Wine Pairings For Your Easter Brunch

It is about time for another Wine Wednesday, isn’t it!?

Easter falls late this year meaning you have plenty of time to find the perfect wine combinations for your holiday meal. With thousands of wine choices to choose from, finding that perfect pairing can be difficult! Fortunately, creating a friendly and delicious wine menu to pair with your celebration can be made easier when enlisting the help of others. Spring into the season with these foolproof menu options:

Whether you choose a traditional Easter ham for 2019 or go with chicken or lamb, you are covered:

  • Most people believe tradition states dinner wines must be dry. However, the combination of salty, smoky, and sweet flavors in an Easter ham diminishes the tastes of dry wines. Instead, look towards German wines such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Choose an off-dry version, and the delicately sweet flavors with underlying acidity will cut through the richness of the ham.
  • If you decide to roast chicken this holiday, nothing pairs better than Chardonnay. Chardonnay offers a perfect balance of crisp freshness with toasty notes. Try either unoaked or oaked for two diverse tasting experiences.
  • For the red enthusiasts, no Easter dish compares to lamb. Lamb is strong in flavor which can support full-bodied, tannic red wines such as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy your lamb roasted or grilled with a glass of Cab Sauv and even a chilly Spring day will be a bit warmer!

Salads can be as diverse as wines. Keep it simple. Opt for mixed greens with Balsamic vinaigrette, and you will be pleasantly surprised with a pairing of Merlot. The rich oak flavors found in Merlot combined with highly acidic Balsamic create an amazingly full profile that is sure to please everyone.

When it comes to side dishes, there is quite the spectrum of delightful wines to savor. With a potato side, you should be tempted by a dry rosé wine. Having a pasta dish? You can never go wrong with bubbly, which is always festive. Bubbly also enhances cheese dishes! Traminette or another semi-sweet white wine pairs well with slaws. However, if you are not wanting too many drink options on the table, it is always a good rule of thumb to pair the same “meat wine” with its side dishes.

For the grand finale, let’s talk dessert. Though a sweet bubbly always pairs well with dessert, there are wines called “dessert wines” for a reason. A late harvest or icewine will truly wow your guests! Wines with citrus hints or exotic flavors will create a richness on the palate to both lift and support any dessert of your choosing.

Happy Easter to you and yours!He is risen!

White Elephant Gift Exchange (With Printables!)

The holiday is quickly approaching and that means festivities are abound! One of my personal favorite parts of the holiday season is to attend and host Holiday/Christmas parties and be surrounded by family and friends. One fun way to increase the laughs and interaction from all those at your holiday shindig is to host a White Elephant Gift Exchange.

Not sure what that entails? In the case you have never participated in a White Elephant Gift Exchange, I have drawn a little list together of how to host one and even provided some graphics for easy planning! Here is how the exchange works:

A White Elephant Gift Exchange is basically a surprise package in every way. First of all, every guest/participant should bring a wrapped, unlabeled gift along with them to the party. The gifts may have a monetary limit to them (my friends and I have decided on a maximum spending of $20 for each of our gifts) and be of any theme possible. The wackier the gift, the more entertaining the reactions and exchange!

Once the exchange time is arrived, arrange all the wrapped gifts in one area to allow them all to be visible. Some may be very small and other very large. Be sure every participant is able to see them all.

Then have guests choose a number from a hat/basket/whatever. This number represents their position in the exchange and is completely random. (Check below for a printable which has pre-designed numbers already available.)

When all your guests have a number, the exchange may begin. Number One is first up to select a gift from the pile. After he or she chooses their wrapped gift, he/she opens it in front of the group. Number One then returned to their seat with their new gift and waits for the exchange to continue.

Now it is Number Two’s turn. Number Two can choose one of two options: select an unwrapped gift from the pile OR steal the gift which has now been unwrapped. Some gifts may be more desirable than others, so Number Two has to make the decision. If Number Two decided to open a new gift, then he/she does so in front of the group and returns to their seat just as Number One did prior.

However, if Number Two decides to steal Number One’s gift, then Number One can select a new gift from the pile. It is a dog-eat-dog world after all.

After Number Two’s turn (or Number One’s new choice is unwrapped), Number Three has the same decision to make: unwrap a new gift or steal one of the gifts previously unwrapped. With the complete randomness of gift selection, prepare for laughable moments!

