Ina Garten's Foolproof

Ina Garten is a girl after my own heart. Her recipes are elegant, delicious and possess a wow factor that can make any southern hostess look like a master chef.

Photo credit

While I was living in New York City, I had the opportunity to attend the book signing for her new cookbook Foolproof. At the book signing, we were treated to an hour long conversation where she discussed flavor profiles, frying latkes in clarified butter, Union Square Cafe (it IS as amazing as they say) and her fabulous new cookbook! Ina is even more adorable in person and her friends from her show, Barefoot Contessa, were there to cheer her on; it was so sweet! 

Please excuse the grainy picture. 
Ina's signature

While this is not a southern cookbook, it centers around entertaining which southerners love to do! With recipes like Cosmos with fresh sour mix and Crab Strudel, you will have your guests impressed for weeks! She also includes a cake that features Maker’s Mark bourbon in this cookbook...did I mention she was a girl after my own heart?

Some of her recipes could even be considered southern! For an updated twist on a southern BBQ staple, give her Lobster & Potato Salad a try. You could also turn her Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers into cheese straws, a southern cocktail party favorite. And why not try frying your fried green tomatoes in clarified butter for an added touch of glamour and elegance?

Her recipes are always simple, easy to follow and full of fresh ingredients and the recipes featured in Foolproof are no exception.  To gild the lily, Ina provides foolproof menus, tips for cooking and elegant table settings. I recommend this cookbook to all who love entertaining. 

HerKentucky Entertaining: Oaks Style

As the Derby’s companion race for 3-year-old fillies, the Kentucky Oaks has always been about the “ladies.”  However, over the past 138 years since the first running on May 19, 1875, at the Louisville Jockey Club (former name of Churchill Downs), a few tweaks have been made here and there.  For example, the original distance of 1-1/2 miles has been adjusted several times to today’s shorter length of 1-1/8 miles. And, the first Oaks race ran two days after the Kentucky Derby. Today, however, the "Ladies First" theme is both literal and figurative.  

In recent years, new Oaks traditions have emerged. For starters, in 1991, the stargazer lily was selected as the official flower of the Kentucky Oaks for its symbol of femininity and strength. Then, in 2006, in honor of the official flower, the race got its own signature drink, the Oaks Lily. As the Kentucky Oaks began to grow in popularity (attendance has doubled since 2001 to over 100,000 today), the day has blossomed into one of the most popular racing events in the United States.

From the fillies, lilies, drinks, and signature color pink, the Oaks is all about the ladies.  Even better, it’s a party with a purpose. Prior to the race, be sure to turn your eyes to the main track for a moving sight as 139 breast cancer survivors' walk in the Survivors’ Parade. Also, Churchill Downs will donate $1 from each Oaks Lily sold to Horses and Hope.  In 2008, First Lady Jane Beshear founded Horses and Hope with the Kentucky Cancer Program (KCP) to provide breast cancer education, screening and treatment referral for the often overlooked members of Kentucky's horse industry and their families.
Whether you’re going to Churchill or tuning in to watch the spectacular show of pink on television, today is the day to celebrate the special ladies in your life.  Although you will not find me among the masses this year, I will bring the flavor and traditions of the day into my home as I casually entertain a few friends.    
First, you can't go wrong with stargazer lilies. They're fragrant and stunning. I like to mix them with white hydrangeas and simple greenery for a bright pop of hot pink.

Even though we won't be at Churchill, my guests and I will still get to enjoy the signature drink of the day, the Oaks Lily.  This pretty and refreshing cocktail is super easy to make and can be enjoyed throughout the year. 

1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
3 oz. Cranberry Juice
Splash of Triple Sec

Once the ingredients are mixed, place in a glass with ice, and garnish with an orange wedge and a cherry (I added a lime wedge).

I like to serve them in the official Oaks Lily glass.  Not only do these stem-less wine glasses make the experience feel more authentic, but they make a great party favor, too. 

If you’re celebrating this year’s festivities away from Churchill, please consider sending a donation to Horses and Hope.  Tax deductible donations should be made to: 

501 E. Broadway, Suite 160
Louisville, KY 40202

Finally, let's talk about the horses. The fillies today are every bit the match of the boys tomorrow. With three undefeated horses, and a favorite (though twice defeated), Dreaming of Julia, having a "speed figure" (114) that is waaaay above the best any of the boys have ever run (105). For the not-so-serious gamblers, I like to write the names of each filly on a piece of paper for easy entertainment. Guests pay a small amount to play and the winner takes all.  

Now, if I were a betting woman...I'd have a hard time looking past the morning-line (and deserving) favorite, Dreaming of Julia, and co-second-choice, Unlimited Budget, but an equally hard time betting on them at short odds given the top-to-bottom quality of this field (how many undefeated fillies can be in a race, anyway?). Under the circumstances, I'd have to try to make my money in a trifecta by wheeling those two in first and second, with the field in third and hope that a live longshot like Pure Fun rounds out the top three. I might also back this up with an exacta box of those two, Pure Fun, Beholder and Midnight Lucky.  (And, I'm still rooting for Rosie on Seaneen Girl.) But, like I said, that would only be the case if I were a betting woman...

