Beer vs. wine pairing party

It was a long day at work today, which makes memories of this past weekend that much fonder.

On Saturday, we were invited to our friends’ Kevin and Trisha’s house for a beer vs. wine pairing party. The idea was to bring a dish that pairs well with one or the other and have some fun! Almost immediately I thought of bringing something spicy to pair with a Riesling, and then a moment of brilliance hit me – mini banh mi sliders. Oh yes I did!

Of course it’s me and I can’t just make a favorite recipe and call it good. And well, dessert needed to happen as well (just in case we didn’t have enough). I made some meyer lemon curd a few days prior so the idea of white wine cupcakes with meyer lemon curd filling and marshmallow wine frosting was born. Sounds fitting for a beer vs. wine party, no?

I started with the white wine cupcake recipe base (using half all purpose and half white whole wheat flour – they were perfectly tender, no whole wheatiness in sight. Yes, that’s a word!)

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Then scooped a bit of the cupcake insides (which I saved for a little snack later Winking smile ) and filled the cavities with the meyer lemon curd (don’t overfill them with the curd or they’ll be too intense).

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Lastly came the frosting part. I used 1/2 of this recipe for the marshmallow frosting – it wouldn’t harden so I added extra cream of tartar until it came to the right consistency) and it really tasted like marshmallows. I was so excited I forgot to add a bit of wine to it. Oh well, still amazingly delicious! [Adam said it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever made!!]

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The recipe made 18 cupcakes. 18 addictively delicious cupcakes. Good thing I had some friends to share it with!! Smile

So now on to the party. We had some super talented cooks, that’s for sure. Andrew impressed us all with his salmon tartar cornets with sweet red onion crème fraiche (recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook!!)

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Unfortunately, while I was totally drooling over this, I couldn’t taste the final product given the ahem, red onions. Sad smile I am certain it’s the most amazing appetizer though (I mean, common – it’s Thomas Keller’s recipe!!) so I plan on tackling it one day. How impressed are you with Andrew? He even made the little cones from scratch!

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For his pairing, he chose the pale ale by the Victory brewery since he just passed his PHD exam. I liked all the pairings from this dinner so I’m going to direct you to Kevin’s post for more comprehensive beer reviews since he knows a lot more about beer than I do. All I can say is that it went down easy! Winking smile

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Next up – my banh mi sliders!! I used grass fed beef instead of turkey, but otherwise followed the recipe to the T. It’s really the best!! I love how the meatballs have a bit of heat, which is enhanced by the spicy mayo and sliced jalapenos and then cooled off by the pickled carrots and daikon radish. Man, I loved these little guys!!

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This sweet Riesling was a really good pairing for this spicy dish.

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Happy customers Smile

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More finger food! Mac & cheese mini cakes to be exact! I believe Melissa used the Wine & Food magazine recipe but don’t quote me on this. These little cakes were perfectly portable, cheesy and indulgent.

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… and paired really well with this crisp prosecco. Seriously, best party idea ever!!

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Onto some Mexican cilantro chicken with all the fixins (cheese, salsa, tortillas), paired with the Hennepin Belgian style saison.

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The chicken had so much flavor and I just love the body of saisons – kind of like wheat beer but with so much more character. Yummmmm.

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Our stomachs were getting quite full but there was just one more savory course. Pizza!!

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Prosciutto, mozzarella

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and balsamic caramelized onion and goat cheese

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Paired with a surprisingly light Syrah. Can’t go wrong with pizza + wine!

At this point all of us really needed an eating break so we moved to the living room for some couch (and more drinking) time. Smile

Eventually these molten chocolate cakes (from the Flour bakery cookbook) baked and well, you can’t let perfectly molten chocolate deliciousness wait for you! Now can you? (don’t answer that!)

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Paired with this aged Mikkeller Belgian strong ale (brewed with chocolate!).

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Heaven!

My cupcakes were a bonus dessert and we all enjoyed them at our leisure.

