Sunday, November 7, 2010

Big Huge Birthday Party Post

Hello, loyal readers!  I know I have been a little quiet the last few days, but not to worry - this post is big enough to make up for the wait (good thing we have an extra hour with daylight savings!).  Yesterday was my 26th birthday, and since I love hosting parties, we had a whole bunch of friends over for cocktails and appetizers.  We hadn't had people over since fixing up the condo, and even though it's still a work in progress, there is nothing like a party to provide motivation to complete those lingering home projects.

Scott surprised me on Monday when I got home from a work event - he had painted most of the living/dining room, finishing the job on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.  I really wanted to paint the room before the party this weekend.  The room is much brighter now - we chose a lighter brown (Kilim Beige from Sherwin-Williams) than the original wall color.  We also hung up a few decorative pictures in the dining room.  And today, my birthday present from Scott arrived - a new coffee table!  I had been pining away for the vintage trunk coffee table from Crate & Barrel, which sadly disappeared from the C&B website this week.  Thankfully, there was one headed my way!

New coffee table arrived!

And the party also gave me a chance to try out a bunch of NEW recipes...  Trust me, these are super simple ones that only require a few ingredients and are easy to follow.  Plus they all turned out wonderfully - definitely had a couple major crowd-pleasers!  So here's a peek at my busy birthday:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

9:30 am - Wake up, open my gift from Scott (a picture of the coffee table to be delivered the next day)
10 am - Move my old dresser that has been hanging out in the kitchen downstairs to our storage room
10:30 am - Build my menu of recipes and grocery list

I listed out each recipe, the book it came from and page number for easy reference, the oven temperature and cook time.  After putting together a pretty ambitious list, I decided against Slow Cooker Mexican Dip... there was plenty of cheese in the other recipes anyway.

Bite-size Brownies
Chili Cheddar Pinwheels
Artichoke Ranch Squares
Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Mini Hamburgers
Rustic Apple Tart
Cheese & Crackers
Birthday Cake (all the way from Kansas - thanks, Mom!)

11 am - Grocery shopping... with a stop by Starbucks on the way
Noon - Arrive home and unpack groceries
12:30 pm - Help one of my guy friends shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond (I love consulting on home decor... plus it's fun to pick out new stuff and spend other people's money... ha)
1:30 pm - Bake brownies (Ghirardelli mix)
2 pm - Roasted Red Pepper Dip
from Taste of Home 2009 Summer Appetizers, page 56

I started with this recipe since I knew it could stay in the fridge all afternoon.
Yields 2 cups

1 cup (8 oz) fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used red pepper flakes instead)
4 drops hot pepper sauce (I used Frank's hot sauce)
1 jar (7 oz) roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped (threw them in the mini-prep food processor)
1 medium sweet red pepper
Assorted fresh vegetables (bought a veggie tray and sliced up a couple cucumbers)

In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients.  Stir in the roasted red peppers.  Cut a thin slice of one long side of sweet red pepper; remove seeds.  Spoon dip into pepper cup.  Serve with vegetables. (I waited to cut the pepper and spoon the dip into it until right before the party.)

2:30 pm - Chili Cheddar Pinwheels
from Taste of Home 2009 Summer Appetizers, page 107

I prepped these roll-ups and then baked them closer to the start of the party.
Yields 64 appetizers

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, drained
2 tablespoons picante sauce (I used some chunky salsa we had in the fridge)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tubes (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls
Additional chili powder, optional

1) In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in the cheddar cheese, chilies, picante sauce, chili powder, garlic salt and onion powder until blended.
2) Separate each tube of crescent roll dough into four rectangles; press the perforations to seal.  Spread about 1/4 cup cheese mixture over each rectangle.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with the short side.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
3) Cut each roll into eight slices; place on ungreased baking sheets.  Sprinkle with additional chili powder if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Bite-size Brownies and Chili Cheddar Pinwheels

3:15 pm - Artichoke Ranch Squares
from Taste of Home 2009 Summer Appetizers, page 104

I made this recipe and then re-heated it before the party.  It is probably best fresh out of the oven, but I had a lot of "hot" recipes, so I had to prioritize.
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

2 tubes (8 oz each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 can (14 oz) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped (tossed these in the mini-prep)
1 cup (4 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup ranch salad dressing (I used the ranch dip from the veggie tray)
1 jar (4 oz) diced pimientos, drained

1) Unroll both tubes of crescent dough and pat into an ungreased 15 in x 10 in x 1 in baking pan; seal seams and perforations.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
2) Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; spread over crust.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.  Cut into squares; serve warm.

