Thursday, November 29, 2012

Silverware Place Card Tags

A week ago today, Jesse and I hosted eighteen guests for our first Thanksgiving at the new house.  We had guests from age two to age ninety one, two turkeys, all sorts of tasty sides, and a table (okay... a conglomeration of folding and wooden tables) set for twenty.  As you can see, I nixed the wrapping-paper-as-table-runner idea at the last minute when I realized it made the differences in table widths more pronounced...

With that many guests, I wanted to have assigned seating to cut down on chaos as we sat down.  I sat the vegetarian crowd close together for sharing of veggie sides.  My dad and Jesse sat next to each other, since they were the ones who showed the most interest in fried turkey.  I should have thought to give the leftys seating at the end of the table, but, hey, there's always next year.

Before the crowds arrived, I tied up forks, spoons, and knives into bundles with blue raffia and attached a name tag (gift tags from the craft store).  My mother-in-law lent us the silverware - twenty sets of silverware from her "party stash".

Overlook the wrinkled tablecloths, please...

...and behold an easy, safe idea for place cards (for a dangerous idea on making place cards, see last year's Thanksgiving place card holders).

Nix the orange and the turkey and these are ready to go for your Christmas table!  Stay homey!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Creamy Hoagie Dip

Hoagie dip isn't a new concept.  You basically take your fav Italian sub (aka hoagie) fixings, chop em all up, and use mayo as a loose binder to create a meaty bruchetta topping.  I was craving something creamy and particularly fattening because I didn't get fat enough over Thanksgiving so I decided to change up the traditional recipe a little.  Whew.  I'm tired. 

The outcome was very, very good, but I ate far, far too much, much.  I could cry just thinking about it.  DAMN IT.  I'll be working on my fitness extra hard this week, man.

1 Block of Cream Cheese, room temp 
1/3 Cup of Mayo 
1/3 Cup of Sour Cream 
1 Tsp of Dried Italian Seasoning 
1 Tbs of Dried Red Pepper Flakes  
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder 
1/2 Tsp of White Pepper 
1/2 Cup of Pappadew Peppers, Chopped* 
1/2 Lb Salami, thick cut, chopped 
1/4 Lb Mortadella, chopped 
1/4 Lb Capicola, chopped 
1/4 Lb Provolone, chopped 
1 Cup Shredded Iceberg Lettuce 
1/2 White Onion, chopped 
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomatoes 
2 Tbs of Quick & Easy Italian Dressing*

Blend the cream cheese, mayo and sour cream together.  I blended it together in my stand mixer.  Add the seasonings and mix.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the lettuce, onion, tomato and Italian dressing and mix again.  Taste and adjust, if needed.  Pour dip into a shallow dish and let it mellow in the fridge for 2-3 hours so all of the flavors meld.  You can make this a day ahead of time.  Before serving, let the dip sit out on the counter for 30 minutes.  Top with lettuce, onion, and tomatoes.  Drizzle some of your favorite Italian dressing on top and serve with a good, crusty baguette.  You could also serve it in a bread bowl if you wanna be all crazy like that. 

*If you can't find pappadew peppers, you can substitute roasted red peppers, pimentos, or pepperoncini. 
*Quick & Easy Italian Dressing: 2 Tbs of Olive Oil, 1 Tbs of Red Wine Vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Don't skip the dressing!  The vinegar adds the right amount of kick and acid to cut through the creamy dip.  

Try it peeps.  It's DAHLICIOUS, DAHLING.  Stay hungry! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Handmade Ornament Ideas: Best Of HH 2011

Thanksgiving is over (phew!) which means that we can finally delve into full-on crazy Christmas prep.  Jesse and I are going to pick and cut down our tree this weekend, I've been able to catch my favorite movie (Home Alone) on TV twice already, and I have the Nutcracker Suite piping through our house whenever we aren't on conference calls.  I know, I know... it's still November.  But where I'm from, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas (sorry) and I am looking forward to making our home all cozy and Christmas-y in the upcoming days and weeks.

