Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Easy & Cheap Hostess gift

Thank You so much for stopping by! You're probably expecting to see no-sew apron I did! 
You can find it, by clicking here. It will take you to my blog that is now on Wordpress. 

Sorry about that but you'll find a lot more cool ideas on the new & improved Parties for Pennies page!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Amore...and it's moving!!! (My Valentines Dinner)

I hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day. Even when I was single, I always loved the holiday! How many times do we forget to tell the people around us that we really do love them? Ok...I'm going in a mushy direction & we've got a party to talk about. Yeah, I know...it was just a party with me & my fiance but it's not the quantity but the quality of the party! ;p

This year...I wanted to be daring...I wanted to be risky...I wanted to impress...so I decided to work with a LIVE animal! For real.


...the Lobster

That is what my roommate Emily named him, which didn't make it easy to throw the poor guy into the pot. The thought really did cross my mind to stick him in the bath tub & take him back to Publix the next day. My sister would probably be pretty mad if she happened upon Larry when she was going to take her daily shower. 

This will probably be the last time I cook lobster. I didn't even properly get Larry in the pot. I had to resort to picking up either side of the paper towels & flinging him (literally) into the pot. Once in the pot, Larry looked like he could tour with Cirque du Soleil. I quickly put the lid on the pot & asked Larry for forgiveness. Within 10 minutes, Larry was this beautiful red color (which means he's done). About that time, Mike came to the door. He was SOOO excited that I had made him lobster! As we both stood over the pot looking down at Larry, I asked Mike if he wanted to say something about Larry. It went something like this: "Larry, you did not die in vain. You gave your life so that Heidi could make Mike feel very special on this Valentines Day. In a way, you kept the spark of love alive. Thanks Larry." 

(Side note: If you're pretty ticked off at this point that the name of my blog is - parties for PENNIES & it's sounding more like parties for FIFTIES, I apologize! One, let this be a lesson to us all...b/c I didn't know how much lobster cost... lobster...not a good money saving entree. I will have a penny saving tip if you keep reading!) 

Ok...so that is the tale of Larry. I took a picture of him when he was done, but for some reason the picture did not turn out at all. :-( 

But this picture did....

This was our set-up...

1) Red & white salad plates - Home Goods $2.99
2) Crate & Barrel White Plates - Goodwill - a whole set several months ago for $8 :-)
3) White tablecloth - Home Goods $9.99
4) Table runner - Free....aluminum foil
5) Flower arrangement - 2 Dozen roses - Whole Foods $19.99 (Farmers Market $14.99...bonus tip), Black spray painted twigs, Black construction paper wrapped around a vase & tied with some raffia
6) Black stuff around the tea lights - Black Licorice! Mike LOVES Black licorice (He's the only one I've ever known to like that stuff). I scattered some licorice around the tea lights & put the rest in a cut little mason jar
7) Epic Fail - His gift...They are those big glass manly looking mugs (Home Goods $9.99) but I was going to etch them myself with the letter "S" (his last name is Stoudt). Apparently, when you're working with concave-like glasses it doesn't work out too well. So...Mr. Stoudt just got the boring old glasses. :-( 


Lobster (I made myself a Salmon fillet)
Steamed Broccoli
Mashed Red Potatoes

Mixed Leaf Salad w/ cucumber, red onion & tomatoes (cut into heart-shapes with a cookie cutter...I know...Oh the cheese) 
Homemade Salad Dressing (I'll share the recipe in another post)
Five Grain Baguette

And...for dessert.... (my favorite)

This was soo easy, so cheap & soo delish! 

