- 1 pkg. (18.3 to 19.5 oz.) brownie mix
- 2 pkg. (3.9 oz. each) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
- 3 cups cold milk
- Whipped cream infused with sweetened cocoa
- 2 cups fresh raspberries
- Prepare brownie batter and bake in 9-inch square pan as directed on package; cool completely.
- Meanwhile, beat pudding mixes and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 min. Stir in 1 cup whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut brownies into 1-inch cubes. Layer half of the brownie cubes, pudding, berries and remaining whipped cream in parfait cups. Repeat layers.
- Refrigerate 1 hour.
- Dole Banana Dippers (1 pack, frozen)
- Chocolate Fudge Sauce
- Fresh Whipped Cream
- Chopped Peanuts
- Maraschino Cherries, stemmed
- Optional toppings: caramel sauce, strawberry sauce
- Spread chocolate sauce on an oblong/rectangular plate.
- Line up banana dippers equally spaced out.
- Add whipped cream in between each banana dipper.
- Top with chopped peanuts and other optional toppings.
- Add cherry/cherries on top.
- Blueberries dusted with Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
- Chocolate Truffles
- Chocolate Raspberry Bonbons
- Chocolate Covered Pretzel Sticks
- Crushed Pretzel Rods, toasted and coated with chocolate sauce.
- Sprinkle toasted pretzel on a plate.
- Arrange 2 chocolate truffles, 2 bonbons, a handful of cocoa dusted blueberries, and a few of the chocolate covered pretzel sticks on the plate in an artistic manner.
Valentines Day is the most romantic day of the year and the ideal time to plan a couples getaway to a romantic destination. What about those of us who can’t fly to our dream destination of choice or don’t have extra cash lying around so soon after the holidays?
I’ll show you how to create a romantic Valentine’s Day stay-cation without leaving the comfort of your own home and without the hefty price tag. I’ve created three Romantic Stay-cation themes based on three lover types; Languid Lovers, Sporty Lovers, Lover Lovers. Each dinner is comprised of food, drinks and décor inspired by the culture and landscape of each of the destinations.
A Tropical Stay-cation Destination for the languid lovers who love to lay around with each other, sipping on drinks wearing only a strategically placed lei. Click the link to see how you can cool off your hot night with exotic frozen drinks and savor the sensual tastes of the tropical islands.
A Ski Stay-cation Destination for the sporty lovers who love to cozy up to a warm fire and enjoy après-ski bites and nibbles without the hassle of suiting up…in ski clothes! Click the link to see how you can prepare hot cocktails to warm you up from top to bottom and how to satisfy your sweet and savory sides with a classic Fondue menu.
A City of Love & Lights (Paris) Stay-cation Destination for the lover lovers who love to fair l’amour en Francais. Click the link to see how you can prepare bubble cocktails that will tickle your palate and how to prepare a romantic picnic by the Seine-style menu.
The Tropical stay-cation destination is perfect for the languid lovers who love to lay around sipping on exotic drinks wearing only a strategically placed lei.
It’s a great excuse to have frozen drinks in the winter and you don’t even have to break out the blender.
Pro Tip: Use ready-to-drink frozen pouches from Parrot Bay. Use the strawberry daiquiri and pina colada to stay within the Valentine’s Day color scheme and you can even layer the two! All you have to do is freeze, squeeze, and pour.
Dress up your drinks with sexy skewers – chocolate candy-dipped fruits on a skewer. To make these, melt the candy dips in a bowl, dip fruits in it, let them dry and put them on a skewer!
Savor the sensual taste of the islands with easy-to-make foods that are perfectly sized to feed each other with…no eating utensils required!
Pineapple Chicken Skewers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1.2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1.5 lb. uncooked chicken breasts , cubed
- 12 fresh pineapple chunks, approximately 1 inch
- 12 skewers
- Heat the grill (or if it is too chilly outside – preheat the broiler)
- Mix the first seven ingredients in a medium bowl until well blended and add shrimp and pineapple to the mix, toss to coat. Marinade for 1 hour.
- Thread and alternate 2 chicken cubes and 1 pineapple chunk onto each of the 12 skewers.
