Ultimate Backyard Parties

Looking to plan the ultimate backyard party for the end of summer?  Always having trouble figuring out just ‘what to do’? No worries, we’ve got you covered! 

First: Pick a theme.  Some may think ‘it’s just a get together, do I really need a theme’? Well, if you’re calling it a party and you want it to be awesome… yes! Pick a theme! Pool party? BBQ? Fiesta? You name it, and then we can start.

Second: Choose your menu.  Decide what kind of food you want to serve at this ultimate party you’re going to be throwing.  Fiesta? Go Mexican with a create your own taco / nacho bar. BBQ? Think Chicken or pulled pork. Pool party? What would you bring to the beach? Sandwiches or hot dogs and hamburgers. 

Third: Create a fun drink to go with that ultimate theme you have.  You’ll cut down on costs for providing beverages and it’ll be a great tie in to get everyone into the spirit.  Margaritas would go great with any Fiesta and can be pre made in pitchers.  Lemonade spritzers or spiked lemonade would go great with a BBQ and again, can be pre made. Looking at doing a pool party? Create a fun blue cocktail and add some rubber ducks to it or a nice sangria to make people think they’re water front.

Fourth: Think of some great decorations.  Decorating has a knack for getting people in the spirit of the party and well, it’s fun! Use items you can find for cheap or even items from around the house.  Mason jars and flowers would be a great accessory to any BBQ, Bright colored and mismatched items for a fiesta and pool noodles, beach buckets and swimming tubes for pool parties. 

Have fun with whatever it is you’re doing! Make things simple and fun so you too can enjoy your time with your guests.  Invite others to bring items and let them either a) know the theme or b) provide them with options for dishes they could make.  I always like to take care of the main courses and possibly the appetizers and leave the desserts or sometimes the appetizers up to my guests.

Now go on, you have an ultimate summer party to plan before… you guessed it! Summer’s over. (Alright, i’ll stop talking like that…. Sorry!)

Take a look at some of our great Pool Party Theme ideas, click here.

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Image taken from Pinterest.com.  No ‘click through’ link provided.

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Cupcake Style

Everyone always asks me how on earth I always make my cupcakes look so good.  Well, it’s all in how you decorate them.  It’s actually very simple to frost a cupcake like a ‘pro’ and add a few touches to make them look like they came from that bakery down the road (without actually getting them from the bakery down the road). Here are 5 great blog posts from fellow baking bloggers that explain the different tips you can use, along with different ways to use the tips.  You’ll never bust out that butter knife and tub of frosting again once you see how fast and easy it is!

1. Niner Bakes
“If you are completely new to decorating cupcakes, I will show you a couple of must have piping tips/nozzles and how their designs look frosted on a cupcake.”

They go over a ton of tips and how you can use them to make different effects.  The greatest advice they give is to try it out on a separate board before you actually begin frosting your cupcakes.

2. Sprinkle Bakes

“These techniques are perfect for beginners because they are so forgiving.”

Another great blog post with video to show you how to give those cupcakes some style without a lot of hassle!

3. Life As A Strawberry

“Decorating cupcakes is SO SUPER FUN, and the decoration will determine the level of “oohs” and “aahs” you get when people first see your cupcakes.”

She is so right! People gawk at well decorated cupcakes as much as they gawk at cute little babies.  Doing something yourself impresses EVERYONE.

4. Our Best Bites

“I’m going to run through all of our best tips and tricks to get perfect, bakery-style cupcakes.”

Another great overview on tips and tricks to make the most beautiful looking cupcakes, sure to impresses everyone you deliver them to. 

5. Glorious Treats

“remember when I first started decorating cupcakes I too was very interested in (and intimidated by) creating a beautiful swirl on cupcakes.  After doing it only a few time I found that filling a piping bag and adding a nice swirl of frosting on cupcakes is actually much easier and quicker than spreading frosting!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!  It’s VERY easy and MUCH quicker to pipe your frosting on that using that pesky butter knife and tub of store bought sugar loaded fake frosting.

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Photo courtesy of: Glorious Treats

 

Butternut Squash Mac

One day after having half a butternut squash in my fridge, I decided to experiment.  I’ve roasted butternut squash before and it has a very nice buttery flavor.  That being said, I developed this recipe on my own, making it unique to me and well, versatile as I change it up every time. Remember, you can steer off this beaten path at any point and mix it up a bit.  Perhaps change the macaroni, or the cheese, or add a little cream to it, whatever you want.  Maybe add some cubed up ham or even grilled chicken.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box small shells (or vegetable wacky mac is delicious too)
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth w/ 1 tbsp. flour mixed in
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

What To Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put butternut squash in baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pop in oven & roast 30 mins.
  3. Boil water and cook macaroni as per the box, draining when done.
  4. Melt butter in saucepan or deep skillet, Once melted, add in chicken broth, chicken broth and flour mixture and cheeses. Stir until mixture comes to a boil.
  5. Remove butternut squash from oven and mash using a potato masher.
  6. Add mashed butternut squash to cheese mixture, stir together, taste and add salt / pepper as needed.
  7. Add macaroni to mixture and stir together.
  8. Spray baking dish butternut squash was in with non-stick cooking spray, pour macaroni mixture into pan and place in oven, bake 20 mins. (Top with extra cheese if you would like).
  9. ENJOY!

