Greek pasta saladLast Sunday Erik, Juliet and I had a picnic at a park near our house that’s on a small lake. I had this vision in my head of a picturesque afternoon, however, when we arrived at the park we realized it was a bit cooler than we thought and super windy. Needless to say our time was cut short, but we still managed to enjoy it. Juliet squeezed every last minute she could playing at the park. Parks are by far her top favorite things. In fact, we went to two parks on Sunday. And every day I drop her off at daycare she asks the provider, “Sarah, can we go to the park today?”

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carrot cake cookie sandwichesI love cookie sandwiches. I know I’ve mentioned that multiple times before. And these carrot cake sandwich cookies are one of my faves. They are moist, not too sweet and totally delicious. Perfect for spring, perfect for Easter, perfect for anytime.

Juliet absolutely LOVED the carrot cake cookies, she had one before I added the frosting and devoured it faster than I’ve ever seen her eat anything. Then I tried one and I got it.

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peanut butter oatmeal cookies
After Erik, Juliet and I spent a bunch of time outdoors last Sunday (in the awesome 60 degree weather) we needed something to do the rest of the afternoon. So we made cookies.

I am a big fan of the Weelicious site (and cookbooks) because the recipes are generally pretty easy and healthy. And every single one I’ve ever made has turned out well.

I am a big peanut butter fan, like eat a huge spoonful right out of the jar big. And Juliet is too. She always asks for peanut butter with a spoon and a bowl and she eats it right up.

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Potato fest It may be surprising but I had never made aioli before last weekend. Whoa have I been missing out. It’s amazing. And very, very easy.

On Saturday, my girlfriends (Emily, Shannon and Natasha) got together for a “potato fest” dinner. Us four gals get together about once a month and we try to rotate cooking at one of our houses with going out to eat. For the dinners, we often choose a theme and then plan our dishes around that. We’ve had mushroom fest, seafood fest and now potato fest.

Of course potato fest was my idea because I’m pretty much obsessed with potatoes. I rate restaurants based on how good their french fries are. I would choose fries over any dessert any day of the week. Except for when I was pregnant with Juliet. I basically subsisted on cake for 9 months. Ok, not really but I did eat cake a lot.

Potato fest was a bit random but it was sure delicious.

Here is a run-down of our meal (which we really approached more like a bunch of appetizers and sides):

Chorizo hash browns
French fries with garlic truffle aioli (recipes below)
Spiced sweet potato and roasted broccoli toast
Savory spinach and parmesan creme brulee (basically a crustless quiche)
Sweet potato bread

Potato fest I loved the evening light I caught as I was snapping photos of our dinner. 

These sweet potato roasted broccoli toasts were made by Shannon and they were awesome. The recipe was pretty complex and had a lot of great flavor. This was probably one of the favorite dishes of the evening.

We had a few bottles of wine but this was by far our favorite of the evening, a Sterling Vineyards Cabernet. Really delicious. We spent a good half hour trying to recall whether or not we stopped at Sterling Vineyards when we went to Sonoma about 6 years ago. After some Googling we realized we had never been there, but decided it will definitely be on the list for the next trip to wine country.
Potato fest Potato fest Emily made these chorizo hash browns. I really liked these hash browns, the chorizo gave it a spicy, bold flavor. It wasn’t an easy dish though, Emily shredded the potatoes, squeezed out all the excess liquid, browned the chorizo and then cooked it all on the stovetop.

All my girlfriends are really amazing cooks.
Potato fest Natasha cheated and made a dish sans potatoes. But don’t get me wrong, this savory creme brûlée was really tasty. This is a crustless quiche, or even a strata but she got the recipe out of her creme brûlée cookbook, so creme brûlée it is.

Of course I made french fries because my love for fries runs deep. And now that I have made aioli I am more crazy about fries than ever.

Homemade baked, crispy french fries

2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed clean
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice potatoes into long, thin slices (I leave the skin-on but feel free to peel them if you prefer). In a large bowl, soak the potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes (this removes excess starch and helps them crisp up in the oven). Drain, rinse potatoes one time and then dry well (pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel).

