Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brave Birthday Party

Bug-a-Boo’s fifth birthday is coming up and we are trying to decide what type of party to have.

For the past four years we have had two parties a year at our house.  One for friends and one for family.  Each party every year has been themed.

Year One:  Winnie the Pooh (MI family) and Flowers and Butterflies (OH family)

Year Two:  World of Disney

Year Three:  The Princess and the Frog (New Orleans style)

Year Four:  Unicorns

This year we have tossed around a few ideas that would involve having the party at an outside venue which would free me up from doing A LOT of work (although I will admit, I love planning and executing a fun party). 

A few of our ideas have been:  The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, The Santa Maria ship in Downtown Columbus (pirate themed) or a local movie theater with the hopes of being able to see the new Disney movie, Brave.

As of right now, Bug-A-Boo has said that she wants to have the pirate party on the Santa Maria. This would be incredibly cool, however she is also pretty into Princess Merida from Brave right now and I fear that if I reserve the boat for the party she will change her mind and want to have a Merida/Brave party at home and we’ll be out $100 deposit.  So I am waiting to make those arrangements until after she sees the movie next weekend.

In preparation for a house party that would be themed Merida/Brave I have started making some plans and getting some ideas for the party.  I thought I would post them here not only as a way to share the ideas if anyone else is thinking of this type of party but also as a way to keep all the ideas and resources in one place that I can access them easily.

To start things off we need to decide how many kids will be at the party.  We have settled on 8 (including the birthday girl). Eight is a great number seeing as how most party supplies/favors come in counts of 8.  This makes it very easy.

The next step I always think about when planning a party is the food.


In order to stay with the theme of the party but also be kid friendly I don’t want to go over board with the food.  In the past, I have made a lot of food that was incredibly themed for the party (ie. Princess and Frog party – Gumbo, Muffaletta, mac& cheese) and the kids were so excited to be at the party that they didn’t really eat the food – except for the cake.

This time around I figured I would keep it simple and at the same time themed.

In the movie there is a dinner scene with Merida’s whole family.  They are eating Haggis and turkey legs (I think).  Since thereis no way I’m serving Haggis I thought the next best thing to large turkey legs would be plain boneless chicken wings. They are small and perfect for little ones.

The plain boneless chicken wings at Buffalo Wild Wings are $35.99 for 50 and they come with 40 pieces of celery and blue cheese dressing which brings me to my next item.

Veggie Arrows. I want to get brown plastic cups and some twine and create an arrow sheath.  Then I plan to pour some ranch dressing in the bottom of the cup and then cut up some carrot sticks and the celery sticks (from Buffalo Wild Wings) into arrow shapes and serve them as a side.

Some other snacks I plan on serving are Fish & Chips, goldfish crackers and potato chips, that is.

And the best part of any birthday party is the desserts.  I’m debating about whether or not to have a traditional cake for her party with her friends.  I am thinking about having two different kinds of desserts instead – Bear Claw Chocolate Cookies and Scottish Sweet Buns.

In the movie Merida’s mother and brothers all turn into bears, hence the bear claws and the Scottish Sweet Buns are a favorite of Merida’s triplet brothers and they are always scheming ways to steal more.  I figure I can put the Sweet Buns on a tiered serving platter and put candles in the Sweet Buns.

I will definitely do a traditional birthday cake with a Merdia and Angus cake topper for her family party, most likely ordered at the grocery store.

For drinks I will probably serve cider, lemonade and water.

My next party planning step are the decorations.


Like any other character based party there are sure to be licensed supplies (ie. Plates, napkins, stationary, cups, etc.).  Brave is no different.

The easiest and most affordable way to do this is to buy a party pack that includes everything.

This pack includes 8 lunch plates, 8 dessert plates, 16 napkins and 8 cups.  I also plan on getting the table covering, birthday banner, balloon bouquet, invitations and thank you notes.

I’m also thinking of getting some fun medieval style goblets for the kids to drink out of which they could also take home with them as part of their favor.