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We’re On The Social Media Move!

Beyond The Kitchen Blog has some new and exciting news! We are on the social media move and broadening our horizons to not only reach new people, but give you all a taste of what we love.  What on earth am I talking about?  Find us on Pinterest and take a look at all of the things that Beyond The Kitchen loves and some of our favorite recipes, new recipes we want to try and of course… Projects, DIY Solutions, Decorating Ideas, Kids and MORE!

Now we know that for some, Pinterest is a bit of a headache and you can’t quite seem to grasp the concept of how on earth a digital pin board works, but trust us.  It’s worth it!  It’s a great place to keep all of those favorite of yours stored, easily bookmark ideas that others have, things you want to try and the possibilities are endless!

So go on… Follow us today on Pinterest and we promise you, we’ll have more than enough good things for you to give a try… 

Follow BTKitchenBlog on Pinterest – Click Here!

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Make Your Own Suds

Dropping $20 on a container of Tide was nothing to me.  I’m a huge fan of the way Tide smells and lets face it, we want extremely clean clothes.  After visiting my sister one holiday, I asked to do some laundry before heading home with an exploding suitcase filled with dirty laundry.  After starting my wash, I soon realized there wasn’t any laundry detergent.  Or so I thought.  She quickly taught me that homemade laundry detergent is just as effective, much cheaper and lasts you just as long as the container you buy in the store.

Now, I wouldn’t do anything except make my own detergent.  I do add Downy Unstoppables into my wash, however that’s just for an added scent booster and is entirely up to you.  Now I cannot take credit for discovering this recipe, I have simply modified a few different ones that I have come across, however the very first recipe I started using was by a blog, ‘Why Not Sew?‘.

Try it out.  It’s very inexpensive and can save you a ton of money every month if you do as much laundry as I do!

Laundry Detergent (Homemade):

  • 1 bar of soap (any kind/scent that you desire)
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of Baking Soda or Washing Soda (whichever you can find)
  • a big pot ( that holds more than 2 gallons)
  • a grater
  • a long spoon
  • large container (holds more than 2 gallons)

What you do:

  • Grate your bar of soap
  • Add 1 gallon of water into the big pot, along with soap shavings and cook down until soap dissolves
  • You want to add the borax and washing soda or baking soda
  • Bring to a boil and the soap will start to come together
  • Turn off the heat and add another gallon of water
  • Stir mixture well
  • Pour detergent into desired containers.  Milk jugs, mason jars, or even an unused drink dispenser work well.

**Use approximately 1/2 cup of detergent per load for a medium-large sized load of laundry.

Original credit for this recipe & credit for the below photo goes to: Why Not Sew?

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Decorating … coffee style?

Are you forever trying to figure out something new or fun to do with candles instead of them just sitting in a jar?  Don’t get me wrong, I like a good Yankee Candle, but the big glass jar doesn’t always go with your home decor.  I’m not the ‘farmer’ type country girl, but I’m most definitely the ‘country chic’ and pottery barn style country.

Who doesn’t like a good decoration that can get your entire house smelling fabulous?  And who doesn’t like the smell of a fresh pot of french vanilla coffee?  Well my friends … this is an easy way to get a cute decoration, and have a fabulous smelling house all in one.

What you’ll need:

  • Mason jar or other container
    You can use either something shallow or something tall
  • Whole bean coffee beans, original flavor
  • Votive or tealight candle, for each container
    (French vanilla is amazing but you can do any scent you want)
  • Lighter

What you do:

  • Step one: Take your container you want to use and make sure it’s clean.
  • Step two: Fill the container (or containers) with coffee beans, about 1/3 – 1/2 full.  
    If you’re using a shallow bowl style dish, you may need to fill it more.
  • Step three: Take a votive or tealight candle and place in the center of the beans and push down slightly to get it into the beans.
  • Step four: Light the candle and wait…. You’ll start to smell the coffee in just a little while.

Extra tip: If you put 3 containers (all the same style) on a coffee table, it’s a great, easy, simple and very country chic table decoration, not to mention delicious smelling. 

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Summer Sangria

In the spirit of the holiday weekend, why not start with a great refreshing summer drink!?

White sangria seems to be the new trend lately as it is light, refreshing, fruity, and completely satisfies your craving for something sweet but not too heavy.