Last December, I made a handmade ornament a day until Christmas.  There were some highs (below) and lows (I'm looking at you, Moose Ornament) and before we start with 2012 Christmas projects, I wanted to recap my favorites from last year (here are ALL of 2011's ornaments):

CD Ornament
The CD Ornament, above, is a) sparkly and b) repurposed, two selling points in my book.  This one has been showing up on Hardly Housewives Pinterest page all year and I am excited to pull it out again this year for our tree.  Just mind the jagged edges when making your own...

Snowy Truck Ornament
I am still in love with this Snowy Truck Ornament... so country and vintage feeling.

Polar Bear Ornament
This fuzzy, felt Polar Bear Ornament is one of my all time favorites (and not just because Diet Coke tweeted it out to all of their followers).  I still think it's super cute and it was very easy to make (no sewing!).

Wedding Invitation Ornament
Finally, I loved how this Wedding Invite Ornament I made for Jaisa and Charlie turned out.  Last December, I was all, "Oh, I'll send this to Jaisa right away."  In reality, I brought it up to Maine in June when I visited Jaisa & her family.  I was so proud I didn't forget it.  A festive reminder of a very happy day!

I will be back with more handmade ornaments in December, though maybe not one each day this year (I have a lot of other handmade Christmas projects on tap).  Stick with us, put on your favorite Christmas tunes, and stay homey!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Banh Mi Sandwiches on the Grill

Banh mi?  Banh YOU.  


The last time my husband and I made these, we were at the Pats vs. Bears game in Chicago.  It was 4 degrees and there was a full blown blizzard that day.  The pork was frozen.  Solid.  That was fun...NOT.  Anyway, this past Sunday was a much warmer 35 degrees and sunny.  A perfect day to start drinking at 8 am.  I mean, a perfect day to grill outside. 

Banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich that's savory, spicy, creamy and crunchy all in one. 

 The key to a really good banh mi sandwich is the marinade for the pork.  We love adding fresh chopped lemongrass.  I can't really describe lemongrass.  It smells AMAZING.  It's as though you mixed a chive with a fresh bright lemon.  Sort of.  You'll just have to try it to see why I love it so much.  It's used a lot in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.  

The bright, crunchy, pickled veggies add the perfect texture and flavor.  I usually like to do a mixture of carrots, radishes, cilantro, and jalapenos.

And let's not forget the awesome spicy mayo and crunchy, airy bun.

 Yum.  If you haven't tried a Banh Mi yet, I recommend you do so.  Stat.  Here's the full recipe.

1 1/4 Lbs Pork Tenderloin 
1/4 Lemongrass, chopped 
1/2 Cup of Teriyaki Marinade 
1 Tsp Sesame Oil  

1/2 Cup of Shredded Carrots, 
15 Radishes, Sliced Thin 
3 Jalapenos, Sliced in Matchsticks 
1/2 Cup of Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup of Water
3 Tbs of Sugar 

Spicy Mayonnaise: 
1/3 Cup of Mayo
1 Tbs Soy Sauce 
2 Tbs of Sriracha* 
1/2 Lime, Juiced 

4 Small Hoagie Roll 
1 Large Bunch of Cilantro 

Slice the pork into half inch slices.  Remove the top third of the lemongrass stalks and the outer layer before chopping.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the pork and marinate overnight.  Throw all of the veggies into a bowl and add the water, sugar and vinegar.  Let the veggies stand for 1-2 hours before serving.  Grill the pork until medium well.  Generously spread spicy mayo on each hoagie roll.  Add grilled pork, veggies, and a few fresh sprigs of cilantro.  

Vegetarian?  Swap out the pork for tofu.  Don't like pork?  Chicken or beef works awesome here too.  We've tried (and love) it all. Pork just happens to be our favorite. 

