The One with the Friends Party

Our annual Valentine’s Day party has become a staple of It Takes Two- our night to celebrate a love of friendship and remind ourselves that as long as we have each other we have everything. Once again we decided to host an all-girls dessert event, and Mel’s sister Dani even planned to visit from New York for the party. We knew it would be difficult to top our GIRLS TV show theme party from last year, so we turned to Dani for fresh ideas. She suggested another TV party- this time, a FRIENDS party- Mel, Dani, and Amy’s favorite show of all time. Why didn’t we think of that? What better way to tell your best friend that she’s your lobster and celebrate friendship than with Monica, Chandler, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe and Joey? Just as each FRIENDS episode is titled The One With…, we decided to title each menu item this way as well. We also made sure to include each ‘friend’. For this party, the fun was not just in the recipes, but in the smaller details. The Keurig on the counter was transformed into our very own Central Perk. Colorful m&m’s were inscribed with phrases like, ‘Ur my lobster’, ‘How You Doin?’, and ‘PIVOT!’ Plus, each name card printable included the signature yellow frame from Monica’s apartment and a memorable photo from a scene of the episode. It wasn’t our most traditional party, and original recipes were limited, but it was all in the details of the theme, and of course, in the celebration of FRIENDShip! We began with some fun appetizers. ‘The One with the NYC Street Meat’ meant Hebrew National pigs in a blanket, mini versions of what we imagine we’d find on a street corner outside the FRIENDS apartment! ‘The One When Ross is Spudnik’ were our favorite Alexia brand sweet potato puffs in celebration of when Ross dressed up as a potato one Halloween. ‘The One When Joey Doesn’t Share Food’ was a fun twist on last year’s heart-shaped dessert sandwiches. For our GIRLS party it was all about the fluffernutter, but in honor of Joey it was all about the meat. Plus, we replaced some of our heart cookie cutters with a really fun ‘man’ cookie cutter. Finally, we honored the infamous ‘The One When He’s Her Lobster’ with an awesome crudite included red pepper lobster! Valentine’s Day is all about the chocolate, and we had no shortage of delish desserts! We could just hear Janice calling her little ‘Bing-a-ling’ as we poured out Sweethearts for ‘The One with the Candy Hearts’. We pictured the gang poking at Ugly Naked Guy through a window as we assembled our heart-shaped fruit kebabs for ‘The One with the Giant Poking Device’. We giggled thinking of Phoebe’s grandmother talking about Nestlé Toulouse as we baked for ‘The One with Phoebe’s Nestle Tollhouse Cookies’. And, of course, we recounted the horror of wondering, ‘Did she get off the plane?!’ while we assembled chocolate-covered marshmallows in the shape of an airplane for ‘The One When Rachel Gets Off the Plane’. We also had two signature dessert recipes, ‘How You Doin’? Cupcakes’ and ‘The One with Unagi’ rice krispie treats.   Recipe: The One With Unagi 6 Cups Rice Krispies Cereal 3 Tablespoons butter 4 Cups mini marshmallows...

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Fall Fete: Take 2!

