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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Elegant Smoked Salmon Appetizer

Elegant Smoked Salmon Appetizer

Elegant Smoked Salmon Appetizer

By having a few ingredients on hand, you can put this appetizer together in no time!  Purchase smoked salmon in the package and it will last several months before opening.   Purchase a baguette, slice it, and freeze the slices in a freezer bag – it will last for about a month.  Capers come jarred and have along shelf  life.  Cream cheese, red onion, and dill sprigs are all that’s left to buy.  This elegant appetizer will get your simple celebration started in minutes!


  • Sliced smoked salmon
  • Baguette
  • Softened cream cheese
  • Capers
  • Red onion sliced very thin (optional)
  • Dill sprigs (or chives)

Slice the baguette into thin angled slices.  Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on each baguette slice.  Top with capers (about 6-8 per slice) and red onion.  Add a piece of smoked salmon that covers about 3/4 of the bread.  Top with a sprig of dill or chives.  Place on a pretty platter and serve.

Sticky Toffee Date Pudding

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Vicki’s son-in-law, George,  just celebrated his 30th birthday.  George is from the land down under and Vicki made him this special dessert to reminded him of home.   Happy birthday, George!  Hip, hip, hooray!

The term “pudding” is used in Australia and the United Kingdom for very moist cake.  This dessert is simple to make.  The cake or pudding  portion can be made earlier in the week and frozen if you want to get a jump start on your “simple celebration.”


  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup light brown sugar


  • Good quality vanilla bean ice cream

To make pudding, place chopped dates in a medium glass bowl.  Stir in baking soda.  Add 1 cup of boiling water, stir and let sit for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350℉.  With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until batter turns pale and is smooth.  Fold in the flour with a metal spoon and then add date mixture.  Stir until combined.

Pour the mixture in a 8 inch cake pan that has been greased with cooking spray.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes until cooked through.  Let cool for 5 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack.  Once cooled, place on a plate, or freeze until ready to use.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat and stir until butter is melted.  Cook on low for about 5 minutes longer.

Cut pudding into wedges.  Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  Pour the sauce over your dessert and enjoy!

Serves 10.

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St. Pete Sunshine Martini

It’s cocktail time!  Our resident mixologist, Skip, was working his magic at the bar last night for a family dinner.   By eliminating the alcohol in this recipe, his expectant daughter was able to join in the fun too!

There are several steps to this recipe, but the refreshing taste is well worth the work for this unique libation.  A cocktail shaker and wooden muddler are needed and can be found at (see link below).

Chilled martini glasses are the best way to serve a St. Pete Sunshine.  Simply put ice water into the glass for a few minutes before use.

Chilling the glasses

Chilling the glasses

Per drink:

  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh pineapple cubes
  • 1 sprig Rosemary, stripped
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup*
  • 2 oz. Tequila
  • 1 oz. Grand Marnier
  • Pineapple slices for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, add pineapple, Rosemary, lime juice and simple syrup.  Muddle (mash) until pineapple is mostly liquid.  Fill with ice, add both alcohols and shake.  Double strain using the cocktail shaker top and a small strainer.  Pour into chilled martini glass and garnish with a pineapple slice.

*Simple syrup – Boil equal parts of water and sugar until sugar has melted.  Cool before use.  This is a common cocktail ingredient – make a large batch and keep in the refrigerator for your next cocktail celebration.

St. Pete Sunshine Martini

St. Pete Sunshine Martini

Cocktail shaker:


Mise en Place Entertaining

Mise en place

Mise en place

Mise en place is the French term for “make ahead.”  This strategy is key to successful entertaining as it frees you up from being stuck in the kitchen after your guests have arrived.  Whether your recipe can be made in advance or not, having all of your ingredients chopped, diced, and measured will save you time, sometimes hours, in the kitchen.

Vicki and I use this approach and both agree it is essential to any simple celebration.  Place your fresh cut herbs and other ingredients into small ramekins, small bowls, or even snack-sized baggies (less to wash).  Place all perishable ingredients in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.  You will be amazed at how quickly your recipe comes together!

A Simple Celebration Celebrates Blog Number 50!

Dear Friends, Family, and Followers,

Thank you for the tremendous support and positive feedback you have shown us throughout the last few months.  We have learned many things about the blogging world and have loved every minute of it.  We hope you enjoyed our recipes and will continue to learn a thing or two about simple, elegant, and fun entertaining!

Mary-Ellen & Vicki

Here's to all of our future Simple Celebrations!

Here’s to all of our future Simple Celebrations!

Southwest Black Bean & Avocado Dip

Southwest Black Bean & Avocado Dip

Southwest Black Bean & Avocado Dip

This dip is a real “simple” party pleaser.  Mary-Ellen made it recently for a group of us to have with our wine before we went out to dinner.  We enjoyed it so much, we barely had room for the main course!

This recipe is so simple …  no cooking involved!