*Sriracha is a hot sauce made from red chili peppers, used often in Asian cooking.  It's much thicker than traditional hot sauce and has a unique flavor that goes great with other Asian ingredients.  You can find it in the Asian aisle at your grocery store.  

Stay hungry! 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!  We were both able to share delicious food with loved ones today and hope you were, too.  We are both overwhelmed with thankfulness for our wonderful husbands, families, friends, and all of you.  Stay hungry!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cranberry Salsa

The last dish in Graciasgiving series?  Cranberry SALSA baby.  If this doesn't make you want to shake two turkey legs around like maracas I don't know what else will.

Yummy.  Tart, not too sweet, with a little kick.  Mommy likey.  Mommy want chippy.

The best part of this recipe is it's a one food processor wonder.  Takes about 3 minutes total.

1 Bag of Fresh Cranberries 
1 Bunch of Cilantro, rough chopped
1 Large White Onion, rough chopped
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped 
2 Limes, juiced
1/4 Cup Sugar 
Large Pinch of Salt 

Throw everything into the processor and let it ride until everything is evenly chopped up.  It helps to give everything a rough chop.   Now, if it's too tart, you can easily add more sugar to adjust for your tastes.

Wanna know my favorite way to serve this?   I know you do.  I let a block of cream cheese rest on the counter for 1-2 hours or so or until it gets to room temp and then dump all sorts of the cranberry salsa on top.

 Serve with your favorite crackers and watch it dance right out of your kitchen.

This now concludes Graciasgiving.  It's been real.  Have a safe and happy holiday tomorrow and as always, stay hungry!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poblano, Corn, and Potato Gratin

Yowza.  These were soooooo good.   

 I've always wanted to make potatoes au gratin, but I didn't have a mandolin.  GUESS WHO HAS ONE NOW BIOTCHES.

I think this is the only time I haven't changed a recipe.  Actually, I doubled the cheese.  Oh and added green onions.  Never mind.  Anyway,  I was looking for a Mexican twist on a Thanksgiving classic, and came across this.  It was exactly what I was thinking of.  It's like you read my mind Bon Appetit.

1 Tbs of Olive Oil 
2 large fresh poblano chiles, stemmed, seeded, chopped
2 large green onions, chopped 
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups coarsely grated Oaxaca cheese or whole-milk mozzarella cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

If you don't have a mandolin, I would invest in one.  The one I bought is cheap.  OXO V-Blade Mandoline - $39.95 from Williams-Sonoma.  Not to shabby.  I used to be scared of mandolins.  I thought I would chop my hand off or something.  When I compared the odds of chopping my hand off with a mandolin to trying to slice 1/8" potato slices with a knife ...I invested in a mandolin.  Money well spent.  

I didn't photograph this step, but saute the chopped peppers and corn in the olive oil for 3-5 minutes over medium heat or until the peppers begin to soften.  Add the chopped green onions and saute for another 2 minutes or so.  Season with a little salt n' peppa.

In a cast iron skillet, or a dish of your choice, add the bottom layer of potatoes, overlapping a bit. If you are using a regular casserole dish and concerned about sticking, either spray the pan with cooking spray or rub with butter.

Next, add a layer of the corn/poblano/green onion mix.

The recipe calls for Oxaca, which is basically like a Mexican mozzarella but with a little more tang.  I couldn't find it in the 3 seconds I dedicated to looking for it, so I grabbed the chihuahua cheese that was in front me.  It's a little more creamy and reminds me of jack cheese.  It's delicious.  I don't really know how you could go wrong with any cheese here.   If you wanted to get all fancy you could use little dollops of goat cheese.

Keep repeating until you run out of layers or until you reach the top.  Whichever happens first.

Next, whisk the cream, flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl and dump over the top.  Cover dish or pan tightly with foil and cook for 30 minutes or so at 400 degrees.  Remove from oven, top with cheese, and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.


Drool to the face.  I know it's going to be very difficult, but you MUST let these rest for 10-15 minutes or else they'll be a soupy mess. 

