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Sloppy Joes: An Awesome Party Food

Okay party people, time for some food talk.  Football weekend coming up, and we are all coming off the Thanksgiving leftover binge….time for some FUN Food = the Sloppy Joe.

I found this recipe on the Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/sloppy-joes-with-maui-onion-straws-recipe/index.html  Recipe courtesy Guy Fieri for Food Network Magazine) and it is AWESOME!

This is great for any football party, kid’s sleep-over party, poker night party, AND pot-luck party!  You name it, this dish will be the hit of the party!

I have always doubled this recipe because I hope/pray for leftovers!  It has a heat factor to it, so if you don’t like spicy, leave out the cayenne pepper and the jalapeno!  Also, if you go to the link I provided above, the recipe on the link includes home-made Maui Onion Straws.  I leave that part out and use the French Onion strings instead.

               Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup canola oil                                                                                                 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce                                                                                    
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 24 slider rolls or sweet Hawaiian rolls
  • French’s onion straws

Directions

Prepare the Sloppy Joe’: In a large pan, sauté over medium-high heat,

  • Sauté in the canola oil the bell peppers, jalapeno and onion for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in another pan, cook the ground beef and pork and break it up as it browns.  After it is cooked, drain the grease.
  • Add the beef and pork to the sautéed peppers, jalapeno and onions.
  • Add the minced garlic.
  • Stir in the red wine and the red vinegar
  • Add the remaining ingredients: cayenne pepper, paprika, ground cumin, dry mustard, tomato paste, tomato sauce, brown sugar Worcestershire sauce, and season with 1 tablespoon each salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve the Sloppy Joes on Hawaiian rolls and top with the onion straws.

  

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Glorious Garland Part 1: The Stairway

Decorating your stairway with garland is much easier than you may think, and you can have a most stunning entryway with minimal costs, or you can go all out and be totally extravagant.  Let your “decorative taste” determine if you will have a rustic, ornate, fun, Victorian, elegant, or simplistic stairway.  I have been fortunate enough to have a stairway in my last two houses.  If you have a stairway….dec it out!

Here is what you will need:

Garland

  • Artificial:  You can purchase artificial garland at Walmart, Target, Michaels, Joann Fabrics, or any other craft/floral store, or on-line (Tree Topia, my favorite)
  • Live:  I have purchased live garland from fundraisers (boy scouts); I have ordered it on-line and had it shipped; and many Christmas Tree roadside stands sell garland.

Ribbon

  • I like a thick ribbon with wired edges so I can have more control on the shape of the bows.  However, any ribbon will do.
  • Select a ribbon color that will go with your décor…either match it or select something that will work as an accent color.  You can never go wrong with red, gold, white, silver, or green!  Currently, I am using a lovely printed ribbon that I found at Costco!  Great price for a ginormous roll.

Lights

This can certainly be an option, but I do recommend lights.  Lighting for a party will create your mood.  I change up my light colors… I am using multi lights this year.  I was concerned that the printed ribbon with the multi light would clash.  I think it turned out just fine because my stairway is really large with a lot of “white walls”, so I can get away with “loud.”

OPTIONAL

Floral Pics

I go back and forth with putting anything extra on my banisters.  The past few years I have kept it just bows and lights; however, I use to always use florals on my previous house’s banister.  When I moved, my banisters doubled in length, so I could not use my old florals on the banister (though I still use them in other garland arrangements.)  I can’t find what I want in floral pics, so I am using a floral print ribbon which gives me a lot of color.  When I used florals, I had a solid red ribbon.  I will be showing you how to add florals to your banisters.

We are now ready to get busy!

The banister is ready.

 I have my ribbon cut into 60″ strips and my garland strand sized to fit the length of the banister.

 Starting at the top of the banister, loop the ribbon from under the banister to the top of the banister and tie a single knot (like you are tying your shoes) in the ribbon.  Leave some room for the garland.

 Slip an end of the garland under the ribbon and then pull the ribbon tight to secure the garland to the banister.  No need for a double knot.   You will only need to do this on the first ribbon.  Once the garland is secure from the top, you will just work your way down the banister.

 Decide how far apart you want your bows.  I do about 2 feet.

