Mistletoe Mulled Wine


Our December Dinner Club was held at Tracy’s home this year.  Starting the evening, she served Mistletoe Mulled Wine to the guests in a beautiful stemmed glass coffee mug.  She then poured the wine after it was done in a silver coffee pourer for all to share.

I’ve had mulled wine before and thought it was okay.  Taking a sip of this warm, soothing, holiday bowl was really like no other I had tasted.  It was very good and the flavors perfectly represented everything Christmas.  I actually had seconds!  She gave me the recipe and now I share it with you.

½ C Sugar
¼ C Water
2 Orange Slices
6 Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks
½ C.  mixed Pineapple, Orange, and Banana juice from concentrate  (or you can use orange juice)

Using a saucepan, add sugar through cinnamon sticks.  Boil 5 minutes.  Stir in orange juice and one bottle of Bordeaux.  Warm again.  Remove solids.  Serve warm and enjoy with friends.




Dinner Club – February 2013

SBE 065February 2013 Dinner Club

Our February dinner club was held at Tiffany’s.  Her theme of choice was romance movies.  She asked all the participants to taylor their portion of the meal around their favorite romance movie.  If you haven’t read my blog about Dinner Club and how it works, check it out.  Since Tiffany was hosting, she had the entree.  Her movie was “Love Actually” and she chose to do penne in a red vodka cream sauce.  It goes without saying that the menu was amazing so keep reading.

Dinner Club Romance Media
Dinner Club Romance Media

Dinner Club Themes, Menu and Media

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Tiffany – “Love Actually” – Entree – You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce

Tracy – “Gidget Goes to Rome” – Appetizer –  Three Way Bruchetta

Kelly – “Mama Mia” – Side – Mediterranean Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette

Jeni – “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Beverage – Champagne Bar

Stephanie – “Four Weddings and a Funeral” – Salad – Winterfruit Salad

Trisha – “Downton Abbey” – Dessert – Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Yes, I’m fully aware that Downton Abbey is not a movie, but a television miniseries on PBS.  I was reminded over and over again that evening by multiple people, but in my defense, I love it as if it were a movie and I don’t always run with the pack, therefore making it perfectly acceptable and after all, it’s Dinner Club, so all is forgiven.

Bruchetta Three Ways

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What’s better than having bruchetta three ways?  When your lover makes fresh french rolls the morning of Dinner Club day and you get to spoil all the girls with it!  Who needs store bought with that kind of man at home!


1 french baggette, preferably made by your lover, cut into half inch slices on the bias

1 T Olive Oil

1 clove garlic halved

Directions:  preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  Place baggette slices on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and rub with halved garlic.  Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn.  Remove from oven and arrange on a tray.  Serve with three sauces.  You can make these as you see them below or come up with  your own.  Personally, the tomato and the goat cheese are my favorite and they are really great together.

Tomato Topping:

2 diced roma tomatoes, seeds discarded

1 bunch fresh basil leaf, chiffonade

1 t. balsamic vinegar

freshly cracked black pepper

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and gently mix.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

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Goat Cheese and Onion Topping:

1 8oz pkg of goat cheese

1/4 C. of thick sour cream

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. finely chopped chives

1/2 t. garlic powder

Directions:  Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix until blended and smooth.  Serve on toasted baguette slices.

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Drunken Fig Jam courtesy Epicurious.com

2 lemons

4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 9 cups)

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup brandy or Cognac

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from lemons (yellow part only) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips (about 3 tablespoons).

Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce adapted by Food Network

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1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup vodka

1 cup chicken stock

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Crusty bread, for passing

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Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

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While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.

Orzo, Feta, and Tomato Salad With Marjoram Vinaigrette adapted from Bon Appetit

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1 pound orzo

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice

6 t finely chopped fresh marjoram

4 t Dijon mustard

1 t grated lemon peel

1/2 C. olive oil

1 1/2 C. crumbled feta cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 C. pitted Kalamata olives, quartered

24 oz. cherry tomatoes, stemmed, halved

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Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occassionally.  Drain.  Rinse pasta under cold water until cool.  Drain well.  Transfer pasta to larger bowl.

Whisk lemon juice, 5 t. marjoram, mustard and lemon peel in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.  Set aside 2 T. vinaigrette.  Add remaining vinaigrette, cheese, onions and olives to orzo; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and let stand 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  Toss tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette.  Toss into salad and add remaining marjoram.  Serve cold.

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

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1/2 C. white sugar

1/2 C. lemon juice

2 t. diced onion

1 t. Dijon-style prepared mustard

1/2 t. salt

2/3 C. vegetable oil

1 t. poppy seeds

1 head butter leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese

1 C. cashews

1/4 C. dried cranberries

1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

1 pear, peeled, cored and sliced

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In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix.

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In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce, shredded Swiss cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Pour dressing over salad just before serving, and toss to coat.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Champagne Bar

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This is such a wonderful idea.  If you have a number of guests over, grab a few bottles of your favorite champagne, mixers and your gorgeous glassware and have a ball mixing up your favorite champagne cocktails.  Don’t forget the must have cute napkins and drink stirrers.  With a champagne bar, everyone makes their own special version!

