- August 8, 2014 - 2:09 pm
- Planning Your Wedding
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There are few things quite as natural and beautiful as an outdoor wedding. There are also few things as unpredictable. Wind, rain and even an overabundant sun can quickly change the dynamics of your reception. You can’t control the weather, but you can certainly be prepared for whatever blows your way. Here are some ideas to beat the heat and be prepared for what ever comes your way on your wedding day.
Fun Lighting Ideas
One way to enjoy your Texas wedding is to have it in the evening just after the sun goes down. The light is beautiful in the evening and you can keep the party rockin’ with outdoor lighting that doubles as decoration.
- Fairy Lights or Christmas Lights (any string if delicate lights will give a soft warm ambiance to your reception)
- Contained Fire Pit (this will also provide a bit of heat if it’s chilly out)
- Candles (mix citronella candles with decorative ones for ambiance and bug protection)
- Tiki Torches (smoke from these can also repel insects)
All Kinds of Weather
- Create shade, either with umbrellas, canopies, or strategically setting up chairs underneath a tree
- Design programs that double as fans
- Offer complimentary sunscreen and bug spray to your guests
- Provide parasols for guests
- Give away sunglasses as wedding favors
- Consider renting some large Port-a-Cool fans that create cool air and keep it moving
- Cover your food. Nothing tastes worse than food that is dry or insufficiently warm.
- Umbrellas can double as sun and light rain protection depending on their size.
- Keep a stash of towels around to dry off feet or seats if a light rain blows through
- Weigh things down that might blow away
- Fasten table cloths to the table (remind your rental company to include the clips, as they sometimes will forget them)
- Set-up buffet table away from wind. Sometimes the sterno flame will not stay lit and food will get cold.
- Provide blankets or wraps if it might get chilly
- Fresh Fruit Platter/Fruit Skewers (fruit will be in season and extra sweet)
- Green Beans Amandine
- Chicken Epinard
- New Potatoes w/ Dill (dill is said to be a cooling spice; great for summer dishes)
Beat the Heat
- Keep food covered and in coolers if necessary
- Ice bucket is a fancy way to make ice available
- Provide water and ice, especially to the wedding party who will be running around all day
- Keep cake cool, so the icing doesn’t melt
- Bacon-Wrapped Chicken
- Mac ‘n Cheese Bar (a little comfort food to warm the soul)
- Z’s Chicken Parmesan Marinara
Stay Warm & Toasty
- Keep food covered and consider warming plates
- Provide warm beverages (like hot cocoa or a hot toddy)
- A Fire Pit at the reception provides light and warmth
Wedding Idea Boards:
- July 13, 2014 - 7:25 pm
- Party Theme Ideas
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Channel your Favorite Characters
Borrow some ideas from some of the most popular shows on television to add a fun twist to your get-together. Don't just host a watch party for a new episode...Dress up as the character you'd most like to be, gossip about your favorite moments. and speculate about upcoming plot twists. Test your knowledge of the show with fun trivia and of course...offer theme-appropriate prizes for the winners!
Game of Thrones - Step into the world of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and enjoy a feast.
Attire: Will it be House Stark, Lannister, Targaryen? Choose your house affiliation and color-coordinate accordingly. Tunics and flowing gowns are appropriate if your leather and furs are at the cleaners.
Suggested menu: In case you haven't had a chance to purchase 'A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook', here are some ideas to get you started:
- Or try the Official Game of Thrones Food Blog, where you can find all sorts of recipes from Elderflower Fritters, to Hotpie's Wolf bread to whole roasted leg of lamb.
Decorations: Hang homemade house sigil banners, and use a few sheets to mock up a dothraki tent. If you can set up in the backyard, a roaring fire could be an appropriate way to roast your lamb.
Mad Men - Though sadly in its last season, a Mad Men themed evening is always a great excuse to pull out your grandmother’s china, a few decanters of hard liquor, tease your hair up or wrap it into a french twist and step back in time.
Attire: Ask yourself, what would Jackie Kennedy wear? Think glamour, elegance and simplicity. Black and white, with pearls...understated, yet polished and feminine. Looking to keep things casual? Polka dot fountain dresses, box-shaped jackets and circle skirts are actually making a comeback, so you really can't go wrong.
Suggested Menu: Master the art of French cooking with some Julia Child classics. Or if you’re looking to be a bit more low key here are some quick and simple throwback recipes:
Clam dip & UTZ chips
And remember, every hour is cocktail hour when you're watching Mad Men...so have the highball glasses ready and keep the martini's coming!
Decorations: Tuck away your modern contrivances and set out some vintage decor, possibly from a local flea market. Set your record player to some 60's grooves with mambo and bossa nova or graduate to Elvis, the Beatles, and Motown classics to really get the party groovin’.
Of course if you'd prefer, the Z's Cafe staff can create a fabulous party menu for you, leaving you free to say Hello to all of your guests AND manage the remote!