 Continue to work your way down the banister  as you go UNDER the banister and tie a single knot on top of  the garland which is resting on top of the banister.  NO NEED FOR GLUE, TAPE, ETC.

Now we are going to add the lights:

  Lay the lights on top of the garland and on top of the single knot of the ribbon.  Leave the ribbon strands hanging loose for now.

Once all of the lights are laid on top of the garland, it is now time to secure everything:

 Go back to the ribbon and finish tying the bows…just like you tie your shoes.  Once the bows are tied, you can be finished and leave the ribbon hanging down.  If you do this, I would make the ribbon a little shorter as I think this length is too long to hang.  I use this length because I am going to place the hanging ribbon up on the garland:

 Take each ribbon strand and lay it on top of the garland and lights.

Be creative and scrunch the ribbon to give it some wave effect.  This is why I suggest using a wire ribbon and you can bend the ribbon to help it to hold a wave look.  If you have a piece of ribbon that will not rest, take a small tip of one garland stem and bend the garland stem over the ribbon to hold it in place.  You may have to do this several times.
I have now added color to my banister without have the added expense of floral pics.

As you can see in the upper photo, there is an empty spot.  This is where adding florals can come in handy.  Below are several types of florals that I have that I could use:

           

You can use any size, color, shape, etc. for your florals.  These florals came from a variety of stores and some are brand new and some I have had for years.  You can even take a floral bush and cut each stem to make a floral pic…the second photo from the left is a poinsettia stem that I cut from a floral bush.

Adding the florals is easy.  Just slide the stem into the garland!  Be careful not to scratch your banister by jamming the pic into the garland…no need to be rough.  Some folks like to hot glue the pics into place.  This is a great idea if you have kids that will run up and down the steps and knock them off.  I don’t have that problem, and I like not having them glued so I have the option of changing my decorations without pulling glued florals off the garland.

 Select your pic.     Position it by sliding the stem into the garland.   You can lay fruits or bulbs on the garland, too!           

This is one more decoration ready for my Christmas Party!  I will be moving on to decorating with garland sprays and centerpieces.  If you have any length of the garland strands left, I will show you how to use them!  Stay tuned.

BULBS, Beautiful, Beautiful BULBS

Creative Brain Storm hit me yesterday! I am so excited about my Holiday decorating this year!  I decided that I needed to do a drastic Holiday decoration make-over in my kitchen and family room (where my parties mainly take place) while still trying to maintain a decent budget.  I thought that I was going to give my garland a face-lift with new floral pics.  I wanted fun yet elegant as I am entertaining quite a bit this Holiday season.

I decided on red as my primary color, gold as the secondary color, and white as an accent color.  But, I just wasn’t feeling the “vibe” and “love” with the floral pics after two days of shopping.

So, I started to search images online for red Holiday decoration ideas.  Bulbs kept coming up in photos and catching my eye way more than the florals.  Hmmmmm.

BULBS!  They are so “in” this year and are more glorious and beautiful than ever! They are full of shimmer and glitter in bright, bold colors.  The vintage bulbs are crazy beautiful with so many unique designs….art on strings!   I like it.  Fun.  Glam.  Bold.  Elegant.  I’m in!

Here are some of  the pics that I found surfing the web that inspired me… I will be incorporating some of these ideas, and I have quite a few different ones up my sleeve that I will soon be sharing.  But I wanted you to see how much fun folks are having with bulbs…

                  

Cool stuff!  Most of it is pretty simple to make.  Just ask me if you need any help.

I am also going to be using a lot of candles and wine glasses….hope I have your curiosity up!

Shopping:  Here in the Seattle area (Lynnwood), we just got a Hobby Lobby!!!  OMG!  It is a dream for party people.  They have bulbs that knocked my socks off!  Huge ones, tiny ones – colors galore…..rows and rows and rows of BULBS!  And all Holiday decorations are 50% off!  YAY!  I got kicked out of the store last night when they closed at 8:00!  (boo)  I’m going back in tomorrow!

When I lived in the Pittsburgh area, I use to shop at Pat Catan’s all the time…another dream store.  I have not been there for a while, so I do not know what their selection of bulbs are….anyone?????

Target has some great vintage bulbs at a reasonable price.  I picked up a few this weekend.  Pier 1 does too!