  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and mashed with a fork
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh salsa, drained of excess juice
  • 1 cup farmer’s cheese or Mexican crumbling cheese

Mix together black beans, chipolte, and garlic and place in the bottom of a serving bowl or pretty mexican dish and level with spatula.  Mash the avocados and mix with the lime juice and salt & pepper.  Spread on top of the beans.  Layer the rest of the ingredients as follows:  sour cream, salsa, and top with cheese.  Serve with tortilla chips and crackers.

This dip is great when paired with a nice buttery chardonnay or Mexican beer.  Olé!!!

The Final Candy Table Touches

Wedding Candy Bar

Wedding Candy Bar

No candy table is complete without the personal touches.  You can add almost anything to make your theme stand out.  For birthday parties add color with balloons.  At my daughter’s wedding, pictured above, I placed a big lollypop in a prominent position so that people were able to “find” the candy table.

Several items – a lot of which were dreamed up by our friend, Bethsabé – are a must at each candy table:

Place cards – These identify each candy (see below).   For the baseball themed table. I found a template on line for a baseball diamond, printed it out and glued it to red cardstock.  I then printed out the names of the candy and glued them to the infield.

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Lollipops – At your local craft store, purchase round styrofoam disks.  Cut out paper disks and glue to either side of the styrofoam (in your party’s colors).  Find some fun pictures of the honoree(s) and glue on one side of disk.  Purchase lollypop sticks and punch stick in bottom of styrofoam disk.  Tie a ribbon on the stick and put it in a tea light holder filled with sand or small silver pebbles.  Your guests will get a kick out of them!


 Props – Interesting and fun props will make your candy table a hit!  Some ideas include buying initials of the honoree(s) and spray paint them with the theme’s colors.  For a sports theme, use actual sporting equipment and fan memorabilia.  Use items from the honoree(s) hobbies and interests.  

Painted Initials

Painted Initials

Candy Bar Essentials- Phase II


0507Ok so you have determined what candy will be on the table – now you need to make the table look fun and inviting.  Here is what you will need:

  • Table (6 foot for up to 50 people, 8 foot for 50-200 people)
  • Table linens (white works well – floor length)
  • Fabric pieces – organza works well
  • Boxes covered in white paper to add height
  • LED tea lights in the color theme
  • Rope lighting
  • Vessels for the candy – large glass containers shaped like margarita, martini glasses or apothecary jars work well, also baskets
  • Favor containers to hold the candy – mini chinese boxes, mini popcorn boxes, etc
  • Small scoops and tongs

Great places to find these items are:

  1. Glass Vessels – Home Goods, JoAnn Fabrics and Target
  2. Favor Containers –  or
  3. Scoops –


Hopefully, you are starting to get a vision of your “simple” candy table.  Our last blog concerning candy tables, will concentrate on the ways to personalize your table for your guest of honor!

The Ultimate Party Pleaser – The Candy Bar

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We are going to have several posts this week discussing candy bars.  I have been doing candy bars for quite a few years.  They are great for weddings, birthday parties, neighborhood gatherings – anytime you want to bring “fun” to your event.

You can go wild with the themes.  The one I did several weeks was for a wedding and the candy bar was a baseball theme – my niece and her new husband’s passion!!

This first post will concentrate on the actual candy you will need to order or purchase.

Here are the steps you need to plan the candy portion of your “simple” candy bar.

  • Determine the theme
  • Pick the colors of the party (obvious if this is for a wedding)
  • Check to see what candies are a favorite of the honoree
  • Look up candies you select on various web sites to receive the best price
  • Order candies about 1 month before the party to ensure delivery

When determining the amount of candy you will need – assume about 1/4 pound per person.

Here are some candies that work well:

  • M & M’s (they can be personalized) or chocolate gems
  • Jelly Bellies
  • Gummy Bears (I used gummy hotdogs and hamburgers for baseball theme)
  • Mini candy bars
  • Jordan Almonds
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Foil bagged Cracker Jacks
  • Smalled Planters Peanuts

Websites I recommend:


anne_ryan_indianapolis_vintage_wedding_photographer-03623 (1)Our next post will discuss the non-candy items you will need to purchase or find in your own home to make your candy bar stand out!!

Savory Salmon on Rock Salt


The next time you are going to serve salmon at your simple celebration, give this rock salt recipe a try.  Like many of our recipes, this can be prepared well in advance and requires very few ingredients.  Cooking the salmon on salt results in a very moist, tasty dish.  You may be wondering if the fish tastes salty by using this method,  and the answer is no.  The skin of the salmon acts as a barrier between the salt and fillet.

  • One 3 pound salmon fillet with skin left on, pin bones removed
  • 1/2 cup of chopped mixed herbs such as basil, dill, chives and/or thyme
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Rock salt


  • 3/4 cup of good quality olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Early in the day, line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.  Cover with a 1/4 inch layer of rock salt.  Place salmon, skin side down on salt.  Cover with fresh herbs and sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until about 45 minutes before cooking.

In the mean time, mix all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325℉.  Bake salmon uncovered for about 30 minutes or until opaque in the middle.  Cut the salmon in six slices and remove from skin with a metal spatula.  Place on a plate and pour vinaigrette on top.  Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Serves 6.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

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