Ready for the oven...

3:40 pm - Rustic Apple Tart
from Real Simple Celebrations (the book I blogged about in this earlier post)

The recipe is for one apple tart, but I had so much of the apple mixture, I ended up making two tarts.

1 refrigerated piecrust (thankfully the box I bought had two crusts!)
5 medium apples, preferably Empire or McIntosh, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used McIntosh)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I used a little extra since I made two tarts)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Unfold piecrust and place it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
2) In a large bowl, combine the apples, 1/4 cup of the sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest.  Place the apple mixture in the center of the crust.  Fold the edge of the crust over the apple mixture, allowing it to fall into pleats (the center of the tart should be uncovered).  Lightly, brush the top of the crust with water and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.  Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Before baking...

After baking...

4:30 pm - Clean up the condo a bit by throwing things into closets and under beds.
4:50 pm - Mini Hamburgers
from Taste of Home 2009 Summer Appetizers, page 99

I mixed up the hamburger meat and waited until closer to party time to cook them.
Yields 40 servings

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound of lean ground beef or ground round
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teapsoon pepper
40 mini rolls, split (Since my grocery store only had 1 package of dinner rolls, I used hawaiian rolls to make up for the rest.  They were smaller and worked really well, but with the amount of hamburger meat, you could get away with about 32 rolls)
8 ounces process American cheese slices, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares, optional (I just broke each slice into fourths)
40 dill pickle slices, optional

1) In a skillet, saute onion in butter.  Transfer to bowl; add meat, egg and seasonings.  Spread over bottom halves of the rolls; replace tops.  Place on baking sheets; cover with foil.  (I forgot to cover with foil and it worked out just fine.)
2) Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  If desired, place a cheese square and pickle on each hamburger; replace tops and foil and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

5:15 pm - Dust every surface in the condo and Swiffer like a crazy lady, while Scott cleans the bathroom.
5:45 pm - Hang the pictures and decorative keys on the wall in the dining room area.  (Everything is from Hobby Lobby or Kirkland's and cost about $3 to $12 each.)  I first arranged everything on the floor so I could determine the layout.  Then we started by hanging the two center pieces and then the three pieces on the right side, then the two pieces on the left side.

Layout arranged on the floor


After close-up

6 pm - Jump in the shower and quickly do my make-up and hair (at this point, I am thankful that I cut off about four inches of hair the previous day!)
6:30 pm - Greet our friends from Milwaukee who made the trip to Chicago.
7 pm - Set up the bar with booze, ice, and sliced limes.

7:15 pm to 8 pm - Cook the mini hamburgers, bake the cheddar roll-ups, warm the artichoke squares, put the dip in the pepper cup, cut the brownies and apple tart.  Plate everything on various platters.  Set out cheese and crackers.

Gouda and Boursin

8 pm - Pop open a bottle of champagne!  Time to begin the celebration!

It was a wonderful birthday... thank you to everyone who was there to celebrate and everyone who called, texted, sent Facebook messages, etc.  I am so blessed!


  1. love the wall art, especially the keys! i've been collecting skeleton keys since i was little!

  2. Wow, Mel! Great post and everything for the party looks great from here :) Happy Birthday (again)!

  3. Happy birthday! Those apps look delicious. And I really like the wall gallery. But what caught my eye in that picture was the hutch. Where's it from?

  4. Thanks for all the nice comments :)

    Cathy - It is the Cabria Espresso Buffet/Hutch Top from Crate & Barrel. We added it to our wedding registry at the last minute so we could use our 10% off completion. Amazing storage space for all our china and crystal!

  5. I want to eat everything on here

  6. The coffee table looks good. I like the design and the wood looks like it will make it a good keepsake. I think that your food for the party looks appetizing. You have a lot of nice dishes on your blog that would certainly fit in well for any event.

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