Hint:  I will be placing vintage bulbs down the center of my table….along with other fun things….but still keeping in my red, gold, white color theme.  There will be bulbs everywhere…stay tuned!

I want to hear about your BULB ideas, too!!!!!

Sauteed Apples – ANYTIME Yummyness

I absolutely LOVE this dish.  I have served them for Holiday dinners and I have made them on Football Sunday!   These even make the best EVER applesauce!  YUMMY!  These are best when served warm.  INCREDIBLE over ice cream!  AWESOME over pancakes!

What You Need:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 large tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch…less if you want a little more syrup.  The photo is made with 2 teaspoons.
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

How To:

  1. Select you apple type.  I like Granny Smith or Fuji apples.  But you pick what you like!
  2. Core, peel, and slice the apples.  If you want a “softer” apple, slice thin.  If you want a firm but not hard apple, then slice thicker.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.
  4. Add the apples.
  5. Cook until the apples are just about tender which is 6 to 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  6. Dissolve the cornstarch in water.
  7. Add the water and cornstarch to the apples.
  8.  Stir in the brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.             
  9. Boil for 2 minutes, or longer for more tender apples, stirring occasionally.
  10. They are done when you get the tenderness of the apples to your liking.
If you want applesauce, just mash away!  Keep all the juices!  The mashed apples will absorb all of it!  Lasts for days and days in fridge!

Grilled Potato Skins and Potato Boats

Okay football fans, here is one for your next tailgate or house party.  These potato boats are simply fabulous, and you can  have so much fun making them!  There is NO END to how creative you can get with these delicious creations.

These aren’t just for football parties!  I serve these during almost every party!  They are simple and yummy.  Easy for guests to pick up and eat.  You can prepare these ahead of time and just  heat them up on a grill or in the oven if you need to take a great dish to a tailgate or party.

Three ways to bake the potatoes:  Times will vary for each method as the size and amount of potatoes will dictate when they are done.  I typically check them after 45 minutes…squish the center while wearing an oven mitt.  They need to be very soft.

  1. True tailgaters will grill them.  Takes about an hour on indirect heat.  It can be done as I have done it!
  2. Conventional oven 400 degrees.
  3. Roaster oven – my personal favorite!  I LOVE cooking with my roster oven.  No party queen/king should be without a roaster oven.  I use mine all the time for a lot of things!
  • Once the potatoes are finished, cut them in half – length wise.  I like to do this right away because the center of the potatoes are hot and will melt the butter and cheese that I put in the mixture.  If you wait until they cool, I have found that they don’t mash as easy.  USE AN OVEN MIT or a dish rag to hold the hot potato.
  • Take a spoon and gently scoop out the potato’s center.  You decide how much of the center you want out.  If you like a crunchy potato skin, try to get as close to the skin without putting a hole in it.  Leave a little more of the potato if you want a heartier skin.
  • Place your desired amount of butter in a pot.
  • Scoop the potatoes into the pot.
  • Add desired amount of milk, sour cream, and cheese for mashed potatoes.  I say “desired amount” because everyone likes a different consistency.  But don’t make them too runny.  If you don’t like cheese or sour cream in your mashed potatoes….leave them out!  You are the RULER of your kitchen!
  • Mash the potatoes and then stir until all is blended.
  • Add spices to flavor.  I use garlic salt, garlic powder, and a splash of black pepper.  Again, this is your gig….spice them up like you like them!

          

GRILL PART ONE:

  • Take the potatoes and place them on the grill.
  • I use tinfoil, but you can place them directly on the racks.
  • Try to keep the grill’s temperature around 400.
  • I usually cook mine 10 – 15 minutes then turn over for an additional 10 – 15 minutes.
  • You want to get the skins a little firm.  I like mine crunchy.  If you don’t like crunchy skins, don’t cook them too long during this stage.  You’re the boss.  Just remember that these skins will be going back on the grill or in the oven when you stuff them next.
  • If you are making these for a house party or Thanksgiving, then you can cook them in the oven at 400 for the same amount of time.  I have made them both ways…grill and oven.
  • Once they are browned, take off grill or out of oven and prepare for second stage!
  • You now have “potato skins!”  You can melt some cheese in them and call it good, or prepare for the boats…

  These are the skins on the grill.  They have not been grilled yet.