Individual Chocolate Eclairs

1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
1 pkg instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups of milk
12 oz of cool whip
Graham Crackers

Mix the vanilla pudding with 2 cups of milk. Once the pudding becomes thick, mix in the cool whip (not frozen). Layer a couple of graham crackers on the bottom of a glass or small dish. Spoon in about 1/3 cup of the pudding/whipped topping mix over the graham crackers. Put another graham cracker layer on top of the pudding mixture. Repeat previous instructions. I added one more layer after this...but you can do whatever you'd like. Once you're done there place the last layer of graham crackers on top. Mix the chocolate pudding with 1 1/2 cups of milk. Once it thickens up, spread a thin layer on the top graham cracker. Refrigerate for at least several hours. I made mine the night before. It is awesome & takes more time to wash the dishes than it does to make this! 

For the final "phase" of the night...I planned some cheapo entertainment...

No, Will Smith did not make an appearance. (Cus I knew you'd think that :p) See, we had been listening to 90s music the weekend before & "Getting Jiggy With It" came on. Mike says, "I've been wanting to take hip hop lessons & learn this dance." I'm not exactly sure where that came from...but my little antennae went "ding, ding, ding". You can learn the Soldier Boy...the electric slide...all on You Tube. Surely I can find how to "get jiggy with it" on You Tube....

Nada...nothing...not even attempts! But I got it in my mind that this would be a free & fun thing for us to do. After dinner & dessert, I set up my laptop & told Mike his dream would come true tonight. (I don't exactly think he was thinking of learning the dance moves to gettin jiggy with it, when I said that) So...since there was no instructional video...we just tried to learn it from the music video (a little more difficult *sarcasm*). It was fun trying & we got a great laugh from it. 

How was your Valentines Day? Did you cook a fabulous meal? Or dine out? Hope it was wonderful & was full of laughter like ours! :-)

P.S. If you would like any tips for cooking lobster...don't ask me! :p jk...seriously, let me know & I'll share the little I picked up from this experience. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Easy & Inexpensive Valentine Day Petits Fours

Who loves to bake?? Me! Who has time to bake for every holiday, birthday, bar mitzvah, boss day? Not me! So...here is a simple, inexpensive & under 20 minute way to make adorable Valentines Day petits fours! Don't you just love the sound of that? Petits Fours? I feel so prim & proper! Ok...so you ready for this?

Here is what you need from the store:


I feel the need to not only point out that I only used two ingredients (plus food coloring) but also did these during the commercial breaks of the Bachelor! :p It's my guilty pleasure, ok... ;p

1) Take the Twinksters out of their packaging (they are about to become more refined) & cut them in half. Once you have two cakes from the original one...trim the ends so they are more of a square/rectangular shape. 

(I apologize for my poor picture...I used my IPhone & I was trying to get back to the TV before the crazy girl Michelle from the Bachelor came back on)

2) Once you divided & conquered the Twinksters, stick them in the freezer for a little bit. I think I left mine in their for about 10-20 minutes. I would actually suggest up to an hour. This will help for the next step.

3) Once you toughen the twinksters, they are ready to become beautiful French petits fours. (It's like the ugly duckling :p) Take your white chocolate chips...or better yet (what I would recommend) is the white chocolate candy bark. Microwave until melted. Reserve about 1/2 cup to 1 cup chocolate. Take your little twinksters, dip either end in the chocolate, then the sides & the top. I left the bottom naked. :p This took a little practice to get it looking smooth. I tried to use the tongs but that didn't work out to well, so I went all prairie & used my hands. 

4) Line your dipped transforming twinksters on wax paper & let dry. 

5) Take your reserve white chocolate & add a tiny bit of red food coloring & mix. If you have a pastry bag & tips...that would work great. I couldn't find mine (and like I said...I was working during commercial breaks :p) so I just used a sandwich bag. If you're using a sandwich bag, cut a small section of the end off & use that to decorate your petits fours! 

And here were a few of the ones I did...

I also think these would work well with some homemade icing or store bought icing. If you want it to go on smooth, heat the icing up in the microwave for just a few seconds. 

I brought these to work today & they were gone within minutes. I asked everyone that tried one how they were & their responses were more like Paula's than Simons...so I'll take that! :-) Happy Valentines Day! I wish I could share what special dinner I'm planning for my sweetie but it's a surprise...so stay tuned.