- Grill (or broil 6 inches from the heat) for 5 to 8 minutes per sided until chicken is cooked through.
Shrimp Ceviche (serves 4)
- 2 ½ tablespoons superfine white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon chili paste or sauce
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup minced red onion
- 1 ripe tomato, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
- 1 pound very fresh medium-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 avocados, halved
- Plantain chips and root chips
- In a large glass or plastic bowl, dissolve the sugar, salt, and chili paste in the lime juice.
- Season with pepper and cumin.
- Stir in the garlic, onion, tomato, jalapeno and cilantro.
- Gently mix in the shrimp and then cover. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
- To serve, drain the excess liquid from the mixture and place in in avocado halves.
- Serve with a side of (long) plantain chips and root chips.
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 20-oz. can of pineapple chunks
- 1 16-oz. can cream cheese frosting
- 1 bag of white chocolate candy melts
- toasted coconut
- Drain the and finely chop the pineapple, but keep the liquid.
- Bake the cake according to instructions, but instead of water use the pineapple juice.
- Let the cake cool, then crumble into a large bowl and add ½ cup of the chopped pineapple and just enough frosting to combine.
- Mix well and refrigerate overnight or for a couple of hours.
- Make 1-inch balls, then place them onto a baking sheet and insert a stick into each ball no more than halfway into the center.
- Transfer to the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
- Microwave the candy melts in a bowl and dip the cake pops into the candy coating.
- Add toasted coconut to the cake pop before the coating dries.
For decor, break out the beachwear, a beach towel, and to set the mood, place candles in glass vases with shells for lighting and play some of these tropical sounds from my Amazon playlist to get you “in the mood.”
The Ski Stay-cation Destination is for the sporty lovers who love to cozy up to a warm fire and enjoy apres-ski bites and nibbles without the hassle of suiting up…in ski clothes!
To get things heated up, start with the hot cocktails! Pro Tip: These drinks can be made in the microwave!
Baked Apple Pie (serves 6)
- 30 oz. unfiltered apple juice
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise pods
- 6 oz. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
- Put the apple juice in a large pot with whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and star anise pods.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove from the heat.
- Ladle the mixture into six clear coffee mugs and add 1 oz of brandy to each mug.
- Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Hot Buttered Rum
- 1.5 oz Captain Morgan Rum
- 0.75 oz Sugar
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.25 oz Maraschino
- Hot Black Tea
- Butter cubed
- Lemon peel and cloves for garnishing
- Place juice, sugar, maraschino, and rum into a pre-heated mug.
- Add hot tea.
- Stir and then float the butter.
- Garnish with lemon peel and cloves.
Satisfy your sweet and savory sides with a classic Fondue menu.
- 1 clove garlic, cut in half
- 1.5 cups dry white wine
- 7 oz Comte cheese, coarsely grated
- 7 oz Raclette cheese
- 7 oz Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- Pinch of ground paprika
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 3 tablespoons brandy
- Suggested dippables:
- Bite sized cubes of bread
- Bite sized pieces of roasted potatoes
- 1 inch cubes of seasoned blanched veggies
- Peppers, Carrots, Broccoli, etc
- Rub the inside of a saucepan with the cut side of the garlic and then discard the garlic.
- Add the wine to the prepared pan and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat so the wine is just simmering and add the cheese, nutmeg, black pepper, and paprika, stirring constantly until the fondue is melted and smooth.
- Keeping the heat low to medium, add the flour as needed to thicken, never boiling, the fondue for 15 minutes until it is thickened.
- Add the brandy and stir constantly for 1 minute.
- Transfer the fondue to a fondue pot set over a flame and serve it with cubed bread.
Chocolate Hazelnut Fondue
- ¾ cups heavy whipping cream, reserve ¼ cup to thin if fondue begins to thicken
- 4 bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped 3 ½ ounces each
- 2 tablespoons Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur (optional)
- ¼ cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds (optional)
- Suggested dippables:
- Salted pretzel sticks
- Cubed pound cake
- Sliced bananas
- Heat ½ cup cream in a heavy non-reactive saucepot over moderate heat until cream comes to a low boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add chocolate and let chocolate stand in hot cream for 3 to 5 minutes to soften, then whisk the chocolate together with the cream.