This process continues through all the numbers. Following the last number’s selection of opening or stealing, Number One gets one more option to keep their current gift, open a gift (if there are any more), or steal one final time. Upon Number One’s final choice, the exchange ends and all gifts are now the property of their current owner. Merry Christmas to you!

Each gift can only be stolen THREE times before it must remain in the possession of the True Master. True Master = Permanent Owner This means the third thief gets to keep that stolen gift for the remainder of the exchange with no more threat of loss.

White Elephant Printable

For anyone wishing to host a White Elephant Gift Exchange, I designed this little printable. Please feel free to print this, frame it, and use at your party. The PDF also includes a page of 1-40 numbers for your easy convenience. Cut them out, throw them in a hat, and you’re ready to party!

Click here to download the White Elephant Exchange rules and number sheet.

The best part about this gift exchange is that you can tweak it to fit your needs. Decide on the cost of the gift and have guests bring the gift wrapped and unmarked to the party. You can even set a theme for the gifts: handmade, coffee table books, movie, gag, etc. There are so many way to have fun with a White Elephant Gift Exchange! I’ve collected some great gifts over the years including a sushi recipe book, yoga ball, and neon-colored duct tape.

I would love to hear about your experience of having a White Elephant Gift Exchange! Did you get anything exciting?

Have fun, friends!

Friendsgiving 2018 Menu

Thanksgiving is a traditional meal — gotta have that green bean casserole, amirite?! But Friendsgiving has become a fun new tradition G and I began last year. This year had to be a much more intimate affair due to all those home improvements and limited amount of time to plan, but it was still a great time. We used the time for enjoying more delicious food and even better community.

Talking about food, I wanted to provide some praise for our menu this year in the form of a post. I could go into detail about how to plan your own Friendsgiving or games/activities to play at your own dinner, but I think those topics are too difficult to cover. I mean, you know what works best with your friends’ group and can Pinterest tons of ideas. Instead, I’m going to focus on the dinner table.

Below is what we had on our Friendsgiving table along with recipes to try on your own. It was more than enough food for a small group of only six diners, but that meant leftovers. I’ll never complain about not having to grocery shop following a holiday!

Drinks

  • Cranberry Apple Moscow Mule Punch from Whitney Bond
  • Red Wine Hot Chocolate from Delish (we used Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine)
  • Holiday Sherbet Moscato Punch — this was a homemade recipe mixing grape juice and/or Hawaiian punch with lime sherbet and sparkling moscato

Appetizers

Dinner

  • Pumpkin Dinner Rolls from Tastes of Lizzy T
  • Spinach Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette similar to Vegan Daydream
  • Sweet Potato Casserole similar to Crunchy Creamy Sweet
  • Green Beans made with brown sugar and bacon — simply saute frozen or fresh green beans with olive oil, brown sugar, and bacon bits… YUM!
  • Simple Turkey (made in an oven bag) with instructions from Clever House Wife — this was my first-ever turkey so I threw a mix of my own spices inside and on top of the turkey including sage, black pepper, lemon, mustard, and garlic powder.

Dessert

  • Brownie Batter Dip similar to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe with pretzels, vanilla wafers, and marshmallows

We proceeded to play a little Battle of the Sexes and Cards Against Humanity before staying up until 2:00AM with some lively discussions. I’m loving this annual tradition and am excited to see how it will evolve over the next few years.

What sort of dishes do you include in your annual Friendsgiving? I would love to have some new recipes for future years! Please drop a suggestion in the comment section below.

See you all in December, 

How To Build An Awe-Inspiring Charcuterie Spread On Budget

When it comes to hosting a great dinner party, there are staples to the night that I cannot skip: excellent food, great (quantities of) wine, and the perfect blend of friends. My secret weapon for any gathering is one thing: a perfectly curated charcuterie board. Not only does it appease guests’ pre-dinner appetites but it’s also chic, classy, and fun to put together!

So today I’m going to share a few of my secrets on how to make a crowd-pleasing charcuterie board and how to do so on a limited budget.

In case you’re unfamiliar, charcuterie (pronounced shar-kood-eree) are meat and cheese boards that typically include a variety of other foods that can be paired for palate-pleasing combinations. The ingredients all complement the meats and cheeses present, and guests can have a fun do-it-yourself appetizer. Plus, charcuterie can be created any time of the year utilizing a lot of different seasonal foods to continue making a unique and special selection.

