Thanksgiving Dinner Game Plan

Thanksgiving Dinner Game Plan

I love planning a holiday meal.  As new food magazine issues emerge on the shelves, I start collecting them – and scouring them – using page flags and sticky notes to mark interesting recipes.

I’m lucky that my family is laid back when it comes to holiday meals.  They usually leave the menu up to me, and I love the responsibility – it lets me get a little creative!

A decision on the protein comes first – turkey, ham, duck, Cornish game hen, seafood?  From there I plan the sides carefully… and yes, I write it all down on one big list.  (Normally I make a list of possible sides and then mark them off based on relevance to the protein.)  Once I’ve narrowed down my sides and desserts (the two hardest categories to whittle down), I make a shopping list.  I go through the ingredients in each recipe and check it with items I have on hand.  If I need something, it goes on the shopping list – with amounts needed jotted out to the side.  So, if for example, I need butter for the green beans, butter for the mashed potatoes and butter for the dessert – I might have a side note of 1/2 cup + 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons… Before heading to the store, I do the math so I buy the right amount of each ingredient.

**My Holiday Grocery Shopping Trick – Buying in bulk (especially when everyone else is) can be a waiting game.  Instead, plan out your shopping list early and conquer it by making more frequent, quick stops during the week leading up to the holiday.  Plan to buy 10 items or less so you can go through the Express Lane – it’s a breeze and you’ll have all you need in no time, without having to wait 30-45 minutes in a long register line! **

I’ve made TWO free printables to help you with your Thanksgiving Dinner planning and shopping – just click on these links to download a thanksgiving menu planning and a thanksgiving shopping list.

Another clever idea for your holiday (and everyday) entertaining is to keep a Cooking Journal.  I got this one years ago at Anthropologie, but any journal or notebook will do.  In my food journal,  I keep track of menus for holidays and other special get-togethers.  It’s kind of like in the movie High Fidelity when John Cusack’s character reorganized his record collection in chronological order.  If I remember that we loved the potatoes from last Easter but our favorite turkey was from Christmas 3 years ago, I can mix and match to create a better menu for the next holiday.  It’s a good way to keep beloved recipes close at hand (if they’re well received I jot down the recipe in the book) – and I love to look back on what went over well and what didn’t.


Here’s a peek inside my cooking journal.  I make notes of the event, date of the meal, who was in attendance and where the dinner was for future reference.  I also include a rating out to the side of experimental dishes – stars if we loved the dish and X’s if we hated it… keeps us from repeating culinary mistakes.  In this journal, I also experiment on recipes I’ve had and want to duplicate or recipes I’ve thrown together and liked.  It’s where I keep track of my culinary adventures (and misadventures too).



I would recommend a cooking journal to any aspiring foodie… in fact, if you know a foodie who doesn’t have one, it might be a great Christmas gift idea.

It’s back to Thanksgiving dinner plans for me.  Happy Thursday!

End of Summer Fiesta

End of Summer Fiesta

To wrap up the summer, I thought it might be fun to throw an End of Summer Fiesta for the entire Barque team.  We’ve never had an official “office party” or anything, so this was new – but definitely fun and we will do it again!

A good fiesta has to start with colorful decorations, so I knew paper fans and tissue honeycomb would be an easy option to hang between the dining room and front door.

honeycomb fans

To start building the tablescape early in the week of the party, I layered a black tablecloth with a white knitted one on top.  Once I added a serape runner, it started to take on the festive vibe I was going for.  With the addition of a few chile/salsa cans from the grocery store, it really started to take shape.

fiesta table runner

A few days before the party, I made tissue paper napkin rings and menus.  You can see the tutorial for those here.

fiesta napkin rings

The day before the party, I emptied the cans and filled them with flowers – spray roses, dahlias, spider mums, stock, Billy balls and such.

salsa cans

fiesta flowers

For place cards, I printed the guest names on colored cardstock, cut them out, and used a scalloped Martha Stewart punch from Michael’s to create the lace detail at the bottom.

fiesta menu and napkin ring

For the Fiesta Menu, I decided to prepare dishes  from cookbooks we sell in the store.  That way, my entire team could have first hand experience with some of the recipes.

Starters – Tortilla Chips, Salsa, Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

Soup & Salad – Green Chile Corn Chowder (Pioneer Woman) and Orange Cabbage Salad (The Forest Feast)

Main – Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Sauce (Perini Ranch Cookbook) and Chimichurri, plus a Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad

Dessert – Dutch Oven Blackberry Cobbler with Buttermilk Lime Ice Cream (Sweet on Texas)

I’m not sure why the only photo I got was of the dessert, but it sure was tasty, so here ya go.  And I have to say that the Buttermilk Lime Ice Cream was worth the extra effort.  It was delicious!


Of course the bar cart was stocked with Citrus Water (water with lemons and limes), 3-Step Margaritas (they’re SO easy) and Corona.

fiesta bar cart

{The decorative flags on the bar cart were made with my Silhouette Cameo, but that was kind of a disaster.  One would cut perfectly and the next would be a train wreck – no reason why – so I’m kind of mad at my machine at the moment.}

fiesta bar cart

As a party favor, guests received tiny bottles of hot sauce with a fun gift tag.

hot sauce party favors

All in all, we had a great time – we had great conversation, enjoyed the food, and had such a good time.  Definitely going to do more of this “office party” thing in the future!

{If you want to see the inspiration behind this party, check out the Pinterest board here.}

Fiesta Tissue Napkin Rings

Fiesta Tissue Napkin Rings

As I’m planning an End of Summer Fiesta, so I thought it might be fun to create decorative napkin rings for it.  They were easy, and I like how they added more color to the tablescape.