- Stir in Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur (and chopped nuts) and transfer the fondue to a fondue pot with a flame. If the fondue becomes too thick, stir in reserved cream, 1 tablespoon at a time to get the desired consistency.
- Serve with your favorite dippables.
Bust out the fur rug and a plethora of candles to get your groove on. I made a faux fireplace with the candles. Set the mood with sultry sounds of classic love tunes a la Berry White with my Amazon Playlist below.
The City of Love & Lights (Paris) Stay-cation Destination is for the lovers of love to fair l’amour en Francais.
Tickle your valentine’s palate with bubble cocktails.
- Crème de Cassis
- Moet & Chandon Champagne
- Combine 1 part Crème de Cassis and 5 parts champagne in a champagne glass.
- 1 oz. Tanqueray gin
- ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- Moet & Chandon champagne
- lemon twist for garnishing
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Add the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, and shake.
- Strain into a champagne flute, then top with champagne.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.
Plan a romantic “picnic” by the Seine-style menu starting with a Fromage – French breads and a selection of the main types of French cheese.
I used one Brie for my soft cheese, Comté for the hard, and Roquefort for blue.
Make his and her cassoulets of your choice – a Traditional French Cassoulet or a Vegetarian Cassoulet.
Traditional French Cassoulet
- 16 oz. white beans (soaked overnight and washed)
- 4 chicken thighs (sautéed skin side down)
- 4 duck sausages (or hot dogs)
- 3 sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, tarragon)
- 4 strips of fried bacon
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 3 whole cloves of garlic
- 6 cups of chicken stock
- bread crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, mix thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. Set seasoning mixture aside.
- In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. In batches without crowding, cook chicken, adding more oil if needed, turning occasionally, until browned lightly on all sides, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. Add sausage to the pot, breaking up with the sides of a wooden spoon, until it loses its pink color, about 8 minutes, while separately frying the 4 strips of bacon.
- Remove sausage from pot and drain some of the grease. Add onions and garlic to the pot.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 6 minutes. Add chicken stock and stir. Add chicken, sausage, and fried bacon.
- Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over and mix well. Bring to a simmer, then add beans.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Transfer to ramekin, then sprinkle bread crumbs over it.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Using a wooden spoon, gently press the thin crust that has formed on the cassoulet down under the surface.
- Continue baking until the cassoulet is simmering and a second thin crust has formed (about 30 minutes).
- Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Vegetarian Cassoulet (serves 6)
- 3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
- 4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- 3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 2 parsley sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.
- Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.
- Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to ramekin and sprinkle with garlic crumbs and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Using a woden spoon, gently press the thin crust that has formed on the cassoulet down under the surface.
- Continue baking until the cassoulet is simmering and as econd thin crust has formed (about 30 minutes).
- Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Of course a French picnic spread wouldn’t be complete without macarons! You can order them online at Dana’s Bakery! The one’s pictured above are from Dana’s Valentine’s Day Box.
To spark a twinkle in your lover’s eyes, set the mood with lighting by putting small candles in a mason jar with rose petals and play my Amazon Playlist below!
Are you looking to cure the winter blues? During the cold winter months, it’s common for celebrities to take off on luxurious vacations to hot-spots all over the world. Stars are soaking up the sun in exclusive spa resorts and spending tens of thousands of dollars for private island getaways…but what about those of us who can’t make it to our dream destination of choice? I’ll show you how to create a stay-cation party for you and your “posse” with food, drinks and décor inspired by the culture and landscape without the hefty price tag.
- How to Create a Stay-cation Party Theme
Great inspiration for a stay-cation party can be found in the pages for your favorite travel magazines.
Choose a specific destination or you might run the risk of your party becoming a cliché luau or generic tikki party.
- Throw a Lavish Party Without Breaking The Bank
Every budget conscious party planner begins with a comprehensive party plan and a detailed budget to keep them on track (on budget and on time). Another cost saving tip is to look at what you already have at home that can be repurposed in unexpected ways: vases for food services, a festive throw or sarong as a tablecover, etc. Focus on decorative touches in areas of your home that your guests will frequent—setting the tone when the guests walk in at the front door and the bathroom (the two most visited places of the home). The majority of your budget should be spent on food and beverages. Using pre-prepared foods that you can “spice” up can be a considerable time and cost saver.