These are the standard party needs and easiest of thedecorations.  Since I am never one to do anything easy I want to take it a step further and try to decorate a section of our deck to look like a castle yard, similar to the one at Disney World were we met Merida.
Disneyland Park - Merida
Source:  Disney Parks Blog

Magic Kingdom Park-Merida
Source:  Disney Parks Blog

It was such a great area and I have a spot on our deck that has three walls that I think I may be able to transform (at least a little). We also have a 10x10 pop up tent that I may be able to do something with.

I’m not quite sure yet how to do everything but I have some ideas.  First I’ll have to clear everything off.  The canopy has to stay (it’s bolted in) but I think I know what to do with it.

While doing searches online I came across some really cool backdrops that will make the walls look like stone.  I would need about four of them to cover everything but I think it could work.

I also want to do something with the family flags and tapestries, since they play such an important part in the story.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find posters of the tapestries that are used in the movie so I’m going to have to improvise.  I found a Merida table cover that I’m going to cut and hang on a dowel with string to look like aflag.  I also figure that I can make some of the other family flags using felt.

Another important part of the story are the Will o’Wisps that Merida follows to the witch where she makes a wish to change her fate.  I want to make will o’wisps out of blue tulle and hang them from fishing wire so they look like they are floating.

I’ll have the guests follow the will o’wisps to an area of the backyard where I will have a black cauldron on some type of pedestal and some cards and pens and the guests can write a wish they have for Sydney on the paper and drop it in the cauldron.

The cauldron wishes leads us to the next step of planning the party…


Basically we are going to have a kid friendly version of some Highland Games.

I have several ideas (most of which I have stolen from other websites and Disney Parks)

1.   An archery contest: I plan to make a target similar to the one that Disney had at the Merida meet-and-greet area.  Each kid will receive their own bow and arrow set, which will double as a favor.

2.   Brave Musical Bears (instead of Musical Chairs):  I would get 8 stuffed “triplet” bears.  Put 7 in the middle (holding 1 out).  Start the music.  Whoever doesn’t have a bear when the music stops is out and they get the bear I was holding to take home.  Repeat until every one is out.

3.   A version of cornhole: I’m going to try to make these cornhole boards out of plywood and then paint them myself with the triplets on them.  I can make beanbags out of fabric and beans or rice.
Source:  All Ears Blogger Kristin Ford

4.   Mini Caber (Log)Toss: I can either purchase foam already in this shape or I can buy fabric and some stuffing and make my own.  I think that is what I’m going to do. Then at the party I will make a pitch and the kids will have to toss them.
5.  After all these physical games it will be nice to have an activity that is a little low key to get the kids calmed down…coloring sheets

Last but certainly not least are the Favors for the guests.


At this party a lot of the things we are using for the activities are doubling for favors.

1.   Bow and Arrow set
2.   Stuffed bear – if we do that
3.   Knights cup – if I order them
4.   Coloring Sheet

Some other ideas for favors are:

I really think this could be a very fun party.  I don’t know whether she will decide to have a stay at home Merida/Brave party or not but if she does I’ll be ready and if not then maybe these ideas will help someone else plan a Brave party.

Follow me on Pinterest for more ideas.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Monday, June 11, 2012

Private Selection Moroccan Burger

My family loves burgers.  All kinds of burgers so whenever I find a recipe for a new and different kind of burger I try it.

The newest burger in my collection is the Private Selection Moroccan Burger with Mint-Pepper Glaze.  I paired it with a green salad an a Moroccon Sweet Potato salad.

As a BzzAgent I received a coupon for Private Selection ground beef at Kroger and knew that this was the perfect time to try this recipe.  I wanted to originally pair it with the Private Selection Sea Salt and Black Pepper Kettle Chips but those were so good I pretty much ate them as soon as I got them.

This meal was so yummy but be is spicy!!!  If you like spicy food than this is the meal for you if not then I would definitely alter the recipe to your tastes.  This is definitely worth a try though especially for you Grille Masters!!!

Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad
By. Christine Benlafquih, Guide

This sweet Moroccan salad works very well as a side dish to spicy meals, sweet tagines or roasted and grilled meats.  It's prepared by simmering diced sweet potatoes or yams with cinnamon, saffron and honey until a rich, sticky sauce forms.  Easy, sweet and delicious!  Click here for the recipe.

