roasted red pepper and pine nut dip

My husband and I love entertaining, but the sad truth is that we just don’t do it very often. Until about two years ago, we lived in a very small house and it never felt right for entertaining. The hang up was probably all mine, in retrospect. I felt very cramped and claustrophobic in that house. Add in a handful of other people and I just wasn’t a happy hostess.


We moved into our current house just shy of two years ago, and it’s much bigger, with plenty of room to entertain. I even hosted my work Christmas party here last year and it went really well. Plenty of room to spread out and — the biggest upside — I never felt cramped.

roasted red peppers

We finally have the space to entertain, but now there are lots of other reasons why we don’t host more parties.  Our two children are at the top of the list. We hate to disrupt their schedule, you know? Then there is the time factor. It’s hard to entertain when you work all week and really only have the weekends to prepare. And then, the house is always messy, so who could possibly entertain when the house is never clean enough, right?

I know, I know. These are all just sad excuses. I get that. The kids are much more adaptable than I give them credit for. It doesn’t really take THAT much time to prepare for a party, and a lot of it can be done in advance. And, the truth is, if we set a date for an event, the house WILL be clean by then. It just will be.

pine nuts

salt & spices

My husband and I have made a pledge to ourselves to at least start off with hosting a dinner party or cocktail hour sometime soon. Of course, no date is set yet, but we’re working on it.

In the meantime, I made a favorite appetizer last weekend – roasted red pepper dip. A few years ago, I made the recipe in the The New Best Recipe cookbook, and I really liked it. This recipe came from Gourmet magazine, the August 2009 issue. It’s very simple and takes just a handful of minutes to throw together. The only change I made was to use pine nuts instead of walnuts. This dish can also be made up to three days in advance, a real bonus if you have all the entertaining excuses that I have (see above). I’ll definitely make this one again.


I think that the color is very striking, but it scared the kids off. They refused to eat it, or even taste it, because of the reddish-orange hue. I think that if I served it with hot dogs, they might have tried it, but then again, maybe not. Perhaps they’ll eat non-brown food once they are teenagers. My fingers are crossed.

I’d love to know about your ideas for great make-ahead appetizers or recipes for entertaining. Any favorite go-to recipes or tricks of the trade?


Yield: Approx 3 cups.

Roasted Red Pepper & Pine Nut Dip


2 jars of roasted red peppers [or you could roast your own red peppers]
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs, from a baguette
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


Puree all ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor until blended and almost smooth. With the food processor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until fully incorporated.

Only slightly adapted from Gourmet, August 2009, recipe here.

chocolate chip cookies

A few weeks ago, a post over at In Jennie’s Kitchen caught my eye. Jennifer posted about her best chocolate chip cookies, cookies whose development has been in the works for years. I certainly haven’t invested the time to perfect my own chocolate chip cookies, so I thought I’d give hers a try.

chocolate chip cookies

My husband keeps coming home from the store with refrigerated cookie dough, and I really want to break him of that habit. I’d much rather have some homemade dough in our freezer waiting to be baked. Hence, these cookies.

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

I followed Jennifer’s recipe to a tee except for the chocolate. Her recipe uses Guittard 55% chocolate discs in place of chocolate chips. Since none of the stores around here carry any chocolate discs, much less Guittard, I used Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips. I chose semisweet over bittersweet because…well, just because.

chocolate chip cookies

chocolate chip cookies

The verdict? These are delicious chocolate chip cookies. They’re best warm out of the oven, and I have confirmation of that from my taste-testing children. My daughter declared that these were, “not too hot but warm and melty and yummy!” And then she THANKED me. Yes, you heard it. She thanked me for making them. Compliments and politeness all in the same 30 second timespan.

If she keeps that up, the bag of frozen cookie dough balls may not stick around in our freezer very long.

chocolate chip cookies

spring break and a simple lunch

Can you guess where we were this week? Here’s a hint:


And here’s another:


I used to wonder what the attraction to Disney World was for adults, but now that I have children, I completely understand. There is nothing better than watching my daughter, Madeline, scream with excitement on Space Mountain and watching my son, Oliver, grin from ear to ear as we spin round and round on the teacups ride.

After spending a day at the Animal Kingdom and a couple of days at Magic Kingdom, we drove less than two hours over to St. Pete Beach for some much needed beach time.  I tried to do lots of this:


but I ended up doing lots of sand castle building and shell collecting. Not that I’m complaining. It was entirely relaxing and the perfect spring break trip.

This vacation was totally not about food. It’s hard to have the restaurant experiences that we like to have with a 6 year old and a 3 year old in tow. We put aside any hopes of great meals for our next grown-ups only vacation in June [Vegas, baby!]. We had lots of pizza, burgers, and other unhealthy things we don’t normally eat. Like this:


Yesterday was my first full day home from our trip, and I was still in recovery mode. Since I’m off work this entire week, I wanted to spend some quality time in my kitchen. And I really wanted something simple for lunch. Without meat. Without french fries.

tomato & goat cheese tart

I thawed some puff pastry and used part of it for this simple tomato tart with goat cheese and fresh basil from my herb garden. I wish I could say the tomatoes were from my garden, too, but not yet. Maybe later in the summer if my plants survive [fingers crossed].

tomato & goat cheese tart

It was the perfect light lunch. Or would have been, had I not eaten the entire thing.

tomato & goat cheese tart