Tag Archives: entertaining at home

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

Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Red Sauce

Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Red Sauce

Substituting ground turkey for beef or pork is an easy and delicious healthy option when making meatballs.   The taste is a little lighter, but equally delicious and healthier.  Here’s my favorite recipe for Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Red Sauce.

Meatballs:
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 t. Kosher salt
2 T. basil, minced
1 t. thyme, minced
1 t. fennel seeds
2 t. rosemary, minced
1 t oregano, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes

Sauce:
1/4 c. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
3 T. chicken stock
1/4 c. red table wine
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (or 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes)
1/4 c. basil, thinly sliced
1/8 c. parsley, minced

Make the meatballs by mixing the ground turkey, sour cream, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, basil, thyme, fennel seeds, rosemary, oregano, and red pepper flakes together.  Mix well and roll into small balls (about 1 1/2 inches) with wet hands.  Set aside on a baking sheet.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil and when hot but not smoking, add the meatballs and brown them on all sides, shaking the pan regularly, so they brown evenly.  When browned, set aside.

In a large skillet, pour in the olive oil and onions and garlic and cook on low until limp (about 4-5 minutes) but not browned.  Add the chicken stock, red wine, tomatoes and basil and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.  Add meatballs and simmer for 20 more minutes (or longer) until hot. Garnish with minced parsley.

May be served with your favorite pasta.

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Recipes, Sauces

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

Spanish Mission Style for your Dining Table

Interior Hallway at Mission Santa Barbara

Photo by Debbie J. Elder

On a recent visit to the beautiful Pacific coastal city of Santa Barbara, I visited the historic, 225-year old Mission Santa Barbara. Locals refer to this 1786-built mission as the “Queen of the Missions,” due to its magnificent Roman-inspired architecture and its place as the 10th of California’s 21 missions continually operating since its beginning by Franciscan friars.  The gorgeous chapel and the flower-filled inner Moorish fountain and courtyard were my favorite parts of the tour.  Until I spied this lovely brick and stucco outdoor hallway.  I loved the elaborate ironwork enveloping the windows and the brightly painted turquoise shutters with brick-red trim.  The thick adobe exterior walls, originally painted by Chumash Indians, now boasts a striking rich-yellow tone. The white-washed years of wear and tear, located below the bottom of the windows, reminds me of tarnished silver. Finally, patterned black ironwork, a frequent enhancement of Santa Barbara architecture, adds a flash of jewelry to the windows.

I thought about how to create this enticing color scheme for dining at home. Envision your dining table showcasing tableware inspired by the Mission colors of muted mustard yellow, Southwestern turquoise, rusty-red, iron black and touches of flashy silver.

In searching online, I found some sturdy dinnerware in a slightly more mint-turquoise shade by Bobby Flay at Kohl’s.  These dishes are perfectly trimmed in rust red, similar to the windows above.  The retail price is $139.99 for a 16-piece set.

Consider pairing this dinnerware with the Dijon-yellow scalloped placemats.  Or, alternatively, a full tablecloth in this collection from Williams Sonoma.

These lovely linens feature a center raised grape motif and leaf pattern. This seems appropriate for our mission theme, after all didn’t the Franciscan monks produce wine?  $56.00 for a set of four placemats, $125.00 – $180.00 for the tablecloths, depending on size.

Complete the table setting with black eating utensils.  A heavy, rustic, forged iron style would be perfect, such as these from the Country Village Shoppe at $64.95 for each 5-piece setting.

Then, add some bowls and serving pieces in a tarnished silver plate, borrowing a few of those antique treasures from your grandmother’s cupboard for the occasion.  Or, I like to search out pretty silver plate pieces with discounted prices at Ruby Lane.

Finally, create a giant centerpiece out of the bright yellow sunflowers growing in abundance by the roadside this month.  And, as an added bonus, they are free!  Add in some green flowering branches from a tree in your yard and arrange the flowers in a silver wine bucket or rustic black urn for a final Spanish touch.

Photo by Debbie J. Elder

Viva La Fiesta!

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Filed under Dining, Tablescapes