Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oktoberfest Celebration

We celebrated 11 years of monthly dinners with an Oktoberfest theme full of beers and brats.  Even though I am not a beer drinker, I have always thought an Oktoberfest theme would be fun, and when I saw the fun decorations from Oriental Trading, I was inspired!  I didn't completely swap out the wine for beer at this party, but I did incorporate beer into the recipes and decor.

Invite:  I created the invite on Photoshop. I used the classic design of blue and white diamond checks of the Bavarian flag and partnered it with a bright yellow.

Entry Decor:  Oriental Trading has a blue and white diamond checks bunting, that I decorated my door and tables with.  While it would have made great bunting decor, I cut the single piece of fabric into three pieces to create two table runners and a door runner for my front door.  I added this Oktoberfest hanging fan also from Oriental Trading.

My table - a yellow tablecloth and the same bunting as the front door. 

For a centerpiece, I used a giant glass beer stein with gold sunflowers.  I filled the glass with rod pretzels instead of water, just for fun.  Alongside the stein, I had an Oktoberfest lager box with empty beer bottles filled with wheat.

On the other side of the vase, I created a Prost label that matched my name cards/invitation to adhere to a pint glass.  I made these beer mug pretzels to place inside!  They were not difficult to make except for the yellowish layer/attaching the pretzel handle.  You have to wait until the yellowish layer is warm, not hot, or it melts the dark chocolate layer underneath.  Lesson learned.  The white foam top was easy.

I decorated my napkins to match the theme.  I wrapped bright blue cardstock and yellow ribbon around the folded napkin and then just set a pretzel on top. Simple. Cute.

I absolutely love my place cards.  I purchased votive holders from Michaels and made them into mini beer steins.  I created labels for the front and glued a handle made of cardstock to the votive.  I filled them with beer for added fun.

Above and behind my table, I placed more of the Oktoberfest hanging fans. I love that the package came with both of these two designs.  Above my separate drink table, I also hung a beer garland and hanging fan which was perfect.  The hanging fans and garland were both from Oriental Trading.  

The girls and I are wine drinkers mostly,  so I couldn't have a monthly dinner without wine.  I created these wine labels to go with the theme. I looked up the German words for red and white wine to include on the labels.

For wine charms, I stayed simple.  I dipped pretzels in yellow, light blue, white, and dark blue.  Then I tied them to each wine glass.

Menu: I started the evening with pretzel bites (I used premade frozen ones) and a Beer Cheese Dip.
The dip was delicious, but since I used an IPA, it had a bit stronger beer flavor.  If you want a lighter beer flavor, choose a lighter beer.

                      Beer Cheese Dip

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese softened
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 recipe Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix or one packet store-bought
6 ounces beer
4 chives or 1 scallion thinly sliced
garlic powder to taste
pretzels chips, or crackers for serving
Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, ranch mix, beer, and chives in a large bowl and mix well. Add garlic powder to taste, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more if desired.
Cover and chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavor. Serve chilled with pretzels, chips, or crackers.

For the main dish, I served beer bratwurst I made in the slow cooker.  The recipe is simple and tasty.  I placed all the fixings on the side so guests could pick and choose which they wanted on their brats - onion, red pepper, sauerkraut, yellow pepper, green pepper, and a German mustard.  The Oktoberfest serving trays for the brats and paper snack cups for the fixings (and the beer dip) are from Oriental Trading.

Slow Cooker Beer Brats
2 (14-oz.) pkgs. smoked bratwursts
cooking oil
1 large white onion, sliced
2 bell peppers, sliced
1-2 minced garlic cloves
½ tsp. pepper
1 (12-oz.) can beer

In a large skillet over medium high heat add enough cooking oil to cover the bottom. Add the brats and brown them on all sides; I do this in 2 batches. While the brats are browning add the onion, bell peppers, garlic, and black pepper to the slow cooker.  Add the browned brats on top of the onion and peppers. Pour over the beer.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.

I made traditional red cabbage to serve alongside the beer brats. I had never made this before.  The girls and I really enjoyed it though.  It was easy and tasty.

           Braised Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

One half a large red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced red cabbage and toss to coat with the butter. Sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over the cabbage and toss to coat evenly. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the cabbage is completely tender, stirring often, about 30 minutes total.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

A streudel was the first dessert I thought of when I thought of a German menu. In searching on Pinterest, I found a super simple recipe that I decided to try out to save myself time. I am so glad I did because it was delicious! I used the same Oktoberfest snack cups to serve the streusel and added vanilla ice cream to those that wanted it.

