Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Little French Flare

          I love when my birthday comes around, gives me a reason to throw an awesome birthday party.  I always try to theme it out!  I know I already had a FANG-tastic True Blood Birthday Dinner Party, but I wanted to host another one with my friend who also had a birthday.  So....with our love of French food and Julia Child, I planned a dinner party with a little French flare.

Here's the pretty and simple table setting I created...

We listened to the Julie & Julia Soundtrack as we mingled, waiting for all the guests to arrive.

I made sure to have pretty pink and purple flowers, the favorites of the birthday girl.

I had to sneak the movie in there somewhere.

Each setting had a printed menu of the night's courses along with a little 
bottle of Paris Amour from Bath & Body Works that I tied a name card to.

Here's my Mastering the Art of French Cooking cookbook by Julia Child .....
looks a little used don't you think?

It was fun dressing up for the occasion.  I rarely get to dress up, 
so it was nice to put on a pretty dress and some heels.

I even did my nails, sporting some cute floral Reminisce Jamberry Nail Wraps!

Here's my fabulous wedges I got a Target!

We started with some French Onion Tarts & Korbel Brut Champagne 
(Sparkling Apple Cider for the preggo)

First course we enjoyed a Sweet Spinach Salad & Dreaming Tree Crush Wine
(Sparkling Apple Cider for the preggo)

Onto course three, the main course....Boeuf Bourguignon 
& Cupcake Vineyards Merlot Wine
(Sparkling Pomegranate Cider for the preggo)

One of my favorite courses...the Fromage Course!
We had some Port Salut, Chèvre, and Camembert (all pasteurized for the preggo), 
 a French baguette, and some lingonberry jam
& Apothic White Wine
(Sparkling Pear Cider for the preggo)

Every good meal has to end with some Sweet Treats...
We devoured some Vanilla Madeleines, Custard Cream Horns, 
Pumpkin-Cinnamon Spice Macarons, and Blackberry Apple Macarons

You know it was a good dinner party when the glasses are empty and the plates are clean!

I love hosting parties...but the clean up, eh.
So, I decided to leave it for the morning.

Instead, I poured another glass of wine, snuck two more madeleines,
 and popped in Julie & Julia Blu Ray to end the night.

It was another smashing good party!  So happy I got to celebrate my birthday, again, with some great friends, enjoy some yummy food and tasty wine, and make some new memories.  

Bonne nuit,
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Sweet Treats

Vanilla Madeleine recipe from Martha Stewart
Custard Cream Horns recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Pumpkin- Cinnamon Spice Macarons recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Blackberry Apple Macaron recipe from Macarons: Chic & Delicious French Treats

Vanilla Madeleines

What you need:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
coarse salt
6 large eggs (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (melted) plus more (softened) for pans
1 TBsp plus 1 tsp honey
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar (for dusting)

How to make them:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt in a medium bowl.
Whisk together eggs and both sugars with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Sift flour mixture over top in 2 additions, folding in after each addition.
Fold in melted butter in 2 additions, then honey and vanilla.
Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Let the batter stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Generously butter 2 standard-size  madeleine pans using a pastry brush.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag and snip  tip to create a 1/2 inch opening.
Pipe some batter into molds, filling each about three quarters full.
Bake on middle rack until pale gold, about 8 to 11 minutes.
Immediately shake madeleines out.
Wash and rebutter molds.
Repeat with remaining batter.
Dust baked madeleines with confectioner's sugar then ENJOY!

Custard Cream Horns

What you need:

Puff Pastry (thawed)
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1 tsp water
Course sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
2 cups milk (boiling)
1 TBsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 TBsp vanilla extract

How to make it:

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out puff pastry, cut 1 inch thick strips using a pastry wheel cutter.
Spray pastry horn with nonstick cooking spray, then starting at the tip, wrap one of the pastry strips around the horn, making sure to overlap the dough, place on prepared baking sheet.
Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is preferable.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425˚F and set rack in the middle of the oven.
Whisk together the 1 egg and 1 tsp water, brush pastry tops and sides with egg wash, sprinkle on sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.
Let cool, then slide horns out of the cooled pastries, set aside to be filled.
In a bowl of an electric mixer gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon.
Beat in flour.
Beating the yolk mixture, gradually pour in the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.
Pour into a saucepan and set over moderately high heat.
Stir with a wire whisk, reaching all over the bottom of the pan.
As the sauce comes to boil, it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as it is beaten.
When boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour.
Be careful custard does not scorch in the bottom of the pan.
Remove from the heat and beat in the butter, then the vanilla.
Let cool, then fill a piping bag.
Pipe into cooled puff pastry horns, then ENJOY!

Pumpkin Spice Macarons

What you need:

1 quantity Basic Macarons colored orange or peach
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin pie mix
1 1/2 TBsp cinnamon
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (chilled)

How to make them:

Beat together the eggs and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer on high speed (you want the batter to double in volume and become fluffy).
Pour into a saucepan, add the pumpkin mix and cinnamon.
Heat at medium temperature, stirring continuously until the mixture forms a compact batter.
Pour into a shallow dish, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator.
When the batter is cold, add cold butter, cut in small pieces; beat at high speed, using the whisk attachment, until no butter pieces are visible.
Spread buttercream on one macaron shells.
Then sandwich another macaron shell onto the butter cream, then ENJOY!

