Category Archives: Holiday

Biltmore Inspirations 40% Off Sale

With the recent announcement that Biltmore Inspirations will be closing on December 15, 2012, this is your chance to purchase  our fabulous home decor, gourmet food and wine accessories from the full product line at a deep discount.  All merchandise (with a couple of exceptions) is on sale NOW at 40% off.  Download the online catalog on my website.   View all of the current specials highlighted here.

I am still conducting parties and can assist you directly with placing any orders.  There is no longer a minimum amount required for hosting a party to receive the great hostess benefits! Enjoy  great rewards with free party food, your selection of hostess gifts and discounted items by scheduling a party before the end of November.

Thanks so much for your past support and happy shopping!

Fall Bundles through OCTOBER

Holiday Gifts 2012

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Filed under Decorating, Food, Holiday, Hostess Gifts, Party

Ten Best Pie Crust Secrets

Handmade Pie Crust

My mother and grandmother were excellent pie bakers from eastern Kansas.   Every fall once the leaves started floating off the trees, they would spend long afternoons making multiples of pie crusts.  The crusts were placed in the freezer so they would be ever ready for pie baking when unexpected visitors came to call.  Our weekly routine on Sundays was to always have pie after a big fried chicken dinner (really lunch, we called it dinner).  And of course, on holidays, we would be treated to a buffet of scrumptious pies. 

They were not afraid of pie dough, or using lard in the pie crust.  Every flavor you could imagine came from their kitchens.  Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie, cherry pie, coconut cream pie, lemon pie, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie, raisin pie, and my all-time favorite, pineapple pie.

I missed the chance to personally quiz my family members about the secrets to making the best pie crust in the county.  But in my quest to learn the formula of creating fabulous pie crusts I found two other Pie Making Masters (Bob Waldo and Susie Hale) who helped me perfect my skills in pie baking.  Here’s the best pie making tips they shared: 

1.  You must use lard, also known as “shortening”.  Real lard from a pig farmer is best.  If you don’t have access to a farmer or butcher shop, use Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening.  Some bakers prefer to combine lard with a little butter.  Experiment and see what you like the best.

2.  Use a good brand of All-Purpose Flour.  King Arthur brand is my favorite. 

3.  Make certain ALL ingredients are cold when mixing.  Yes, put the flour, as well as the lard, in the refrigerator first to chill it down.

4.  Use ice cold water when mixing into the flour and lard.  For super flaky crust, mix until the dough is the size of small peas.  And, don’t  over mix or the pie crust will not be flaky.

5.  Handle the dough as little as possible.  Using a fork instead of your fingers keeps the dough cooler. 

6.  A clean, label-free wine bottle works in a pinch if you don’t have a rolling-pin. 

7.  Consider using a pie crust bag when rolling out the dough.  This is a reusable round plastic pouch with a zipper.  It offers a tidy way to roll out a ball of dough into a perfectly round pie crust.  I found mine at this quaint country village of cooking stores Cockrell Mercantile Company near Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for less than $5.00. 

8.   After the dough is mixed well, chill for at least four hours or even overnight.  This ensures that the gluten strands have time to settle down and relax.  This actually makes your pastry dough easier to roll out and cuts down on any shrinkage during the baking process.  Chilling also allows the available moisture to find its way back into all parts of the dough.  It’s worth the wait to have soft easy to roll out dough, so plan ahead. 

9.  Use a great pie dish.  I prefer Biltmore Inspiration’s Pisgah Baking Dishes.  Pies turn out beautifully in these dishes and the ruffled edge not only gives you more crust, it helps to prevent the crust from burning.  Oven, microwave and dishwasher safe.  The Single Baking Dish 11.25″Dia x 2.7″H $35.98, and Set of Two:  8.5″Dia x 2″H and 20″Dia x. 2.25″ $45.98. 

10.  Top the crust with a dab of cream.  Add a sprinkling of sugar before placing in the oven.  Bake and enjoy!

King Arthur Flour offers several great recipes for pie crust on its website. 