You can make your sangria sweeter or drier, depending on what you prefer.  I myself, like my sangria a bit on the sweeter side so I use a moscato in mine.  That being said, you can mix and match what it is that you prefer when it comes to wine.  For the fruit, I don’t enjoy lemon or lime flavor, so I stick with a very simple flavor.  You can of course add lemons, limes, strawberries, peaches or even mango to this recipe and it would still taste great.

My personal favorite recipe, which I now keep in a large mason jar at all times in the fridge, and what will become my signature drink at my upcoming wedding in August is:

Summer Lovin’ Sangria

  • Pitcher or quart sized mason jar
  • 1 1/2 cups of white wine, I use Barefoot Moscato
    (You can substitute Riesling, Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio if you like something drier)
  • 1/4 cup Peachtree Schnapps
  • 1 orange – halved & sliced
  • Soda Water
  • Ice

1. Take your pitcher or mason jar and add half of the orange slices.

2. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of your white wine and dump into the pitcher or mason jar.

3. Measure out your 1/4 cup of Peachtree Schnapps and dump into the container.

4. Stir up your contents until mixed.

**It’s best to let this sit for a couple of hours or over night, but can be served immediately if need be **

5. Take a glass and fill it with ice

6. Put a slice or two of the orange in the glass

7. Fill the glass 3/4 of the way with sangria & top with a splash of soda water

8. Give it a simple stir and enjoy!

 

If you’re making larger batches of sangria, do a 6 part wine to 1 part schnapps ratio.

Give sangria a try! Mix and match some fun fruits and let them sit in the wine overnight.  The natural sugars will be brought out of the fruit and provide a really nice flavor to your sangria.  This is a fun recipe to personalize and make it your own!

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Why?

Why did I choose a cooking / baking / DIY blog?  Because I absolutely love to cook, bake and do anything related to DIY projects.  I’m a very creative and hands on person.  I love to take something and make something new.  It could be my graphic design background, or it could be that I take after my mom who was a very crafty person and the true definition of a ‘Susie Homemaker’ before she passed away 21 years ago.

I am currently in the process of decorating for my upcoming wedding and well, you guessed it, i’m doing it all by hand.  There’s something so special about creating, fixing or even just repurposing items yourself that adds that special little charm that everyone loves to note.

Baking and cooking became a passion of mine when I started living on my own.  Taking ingredients and thinking of a way to make them come together and taste good is a challenge, but not always a difficult one.  Would you ever think of using leftover taco meat and making it into a meat sauce?  I have!  Adding grilled chicken and sauteed squash to boxed white macaroni and cheese? I have!  Semi homemade items or finding new ways to use leftovers are things I enjoy and very useful when it comes to using everything you have rather than wasting food.

There’s nothing better than a homemade cookie or cupcakes or anything related to baked goods for that matter.  It tastes better, it looks better and people appreciate the time and effort into a baked good for them.  It’s very personal and something that they know you put time and thought into.  Making people happy and smile when I bring out a freshly baked tray of cookies is a feeling that is so appreciative, it’s hard to not want to do it again.

Decorating my cupcakes and sugar cookies comes from my artsy self.  I get very carried away when it comes to putting different decorations on things.  Most recently, I did baked goods for my friends bridal shower with a Tuscan theme.  Of course, wine was involved, so all of her items had a wine theme to them.  From the ‘bunch of grape’ sugar cookies that were hand decorated to the chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream and a hand piped ‘bunch of grapes’ on top to the chocolate dipped strawberries with colored drizzle on top.  Every guest at the party couldn’t believe that just ‘someone’ made these and not a professional bakery.  And that my friends, is why I love to do what I do.  People are SO appreciative of the effort a single person puts into their food.

After all, presentation is everything!  And don’t worry, i’ll share my secret recipes and tips in my posts to come… stay tuned!

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog, ‘Beyond The Kitchen’!  Rather than focus strictly on cooking and baking, i’ve encompassed all of my heart felt passions into one.  DIY projects are another one of my favorite things to do if i’m not whipping up a meal or baking and decorating some desserts.  What better three things than these to get creative with?

My goal for starting my blog is to excite and inspire people like yourself to start cooking, taking a stab at baking that delicious recipe or repurposing something you were ready to give to the trash. Stop buying all of those processed foods, pre-cooked meals, loaded with sugar cookies and treats, and stop paying top notch for brand name household items!  There’s a way to do almost anything you need, if you present the will to do so.

Have you had a terrible disaster when in the kitchen and that’s why you strive away from it?  We’ve all had them! Tell us about it!  After all, laughter burns the most calories and it feels good to laugh at yourself once in a while.  Brush it off, start over and be more determined than before!

You CAN do this and I’ll help guide you along!  I look forward to taking you on this journey with me!