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Someone kept hoping to sneak a bite but we were a bit quicker Winking smile

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What do you prefer – beer or wine? What’s the coolest “theme party” you’ve ever been to? I’m totally stealing this idea and plan on hosting one of my own this summer! Party smile

Bbq time!

Yesterday Adam and I hosted our first “official” bbq in our new place. We’ve had people over before but this time we actually took the cookout a little more seriously (read: I carefully planned the menu for the night and we invited all of our friends over). It was a lot of fun!

I have to say, I love entertaining but I still always feel like I’m walking the line between fearing that we won’t have enough food for everyone and also making sure that I don’t completely go overboard.  A little bit of delegation this time around helped A LOT. My friend Katie was in change of one of the salads and Shannon took care of one of the desserts. Adam as always was responsible for a clean house and was also my sous chef. ;) Everything went pretty smoothly once I finalized the menu. Menu planning is definitely one of my favorite parts of hosting. I love having an excuse to keep thinking about food. :lol:

THE MENU

Appetizers

  • double tomato bruschetta with Iggy’s baguette (recipe here, I omitted the cheese, halved the oil and used dry packed sun-dried tomatoes… which of course I re-hydrated prior to cutting)
  • chipotle lime two-bean hummus (recipe here, I nearly doubled the amount of lime juice and maybe tripled the amount of lime zest + added 1 chipotle – I really wanted the lime to stand out and the hummus to have a bit of a kick to it)
  • mixed nuts (from Trader Joe’s – dry roasted, unsalted)

Burgers

  • 93% lean grass fed beef sliders (1/4t pepper, 1T Worchester sauce, 2T ketchup for each pound of beef)
  • chickpea sliders (recipe here, this is my favorite veggie burger recipe of all time – I typically use less vital wheat gluten)
  • black bean sliders (same recipe as chickpeas, sub different bean)
  • teriyaki chicken (from Whole Foods)

Burger fix-ins + sides

  • tomatoes, avocado, cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickled zucchini, sauerkraut, chipotle aoil
  • salad with watermelon, tomatoes + feta (Katie made it)
  • summer corn salad with tomatoes, black beans and jalapeno (recipe here, I used fresh corn (i.e. uncooked) and grape tomatoes + made substitutions based on reviewer Lanaiah’s suggestions)

Dessert

  • chocolate chip cookies (recipe here, I used choc chips, otherwise followed the recipe to the T)
  • goat cheese cheesecake with raspberry fig puree (Shannon‘s creation, check out her blog for details!)

Drinks

  • sangria (recipe here, I subbed peach shnapps for triple sec and added fresh peaches and plums, no sugar)
  • beer + wine (guests brought most)

How does that sound? I thought it was a pretty good plan. :grin:

THE LIST

I finalized the menu a few days prior to the party and made a detailed grocery list under 3 categories – farmers market, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. The day before the party we went to all three. Shopping for produce at the farmers market was so much fun!! I felt like I was a restaurant chef buying in bulk. Lugging all the stuff back was a bit of a different story… ;) A good grocery list made shopping fairly quick too. We went in and out stores fast, leaving more time for prep the night before. I wanted to get as much done as possible so that I didn’t have to nix things last moment.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

First thing I made was the cookie dough. It needed 24 hours of chilling time which I didn’t even have so I made it as soon as I realized it. Tip on this particular recipe (which I HIGHLY recommend btw) – shape the dough into balls before freezing. It was rock hard the next day and I actually had to let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before finally just using a super sharp knife to carve pieces out that I then shaped. You could save yourself that trouble (I will, because these may just become my “it” choc chip cookies. They are NOT healthy though. That was my one treat for the evening). Next up, I made THREE batches of sangria. Sangria really needs to chill at least overnight, letting all the flavors meld together. Adam thought I was crazy making so much of it but let’s just say we didn’t have any left by the end of the party. Yes, it was a hit. I love having a “party cocktail” available for guests, as well as the usual selection of beer + wine. Next up I thought the corn salad could use some “marinading” as well. I have to say that that was actually a mistake. It tasted amazing when I made it but the next day it was a little too cold – the fridge was not this salad’s friend. You live and learn, right? :) The last thing I did before hitting the hay was cut up all the veggies for dipping with hummus. At about midnight I called it a night. zzzzzz :)