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Filed under Desserts, Farmers Market, Holiday, Party, Recipes

Color Inspiration for Holiday Entertaining

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays and the traditional color schemes for  entertaining this time of year: black and orange for Halloween; gold, cooper, brown for Thanksgiving; and red and forest green for Christmas.  This year I want to incorporate something new, something more trendy so I looked at the 2012 fall fashion colors.  The Pantone Fall 2012 Colors include a bright shade of purple (the fashion trade refers to it as rhapsody, sugar plum, and gothic grape).  I like a little darker shade — more plum and mulberry is more my style.  I’m going to mix up the color wheel by combining olympian blue with ultramarine green (really the shade of billiard tables) together in what I hope turns out to be a smoky teal green.  I’ll add a touch of rose smoke and flashy pink flambe’ for fun, and I’ve found my color scheme for entertaining this season.

As I dream of fall parties, the perfect holiday table for me will be set with a  tablecloth in an almost rose smoke color called Acorn Contour (from BBJ Linens) around $33.00.  Next I’ll add pink flambe’ handmade fabric runners.  Each mat will drape across the table and serve as individual placements (so you’ll only need one runner for every two guests.)  Pick up fabric at a discount online, at Hobby Lobby or any fabric store and make these simple runners yourself.

For an over-the-top tablescape, I’ve chosen Biltmore Inspirations’ Lotus Leaf Platters to serve as the charger plates for each place setting.  Because these platters are so big, bold and beautiful, I won’t be removing them before serving dinner, even though etiquette books dictate otherwise.  Each gorgeous platter measures 12″L x 18″W x 2.5″H and retails for $69.98/each.  With six to eight of these on the table, this will make a dramatic statement.

Lotus Leaf Tableware

On top of each charger, guests will find a brightly colored braided fuchsia placemat with wavy design. Each mat measures 15″ in diameter.  Found online at Gifted Solution (4 for $16.00).

For serving dishes, I’ve incorporated Biltmore Inspiration’s Pisgah Baking Dishes.  The color of these dishes resemble the soft smoky teal-green Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, the corporate home to both the Biltmore Estate and  it’s newest division, Biltmore Inspirations.  The single large baking dish measures 11.25″Dia. x 2.75″H and serves  as the dinner plate ($35.98).  The smaller baking dish 10″ Dia x. 2.25″ will be used for any first courses ($45.98 set of two that includes a 8.5″Dia x 2″H dish).  Perfect for serving soup or salad.

Pisgah Baking Dishes

Pisgah Baking Dishes

Each of the Pisgah Baking Dishes are separated by an eggplant colored linen napkin that measures 21″ x 21″ at $10.00/each.  This one’s called malbec from Linoto.   A great color for dabbing those Cabernet wine stains off your lips between courses.

I envision the table to be decorated with similar colored fresh farmer’s market produce.  Purple cabbage, purple potatoes, dark kale, Chinese eggplant, asparagus, and leafy green Brussels sprouts should be ideal.

Other decorative centerpiece details include Biltmore’s new Pisgah Canisters ($59.98 for set of two).  Same beautiful blue-green color as the baking dishes.  The large measures 4.5″Dia x 13.125″H, and medium 5″Dia x 8.625″H).

Pisgah Canisters & Pedestal Dish

Biltmore’s Pisgah Canisters & Pedestal Dish

French Market Buckets

Biltmore’s French Market Buckets

Centered on the table are Biltmore’s French Market Flower Buckets $99.98 set of two (large 8″Dia. at top x 6″ Dia. at bottom x 18″ H. and medium 7″Dia. at top x 4.5″ Dia at bottom x 14″H) filled with silk hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and other favorite flowers and greenery.

A pair of Biltmore’s Courtyard Lanterns (large 5.75″W x 5.75″D x 13″H $42.98 and small 4″W x 3.5″D x 8″H set of two for $32.98) holding mulberry colored pillar candles completes the tablescape.

