Easy Apps for Entertaining

Good Morning!  Are you all surviving this heat?!  I won’t complain…because this is better than sub-zero temps ANY day….but holy cow, it’s too hot to even get in the POOL!  Good thing I am keeping myself busy inside…sewing for Baby and prepping food for “Mom & Dad”.  🙂

I wish I could remember when it was that I realized my love for entertaining.  Was it when I realized how delicious (and simple) food can be?!  Was it when I bought my first house in 2003 and wanted to share it with friends?  Or was it all part of my love for treating others and spoiling them rotten?  I don’t know…but it has been fun creating new indulgences to feed my friends.  It has also been  fun to learn how to properly prep and pre-plan…and de-stress the process.  I am certainly still not perfect and I am often still prepping this or that while chatting with our guests…but hopefully, I do it with a little more ease!

Over the course of the summer, we have had our friends Bonnie & Matt over a couple of times.  Ryan and Matt always enjoy chit chat over a beer…an occasional game on tv…or even jumping in the pool with Dino (though that hasn’t happened for Matt yet this year!) while Bonnie and I solve the problems of the world….or at least re-hash our professional aspirations, trials at work, and compare notes on our pregnancies!  We laugh and laugh and laugh.  I suppose that is the best part.

On one of their visits, I decided to have a few finger foods ready to hold us over while the main meal was prepped and cooked.  The first, Tuscan Open Face Sandwiches, which you have seen before.  Only change this time around…I added a Santa Sweet Grape Tomato to the top!  First of all, I love those little tomatoes…and secondly, I liked the added color in the presentation!  🙂

The other appetizer I recently whipped up was one I found in a Taste of Home magazine.  Caramel Apple and Brie Skewers!  Yum!

CARAMEL APPLE & BRIE SKEWERS

Servings Vary (6 Full-Size Skewers or Multiple Toothpick-Size “Skewers”)

  • 2 Medium Green Apples, cubed
  • 1 pkg (6 oz) Brie Cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Caramel Topping
  • 1/2 Cup Macadamia Nuts (I used Candied Pecans)
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Cranberries

On each of the six wooden appetizer skewers (or mini toothpick skewers for smaller bites), alternately thread apple and cheese cubes; place on a serving tray.  Drizzle with caramel topping; sprinkle with nuts and garnish with cranberries!

Share with friends and enjoy bite after flavorful bite!  Simple & Delicious!

Whatever you are doing this summer, take time to treat yourself…and your friends to simple, delicious, elegant indulgences!

INDULGE.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

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One.Twenty.Six.

One of my favorite restaurants in Iowa City is One Twenty Six.   One of my favorite perks of being 37 weeks pregnant is that “Dad-to-be” is feeling more generous than ever…and taking Mama out to her favorite joints!  Why is it that enjoying a dinner out feels like such a treat?!

As our time “alone” winds down, we decided to head out to 126 in Iowa City to celebrate another healthy visit to the doctor’s office and another cm of dilation!  My body is doing exactly what it is supposed to…and my stomach is reminding me how much fuel this requires!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with 126, I encourage you to check it out.   The ambience inside is romantic, eclectic, and charming.  I sometimes wonder what I love most about 126…the food…or ambience!  The small patio outside is quaint and relaxing.  On a warm, quiet evening like last Thursday, there couldn’t have been a better spot for the two of us to plop down, indulge in a glass of wine, delicious dinner, conversation, and people-watching in the pedestrian mall. 

To start our meal, we ordered up the crab cakes.  The presentation was artsy (which I know my husband loved) and the flavors delicious.  Did I mention that the crab cakes were perfectly moist but not soggy….and full of crab!

Maryland Crabcakes with Citrus-Ginger Coulis, Basil Aioli, and Chipotle Purée.

For our main course, Ryan opted for the Trout entree.  He seems to have been on a fish-kick lately and said he was also tempted by the risotto…another Ryan favorite! 

Pan-Seared Ruby Trout with Roasted Tomato Risotto, Asparagus, and Artichoke Vinaigrette.

I, on the other hand, briefly reviewed the menu before deciding that I was kidding myself if I thought I was going to order anything other than the scallop pasta.  MY FAVORITE.  Even though my taste-buds are a little off right now, this lemony, creamy, seafood pasta hit the spot!

Sustainably Harvested Shrimp and Bay Scallops with Spinach Linguine, Roast Tomatoes, Spinach, Fennel, Lemon, and Cream.

And maybe one of the biggest treats of the night…a glass of wine!  To my surprise, 126 had my all-time-favortite white on the menu as a special…Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc. 

While I didn’t want to indulge in a full glass, I did order one up and share with Ryan (he couldn’t decide between that and a Pinot Noir anyhow).   He may have gotten the better end of the deal on that bargain…but I was plenty happy with the portion I did enjoy.