- How to Announce the Party Theme to Your Guests
Whether emailed or snail mailed, invitations are the first visual clue (or indication) you give your guests as to what the theme is and what is expected of them at the party. Create a collage of your inspiration images in invitations to set the tone. Travel-themed invitations such as passports and postcards can be effective to set the tone with a little bit more work and creativity. The invitation is also the place where you can request guests come in a particular attire to compliment the theme and if there are any special instructions you need to impart (i.e. prompt start time or must prepare to participate in a specific activity).
- How to Encourage Others to Dress the Part
The invitation is the place to request specific attire: “flip flops and bathing suits” or “safari gear.” Offer your guests a reward to dress the part: “come barefoot and beautiful to see what the future holds.”
- Do Your Guests Need to Bring a Dish?
Typically my hostess rule is if you are giving a party, then you really shouldn’t ask guests to “pitch in” or bring dishes unless you are clear that it is a potluck dinner. If you are set on having guests bring dishes, then very clear advance notice is required to ensure guests won’t feel put off and will bring dishes that compliment the theme and each other. Make a clear statement on the invitation that each guest is expected to participate and to what extent.
Below are links for drink and food recipes as well as décor tips for 3 different stay-cation themed parties.
Tropical Stay-cation Destination—The Caribbean
If you’re in the mood for a little fun in the sun in the Carribean without the sunburn, click on the link above.
Ski Stay-cation Destination—French Alps
For a cold-climate destination replication of the French Alps, click on the link above.
Exotic Stay-cation Destination—South African Safari Adventure
For a safari adventure to South Africa, click on the link above.
Valentine’s Day is about showing your lover how much you love them. What better way to celebrate than with a romantic rendezvous? I have curated three different rendezvouses to romance your Valentine: A Shared Romance, Romance On-the-Go, and The Ultimate Romance. I have decided to go beyond the norm of greeting cards, flowers and chocolate and shows you how to romance your Valentine the right way!
Champagne is synonymous with Valentine’s Day. I have decided to incorporate three different gift sets from Moet Hennessey to pair with your romantic type, shared, on-the-go, and ultimate as well as a sweet treat to share with your sweetie and a gift or gadget to “wow” your significant other on Valentine’s Day.
Click the links below for more information on the three romantic types
A Shared Romance
Check your local listings for dates and showtimes!
The Ultimate Romance is for the couple that feels you can’t put a price on love.
For this romantic type I have chosen Moet Hennessey’s Dom Perignon Side by Side. This gift set is a limited edition with two bottles of Dom Perignon with two different levels of maturation. These bottles were created for one to enjoy a new experience and an unforgettable champagne tasting experience. This gift set retails for $459.00.
24K Gold Creme Brûlée, made with edible 24K Gold and Silver Leaf is the ultimate dessert for this amazing couple! Each creme brûlée is adorned with a gold or silver gilded white or dark chocolate truffle.
You & Yours Signature DNA Rings are the perfect personalized gift for the person who has everything. These rings bring a new meaning to sharing your DNA. With these rings, you are able to give your loved one your DNA to treasure for the rest of their lives. Signature DNA Rings are an intimate reflection of a one-of-a-kind person and the one that means the most to you. These rings retail at $400.00/each.
- 1/2 bag Wilton Light Cocoa Candy Melts
- 2 cups boiling water, divided
- 2 packages (3 oz. each) JELL-O Raspberry Flavored Gelatin
- 1 cup cold Moet & Chandon Champagne
- 1/4 cup Chambord
- 1/4 cups cold water, divided ice cubes
- 1 cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
- Decorations, assorted Valentine sprinkles and candies
- Make heart candies using by squeezing melted chocolate out of a piping bag onto parchment. Place in refrigerator until hardened, approximately 10 mins.
** Helpful Tip: When making the hearts, pipe multiple layers on top of each other allowing time to set in between, this will help prevent breaking!