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1 1/2 oz. orange vodka

1 1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 1/2 oz. orange juice

2 bar spoons Apricot preserves



Combine ingredients in a martini shaker with ice and serve chilled in your favorite glassware!  Too many of these and we would have really had breakfast at Tiffany’s!

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As you can see, our champagne bar had the following ingredients, but you can use virtually anything.  Be creative and taylor your bar to a specific holiday or celebration.  Here are some other ingredients you may wish to use to stock your champagne bar:

Peach puree

Mango puree

Orange Juice

Lemon Juice

sugar cubes


Triple Sec

Simple syrup

Raspberry puree

Strawberries, raspberries, cut pineapple and marischino cherries for garnish

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Downton Abbey Lemon Bar Cake Cookies

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Makes 18 to 20

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 glass Pyrex.


2 C. all-purpose flour

½ C. powdered sugar

1 C. butter (you can mix ½ cup butter and ½ cup shortening as an alternative to all butter)

1 tsp. grated Meyer lemon peel

Dash salt

Mix ingredients together with your hands until crumbly and press into the greased 9×13 Pyrex dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool before adding filling.

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4 eggs

1 C. all-purpose flour

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

Dash salt

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 t. lemon peel

1 t. lemon extract (optional)

Add all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and beat with a wire whisk until combined.  Pour into 9×13 over cooled cookie base and put in oven at 350 for 25 minutes or until center is cooked through.  Remove from oven and cool on counter.

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1 C. powdered sugar

8 oz. cream cheese softened

¼ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Add lemon juice until desired consistency.  Pour over lemon bar cake.  Let icing set for about an hour before cutting lemon bars.    When you cut, they will look a bit rustic.

Serving Tip:  Serve inside large white paper muffin cups or on top of sweet little decorative doilies covering a cake stand.

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Backyard Summer Flips!

FLIPS!  The following recipes were inspired by a Cherry Lime Flip recently consumed on a shopping trip with my sister.  We spent a very long time trying on wedding and bridesmaids dresses and decided that it was high time for a refreshment!  We both ordered the Cherry Lime Flip which was drained at lightning speed.  During the second round, I pondered putting flip concoctions of my own on the blog.  I came up with the Orange Citrus Flip, the Wild Tea Flip and the Raspberry Lime Flip.
What exactly is a Flip?  About 300 years ago, a flip was a mixed cocktail of beer, rum and sugar that was heated through with a red hot iron.  The hot iron was used to froth the cocktail, thus flipping it from cold to a warm foamy texture.  Although tempted to use the term as a verb, the drink was referred to as a noun, “Flip”.   Later versions of the Flip usually included cream and was similar to egg nog concoctions.  Essentially the red hot heating element was tossed out as an antiquated method and frothing was replaced by the constant pouring of the spirited blend back and forth between two vessels.  “Thus, to live at sea, eat biscuit and drink flip!” 
Orange Citrus Flip
The Orange Citrus Flip
Makes 2
8 oz Orange Crush Soda
2 oz Blood Orange Absolut vodka
2 T. fresh lime juice
2 T. Rose’s Lime juice
1 T Rose’s Grenadine
Orange and Lime slices for garnish
crushed ice
Take a pitcher and add the first five ingredients.  Mix.  Pour over ice into two chilled high ball glasses and garnish with lime slices.  Add a fun straw or a party swizzle.  Serve ice cold. 
*I love the color orange!  I served them at my birthday party!  Everyone loved them!

Wild Tea Flip

 Wild Tea Flip
Makes 2

8 oz Ginger Ale
2 oz Wild Tea Absolut vodka
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T Rose’s Grenadine
Lemon slices for garnish
crushed ice

Take a pitcher and add the first four ingredients. Mix. Pour over ice into two chilled high ball glasses and garnish with lemon slices. Add a fun straw or a party swizzle. Serve ice cold.

Raspberry Lime  Flip

Raspberry Lime Flip
Makes 2

8 oz 7-Up soda
2 oz Raspberry Absolut vodka
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T Rose’s Lime juice
1 T Rose’s Grenadine
Raspberries and Lime slices for garnish
crushed ice

Take a pitcher and add the first five ingredients. Mix. Pour over ice into two chilled high ball glasses and garnish with lime slices. Add a fun straw or a party swizzle. Serve ice cold.


Hot Chocolate with Frangelico and Maple Whipped Cream

Hot Chocolate with Frangelico
and Maple Whipped Cream

This recipe is for my Canadian friends to the north.  It seems that everything tastes better in Canada. From Coca Cola to steak and frites, I’m convinced Canada has some of the best food around. It wasn’t always this way, but you are blazing your own trail and I’m lovin’ it. 


My dear Canadian friends, you most certainly have the best hot chocolate around.  When visiting your country, I try to get as much ‘chocolat chaud’ as I am able to consume and make sure I take some home with me when I leave your beautiful country.  For those of you who haven’t had this experience, I urge you to take a moment to indulge in a cup of their hot chocolate and every warm holiday memory you’ve ever had just may flash before you.