cider

Amy and Mel were excited for their second annual Fall Fete from the moment they pulled out the cardboard box of paper leaves, acorn cookie cutters, and pumpkin spice scented candles! In just an hour the apartment was transformed into an autumn wonderland… now we just needed the recipes to go with it! Oh come on, it’s no surprise that we would be starting with a drink, right? Our guests happily poured from the pitcher expecting classic spiked apple cider- what else?- but our kick of caramel really took them for a spin! This simple recipe is a must for all holiday parties this season!      Recipe: Craving Caramel Apple Cider 8 Cups apple cider 2 Cups caramel vodka Cinnamon sticks Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Refrigerate for a few hours in advance of serving. Garnish with extra cinnamon sticks if desired. Never have we ever… brought home a shopping cart full of squash! Not our usual party pick, but a feature of multiple recipes for this blog. You would think after buying out Schnucks, packing up the shopping cart to head to the car, and then putting it all back in a cart once we were back at the apartment, we would’ve had a shopping bag system down. Well, we had fairly smooth sailing… other than Mel crying to Amy, “Don’t squash the eggs!” (with an actual squash no less!), that is! Recipe: Don’t Squash the… Butternut Hummus 1 Large butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks 3 Tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon of salt 2 Tablespoons tahini paste 2 Small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 1 teaspoon sesame seeds 1 Can of chickpeas 2 Tablespoons water juice of ½ a lemon Preheat oven to 350. Spread chopped squash on a baking tray. Pour olive oil, sprinkle cinnamon and salt. Toss. Cover the tray lightly with tinfoil. Roast 70 minutes, stirring once. Remove and let cool. Add the squash, tahini, chickpeas, water, lemon, another pinch of salt, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Roughly pulse. Sprinkle sesame seeds for garnish and serve. Mel will be the first to admit, this next recipe was not her pick… in fact she put up quite the fight against it! She has always hated cheese, and It Takes Two parties are notoriously cheese-less in Mel’s honor. This time, Amy came across a recipe involving… dun dun dun… goat cheese, and insisted it would be a great choice. Mel hemmed and hawed, but in the end she’s a sucker for a good cookie-cutter appetizer. She wondered how others would respond to the goat cheese that gave her chills of horror, but as the party got underway, it was clear the guests couldn’t stay away! One by one these canapés flew off the plate. People just love their goat cheese! Who knew?! Not Mel! Recipe: Acorn Squash? No… Squash Acorn Canapes! 1 Large butternut squash Small toasted bread squares (we chose Stacy’s new pretzel breadcrisps) Goat cheese Butter Salt Cinnamon Cut the squash horizontally below the neck. Reserve bulb for other use. Cut the squash into 1/8” slices. Use acorn-shaped cookie cutters to cut out squash. Sautee the squash acorns in butter over medium heat until brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper...

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Fresh Perspectives (end of summer recipes)

Tomato Beet Salad

Our last blog of summer 2013 is fittingly titled ‘Fresh Perspectives’ for two reasons. The first was our use of many fresh fruits and vegetables, and the second was our special additional chef Stefie, a college friend of Amy’s who came to visit! She definitely added a fresh sense of excitement to the process of choosing recipes, doing a big food shop, and spending the day in the kitchen!             We also had fresh inspiration from a cooking class we attended the night before- Grills Night Out! We wanted to incorporate some of the techniques and flavors from the class. Amy and Stefie were excellent students and took copious notes about the delish recipes. Mel was another story, doodling her way through the night! Amy challenged her to write a little poem, thinking Mel would pen a little 4-line ditty a la Chris on the Bachelorette. She never expected a full-page poem fit for a Bat Mitzvah candle-lighting ceremony! Stay tuned til the end of this blog for Mel’s poem!             We knew we were off to a good start with our first recipe, Stone Fruit Sangria. Amy and Mel beamed with pride when Stefie suggested we start with that so we could get drinking! She was totally one of us. Recipe: Stone Fruit Sangria 1 peach, halved, pitted, and sliced 1 nectarine, halved, pitted, and sliced 1 plum, halved, pitted, and sliced 20 cherries, halved and pitted 1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc 2 cans chilled ginger ale 1 cup club soda Ice In a pitcher, combine peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, wine, ginger ale, and club soda. Stir to combine. Refrigerate 1 hour, or up to overnight. Serve over ice. Sometimes we get so sick of serving the same old dip and chips at every event. Chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus… not the same old bag of Stacy’s again! It’s not easy to think of twists on dips, especially with picky eaters like Mel in the group, but this one is a brand new go-to hit! Recipe: Bean There, Done That Dip and Homemade Pita Chips 1 15 oz can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed 1 small clove of garlic 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/3 cup of olive oil (plus 4 Tablespoons) ¼ cup of loosely packed flat leaf Italian parsley leaves Salt Fresh ground black pepper 6 pitas 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate. Cut the pitas in half, then in 8 wedges. Arrange on a large baking sheet lined with tinfoil. Brush 4 Tablespoons of olive oil over the pitas. Sprinkle with seasoning, salt, and pepper. Bake 12 minutes until toasted and golden. Serve pitas warm or room temperature with bean dip. Both Stefie and Mel fondly recall the first time they tasted gazpacho. After all, it was at Amy’s 20th birthday dinner party (she’s always been a hostess of the mostest!) that they were first met with this cold soup wonder. It was only fitting that they would bond over gazpacho with Amy once more, and Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho did not disappoint! Recipe: Tomato Watermelon...