To begin, you will need:

– scissors

– empty toilet paper rolls (or paper towel rolls)

– craft glue

– sheets of colored tissue paper


fiesta napkin rings

First, cut the empty toilet paper/paper towel cardboard tubes into rings approximately 2.5″ wide.

fiesta napkin ringsThen fold them in half and use the scissors to cut “fringe” on one side – approximately 1/4″ between cuts.fiesta napkin ringsfiesta napkin ringsNext, use the glue (sparingly) to attach the tissue strips one at a time to the cardboard tube.fiesta napkin ringsfiesta napkin ringsKeep adding layers of tissue until the entire cardboard tube is covered (approximately 4 layers).fiesta napkin ringsAfter gluing, use your fingers to gently “rough up” the fringe a bit – I think it looks better that way.fiesta menu and napkin ring{As you can tell, I repeated the same process for the menu, using longer tissue strips.}

Pineapple Plates

Pineapple Plates

While in Costa Rica for my brother’s wedding, my family took a half day fishing tour. When the young local fisherman presented us with a gorgeous pineapple snack – we were really impressed with his presentation skills! He used no fancy plates or utensils – just a pineapple, a cutting board and a knife.pineapple plate

Basic. Beautiful. Delicious. And I’ve never cut a pineapple this way.

Of course I asked him how he did it (so I could share with you). Wouldn’t this be fabulous at a Luau or backyard summer party? The best part is there’s virtually no clean up (aside from washing your hands and the knife)!


First, cut off the top of the pineapple.  Then cut off the bottom.

pineapple plates how to

pineapple plates how to

Then cut the pineapple in half.

pineapple plates how to

Next, cut out the core of the pineapple by slicing a “V” shape in the flesh.  Then cut again to create four equal pieces.

pineapple plates how to

pineapple plates how to

Carefully use the knife to separate the inner flesh from the outer skin.

pineapple plates how to

Slice the pineapple into ½” sections.

cute pineapple plates

Position the slices so they alternate on the pineapple “plate” and serve.

pineapple plates - how to carve your own

pineapple plates make for easy serving

This was my first time cutting a pineapple like this, so it isn’t as pretty as the fisherman’s, but it DID work.  And I’ll definitely be giving this technique some practice in the warm months!

{Did you know pineapples are ON TREND right now?  You can read more here.}

The Watermelon Keg

The Watermelon Keg

It’s summer – and that means that picnics, backyard barbecues and outdoor get-togethers are happening NOW! For your next summer party, use a watermelon keg – it’s clever, useful and a fun way to delight your guests (for only $24.99, plus the cost of a watermelon).

IMG_7459To start, if your watermelon will stand up straight on its own, then can slice off the top and start scooping out the flesh.  If not, you’ll need to trim approximately 1 inch off the bottom so that the watermelon will stand up securely.


Use an ice cream scoop to hollow out the inside, reserving the watermelon flesh in a large bowl (or two).



Stop scooping when you get about 2-3 inches close to the bottom of the watermelon.  (If you scoop too far down, you run the risk of piercing the outer skin and causing a leak.)  Next, assemble the keg dispenser and use the included coring tool to create a hole for the tap.

IMG_7452Attach the keg dispenser by placing it in the hole, and tightening from the inside.  If you tighten enough, it will naturally create a “seal” with the watermelon flesh and rind.

IMG_7454Once the dispenser is secure, you can fill it up with the beverage of your choice (I recommend something fruity flavored, because it’s still going to taste like watermelon).

If you want to utilize the watermelon flesh, use an immersion blender to liquify it.

IMG_7449Then strain the mixture, using a spatula to push the flesh through the strainer.  When you’re done, you’ll have a pitcher of watermelon juice, to which you can add whatever you want – club soda, lemon lime soda, vodka, gin, etc.  Want more ideas?  Check out our Pinterest board with Watermelon Drink Ideas.

IMG_7455No matter what you put IN the watermelon keg, it’s sure to be a hit at your summer get-together – it’s just so darn cute and… summery!





New Year’s Day Brunch

New Year’s Day Brunch

This year, on a bit of a whim, I decided to throw together a New Year’s Day Brunch with my girlfriends.  I had the day off, I still had plenty of food in my fridge from Christmas, and I haven’t had much time with my favorite girls since the busy season hit.

Since it was a last-minute thing, I tried to decorate with items that I had at home.  I had just packed away my Christmas decorations, and discovered an “extra” box of ornaments.  I found these mirrored glass ornaments, which I haven’t used in years {my dog Sarah ate three off the tree eight years ago and I haven’t used them since}.


I thought they were perfect for my New Year’s theme (hello ball drop!), so I cut off the strings.


Next I found an apothecary jar from my storage closet and filled it with the mirrored glass balls.  Then I added a black and white striped ribbon bow.

disco jar

All I wanted next was a little color, so I scattered tissue confetti (available in my store) and a few of the leftover mirror balls.



With the tablescape done, all there was left to finalize was the menu…

– Mimosas and a Bloody Mary Bar {here’s what I normally do for parties}

– Fresh berries with homemade whipped cream

– Bacon (duh)

– Dill red potatoes

– Feta, tomato and olive side salad with balsamic viniagrette

– Leek and Asparagus and Gruyere Quiche {from Martha Stewart}

– Chocolate Pie and Andes Mint Homemade Ice Cream {leftover from Christmas}


Even though we couldn’t have our brunch actually ON New Year’s Day {West Texas was bombarded with ice and snow right before, so the roads were pretty dangerous}, the postponed version was just as fun.

Cheers to 2015!