Who are your favorites for the 139th running of the Kentucky Oaks?

P.S. - My daughter, Katherine, will be the new girl at the party this year, and she’s already learning some of our finest traditions. How adorable is her bonnet from The Beaufort Bonnet Company?

{No member of the HerKentucky team received any compensation for this post.}

The Holiday Breakfast Buffet

Thanksgiving isn't my favorite.

Easter Breakfast
When I think of Thanksgiving, I also think of all those times we waited and waited to eat. When we were kids, there was always this sense that "there's no need to eat when we'll have all that food." But, you know, Thanksgiving dinner wasn't until 1 or 2. That's a long-assed time to wait.

Christmas Breakfast
As an adult, I often find myself at my parents' for the holidays. I've fallen into the habit of preparing a holiday morning buffet. Easy recipes I make time and again. Things everyone loves. It's a great way to start the morning, and you don't have to wait so long until the big holiday meal. Sometimes, I make a quiche. Sausage balls are always a good call. And country ham biscuits (always on Sister Schubert's rolls!) are everybody's favorite.

This morning, I put together the traditional buffet. We talked UK basketball. And we eased into the holiday. It was a great start to the day.

Couples Tailgate Shower: A Guest Post from Just Lovely Katherine

Katherine of Just Lovely Katherine is one of my very favorite bloggers.  She's the modern Southern Belle -- sweet, adorable, and creative.  She's also a Lexington-based attorney and is planning her wedding in her "spare time."  Katherine graciously offered to share some photos and planning tips from a fabulous tailgate shower she recently threw.  I think y'all will love it! -- HCW
"We're a drinking town with a football problem!" Or so say some! As most of you are probably aware (or totally unaware because we aren't even on your radar), the University of Kentucky isn't exactly known for its tradition of great football. So around here, it's all about the tailgating! Bring together family, friends, food and fun and what better lineup than that for a couples shower, tailgate-style! Even though we don't do football well here at Kentucky, we still like to throw a tailgate that would make any SEC team proud! So, here's how to go about throwing a Couples Shower Tailgate.

Let's break this down into list form, because lists are my thing
  1. The first step in planning any party is to pick a theme. Well, let's back up...first go to A Pair of Pears blog and download their Party Planning Printables. Their free worksheets are fabulous for keeping organized! Now, decide on a theme. Head over to Pinterest and start looking for inspiration (thank heavens for Pinterest!) 
  2. Once you have an idea of the overall look and feel of the party, the next step is to come up with a guest list and order invitations. I had Mary Ellen at Mellen Designs come up with a custom invitation for our tailgate shower. Her work is darling and the invite turned out so perfect! She incorporated UK and monograms! She can create anything, so be sure to get in contact with her for your next party!
  3. After creating a guest list, you should have some sort of idea of how many folks will be attending your soiree, so start thinking about what types of food and beverages you will be serving. For our tailgate shower, we went with delicious southern style BBQ from a local restaurant. Great for feeding the masses! For drinks, we had planned on getting a keg (remember, it's a tailgate afterall), but ended up just purchasing a trunk-load of cases of beer. Keep in mind that when most guests come to the shower, they are also coming to other words, you will need plenty of beer (more than you would for your typical shower)! I think we planned for 5-6 beers per person. 
  4. Now, we have a guest list, invitations mailed out, food selected and ordered, what next? The fun part! Decorations! Like I suggested above, Pinterest is a fabulous source for inspiration. Gather ideas you like, then you can DIY (or attempt to DIY)! One thing to keep in mind - you will have to haul all this stuff to the stadium and back. 
  5. If you are co-hosting an event, be sure to take some of the pressure off yourself by assigning tasks for the other hosts. You can't do it all on your own! I asked my fellow bridesmaids to bring side dishes, desserts, serving things etc. 
  6. Try to incorporate your team colors, football and the honorary couple wherever you can. Then just concentrate on the details that really make a shower special. I painted some flower pots in blue and white an added a "T" for the couple's last name. I planted flowers and a small tree in them and sent them home with the bride and groom-to-be. I made bunting by cutting small rectangles our of fabric and hot gluing them to cord. I also made a rag-type bunting to decorate the food tent. Simply cut up strips of fabric and knot over a long string or ribbon. I baked a blue and white cake and made little "r {heart} j" cake toppers. You can get the little wooden letters and shapes at your local craft store. Glue them to a dowel rod and paint. Easy peasy!
That's about all there is to it! If you are smart, you might consider doing this for an away game and throwing a tailgate shower at home! It was a lot of work to take everything to the stadium and get it set up. Plus, the couple had to haul all their gifts back after the shower. Despite the hauling, it was a huge success and everyone had a fabulous time!!! And no...UK didn't pull out a win!

Why Not Throw a Bourbon Cocktail Party?

Don and Pete.  Mint Juleps. That is all. via AMC.
It's Friday, and it's Bourbon Heritage Month.  Why not celebrate the gloriously crisp autumn weather with the warm, smooth notes of a bourbon cocktail? This weekend, you should throw a bourbon cocktail party!