Blackberry Apple Macarons

What you need:

1 quantity Basic Macarons 
Purple food coloring paste
Green food coloring paste
Filling -
4 small dessert apples
1 TBsp granulated sugar
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup blackberries
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 solid baking sheets lined with parchment paper
pipping bag fitted with a star shaped tip

How to make them:

Prepare the filling before you make the macaron shells.
Peel, core, and roughly chop the apples and place in a medium saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice.
Cover and cook over low heat until the fruit has started to soften, stirring from time to time.  Add the blackberries and continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the fruit has reduced to a thick puree.
Remove from the heat and press through a sieve/strainer into a small bowl.
Taste and add a little more sugar if needed.
Prepare the Basic Macarons according to the recipe (click on the link).
Divide the mixture between 2 bowls and add the purple food coloring paste to one bowl an the green food coloring paste to the other.
Pipe 20 rounds of each color of mixture onto each prepared baking sheet.
Tap the baking sheets sharply on the work surface and leave the macarons to rest for 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325˚F.
Bake the macrons on the middle shelf of the preheated oven, one sheet at a time for 10 minutes.
Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
Lightly whip the cream.
Spread the fruit filling onto the purple macaron shells.
Fill the piping bag with the whipped cream and pip it onto the green shells.
Sandwich the two together and leave to rest for about 30 minutes before serving, then ENJOY!
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Le Fromage S'il vous plaît

     Mmmmmm, cheese!  One of my favorite foods!  I couldn't have a French inspired dinner party without the cheese course!  I served up some Port SalutCamembert, and some Chèvre Cheese, all pasteurized of course.  Since my friend co-hosting the party is preggo.

These were all yummy paired with a simple French baguette and a little lingonberry jam.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Beautiful Bowl of Boeuf Bourguignon

Recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking

What you need:

6 oz chunk of bacon (save rind for later)
9 to 10 inch fireproof casserole 3 inches deep (I used my enamel coated Dutch Oven)
1 TBsp olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef (cut in 2 inch cubes)
1 carrot (sliced)
1 onion (sliced)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBsp all purpose flour
3 cups full-bodied red wine (Chianti)
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock
1 TBsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf (crumbled)
18 to 24 small white pearl onions (brown-braised in stock, recipe below)
1 lb fresh mushrooms (quartered sautéed in butter, recipe below)
Parsley springs
Egg Noodles (prepared according to package)

How to make it:

Boeuf Bourguignon 

Remove rind and cut bacon into 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inch long lardons.
Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water.
Drain and pat dry, set aside.
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
Saute the bacon in the oil in the casserole dish over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly.
Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Set casserole aside.
Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.
Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp.
Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides.
Add it to the bacon, set aside.
In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables.
Pour out the sautéing fat.
Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper.
Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour.
Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.
Toss the meat and return to the over for 4 minutes more, (this browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust).
Remove casserole, and tuen oven down to 325˚F.
Stir in the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
Then cover the casserole and set in the lower third of the preheated oven.
Regulate the heat so the liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours, (the meat is done when a fork pierces it easily).
While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms, set aside until needed.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it.
Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.
Skim the fat off the sauce.
Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off the additional fat as it rises, (should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce think enough to coat a spoon lightly, if too thin boil it down rapidly.  If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock.
Taste carefully for seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
Serve over prepared egg noodles, garnish with parsley then ENJOY!

* For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, bastion gthe meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.  Serve in its casserole or spoon over some egg noodles.  Garnish with parsley sprigs.

** For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate.  About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.  Serve over egg noodles and garnish with parsley sprigs.

Onions -

What you need:

18 to 24 pearl onions
1 1/2 TBsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp oil
9 to 10 inch enameled skillet
1/2 cup of brown stock, dry white wine, red wine, or water (I used red wine)
Salt and Pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth

How to make it:

When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown evenly as possible.
Be careful not to break their skins.
Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet.
Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and liquid has evaporated.
Remove herbs, set aside till recipe calls for them.

Mushrooms -

What you need:

a 10 inch enameled skillet
2 TBsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 lb fresh mushrooms (washed, well dried, quartered)
1 to 2 TBsp shallots (minced)
Salt and Pepper

How to make them:

Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil.
As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms.
Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes.
During their sauté the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat.
In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will begin to brown.
As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
Toss the shallots with the mushrooms.
Saute over moderate heat for 2 minutes.
Set aside to add to recipe.

* Mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed.  Season to taste just before serving.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Back to the Pumpkin Patch We Go...

     I headed out to Mesilla Valley Maze & Family Fun Farm again, this time with both kiddos.  It was a HOT HOT HOT day out there!  But that didn't stop us from having a good time.  My Spouse's Club arranged a pot luck lunch for all of us.  I brought some yummy Pecan Pumpkin Bars to share, they were a big hit.  
     After some lunch, we headed out to let the kiddos have some fun!

Liam loved going down the slides!

Time to pick some more pumpkins! 

It was another fun filled day at the pumpkin patch! 

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

To the Pumpkin Patch We Go.....

     I love this time of's pumpkin picking time!  Although, picking pumpkins in New Mexico is very different then picking them in, say any northern state.  Here it is still hot or at least warm for the fall season.  But that didn't stop me from dressing my little fashionista in some cute clothes just in case I got some good pictures of her.  Gotta be photo ready right?  
     Well, we haven't gone to the pumpkin patch all season until now.  My MOPs group set up a playdate with all the mommies to bring our kiddos.  Kinley had a great time exploring, climbing, jumping, picking, and playing with her friends.

A little snack before getting on hay ride to the pumpkin patch....

Time to pick some pumpkins...

Picking out the perfect pumpkin

She found it!

She wanted to carry her pumpkin everywhere!

Our pumpkins!

It was a lot of fun! Can't wait to go back on with Liam!

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