Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Table Decorating Ideas

This post is sponsored by LTD Commodities but keep reading for Thanksgiving table ideas and a chance to win some of the beautiful items pictured!  

I'm so excited for Thanksgiving this year because it's my first time to truly have my own family's Thanksgiving! We are usually with our parents or extended family but this time it's just us and we are staying in town! Since a bunch of our friends are also in town and "family-less" we are having a big "Friends-giving" and I couldn't be more excited.

One of my best friends usually hosts but I wanted to be involved and I had the perfect idea! I could decorate the tables and that would take the stress off of her for having a clean house, making the turkey AND doing the tables. She lovingly agreed to let my creative juices flow!

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Please note: this is the adult's table! I'll be sharing a more kid friendly table later this week! 















A few notes about my setup above:
  • Show off the table
    • Since I have a beautiful wood table that I inherited from my grandmother I prefer for more formal gatherings (with adults) to not use a tablecloth. It lets the beautiful wood show through and I trust adults to not drag things across the table and damage it. 
  • Easy cleanup
    •  I know for my Thanksgiving crew we will be using paper goods-it will make for easier cleanup and since I'm not hosting at my own home, I wouldn't want to drag all my dishes over anyways! (If you find this to be a faux pas, see my other table decorating options below!) You could also use just plain colored paper plates. Definitely plan for larger plates since it's such a big meal and for a separate dessert plate! 
  • Varied decor
    • Using different colors, textures and styles on your table makes it so much more pleasing to the eye! I love these antiqued glass pumpkins because they light up and add such a nice formal element to the table. But I also love using fresh gourds because they are inexpensive and add fun colors and textures also. Look for those at the pumpkin patch (my local one gave them to me for free!) or at the grocery store. 
  • Get creative
    • Use items in different ways that you think! These pumpkin side dishes can be used for food items like cranberry sauce, pickles or onions, or fill them with sand or vase filler and add candles for a more elegant affair. You could also do the same thing with real pumpkins if you are dedicated enough to hollow them out! The possibilities are endless! For more easy ideas visit LTD Commodities for how to spice up your table and home! 
  • Get crafty
And a slightly different version with glass plates and real napkins for a more formal style:










Important tips for your Thanksgiving table no matter how you decorate:
  • Keep decorations a reasonable height
    • Make sure decorations aren't so tall that people can't talk across the table comfortably. Or if you prefer large arrangements, leave them for decoration and then remove them for eating. This lighted arrangement is beautiful but not overwhelming. I would still probably remove it once people began eating if it was in the way. 
  • Stock the table
    • Don't forget to add salt and pepper shakers (these owl ones are too cute!) as well as butter  and gravy to the table to help people avoid having to get up from the table for those little things. 
  • Less is more
    • A festive decorated table helps make the holiday feel so exciting but make sure guests aren't overwhelemed with so much stuff on the table that it's hard to reach their glasses or silverware! No one wants to be bumping into their neighbors while eating because they are squished. 
I hope you enjoyed my tips! Enter below for a chance to win some of my beautiful table decorations for your very own Thanksgiving or fall table for next year! Please note the giveaway items will most likely arrive after Thanksgiving! 

Disclosure: LTD Commodities sent me these items for my Thanksgiving table and one set to give away to my readers but all opinions are my own! I only include items that I would buy myself for Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookie Cake + Giveaway!

I remember distinctly the first time one of my college roommates opened my eyes to the beauty of adding cookie dough batter on top of brownie batter. What do you get? Well you get a cookie on top of a brownie or as some call it a "brookie" and it's the best of both worlds in one bite.

This was one of my first introductions to "Dessert Mash-Ups" where you combine two desserts into one. Not that I needed any convincing? 1 dessert = good, 2 desserts = good so therefore according to complicated baking math: 2 desserts in 1 = good. Did you follow that?

So when I was contacted to review a copy of a new cookbook called Dessert Mash-Ups -I was all about it! The entire cookbook is filled with "Tasty Two-in One Treats."


The cookbook is beautiful and every recipe has gorgeous pictures plus detailed instructions, Dorothy did an amazing job! I had a hard time deciding which recipe to pick since I literally wanted to make all of them!  I ended up choosing the Peanut Butter Cookie Cake but the next recipes I plan to make are these:



On to the recipe I made for myself on my birthday (last week)! I was having such a great day and I decided to treat myself to this Peanut Butter Cookie Cake! It's decadent and festive since it's filled with M&M's and topped with frosting. Plus, I'm anti traditional cake for my birthday so this hit the spot for my birthday "cake" fulfillment while tasting like my favorite treat- cookies!






Enter to win your own copy of Dessert Mash-Ups below:
 Giveaway open to US residents only. Cookbook will be mailed to winner within 1 month.


Peanut Butter Cookie Cake
recipe adapted (just a smidge) from Dessert Mash-Ups

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened*
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup M&M's or chocolate chips (I did a combination)
 
Frosting Ingredients 
I halved the original recipe as I found I didn't use all the frosting it called for
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened*
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 teaspoons milk

Sprinkles or extra M&M's for topping, if desired

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer (with the paddle attachment) cream together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar about 1 minute. Then add the egg, vanilla, milk, baking soda and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. Stir in the M&M's or chocolate chips.

