6 Things your party guests want you to know

tori-tait

I love to play hostess. Inviting people into my home and welcoming them with food and drink is my love language. But not everyone feels natural in that role–I totally get it. In fact, for many of you, the idea of all that planning, prepping, and entertaining might make you feel completely overwhelmed. Heck, that’s the reason I started this blog back in 2007! I want to share tips and inspiration that takes out the overwhelm and leaves you confident and excited to send out those invites or to cook up a special weeknight meal.

But, even I am guilty of the occassional overthinking, overplanning, and overextending myself (just ask my husband and kids!). And I’ll admit I may have had my share of  “company is coming” freak-out moments. But despite the slip ups, overall, I like to keep things simple which translates into a less-stressed hostess and a more welcoming atmosphere for your guests.

So, as you start planning those inevitable holiday gatherings I urge you to try your best to keep things as simple as you can and take pressure off of yourself to “do it all” or make everything “prefect.”

Believe me, you’ll be a better hostess and your guests will have an even better time. In fact, here are a few things your guests wish you knew.

guests

1. They are thankful you are hosting (and they don’t have to)

They didn’t have to make sure their toilets were clean, they had drink ice on hand, or have to be the ones cleaning up tonight’s mess, tomorrow. So basically you’re already their favorite person because you’re willing to host at your home.

2. They can’t tell if you baked the pie or if it came from the store

They won’t be able to tell one way or the other so make it easy on yourself and grab food at the market. Just take it out of the packaging and present it in a thoughtful way. (You know, like Sarah Jessica Parker did in I Don’t Know How She Does It.)

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Mini Cheesecake Bites

This post is sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

I have a little confession: I was always scared to bake a cheesecake. I am not sure why, really. I guess I just assumed it was tricky, required a special pan, and was going to taste bad. But none of those things are true. This simple recipe for mini cheesecake bites is my proof. I am so glad I decided to develop this recipe because it was easy and the reward was delicious!Mini Cheesecake Bites

I wanted to come up with a creative dessert that was easy to make but would impress guests at our recent family dinner party. I like being able to serve bite-sized desserts on a platter so guests can take one (or two) and pass them around. This also works out really well for the dishwasher, because there is less to clean up after everyone has gone home.

cheesecakes bites

Gather a few ingredients and get ready to bake (you’ll find the full recipe below). Don’t be intimidated (like I was) at the idea of making your own cheesecake from scratch. I promise it wasn’t difficult and it tastes way much better than the no bake-versions I had tried in the past. The star is the Philadelphia Cream Cheese which is made with, fresh milk, real cream, and no preservatives – nothing else tastes like it.

cheesecake

See, no special pan! I simply lined an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper. You’ll want to let it overhang about 2″ on each side so you can later “lift” the baked cheesecake out of the dish. If your parchment paper isn’t big enough, just use two pieces that criss-cross the pan. The bottom part of the dish will be your graham cracker crust layer. Then, you’ll pour in the creamy cheesecake mixture on top before putting it in the oven.

easy cheesecake

It bakes low and slow for about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. This ensures your cheesecake top doesn’t crack. But don’t worry too much about it even if it does because you’re going to top it with drizzled chocolate and candy bar pieces so no one will even notice.

candy bar cheesecake

While it’s baking, cut your favorite candy bars into bite-sized pieces. You’ll use these for your cheesecake toppings. You’ll need about 48 pieces.

recipe for cheesecake bites

After it comes out of the oven, let it cool for about 15 minutes and then place it in the freezer for another hour, (be sure to cover it with plastic wrap first). This cools it down so it can harden a bit, which will help you cut the cheesecake into nice 1-inch pieces.

recipe for mini cheescakes

Once you have cut your pieces, add a drop of chocolate sauce or fudge to each piece and then place a candy bar on top. That’s it. Easy, right?

mini cheeseake bites

Place them on a platter or use a cake stand. I promise, they won’t last long!

