Keeping It Simple

'Tis definitely the season for open houses and parties.  While we have people over quite frequently, I don't always have a lot of time to do elaborate preparations.  Especially this time of year, when I usually have just a couple of days at home between long stretches of time on the road on TV tour.

Happily, I grew up in a house in which my parents entertained a lot.  One of the tricks I learned from my mom was to prepare as much as possible in advance, so you can actually spend time with your guests.  Whether it was a small dinner party or an open house for 100, Mom always had everything under control - and would be ready long before the first guests arrived.

This week, I had a great time sharing ideas for easy holiday entertaining for Sam's Club and Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits (Stamford, CT) on several shows.  When it comes to food and drink pairings, keeping it simple is definitely the way to go.  Even better, Sam's has a lot of ready-made appetizers and desserts, so you can keep your kitchen time to a minimum!  Here are a few ideas:

Food styling by  FoodStyl.

Food styling by FoodStyl.

Sparkling wine is festive for any occasion - especially the holidays.  The crisp flavors of Enza Prosecco ($14.99) pair nicely with tomato bruschetta, bacon-wrapped dates, and the creaminess of a wheel of brie topped with roasted pineapple and habaňero sauce.  Or, try this cranberry-orange baked brie.

A food-friendly white wine, Barone Fini Pinot Grigio ($11.99) goes with just about anything, but is especially nice with seafood like a shrimp tray with cocktail sauce.  It also brings out the creaminess of desserts like Sams' Member's Mark pumpkin cheesecake or Italian creme cake.

A full-bodied red wine such as Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($16) and whiskey like Redemption Rye ($29) definitely call for heavier fare.  Pair these up with hearty foods like beef tenderloin skewers, BBQ or beef sliders, or a block of sharp cheddar cheese and crackers.  Red wine is also a fabulous pairing with chocolate, whether you prefer yummy sea salt caramels or a decadent red velvet cake.

Cheers to the holidays!

Holiday Gift Guide: Flowers & Food

I am a big believer in practical gifts.  They need not be boring, but I really like giving things that people will actually use and enjoy.

Sure, there are all sorts of exotic kitchen appliances that make exactly one thing that might be cool, but they take up tons of space and how often do you use them?

So - with that in mind - over the next few days, I will be sharing some fun and practical gift ideas I am featuring for several companies on TV shows this month. 

Flowers

Whenever we want to send flowers, I always check out Teleflora.  One of the things I love about them is that I have the convenience of ordering online - but flowers are arranged and delivered by a local florist.  That ensures they arrive looking fabulous and already arranged - so the recipient doesn't have to scramble to find a vase and arrange the flowers themselves (a skill that I most definitely lack).

A few of my favorites from this year's holiday collection (from left to right):  the Gift Wrapped Bouquet ($59.95), the Sparkling Star Centerpiece ($69.95) and the Send-a-Hug Cardinal Bouquet ($49.95). (Photos courtesy of Teleflora).

Food & Wine

For years, Omaha Steaks has been one of my "go-to" places for gifts - not to mention a favorite source for ordering meat for our own dinners at home (their flat-iron steaks and Polynesian pork chops are our favorites - yum!).  For the holidays, their Tasteful Gift ($69.99) package is a nice gift sampler that includes filet mignons, top sirloins, boneless pork chops, potatoes au gratin - even caramel apple tartlets for dessert!

If you've never ordered steaks online - and are wondering how all of this works - each item is individually frozen and boxed, and shipped with dry ice in a foam cooler. (Photo courtesy of Omaha Steaks).

OmahaSteaks.jpg

Whether in small bags tucked into stockings or large packages in gourmet gift baskets, Wonderful Almonds and Pistachios are great for year-round snacking. You can usually find a couple of the tiny snack packs stashed in my carryon bag when traveling, and I was super-excited last year when Hampton Inn started including Wonderful Pistachios as a welcome snack for frequent guests. It's the little things, people. (Photos courtesy of Wonderful).

For someone with a sweet tooth, the gourmet baskets and dipped strawberries from Shari's Berries (shown below on my "FOX & Friends" segment last week) will most definitely be used and enjoyed.

Wine & spirits are at the top of many lists, whether as a holiday gifts, hostess gifts or stocking stuffers.  A few delicious - and affordable options - to suit any taste or budget (from left to right):

(Photos courtesy of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, Stamford, CT).

Coming tomorrow:  clothing, kitchen and home decor gifts.

Happy shopping!

I (Heart) Valentine's Day

Before I met my husband, I was kind of indifferent to Valentine's Day.

The day was never a downer - but it just didn't always seem relevant to me.

Happily, the day has now evolved into a time to celebrate everyone important to us - not just romantic relationships.

For some cute gift and treat ideas for everyone in your life, I am excited to partner with several companies for my Valentine's TV tour.

Candy has never been this cute - customize your M&Ms with personal photos and sweet messages. (Photos courtesy of M&Ms).

Little girls will (heart) these sparkly Skechers (unfortunately, they don't make them in my size). (Photos courtesy of Skechers).

For fashionistas, this Michael Kors watch is a gorgeous statement piece,  while music lovers will love these red Beats headphones - both available on eBay. (Photos courtesy of eBay).

Think outside the chocolate box, with healthy, kid-friendly treats that are sweet, seedless and easy-to-peel. You can also use these Wonderful Halos in yummy Valentine's Day recipes. (Photo courtesy of Wonderful).

Don't forget tasty all-natural treats for your four-legged friends ($6.39) from CANIDAE. (Photos courtesy of CANIDAE).

For a “Gal-entine’s Day” gathering with girlfriends, this festive Yellow Tail Pink Moscato ($7.99) pairs nicely with chocolate.  For the guy who enjoys whiskey, a bottle of Redemption Rye ($29.99) is an elegant addition to his bar. (Photos courtesy of Yellow Tail and Redemption).

Teleflora's bouquets come in unique vases that can be used long after the flowers are gone. The Lovely Hearts bouquet (far left) is perfect for your mom, sister or best friend, and includes this adorable over-sized mug - perfect for long talks over coffee or tea. (Photos courtesy of Teleflora).

Since we got married, Scott and I have always cooked dinner together at home on Valentine's Day.  We love going out to dinner at other times, when New York restaurants are less crowded and noisy - and they don't inflate prices compared to a normal night!  For an easy and elegant dinner, this "Romantic Dinner In" package ($84.99) from Omaha Steaks includes Chateaubriand, Lobster Tails, Smashed Red Potatoes and Sea Salt Caramel Brownies for dessert.  Yum! (Gorgeous food styling by Kat Barrott of Food Styl Tampa Bay).