Thank you, Ryan for a wonderful night out….at a charming local restaurant.  CHEERS!

 

One.Twenty.Six.

126 E Washington Street in Iowa City.

http://www.onetwentysix.net/

INDULGE.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

 

Celebrating Dad-To-Be…

Wow…time flies when you’re having fun (or working hard and scrambling to get it “all” done)!  LOL.  I can hardly believe that it has been almost a month since we celebrated Father’s Day…Ryan’s first year celebrating as a “Dad-to-be”.  As we relaxed that Sunday afternoon and looked forward to the years to come, there were presents…snuggle time with Ruby (his first little girl!)….

 

and SALMON!  Throughout this pregnancy, seafood has been hard for me…somehow seeming extra fishy.  But on Father’s Day…I was bound and determined to whip up some salmon for Ryan…and not just our Dilled Salmon that we make so often…but something new, fresh, and full of our favorite flavors!  You will have to try this new concoction of ours…we absolutely loved it!

BALSAMIC-RED WINE SALMON w/ROASTED GRAPE TOMATOES & ASPARAGUS

Serves 2

  • 2 Salmon fillets (6-8 oz)
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1/2 Cup of Red Wine
  • 2 tsp Thyme (fresh or dried)
  • 1 Shallot, minced
  • 1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • EVOO
  • 1 pint Grape Tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
  • Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice

Combine the shallot, wine, & balsamic vinegar in  saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.  Allow the wine reduction to cool, then add the butter, along with the thyme and a few pinches of fresh cracked pepper.  Mix ingredients thoroughly and then scoop onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Roll it up and store in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Preheat the grill to 400 degrees.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking pan with nonstick foil.

   

Toss the tomatoes and the asparagus in 2 tsp EVOO (each) and salt and pepper.  Spread tomatoes on one half of the baking sheet and asparagus on the other.  Roast for 15 minutes.

While the tomatoes and asparagus roast, rub th salmon with EVOO and salt & pepper.  Lay the fish, skin-side down, on the grill.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, flip, and cook for 2-3 minutese longer (for medium).

Serve salmon hot, over rice, with a slice/dab of the Balsamic-Red Wine Butter and Roasted Tomatoes on top.  Plate up asparagus on the side….

and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  Here’s hoping you indulge in a new Boudreau Favorite!

In the time since Father’s Day, we had another chance to celebrate Ryan…our Dad-to-be.  Ryan’s co-workers and our good friends, Erin & Ryan Spengler and Pat & Jan Staber threw us a Baby Shower last weekend.  The shower was beautiful…with so many thoughtful details and a backyard full of friends!

There was a diaper cake for “Mom”….and a diaper keg for “Dad”…

              

Gorgeous soft pink and purple flowers for Baby B….Red Wine Spritzers for our guests…

              

And the icing on the cake…(literally!)…some amazing Red Velvet Cupcakes from DELUXE Cupcakes & Pastries in Iowa City. 

 

Beautiful AND Delicious!  Thank you Ryan & Erin and Pat & Jan for helping us celebrate Ryan and our upcoming arrival of Baby B.  We are so thankful to call you “Friends”.  We can’t wait to experience parenthood…and join the club you’ve been a part of for some time now!  Thank you for helping to show us the ropes and encourage us along the way.

INDULGE.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

A Busy Weekend & Boudreau’s Burgers!

Good Morning!

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend!  Our’s was an action packed weekend to say the very least.  On Saturday, our friends Ryan & Erin and Pat & Jan threw us a beautiful baby shower in our own backyard!  This baby shower included all of Ryan’s co-workers and close friends….what a perfect way to celebrate the “dad-to-be”….bocce, lawn golf, beersbie, and some cannon balls in the pool.  Thank you, Spengler’s and Stabers!

By the time we were alone on Saturday night (about 830pm), I was exhausted and my newest pregnancy “symptom” was in full swing…sneezing and running nose!  Rather than making dinner, we decided to “re-live” one of our high school date nights with a 9pm trip to Perkins.  We laughed as we walked in…remembering what it felt like at 16 yrs old…vs what it feels like now!  We ordered up our old-school favorite, mozzarella sticks and continued to laugh….they just weren’t as good as we had remembered!  Oh…how our tastes have changed.  🙂

Sunday brought another action-packed day.  First…we began tackling our “to-do” list…packing Ryan’s hospital bag, putting together baby items, writing thank-you’s, and finalizing the birth plan.  In the midst of it all…a quick scare that sent us to the hospital.  OH yes….our first (and hopefully ONLY), false alarm.  I will spare you all the details…but say that we are happy to be home with a few more days (maybe weeks), to relax (or try to relax) before Baby B actually makes her arrival.  A trial run was great….but I’m not going to lie, a little overwhelming!

