Luxury at its finest!

Dinner parties are not easy to pull off.  There is so much pressure! 

What to make?

When to shop?

Who to invite?

What to WEAR???

How to time everything?

I always end up FLYING around the grocery store + kitchen in preparation for larger parties.  Thinking about making the event luxurious [Project Food Blog Challenge 3], made the planning even harder!!  So, I decided to put my own little spin on the idea. 

The prep started off with this bottle of Trader Giotto’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.  SO classy, especially at $2.69/bottle! 

(1 of 22)

I made a balsamic reduction, to use as a sauce over this bruschetta topping. 

Brushchetta Topping

  • 6-8 vine ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2c fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1T olive oil
  • ~1/4t salt
  • pepper to taste
  1. Stir together olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, salt + pepper.
  2. Top with freshly sliced basil + balsamic reduction.

(3 of 22)

Balsamic Reduction

  • 1c balsamic vinegar
  • 1T pure cane sugar
  1. Bring balsamic to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  2. Add sugar and simmer until it reduces by 75% ~20min.  Stirring occasionally.

First attempt:  FAIL - It turned into TAR.  2nd attempt was much better.  I think I let it reduce a taaaad too long.

(12 of 22)

Next up was a walnut basil pesto sauce.

(6 of 22)

Walnut Basil Pesto

  • 2c basil leaves
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/4c lightly toasted walnuts
  • 1/4c olive oil
  • 1/4c parmesan cheese
  • salt + pepper to taste
  1. In a food processor, add all ingredients and half of the olive oil. 
  2. Process until blended, scraping the bowl when needed.
  3. Add the rest of the olive oil until your desired consistency is met.
  4. Add s+p to taste.

(7 of 22)

Any idea as to what was on the dinner menu yet? :)

(2 of 22)

Simple Red Pizza Sauce – You may have seen this recipe on here before.  I’ve refined it a tad, since it was last posted, but really you can change the seasoning amounts to your liking.  I eat this by the spoonful!  The flavors + consistency are delicious.  Once you make it, you will never go back to jarred!

  • 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2T olive oil
  • 1/4t fine ground sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1T pure cane sugar
  • 3T tomato paste
  • 3T Italian seasoning blend [or 1T basil, 1T oregano, 1t rosemary, 1t parsley]
  1. Heat oil in a deep saucepan over medium.
  2. Add whole tomatoes, crush with wooden spoon, and let cook for about 5min.
  3. Add seasonings, garlic, sugar, and tomato paste.
  4. Simmer 20-30min until thick.
  5. In a separate bowl, blend until smooth with an immersion blender [food processor or typical blender]

(9 of 22)

Ohhhhh yum.  Trust me and try this one out!!

(13 of 22)

So far you know there have been 3 different sauces and now a 4th!  Chocolate + coconut?  What is going on here?

(10 of 22)

Chocolate Coconut Sauce

  • 1/2c low-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1T sucanat [or pure cane sugar]
  • 1t vanilla
  1. Heat over medium low heat, watching carefully to not boil.
  2. Stir occasionally [to keep chocolate from burning] and keep over medium low to low heat for about 10-15min until thickened. 
  3. Top on ANYTHING. :)

I made this up and am so glad I did!!  A thick and slightly sweet chocolate sauce, with a slight hint of coconut and a delicious creamy texture.  Coconut milk is not actually strong in flavor.  If you want more coconut flavor, try adding 1T coconut oil to the mix.

(14 of 22)


(4 of 22)

Heirloom beauties!  I wanted to roast these for a topping.  Typically to roast tomatoes, I thinly slice them, coat with olive oil + salt then put in the oven at 400* until fairly dry.  Well, I think I may have left these in the oven a tad long….

(11 of 22)

Oven roasted tomato FAIL.

(15 of 22)

This is what happens when you’re doing 578 things at once!! I decided not to serve these at my fancy party, but I definitely scraped them off the pan and ate them.  Delicious!

(16 of 22)

Hmmmm…now what?  2 flours, wheat germ + honey?

(21 of 22)

Perfected Pizza Dough – I created this from about 3 different dough recipes and it worked perfectly!!  I am SO excited to finally have a full-proof pizza dough recipe!

  • 1pkg. yeast
  • 1c warm water
  • 1 1/4c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/4c wheat germ
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1T honey
  • 1T olive oil
  1. Mix together warm water + sugar.  Whisk in yeast and let sit ~8min, until foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flours, wheat germ and salt. 
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour.
  4. Pour in honey, olive oil, and water/yeast mixture.
  5. Stir with your hands until dough comes together [it will!]
  6. Knead in bowl about 8-12 times, until it forms a ball.  Dough should be smooth but slightly tacky.
  7. Leave dough in the bowl for 30min and cover bowl with a towel or saran wrap.
  8. Once doubled in size, punch down dough and roll out [to about 1/4” thickness] on a well-floured surface.  This should make about 1, 12-14” round pizza.