What to do with left over maple whipped cream.?  Get out the tea kettle, the ‘chocolate chaud’ and some Frangelico and we will be having ourselves a very smooth sugar date.  Can’t wait!

1 package hot chocolate (Canadian preferred)
1 C. boiling water
1 jigger Frangelico liqueur*
1 T. maple whipped cream

Add the package of hot chocolate to your most festive (whatever the occassion) heat proof mug.  Add the boiling water and stir until hot chocolate is combined.  Stir in Frangelico liqueur.  Add the maple whipped cream on top.  Serve hot.

*Cook’s Note:  Frangelico Liqueur has a nutty flavor.  When combined with chocolate and maple,  I ask you, what could be better?

September Dinner Club – "Masquerade Theater"

September 2010 Dinner Club
“Masquerade Theater”
It’s been nine years this month that my girlfriends and I have been participating in Dinner Club.  I chose to host September.  I usually have October because I love Halloween, but this year I thought I would give October up and try another month.  The host gets to pick their own theme and the rest of us are adventurous and usually exhibit good sportsmanship, so we just go with it and see what the evening brings.  My theme, “Masquerade Theater” just came to me.  I’ll explain how it works.
I chose six genres; Action & Adventure, Romance, Horror, Drama, Comedy and Foreign.  I wrote them all on separate pieces of paper.  Then I wrote down all the components of the dinner: Appetizer, Entree, Salad, Side Dish, Beverage and Dessert.  Lastly, I wrote the names; Tina, Tracy, Jeni, Stephanie, Kathy and Trisha.  Since the hostess gets the entree, I left those out and had a friend draw my theme.  It came out, “romance”.  How fitting.  Therefore, I had the “Romantic Entree”.  The others were, Action & Adventure Appetizer by Stephanie, Salad of Horror by Tracy, Dramatic Side Dish by Kathy, Beverage of Comedy by Tina, and a Foreign Dessert by Jeni.  The goal was to make your contribution closely resemble that of the genre.  All of the pairings turned out good.  I thought the Salad of Horror would be the most difficult and the foreign dessert sounded like bliss.  My Dinner Club friends told me that out of all the Dinner Clubs we have been doing over the years, this was the most challenging and the most difficult.  We had met our match.  It thrilled me to hear that.  That was my goal!
I wrote up a menu based on the theme and the recipes they chose.  I created a program scroll keepsake that read as follows:
Appetizer by Stephanie
This riveting dish will put you on the edge of your seat! So moving, it’s almost 3D! Her choice was inspired by the active preparation of the ingredients and the adventure of putting it all together! Autumn Apple Appetizer Bites

Entrée by Trisha
Sicilian Meatballs with Homestyle Marinara  obtained from a Sicilian family that is rumored to have ties in the mob. Her choice was inspired by the romantic interlude that occurs in Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.”


Salad by Tracy

Baby mozzarella, assorted baby heirloom cherry tomatoes, baby basil with dressing made from a 30 year aged balsamic vinegar. Her choice was inspired by the movie “Rosemary’s baby.”
Side Dish by Kathy
Pastry piped potatoes served in individual ramekins. Her choice was Inspired by the dramatically crafted presentation!
Beverage By Tina
Individualized bottles of wine adorned with comedic lables crafted by Tina herself and inspired by the character and personalities of her fellow Dinner Club members.

Dessert by Jeni
Three layer traditional German Chocolate Cake with cocoa filling and chocolate icing. This cake will whisk you back in time as the recipe was published in 1915 in a cookbook titled, “Mary at the Farm and Book of Recipes” by John Hartenstein. Her choice was inspired by German chocolate.
Being that my Dinner Club was so close to Halloween, I was able to decorate with masquerade masks.  For a centerpiece that had a special “theater” effect, I found Shakesperian quotes on a website and printed them off the internet onto cream colored paper.  I carefully tore the edges, top and sides, and taped them to clear glass vases.  Place your tealight in the center and you have a glowing, theatrical effect that your guests can have fun reading. 
Our next Dinner Club is scheduled for November 13th.  Tina will be hosting and the theme is Russian.  I have the side dish!  Can’t wait!

Goodnight Kiss

Goodnight Kiss

If you are looking for something creamy and smooth to carry you off to dreamland, consider indulging in a Goodnight Kiss.  This is a wonderful dessert coffee.  After all, they say Amaretto di Amore’ “embodies the essence of romance.”  With the right combination, the flavor isn’t too sweet, but it is heavenly.  On one of these cool evenings, I encourage you to surprise your sweet one with a Goodnight Kiss.

Picture courtesy Shane Boyd 2009

3/4 oz. Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua

3/4 oz. Irish Cream liqueur
3/4 oz. Amaretto di Amore’
1/2 oz. Creme de Cacao liqueur
1 C. hot brewed coffee

2 T. whipped cream
2 T. Hersheys chocolate syrup

Use one of your most comforting coffee mugs (for me, this is the biggest one I can find).  In it, combine Coffee liqueur, Irish Cream, Creme de Cacao and Amaretto.  Fill the rest of the mug with coffee leaving room at the top.  Dollop with whipped cream and top with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a chocolate covered coffee bean.  Serve and savor the moment.