Now, here at HerKentucky, we're always looking for a reason to throw a good party. Kentucky's very own whisky is a better reason than most.  In just four simple steps, you can put together a fun and elegant bourbon cocktail party.
Bourbon tasting bar, via Garden & Gun
Step One: Choose Your Bourbon
I'd suggest picking up three whisky labels that fit the distinct mashbill profiles -- one high rye content brand, like Basil Hayden's, one high corn content like Buffalo Trace's Old Charter, and a wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark or Pappy Van WinkleThis article from Bluegrass Threads, and this one from Epicurious, do a great job of describing the different taste profiles.  Pick up one of the small batch labels for true sipping, and remember your beer-loving guests with Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Step 2: Choose Your Blend
Most Kentuckians are pretty easy to please.  We take our bourbon neat, with a splash of water or, heaven forbid, with a little Coca-Cola.  (Bourbon and Coke tastes good, but don't ever admit it!)  It seems that bourbon is nationally trendy again, with all these speakeasies popping up in major cities.  You get things like the Bacon Old Fashioned, from Nashville's Patterson House, or the Kentucky Rose from Atlanta's Southern Art and Bourbon BarIf you want to get that fancy, your guests will love a sip.  This bourbon and ginger sounds interesting. Of course, nothing beats a Maker's Manhattan. Nothing.

Step 3: Choose Your Glass
A variety of lowball glasses, Manhattan glasses and julep cups help you enjoy in style.  I love these stemless martini glasses from Maker's Mark and these Fleur de Lis julep cups from Louisville Stoneware

Step 4: Choose Your Friends
Make a few calls, pour a few drinks, and enjoy.

Cheers, y'all!

This is the first installment in a series of posts called "The Bourbon Files", which will showcase the history, culture, and distinct taste of Kentucky's signature spirit.

Tailgating Wishlist

Two weeks 'till football, y'all.   I don't know about you, but I've had enough pool time and miserable heat.  I'm ready for cooler temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes, and SEC football.  Just think -- we have two more teams to follow this year!  As we head down the home stretch, I've put together a little tailgating wishlist.  Most any Wildcat fan will find something they need here.

I can't wait to try Southern Living's brand-new Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook.  Great food and great football tradition -- this promises to be a perennial fall favorite.

Of course, I would never slip bourbon into the stadium.  But, this Smathers and Branson needlepoint flask is a rather stylish way to do so, if one were so inclined.

LOVE the Wildcat PlaidThis scarf is a stylish, understated way to rep the 'Cats at work or a tailgate.

You can't tailgate without cornhole.

These National Champs Tervis Tumblers are a must.  They keep your drink magically cold, and they commemorate the best day of 2012.

This gorgeous Maxi dress from Modcloth is stylish and looks so comfortable.  And, of course, is just the right shade of blue.

Two weeks.  Go 'Cats!

HerKentucky Entertaining: First Birthdays

I have a thing for first birthdays. Truth be told, I have a thing for birthday parties period but there is something extra special about the first one.

First, you've kept them alive! Newborns are so fragile and tiny that it seems a stiff breeze could ruin your nine months of hand work. However, an entire year has passed and you have managed not to drop them (too hard!), not to forget them, and not to go crazy when the tiny little being produces so. much. crying. That is worth celebrating.

Second, if you are like me, then you have an amazing group of family and friends that loves this little baby almost as much as you do and has been there supporting you from the very beginning. A little cake and ice cream is the least you can do.

Third, as I recently wrote about on my own blog, I love creating and to be able to do that for my favorite person on the planet seems like a win-win.

So, here are my tips for creating a first birthday to remember.

1. Pick a color, any color. I don't really do themes for my first birthday party. It's not like a one-year-old really has interests or favorite things. My youngest son Amos turned one over the weekend. Amos likes to eat and he kind of thinks Elmo is funny. Actually, Griffin (his older brother) is his favorite thing in the world but that would be a weird theme. Instead, I usually just pick a color. For Griffin's first birthday, I did blue, green and orange. For Amos, I just did red.

2. Photo invites are the only way to go. Since most one-year-olds don't have a large group of friends, you will most likely be inviting family and friends. Your Aunt Helen doesn't want to see cartoon renderings of cupcakes and birthday hats. She wants to see that darling baby face. This is particularly important if you have a lot of family that won't be able to make it.

3. Ask for something besides presents. Chances are this will be your most well-attended birthday party. If you're like me, then you don't want a bunch of baby toys overriding your house and collecting dust. For Griffin's first birthday, I asked everyone to bring their favorite toy from childhood or their child's favorite toy and not to worry about age appropriateness. He received an awesome assortment of Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys that I'm still doling out at Christmas. For Amos's first birthday, we asked everyone to contribute to a time capsule he will open on his eighteenth birthday. Our friends and family really enjoyed thinking up creative things to add and I can't wait for him to open it up years from now.

One things is for sure, one-year-olds are sweet, cuddly, and definitely deserve to be celebrated!

~ Sarah Stewart Holland