Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Halloween Fun: Turning the Dial Up on Your Classic Spook Fest

In Celebrations on October 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Halloween is often brushed aside as a children’s holiday. Though as we get older it gives seems to give us license to be someone or something else for one evening.  As children, black and orange, witches and goblins, chocolate and lollipops are enough. For most adults, free candy is simply not reason to embrace the holiday.

This year take your typical garish and goolish fright-fest and turn it into an elegant and evil soiree.  A couple easy cocktails, festive hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of black fabric is all your need to turn your small space into a something far from friendly.

It Begins with an Invite

The devil is really in the details when throwing a successful party.  The tone and feeling of the event begins the moment guests receive an invitation.  You can always go the route of sending paper invitations, but and are easy, cost-effective and earth-friendly.  Each site has a number of Halloween-themed designs to choose from. Remember, this isn’t a child’s party.  Pick a theme that matches the scene you are trying to set.

Set the Scene

Halloween is all about over-the-top theatrics. Don’t be afraid to really play up the ambience. Here are some easy tips for creating the perfect Hallows Eve look:

  • Use black as your base color and work from there, adding tiny pops of dark orange, white and gold.
  • Purchase inexpensive black fabric from a craft store and use to cover table tops and wrap lamp shades for a dark and dramatic look.
  • Place groupings of black taper candles along with smaller tea candles around the space. Use as a main source of light once the party begins.
  • Create creepy tableaux out of old books, skulls, crystal balls and apothecary bottles filled with water and orange food coloring.
  • Raid the party supply store for black leaf garland and cobwebs to drape over lamps, bookshelves and tables.
  • Check out the local flower market for black tulips, burgundy calla lilies, and black roses. Use together in flower arrangements to place around.
  • Turn on televisions and have old black and white films playing on mute.  Anything Hitchcock would work brilliantly.
  • Create a spooky music mix with the help of one of I-Tunes pre-set playlists or pick your favorite Halloween jam and plug into Pandora.

What to serve

Let your menu take a cue from your setting.  Small bites, cocktails and devilish desserts are all your need to round out the evening. Here are a few menu suggestions:


Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Chicken Leg Lollipops

Skeleton Fingers

Roasted Potato Moons


Monster Eyeballs

Brain Cookies

Bowls of Assorted Candy


Dark and Stormy

Blood Orange Martini


No-Cook Memorial Day Menu

In Celebrations on May 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Whether you are hitting the road or staying at home, who wants to spend memorial day weekend in the kitchen cooking? These recipes can be made in a flash and don’t require heat of any kind!  If you’re having a bash or just a quiet weekend at home, stay out of the kitchen and enjoy the kick-off to summer.  It’s easy-peasy!

Grapefruit, Watermelon and Scallop Ceviche

Yellow Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Panzanella Salad

Prosciutto Baguette with Pesto, Mozzarella, and Roasted Red Pepper

New-England Lobster Rolls

Valentine’s Day with Friends

In Celebrations on February 2, 2011 at 11:51 am

Image Credit: Cocktail party by Mike Jones

Valentine’s Day: the most romantic of holidays where swooning couples dote on each other over intimate candle light dinners.  Blah, blah, blah, this is great if you’re attached, but too many of us develop Valentine’s Day anxiety and opt to stay in alone rather than face a crowed restaurant full of pairs in love.  This year try something a little different.  Throw a Valentine’s Day Mixer!  Gather a group of single friends and have them invite their favorite singe friends and let cupid’s arrow fly.

With Valentine’s Day just two weeks away getting an Evite out now is crucial.  Make sure you explain that each person must bring a single friend of theirs.  This will ensure for an interesting night! You may also want to ask your guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine or a specific dish if you are going to for a potluck party.  Read on for more details about the food, drinks, and decor.

Get a Plan

Organizing for a cocktail party can sometimes be more overwhelming than a sit down dinner party.  Here are some thoughts to help you get started:

Photo Credit Logan Walker of ZumaPhoto Finger Foods are key.  Keep your menu simple and easy to eat.  The last thing mingling singles want is ketchup running down their face.

