Class Acts

Having the right ingredients is the key to making any dish successfully, and knowing the right sources and people when you are planning an event is just as important.
I've hosted or helped with many parties over the years including my daughter's wedding, and hiring an event planner isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. I know working with a planner when I lived in Dallas and the event was in Orlando saved me money and made it possible to have a Lifestylist Designed wedding in a location I never would have known about without the planner's help.
Julie Eastman is someone I have worked with in the past and is now concentrating on doing event planning. Her company, Extraordinary Events and Design does amazing work and her blog, Design by Jules is always full of great ideas. This week she wrote about Food Glorious Food, another great source that I love because not only is their food beautiful and tasty, their staff couldn't be more fun to be around and they give back quite a bit to the community. Now I can't stop thinking about their Crab Benedict - I guess it's time to get Julie to do a party for me so I can sample them!
You can always tell when people love what they do, and these two amazing teams prove that when when you put great talent together anything is possible (even on a budget).

Sweet Treats for Valentines Day

One of my favorite, easy to make sweet treats is toffee. I've been entering variations in the State Fair of Texas for years and this is the version that everyone asks for.
The key to candy making is having a good thermometer, and when I invested in a digital one it made all of the difference in the world. As soon as the temperature gets up to around 250 degrees start watching very closely - it will get to the optimum temperature quickly and if it heats to even 5 degrees more than it should it will burn. Enjoy!
For a great way to package for gift giving, I found these great baskets in the Target Dollar Aisle. It delivers a lot of look for pennies, and the mat under it was from the same area. It was meant to be a bath mat but works really well in a tabletop display as well, and the best part is they were only $2.50!
Texas Butter Pecan Toffee
1 lb Texas pecans
1 lb butter + 2 tablespoons butter for pecans
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb chocolate chips
In a skillet, stir butter and pecans together - cook over a low heat until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan combine the rest of the butter, sugar, water and Karo syrup. Stir until mixture comes to a boil, then continue to cook without stirring until mixture reaches a temperature of 290 degrees. Stir in half of the pecans to mixture and turn out onto a 12” x 18” baking sheet. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips and spread after they melt - then sprinkle rest of pecans on top and allow to cool. Break into bite sized pieces.

Jr Lifestylists Cook up a Party!

Few things are as satisfying to me as helping kids explore the culinary world. You can see how excited they get when they learn they can make and bake things themselves and the more they learn, the more they want to try. I've seen it time and time again where a child will eat things that they made themselves but you couldn't force them to try it if someone else was the chef.
I just got back from spending a wonderful weekend with my grandchildren and I was able to help Jenna plan her 8th birthday. She had very specific ideas about what she wanted to do, and my job was to execute all of the things that she imagined. Her brother decided he wanted chocolate instead of a white cake, so we compromised  and had chocolate cupcakes and a white birthday cake. When I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients I realized it would be much less expensive and just as easy to make the cakes from scratch. If you are looking for a recipe for a specific ingredient, check out the package or their website -the company is only going to share recipes that put their products in the best light so this is a great place to start. I didn't have recipes with me so I checked out the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box and there were recipes for chocolate frosting and cakes. Their grandpa has always made a wonderful butter cream icing that is a family favorite so we went with that for the birthday cake. Jenna will also never let me live down the fact that I misspelled "birthday" - that's a story she'll be telling for a long time!
The kids were so proud of what they were able to accomplish, and the chocolate recipes were fantastic - I think some of the best I've ever had. Jenna wanted a pet themed party, and that's what she got.
Don't underestimate the skills and interest of your culinary kids. Even when things don't turn out exactly as planned you can still create memories and recipes that can last a lifetime.