Private Selection Moroccan Burger with Mint-Pepper Glaze
Kroger Recipe

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

  • Mint – Pepper Glaze1/2 cup apricot fruit spread
    1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
    1 Tbsp Private Selection Organic Fresh Mint, chopped
    Zest of 1 lemon + 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Burgers
    1 tsp Private Selection ground coriander
    1 tsp Private Selection ground cumin
    1 tsp Private Selection fancy paprika
    1 tsp Private Selection California garlic powder
    1/2 tsp Private Selection ground red pepper
    1 tsp Private Selection sea salt
    1/2 tsp Private Selection freshly ground black pepper
    11/2 lb Private Selection Angus ground beef *
    Cooking spray
    6 grilled or toasted Private Selection jumbo whole wheat sandwich buns
    6 Slices Private Selection Havarti cheese
    *For a more authentic taste, use 1 lb. of Private Selection ground lamb and 1/2 pound of Private Selection ground beef.

For mint-pepper glaze: 
1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl. Cover and chill.

For burger:
1. Combine first 7 ingredients in small bowl; mix thoroughly. In a large bowl combine ground beef and seasoning blend. 
Mix gently with fingertips or fork just until incorporated. Form into 6 (4 inch-wide) patties.
2. Place burgers on platter. Burgers can be made up to 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
3. Preheat grill (medium-high heat). Lightly coat with cooking spray. 
Grill burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Grill buns, cut side down, just until lightly toasted, 
about 1 minute.
4.To assemble the burgers, spread the mint-pepper glaze on the cut sides of the buns. 
On each roll bottom, place a cooked burger and Havarti cheese. Add the roll tops and enjoy. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strawberry Season in full swing

Recently, Sydney and I went strawberry picking with some friends and we came home with 6 pounds of the most beautiful strawberries.  In years past we have always gone to Circle S Farms and have had a lot of fun with friends and come home with some decent berries.  This year we went to Mitchell's Berries in Plain City and I will tell you one thing...we will never go anywhere else.

Mitchell's Berries was amazing.  The fields were well tended and in beautiful order and the strawberries were the most beautiful.  I was having a hard time leaving with only 6 pounds.

When we got home I knew that I had to start preparing the berries and get to cooking.  I made several yummy dishes and have had lots of people asking for the recipes so here they are.


This recipe was created by Jaeger Stoltz, of Seattle, Washington.  This recipe was a 2012 Finalist in the Sutter Homes Build A Better Burger contest.

It was amazing!!  I highly recommend pairing it with the Zinfandel wine like suggested.  It really enhance the meal.

Strawberry BBQ Sauce
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, sliced 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 pounds ground chuck (20% fat)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 strips thick-cut smoked bacon
Strawberry Salad
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
  • Remaining sliced strawberries from making sauce
  • 4 ounces gorgonzola or or other blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing on the grill rack
  • 6 thick slices Gruyere cheese
  • 6 brioche hamburger buns, split
To make the sauce, place 2/3 of the strawberries in a blender; reserve the remaining berries for the salad. Add the tomato paste, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to the blender and pulse until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a fire-proof saucepan and place on a gas grill over medium-high heat. Add the molasses and brown sugar and bring to a slow boil, stirring often, then remove from the heat, cover with foil, and keep warm.
To make the patties, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well while handling the meat as little as possible; this prevents it from becoming too dense. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form into patties leaving a slight indention in the center of patties; this allows the final product to be more equal in thickness when finished. Set aside until grilling.
Cook the bacon in a fire-proof skillet on the grill over medium-high heat until browned. Drain on paper towels to remove excess grease. Set aside.
To begin preparing the salad, combine the onion, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and set aside at room temperature to quick-pickle the onions. Combine the greens, basil, and remaining strawberries in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until assembling the burgers. Keep the crumbled cheese chilled until assembly.
Heat the grill to medium-high. When the grill is ready, with a paper or cloth towel, rub the grill rack with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.  Place the patties on the rack and cook until done to preference, 3 to 5 minutes. The top of the patty should look like it has cooked a little. Flip once and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Do not push down on the patty because this will release the juices. Top each patty with the BBQ sauce then a slice of the Gruyere cheese, cover the grill, and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove the patties from the grill and place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.
To assemble the burgers, top each bun bottom with a patty and two strips of the bacon. Lightly drain the pickled onions, add to the mixed greens along with the crumbled cheese, and toss to combine. Drizzle the salad with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, and toss again lightly. Pile a handful of the salad on the top of each bacon-topped patty; if a few bits fall off, there is no problem—these are little treasures for later. Spread a little more BBQ sauce on the toasted sides of the bun tops and place on top of the salad.
Makes 6 burgers
Suggested Wine Pairing: Zinfandel
This recipe comes from Sandra Lee of The Food Network.
  • 1 pound frozen unsweetened strawberries, quartered and thawed
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Mariner)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (16.3-ounce) can southern-style biscuits (recommended: Pillsbury Grands)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or cooking spray