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Aruban Nights

It Takes Two - Tiki Bar

As you know, the It Takes Two girls have always considered summer their best season. This summer got off to a fabulous start- first there was the excitement of Mel’s graduation from Wash U, and of course Amy was there to celebrate with her every step of the way! A few days later they were jetting off to the beautiful island of Aruba along with Mel’s sister, Dani. They enjoyed 5 days of fun in the sun, nights in the casino, and more celebrations for Dani’s 21st and Amy’s 24th birthdays. After the long weekend, we couldn’t believe it was already time to head back to St. Louis. While we love summers in the Lou, we were missing our tropical paradise, which gave us the idea for our next blog… creating an Aruban Night at Next Dor to share all of the tropical flavors and fun of Aruba with our friends in the Midwest! While we enjoyed delicious meals from breakfast to dinner on our vacation, we decided to focus our recipes for this party on desserts and drinks! There was one exception though… a favorite breakfast of Belgian waffles with Nutella. We represented this in two ways- one was a fabulous recipe for Nutella fudge with sea salt caramel. We were so proud of ourselves for making this time-consuming, intricate, and delicious recipe. Then we had our quick and dirty treat- mini Eggo waffles with Nutella! Well, we thought no one would waste their calories on silly store-bought waffles when there were so many other homemade goodies, but at the end of the night as we packed up our leftovers, the waffle sandwiches were nowhere to be seen! Guess we’re not the only ones who are fans of this treat, morning, noon, or night! Recipe: Straight from the Sea-Salt Caramel Nutella Fudge Bottom Layer: 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup nutella Caramel Layer: 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 cup sugar 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1 teaspoon Vanilla 1/4 cup sour cream Middle Layer: 5 Tbsp. Butter 1 cup Sugar 1/4 cup Evaporated Milk 1 7 oz. Jar Marshmallow Creme 2 teaspoons Vanilla 1 cup Chopped Hazelnuts Top Layer: 1 Cup semi sweet choc chips 1/4 cup bittersweet choc chips 1/4 cup nutella Bottom Layer: Heat chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave for 40 seconds. Stir.  Reheat additional 30 seconds.  Stir.  Repeat by heating in intervals until fully melted. Stir in Nutella until well combined. Pour into a sprayed 9×9 baking pan. Spread evenly using an offset spatula until entire level is covered. Allow to cool slightly before topping with next layer. Caramel Layer: In a small saucepan, combine the cream and the salt.  Simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup carefully. They will not combine well until the sugar begins to melt. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir constantly. Without a thermometer, just pull the sugar off the heat when it is a medium goldish brown – it will continue to cook in the heat of the pan. Better to pull it too early than too late. Remove...

