Late Night Campfire: DIY Party

My favourite kind of party always ends with a casual bonfire, roasting marshmallows, singing by the fireside and listening to some good music. This time, however, I decided to start the party that way. As an end-of-the-year, school’s out celebration, my friends and I all spent the night camping out in my backyard. We set up the yard with lights, seating, tents and some great food.  This is the kind of realizing, fun party that anyone can have in their own yard. As for the music, I would definitely recommend my June Playlist. Here are some of our little secrets and how-to’s to throw a classic bonfire party that no one will forget.

The Setup

To set up the lights, we in fact used outdoor christmas lights and paper lanterns and attached them to a thick cord, all held up by four wooden posts. In addition, we took some empty bean cans (a giant three-bean salad was made specially for this part) and poked holes in them to place candles inside. To do so, we had to place water in the cans and freeze them so they wouldn’t break when we poked the holes. Then we wrapped wire in two of the top holes to hang them securely on the cord.

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The Menu

 

 

No bonfire is complete without s’mores, so of course we had to pull out the marshmallows. All you need are graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows. And be sure to grab a bunch of sticks in the backyard, preferably long, with one smaller end to attach the marshmallows. Roast the marshmallows in the fire, then take two half pieces of graham cracker, place some chocolate on one, and sandwich the gooey marshmallow. It works best when the marshmallow is burnt.

As for the drinks, we used mason jar glasses with handles and made an assortment of beverages, the headliners being strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas. Both are easy to make. You can find the strawberry daiquiri recipe here and the piña colada recipe here.

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Dinner in the City

Last night, I went downtown for dinner with friends at local restaurant iBurger. This fancy, futur-esque burger joint is stocked up with electronic menus on the tabletops, and a variety of options for each meal. The concept is unique and creative, and I love it! Sure, it could use a few tweaks, but it was a really cool experience! Anyways, this one caught my eye; a sushi burger! It was stacked with two layers of rice (the bread), avocado (the lettuce), tuna tartare (the meat) and mango (hmm… a little extra!). It wasn’t your traditional burger, and you certainly needed to use a fork and knife, but boy was it good! I would definitely have it again. It was funny to have a sushi burger with fries, but it tasted surprisingly good. The french fries were delicious as well. The perfect mix between crispy and soft, they had the homemade fry taste. We all enjoyed our meals, and the service was fabulous.

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Friday Favorites: Food Photography

Happy friday!! As you saw in my last post, I’ve been experimenting a lot in the kitchen lately. As I scroll through pinterest, my mouth waters when I see all these gorgeous food photographs! I must say, I’ve become attached to the wonderful thing that is food photography. I feel almost as though these foods look better than they probably will even taste, but who cares! It’s the thought that counts, right? Or at least the sight.

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{ 1. Crumble / 2. Blueberry Pancakes / 3. Breakfast Puffs / 4. Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Turkey Burger / 5. Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas / 6. Soft boiled Eggs & Toast / 7. Cavolo Nero & Cannellini Bean Soup}

On another note, tonight I have a big performance, and I’m super excited. Hope all goes well! Have a great weekend!

Shortbread Pumpkin Pie

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I don’t know about you, but Pumpkin is my favourite pie of all. In fact, I am not usually a huge fan of pie, but when it comes to this, I simply cannot resist. Every year, my family and I go to the golf club for Thanksgiving, where I get to indulge in my annual slice of Pumpkin pie. This year, I decided to try and make it on my own.

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The pie turned out to be amazing, and everyone loved it! It really wasn’t very difficult to make as well, so it’s something I definitely recommend trying. I found this whip cream recipe along with the pie filling recipe, thanks to Freutcake, and it was the best whip cream I have ever tasted! The flavours are so decadent, that you almost want to eat the whole batch alone, never mind the pie! Of course you’re not going to want to do that with this pie!

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Shortbread Pumpkin Pie

Shortbread Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

Directions:
1. In a separate bowl, whisk flour and salt.

  1. Place butter into another bowl and beat until it’s softened (I used an electric mixer, but it can be done with a hand mixer as well).
  2. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Then add the beaten egg, beating until mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix until it forms a ball.
  3. Flatten the pastry ball into a thick disk, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Take a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and spray it with non-stick flour cooking spray. Once the pastry has cooled, evenly pat it onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan, making sure to spread it all the way to the top of the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  5. At the same time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly prick the pastry crust with the tines of a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes. Then place the tart pan on a larger baking pan (cookie sheet) and bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake crust for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove it from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling – adapted from Freutcake

2 large eggs beaten
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

Directions:
1. Increase the oven heat to 375 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin and eggs. Add evaporated milk, and whisk to combine. Carefully pour filling into crust, and make sure it does not overflow or go past the edge of the crust.
3. Bake pie until edges are set, but center is almost set, or slightly wobbly, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer plate to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with Maple Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

Maple Cinnamon Whipped Cream – via Freutcake

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 Directions:
1. Beat the cream on high speed until it begins to thicken and get slightly stiff. Add the maple syrup, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to the cream. Continue whipping the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Dollop on top of Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie and enjoy!

The Best of: Chicago 2013

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This past week, I took a trip to Chicago with my family. It was truly an unforgettable trip, and let me tell you, this city is wonderful. I had such a great time, and it was devastating to leave the city! No worries, I will eventually recover!

The Highlights

Upon our arrival to the hotel, we stumbled on this local chain called Wow Bao, where they serve hot asian buns. We were all starving after having been on the run all morning, in the plane and on the metro, so this seemed like the perfect place to take a load off and try something new. Boy, am I glad we came here.