STUFF THE POTATOES

  1. Layer One is cheddar cheese or Mexican Blend or cheese of your choice.  I like cheese, so I put enough to completely cover the bottom of the skin.
  2. PIEROGI BOAT OPTION:  Saute onions in butter.  Once cooked, add the onions as a second layer.
  3. CHILI BOAT OPTION:  Add chili as the second layer.
  4. MEXICAN BOAT OPTION:  Put some salsa  as the second layer.
  5. Create your own second layer…bacon…chives…green onions…BE CREATIVE
  6. If you are having a big party…go for the gusto…do all options!
  7. When I took these photos, I did not add a second layer.  I made a few potato skins and the rest regular potato boats, so you will not see any pics of the second layer.
  8. NOW – Pile on the mashed potato mixture.  Don’t be shy!  Stuff them high. Stuff the mashed potatoes right on top of your second layer, if you have one.   If you run out of mashed potatoes, then make a few skins…like I did.  If you added a second layer, you may have extra mashed potatoes.  That’s always a good thing in my house!
  9. For an added touch, I put additional cheddar cheese on top of the mashed potatoes.  YUMMY.  I gently push the cheese into the mashed potatoes so the cheese doesn’t roll off.
  10. NOW, if you need to take these boats to a party or tailgate, you can stop here and refrigerate them until it is time to go.  You can do the last step at the tailgate.  Or you can keep going and take the fully cooked boats.

  These are the skins once they have been browned and then stuffed.  I did not add the cheese on top yet.

BACK TO THE GRILL OR OVEN!  The timing for this last stage will vary…depending on how many boats you have and how much stuff you stuffed them with.  This batch cooked on the grill for an additional 15 minutes.  They were great.  I could have cooked them a little longer for a more crunchy skin, but the cheese on top was getting brown so I removed them.  Just keep an eye on them.

  The boats back on the grill for their last cooking time.

Once they have browned to your liking, you are all finished!!!  Enjoy!  Don’t forget that these are an awesome selection for any party!

Mini Pumpkin Candle Holders

These pumpkin candle holders will make your Thanksgiving table stunning!  Your family and guests will be thrilled when they see your table! (I will be posting
“Setting the Thanksgiving Table” soon…)

This is the second year that I am using these adorable pumpkin candle holders.

The skill level might be a little more difficult for some as you will need to drill a hole in the center of the mini pumpkin.  Once that is done, anyone can make this awesome table accent.


 Getting Started:

  • Mini Pumpkins = as many as you will have place settings.
  • Taper candles = I used shorter candles this time, but last year
    I used the full size as I needed the candles to burn longer.
  • Glue gun and glue sticks.
  • Bright fall colored ribbon.
  • Fall floral leaves = I bought a bundle of them at Michael’s
  • Sparkle pics…I got these orange and green sparkle pics in the Christmas
    isle at Michael’s.  You can use all green or even a gold would be fine.
Drilling the Pumpkins:
  • I drill my pumpkins outside so I don’t have a huge mess in the house.
  • Measure the drill bit to the base of the candle so you will have the perfect size hole.
  • Snip off the stem in the center of the pumpkin for easier drilling.
  • Be sure not to drill all the way through.  You only need to break through to the middle.
 
  • Once you have drilled all of your pumpkins, take a butter knife and clean out the centers.  If you leave all the seeds and stuff inside, your pumpkins will get real mushy within  few days.
Decorating the pumpkins:                                                          
  • Take a candle and insert it into the drilled hole.
  • Hot glue around the base to keep it air tight.
  • Take pieces of your florals and snip the leaves off at the base.
  • Hot glue the leaves behind one side of the pumpkin.
  • Hot glue your “bling” floral pics on top of the leaves, still staying behind the candle.
  • Tie a ribbon around the base of the candle.
  
  
    
Prepare for next year:         
The best part of these candle decorations is you can recycle for next year.
After your party, simply pull the leaves off the pumpkin, untie the bow,
and store for next year’s party!  That’s exactly what I did!
 Store decorations for next year!
Coming soon…setting your table with these adorable pumpkin candle holders…..
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