Just as the results came back “negative”, the nurse said, “Just hang out here for a little bit and we will be back with your discharge paperwork.”  I, very abruptly, said, “Actually, we really need to get going.  I am hosting a baby shower in less than 2 hours!”  With that, I threw my cloths back on….met her out at the desk…grabbed my paperwork…and we raced home to finish up the preparation for my dear friend, Bonnie’s, baby shower at Cedar Ridge Winery.  The cupcakes were waiting for me on the counter…unfilled and unfrosted.  Though I struggle to “skip corners”, I decided to forgo the lemon filling and get right to the frosting.  While the preparation was a bit rushed in that last hour, it was so nice to get out to the Winery and celebrate the upcoming arrival of another baby girl and forget about my morning.  A big congratulations to Bonnie!  I hope you enjoyed your afternoon at the Winery with girlfriends.

Finally, as Sunday night rolled around….Ryan and I searched the refrigerator for something easy and delicious to whip up for dinner.  With left over meat, buns and toppings in the frig from our Saturday Shower, we opted to make our favorite cheeseburgers…and of course, Balsamic Salad!

Ever get tired of dry, “hockey-puck”-esque burgers off the grill?!  If so…give these burgers a try!  Juicy.  Flavorful.  Delicious.  (If we must say so ourselves.) 

BOUDREAU’S BURGERS

Serves 4

  • 1 lb 90/10 Ground Beef
  • ~ 1/4 cup Milk
  • Seeded Hamburger Buns, 1 bun cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 1 Tbsp “backyard grilling” seasoning (Choose your favorite burger seasoning)
  • 1 Tbsp Hot Sauce (most any will do!)
  • 4 Tbsp EVOO
  • A Dash or Two of Garlic Salt
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • Green Leaf Lettuce, rinsed & torn
  • 1 Tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 Onion, sliced and carmelized
  • Sliced Swiss Cheese
  • Ketchup, Mayo, Mustard

Start by prepping all of your toppings (lettuce, tomato, and onion).  To carmelize your onion, melt butter in small pan and sautee the onion until tender and translucent.  Remove from heat until ready to serve.

Preheat the grill to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine milk and the one cubed hamburger bun.  Using your hands, mix the milk and bun until fully saturated and paste-like.  Add the ground beef and continue to mash together with your hands.  Work in Worcestershire, seasoning, and hot sauce.  Once combined, pat out 4 burgers.   Grill the burgers for ~6 minutes per side or until your desired “done-ness”.  We grill ours until just pink in the middle.

As you flip your burgers over for the final ~6 minutes, prep your buns!  In a small prep bowl, combine 4 Tbsp EVOO and a dash or two of garlic salt.  Brush the inside of each bun (top and bottom).  Place on the top rack of the grill for ~30 seconds (or until grill lines form).  While the buns are grilling, add the swiss cheese  and let melt.

Remove buns and burgers and begin to build your sandwich!  We build ours with a dab of mayo on the bottom bun, followed by the burger, tomato, lettuce, onion, ketchup, and mustard!  Top with your bun and….INDULGE. 

Burgers don’t have to be boring!  Add a little of this and a little of that…and create your own masterpiece…(Or just try ours!).

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.

Freedom, Food & Friends!

If there is one song that will forever remind me of my childhood…my college roomates….all of our freedoms…and the events 9/11…it has got to be Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.”  I just can’t get enough of this song…especially on days like yesterday, July 4th, 2011.  If you need your fix of Lee Greenwood…check out this old-school favorite of mine:  http://youtu.be/xf8hfZuzw_A

 As we all reflected on our freedoms this weekend, I hope you took some time to indulge in some good food, the company of friends, and some good ol’ relaxation!  We did at the Boudreau household!  Friday night we welcomed my dear friend, Jenny and her husband Tyler!  It has been years since her last visit to Iowa and I was simply thrilled to have her under my roof!  In fact, her next visit is already planned…for just a few weeks after Baby B makes her arrival. I feel so lucky to have the friendship I share with Jen.  I love you “Tews.”

After an early 18 holes of golf for the guys and soaking up as much sun and pool time as possible on Saturday afternoon, the 4 of us headed out to Iowa City’s Jazz Festival and The Atlas for dinner.  By 930pm, we had to laugh at ourselves…completely exhausted!  I mean, come on…930!!  How old are we?!   With that, we piled into the car and headed home.  To treat us all, I decided to whip up a quick batch of brownies….to be served warm, of course….with one scoop of chocolate ice cream…and one scoop of vanilla.  It was 40 minutes later (after we all struggled to keep our eyes open!) that Ryan went over to the oven and pulled out the brownies.  Suddenly he shouted, “Robin!  What is wrong with these brownies!?!”  I hustled over to the kitchen, took one look and immediately realized…I FORGOT THE EGGS.  What an idiot.  It was at that moment I decided I was completely LOSING MY MIND.   Ohhh…but then it gets worse. 