- Add 1 cup boiling water to 1 package gelatin mix in a medium bowl, stir 2 minutes or until mixture is completely dissolved
- Stir in 1 cup cold water and mix thoroughly
- Pour into champagne cups, refrigerate 1 hour or until gelatin is firm
- While JELL-O is firming in the refrigerator, add remaining boiling water to remaining gelatin mix, stir for 2 mins until completely dissolved.
- Mix remaining water and Chambord and add enough ice to mixture to measure 1 cup. Add to gelatin and stir until thickened.
- Stir in Cool Whip, spoon over gelatin layer in cups
- Refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm
- Decorate with chocolate hearts and Valentine’s candies or sprinkles
How to melt chocolate: Place Wilton Candy Melts in a piping bag and microwave on high for 1 minute, mix until chocolate is completely melted.
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks, beaten
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of 24K gold flakes
- 24K gold gilded chocolate truffle
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit
- In a medium saucepan, cook the cream and the vanilla bean over moderate heat until the surface begins to shimmer. Remove the vanilla bean and let sit for 10 mins.
- Meanwhile, beat 1/4 cup of sugar and egg yolks together in a large mixing bowl. Whisking constantly, pour warm cream mixture into the beaten egg yolks and pour through a very fine sieve into 4 (4 ounce) crème brûlée dishes
- Place the dishes into a shallow baking dish large to hold them without crowding. Place the dish on the middle rack of the oven. Carefully fill the baking dish with boiling water so it comes halfway up the sides of the filled dishes
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until the custard is set in the center. Remove the custards to a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until ready to use.
- When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. Generously sprinkle the top of each chilled custard with an equal portion of the sugar, taking care to cover all of the custard, so that it gives an even finish
- Place the chilled crème brûlée dishes under the preheated broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, or until the tops are crackling brown
** Pro Tip: Use a culinary torch to brown the sugar, taking care to constantly move the torch around the surface to avoid burning the sugar topping
- Remove from the broiler and serve immediately sprinkle with 24K Gold Flakes and top with a Gold Gilded Truffle
For Dessert, I’ve created a sophisticated replacement for the standard Easter basket. This bowl is all the basket you need when adorned with edible flowers like pansies and nasturtiums. Create a nest of gourmet sweets and French treats that won’t leave room for one thought about a chocolate bunny!
Fill your “basket” with unexpected and high-fashion flavors. I went for macaroons from Laduree, classic French Easter candies, and Vosges’ flower infused truffle collection “Les Fleurs du Chocolate”. And don’t forget, even the flowers are edible.
Winter can be harsh on your body. Your doctor would likely advise a string of supplements to combat the cold weather. I would prescribe a mix of warm swiss cheese and French baguette pieces– a prescription that is sure to put a kick back in your step. Now imagine two full weeks of this cold-fighting melting pot. Don’t look much further: Fondue February is in session!
In the mid-1960’s, fondue was brought to the United States after American tourists discovered it in Switzerland. Growing from a small following five decades ago to becoming a common family treat, cheese fondue is back big time!
Fondue may come in a variety of flavors and combinations, but each dish is unified under its ability to put a smile on any partaker’s face. Some of the more popular flavors include cheeses like Gruyère, Emmental and Appenzeller, or even sweet treats in combinations of chocolate, coconut, honey or caramel.
Because this is a “communal” dish, it comes with a small set of etiquette guidelines to follow. To eat cheese fondue, spear a piece of bread using a fondue fork and dip it into the pot. Twirl the bread cube gently in the cheese to coat it. When you put the bread in your mouth try not to touch the fork with your lips or tongue because the fork does go back in the pot. You can also use a dining fork to slide the bread off the fondue fork then eat it with the 2nd fork. Although, doing this may be more cumbersome than necessary.
One of my favorite versions is the grandfather of all fondue recipes: the classic Swiss fondue. This recipe is easy, but, best of all, satisfies even the most sophisticated of taste buds. So roll up your sleeves and be ready to explore this versatile comfort dish from my classic savory Swiss cheese fondue. Serve with Champagne and great wines to make the experience all the more fulfilling and festive!