Monday, November 19, 2012

DIY Gourd Place Cards

Who's excited for Thanksgiving this week?! If you're the one hosting, you might be a little more stressed than excited. Making your table Thanksgiving ready can be a little overwhelming. But here's a super easy way to make your table festive and make your guests feel welcome without a lot of work - place cards made from gourds.

What you need:
  • gourds
  • a knife
  • sturdy paper
  • a decorative pen

All you need to do is take the knife and cut a slit on the top of the gourd that's about the length of your paper. You'll need to sort of wiggle the knife back and forth to make sure the slit is wide enough. Write your guests' names on the paper and insert them into each gourd and voila! Instant personalized table settings. If you don't necessarily want to make name cards you could even use this same method to specify "adult's table" and "kid's table" or maybe just one general "give thanks" decoration.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Soup Night

On a chilly evening, there’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup. And in the fall, soup is a perfect evening meal. It's not a meal you might think of often for when you have guests, but it's a great comfort food and could be perfect for a low-key evening with some close friends. Here are some tips for hosting Soup Night:

  • As host/hostess, you can make three of four different soups and “go-withs," such as breads, cheese, and crackers, so your guests may sample a variety.  
  • Each guest could even bring a pot of soup for sharing.  
  • Make it a contest! Each guest brings a different soup (you need to coordinate to ensure there are no duplicates), and everyone gets a ballot to vote for their favorite, with the winner receiving a prize. You can select one overall winner, or depending on the number of guests, you can have multiple categories. A cookbook or soup tureen makes a wonderful prize. 

Things to plan for and take into consideration when organizing Soup Night, if your guests will be bringing soups: 
  • Ask guests about any food allergies or restrictions ahead of time and let all your guests know if they need to avoid certain items.  
  • Make sure everyone brings enough soup for all the guests to have a taste.  
  • Think about how to keep all the soups warm throughout the gathering. You may ask your guests to bring their soups in a crock-pot or slow cooker, but make sure you have adequate outlets available.  
  • Make sure you have enough bowls and spoons on-hand! If you are going to have many soups to be tasted, consider using disposable bowls and spoons, or you will end up spending a lot of time washing dishes.  
  • Ask guests if they are willing to share their recipes. If so, have everyone bring their enough copies for all the guests. 

Here are a few quick and easy ideas/recipes for breads to go with your soups.  
  • Spread ranch dressing on bread, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil until topping starts to bubble.  
  • Spread softened butter on bread, then sprinkle with garlic powder and shredded cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese melts.  
  • Beat one egg, or an egg yolk with about a teaspoon of water, and brush it on crescent roll dough. Sprinkle with dry ranch salad dressing mix before rolling them up. Brush the outside of the rolls with the rest of the egg mixture and bake as directed.  
  • Make a mixture of mayonnaise (1/2 cup), grated parmesan cheese (also about ½ cup), and pinches of spices like garlic powder, dried oregano or basil, and spread this on to flattened buttermilk biscuit dough and bake as directed. 
  •  You can also purchase soft breadstick dough and just add some embellishments, like Italian seasoning and/or grated parmesan cheese.
  • Corn bread also complements certain types of soup. 
  • And a loaf of French bread with olive oil and spices for dipping is another good choice. 

Soup’s on! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Reminiscing

When our kids were younger, we hosted large Halloween parties every year. As you can see from the photos, even the adults got into the spirit! We played traditional games – bobbing for apples was always a huge, messy hit. We did variations on “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, such as pin the stem on the jack o’lantern. Every year we would experiment with different, spooky food and drink concoctions. There were great parties and created great memories for all the kids. Sometimes when our extended family gets together, the twenty-somethings that enjoyed these parties so much when they were children look back at these pictures and talk about how much fun they had choosing their costumes and playing those games.

What are some of your favorite Halloween memories?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Cupcakes: 4 Ways

Halloween is nearly upon us! So if you're planning a party and want to make some festive desserts, there are so many different creative options. We created four different types of cupcakes you could make to liven up that dessert table.

