Hostessing is one of my favorite things to do. I love to make people feel welcome and comfortable when they come to my house, whether it’s just for an evening or an overnight visit. I have to admit, however, that at times I do let myself get stressed out about it when things are going the way I expected. Recently when my husband told me that some guests were coming in town an hour earlier than expected, I
starting completely freaking out cried a little and he looked at me with just a tad bit of concern. So my number one rule of hosting is: you aren’t perfect, you can’t be perfect, so just get over it. Chances are, the person coming to your house isn’t perfect either, so calm down. No amount of pristine cleanliness and perfect decore can equal your expression of genuine care for the person who walks in your door. That’s what they’ll remember most. That being said, here are a couple of my go-to tips for hosting anyone who stays the night.
1. Make sure your guest room is clean and welcoming. Fresh sheets, all surfaces newly dusted, the floor vacuumed and mopped, and a candle lit. Put some interesting books on the nightstand for reading options, a notepad and pen, and if you have room, a chair of some sort so they can relax. If possible, make some space in the closet for luggage.
2. Provide fresh towels, wash cloths and toiletries. I like to include a little container full of: toothpaste, a toothbrush, floss, melatonin, Tylenol, cough drops, mints, body wash, lotion, soap, deodorant, tissues, mouthwash, almonds & chocolate. I basically just raid the little one dollar travel-size toiletry section at the grocery store! Most people won’t use all or even any of this stuff (except the chocolate is always gone!) so you don’t have to buy more of all of these things every time.
3. A clean bathroom! When people use the bathroom, they want it to be clean. I include more fresh towels, good hand soap, and a cute hand towel. A hair dryer is a great thing to have as well as good body lotion and extra toilet paper. Plus I’ve deep cleaned it, making sure there is hopefully not one single dog hair to be seen. Again, nothing fancy for me, just clean and simple.
4. A good, hearty breakfast with coffee (and the fixings), tea and orange juice available. Find out what time your guest normally wakes up and wants their coffee. I’m the type that hopes for it first thing. Again, it doesn’t have to be something crazy like homemade hollandaise sauce over shrimp and eggs Benedict. Just go with something easy and flavorful. And something you’ve made before to insure success. I recently served house guests some failed homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls that didn’t rise, not my best moment, but thankfully they were good friends and very gracious. Plus I had bacon so that saved the day.
For a great and simple breakfast option, this variation of a breakfast casserole is really delicious. This week we are hosting some guests unexpectedly. I was able to throw this casserole together simply and inexpensively.
1/2 cup half and half
2 large red potatoes, julienned
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Sliced avocado for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the julienned potatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix potatoes together with olive oil so they are evenly coated. Roast potatoes in oven for 20 minutes.
Spray a 9X13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.
Sauté diced onions and bell peppers in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add minced garlic and sauté one minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, and chives.
In the baking dish put roasted potatoes and sautéed onions and peppers, combine together. Pour egg mixture over the veggies. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Top with sliced tomatoes, spaced over the casserole.
Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes until eggs are cooked through.
Top with sliced avocado and enjoy!
**the eggs and potatoes make this a hearty dish, but some cooked, crumbled bacon or breakfast sausage would be delicious added to the mix. Just combine with the veggies before pouring in the egg mixture.
The coming of fall has been a dream! A few things I’ve enjoyed lately…
My birthday was really special this year. I felt so loved by friends and family and specifically enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Frankie Marcello’s with my husband (get the chicken piccata!), tea with my girl friends at the English Tea Room (the Earl Grey Supreme is divine) in Covington, dinner and drinks with Matthew and my parents at Galatoire’s Bistro (you’ve got to try the banana bread pudding!), and gifts galore!
The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?
The grand opening of Trader Joe’s. I won’t mention how many times I’ve been so far. But some of my TJ faves so far include: 21 Seasoning Salute (a salt-free blend of yes, 21 different spices, perfect for chicken, fish, burgers, eggs, etc..), Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea, Tuscan White Bean Hummus, Gorgonzola Crackers, and Coconut Bonbons, and my husband’s fave Cookie Butter (dangerous).