Add the olive oil and toss to coat.

Spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and add fries in a single layer (don’t overcrowd).

Sprinkle with salt and pepper (don’t be too modest with the seasoning, fries should be somewhat salty in my opinion).

Bake for about 25 minutes, flipping fries about everything 7-10 minutes. Remove when fries are slightly browned and crispy.

Garlic truffle aioli (recipe adapted Life Ambrosia blog)

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1/2 – 3/4 of a lemon
2 egg yolks (I used organic eggs but for optimal safety use pasteurized eggs)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons black truffle oil

Preparation

In a food processor combined garlic, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, lemon juice, parsley and egg yolks.

Process until garlic is fully minced.

Slowly pour in the olive oil and then the truffle oil until the mixture emulsifies. It should be smooth but somewhat thick. If it seems too thin add a bit more olive oil.

Taste and add more of any of the ingredients that seem lacking (in my experience, this will be obvious. I tasted mine and knew it needed more salt and a little more lemon).

Not surprisingly, us gals were sufficiently carb-loaded and full after our potato fest. But what a fun evening it was.

Do you and your friends have dinner clubs or themed dinners? I’d love to hear about it, please comment and share!

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Spring brunchSpring is in the air, right? Well, maybe not so much. But it’s totally in my heart. I am just willing it to come. We need warm weather. It was 10 degrees when I left the house the other day and it. was. cold. Freezing. And something about that just made me angry and put me in a terrible mood. And I wasn’t the only one. All of us in MN are so sick of the cold. Our bones are permanently chilled.

Ok, enough weather talk. Technically it is spring. And if I can’t feel it in the air at least it can be felt through my entertaining endeavors.

One of the easiest ways to entertain is with brunch. Guests are always happy with a glass of champagne in-hand. I think it’s the bubbles, or maybe the fact that they’re drinking before noon. Either way, brunch is awesome and one of my top favorite things ever in life.

I’m thinking of starting a new content feature that is all about “how to’s” when it comes to entertaining. These posts will provide inspiration for hosting your own parties. They’ll include menu ideas, recipes and decorating tips, all in the Eat Drink Pretty style.

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Mini quiche lorraine{Photo taken with the iPhone 5 and edited using Afterlight}

You most likely know by now that I love quiche. Regular sized, mini quiche, vegetarian, meat-filled, puff-pastry, pie crust, etc. I love all of it. Egg bakes and stratas rank pretty high up there, too. If I ever published a cookbook a quiche cookbook would be at the top of my consideration. It’s so versatile. Of course the obvious brunch entree comes to mind, but quiche works great at dinner as well and it also can be transformed into minis for a cocktail party.

So when my colleague hosted a “Paris at Midnight” themed gathering last Saturday mini quiche lorraine seemed like a great choice. Savory little bites filled with bacon and cheese? Sign me up.

This is an easy recipe that creates a really delicious appetizer. We had a blast at the gathering and the quiche was a hit. In addition to my quiche, we had about 5 baguettes (seriously!), tons of cheese, crepes for dessert, lentil pate and many bottles of champagne. Savory/salty food pair really well with champagne. That’s not obvious but it’s so true. Even potato chips go well with champagne. French fries, too.

Ok, now I’m getting way too hungry. 

Mini quiche lorraine (recipe adapted via iVillage)

Ingredients

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (to keep things easy I purchased already cooked bacon)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Gruyere (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
1 15 ounce package refrigerated pie crust
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon oregano

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 24 cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray or butter. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yolk and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper (about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon each). Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, use a 2 1/2 inch round cutter to cut 24 rounds out of the piecrust (the mouth of a glass works, too). Press the rounds into muffin cups.

Divide crumbled bacon and cheese evenly between the lined cups, then divide egg mixture between cups. Sprinkle oregano between the quiche.

Bake until quiche crusts are golden brown and egg mixture is puffed and completely set in the center, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the quiche to cooler racks. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

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