- June 5, 2014 - 1:57 pm
- Learn to Cook Healthy & Delicious
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There’s more to grilling than burgers, ribs, and hot dogs. Here are some grilled food ideas for this summer's backyard BBQ that go beyond traditional grilled chicken and corn on the cob. Grilling brings the flavor out, so don't be afraid to be adventurous! You already know fruits and veggies are healthier for you, but who knew they were so delicious off the grill?
Ice Tea & Cocktails
Grilling lemons & limes causes them to release more natural sugar, giving them a divine sweet, smoky flavor. Try grilling lime slices for your vodka tonic or peaches to go in your old-fashioned.
Peaches, Watermelons, Pineapple-- much like lemons & limes, grilling these fruits will release more of their natural sweetness. Add cinnamon, honey or sorbet on top to create a decadent dessert.
It sounds crazy but what better thing to add to a seemingly boring salad than the delicious smoky flavors you already love from the grill. Try it, we dare ya. We even found this grilled romaine lettuce recipe for you to get you started!
Take your salad from 'the usual', to amazing. Slice an avocado in half and toss it on the grill for a bit before you dice it in with the lettuce. Or simply enjoy the avocado with salsa and sour cream.
You can grill olives on a skewer mixed with other deliciousness or wrapped in foil, depending on the effect you are going for. Toss them with olive oil and herbs as an excellent appetizer or as another layer of awesome on that salad.
Everyone enjoys a grilled cheese sandwich but grilled cheese itself can be just as delicious. Try warming a thick-rinded cheese on the grill and serving it with crackers as an appetizer.
Set your cast iron right on the grill next to your meat. You can even add in fresh grilled corn if you’re feeling ambitious. Recipe for cast-iron cornbread...
Enjoy your dinner, while delicious cobbler grills away in a disposable aluminum cake pan. Just be sure to add the biscuit topping in the last half of cooking so they don’t burn. Recipe for blueberry cobbler...
It’s the next best thing to having a smoker. Use a foil pan, add some butter, soy sauce, & spices, and remember to stir. Recipe for 'Hot & Smokin' grilled nuts...
Slice open a banana longways and stuff the middle with marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap in tinfoil and grill. Unwrap the magic and enjoy!
As if regular pound cake weren’t decadent enough. Try adding a little more butter, give it a light grilling and then pair it with those peaches we mentioned earlier. Or a summer berry compote. Recipe for grilled pound cake...
Come on, tie on your favorite 'Kiss the Cook' apron, trade in your spatula for a set of tongs and rediscover your favorite grilled fruits & veggies!
A potluck party can be a super fun way to get together and let everyone show off their creative side. Plus it can also relieve the stress of hosting a bit. With a good plan and a fun theme, a good ole fashioned potluck can be the perfect dinner party idea.
Inspire your friends to be Iron Chefs
Just like Chef Morimoto!
Dress like the chefs or the judges. An apron and a chef toque or a suit and a bib.
Here’s where you can get creative. Announce a “feature” ingredient the morning of your party and ask guests to bring either an appetizer, main course, or dessert with that ingredient in it. It could anything from strawberries, to ginger, to tumeric.
Or have your cooks assemble at thegrocery store. Reveal the secret ingredient, a time and money limit, then let the cooks go wild. The cooks go home to make their dish and have to arrive at the party at a certain time.
Spray paint a wooden spoon gold and write the date of the party on the handle as a trophy.
Wine and Cheese party
You don’t have to be a connoisseur to enjoy a good pairing. Wine and cheese are a perfect match for a simple yet elegant party.
Dress it up with cocktail dresses and button-ups, or keep it casual with comfy cashmere sweaters.
A variety of crackers are a must. Also as the host you may want to provide a few, other snack foods/ appetizers for guests to enjoy: fruits, nuts, pretzels, etc.
Be sure to have enough stemware. Don't worry if it doesn't all match. It will be easier for your guests to find their glass if it is not exactly like the others anyway! Some corks and a shaped wooden cheese board can add a nice touch to the food display, or try a table runner of chalkboard contact paper...an easy way to give your guest written instructions.
If you don't necessarily consider yourself a wine expert, but you are enthusiastic...check out some of Gary Vaynerchuck's unorthodox but fun wine reviews or visit the Cheese Course.com for some insights on pairing wine with cheese.
Mystery & Intrigue
Sometimes it's tough to relax and be social, even at a party. Rather than letting your shyer guests become wallflowers, get them engaged in what's happening! Planning an activity that everyone gets involved in, is an instant icebreaker. Hosting a casino night or a murder mystery theme keeps everyone guessing and involved in the evening's events. When your guests are relaxed, you'll find yourself having more fun too!
Hosting a Murder Mystery - Everyone loves a good mystery, and while the idea of organizing the whole event yourself may be a little overwhelming there are tons of pre-made kits ready to get you started. Plus we’ve collected these clever ideas for you!
Attire: Send your guests a description of their character with some back-story information in advance. It's more fun when they can dress the part.