Rollerblading with my puppy, Boone. Maybe the most fun and scariest form of exercise ever. I’m bringing rollerblading back!
My fall herb garden. I transferred most of my herbs from my larger garden into pots so that in the unlikely chance that it freezes this winter I can bring them inside. I love having fresh herbs right outside of my house to use in my cooking. I’m growing: rosemary & thyme, arugula, cilantro, chives & dill, sage & parsley, and not pictured, basil, oregano, mint, lavender and patchouli.
Besides all these delights, lately we’ve enjoyed:
California Chicken Rice Bowls: this is a flavorful and delicious meal. I made it for a friend who recently had a baby, and they loved it! Also great with quinoa instead of rice. I topped it with feta cheese rather than blue cheese and skipped the walnuts.
Butternut Squash Pasta: husband approved! The sauce has a unique sweetness that changes things up a bit from your normal pasta sauce. I added a whole can of tomato paste as well as a de-seeded roasted red pepper to the blender when blending the sauce. I enjoyed the added savory and tomato flavor to offset the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe makes a ton, so I’m going to use the leftover sauce for pizza sauce later this week.
Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant: It may sound out of the box, but these stuffed eggplants are absolutely divine. The flavor profile is actually not as unusual as you might think. I used cous-cous instead of rice. Try it!
Balsamic Pot Roast: we enjoyed this out of the ordinary take on pot roast. Pot roast is a great dinner for a cold night after a busy day, as the slow cooker does all the work!
Homemade Granola: served as cereal with milk or a topping for Greek yogurt with maple syrup and fruit, this is one of our go to breakfasts. It is simple to make and much cheaper than buying from the grocery. Plus you can control the sugar content. I like to make a batch on Sunday afternoon and enjoy throughout the week.
Blueberry Upside Down Cake: an easy but impressive looking dessert. Perfect with vanilla bean ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
My husband usually eats without saying much. When I ask him if what he’s eating is good, he says: “yes, that’s why I’m not speaking!” But I know something is truly above and beyond delicious when he makes comments while consuming his food. Hearing: “mmmmm, wow, this is amazing” coming from both my husband and our friend Daniel as they ate a bowl of this soup confirmed it as one of the most delicious things I’ve made in a while!
Paired with buttery toast and topped with nutty Parmesan cheese, it’s the ultimate cozy comfort meal, especially perfect as the evenings get colder.
I adapted this recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make it just a tad lighter (half the amount of cream!) and a little easier with one of my favorite tricks: the rotisserie chicken. It’s a wonderful way to cut down on cooking time when you’re in a hurry but still want lots of flavor. On Mondays, Whole Foods has their rotisserie chicken on sale for $5.99 and it is fabulous!
I also added two cloves of garlic, because I put garlic in everything. Why not?
Creamy Italian Chicken Soup
adapted from The Pioneer Woman
1/2 box Ditalini Pasta (very Short Macaroni-type Pasta Noodles)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 chopped rotisserie chicken (pick up at local grocery or whole foods)
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Peppers, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 whole Fresh Jalapeño, Diced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 can (28-ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Oregano
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste
Parmesan Cheese Shavings, For Serving
Buttery Toast, For Serving
Cook pasta in a pot according to package directions, being sure not to overcook it. Drain and rinse in cold water to cool. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.
Remove chicken meat from skin and bones of the rotisserie chicken. Chop and set aside.
Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and oregano and turn off heat, stirring over the next minute to keep oregano from burning. Set this aside.
Sauté onion, red pepper, celery, and jalapeño in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic cloves and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add cooked pasta, cream, and all the oregano and olive oil from the small skillet. Stir to combine. Turn off heat.
Serve with lots of Parmesan sprinkled on the top and toast for dipping!
Enjoy all the compliments and “mmmmms” you get!
