Tuesday, October 7, 2008

my new favorite book on entertaining

So I was enormously flattered when Wiley Publishing contacted me to see if I'd be interested in an advance review copy of Matthew Mead's new book, Entertaining Simple. Um, hello! This book is so right up my alley. I didn't realize just how much it was, at the time, but now that I've read it, I've fallen in love with it and I'm happy to say that it's a book that I would have actually purchased, had I run across it in the store.

Matthew Mead, stylist guru extraordinaire

Let me explain. The book is based on the premise that it restores sanity to entertaining, without sacrificing style. I love that! The idea that I can entertain in a stylish way - that is also affordable and doesn't take hours and hours or give me a head full of gray hairs - is extremely appealing.

use a wine glass to hold individual servings of nuts!

One of my favorite sections of the book is where Matthew recommends four different ways to use one common household item for entertaining. He'll take a common object that nearly everyone owns, like a wine glass, egg cups, or glass votive holders, and show you four different and innovative ways to use them - either as decor or serving pieces (and often accomplishing both!).

wineglass as a floating candle holder

I'm also really happy about the recipes in the book. It's one thing to include sophisticated recipes in a book on entertaining - it's another thing to make them simple and even give shortcut options, which Matthew includes at the bottom of every recipe. Here's one I definitely want to try (warning, your mouth may start watering at any moment!):

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Filling

These decadent-looking cupcakes are easy to make and more tempting with fresh chocolate ganache.

¹⁄³ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup water
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups creamy peanut butter
Chocolate Ganache (page 206)

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place liners in two standard 12-cup muffin tins.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. Whisk in the eggs, water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Continue whisking until the batter is completely mixed.
3. Fill each muffin cup with ¼ cup batter. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; then remove from the muffin pans. Cool completely before filling and icing.
4. Fit a pastry bag with a number 20 (small) star tip. Spoon the peanut butter into the bag. Press the tip into the center of a cupcake top; squeeze the bag for 3 seconds to fill the cupcake with about ¾ tablespoon peanut butter. Repeat for each cupcake. Set the bag aside.
5. Using a small knife, remove any excess peanut butter from the cupcake tops. Using an offset spatula, spread ganache over the top of each. Add a flourish to the top by squeezing a bit of peanut butter through the star tip.
Makes 24 cupcakes

Simplify: Begin with cupcakes from your favorite bakery—all you’ll have to do is fill them with peanut butter and frost.

Um, yeah! A few other recipes I'd like to try, which looked simple but a little more sophisticated (okay, a lot more!) than what I usually cook for my family: Carrot-Ginger Soup and Twice-Baked Potato Boats. Don't they just sound so homey and comforting?

Matthew gives great ideas on everything from creative napkin-folding to basic serving dishes that should be in every pantry. He even includes ideas for theme parties (that are not cheesy or over-the-top). I found this book to be quite timely, since there are so many ideas on how to make what you've most likely already got, look more special and do double-duty for a party.

The book is released on October 27 - but if you just can't wait till then - you'd better get over to Restyled Home where Linda is giving away not one, not two, but TWENTY copies of Entertaining Simple! Check out her post for the details. Happy Reading and Happy Entertaining!


  1. Looks like a fantastic book! My mom just sent me his Halloween book and it is full of great ideas ...that actually seem doable! (that's a plus in my opinion!). :)

  2. I am so making those cupcakes. If it wasn't almost one in the morning, I might even make them now. ;-)

  3. looks good, love the front cover, right up my street!


  4. This book looks great.

    Just got your newsletter and I'm so sad! I know you have to do what's best for you and your family, but I'll miss you. *sniff*


  5. Oh, oh...Julia has me concerned...I hope all is well with you.

    Thanks for joining in in the give-away, and helping to spread the word. Who doesn't need two of these books, huh?


  6. Thanks for the tip. I entered for this beauty.
    I think if you win a second one you should offer it as a leave of absence giveaway. :)

    I got your newsletter. While I will miss the newsletter and updates to the blog I certainly agree with your decision to put family first.

  7. I just read your newsletter...sniff...but I totally understand (still sniffing, though. ;-)

    I look forward to hearing great things about your growing nest. 'Til then, I will miss you. Thanks for your GREAT blog, and for actually taking the time to read mine!


thank you for commenting, dahling! I can't wait to hear what you have to say. :-)