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.  


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


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:!/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:

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

Countdown to Christmas – Tips for Hosting & Cooking for a Large Crowd

With Christmas only a few days away, many of you will be hosting a large number of family and friends this weekend.  I’m sharing some last minutes tips on how best to prepare for the large crowd that you’ll be entertaining.

The first step is to plan your menu(s) ahead.  It’s not to late to consider each and every meal that you’ll be hosting. Write the menus  down on paper, allowing you to see at-a-glance how well each item goes together, if it is a balanced and colorful menu, and giving you an overview of how much time you’ll need for the preparation.  Start with the arrival date of your first guests. Consider the type of meal or snack you’ll serve when you guests first arrive.  Then, plan your holiday feast, and any breakfasts or lunches for those guests who are staying longer than the main meal.  Think seasonal items when creating your menu, which you’ll find most readily available and less expensive at this time of year.  Consider items that can be cooked ahead, stored or reheated easily to make your hosting job go smoothly.

Next, gather together all of the recipes and make a detailed shopping list.  Be certain to check your pantry and refrigerator for items you already have on hand.  When I am shopping for a large quantity of groceries, I take the time to put my grocery list in order separating out the produce, meats,  canned goods,  dairy, bakery, etc.  This makes the grocery shopping process go much quicker once I enter the store.

If you have guests bringing dishes,  suggest a specific recipe or two (or at the very least, be specific about the item such as a “green bean side dish”) in order to ensure that your entire menu will complement well with the potluck items.

Consider the seating arrangements and whether or not you have enough tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, candles, china, glassware and cutlery.  If not, consider borrowing items from a friend or relative?  Make arrangements for a family member to help out by picking up and finding a storage space in your garage for these items a few days in advance until you need them.

Decide where to stack the dirty dishes before the party starts.  Try to keep the mess in one area of your kitchen. If the party is formal, you may wish to hire extra help for serving and/or washing the dishes.  For less formal parties, ask students and older children, or even your guests, to pitch in with specific instructions on what they need to do.  Make certain you have plenty of trash bags and dish towels for cleaning up after the meals.

Arrange to have your home cleaned in advance of the celebration.  This eases your mind and allows you to focus on the meal preparation and your hosting duties.

Purchase your alcoholic beverages in advance, getting advice from the retail store liquor expert or sommelier on what best suits the type of menu you are serving.  Ensure that you have plenty of extra ice and refrigerator space, or coolers for chilling beverages in advance.

Cooking in quantity does not necessarily mean quadrupling your recipes.  Review the recipes carefully, and if necessary, cook in smaller batches and freeze or set aside in advance.  A general rule is keep your recipe quantities for preparation of servings at no more than 12, and repeat the cooking process if you need larger quantities.  Most casserole dishes or saucepans will work best at these amounts.

Ensure that you have enough oven space, or stove top burners.  If not, consider using your neighbor’s kitchen, or borrowing a portable convection oven, electric oven, or incorporate your grill for a portion of the meal.

Set up a specific area for the bar, keeping glassware and bottles well out of reach of scampering children and pets.  Incorporate wine and beer openers, straws or stirrers, ice containers, and garnishes (lemons, limes, etc.) if using.

Consider parking and if your street has enough space for the guests you are expecting. As a courtesy to your neighbors, you may want to give them notice that there will be extra traffic on your street during your festivities.

Allow plenty of extra time for reheating and cooking the meals.  Have a written plan in advance of what serving dishes and serving utensils you will use.  Set these aside so that when the food is ready, your dishes and utensils will be close at hand.

Most importantly, give yourself permission to relax an hour  before the party so that you will enjoy the celebration as much as your guests will!

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Filed under Food, Holiday, Party, Tablescapes

Biltmore Bliss Under $24 – Biggest Sale of the Season

Biltmore Inspirations Stocking Stuffers

Today we received some exciting news!  Biltmore Inspirations announced it was offering 29 of its perfect stocking stuffer products for special sale prices, all less than $24 (plus tax and shipping.)   If you are shopping for the holidays, you’ll find a number of fabulous finds priced from $5.98 to $23.49.  Everything from my favorite red damask appetizer plates (4 for $19.99, regularly $39.99), to two jars of Red Cherry Pomegranate Spread ($9.99, regularly $19.98.)