Make these at Graciasgiving or just because you're alive and love good food.  Charlie L-O-V-E-D these.   Pasar Hambre!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wrapping Paper Table Runners

Jesse and I are getting ready to host TWENTY people at our house for Thanksgiving.  In the week that lies between now and then, there is a lot I need to accomplish.  I know that good food and good company are the heart of any memorable Thanksgiving dinner, but of course the crafty little decorator in me also wants to have an impressive table setup.

With this many people joining us, we'll be pushing two dinner tables together for one loooong table and I am thinking of using wrapping paper as a table runner to provide a more cohesive look.  The benefits?  No sew.  Easy cleanup.  Inexpensive.  Yes, please.

Below are a few shots I will be using for inspiration as I shop around for paper to proudly display on our table...

Martha Stewart does it beautifully, natch:

A Christmas tablescape using wrapping paper from The Sweetest Occasion:

Project Wedding's yellow & black runner:

What do you think?  Yea or nay?  Is Thanksgiving a time to mix it up or a meal best served on your favorite family table linens?  Let me know what you think and stay homey!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

MmmmMMMmmmm chipotle sweet potaters. Spicy and sweet and a total twist on the traditional sugary sweet marshmallow sweet potatoes.  Perfect for Graciasgiving. 

 Whenever I type potato I have to keep myself from typing "potatoe."  Several years ago my Mom emailed my sister and I, asking us what we wanted on our 4th of July menu.  I wrote back, "potatoe salad."  My sister then responded, that she didn't want any "toes" in her potato salad.  I laughed and then cringed.  How many times had I spelled potato public?  Anyway, I've never made that mistake again.


Look at the little flecks of chipotles.  Love it.

2 Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled, chopped
1-2 Canned Chipotles, chopped 
1 Tbs of Unsalted Butter 
1 Tbs of Honey 
Sea or Kosher Salt

Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain, and then gently mash.  Add the chopped chipotle peppers.  Try the potatoes after 1 pepper.  You can always add a little more heat by adding some of the sauce the chipotle peppers are canned in.  Add your butter and honey and a healthy pinch of salt.  Taste and then adjust.  

Stay hungry! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pelton & Dorit: Gorgeous Philly Wedding

In August, we went to the most stunning wedding in Philadelphia.  Our friends Dorit and Pelton (my spellcheck is going nuts over here) finally got hitched after meeting at the University of Michigan when we were in college.  I mentioned their awesome hotel room gift bags and then promised to follow up with more pictures of the actual wedding, but the photos I took on my camera didn't do the event justice, so I waited until the wedding photographers had shared their pictures.  Now, I'm sharing some of my favorites with you!  Many thanks to Love Shack Photo for capturing these awesome shots and letting me use them here.

I've been friends with Pelton since we were about thirteen and could tell pretty early on after meeting Dorit after they started dating that they were meant to be.  I'm sure I wasn't the only one who kept asking him when he was going to finally propose.  Their wonderful wedding was well worth the wait, however.  Look at these two lovebirds...

We arrived at the Please Touch Museum which would have seemed like an unlikely spot for a wedding if Dorit hadn't already shown me pictures of the gorgeous interior and the CAROUSEL they were getting married in front of.  I practically skipped inside, excited to show Jesse.

The wedding ceremony was sweet and funny and personalized (everything a wedding should be, if you ask me), officiated by their favorite professor from the University of Michigan and lit from behind by the carousel.  I don't think I have ever seen a wedding ceremony like it before.

After the ceremony we headed into cocktail hour while the happy couple headed deeper into the museum to take pictures.  This venue had to have the most varied, interesting places for a ton of stunning wedding portraits:

As Dorit and Pelton smiled for the cameras, everybody else got their drink on.  At about 10 weeks pregnant, I headed to the cheese table while my friends headed to the bar.  And this was not a cheese table that disappointed...

