Cocktail party!

Last night, I successfully hosted my first cocktail party in Baltimore! I originally wanted to have people over as a housewarming gathering, but it turned into more of a ‘thank you’ gathering for so many wonderful new friends who were so generous while I was in the hospital. It was great to have new and old friends together at my new place and I loved that I was able to mix work friends, church friends and mutual friends of friends that I don’t even know very well. We chatted for the entire evening over several bottles of great wine 🙂

I’m so happy to be back into the cooking mode and this housewarming was exactly what I needed to get fully acquainted with my new kitchen. I had some simple cheeses from Aldi (that place is AMAZING for cheeses and other inexpensive things – I actually prefer the flavor of some of their items over more expensive grocery store brands). Brie cheese, Stilton with apricots and mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto were served with sesame crackers or these great rosemary flavored wheat crackers from Aldi. Of course, I had green and red grapes along with the cheeses. I think the combo of cheese, crackers and grapes is SO addictive! I could have probably consumed every cracker and piece of cheese on the cheese board all by myself.

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I also made a fresh cucumber salsa (with ingredients from the farmers market…yummy!) the recipe can be found here: cucumber salsa

I added significantly more cilantro than the recipe called for, but it can be adjusted to taste. It was delicious – very crisp and fresh, served with tortilla chips.

My favorite recipe I made is an apple, celery and goat cheese bruschetta. This recipe is from my favorite cooking class instructor at Elliott’s in Pinehurst, who I know I have mentioned before. This recipe is so impressive for guests and super simple to put together. It has a very fall vibe about it, so it was perfect for last night!

    Apple and goat cheese bruschetta

1 tbls butter
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c celery, diced
1/2 c onion, diced
1 large, tart apple, diced
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. honey
Minced garlic, to taste (about 1 clove)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
Toasted almonds (about 1/4 cup chopped or sliced)

Heat butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until they begin to color.
Add celery, apples, thyme, honey, garlic, salt and pepper and continue to sauté until apples soften. This can take a while (20 min or so) but I prefer to let it simmer slowly with a bit lower heat to allow the favors to really come together. This can also be made in advance and reheated prior to serving.
Toast slices of French bread until slightly crispy. Top each toast with goat cheese, apple mixture and place in oven to melt cheese. Garnish with almonds.

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Finally, I made what is becoming my go-to cupcake recipe. The cake has a great texture and a fresh lemon flavor. With a bit of alterations to the original recipe, the buttercream frosting is perfect and so versatile. The original recipe can be found here:
lemon cupcakes with strawberry like buttercream
The changes I made included halving the recipe, as it makes a TON and way more than needed for the cupcakes. I also only used about 3/4 as much confectioners sugar as the recipe calls for…the first time my sister made it, the frosting was way too sweet and it overpowered the fruit flavor. Lastly, I used strawberry lime jam instead of the blackberry just to be different. Brooke made them with the blackberry jam and it was a perfect combo with the lemon! We also double the amount of jam- you can do this to taste, but the original amount just isn’t enough to really give the frosting a fruity flavor. I garnished the cupcakes with fresh sliced strawberries and lime zest…fancy schmancy.

As a warning, don’t expect to get 24 cupcakes out of this unless you really like small cupcakes (no one does…fluffy, giant cupcakes that rise over the wrapper are always better, right?!). I made 18 cupcakes and felt they were the perfect size.

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Now you want to host a cocktail party, don’t you? I highly recommend the Apothic white blend wine…it’s very crisp and refreshing. A nice mix between a Chardonnay and a sweeter Riesling or Pinot. It’s a go to for gatherings.

Happy party planning 🙂

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