THE DAY OF

No matter how prepared you think you are, time really flies the day of the party. I hit up a pilates class in the morning and then slaved in the kitchen until party time (I love cooking though so it was actually fun for me). I made the bruschetta mixture, the bean dip, then the veggie burgers, shaped the beef burgers, baked the cookies and cut up the fixins for the sliders. Adam cleaned, cut up the chicken and all the bread.

Mmm, cookies.

(I had a little mishap with the oven, btw, so they came out too flat but the flavor was still amazing. I have a few frozen dough balls so I’ll make a few soon and share with you how they really should look).

PARTY TIME!

We had about 20 guests, including a few bloggers – Josh, Melissa, Tiffany and Shannon.

The apps + drinks were served outside, the slider fixins + dessert were inside….

After a little while, Adam fired up the grill!

Yes, I mean FIRED up. :D

I had one chicken slider + some corn salad. Don’t worry, there was plenty of bruschetta and hummus “tasting” as well. ;)

Katie arrived a little later with the watermelon + feta salad. What an amazing combo. I can’t wait to recreate it! (sorry, the picture was atrocious, I’d rather have you use your imagination!)

Don’t forget the dessert! Half of the cookies were gone before we even served the burgers. Everyone LOVED them (including me!).

… and then there was Shannon’s cheesecake. I am a giant fan of goat cheese but was afraid it would be too tart in dessert form. Nope, pure perfection. It was light and airy and absolutely amazing. Like I said, go harass Shannon for the recipe! :cool:

Mmm, I love yummy parties. I’m going to say that everything was super flavorful and delicious. I’m patting myself on the back right now (haha) but of course I couldn’t do it without some of my helpers. What’s your favorite part about party planning? Also, any favorite recipes for a bbq? My goal was to keep it seasonal and as fresh as possible… and of course have some chocolate. This blog is called healthy and SANE for a reason. This girl needs her chocolate. ;)

Time flies when you’re having fun

Wowza, looks like I’ve been MIA for a few days. They’ve been buys ones – and very good. I’ve brought exercise back into my life and although I’m walking like an 80-year old right now, with every muscle in my body sore from yesterday’s bootcamp class, I am loving every minute of it. Hurts so good. ;) So I have to tell you the truth – I am completely overwhelmed by the amount of pictures I took since Friday morning. Basically there has been a lot of eating going on. And everything was so pretty and blog-worthy. So I’m going to just dive right in. This may get a bit long. I’m giving you permission to scroll down to your favorite parts. :mrgreen:

FRIDAY

Breakfast:

Ok, I guess a bloody Mary is not really a balanced breakfast. I was craving nothing else so I grabbed some random stuff on my way out the door to enjoy at work when hunger strikes:

The siggi’s yogurt was not bad. It’s definitely a lot more tart than most greek yogurts, but I’m pretty hardcore in that dept so I don’t mind that. The pomegranate and passion fruit flavor was pretty mild. I still prefer oikos but I’d buy siggi’s if it was on sale (or like in this case, if I had a coupon for a free one :) ).

FRIDAY WORKOUT

I was really feeling Thursday’s pilates class and was hoping spinning would get the lactic acid out of my muscles. It was a great class (one of my favorite instructors is back after a long break) and I was so happy to have exercise back into my life.

BROWNIES!!

Remember this post? The brownie bake-off was this Friday!