Mini Cheesecake Bites
 
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Created By:
Serves: 16 Servings when a serving equals 3 pieces

Ingredients
  • For the crust
  • 1½ cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • For the cheesecake filling
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 8-ounce PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Bricks, softened, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For The Topping
  • 5 Tablespoons chocolate sauce
  • 48 Candy bar pieces

To Make
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with overhung parchment paper.
  2. For the crust. In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter, and mix until all of the crumbs are moistened. Press the mixture in the pan and press firmly into an even layer.
  3. For the filling. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese (I used the paddle attachment in a stand mixer but you could also use a hand mixer) until it is light and fluffy. Next, add in the sugar, salt, cornstarch, eggs and vanilla, beating to combine well after each ingredient is added. The mixture should be very smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared pan on top of the crust. Place in the center of the oven and bake until just set (about 30 minutes). You’ll know it’s set when it doesn’t jiggle in the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before covering the pan with plastic wrap and placing in the freezer for an additional hour to harden up.
  4. To Make The Bites. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, uncover and remove from the pan using the overhung parchment paper to “lift” it out. Using a sharp knife, slice into about 48 1-inch squares. Top each bite with a drop of chocolate sauce, then place a piece of candy bar on top of each one.

 

Philadelphia_AuthorLogoFor all of your entertaining needs, turn to Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Always have it on hand to create fun appetizers and desserts that pop. I had a great time developing my mini cheesecake bites for family dinner party. For more creamy, delicious recipe ideas, click here.

Mini cheesecake bites topped with candy bar pieces

DIY Cactus Ring Toss Game

DIY Cactus Ring Toss Game

Looking for a fun family game? This DIY cactus ring toss was a huge hit with my family! We like to play games together often (and we’re also a pretty competitive group so it gets interesting), indoors or out. Since summer is winding down, we’ve been trying to play more outdoor games and that’s what inspired this DIY cactus ring toss game.

DIY Cactus Ring Toss Game

The cactus trend is still going strong and I thought making a cactus ring toss game just screamed summer–so viola! It was really easy to make.  We were playing within 30 minutes of putting it together (it’s triple digits with a dry heat so the spray paint basically instantly dried). We put ours in a pot so you can technically play this indoors or out (or even take it to the park for a picnic).  (more…)

Sip Sip Rosé :: Free Printable

sip sip Rosé free printable

Hip, Hip, Hooray! Or should I say Sip Sip Rosé?! It’s Friday and that means it’s time for a big exhale. It’s been a looooooong week over here. We’re trying to jump back into work and school starting after some time off. Also, our pup is also pretty sick after having and emergency surgery (think Marley and Me situation) so we’re trying to get back to his normal self).

This weekend will be full of photoshoots and some special projects but I’m definitely going to make time to sip a glass of rosé and take a breather. How about you?

I’ve had a hard time finding a rosé I love at the local market. I would LOVE your suggestions! So far my favorite bottle has been this 2015 Sauvetage Rosé I found on ClubW (I might have ordered about 12 bottles this summer). But I’d love an option I can run to the market and grab on a Friday like today.

(PS if you want to check out ClubW wines, I highly recommend them. You can use my referral link).

So tell me … what’s your favorite go-to Rosé to sip? Friends share wine recommendations. It’s totally a thing, so dish.

A Simple Build Your Own Bagel Bar


This post is sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Setting up a build-your-own bagel bar might be the best idea I’ve had in a long time. It’s the perfect breakfast or brunch spread when entertaining (think book club, bridal shower, baby shower), or when hosting out of town guests. Imagine your in-laws waking up to this spread! The whole thing really looks and feels so fancy when in reality it all takes only about ten minutes to set up (and requires zero cooking!). But, you don’t have to tell anyone that.

Plus, with a variety of toppings, there is sure to be something for everyone.

Bagel Bar Set Up
I like the idea of using mini bagels because then you can make a few different versions and get creative with your toppings without having to commit to a full bagel and be too stuffed to go back for another.

Bagel Bar Spread

I also opted not to toast the bagels (if you can’t get on board with that I totally understand) because I like them a little soft and not warm when I pile my toppings on. You can set a  toaster nearby if you want to give guests the option to toast theirs.