Spray a 9 or 10 inch round cake pan with cooking spray. Press the dough into the pan, cover with saran wrap and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350. Once the dough is cold, bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:
Beat the butter until smooth in a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add the vanilla and 1 teaspoon of milk. Add remaining milk as needed to reach desired consistency.

Frost the outer ring of the cake using a pastry bag fitted with the 1M tip or whatever tip you prefer. Dust with sprinkles or top with M&M's as desired.

Enjoy!

*Cook's note: The original cake recipe calls for unsalted butter and then adding salt. I always use salted butter so I omitted the salt. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter. For the frosting, just add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter.

Disclaimer- I was sent a copy of Dessert Mash-Ups to review and 1 copy to giveaway to my readers. All opinions are my own!

Friday, October 24, 2014

BLT Salad

Awhile ago on Instagram one of my food bloggy friends posted her version of a wedge salad and although a simple classic- I couldn't get it out of my head.

Of course, she has a vegetarian blog and I have made maybe two vegetarian meals in my life. Don't worry, I'm working on it. Albeit. . .  slowly. However, when given the choice between adding bacon to something and not adding bacon to something, I typically choose adding bacon. Thus, this salad was born (or rather, reborn since it's not new to anyone but me). 

This salad is a great complement to soup, a steak or just eat a big plate of it! No one will judge your bacon consumption. . . except maybe Amee. Just kidding, she's great and check out her blog for awesome vegetarian meals!




BLT Salad
The Apron Gal

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 head iceberg lettuce
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup croutons, crumbled into bite size pieces
2 hard boiled eggs, crumbled optional

Bleu cheese or ranch dressing

Directions

Wash the outside of lettuce and remove any wilted leaves. Cut lettuce into quarters, then slice into chunks. Layer lettuce chunks on a long plate for a "fancier" presentation or into a bowl, then layer with toppings and drizzle dressing on top.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Creamy Chicken Casserole

Before I had my baby the one thing I tried to do was stock up on food for our house. Kind of ironic that my biggest concern was snacks and dinners (not labor, delivery, or a newborn) but I was more afraid of being hungry apparently.(!) In my defense, I knew I couldn't control a lot of things but one thing I could do was plan ahead for food!

Part of my "planning" was also requesting delicious meals from my Mom and Mother-in-Law when they came to visit and help out after the baby was born.

This recipe is one of my favorites from my Mother-in-Law. It was the first recipe I requested when she came. It's true comfort food at it's best.  Seriously, make this creamy, buttery delicious casserole ASAP!
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A few notes about this recipe-if you have apple juice, definitely use it. It gives the sauce a little sweetness-if you don't have it-don't worry about it, it's still delicious. Also note that "herb seasoned stuffing mix" is NOT Stove Top, it's those bags you buy for stuffing around Thanksgiving, see the link above to be sure you get the right kind and then just crush some of it up to put on top.




Creamy Chicken Casserole
Serves 4

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise
6 slices Swiss cheese
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup apple juice or water
1 cup herb seasoned stuffing mix-crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish. Arrange chicken breasts on the bottom of baking dish and cover with Swiss cheese slices. Whisk soup and juice (or water) together.  Pour soup mixture over chicken and cheese in baking dish. Sprinkle crushed herb seasoned stuffing mix over entire baking dish. Pour melted butter over stuffing.

Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until chicken is done.

Serve over rice. 

Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Garlic Feta Dip

I'm a firm believer in a sweet and savory balance. Every gathering or party I throw I always try to have a balance of sweet and savory. I'm the girl that likes to order a milkshake with fries or eat potato chips and M&M's and I don't think I'm the only one!

I feel like there are endless possibilities for the sweet side of things: cookies, bars, cakes, pies, candies, donuts, breads, ice creams, sorbets.....I mean seriously the list goes on and on!

But for the savory-I usually struggle with finding easy but delicious recipes that serve a crowd. I feel like dips are always a hit because they can be served with vegetables and chips or crackers. But the options seem to be: queso, cheese ball, spinach dip, onion dip, artichoke dip and that's usually the same rotation. (Don't get me wrong-I love all those!) But I wanted something new for a baby shower I helped host last week.

I found this dip on Pinterest and tweaked it to make it perfect. It has bold flavors of feta and garlic and isn't like any other dip I've eaten!

I hope you like it as much as I did! (and my husband. and all my friends.)




Garlic Feta Dip
The Apron Gal

Serves 6


Ingredients
4 ounces crumbled feta (roughly 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup or about 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt
1 block cream cheese (8 ounces), softened*
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon parsley

Directions
Mix together all ingredients. For a softer dip, serve immediately. For a thicker dip, refrigerate 1-2 hours and then serve. 

Serve with crackers and fresh vegetables.

*Cook's note-for best texture use full fat cream cheese. 

Enjoy!


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