In a medium bowl, combined thawed strawberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar and orange liqueur. Let stand for 1 hour to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 sugar and the cinnamon. Remove biscuits from the can and separate. Roll each biscuit in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
Coat a cast iron skillet with butter or cooking spray. Add strawberry-sugar mixture. Arrange biscuits over strawberries. Place skillet on grill. Cover grill and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from grill; cool slightly.

This recipe comes from the All Recipes website.


  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

  • Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.
  2. Slice strawberries, and place in medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing bread mixture.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl: mix well. Blend oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in pecans. Divide batter into pans.
  4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaves out, and cool completely.



4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
4 cups sugar
1-3/4 oz. pkg. unflavored powdered fuit pectin 
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small lemon, thinly sliced


1.  In a large bowl crush berries with masher.  Stir in sugar.  Let stand 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.
2.  In small saucepan combine pectin and water.  Bring to boiling; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Pour into berry mixture.  Add lemon juice and stir 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth.  Stir in lemon slices.
3.  Ladle jam into clean half-pint jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Seal and label.  Let stand at room temperature 24 hours or until set.*  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.  Makes about 5 half pints.
* Note:  freezer jam does not set as firmly as cooked jam.


The recipe for Strawberry jam Lemon Squares is a cinch to make and will take its place among your favorite cookie recipes.

Now that you've mastered the art of making jam, it's time to take your skills to the next level.  


2 cups plus 3 Tbsp flour
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, cut into pieces
1-1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 cup strawberry jam


Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and flour an 11x7 baking pan

Crust:  In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups of the flour, confectioner's sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender of 2 knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Press the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until firm.

Meanwhile, make the lemon topping.  In a medium bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, baking powder, and the remaining 3 Tbsp of flour.  Add the eggs, lemon juice and grated lemon rind.  Mix until well blended.

Remove the pan from the oven and spread the jam over the crust.  Spread the lemon topping over the jam and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is set.

Let cool in the pan on a rack.  Dust the top lightly with confectioner's sugar before cutting into squares.


This recipe is from the great Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Cookbook

  • pint strawberry
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • tablespoons cornstarch
  • ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

  1. 1
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Hull strawberries and slice. Combine strawberries with sugar in an 8" square glass or ceramic baking dish, stirring gently to mix well. Roast for 8 minutes, or until just soft. Let cool slightly. Puree in a food processor with lemon juice. Measure 1/2 cup of the pureed berries; refrigerate the rest of the puree for another use.
  2. 2
    Mix about 2 Tbls of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  3. 3
    Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  4. 4
    Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture in to the cream cheese until smooth.Add the buttermilk and reserved strawberry puree and blend well. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
  5. 5
    Pour the ice cream mixture into the frozen canister of electric ice cream freezer and run according to directions of ice cream maker. Pack the finished ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours. Makes about 1 quart.
  6. 6
    Serve with refrigerated strawberry puree poured over the top.

I hope that you are able to make these wonderful recipes and that you and your family will enjoy them as much as we have.