Choose a variety

Meats and cheeses are the key components to any charcuterie. However, any good spread needs a solid amount of choice, and I recommend going with a mixture of textures to please the palate. This means finding meats and cheeses which offer a variety of softness, hardness, chewiness, dryness, etc.

For meats, I generally go with aged meats rather than sliced deli meat because they’re full of flavor and tend to pair easier. Look for a few different options such as prosciutto, cured ham, pâté, or salamis. I typically shop at Aldi for my meat and cheese needs because their selection is amazing! One of my go-tos is the Specially Selected Prosciutto Panino which offers a soft mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto. I could eat this by itself but it makes an awesome pairing partner to a variety of other ingredients in a spread too.

Now let’s talk cheese — my favorite part of the charcuterie. I typically select at least four cheeses: a mild, medium, and sharp cheese along with a goat milk cheese. I absolutely love goat cheese and having a bit in your charcuterie offers a non-dairy option. It’s a win-win for any group! For my mild cheese, I typically find a smooth Brie and it seems to always be a favorite among my guests. I go for a Gouda or cheddar as my medium-bodied cheese. As long as it pairs well with both white and red wine (and beer sometimes) then I’m happy. And finally, I love to bring a blue cheese out as my sharp cheese as it pairs so well with bolder meats and heavy red wines. One of my ride-or-dies is Kenny’s Farmhouse Bleu Gouda (ohmigoodness, I’m salivating just thinking about this cheese.) When feeling especially adventurous I’ll also throw together a wedge or two of hand-crafted specialty cheese such as the Roasted Garlic with Tomato and Basil Cheese by Specially Selected.

Sweet, spice, and everything nice

Salty is good up to a point. Since many of your meat options are cured, they will be very salty. So it is good practice to balance things out with milder flavors. Serve up a sweet complement such as fresh or dried fruit, jams, or mustards. Working at a winery for so many years, my charcuterie boards are lacking if I do not have some bunches of grapes decorating them. I also love adding a bit of softness to the board through Southern Grove Dried Apricots.

Two other additions every single one of my charcuterie spreads include which have guests raving? The first is adding strawberry preserves (preferably homemade) to the top of my Brie and warming it enough to make it just the slightest bit gooey. The second — and the highest praise-worthy inclusion — is goat cheese with apricot preserves. Either create a base of apricot preserves topped with crumbled goat cheese or a bowl of layering the two ingredients, but your guests are going to go crazy for this flavor explosion!

Get creative with your add-ons

Depending on whether your charcuterie is the main event or simply a pre-dinner snack, you’ll want to alter the amount of meat and cheese you buy. (Though overbuying wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.) My rule of thumb is three ounces per person as an appetizer and doubled portions if your board is the food focus. Charcuterie is a rich foodie project and will be overly satisfying.

Feel free to go basic or wild in your varieties of meat, cheeses, condiments, garnishments, and add-ins though. Along with the salty and sweet options, I love to add some savory notes to my boards. Olives are a great choice, and nuts come in so many varieties and add a nice crunch. Go with pistachios, cashews, or a trail mix. And bread! Bread is a must. Serve a couple of different breads such as a strong sourdough alongside a simple ciabatta or an assortment of crackers and you’ll be good to go.

Do not feel obligated to stick with “traditional charcuterie” options though. Sometimes I’ll add a little seasonal twist and weave pumpkin seeds across my board. Last Halloween I had a glorious charcuterie arrayed around a centerpiece of Sour Patch Straws. (Which were surprisingly good with a bit of dry Riesling…)

Budget-friendly tip: Typically a spread like those I have pictured throughout this post cost around $50 at Aldi and filled the bellies of 30+ people during my wine club events. Find your key elements (meat and cheeses), choose an assortment of crackers of breads, and then find a few tasty add-ins.

The only piece of charcuterie you should rely to remain the same each and every time is the great company it brings to your table. One of my favorite parts about hosting a get-together featuring a charcuterie board is we all inevitably end up discussing our favorite flavor profiles. And in turn drink a lot of good wine. Simple evenings like those are usually the most relaxing and memorable.

And that is it, friends. Get out there and try your own charcuterie spreads! I would love to hear what your favorite charcuterie items are — what have you tried that really packed a flavor punch? Please share your ideas with me!

Happy snacking,