Build your own bagel bar

The secret to a good build-your-own-bagel creation is a good base of Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It’s  Spread it on the bagel before you add your toppings. Made with fresh milk, real cream and no preservatives, nothing  else tastes like Philadelphia Cream Cheese so be sure to be generous with it.

bagel bar toppings

In the next step you just can’t go wrong–add as many or as few toppings as you’d like.

how to host a bagel bar

My advice is to make a couple different creations and experiment with the flavors. My favorite combo ended up being topping my bagel and cream cheese with smoked salmon, cucumber, red onion, and chives. YUM. You really can’t ever go wrong with avocado either if I’m being honest.setting up a bagel bar

 

What do you think? Ready to impress guests with this easy bagel bar idea?

Build Your Own Bagel Bar
 
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Created By:
Serves: 8 Servings (One serving equals one mini bagel or two halves)

Ingredients
  • 8 Mini bagels
  • 8 oz PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Brick, softened
  • 1 Avocado, sliced
  • 18 Cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
  • ½ Red inion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 8-ounce Smoked salmon
  • Fresh dill and chives for garnish

To Make
  1. The purpose here is to have guests create their own bagels adding their favorite toppings. So, you’ll want to set out all the ingredients in a nice spread. Remove the softened PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Brick and place it in a bowl so guests can easily spread the cream cheese on their bagels. If the bagels are not already pre-sliced, you’ll want to slice them ahead of time. Set all of the other ingredients out in small bowls or on platters.

Philadelphia_AuthorLogo For all of your entertaining needs, turn to Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Always have it on hand to create fun appetizers and desserts that pop. I had a great time developing my build-your-own bagel bar
for out of town guests. For more creamy, delicious recipe ideas, click here.

Build your own bagel bar for brunch

Cream Cheese + Herb Stuffed Peppers


This post is sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

If  you’re looking for a simple appetizer to make this summer, try these cream cheese stuffed peppers. You’ll need just a few ingredients, they require no cooking, and (I promise) you can’t mess them up! Easy, foolproof, and delicious? Cheers to that!

cream cheese stuffed peppersAnother reason that I love this recipe? These peppers are so colorful which means they look gorgeous on a platter. This makes them perfect for entertaining. Whether it’s hosting game night or a family dinner, this appetizer looks as good as it tastes. I also love that you can make these up to a day ahead of time (if you’re expecting guests) but can also whip them up in ten minutes (should you have impromptu guests). I recently made this for a family game night and they were gone in a flash!

how to make cream cheese stuffed peppersThe first step is gathering your ingredients: mini sweet peppers, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, fresh dill, and fresh chives. Don’t grab the dried herbs here, fresh is the way to go. The flavors of the fresh herbs pop so well in the cream cheese.

I love when recipes are easy enough to remember without pulling out a cookbook or opening up Pinterest, don’t you?
making cream cheese stuffed peppersOnce you’ve gathered all of the ingredients, it’s time to whip them up. First, I start by making the cream cheese mixture. Philadelphia Cream Cheese is the base (and it’s delicious because it’s made with fresh milk and real cream and no preservatives), then you mix in the fresh dill and chives (see recipe below). Next, cut the sweet peppers by removing the stem and cutting them in half. Be sure to remove any seeds as well.
easy cream cheese stuffed peppersThe final step is to simply spread the cream cheese mixture into the sweet pepper halves. Serve them on a platter and you’ve got yourself the perfect (and easiest) summer appetizer!
cream cheese stuffed peppers with herbs

What do you think? Will you try this recipe?

Herb + Cream Cheese Stuffed Peppers
 
Prep time

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Created By:
Serves: 8 Servings when a serving equals 4 pieces

Ingredients
  • 16 Sweet Peppers, halved with stems and seeds removed
  • 8-ounce PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Brick, softened
  • 2 Tbs Fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs Fresh chives, finely chopped

To Make
  1. In a medium bowl, combine softened PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese Brick and fresh herbs.
  2. Cut sweet peppers in half and remove stems and seeds.
  3. Spread ¼ oz of cream cheese mixture onto each pepper.
  4. Serve on a platter.
  5. You can make these up to a day in advance, just store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Philadelphia_AuthorLogo For all of your entertaining needs, turn to Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Always have it on hand to create fun appetizers and desserts that pop. I had a great time developing my cream cheese stuffed peppers for family game night. For more creamy, delicious recipe ideas, click here.

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