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Basically, it’s dough with fillings of meat, spices and whatever you want. They even have a chocolate one! We tried the teriyaki chicken, the spicy kung pao, the thai curry chicken and the bbq pork. They were amazing, and I definitely recommend this if you are in the area. There are five or so located around the downtown Chicago area.

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We took a River Architecture tour, which was brought to us by the Chicago Architecture foundation. The city has so much architectural history, and it’s all so fascinating. I think I took about 300 photos in the 90 minute tour alone!

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I even discovered my favorite building in Chicago, the Wrigley Building.

We spent the afternoon in Wicker Park/Bucktown. I really enjoyed this area. I would say it’s the more artsy neighborhood of Chicago, which is so different from the downtown area.

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That same night, we ate at Lou Malnati’s pizzeria. This was my first time every trying the deep dish pizza, and I can tell you I’ve joined the dark side. I’m never going back to regular pizza!

I chose The “Lou”, which was topped with spinach, mushrooms tomatoes, and cheese. Yum!!!

And of course we had to try their Chocolate Chip Pizza for dessert! once again, yum! (I forgot to get a picture of this one, I was too caught up in eating it! Sorry!)

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Another Chicago-only restaurant chain we tried was called Potbelly’s.

Don’t judge a restaurant by it’s name, because the food here was amazing, and it didn’t leave you feeling like it’s name! I had a delicious breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato and salsa!

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Lincoln Park was also beautiful. We went to the zoo, and actually was able to see a skyline of the city, which was amazing!

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The best meal (in my opinion) that we had on the whole trip was when we went to DMK burger bar for lunch. I had found this place thanks to my dad’s favorite show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Of course, since we were going to the US, we had to hit at least one along the way!

We shared the sweet potato fries, which are basically my obsession, and then each got a burger. I had the #1, which was a grass- fed beef burger topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, balsamic red onions and barbecue sauce. It was all so delicious!

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The train/subway system here was also really cool. It was so convenient, and the ‘L’ system literally took you everywhere in Chicago, especially all the areas we wanted to cover. We were even able to take it to and from the airport.

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The Art Institute of Chicago is really beautiful, but I did learn that if you are going to recreate a modern day version in front of the original, people are going to stare…

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For our last dinner on the trip, we went to the local hotspot ‘The Purple Pig’. It’s basically all share plates, and they had the most amazing fried deviled eggs and eggplant parmesan balls.

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On our last day, we took a stroll inThe Loop, the downtown area of Chicago right where our hotel was located, and happened to find an exhibit called ‘The Happy Show’.  Created by Stefan Sagmeister, this exhibit focused on the art of happiness, how to achieve it, and the life lessons you learn along the way. On top of it all, the music was also amazing which added to the overall ambiance of this exhibit.

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I enjoyed this trip so much! It reminds me a bit of New York City as well, of course there are many differences! I can’t wait to one day visit it again!

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xoxo, Ali

Some More S’mores, Please?

It seems that the new food phenomenon seems to be the old traditional campfire favorite, s’mores. A slice of Hershey’s chocolate and a marshmallow stacked between two delicious graham crackers. Now, everyone’s experimenting with this simple treat, and it’s got my mouth watering. I’m not even a huge s’mores fan, but I just love to see all these crazy creations.

S’mores Ice Cream Cake (via How Sweet It Is)

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S’mores Popcorn (via Crazy Little Projects)

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S’mores Ice Cream (via Brown Eyed Baker)

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S’mores Cookie Cake (via Macaroni and Cheesecake)

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S’mores Stuffed French Toast (via BS in the Kitchen)

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S’mores Pizza (via Dinner of Dessert)

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S’mores Cookie Bars (via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

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Miniature S’mores Pies (via Chef In Training)

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S’mores Campfire Bars (via Sweetened with Honey)

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These are only a few of my favorites, and if you want to see more, check out my s’mores dedicated Pinterest board here.

Does anyone have any other s’mores creations? Let me know, I’d love to hear all your recipes!

Easter 2013

This afternoon, my dad’s family and I celebrated Easter at my cousin Kelly’s beautiful home. It was so much fun, and I got to see my family, which is always a blessing. My dad has five siblings; two brothers and three sisters. I love them all dearly and we have so much fun together! Here is a little recap on our wonderful day.

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Pre-party photo shoot with dad!

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And here’s mom.

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This one’s just me. I thought I’d get in an outfit post on here.

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I actually ended up wearing these shoes to the party.

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We spent our whole afternoon outdoors, and the only thing inside was the food!

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Being a part of a Lebanese family, we take our food very seriously! Everyone in the family takes part in this area of expertise, and makes a dish.

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We had orso salad, tomato salad, tomato sandwiches, both spicy and regular hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip, similar to hummus), various fatayers (cheese, pizza, spinach, etc), and this dish called yabrak (ya-ba-da), which is rice and meat rolled in vine leaves. That one, my mom made. It is one of my absolute favorite meals.

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Some of the fatayers.

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This was the dessert.

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We had fruit, cake, cake pops, and various lebanese desserts.

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You see those diamonds with the almond in the center? My mom made those as well. They are a secret family recipe, and it is the most amazing dessert in the world. I can’t even describe how good they are, but it tastes like heaven with every bite.

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This is my cousin Kelly (and the host)’s beautiful daughter, Mia. She is now two years old, and she is one of the cutest kids I’ve ever known. I babysit her often, and I love her so much!

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As you can tell, she loves the camera! She posed for it and everything! And, thanks to her extremely fashionable and stylish mom, she was wearing an adorable blue striped dress with a pink belt! Très chic!

{Forever 21 dress, forever21.com; Marc by Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume necklace, marcjacobs.com; Blue striped Roxy loafers, roxy.com; White Converse All Stars, converse.com; Betsey Johnson watch, betseyjohnson.com}