I love how fall just takes over. Pumpkins everywhere: cookies, muffins, drink flavors, even soups. Decor, carving, roasting seeds, flower planters. I love that the color orange in the shape of a large round vegetable is the center of fall. I love the weather, the cool days (well, one here and there), the sweaters, the s’mores. I love how when fall comes the holidays come soon after. There’s a sense of nostalgia and celebration that arrives with fall. My birthday is in October, and three years ago on my birthday, my husband proposed to me. That adds another level of lovely memories to my fall experience. I’ve always loved the fair with its rides and fried food. It’s just wonderful. Thank you, God, for fall.
Well, sooner or later, you’re bound to have a lazy fall morning probably on a Saturday or Sunday, so here’s what you should do. Sleep in. Brew a big pot of strong coffee. Light a fallish scented candle (pumpkin of course, or my new favorite: spiced orange & cinnamon). And whip up a big brunch that you can enjoy at a leisurely pace. Does anything sound better?
Last Saturday, I made a scrumptious and easy vegetable hash with a fried egg on top. Totally simple and totally delicious. You could add a side of buttered toast or top it with some crumbled bacon or add a Mexican flare with fried chorizo and salsa. However you try it, next time you have a lazy Saturday, enjoy the relaxation and coziness of a mid-morning brunch.
If you’re not a fan of peppers and spinach, make this with any assortment of veggies!
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 clove minced garlic
3 cups fresh spinach
1/2 of an avocado, sliced
a sprinkling of chopped green onion
a sprinkling of shredded cheese (I used mozzarella, but cheddar or feta, or really any cheese works great)
salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and bell pepper in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. After a 5 minutes and veggies are becoming translucent and soft, add minced garlic. Saute garlic for about a minute then add spinach, 1 cup at a time. Stir in each cup of spinach, adding more when wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low, and allow to sit while you fry the eggs.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil and fry two of the eggs. There are lots of ways to do this depending on how you like them. I don’t like my eggs runny. Here’s how to fry an egg.
Put half the veggies on a plate, sprinkle cheese on top of veggies, top with two fried eggs, top with sliced avocado and chopped green onion. Repeat for second plate. Enjoy!
More brunch inspiration: (these aren’t quite in the healthy category)
As much as I absolutely love the fall months, I’m not quite ready for summer to end. I’m holding on to every fresh berry and ripe tomato I can get my hands on and I’m especially not ready for Hobby Lobby to be filled with scarecrows and pumpkins. Don’t get me wrong, fall is probably my favorite time of year, but I don’t want to skip the end of summer. Given the fact that it won’t get even slightly chilly here in Louisiana until maybe mid-October, I guess I have a bit more time.
For me, salads are the best thing to eat in the summer. And even though I could certainly make this salad in the fall or winter, there’s something summery about it. The tangy feta and spicy chipotle make this easy dish flavor packed.
For a heartier salad, add some chopped rotisserie chicken or mixed greens and avocado. But without any of those things, this is still a hearty and delicious salad.
Happy end of summer!
For the salad:
2 cups of plain cous cous
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can (15oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup crumbled feta
A handful of blue corn tortilla chips
optional: chopped rotisserie chicken, sliced avocado, a handful of mixed greens
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Tablespoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo (found in a small can on the Mexican foods aisle)
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of water
Cook cous cous according to package directions, fluff and scoop 2 cups into a large bowl. Add drained & rinsed black beans, corn. Add chicken if using.
In a blender combine dressing ingredients. Add to cous cous mixture and stir to combine.
Place salad ingredients in a bowl on top of a handful of mixed greens if using. Top with a sprinkling of feta, cilantro and avocado. Serve with tortilla chips.
Visiting our families in & around Dallas is always a treat! Last week, my parents planned a family “stay-cation” for us in Dallas. We spent the mornings enjoying good conversation, hot coffee & hearty brunch around the breakfast table while in the afternoons we enjoyed the city. My parents did a great job of planning and I hope you get some ideas for Dallas adventures.
My parents have a beautiful backyard and pool that feels like an oasis!
Afternoon on Lake Ray Hubard! We rented a pontoon for the afternoon and had a great time tubing, swimming and relaxing. We loved that Matthew’s parents joined us and we enjoyed dinner at The Flying Saucer , which has delicious and creative burgers. I didn’t get a pic, but my San Miguel burger with chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo, and queso fresco was flavor packed and delicious.