Check out these two pages of blissful gift ideas.  Please note that all food items arrive in sets of two.

Food Stocking Stuffers

It’s easy to order.  Click on this link and go shopping!  SHOP NOW!  

All orders placed by December 12 are guaranteed to arrive before Christmas.  Offer valid through December 31, 2011.

Happy Shopping!

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Cranberries: What to do with all of that leftover sauce!

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce

Tomorrow is the day we add dollops of cranberry sauce to our plates of turkey.  Whether the turkey is roasted, deep fat fried, smoked or baked in a bag, this traditional condiment adds a flavorful acidic touch to the fat laden Thanksgiving meal.

The cranberry’s botanical name, vaccinium oxycoccos, literally means “cow.”  Food historian Alan Davidson, author of the Oxford Companion to Food 1999, says that cows (vacco) enjoy eating cranberries and that is how cranberries got their name!  Cranberries historical significance in America dates back to the 1864, when General Ulysses S. Grant ordered that it be served to the troops during the siege of Petersburg.  Although it was the Native Americans who first noticed the natural preservative powers of these berries, it was when they began socializing with the Pilgrims in 1672, that cranberry pies and tarts started showing up on the Thanksgiving table.

There are many recipes for cranberry sauce.  I created this recipe because it uses a delicious bottle of one of my favorite wines, Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce Recipe

1 (12 ounce) package cranberries, fresh

2+ cups of red Zinfandel wine (choose one with lots of spiciness)

½ c. balsamic vinegar

1 T. Vietnamese cinnamon

1 c. white sugar

1 T. black peppercorns

1 t. whole cloves

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the cranberries, wine, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon.  If you’re unsure about how sweet the sauce will be, begin with one-half c. sugar, add more to taste.

Place the peppercorns and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie shut.  Add to the pot.  Bring the berries to a boil, then reduce to medium-low.

The cranberries will cook completely in 20-30 minutes, bursting and turning deep red.  In the last few minutes of cooking, taste for sweetness and stir sugar in more as desired.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Remove the spices.  Store in a clean jar.  Can be kept for several weeks in the refrigerator.

What to do with the leftover sauce

This sauce is great on Thanksgiving Day, but usually there is an abundance of leftovers.  Here are 15 ideas on ways to use up the sauce:

  • Add 1/2 cup to pancake batter to make cranberry pancakes.
  • Mix with cream cheese and smear on a fresh bagel for breakfast.
  • Place a block of cream cheese on a plate, top with Zinfandel Cranberry Sauce, and serve with crackers for a quick and tasty appetizer.  Or, alternatively, warm a block of Brie cheese in the oven, and top with the sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon of cream cheese, and use as a spread for your favorite chicken or turkey sandwich.
  • Using freshly ground turkey, chicken, or pork, make Cranberry Meatballs substituting cranberry sauce for tomato sauce.
  • Mix with a tablespoon or two of orange juice and use as a glaze for a pork roast, or grilled pork chops.
  • Add to a homemade muffin mix, along with a 1/2 cup of walnuts.
  • Add to your favorite BBQ sauce to baste over baked or grilled chicken.
  • Cube baked sweet potatoes and mix with toasted walnuts and minced parsley.  Add cranberry sauce to a few tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle in mixture to make a healthy salad.
  • Mix a few tablespoons with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and red wine vinegar to create a tangy salad dressing.
  • Puree with cream cheese to make a cranberry dip.
  • Using your favorite type of milk (whole, 2%, rice, soy or almond), add 1/4 cup with a sliced banana, 1 T. honey or agave juice, and ice to turn into a cranberry smoothie.
  • Make a quesadilla using cooked shredded turkey or chicken, chopped kale, your favorite cheese, cumin, and chili powder placed in corn tortillas.  Sauté on both sides until warm.  
  • Warm sauce in microwave and drizzle over vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert.
  • Add to homemade apple pie, or pear crisp, recipes for a festive twist on dessert.

