My very good friends are having their first baby this fall, and I’m throwing them a couples-shower next month. We know that their little one will be a girl, but I do not want to throw an overly-girly shower since I plan on inviting both ladies and gents to our event. Right now the plan is to have a garden party with small drinks and eats (but not open presents which, in my experience, can drag on too long). I would also like to do maybe a funny game with the couple, like test the new dad’s diaper-changing skills, and the new mom’s ability to work the baby monitor. Other than that, I’m a little at a loss for fun ideas that aren’t too girly (or silly). Anyone have any couples’ shower ideas to share with me? â€“ Rebecca F.
A few months ago, I became kinda obsessed with finding the perfect oatmeal cookie recipe. I tried Martha’s (too dry), Rachael’s (too cinnamony) before I finally asked someone I should have checked with in the first place: Another mom. One playdate, Elizabeth (mom of Sophie) brought the most yummy oatmeal cookies over to our house, and luckily she was willing to share her secret recipe. Like many things (such as banana bread) it tastes especially good thanks to the addition of — what else — chocolate chips. Click through to the next page for the recipe. I make these whenever I need to bring dessert for a crowd! — Angela M.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Preheat oven to 350 – place rack in upper third of oven
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Beat on medium until well blended:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 2/1 teaspoons vanilla
Stir flour mixture into butter until it is well-blended and smooth.
Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto greased cookie sheets (or parchment lined), spacing about 3 inches apart.
Bake 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are lightly browned and almost firm when lightly pressed in the center of the top — about 6-9 minutes. (Depends on oven.)
Rotate sheet halfway through for even browning.
Remove sheet to rack for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to racks to cool.
When I grow up I want to be like Paola Navone. The renowned artist and designer exudes warmth and a love a life that is evident in all her work, whether it be Anthropologie’s vibrant color-pop bedding, overly-tufted, welcoming sofas or her new vibrant and playful pieces at Crate & Barrel. She’s also a not-to-be overlooked Italian who gained prominence in the male-dominated design space, and displays a short hairstyle and a prominent nose that I can’t help but identify with. If I can’t grow up to be like her, perhaps we could have dinner one day?
I’m not sure how or when that may happen, but in the meantime I am going to take some inspiration from Crate & Barrel and channel a little Paola for my gatherings this fall. She’s created three collections all centered around entertaining.
The Como collection features bold blue on white designs with organic swirls and patterns. It reminds me of dining al fresco in Sicily, with smells of almond pastries mixing with Mediterranean breezes. Splashes of red wake you up.
The Mallorca collection is more calming, with white on white ceramics that have delicate, feminine edges. Aluminum trays with gentle dimples appear ready to elevate any dish.
All three themes bring a worldly sophistication to the table, without being stuffy or too precious. As the holidays encroach it’s easy to get drawn towards Northernly designs, but a few Navone bits sprinkled about will make sure your dinners always have a sunny disposition. Here’s a little peak at the artistry behind the work.
As if her new designs weren’t enough to inspire some noteworthy dinners of our own, Crate & Barrel even offers up a few recipes from the master herself. This one below, pasta with zucchini, in an interesting take on one of my favorites. I would add a sprinkle of crushed pastachios before serving, to give it a final hint of richness.
Pasta with Zucchini by Paola Navone
What You Need:
2 lbs. baby zucchini; no more than 1¼’ in diameter
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup fresh mint (smallest leaves only), thyme, rosemary
Saffron threads, a pinch
Fresh cracked pepper
Ground red pepper
Coarse sea salt
1 lb. uncooked dried mezzi rigatoni – shorter, ridged rigatoni
1/4 cup coarse sea salt to season pasta cooking water
To pass at the table:ricotta di bufala *
** Buffalo milk ricotta is less sweet than cow’s milk ricotta.
How To Make:
1. Wash and drain the zucchini. Slice into ¼-inch-thick “coins” and set aside. If using larger zucchini, slice lengthwise, core out the seeds, then slice.