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Moroccan Morning

It Takes Two - Moroccan Morning

Mel has been working away to prepare for graduation this month, and Amy has been helping her every step of the way. What tasks have they been working so hard to finish? Coursework, final evaluations, independent study? Well, yes, but what has taken up most of their time each weekend for the past few months has been a different project for graduation- completely revamping Mel’s apartment from glorified dorm room to chic 20-something’s paradise! Finally, once all of their hard work was finished, it was only appropriate to christen the new place with a blog party! We wanted to pull in all of the fun colors and patterns of the new apartment, such as chevron, quatrefoil, and ikat, with a trendy theme to match! Amy thought brunch would be something new and different, and a great way to show off the fab view of Forest Park. Mel agreed, and thought bringing in Moroccan flavors would complement the design of newly improved apartment. A Moroccan morning menu was planned, and Amy and Mel were up bright and early to prepare! The first recipe of the morning was for a fruity smoothie with Moroccan flavors. Mel was excited to bring in her chevron theme with adorable pink chevron straws. The It Takes Two girls are big fans of planning ahead, something that comes straight from our moms’ freezers full of frozen homemade dinners! So, it’s never our favorite thing to have guests walk in to a kitchen counter scattered with limes, mint, bottles of juice, and a blender whirring. We knew smoothies would be a morning hit though, so it would have to be worth it! At first, we tried a recipe that featured almond butter, but after traveling to Schnucks, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, discovered that (of course) the day we needed almond butter there was an almond butter shortage! What?! Sunflower butter was used as a replacement, but with 5 minutes until guests arrived, Amy and Mel looked at each other and knew this just wasn’t working! Amy’s quick thinking to the rescue- she chucked the butter, grabbed the oj, and a great smoothie was enjoyed by all! Recipe: Moroccan Morning Smoothie (serves 1) 1/3 Cup of orange juice 1/3 Cup of pomegranate juice 6 Frozen strawberries 1 Tablespoon of agave syrup Juice of ½ a lime Mint sprigs Dash of water Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until well blended. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve immediately. When researching Moroccan recipes, Mel soon realized that this was on its way to being one carb-filled, protein-less brunch! It wasn’t until she and Amy arrived at IHOP that oatmeal might be the hearty recipe they were missing. While certainly still carb-y, Mel threw in ingredients with delicious Moroccan flavors, like pine nuts, almonds, and apricots, to make this simple breakfast into an international hit! Recipe: Mo-ROCK-and Roll Oats 2 Cups of rolled oats 3 ½ Cups of water Pine nuts Slivered almonds Dried Turkish apricots Brown Sugar Cinnamon Nutmeg Bring water to a boil. Add oats. Stir often, about 5 minutes. When cooked, bring to very low heat and stir in toppings as desired. Serve immediately. Being the picky eater she is, Mel is a big fan of do-it-yourself foods, where guests can pick which toppings...

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GIRLs Night!

GIRLS

As our It Takes Two fans already know, for Amy and Mel, Valentine’s Day is not a Hallmark-holiday to dread, but rather a day we’ve deemed ‘Best Friends Day’ in which we celebrate having a tried and true Valentine who will always be there for us. So this year when pink and red started filling the aisles of our favorite stores, us single girls were right there along with the love birds, filling our carts with cards, gifts, and of course, chocolate. This all coincided with one new obsession, the HBO show GIRLS. We’ll admit we weren’t on the original GIRLS bandwagon… it wasn’t until we watched Lena Dunham win her Golden Globes that we were introduced to Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshannah. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to spend the night with the characters who have us saying, “That totally happened to me!” Or rather, as Shosh would say, “That totes happened to me!” When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of dessert, and when we think of Hannah Horvath, we think of boxes of leftover Chinese food. So, it was only natural that our menu would consist of both. (Alright, alright, let’s be real- it was freshly-ordered Chinese food!) And of course, as Jessa would say, ‘all adventurous women do…’ drink! So we had plenty of wine and cocktails to drink along to our GIRLSathon. (Want to know some of the rules so you can play along? Drink to Jessa wearing any part of an animal, Marnie being rude, Shosh making a pop culture reference, or Hannah emotionally eating!) We began with tea sandwiches with a twist… rather than cucumbers, these were filled with Marshmallow Fluff, peanut butter, or Nutella! Using a heart cookie cutter, we cut out our sandwiches and filled them with sprinkles, creating the cutest sandwiches we’d ever seen! Almost too cute to eat… but we totes ate them. Obvi we’re ladies… who delve into dessert! Recipe: Shosh’s Obvi We’re the Ladies… Who Lunch Sandwiches Your Favorite White Bread Nutella Peanut Butter Jelly Marshmallow Fluff Sprinkles Cut off the crust on both halves of bread. On one slice of bread, spread your choice of toppings (or a mix!). Take the other slice of bread and remove the middle using a heart cookie cutter. Place the heart slice on the bottom half, and scatter sprinkles in the center. Continue with as many sandwiches as you desire! Once there was a tub of Marshmallow Fluff in the house, we were very inclined to use it! Cupcakes felt like a Valentine’s Day tradition, and we thought a chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting would be perfect! We still needed a twist though… From our favorite site, Pinterest, was an idea to line a heart-shaped cake pan with cupcake liners to create a pull-apart cake. We had to try it! Mel picked up a small heart cake pan, thinking smaller would be easier to flip and perfect for our small get-together. Well, as regularly happens when we have the best of intentions, this idea ended up backfiring. While the cake pan was small, the recipe was regular-sized, and there was a ton of batter left over! We began filling bundt pans, and as Hannah would say, this was nothing bundt trouble! Our lovely...

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