The next morning, I made a batch of our favorite egg bake to share with Jenny & Tyler before they returned to Milwaukee.  Ryan (naturally) teased me about forgetting the eggs…in my “EGG-bake.”  I rolled my eyes..like, Yeah-Right.  Well…a short 15 minutes later, I poured my “egg-bake” into it’s pan and got ready to put it in the oven.  Then…just as I reached for the oven door it dawned on me….I FORGOT THE EGGS….AGAIN!!  So…I poured my egg-bake BACK into the bowl and added the eggs.  And it was at THAT moment I decided that I’ve lost my mind and IT MIGHT NOT EVER COME BACK.

Luckily everyone had quite the sense of humor and enjoyed my mishaps.  I, on the other hand, am a little worried that this could get progressively worse over the next 4 weeks.  Please tell me “baby brain” goes away after birth, right?!

Later that afternoon, we welcomed some more friends over to the house to relax by pool, catch up since our last visit, and enjoy dinner together.  While I prepped the rest of the meal, we started with a simple plate of cheese, sausage, and crackers.  Does it get any easier or better than this?!  (Good quality cheese is the key!)  I filled the plate with Extra Sharp Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, and Pepper Jack as well as some Summer Sausage from Pella, IA.  Delicious!

Keeping it as easy as possible for this Sunday afternoon, I whipped up my “go-to” Boudreau’s Balsamic Salad.  No….it never gets old.  🙂

Ryan & Erin Spengler brought over a big, juicy watermelon to be served on the side.  It was SO good!  Ryan’s key to picking out an amazing watermelon, “Find a good size watermelon that feels heavy for that size.”  Makes sense!  This watermelon was sweet and dripping with juiciness. 

And the main course…..a new favorite at our house!!  Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sandwiches!  Truth be told, last week Ryan and I met some of Ryan’s other co-workers out for Happy Hour (yes, I stuck with O’douls) and a quick dinner.  On the menu…a Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Sandwich.  After ordering it up and LOVING it…I decided, we can totally do this at home!  And guess what folks, we did…and we like it even better than the “original”!  So….switch up your grilled chicken sandwiches this year….this one is easy and mouth-watering good!

ROASTED RED PEPPER CHICKEN SANDWICH

Serves 4

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on size).  Cleaned and pounded thin (1/2 inch)
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 tbsp Penzey’s Northwoods Seasoning (or other seasoning of your choice)
  • Red Pepper Aioli (See Recipe Below)
  • 2 Large Red Peppers, Sliced and Roasted
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • 4oz Goat Cheese
  • 1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 Seeded Buns

Begin by marinating your chicken breasts (already cleaned and pounded thin).  Place chicken, 2 tbsp EVOO, and seasoning into a sandwich bag and let sit for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, roast your red peppers!  Slice your red peppers and lay on a baking sheet, drizzle 1 tbsp and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until soft.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Once your chicken is marinated and your peppers are roasted, place your chicken breasts on the grill and grill for ~6 minutes per side or until cooked through.

While the chicken is grilling prepare the Red Pepper Aioli (see below).

About the time your aioli is complete, brush your seeded buns with olive oil and place on the grill for a quick toast!  (This should take just a minute or less!)

Remove chicken and buns from the grill and prepare too build your sandwich!

RED PEPPER AIOLI

Courtesy of Giadi de Laurentiis

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, drained, patted dry
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used light!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop the garlic in a small food processor.  Add the peppers and blend until almost smooth.  Blend in the mayonnaise.  With the machine running, blend in the oil.   Season the aioli, to taste, with salt and pepper.   Transfer the aioli to a small bowl.

To build this sandwich, layer as listed:

Bun, a small spread of aioli, lettuce, chicken, a spread of goat cheese, red pepper, a little more aioli, red onions and topped with the bun!  Mmmmmm!

Last but certainly NOT least, we indulged in a few brownie bites!  Ryan and Erin brought these little treats…completely unaware of my latest craving…BROWNIES!  These little treats from HyVee were festive and goooooood!

After 2 days of enjoying the company of friends, Ryan and I relaxed on porch and admired the sunset in our backyard.  It doesn’t get more relaxing than this….

Now….off to work!  Enjoy your week….and make time for those chicken sandwiches!

Indulge.  In Life.  In Love.  In Food.