Cooking: Antipasto Edition

When it comes to our business, we like to make sure our couples are comfortable and fully enjoy their time with us. We have a time after their wedding where they come in and view their images in a private theater setting. During that time we serve fun yummy snacks that are pretty to look at, delicious and, elegant. One of our favorite things to serve is a antipasto platter. We enjoy the platter and so far all our couples have cleaned the platter by the end of their viewing.
On this specific platter we have (going clockwise):

Fresh Basil

Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Champagne Grapes

Cracked Pepper Crackers

Port Wine Cheese Ball

Smoked Almonds

Marinated Antipasto Skewers

Smoked Honey Gouda


The best part about this platter (besides being delicious) is how easy it is to put together. The only thing that needs “fixin” is the Antipasto Skewers and those are ridiculously easy as well. Here is the recipe.

-Antipasto Skewers-


Wooden skewers

Three cheese tortellini

Balsamic vinaigrette

Black olives

Green olives

Thinly slices salami


Fresh mozzarella cheese


1. Boil tortellinis for 7-9 minutes

2. Drain tortellini and place in a Ziplock bag

3. Add about 3 tablespoons of vinaigrette to tortellini and shake. Place pasta in fridge for a couple hours.

4. Assemble skewers by placing one of each item on the wooden skewer. Serve cold.

Recipe makes about 30+ skewers if you use a full package of tortellini. I tend to double up and place two tortellinis on each skewer to add a little more substance to the skewer and take it from just a snack item.





What’s for dinner: French Edition

Philip always laughs at me when it comes to my cooking; I’m either all or nothing. Take for instance his 26th birthday party… I served a seven course dinner to an intimate group of 10 of our friends. Yes I cooked all seven courses and I greatly enjoyed it and got great reviews from all the guests. But most nights I just look at him and say, “Yeah I’m not cooking tonight. It just isn’t going to happen.” I enjoy cooking and from all those who eat my food I’ve heard I’m really good at it. I just don’t like coming up with a menu or deciding what we should have. But I have found that if I take pictures while cooking with the intention of blogging, I actually enjoy cooking and making lots of dishes. I’ve also started enjoying the plating and displaying part of cooking. If I can make it pretty then I’ll cook it. 🙂

Last week we had our dear friends Laura and Ricky over for dinner. Laura and Ricky previously lived in Ireland and were amazing host to us last October when we visited Belfast (for more on that click HERE HERE HERE and HERE). They have moved to New York and stopped in Memphis to visit family before fully moving up to New York. The last night we were in Belfast we had a great dinner with them at a tiny little French restaurant that was by far one of our favorite places from the trip. In honor of that last night in Belfast I decided to go with a French meal for their visit.

Menu for the night:

Coq Au Vin

Sauteed Broccolini

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

French Bread

Garden Salad

Flourless Chocolate Cake with a Strawberry Reduction

A few pictures and the recipes:

Strawberry Reduction Sauce Recipe:

  • 6 large fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup water

1. Rinse strawberries and remove green caps.

2. Slice each strawberry in half and transfer to a pot, add sugar. Turn heat on to low-medium, add water

3. Let boil for 15 minutes over medium heat.

4. After about 5-10 minutes, it should start frothing quite a bit. Stir at this point and mash lightly with fork.

5. 5 more minutes later, it should start thickening up, stir again.

6. Turn off heat, transfer to a serving bowl/dish. Let cool before serving.

Flourless Chocolate Cake glazed with Strawberry Reduction

Original Recipe is from Whole Foods and is found HERE. I have slightly altered it.


6 ounces dark chocolate chips and 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray (5)  3-inch springform pans with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray, too, then set the pans aside.  (You can also use 1 9-inch springform pan)

Place two-thirds (8 ounces) of the chocolate and 1 cup (2 sticks) of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stirring often, melt chocolate with butter until completely blended. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Sift cocoa into bowl and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake has risen and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate, removing sides of springform pans. Remove and discard parchment paper and set cake aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate glaze. Melt remaining 4 ounces chocolate (make sure you have reserved 2 ounces of dark chocolate and 2 ounces of semisweet) and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Set aside to cool slightly.

When cake has cooled, pour glaze onto the center. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon, very gently smooth glaze along the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to set the glaze and make the cake easier to slice.

Before serving place two fresh strawberries on top and cover with Strawberry Reduction and chocolate sauce.

For the plating chocolate sauce I used a powder sugar, milk, and cocoa mixture. Start with about half a cup of powder sugar and a half teaspoon of cocoa. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time, stirring in the milk as you add, until the mixture has thinned to a fluid glaze.

Coq Au Vin (Recipe from The Food Network)


  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 thighs
  • 2 legs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups pearl onions, peeled
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
  • 1 bottle Burgundy wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish


In a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Coat chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper. Brown chicken in hot bacon fat on both sides.

Add garlic, onions, mushrooms and carrots. Saute 2 minutes to soften. Pour cognac into a small glass. Remove pan from heat, pour in cognac, Flambe by lighting a long match and holding it just above the pot, light the fumes. The brandy will catch fire and the flames will burn out within 1 minute. When the flames die down, return the pan to the heat and gradually stir in the wine and broth. When the wine is well blended, add the herbs. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove cover and continue to simmer for 15 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce a bit. You may want to add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or cornstarch to aid in the thickening process.

To serve, top the chicken and vegetables with reserved crumbled bacon and fresh parsley.

Sauteed Broccolini:


  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4 bunches broccolini (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice


In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water and the salt to a boil. Remove and discard the bottom third of the broccolini stems. If some stems are very thick, cut them in half lengthwise.