Dorit and Pelton had also set up a "Mad Libs" table which included pre-printed cards with plenty of room for adding nouns, adjectives, and verbs.  I thought it was a really sweet touch and kept people entertained while they sipped their cocktails and ate many of the passed appetizers, rolls from the sushi bar (!!), and of course, forty varieties of cheese.

After cocktails, we headed into the museum's main hall for dinner and dancing.  Though there were 200+ guests there, it managed to feel very cozy and intimate.  I was obsessed with the stars on the ceiling.

The tables were gorgeous and had flower arrangements that were coordinated from table to table but varied and not too matchy-matchy.

The band played late into the night and hit on classic wedding favorites for everyone to enjoy, but did their own renditions of "Party in the USA" and "Call Me Maybe".  I went about as nuts as a sober wedding guest could go at midnight.  Also imagine me leaping out of my chair with glee at the start of the Horah and grabbing the hands of strangers to dance in a circle.

All in all, it was an amazing wedding.  Thanks again to Love Shack Photos for the images (way, way better than mine) and so many gorgeous shots to choose from.  Congrats, Pelton and Dorit - your wedding was just amazing and I know you have already started on your wonderful life together.  Go Blue!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chorizo & Andouille Cornbread Stuffing

So I woke up from a nap yesterday and a Mexican inspired Thanksgiving menu popped into my head.  I'm going to call it Graciasgiving.  This first one sort of came out of no where.  I went to Williams-Sonoma to buy a mandolin for another Graciasgiving dish, and I spotted the corn bread stuffing mix.  The wheels started a turnin' and I ended up in the Whole Foods butcher section at 8am sharp Sunday morning ordering chorizo and adouille.  Damn my peoples.  This was so good.  Oh and by the way, if you think this is going to be a skinny recipe - RUN.  RUN FAR FAR AWAY. 

There.  I said it. 

Here is said box of corn bread stuffing mix so you know what to look for. I have seen corn bread stuffing mix at regular grocery stores.  You could always make corn bread, let it get stale, and then toast it...but who ever has leftover cornbread? 

Here is the full list of ingredients: 

1.5 lbs of Williams-Sonoma Corn Bread Stuffing Mix 
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter
 3 Stalks of Celery, diced
1 Small Yellow Onion, diced 
1/2 Lb of Raw Chorizo, casings removed
1 Lb of Andouille Sausage, casing removed 
4-4.5 Cups of Chicken Stock 
Kosher or Sea Salt

Throw both sausages into a skilled and brown.  Why both meats?  Chorizo is spicy and andouille is smokey. You could easily go with one the other.  If you say WHAT, no way, you can always use spicy Italian sausage.  I won't hate.

While the sausages are browning up all nice nice, melt the stick (ahem, cue sneeze noise) of unsalted butter over medium heat.  Add the celery and onion and cook for 5-8 minutes or until veggies are nice and soft but not browned.

Make sure to drain your sausage over paper towels and then add everything in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly add chicken stock until the breading becomes very moist, but there is no liquid standing at the bottom of the bowl.  Note:  Some people like their stuffing on the drier side.  To me, dry stuffing is basically like a pile of croutons.  I like it nice and moist.  I probably added 5 cups of stock, but you might be happy with 4. 

Cover the stuffing with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and let it finish in the oven for 10 or so more minutes so the top can get nice and golden brown.   I fluffed mine up with a fork so it looks prettier.

Is this your traditional Thanksgiving stuffing?  No.  It's stuffing for Graciasgiving.  If you want a more traditional, and badly photographed recipe, check this out.  Since my Uncle Mike wants to disown me for using Jimmy Dean in that recipe, I would be remiss to not tell you to use spicy Italian sausage instead.  Fine.  I agree with him. 

Graciasgiving wouldn't be complete with just stuffing.  That's why Hardly Housewives has three more awesome dishes to share with you.  Here is a sneak peek of Wednesday's post.  

Think you know what this is?  I bet I'll surprise you.  Even if it's just a little. Stay tuned...and stay hungry!