As you know, I’ve tested a few recipes for the bake-off. For mother’s day (before I even knew of the contest), I baked rocky road bars, which came out too dry but I was impressed with the topping. Then a few weeks later (based on your suggestions) I baked some Baked brownies and declared them to be the best brownies I’ve ever had, which I find a bit funny since I’ve actually had the real Baked brownies before (yes, straight from the Baked bakery in Brooklyn). They were moist and chocolaty without being too fudgy (the kind that actually shows teeth marks when you bite into them) or cakey. Basically perfect. I didn’t know that was my ideal brownie (before that I’d say “fudgy” was my favorite) but here it was, made by yours truly. I also baked a batch of the King Arthur brownies (again based on your recommendations) for a Memorial Day pool party and everyone loved them, but my heart belongs to Baked brownies. I made a batch for the contest, topped them with marshmallows, roasted pecans and chocolate chips (just like the rocky road bars) and they became THE WINNING RECIPE at my work!! So cool. There was some very tough competition too.

Btw, I baked the plain baked brownies for 23 minutes and then after topping them with the goods, baked them for another 3 minutes. I’m telling you this because you should baked them. Asap! :grin: This day was going well so far… and then Friday night happened. Yay!

FRIDAY NIGHT OUTING

Adam and I had a party to attend later in the evening, but instead of sitting at home on our favorite night of the week, we decided to look through our groupons and such and went out for (a nearly free) dinner instead. A glass of wine + pizza at Cafe 47 was definitely a great way to start the weekend! :)

This was a glass of montepulciano – it was nothing special but still hit the spot. For my pizza I got an individual sized vegetarian pie with roasted red peppers, mushrooms, spinach and artichokes. I really LOVE artichokes on pizza.

I liked the chewy crust – this pizza was not bad but not the best I’ve had in Boston either. Nonetheless, slowly but surely I still ate the whole thing. Pizza is one of my favorite foods for sure! :D

Party time! I had 2 Magners

… and some homemade mint julep ice cream. Classy pic, I know. ;) The ice cream was awesome!!! I am SO making ice cream with booze for my next party. :cool: Brilliant.

SATURDAY

… was a lot classier. I started the day by meeting my sister for the aforementioned bootcamp class (had an orange and a coffee before that – unpictured). This class is great – she doesn’t do anything crazy, which is good because I don’t fear the class but it’s still very effective. Since I was already pretty sore from Thursday’s pilates (seriously?!) I was feeling every move. It was glorious. Inna loved it too!

LUNCH

A feast with local produce. Mixed greens from Silverbrook Farm (I buy my eggs from them too), fresh strawberries from Spring Brook Farm, feta from Narragansett Creamery (best feta ever!!), pecans, dried blueberries and pickled jalapenos, dressed in basil EVOO and strawberry balsamic vinegar.

Sweet, salty, spicy = amazing

+ an egg (for protein – I know random!)

Lunch was on the light side because we had a bbq to attend at 4pm at Adam’s boss’s house. The bbq was moved indoors due to the rain (we actually ended up canceling our own bbq on Sunday for the same reason :evil: ) but everything inside was still so beautiful and summery!!

During the cocktail hour I had a glass of Jordan Cabernet Savignon and munched on quite a few pita crackers with hummus and a bit of cheese.

This is my favorite Cabernet but it’s quite pricey. Basically we only drink it when we are around Adam’s boss. :) (i.e. Christmas and summer parties). I probably had 2.5-3 glasses throughout the evening. It’s so complex yet drinkable. Definitely one of the best.

My dinner plate…

+ some more corn salad which was phenomenal (I need to get the recipe) and a slice of bread with hummus. I left half of the cheese off. I was getting full and leaving room for dessert was a priority. ;)

Pies! Let’s see if I get them straight – blueberry…

Peach:

Raspberry/blackberry:

I had a little slice of the apricot and the raspberry pie with vanilla ice cream of course. Pie has to be accompanied by ice cream at all times. Right? Right. I left with a bit of a stomachache (the second slice of pie was probably a mistake but I have a problem with delicious desserts, what can I say). I’d say it was worth it.

How was your weekend? I’ll recap Sunday’s eats tomorrow. It was another good day! :grin:

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