Biltmore’s Courtyard Lanterns

Ideally, guests this season will include precious little friends wearing matching velvet dresses and jackets and deep eggplant colored bows in their hair like this one.

The finished table setting should bring lots of ooh’s and ah’s to this year’s festivities.  What do you think?

Autumn-Inspired Tablesetting from Biltmore Inspirations

Festive Tablescape from Biltmore Inspirations

Biltmore products can be ordered at my website.

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Filed under Decorating, Holiday, Party, Tablescapes

Italian Fig Syrup

Look what I found on my fig tree this week?  The house we moved into last Christmas has a wonderful fig tree with big, broad pretty green leaves in our side yard.   The leaves are gorgeous.   I now realize how seductive Eve must have looked while wearing these as her only daily attire.  The tree is bursting with so many figs I can barely get to them before the birds take a bite out of each one and move on to the next.

Today I harvested as many as I could find and created this delectable Italian Fig Syrup.  It’s fabulous straight out of the jar, or top some on Brie, Marscapone or Goat Cheese for a quick appetizer.  It makes a lovely dessert drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream (homemade or store-bought) too.

RECIPE:

30 Figs

White Sugar (About 2 cups)

2 T. Lemon Juice

Brandy

Wash the figs well and trim off stems.  Cut  figs in half if large.  Place figs and lemon juice in a saucepan and add enough sugar to almost cover the figs.   Cook over low heat for 45-60 minutes.  The sugar will turn to a lemon infused syrup.

Once cooked and cooled, place in a jar and add enough brandy to come to the top of the jar covering all of the figs and syrup.

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Filed under Appetizers, Dessert, Food, Holiday, Sauces

Red Hot Lettuce Wraps

Biltmore Inspirations Red Hot Lettuce Wraps is a new recipe created by Food columnist, cookbook author and Biltmore Inspirations featured chef, Debby Maugans.  The dish features our ever popular Red Hot Pepper Spread.  You can purchase it in sets of two jars, and you’ll find it in Meal Kit #4 along with seven other items from our gourmet food pantry selections. Meal Kit #4 comes with a set of easy to follow recipes for five entrée’s, plus a grocery list.  What a great idea for a quick to prepare (cooks within 30 minutes) and easy recipe for weeknight meals. 

4 Servings

1 pound lean ground turkey or beef

1/2 cup Red Hot Pepper Spread from Biltmore Inspirations

3 T. soy sauce

1 T. rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

2 t. Asian (dark) sesame oil, optional

16 lettuce leaves, such as Boston, Bibb, butter, or iceberg

Cook turkey or beef in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble.  Pour off any fat from skillet.  Add Red Hot Pepper Spread, soy sauce, rice vinegar, water chestnuts, green onion, and sesame oil, if desired, cook, stirring frequently until mixture is hot and onions just begin to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.

Arrange lettuce leaves around outer edge of a large serving platter, and spoon meat mixture into the center.

Guests can spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf and wrap like a burrito.

(The spread is made of red peppers and jalapenos mixed with vinegar and sugar to make a spicy spread.  Purchase price $16.98 for two 7.6-oz. jars.  For details about Meal Kit #4, refer to Page 61 of our Fall Catalog.)

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Filed under Food, Holiday, Main Course, Recipes

Cooking Demo Today at Encanterra’s Good Life Festival

Today, Encanterra Country Club located in the Southeast Valley of Greater Phoenix, is hosting its second concert of the season featuring Bachman Turner. I’ll be there conducting three cooking demonstrations in the beautiful Napoli Model Home  in Encanterra’s gallery of new homes. These are the recipes I’ll be showcasing, all featuring Biltmore Inspirations gourmet foods. Beautiful decorating products, wine accessories and tabletop items from Biltmore will be showcased as well.  