           Apple Sugar Cookie Streusel Bars 

1 pouch (17.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 can (21 oz) more fruit apple pie filling (about 2 1/3 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.  In large bowl, place cookie mix. Cut in butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture is crumbly (do not overmix).  Reserve 1 1/2 cups cookie mixture for topping; set aside. Press remaining mixture in bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.  In small bowl, mix pie filling and cinnamon until well blended. Spread on top of partially baked crust. Sprinkle with reserved 1 1/2 cups cookie mixture.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 4 hours. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Favor:  For a fun take-home, I packed some goodies into yellow favor boxes from Oriental Trading. I created a tag for the front with "Thank you for 11 years" written in German.  Inside I placed pretzels inside another Oktoberfest snack cup, a bottle of Oktoberfest fall lager, and these fun "beer me" can openers from Oriental Trading.

Once again, this was a great theme and an amazing evening with friends.  I recommend throwing an Oktoberfest party for your friends next year!

I partnered with Oriental Trading Company for this post. I received product(s) in exchange for my honest and unbiased thoughts. All thoughts and opinions stated are my own and are in no way influenced by my partnership with the above mentioned brand.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

A League of Their Own Party

My last monthly dinner was a League of Their Own theme, and it was a ton of fun! It is such a fun movie and a super easy theme to pull off.  Play the movie in the background during a girls night dinner or just use some of these ideas for a future baseball theme party.  I had fun creating the details for this party especially the place cards, wine decor, and favors.

Invite:  Just like the movie, I centered my party around the Rockford Peaches team. I created the invite on PhotoShop in pink and red like the uniforms of the players adding their logo and some other baseball graphics.

Decor:  Baseball decor is always easy to throw together, but I wanted to add some specific League of Their Own items as well.  I used a pink tablecloth and set out red card stock to create diamonds as a table runner. 

My centerpiece was a vase filled with baseballs and peanuts.  I added a Rockford Peaches pennant that I made out of card stock and a skewer.  Alongside the vase, I created a sign to highlight one of the most well-known quotes from the film, Jimmy Dougan's "There's No Crying in Baseball!"

I purchased a plain red baseball cap for $5 on Amazon, and printed the Rockford Peach "R" logo to place on it. I didn't want to ruin the hat, so I didn't glue it, but just dented the hat a little and set it on there.  Worked perfectly.

I used my Cricut cutting machine to cut out baseball stitching to fit my plates.  To help them stay affixed to the plate until serving time, I used small pieces of scotch tape.

For place cards, I made a baseball card for each guest. I found images of the real Rockford Peaches online, and then used Photoshop to swap out the Peach's face with the face of my guest.  These were hilarious, and some really looked like they matched up perfectly! I created the design surrounding the photo to look like the originals with the GPBL logo, each guest's name, and a baseball position.

My husband and I recently finished making a baseball shelf for my son's bedroom (a shelf with baseballs below it to hang hats on), and since we hadn't put it up in his room yet, I decided to use it in my decor.  I turned it over and set some more Rockford Peach pennants I made on it.  I also printed a copy of the original Rockford Peaches to place in the middle.

One of my favorite touches for the party I came up with was the wine charms and Line Up card.  I cut Rockford Peach uniforms out of card stock to create wine charms. I used PhotoShop to design a baseball line up to assign my guest's a uniform number.  This number became their wine glass for the evening.

I always have fun designing wine labels to go with my themes, and this party was no exception.  I matched the baseball card design I created for the place cards, and created wine labels with baseball cards.  I swapped out Geena Davis' baseball bat for a white wine bottle in one, and Madonna's wave became a raising of a red wine bottle in the other! Makes you chuckle, right?

Menu:  It would be easy to serve hot dogs for any baseball theme, but since this wasn't a kid party, so I didn't want them to be my main dish.  We started with an appetizer of mini pigs in a blanket that I called "Dougan Dogs" after the Rockford Peaches' coach Jimmy Dougan.  I created menu cards in the same design as the invitation.

For the main dish, I served "Betty Spaghetti" with a Vodka ("Hooch") Sauce after Marla Hooch and Betty "Spaghetti" Horn from the film.

Along with the spaghetti, I served "Mae"-ple Glazed Carrots after Madonna's character "All the Way Mae."

Store-bought breadsticks became baseball bats to go with the spaghetti.

To represent the Rockford Peaches as a team, I served a Peach Cream Cheese cake.  You could easily do a cobbler or peach jello, but this dessert wasn't too hard to make.

Favor:  As a take-home gift, I gave each guest Peach Ring candies.  I made clear baseball pouches to put them in.  To make the pouches, I cut circles out of a clear plastic table cloth (you could probably use thick sheet protectors although I haven't tried it with those). Then I hand sewed the red baseball laces on using embroidery thread.  This did take some time to sew all them.  Once I was done with the red, the black around the edge was stitched with a sewing machine leaving a small hole big enough to stick the peach rings through. My mom helped me get the black sewn and then hand-stitched closed once the peach rings were inside. (Thanks Mom!)

This photo shows how I displayed them.  It was a bit hard to see the stitching with the reddish/peach candy, but peach went with my theme, so I did it anyway.  I think these would be really cute with white mints in there.  Then the lacing would really pop.