Visiting the George W. Bush Library was incredible! The museum portion is an in depth look into George W.’s presidency. The designers did a fabulous job making the museum highly educational and interactive.
After enjoying the best-ever chips, salsa, margaritas and fajitas at our all time favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Mi Cocina, we ventured to the Bishops Art District for dessert at Emporium Pies. This gem of a pie shop was opened a year ago by our friend Megan and her business partner. The pies are phenomenal and the atmosphere is bright and cozy. We shared the French chocolate silk with pretzel crust, the deep dish apple with cinnamon streusel, and the coconut custard. Trust me, you don’t want to go through life without tasting these pies.
On our last full day, we went to Bowl and Barrel. This is absolutely the coolest bowling experience ever. Forget about carpeted walls and smokey air, this swanky uptown restaurant/bar/boutique bowling is hip, clean, and the food is incredible! We loved trying an assortment of appetizers.
House made fries with sweet ketchup and ranch, a hot pretzel with grainy mustard, mimosas, beer from the tap, bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed figs, fried cayenne quail, and Texas cheese fondue. Divine!
The whole week was a blast, but my favorite part was taking a cooking class as a family at Central Market! We received excellent, hands on instruction as we cooked a three course western-inspired meal. Our instructor explained each step and we learned new skills as we chopped, diced, stirred and mixed. Our meal was delicious: avocado, grilled tomato, corn and red onion salad, stuffed flank steak with cheesy grits and roasted vegetables, and skillet blueberry cobbler.
I cannot express how much I love my family! I’m so thankful my parents invited us to this family “stay-cation” and worked so hard to make it fun and special. I highly recommend any and all of the things we did in Dallas and I hope you try them.
What are your favorite things about Dallas?
Easy summer pasta and good books to read, really, what’s better?
We’ve been on the road quite a bit the last couple of weeks with only a day or so in between trips, making it difficult to grocery shop. But with an abundance of cherry tomatoes & basil in my garden, I’ve been making this easy, flavor packed pasta on the days we’re home. Even if you don’t have a garden, tomatoes & basil are in season so you can pick them up at your farmer’s market or grocery.
As you cook the whole cherry tomatoes over low heat in a covered pan, they burst open creating a spectacular sauce. The real star of the show here is actually the cloves of garlic which sweeten up as they’re sautéed whole in olive oil before being chopped and added to the sauce.
Great as a side, light lunch, or dinner entree with the addition of grilled chicken, I hope you try this recipe and love it!
1 cup whole cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
8 fresh basil leaves, whole or chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups of spiral pasta
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil into a sauté pan over medium low heat. Using a chopping knife, lightly smash the garlic cloves with the side of the knife so as to remove the peel. Add whole cloves to the pan and sauté for 3 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove garlic cloves and add whole tomatoes. Turn heat to low and cover. Allow to sauté for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes burst open.
Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the pan. Add fresh basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta and drizzle 1/2 Tablespoon olive, stirring to get it all covered. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put pasta into a bowl and pour sauce on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!!
At the beach, on the plane, by the pool, and before bed at night, here are some great reads I’ve enjoyed this summer!
Love Does by Bob Goff
With hilarious stories of adventure and kindness, Bob Goff brings readers into the journey of learning how to love extravagantly.
Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
Real talk on life. Through thoughtful essays sharing stories of life and God, Shauna Niequist reveals her experiences of celebrating each day.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Both through provoking and heart rending, this novel is a geniusly creative weaving together of stories that reveal human nature and the complexities of modern life.
Prophet by Frank Peretti
Probably my favorite novel of the summer. A fictional but truly apt critique of modern society. I wasn’t able to put this book down as the story is both mysterious and compelling!
Leading From the Second Chair by Mike Bonem & Roger Patterson
This is an incredible book for anyone who is in a place of subordinate leadership. The authors share from their experience, providing wise and insightful understanding into the complexities of leadership.
What books are you enjoying this summer?