There is no time to waste and not a minute to spare when prepping for parties!!!  I hopped in the shower, while the tomato sauce was cooking, then got to the last minute party details.  Had to let my hair dry a bit too!  If I have the blow dryer on for 20min, then I’ll get sweaty and need another shower.  Ahhh!  I look nice + calm in the photo though.  Timing is everything, especially if you’re timing things so you have enough daylight for photos! ;)

(22 of 22) 

Some of the last minute details, were getting out the fanciest dinnerware I could find and setting the table. 

What is fancier than really fine China and real crystal glasses???  Not much!!  Only the best for my guests!

(18 of 22)

When I called to invite my guests, I told them this would be a fancy event, so definitely dress up!  I also informed them that it would be 3 course meal with the finest food + drink money could buy.

See!!  That bottle was really expensive AND fancy!!

(19 of 22)

Only the best.

(20 of 22)

I even had time to throw the towel off my head and get all gussied up.  Check out this sparkly blue number I wore back in 2001!  I paired it with a Pacific Sunwear scarf, a side ponytail, aviator sunglasses, dangly earrings, and my matching blue Vibram 5 Fingers.

Classy, no?

(3 of 41)

I warned my guests there would be photos.

Guest #1 – AKA - Dad

(2 of 41)

Furry scarf?  Socks + sandals?  Gotta love Guest #2’s fashion sense!! [Hi Mom!]

(4 of 41)

Guest 3 + 4 = Swanky

My Uncle + Aunt were dressed to the NINES!!

(20 of 41)

I don’t know who invited this kid.

(21 of 41)

But he had a tie on, so I let him in! Guest #4, my cousin AJ.

(22 of 41)

Guest #5, my cousin Jenna, had on an elegant suit jacket + gym shorts, paired with a hat from the 1920’s.  If that hat doesn’t say classy, I don’t know what does!

(23 of 41)

The menus were passed out, as my guests mingled. 

(10 of 41)

(11 of 41)

I rolled out the freshly made dough and turned up the grill.

(12 of 41)

The night kicked off with…


(7 of 41)

This was by FAR, the best pizza dough I have ever made.  It grilled over medium high heat, perfectly.  About 3min on the first side, then you flip, turn the heat to medium, top your pizza, and close the lid for another 4-6min.

(5 of 41)

I lightly oiled the dough after flipping, and topped with the bruschetta mixture.  After it was done cooking, I cut the pizza, and topped with basil + the balsamic reduction.

(6 of 41)

Bon appétit!

(8 of 41)

Cheers to a luxurious evening with family + food!

(9 of 41)

I think the aviator glasses kept me really focused while grilling these masterpieces!  Either that or the side ponytail??

(14 of 41)

The dough kind of flops around when you transfer to the grill, but just go with it.  It’s really hard to actually mess up.  You just have to be okay with slightly odd shaped pies!

(15 of 41)

Sausage for the meat eaters!

(16 of 41)

Good thing my dad’s grill is the size of a house!

(18 of 41)

Greek style! I luuuuurve feta cheese!

(19 of 41)

After appetizers, the family came into the formal dining room.  They looked over their menus to see what was going to be served.

(31 of 41)

(32 of 41)

Everyone was so impressed that I brought out the fine china for this occasion.

(33 of 41)

The dinner menu included…


(24 of 41)

(30 of 41)

(28 of 41)

Also, an impromptu red sauce + mozzarella pizza!  Nothing better than when the chef brings out an extra dish for everyone to share!

(26 of 41)

After chowing down the dinner course + lot’s of chit chatting, it was time for dessert. 


(35 of 41)

I even brought out the fancy-shmancy cappuccino maker!!  Everyone was impressed. ;)

(17 of 22)

Dessert was grilled too!

(36 of 41)

With another impromptu recipe!  [there was a lot of extra dough!]

Peanut butter + milk were heated together as the sauce.  Chopped apple, chocolate chips, and brown sugar topped this for dessert perfection!

(37 of 41)

chocolate coconut sauce + banana + pecans + coconut + brown sugar + a honey drizzle 

(38 of 41)

Dessert was consumed + enjoyed by all. 

(39 of 41)

The guests went on their way…and it took me about 45 seconds to go from this…

(40 of 41)

To this!!

(41 of 41)

And there you have it.  Luxury at it’s finest!!!

The End!!

<3 Ashley


Thank you all again so so much for your support up until this point!!  I’m having so much fun [as I hope you can tell] and need your help again this week!  Voting starts Monday morning and runs through Thursday.  Check out this link to cast your vote, for Project Food Blog – Challenge 3 [hosting a luxurious dinner party].  Thanks!!