When the water comes to a full boil, add the broccolini, return to a boil, and cook over high heat for 2 minutes, until the stalks are crisp tender. Drain and immediately immerse the broccolini in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saute pan. Add the garlic and lemon juice and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broccolini and stir until heated through.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes:


  • 3 medium baking potatoes peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 table spoon of bacon grease
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mozzeralla cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature or warmed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a medium saucepan, cook the potatoes, garlic, and bacon grease in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan.

Add the butter, sour cream and garlic. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or the back of a fork until the ingredients are blended. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the potatoes are the desired consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with a wedge of melted butter and parsley.

And a look at the dinner table for the night. We are almost finished with the dining room! We will be changing out the light fixture and adding crown molding but for the most part this room is finished. I built this farm table for Philip’s birthday party and I am so glad that it fit into our dining room! It is over 8 feet long and not many dining rooms would hold this table comfortably. We ended up going with Eames chairs instead of benches like I planned and I am super happy with how these look! I love the mixture of modern and rustic.

A full look at the table ready for guests 🙂

The London Bridge painting is by my sister and is actually available for purchase. You can view her work here.



The Staircase Project

OH MY WORD!!! Yep that is how I feel right now! We’ve been working on one house project for 3 weeks now. I have officially called it the project from Hell but a few hours ago we finished it!

What might this project be? Oh you know, just repainting the stairs. It started out as simple… and then it got retardedly difficult. Well not so much difficult as just time consuming.

When we purchased the home we knew the stairs case needed a fresh coat of paint but it looked to be in decent shape as seen here:

Not to bad. There we a few nicks in the paint but nothing terrible. Amydog and Troubadour showcase a few of the nicked parts:

Well I started lightly rubbing said nicks to see what would happen to them and the results were not good. Huge chunks of paint started falling off the railing revealing he bare wood… Yep not what you want to happen. So I too a scraper to the railing and found that about 50% of the paint was coming off with the lightest touch of the scraper. A little scraping gave us a lot of information; the railings had once been stained and sealed then painted, without sanding. Who does that? Oh yeah the previous owners of this house apparently did it to all the wood in this house. Load of paint on sealed wood means that in a couple years it is all going to peal off… especially if you put 4 or 5 coats of paint on without sanding. Exhibit A:

Exhibit B showcases that the stairs were once a lovely shade of black. All this paint came off with just a scraper and a little pressure.  Yep fun stuff. At this point we had to break out the heat guns to get the rest off so that the wood would be even and PROPERLY ready for paint.

Heat guns put out 1000 degrees of heat in a nice little focused stream. The heat gun is great for pretty much melting the paint off the wood and making it easy for scraping off. It can get a little slow though and it made a HUGE mess! Well the whole process made a massive mess. I could only work for about 2-3 hours at a time at night before i got tired and couldn’t stand the heat anymore. With temperatures outside averaging about 95 degrees having two heat guns going in the house at 1000 degrees each was not fun… Hence the project from hell. Philip was a great sport and started helping me about half way through the process. Originally I told him I would do it since the idea of completely stripping the railings was my idea (he wanted to just sand it) and I am the OCD on who cares about it being perfect. He saw how long it was taking me and stepped up to help. Boy am I glad he did! Even with both of us working on it it still took about 3 weeks to completely strip the wood.

And a freshly stripped staircase. The heat guns are great for helping the paint separate from the wood but because the paint is pretty much melting with the heat some of the paint smears onto the wood and needed to be sanded off. The insure that we didn’t have to strip the wood anytime soon we went ahead and completely sanded the wood. We made sure to go all the way down to bare wood. That meant several hours with a power sander getting the sealer and stain off the wood.

Here is a look at the post after striping and on the right is the sanded wood. I forgot to take pictures of the whole staircase after sanding. Guess I was in a hurry to paint 🙂

And here is the freshly painted staircase! We actually painted it the original color since all the trim, crown molding, and baseboards are all this color. Thankfully the crown molding paint is extremely fresh and we do not need to paint it again! That is great because it is sawtooth crown molding and that stuff is a pain in the rear to paint! So all the living room, dining room, and hallway trim, crown molding, and baseboards are staying their original color (which was thankfully just plain white and went with our color palette).

And a before and after. The after shows what a difference painting the walls made! Also the wood flooring changed the feel so much. I forgot how dated the house felt with the previous wall color and nasty carpet. We’ve been replacing all the doors and the closet door downstairs has been update (from a flat panel to a raised panel) but has yet to receive a door handle and fresh paint… That story is coming up.

We are so glad that this project is over! I believe we worked on it at least once a day for three weeks straight! It is so great to have a staircase the is freshly painted and the paint doesn’t fall off into your hand when you walk up it 🙂 In person the difference is huge! Since the wood had so many coats of paint on it. it just looked nasty and gross. Now it looks elegant and properly finished.

When we were working on this we would spend just as much time cleaning up as we did working; there was paint chips everywhere! We’ve been waiting to replace the upstairs carpet until this project was finished and now that it is finished we can get new carpet! We’ve gone back and forth on what to do with the carpet on the stairs. Right now we will most likely replace with carpet to match the upstairs. Eventually we would like to put wood treads in to match the flooring but we don’t want to tackle wood flooring again for a while. Regardless of what we do, we cannot wait to get this carpet out of the house. We pretty refuse to sit or walk barefoot on the carpet right now; it is pretty gross but we didn’t want to put in new carpet while we were still painting. 🙂