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Filed under Appetizers, Holiday, Party, Recipes, Salads, Sauces, Wines

Seven Great Gift Ideas to Give a Hostess

Beginning this week, we look forward to being invited to gatherings to celebrate Thanksgiving, and next month, Christmas.  It is always appropriate to give your hostess a thank you gift for being included in these holiday festivities.  I enjoy finding something that I think the hostess will like.  Although it may be tempting to grab a random gift from the grocery or wine store shelf, think ahead this year and order a few hostess gifts that offer something more thoughtful.

Biltmore Inspirations offers several very reasonably priced options for inexpensive gifts (less than $20, plus shipping and handling.)  All of these items are inspired by something within the Biltmore House, America’s largest home, located in Asheville, North Carolina.  Check out these ideas and visit this website to place an order: Biltmore Inspirations Website.

Damask Kitchen Towels

Damask Kitchen Towel Set.  An elegant set of two coordinating designs red/cream striped and waffle-weave with the Biltmore Breakfast Nook’s damask emblem.  18 “W x 28” L.  Set of two $19.98.

Olmsted Oak Spreaders

Olmsted Oak Spreader Set.  These oak leaf and acorn design spreaders showcase three finishes in three colors.  Dishwasher safe.  4.75” L .  Set of three $19.98.

Fleur-de-Lis Wine Stopper

Fleur -De-Lis Wine Stopper.  Add a little sophistication to your wine bottle.  This decorative stopper features a graceful fleur-de-lis anchored by a ring of beads.  Hand wash.  1.5” W x 4.25”H.  $14.98.

Celebrate Wine Stopper.  Another festive wine stopper is perfect for the wine connoisseur host or hostess (picture not available.)  The word “Celebrate” appears on one side, and “Inspire” on the other . . . the perfect sentiments for any gathering.  Hand wash.  1.75”W x 4” H.  $14.98.

Fleur-de-Lis Wine Glass Charms

Fleur-de-Lis Stem Charms.  Each charm has a fleur-de-lis with a different color beaded ring for a fun, easy way to help guests personalize their wine glasses.  Hand wash.  1”W x 2.75”L.  Set of 4.  $19.98.

Celebrate Cocktail Linen Napkins

Celebrate Cocktail Napkin Set. Ring holiday cheer into your everyday décor with festive cocktail napkins.  9” square.  Set of four for $19.98.

Celebrate Wine Gift Bags

Celebrate Wine Bag.  Set of two white and red Celebrate wine bags.  These will make two perfect hostess gifts for any social engagement.  6.5”W x 12.4”L.  Set of two for $19.98.

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Filed under Holiday, Hostess Gifts, Kitchen, Party

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn is the best time to make a big pot of soup.  A favorite of mine is dairy-free, Coconut Butternut Squash Soup.  I made it for my Halloween party and it was a hit with all of the guests.  It’s very simple to make, and uses only a few ingredients:

Serves 8-10

1 T. olive oil, plus extra for coating Butternut Squash

2 whole medium-sized Butternut Squash

1 onion, diced

2 cans Coconut Milk (Thai Kitchen’s Organic)

1 1/2 cups So Coconut Milk (90 calories)

Grated Nutmeg to taste

Salt & Pepper

Cut off the ends of the butternut squash and discard.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on a sheet pan.  Slice the squash into 2″ thick slices. Rub the squash pieces with a light coating of olive oil on all sides, and place on foil.  Bake at 350 degrees until done (about 30-40 minutes.)  Allow to cool.

In a skillet, sauté the diced onion in 1 T olive oil until cooked thoroughly.  Cool.

Remove skin from squash, cut into chunks and place in food processor.  Add onions to food processor and puree in batches until smooth and silky.

Place squash and onion mixture in large stockpot.  Add all coconut milks and turn heat on low to warm.  If the soup is too thick, continue to add more coconut milk.  Be careful to not allow the soup to get too hot, as it will stick to bottom of pan.

Add freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon or so), salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

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