SCHEDULE:

12:30 PM – Basil Chicken Salad Crostini with Red Pepper Romano Topping

1:30 PM – Caramelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola & Brie

2:30 PM – Warm Cinnamon Spiced Bananas over Vanilla Ice Cream

RECIPES

Basil Chicken Salad Crostini with Red Pepper Romano Topping

Serves 4

6 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked

¼ c. fresh basil leaves, packed

1 baguette

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

½ c. Biltmore Inspirations Roasted Red Pepper Romano Specialty Topping

Slice baguette into 24 pieces. Place on sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake 7 minutes or until crisp.

When chicken has cooled, dice small and add to bowl.  Combine with Biltmore Inspirations Roasted Red Pepper Romano Specialty Topping.  Cut basil into very thin strips and add to chicken.

Top crostini with chicken mixture, and serve immediately.

 

Caramelized Onion Tart with Gorgonzola and Brie Recipe

Makes 24 appetizers

1 jar Biltmore Inspirations Caramelized Onion Balsamic Spread

8 oz. frozen puff pastry (defrosted a couple hours in the fridge)

2 oz. chilled Brie cheese, rind removed and diced

2 oz. Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, diced

2 T. chopped fresh tarragon

Roll pastry into a 10-to-14-inch rectangle (or whatever shape you want). Place pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Prick with a fork at a couple inch increments to prevent the pastry from forming big bubbles while baking.

Spread Biltmore Inspirations Caramelized Onion Spread over pastry, all the way to the edges of the pastry. Dot with cheese. Sprinkle with tarragon. Refrigerate if not baking immediately.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 18-20 minutes or until cheese has melted and pastry is crispy. Cool for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges or squares and serve.

 

Warm Cinnamon Spiced Bananas with Ice Cream

4 servings

1/4 c. Biltmore Inspirations Cinnamon Spice Flavoring Syrup

3 T. brown sugar

2 T. butter

2 large bananas

2-3 c. vanilla ice cream

Combine Biltmore Inspirations Cinnamon Spice Flavoring Syrup, brown sugar and butter in a large skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts (2-3 minutes.)  Boil, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice bananas diagonally; add to skillet and turn to coat with sauce.  Cook until hot and softened, about 1 ½ minutes.  Spoon over ice cream and serve.

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Filed under Appetizers, Dessert, Food, Holiday, Recipes

Happy New Year Giveaway!

Happy New Year 2012

To celebrate the new year, and to inspire you to celebrate more at home this year, we are conducting a contest to give away a number of  home entertaining products.  Several of these useful and stylish items are sold through Entertaining Inspirations, all from the Biltmore Inspirations catalog, and others are from my personal collection of gifts that I keep on hand for hostess gift giving . 

Here’s how the contest works.  It’s a two-step process.  First, visit my Facebook Page, Entertaining Inspirations, and “LIKE” this page.  The link is:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Entertaining-Inspirations/207172932680855

In addition, subscribe to my blog:  Entertaining Inspirations (a weekly update with decorating hints, design ideas and recipes for entertaining in style.)  You can sign up by completing the e-mail subscription link on this website:

https://entertaininginspirations.wordpress.com/

If you are already a Facebook fan, or a subscriber to the blog, you are still eligible to participate.

The prizes will be announced daily.  One winner will be selected daily, at random from ALL participates who complete the two-step process.  You will be notified through an e-mail message if you win, and the prize will be sent to you.  The contest starts today and ends on Sunday, January 1, 2012, New Year’s Day.

Today’s (Thursday, December 29) prize is a set of four Biltmore Inspirations Reserve Wine Label Coasters.  As the most-visited winery in the United States, Biltmore created these authentic “Biltmore” Wine labels on aged resin coasters.  Clean with a damp cloth.  4″ Square.  The set retails for $21.98, plus tax and shipping.

Biltmore Inspirations Reserve Wine Coasters

Spread the news and share this contest with your friends!  Thanks so much for participating, and good luck!

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Filed under Contests, Decorating, Holiday, Hostess Gifts, Wines