Eat, Drink & Be Merry – Hosting the Holiday

Be ready to throw together a spread.

Whether you choose to serve appetizers, stock multiple candy jars, hoard nuts and pretzels, or heat queso dip with chips on the fly – stock the pantry and fridge with something you can pull together for company in a flash. It’s so much less stressful than trying to tidy house while the hubs runs out to the store.

Go All Out

Longaberger Lady Bites
Years ago, we had the sweetest Longaberger Basket representative, Ann. She had open houses for new products, and always served a version of these tasty appetizers and strawberry iced tea.
Makes approximately 4 dozen bites
Gather:
1 cup mayo
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup almonds, slivered then chopped
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
French baguette, sliced
To Make:
Mix ingredients in a bowl and spoon onto baguette. Bake on a greased sheet pan at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes. These bites may be assembled and frozen for up to 2 months. Bake unthawed, just add about 5 minutes to the cooking time.

Aunt C’s Marinated Cheese
My aunt has definitely made some of my favorite dishes over the years, but this one is always a showstopper.
Gather:
1/4 cup thyme infused vinegar
1/4 cup cracked pepper infused olive oil
roasted red pepper, cut into small cubes
green onions, thinly sliced
feta cheese, small cube
sharp white cheddar, small cube
fresh mozzarella, small cube
To Make:
Mix together oil and vinegar to create a vinaigrette.  Toss together cubed cheeses, top with red pepper and onions, and pour vinaigrette over the top.  Serve with sourdough bread or sliced baguette.

simple but a splurge: Head to your local specialty food store and stock up on canned nuts, jarred olives & peppers, some nice cured meats & cheeses, tomatoes, and a good crusty bread for an easy to assemble antipasto platter (yummy, beautiful, & impressive).

save $ with a little prep ahead: try these freezer to oven bites you can prep ahead –  all from ingredients you probably already have in your pantry

  • mini frittatas – so simple – brown some sausage, roast some veggies, or crisp some bacon then choose your cheese, spinach or none and place 2 T full per cup of a well greased muffin tin. Beat some eggs with a little milk or half & half, pour over your fillings and bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees. They freeze easily and actually microwave pretty well.
  • garlic knots – I like these but I like to add lemon zest to the compound butter. Even better, buy a nice jarred marinara to heat and serve on the side.
  • I found these little gems on Deb’sSmitten Kitchen (LOVE her stuff). With small hungry onlookers, I opted to just cut the dough in two-inch sections and make pretzel bites. So simple, and such a showstopper….”you made pretzels? Uh, yeah I did:)

    IMG_4982.JPG

  • freeze some of your favorite cookie dough, make some cocoa mix, and be sure to have marshmallows, candy canes, and other cocoa accessories for an impromptu hot chocolate bar

need a meal: pita chips are quick to make and are easily seasoned to taste, open some hummus, set out some baby carrots and viola; set up a make your own pizza bar, baked potato bar or simmer a big pot of soup

You know you will be using it, so go ahead and stock the bar. 

It’s so not the picture of southern hospitality when all you have to offer guests is water, ice water, or hot water with lemon. Well, there’s always that questionable carton of milk.
splurge: go all out. whiskey/bourbon, tequila, vodka, rum, mixers/soda/seltzer, cocktail napkins, festive little stirrers
save: get a couple nice bottles of red & white wine; select or create a signature cocktail and keep the ingredients on hand all season long. If the weather is cool, mulled wine is always a beautiful presentation and quite yummy.

Keep it clean, or if you have kids, clean enough & not too smelly.

Pick a couple of days a week and clean the bathrooms, floors, and kitchen. Melissa at the Inspired Room has some great routine ideas for keeping your house “clean enough”.

