Thursday, March 28, 2013

Merida Party for my very own Princess Merida

Ok, I've been taking a break from my foodiva-ness to invest in the Artistic I side of my brain.... i.e. party planning. (You may recall my awesome Artistic I logo for my party planning business which i unveiled last summer?) So, the reason for this party planning break?  Abby's Birthday!!

I cannot believe my sweet girl is actually FIVE! Every year, we do something huge for her birthday because we LOVE parties of all kinds, and especially birthday parties. And this year, Abby is in loooooove with Merida.....she loves the movie (Brave) as a whole, but is particularly enchanted with Merida herself. I think it's the hair. So, we went with that and made the hair one of our design focal points.

First thing, I called my brilliant and talented friend Jessica of Capture Photography ( and we collaborated on this fabulously wild Merida graphic. she drew it all up, put it in photoshop, and designed a stunner of a party invite. Love!

She also built the graphics for the beautiful birthday banner....and the twine/clothes pins that I happened to have were the perfect rustic touch. :)

This design also directly contributed to the deeeeeeeeelicious and beautiful cake from Bethany Perkins of Bethany Cakes ( Vanilla bean and strawberry -need I say more?

Party Activities
Once the design was nailed down, I focused on party activities .... I wanted to incorporate the Crafty Carver, archery, and the willo the wisps. So, starting with a crafty activity, I let Abby paint a paper mâché book box from Michaels (in party colors of course). She had been begging for a job to do, and this was the perfect way to include her in the party planning. We then picked out beads and suede cording for the kiddos to build their own "crafty" necklaces. Fun!  (One of my daughter's friends had a glorious time modeling her necklace!)

Next came the archery game. Archery was a MUST. I painted a scrap piece of plywood with a target and found a bow and set of eraser-tipped arrows on Etsy (I love Etsy). It was brilliant and the kids were super excited to shoot some arrows.... Buuuuuuuut, the bow was actually hard to use and only the adults could manage it, lol. They had fun! Luckily, the target also doubled as a backdrop for the dessert table, so it still made an impression!

Lastly, and my favorite, was the willo the wisp. Since Merida spends time chasing wisps through the forest, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do a willo the wisp hunt. I bought a few yards of tulle to wrap candy in, tied it each one with a ribbon, and.....oila! The kiddos had a few hundred willo the wisps to gather (they were like fiends, haha). Such glee!

This theme lent itself to quite a bit of food creativity (so the foodiva revealed herself after all). I featured cups of blue cotton candy (willo the wisps), cups of haphazard licorice (Merida hair), and bear paw cookies (gluten free chocolate cookies with almond slivers). I also commissioned Monique Paul of Posh Desserts ( to make delightfully cute (and yummy!) bear cub cake pops. they were a total hit!

Oh, and i also found those awesome wooden spoons on Etsy that featured a hair-centric Merida decal. Awesome.

I found these lovely bubble sets also on Etsy (can you tell how much I really do love Etsy?!). They are bejeweled Celtic knot bubble wands, paired with bubble jars that say "Crafty Carver's Magic Potion." Brilliant, right?! I love moments of inspiration!

And there you have it, a Merida party for my sweet, sweet Abby. She was worth every moment of preparation and planning, and all the craziness on the day of. Love her!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chicken, potato, and roasted pepper enchiladas: short-cut version

Hello blogging world!  Here is my latest favorite, lightened up (and of course wheat-free) enchilada!

This recipe idea started earlier this week: we were running late for dinner and didn't have any meat defrosted, so decided to swing by the store and get one of those deliciously convenient rotisserie chickens, hot and ready to go. As we discussed what would accompany said chicken, I remembered we had anaheim chile peppers, onions, and red potatoes in the fridge.....and corn tortillas and cotija cheese are ALWAYS waiting in my fridge too. Thus, a new meal of chicken, potato, and roasted pepper enchiladas was born. YUM

The forthcoming recipe is the short-cut version. Later this weekend, I hope to experiment with a slower version (because let's be honest, slow food usually tastes much better....unless you're on Top Chef, which I'm so not there.....yet :))

1 onion, quartered
4 red potatoes cut into small wedges
Olive oil
3 Anaheim peppers
1 whole rotisserie chicken, meat removed from bone and shredded
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce (like cholula)
1/4 c chicken broth
1T cumin
One dozen corn tortillas, warmed
Bottled tomatillo sauce, look in the Hispanic or international foods section
Jack cheese
Cotija cheese

Prepare filling:
Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare potatoes and onion and place on cookie sheet, toss with scant olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast ~25 minutes or until potatoes are blistered and golden.

Roast whole chile peppers over open flame* (see note below for chile roasting how-to), remove skin and seeds, and chop roughly. Dump into medium-sized bowl and add shredded chicken. Use a micro plane if you have one and zest a lemon directly over chicken. Add a few shakes of Cholula (according to your taste) to the chicken and splash some chicken broth to make sure it doesn't dry out. (Hopefully you have a previously opened quart of broth in your fridge for purposes like this.) Finally, finish off with cumin, salt, and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. Taste to make sure it's plenty flavorful; adjust seasoning as necessary.

If veggies are done, add just the onions to the chicken mixture. Set potatoes aside.

To assemble:

Reset oven to 400 degrees.

Warm tortillas between two kitchen towels in the microwave for 1 minute. (IMPORTANT, otherwise tortillas break while you roll them up!) While the tortillas are heating, spread a few tablespoons of warmed tomatillo sauce on bottom of 13x9 inch pan.

Keeping tortillas nice and warm between the towels, remove one at a time, place on your work surface, and spoon chicken in a line down center of tortilla. Adjust the amount depending on your tortilla sizes -you def don't want skinny enchiladas! Top with one roasted potato wedge (or two), roll tortilla up, and place seam side down in prepared dish. Continue until dish is packed with enchilada yumminess. Top with remaining tomatillo sauce, ensuring all exposed tortillas are bathed in sauce....otherwise, the non-bathed surfaces get super dried out.

Lastly, cover enchiladas with a healthy amount of jack cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is bubbly and golden like a pizza. Let cool for a few minutes.

To serve:
Carefully remove one or two enchiladas from pan and place on dinner plate. Top with sliced avocado, cilantro leaves, and cotija cheese. If you're feeling in the mood, pair with whole or retried beans that you: 1) already made (good for you), 2) heated from the can (convenient), or 3) purchased from your local taco shop (let's face it, sometimes it's better not to know how.much lard it takes to really make retried beans taste amazing).

And presto! You have a delicious "almost" made-from-scratch enchilada dinner. The chicken stays moist thanks to the broth, yet is packed with flavor thanks to the roasted peppers and veggies. The fresh toppings provide perfect balance..... and of course, the short-cut chicken and sauce make it doable for a weeknight. Yay for yummy dinner mid-week!

*How to properly roast fresh chile peppers:
I find they turn out best when roasted over an open flame. For this recipe, I use my gas range top since the oven is busy cooking the potatoes, but I usually prefer to roast peppers directly under my high heat broiler actually....or have SOMEONE do it out on the BBQ. Cook on one side until skin is black and blistered, then repeat on all sides till pepper is completely soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and place in plastic bag (I use a clean produce bag from grocery store) and tie in knot so heat doesn't escape. Let peppers sit and sweat for at least 15 minutes. Remove peppers from bag and use your fingers or a small paring knife to strip blistered skins off the peppers. Cut peppers lengthwise to remove seeds, then dice or chop as needed. Or leave in half and top burgers with them ...but that's a recipe for another day :)