Sunday, April 30, 2017

In Mint Condition... Celebrating the Kentucky Derby

The most exciting two minutes in sports is just days away. On Saturday, May 6, horseracing’s finest thoroughbreds will take their post positions during the 143rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.

I had the pleasure of living in the Bluegrass State for 10 years, from middle school through college. This was when my love affair with the Derby began. 

As a horse-crazed tween, I soon learned that the Derby was about much more than just one, two-minute race. It’s an experience like no other with fancy hats and dresses, mouthwatering southern food, bouquets upon bouquets of red roses, and posh parties all playing an integral role.


Create a centerpiece by arranging red roses in a silver trophy bowl.

It was not until I was a freshman at Eastern Kentucky University when I was able to make my first visit to Louisville for Derby Day, which also happened to fall on my 19th birthday. 

Being my birthday, I was feeling very lucky, so I wagered all of my cash on a horse named Cousin Jen. Her performance yielded me $4.

Create wine stopper party favors by drilling holes in wine corks and then adding trophy toppers. Add a little epoxy to the holes before screwing in the toppers.

As it was a very warm day, it seemed only fitting to sample a refreshing Mint Julep. Having no prior experience in the bourbon department, I enthusiastically took a big gulp of my julep. Wrong move! 

I couldn’t seem to get the rest of it down the hatch, but I did take great comfort in knowing that I got to keep the cute souvenir glass it came in. Twenty some years later, my collection of Derby glasses has grown to 39, and my love for the Derby remains the same. Bourbon… not so much.

When planning your party menu, think southern. 

If you’re not able to make it to Louisville for the Derby, here are two essential recipes you will need to celebrate at home:

Woodford Reserve Classic Mint Julep
2 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
½ ounce simple syrup
3 fresh mint leaves
Crushed ice

Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass. 

To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint.
(Recipe from

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie is a decadent Derby Day dessert.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
Nothing says southern like bourbon and pecans. Throw in some chocolate and you’ve got a decadent dessert to take your party across the finish line.

Makes 6-8 servings
½ (14.1 ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
1 ½ cups chopped toasted pecans
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup dark corn syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon or water
4 large eggs
¼ cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons plain white cornmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon table salt

Heat oven to 325 F. Fit pie crust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp. Sprinkle pecan and chocolate evenly onto bottom of pie crust.

Stir together corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk one-fourth of hot corn syrup mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot corn syrup mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared pie crust.

Bake for 55 minutes or until set; cool pie completely on a wire rack for 1 hour.

(Recipe from

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hop to It - Set the Table for Easter

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to adorn your buffet and dining table for Easter entertaining. For inspiration, look no further than the farmstead. A few colorful, garden-themed accessories will deliver a bright and festive backdrop with a touch of whimsy, perfect for children and adults alike, not to mention Peter Cottontail.

Farmers Market Basket

Try these ideas when designing your holiday table:

Farmers Market Basket
Skip the jelly beans and peeps, and fill a rustic Easter basket with moss-covered eggs; faux veggies such as cabbages, radishes, and lettuce leaves; and toss in a few burlap-wrapped carrots.

Create the base for the arrangement by stuffing crumpled newspapers into the bottom of the basket. Arrange veggies and eggs on the top, then tuck handfuls of Spanish moss between veggies to fill in holes and hide the newspapers.
Sources: moss eggs, Hobby Lobby; carrots, Pier 1 Imports; basket, Pottery Barn. 

Very Veggie Napkin Rings

Very Veggie Napkin Rings
Add a little “carroture” to your napkins. To create napkin rings from recycled paper towel tubes, make a vertical cut through the entire length of each tube, then cut the tubes into 1 ½ inch pieces.

Lay each tube piece on a 6-inch piece of burlap ribbon. Bring the sides of the ribbon up and around the tube and secure with hot glue. Overlap ends of tubes and glue together. 

To hide the seam, hot glue on silk flowers, mini cabbages, twine-wrapped carrots or other veggies.
Sources: burlap ribbon and mini carrots, Hobby Lobby.

Farm-Fresh Decorating Accents

Green Accents
Add some texture to your table by arranging a few potted plants, mosses or grasses between serving dishes. 

Whether you prefer fresh or faux greenery, it’s your choice. There’s no wrong way.   
Source: faux grass pots and ceramic pots, IKEA.

Garden Bunnies Centerpiece

Garden Bunnies Centerpiece
Fill a large box, bowl, tray or basket with crumpled up newspapers to give your display some height. Cover newspapers with Spanish moss. If you want to add candle holders into the arrangement, place them in before the newspapers. Just be sure to use battery-operated candles for safety.

Arrange Easter decorative items such as bunnies and chicks, carrots, and Easter eggs over the moss. 

An oversized twig birds nest was tucked in to the arrangement for additional texture. Fill in any empty spaces with additional moss.
Sources: wooden box, The Butter Barn; bunnies, Pier 1 Imports.

Farmers Market Basket

More Farm-Fresh Decorating Ideas

Serve water and juices from vintage milk bottles.

Line a galvanized bucket with a plastic insert and use as an ice bucket.

With garden twine, tie a new gardening spade onto the bucket handle to serve as the ice scoop.

Corral silverware in terracotta flower pots.

Use recycled grocery store berry containers to hold cut veggies, crackers or nuts.

White or neutral-colored serving dishes allow the food to take center stage.  

Drape a moss-covered runner over the buffet to brighten the background of your display.

Happy Easter!