Suggested Menu: Perhaps a Mystery Soup or a Meatloaf Surprise to keep your guests guessing. For drinks, try a Dark & Stormy night cocktail, or getaway Sidecar. And of course end it all with Death by Chocolate Cake. Bakeries in Fort Worth
Decoration Tip: Your decor will depend on the “scene” of your murder; it may be on a highbrow yacht (with some ocean wave music in the background) or in a smoky underground nightclub (a la non-toxic smoke machine). If you dim the lights or play some tunes just make sure your detectives can still see and hear well enough to investigate. Props are also key to help your guests get into character, e.g. magnifying glasses, wooden pipes, party masks, perhaps a few fake mustaches...a top hat or two...
Casino Royale - Break out the cards and shape up your shuffling skills, for a night of poker, blackjack, and craps. You don't need to rent tables, a few green table cloths will do the trick.
Attire: Traditional casinos were places where elegance was the priority and champagne was a must. Be sure your invitation encourages your guest to "Dress to Impress" in cocktail dresses and tuxedos.
Suggested Menu: A casino is too busy for a sit down meal. Think buffet style with fantastic finger foods like mini sliders or cherry tomatoes stuffed with delicious chicken salad. Top it all off with not one but TWO martini bars. One for alcohol and one for mac & cheese -- a sophisticated selection of mixers and garnishes and you are ready to really set the night off.
Discover this list of Best Martini Garnishes
Decorations: Dice, playing cards, and poker chips-- all available at your local dollar store and perfect for setting the scene for your casino night. Birthday Print up your own money with the guest of honor's face on the fake bills. You can even get some prizes so your guests have something to play for—gift cards or bottles of wine work well.
That's a Novel Idea!
Who among us hasn't wished they could spice up their party plans? Here are a few party themes based on stories that we all know and love, plus our thoughts on how to turn these pages into a rockin' good time!
Alice in Wonderland - Start with a tea party. Add brighter colors, mix in over-sized and under-sized snacks, stop all the clocks, and you’ve got yourself a mad tea party. Direct the guests with “Eat me,” and “Drink me” labels on all the treats and don’t forget to leave a place for the Hatter.
Attire: Guests are encouraged to combine patterns and colors at will, and conversation should, as a rule, be utterly absurd.
Suggested Menu: Bowtie pasta salad served in top hat bowls, fruit & cheese tray arranged as a caterpillar and a Mad Hatter Potion!
Recipe for Mad Hatter Potion
Decoration Tip: Playing cards have a distinctive look. Incorporate playing cards into your invitations, place settings and centerpieces!
Thru the Looking Glass to more decorating ideas
The Great Gatsby - Recreate the Gatsby-esque Long Island experience with an opulent evening filled with ecstatic 1920's jazz. (if you can't swing live musicians, find a great online mix.) Enjoy more Gin Rickeys than prudent, and after you danced yourself silly, cool off with a midnight dip in the pool.
Attire: 1920s fancy dress required for entry; the more pearls and longing looks, the better.
Suggested Menu: Crab-stuffed mushrooms with Parmesan cheese, deviled eggs, Shirley Temples and Mint Juleps! Recipe for Mint Juleps
Decorations: In case you don’t have a vintage convertible to park out front, think black, white, and chrome. Art Deco of the 1920s was predominated by glossy black, chrome, repeated geometric patterns, and mirrored surfaces. And don’t forget your feather boas. Turn on some jazz, string up some white lights and fake pearls and Charleston until dawn!
Party planning doesn't need to be a nightmare. With a little preparation, and a few clever decorations, the perfect holiday bash can easily be yours. Here are a few of our handy party planning tips & tricks.
-Give notice: Two-three weeks is usually enough notice to get people before they make other plans but short enough that they won’t forget.
-Make a list: Having a master list of all the tiny details (clean the good glasses, get more chairs, etc.) and a timeline to get them done, will free up your brain to concentrate on more exciting tasks like decorating and menu planning.
-Keep it simple: Don’t make the menu too complex. Simple foods with great presentation (especially snack and finger foods) will take the stress out of your prep and clean-up process. Or take it a step further and have it catered.
Set the Stage
-Create an atmosphere: Keep the lighting and the music at a manageable level, not bright enough or loud enough to be a distraction to casual conversation but still present.
-Make space, leave seating: Push furniture back so that there is space to mingle but make sure that people still have the option to sit. Situate chairs in small clusters to create space for intimate conversations.
-Don’t go overboard: While it is a holiday party, decorations can quickly become overwhelming. Try to be purposeful in your choices and let them accent the way your space is normally decorated.
Try: Making Your Own (DIY) Centerpieces to save some money
-Cocktails: As fun as it may be to whip up made to order cocktails for everyone, pre-making one large batch can save time and free you up during the party to mingle.
-Pre-soak the dirty dishes: Fill a tub with warm soapy water and have guests dump their dishes in it throughout the night. This will help with later clean-up.
-Things will spill: And that’s okay. Be prepared with towels and some spray cleaners but keep your truly important belongings out of the main space.
Lastly, to send your guests out the door with warm feelings and happy memories, consider small takeaway gifts. It can be as simple a few chocolates wrapped in a cute bag, and will really put a nice cap on the evening.
Other party ideas from our Pinterest:
Not a chef? Not a problem. Simple foods, great presentation