Set up food stations. Organize your party space so the food is dispersed and not all in one area.  This will help the flow of the party and avoid having 20 people crowded around the kitchen table.

Stay away from garlic or anything that can leave you with kickin’ breath.  Coffee, beans, and onion should also be avoided in menu selection.  No one wants to be running to the bathroom mid conversation.

Add a some aphrodisiacs to the mix. Use ingredients like apples, chocolate, honey, figs, lobster, and of course, oysters.

Consider a red theme. You want avoid making your party too kitschy, so instead of all the “be mine” hearts try developing a menu with red and/or pink elements.  You can use things like, tomatoes, strawberries, smoked salmon, cocktail shrimp, etc.

Try a Chocolate tasting bar. Instead of having a wine or cheese tasting, try with chocolate.  Ask all your guests to bring a unique bar of chocolate. Make sure you have a variety of milk, dark, and white along with varying amounts of cacao in each to keep it interesting. Then using place cards, write a little information about each kind and let people try.

Cookie decorating isn’t just for kids. Bake plain sugar cookies and frost with plain white icing.  Buy some edible ink markers and let your guests decorate their own cookies.  This could even be a quirky way for potential love connections to exchange numbers!

Forget all the prep and go potluck. Coming up with a menu and preparing everything might not be in the cards for you this Valentine’s Day.  If that’s the case, make your cocktail party a potluck.  But instead of giving your guests carte blanche to bring whatever they want, given them a theme to work off of like French cuisine or food from Tuscany.


Simple, chic food.  That’s the name of the game for a cocktail party. Here is a sample menu to help get your creative juices flowing:

Salmon Canapes

Prosciutto Wrapped Cheese Straws

Roasted Figs with Pancetta and Goat Cheese

Tortellini with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Chocolate Fondue

Drinks What’s a cocktail party without drinks?  It’s always easier and less expensive to offer your guests a signature party drink.  This should be something you can make a lot of and serve throughout the night in addition to beer and wine.  Here is a selection of my favorite festive beverages:

Queen of Hearts Sangria

Cranberry Cosmo Punch

Setting the Scene

Decor often times makes or breaks a party.  If the mood is right, people tend to relax and enjoy themselves that much more.  When planning a mixer, sending the right message through decor is paramount.  You want to make your space warm and inviting without overdoing it on the romance vibes.

Don’t overdo the hearts. You guests are all aware it’s Valentine’s Day.  Don’t beat them over the head with the heart and cupids.  Your space should feel festive, but forget taping giant red cut outs on your wall, keep it classy.  Try a simple red table cloth, maybe some red throw pillows.  You could even use red disposable plates and cocktail napkins.

Keep the music upbeat. Strive to create a lounge-like feeling.  Your music should be audible but not so loud that people are struggling to talk.  Stay away from the greatest love ballads of the 90’s and go from something current like MGMT or Kings of Leon.  It’s best to create a playlist or two before the party begins and as the night progresses the music should too.  Meaning, after a few drinks people might want to dance.  Make sure you have some tunes to accommodate.

Low lighting is your friend. Who doesn’t look better in low light? Without making the mood too romantic or sleepy.  If you have dimmers on your lights now is the time to get them going.  If you don’t, ditch the overhead lights and use lamps or floor lights.  They tend to be softer and less abrasive. Candles are also great to have going throughout – especially around the food areas.

Scatter conversation starters around the space.  Create your own or purchase Table Topics.  These are great ice breakers and a cool way to help your guests get to know each other better.  You will probably want to screen the questions before you put them out.  Stay ways from topics that involve divisive subjects like religion or politics.  No fighting on the day devoted to love!

Make introductions. Part of your job as the host is to help introduce people.  Try to include more than just names, but mention something each person likes or that they might have in common.

ENJOY! Happy Partying!!!

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