Ben’s mom (who, God bless her, came over to help us rake all day Sunday, along with Ben’s dad) gifted me a pair of gardening gloves. I grew up raking leaves with my dad watching my dad rake leaves, then jumping into them, and it seemed like a romantic outdoor activity, at least to my eight-year-old self.
Let me tell you, shredding the equivalent of 140 bags of leaves, stuffing those leaves into yard bags, then cramming them into your garage because the dump isn’t open until Tuesday is not romantic. I imagine the dumping process (which involves two trips and a borrowed SUV) won’t be especially romantic either. The semi-disheartening/totally insane part? Not even a quarter of our leaves have fallen. We have to do this again! And again! Then one or six more times! I’m going to have some serious calluses character by the time fall ends.
Last week, the Iowa Corn Growers Association invited a group of bloggers and me to visit Iowa and learn more about the corn industry and the farmers behind it, who work tirelessly to grow food for our tables. Although I grew up in Kansas, I am very much a city girl, and I didn’t entirely know what to expect. Continue Reading →
My lifetime of Halloweens has been a series of epic costume fails. To redeem my dismal history, I’m dressing up my dip instead. Graveyard Chocolate Cheesecake Dip is lookin’ spook-tacular and ready to party.
When I was younger, Halloween was not an issue—with little kids, the “cute” card trumps all. Reference: my younger sister Elizabeth and I, circa 1992.
If I could do my wedding all over again, I’d drop the chicken in favor of steaming bowls of Creamy Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach. I’d also want to cook it myself, right there in the dining area, for all 150 of our guests. This is probably why most reception venues have a set menu.
I realize that cooking barley risotto at your own wedding presents a few logistical concerns. My dress would undoubtedly get in the way, serving everyone at the same time would be tricky, and the pot would be so large, I’d pass out before I finished stirring.
Despite the challenges, I can’t help but fall for the idea of making risotto for everyone I cherish most, because to me—perhaps more than any other dish—risotto says, “I love you” and “We are good enough friends that I can cook in front you while consuming conspicuous amounts of wine.” One splash for the risotto. Three sips for me. Four sips for you. Forever and ever amen.
A breakdown of the final 10 minutes before any party I host: Shove dishes into cabinets (1 minute); frantically set table (2 minutes); yell at husband to fluff pillows (10 seconds); pray guests will be late (30 seconds); madly search for left shoe (6 minutes, 20 seconds). Thanks to Sweet Potato Goat Cheese Quiche with Caramelized Onions and Rosemary, I can finally spend those 10 minutes sipping a mimosa instead.
I grew up with and still have model hostesses for a mother and grandmother. When guests arrive, my Grammy has an immaculate table set, hors d’oeuvres on the table, and wine chilled in an ice bucket. My mom’s deviled eggs never crack, her collection of adorable serveware immense, and her lipstick is flawless. I’m pretty sure neither of them has asked God to pull off a traffic jam and stall guests.
Although my friends would be perfectly happy to eat from paper plates, like my mom and Grammy, hosting meals for the people I love brings me incredible joy, and I want my guests to feel special. I also want to enjoy the party myself, and running all over my house like a madwoman isn’t exactly a recipe for bliss. Continue Reading →