Put on a crockpot meal and declare a laundry day. I heard that…Not. Nice. Here’s my reasoning…avoid a. running out of socks on the coldest day of the year b. having Mt. Laundry when unannounced guests show up and c. scrambling to hide Mt. Laundry when said guests ring the bell. If you have one laundry day, you wash, dry, fold, hang, and iron; you’re all set for the week. See? You know you have a Mt. Laundry too.

Have a 5 minute plan… wipe down counters & faucets, vacuum the rug, clean mirrors, spray Febreeze or whatever you think will make the biggest bang for your buck in your house when Uncle Eddy arrives a day early. The best tip I’ve found, keep the sinks clean – sounds weird, but it works & the house looks neater.

Spend an extra half and hour at the end of the day… a little cleaner in the toilets (be careful if you have tots or pets — it’s gross, but they both get in the water), wipe down bathroom & kitchen counters and don’t leave the dishes for tomorrow.

Find pockets of time during the week (waiting 5 more minutes for something in oven, a child to put on shoes, coat and potty one more time) and instead of checking your Facebook one more time dust, clean a window, change the towels in the bathroom & kitchen, wipe out the microwave – chip away at all those other little cleaning tasks.

These tips seem so do-able I think I may even be able to keep this routine up.

Try these for a house full of holiday smells in a snap!

Check out these Pintastic boards on Entertaining & Holiday Cooking

Back to the Bell Schedule

I was in school for over 25 years.  I lived my life semester to semester, holiday to holiday, and bell to bell.  It’s routine.  It’s living life in abbreviated chunks of time.  It keeps the day moving, and hopefully running on schedule.

It has taken some time now that I stay home full-time to realize relying on the bell schedule might not be as bad as you would think.  Sometimes everything on our grand to-do list keeps us from enjoying the segments of time we have with our kids.  We instead become grumpy, stressed, and overworked just trying to keep the home fires burning and all the kids breathing.

How have you passed these last few days with your soon to be back at school babies?

Me? Well, I made a bell schedule.

I wanted a visual reminder in our home of the daily routine.

Then, I made a daily chore board for the kids so they can start to take some ownership over their routine.

IMG_5313.JPG

For weeks I have hustled to get school supply shopping, back to school clothes, and an idea list for lunchbox meals all neatly compiled.  The fridge is ready for lunch box assembly, freezer stocked for drive-thru avoidance, and laundry mounded waiting patiently to be folded.

We’ve met the teacher, slept in late, and now it’s time to make the kids a giant stack of pancakes, run the slip-and-slide in the yard, bake some s’mores cookie bars, and soak up the last rays of summer.

How you gear up for back to school?

Where do these kitchens exist?

Okay, so I have acquired a new habit of reading through some blog posts each morning. A few of them are always organizing something. I glance through Pinterest and there are homemade cleaners and cleaning checklists galore. I usually skip them on account of “not enough time in the day”, but since yesterday was day one of “Operation Get My House Under Control”, I thought I would give a couple of these posts attention. Well, okay….you are either Martha Stewart crazy or your pants are on fire! Here’s my evidence:

First, they show these large immaculate kitchens (not on a planet with small children) with NOTHING held to the fridge with a magnet (also not happening with children).

20130602-121928.jpg

Image courtesy of [PaulSutcliffe] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Plus, who has a kitchen that big? (Apparently people who don’t quit their jobs)

Second, they decorate in lots of WHITE (not on a planet with boys).

20130602-122707.jpg

Image courtesy of [photostock] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Also, everything, even the zip-locks and cereals, are labeled. There are containers to hold the containers that hold the food, cleaners, or office supplies. Don’t get me started on the kitchen with room for vitamins, medications, and office supplies. I know those exist only in my dreams.

Whatever. I need the quick and dirty version. Okay. Quick, and not so dirty.

As I work along in the next month of Operation Get My House Under Control, I’ll let you know what I honestly think is worth the time and what’s not. Hopefully by the 4th of July everything will have a place and come out smelling like roses. Lets just say I have an excellent place to start.

See the post & post that inspired my thoughts today