Only half of our normally monthly dinner "team" could make it, but we had a fun evening. Oh...and check out my Rockford Peaches shirt!  I ordered it off Amazon because it went with the theme, but I also just think it's a cool shirt I'll wear often.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Almost 40 & Fabulous -Sex and the City Style!

I am late in writing this post, but I hit the big 4-0 at the end of this month--the first of 5 close girlfriends from high school who will become 40 this year.  I decided to theme our August monthly dinner "Almost Forty & Fabulous" to have fun with this milestone.  When I think fabulous 40s, I think Carrie Bradshaw and her group of friends from Sex and the City, so this became the inspiration for the decor and food.

Invite:  I designed the invitation on Photoshop.  The fonts I used were Trojan Pro and Olivier.  For added fun at the dinner, I asked the ladies to bring a fashionable accessory that they don't use/want anymore. My friends brought jewelry, purses, or hats that we exchanged at the end of the night.

Decor:  Black, pink, and glittery gold was the palette of colors I went with -- sophisticated, yet flashy -- just like the Sex and the City ladies.  I adorned the center of my table with a table runner I made out of card stock.  I used my Cricut cutting machine to create a Manhattan skyline and glued it to pink paper with an added glitter border.

For the centerpiece, I placed a laptop computer with a simple quote about friendship from Sex and the City to represent Carrie Bradshaw and her job as a column writer.  I also set out a Cosmopolitan magazine, a pearl necklace, and mini purses as these are items the Sex and the City ladies love.

I cut out glittery high heels to place on pink napkins.  Shoes are one of the girls (especially Carrie's) addictions on the show, so I wanted to make them as snazzy as possible.

The Sex and the City girls are all about martinis, so I had to add those to my decor.  I found mini plastic martini glasses at Party City, and sawed a slit in the top to be able to hold a business card size piece of card stock.  I trimmed the bottom of the glass with part of pink boa and created a card to match my invitations with each guest's name on it.  For those of the guests that will be turning 40 this year, I also added a silver glitter tiara to the top of their card.

On the beverage table, I created a simple backdrop with foam board and bright pink poster paper to look again like the New York skyline.

Cosmopolitan martinis are essential to serve at a Sex and the City party, so of course I served these at our dinner.  For martini glass charms I borrowed Barbie doll high heels from my daughter and tied one around the stem of each glass with ribbon.  Simple and easy, but perfect for the theme.

I always serve wine at my monthly dinners, so I made Sex and the City themed wine bottle labels to serve for those that preferred wine instead of a martini.  I found quotes and a photo from episodes where wine is mentioned in the series and patterned a label around those.

Menu: I designed my menu around each of the four main characters on the show.  The characters typically meet for brunch or lunch, and Carrie often orders salads.  With this in mind, we started the evening with a simple salad - romaine lettuce, slivered almonds, mandarin oranges, and a dressing from Trader Joe's called Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette.  I bought a high heel shoe cookie cutter and used it to cut wontons in the shape of high heels. I baked them and then added them to the top of the salad for fun.

Next, I served sushi that I ordered from a local restaurant.  You may or may not remember the Sex and the City episode where Samantha decides to she going to make her own sushi and then surprise her boyfriend by laying naked on the table and placing the sushi on her body. To represent this episode, I cut out a female body from construction paper to place on my platter and lined the "body" with sushi to represent this episode.  When I brought the platter out, it was an instant conversation piece and those girls that were familiar with Sex and the City definitely got it.

Our main dish was in honor of Miranda who always orders Chinese take-out on the show.  The restaurant even knows her order when she calls.  I made the dish on the left which was called Garlic Beef and Veggie Ramen.  The dish on the right was a frozen meal from Trader Joe's.  Both were amazing!  The Trader Joe's dish is called Shiitake Mushroom Chicken.  I also served fried rice from Trader Joe's.  I served the two dishes in Chinese to-go boxes I purchased at Michaels to match Miranda's take-out concept.

For dessert, I served chocolate and vanilla pudding.  In the Sex and the City movie when the girls go to Mexico on Carrie's "honeymoon, Charlotte is terrified of eating the food/drinking the water, so she brings pudding cups to eat at every meal!  She wants to avoid diarrhea, or as she calls it, "poopkipsying" in her pants.  I served our dessert in a martini glass, and tried to make it sophisticated by placing the pudding in a diagonal and adding a raspberry on top.  Simple, but yummy.

Favor:  As a party favor for guests, I made origami pink and black Chanel purses.  I used card stock which is not super easy to fold nicely, but I was trying to avoid spending more money to purchase origami paper.  Ribbon was used for the handle and I placed velcro on the inside to hold the purse closed.

Inside the purse was a York Peppermint Patty.  I thought of these to pull in the New York theme, but I think the purse would also have been cute with the chocolate gold coins.

It was a fun night as we celebrated becoming Forty and Fabulous Sex and the City style!