2. Place a large, nonstick sauté pan over low to medium-low heat. Glaze the pan with olive oil. Add crushed garlic, herbs and saffron to the pan to flavor the oil. (Reserve a small handful of the herbs for garnish.) Stir and cook until the garlic just starts to color and become fragrant. Do not let the garlic burn. Remove garlic.
3. Add the zucchini to the pan and season with ground pepper and sea salt. Sear the zucchini until slightly soft and the zucchini begins to brown and caramelize. Remove from heat.
4. Remove ½ of the zucchini mixture; place in a food processor and puree.
5. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to the sliced zucchini still in the pan; gently fold in pureed zucchini. Add more olive oil to taste, but sparingly. The consistency of the sauce should be creamy, not thick.
6. Fill a large pasta pot ¾ full with cold water and place over high heat. Add ¼ cup** of course sea salt to water and bring to a rolling boil. Add dried pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.
7. Drain pasta (reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water) and place in large serving bowl. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
8. If needed, thin zucchini sauce with a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add zucchini sauce to pasta and toss gently. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately. Pass ricotta di bufala for guests to stir into their pasta, to taste.
Note: This post is sponsored by Crate & Barrel.
When I decided to throw a good out-of-town friend a baby shower, I did what any newbie shower-thrower would do. I went to Martha! She had some great shower recipe ideas, including one for mini sandwiches. I loved the idea, but wanted to find better filling options and cookie-cutter shapes. That called for a trip to Sur La Table, where I saw everything from baby chicks to bunnies to baby bottles. But it was the triceratops and unicorn that caught my eye and gave me the idea for a boy-versus-girl theme (since my friend doesnâ€™t know the sex of the baby). The tray of sandwiches garnered giggles as well as many seconds. I used thin slices of dense bread for both â€” potato for the dinosaur and pumpernickel for the unicorn. You can use any combination of fillings that sound yummy but make sure you smear something like butter or cream cheese on both slices of bread to hold it all together. My combos were cucumber, butter and mint on potato bread; and smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives on the pumpernickel. With so many cookie-cutter and filling options, this simple and fun recipe idea could work for almost any gathering! –Ginny F.
Imagine this: Youâ€™re planning a bridal shower brunch for 80 (yes, 80) guests. The invitations have been sent, the favors ordered, the menu set and venue booked. The only thing that remains in this large-scale production is deciding on and making the centerpieces for the tables. This is the dilemma facing a good friend right now, and so Iâ€™m looking to you, dear readers, for a solution. Flower arrangements can be expensive so weâ€™re searching for some creative ideas that we can execute ourselves on a manageable budget. Weâ€™ve been looking into big, scene-stealing flowers, like peonies and hydrangeas, which might be able to do the job of bigger bouquets with fewer stems. Iâ€™m also intrigued by the idea of Martha Stewartâ€™s paper flower tutorial as a craftier option but please, weigh in! Have any flower suggestions to share? Know of a great, executable centerpiece strategy you could pass along? Sound off in comments! — Sarah C.
Since the season of brunch is officially upon us (Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…), I thought I’d share another foolproof brunch star. Hollandaise is the holy grail of brunch, really… does it get any better than a perfect eggs benedict? But its reach extends far beyond the benedict. Try it over roasted vegetables (asparagus and broccoli, particularly), or as a topping for a savory crepe (you can buy them pre-made at most grocery stores). And leftover sauce can even be used in casserole-land. Talk about taking your chicken and rice to the next level! Not only that, but since you’re likely to have some leftover Easter ham, this is a great breakfast-for-dinner option to help you use up those leftovers. If you’re feeling especially lazy, you can forgo the poached eggs and slice a leftover hard-boiled Easter egg over the top… true, you won’t have that runny yolk goodness, but with all that delicious hollandaise pouring over the top, I suspect you’ll hardly miss it.
While traditional hollandaise recipes are daunting… okay, scary… I promise you, this one is an absolute no-fail. Four ingredients, five minutes, and you’ll be wowing a crowd. Trust me. — Becki S.
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