You'll need:
  • a sheet of caramel to cover the cupcake
  • half a green Dots candy for the stem
  • chocolate chips for the face (and a tiny bit of frosting to make them stick - or you can heat up the caramel in the microwave for a few seconds)

Black Cat
You'll need:
  • black or brown sprinkles to cover the cupcake
  • colored candies for the eyes and nose
  • long white sprinkles for the antlers
  • a pretzel twist broken in half for the ears

You'll need:
  • White sugar or sprinkles (or just plain white frosting) to cover the cupcake
  • Chocolate chips for the eyes and nose
  • 3 marshmallows cut in half for the teeth

You'll need:
  • green sprinkles to cover the cupcake
  • 2 red M&M's for the eyes
  • 2 orange Dots candies for the neck
  • carmel sheet for the hair
  • black gel frosting to cover the hair, mouth, eyebrows and scar

Almost too cute to eat, right? Do you have any favorite Halloween desserts?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Coffee and Hot Drinks

Specialty coffees and other hot beverages are perfect for cool autumn evenings. If you keep a few basic supplies handy, you can whip up a number of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) quickly to impress family and friends who stop by on short notice.

If you have a deck or patio, you can throw on a jacket and enjoy your drinks under the stars. A fire pit adds to the atmosphere and creates a cozy setting. Or if the weather isn't cooperating, you can set up a quick "hot drink buffet" and enjoy your drinks in front of your fireplace or around your coffee table.

Here are some items to consider stocking so you can prepare a variety of hot drinks at a moment’s notice.
  • Variety of tea bags 
  • Instant hot chocolate and cider packets 
  • Brown sugar 
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice… 
  • Instant non-dairy creamer
  • French press and coffee grounds
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Honey

And here are a few quick recipes you can try if you have some extra time to prepare.

CafĂ© au Lait Mix 
  • 6-ounce jar of instant non-dairy creamer 
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar 
  • ¼ cup instant coffee 
  • Dash of salt (optional)
Mix ingredients and store in an airtight container. When ready to drink, combine ¼ cup of the mix with 2/3 cup boiling water. Makes 2 cups of mix for eight drinks.

Spiced Cider 
This recipe makes about 2 quarts which should yield 8-10 servings. You can increase of decrease quantities according to your needs.
  • 2 quarts apple cider 
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks 
  • ½ tsp. Ground allspice 
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground nutmeg 
  • Dash of salt (optional) 
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat; cover; and simmer for 20 minutes.

Hot Buttered Rum 
This recipe makes about 4 drinks.
  • 2 cups water 
  • ½ stick butter (unsalted) 
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar 
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon 
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg 
  • Dash of ground cloves (optional) 
  • Dash of salt (optional) 
  • 2/3 cup rum (dark rum is recommended, but light will work in a pinch) 
Bring all the ingredients except the rum to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rum.

Do you have any favorite hot drinks to enjoy during the fall and winter months?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ginger Apple Sangria Recipe

Sangria is one of my favorite drinks, especially during fall. I've never actually made sangria before, so this was my first attempt at creating my own recipe, but I must say that it was pretty delicious.

What you need:
  • 1 bottle of semi-dry white wine
  • 3 cups ginger ale
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 2 honeycrisp apples
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Cut up the fruit and mix all the above ingredients in a pitcher for a sweet and delicious fall drink. If you want more kick try adding a bit of brandy or peach schnapps. I'll definitely be making more sangria recipes for future parties and gatherings. Do you have a favorite type of sangria or a tried-and-true recipe to share?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

5-Minute Party Hat DIY

For our first official post here at Party On, I thought it would be fun to share a quick DIY project that can be used for a whole variety of different parties - a classic party hat.

What you need: 
  • scrapbook paper
  • plastic leis
  • elastic
  • hot glue

Start by taking the scrapbook paper and bending it into a cone. Secure it with hot glue, and then cut off the excess paper at the bottom so that it can sit flat.

Cut a small hole about 1/2 inch from the bottom on both sides of the hat. String the elastic through the holes and tie it in place.

Cut the lei and secure it around the bottom of the hat with the glue. Then take a short section of it and glue it to the top point of the hat.

Done! You can use different colors and designs of paper to make this hat festive for different party themes. Party on!