A Thursday Night Dinner Party

place setting

The Menu

Appetizer: Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Lemon Aioli
Vegetable: Honey Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Meat: Chicken Breasts with French Pan Sauce
Dessert: Warm Brownie Cups with Vanilla Ice Cream


The Wine

2012 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA
2011 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA
2012 J Vineyards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA


Last night, I hosted four of my coworkers at my house for a fun evening of wine, food, and great company. Though this wasn’t a themed dinner party, I’m glad to have knocked one of my five 25 before 25-required dinner parties off of my to-do list!

Since it was a somewhat small group, we sat around my dining table (which is currently pushed against the wall). I used twine as napkin rings (because why not?) and the coasters were from C.Wonder (though my gold and white cloth coasters have since sold out, C.Wonder has some brand-new gold and white porcelain coasters which are quite cute… and totally perfect for summer!).


The wines were all recommended by Dallas Wine Chick (thank you, Melanie!). I particularly loved the 2012 Jordan Chardonnay ($30) from the Russian River Valley AVA out in Sonoma County, California: it was perfectly creamy and pear-y with lots of lemon, bell peppers, cucumbers, and spice thrown in to the mix. It would go perfectly with a seafood dish, paella, or any alfredo or lemon-based dishes (or like a light brie). As can probably be expected, this wine went perfectly with the appetizer as well as with the chicken!

About halfway through the meal, I poured myself a small glass of the 2011 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon ($45). And then a larger glass. The 2011 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon (from the Napa Valley AVA) is your quintessential Cabernet Sauvignon: bell peppers, raspberry, black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon… and a certain earthiness. If you want to drink this bottle now, definitely decant it before drinking so it opens up a bit. It will go perfectly with a pizza, a big block of stinky cheese, or a hearty lasagna. I’d recommend sticking it aside for a few more years (maybe even as few as 2-3 years) though.  This wine is a great Tuesday (or Thursday) night dinner wine now, but I have a feeling that in a few years it’ll be at Saturday night fancy steak dinner-level.

One of my guests single-handedly polished off all of the 2012 J Vineyards Pinot Noir ($37). I’m not kidding. Luckily, I had the opportunity to sample this Russian River Valley AVA wine earlier in the day (may have had a glass while I was cooking…) – I really loved the plum, red apple, and vanilla notes of this wine. It was so smooth and tasted like it would go really well with some truffle brie cheese… and will only get better with time. Though it’s drinking just fine now, I think it’ll be superb in a few years. According to my friend, this Pinot Noir went magically with the dessert.

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Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Lemon Aioli

Steamed Artichoke recipe found on Pinterest

This dish was so easy to make – I just let the artichokes steam in the slow cooker while I was at work and then I made the aioli in under 2 minutes while I was in-between cooking the other dishes. Heads up that 3 jumbo-sized artichokes produces a lot of artichoke – between 5 of us, we only ended up finishing about 2 artichokes.


For the artichokes

  • 3 jumbo-sized artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of crushed garlic (I used Trader Joe’s Crushed Garlic)
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 cups of water

For the aioli

  • 3/4 cup of light mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper


For the artichokes

After rinsing your artichokes, trim off their stems (leave them as short as possible) and chop off the top inch or so of the artichokes, so as to expose their hearts. Slice the lemon into two halves and, to prevent browning, rub one of the lemon halves over the exposed artichoke hearts. Bits of lemon may flake off – this is totally fine.

Open up the petals a bit to expose the hearts more before placing the artichokes in your crock pot – heart up. Squeeze the lemon halves over the artichokes and then drizzle the olive oil evenly over the artichokes. Lightly salt the artichokes (about a 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of salt per artichoke) and then place about 1/2 tablespoon of crushed garlic atop the center of the heart. Spread the crushed garlic evenly so it coats the entire top of the artichoke.

Pour a cup of wine and about 2 cups of water into the bottom of the crock pot – add water until there is 2-inches of liquid at the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours. You’ll know the artichokes are ready when a knife can easily slide into the bottom-side stem. Dash each artichoke with a pinch of salt before serving.

For the aioli

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until they are well-incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Honey Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from a Dashing Dish Recipe found on Pinterest

This might be my new favorite way to make Brussels sprouts! This dish was SO yummy and so easy to make – I seriously can’t praise it enough. I would definitely recommend it! Despite the fact that we had at least one Brussels sprout-aholic in the group (ahem, me), two bags of Brussels sprouts was more than enough for the five of us.


  • 2 bags of steam-in-bag fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of honey


Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Microwave the Brussels sprouts in the bags for about 3 minutes (per bag). Place foil on a baking sheet and spray the foil with cooking spray before spreading the  Brussels sprouts out evenly across the sheet.

Spray the Brussels sprouts with cooking spray (to help make the seasonings stick) and sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese evenly across all of the Brussels sprouts. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the Brussels sprouts for about 12-15 minutes (I left mine in for the full 15 minutes and they were perfect!), or until the Parmesan cheese starts to brown a bit. Upon removing the tray from the oven, evenly drizzle the honey over all of the Brussels sprouts. Feel free to drizzle more honey and Parmesan cheese over the Brussels sprouts – the sweeter the better!


Chicken Breasts with French Pan Sauce

I actually stole this recipe from my mother (hi, mom!). We had it all of the time when I was growing up – and now I know why! Not only is this chicken dish totally delicious: it’s also super easy (basically fool-proof). If you’re concerned about the sauce being too heavy, add less cream (or more wine)… but I promise it’s totally fine as-is.


For the chicken

  • 9 chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper

For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon of all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt


For the chicken

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly pat the chicken with the seasonings (salt and ground black pepper). Place the chicken in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté until both sides are lightly browned. I did three batches of chicken – each with 3 chicken breasts sautéing at the same time in the skillet.

Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and place the lightly browned chicken evenly over the sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the chicken to bake for about 40 minutes.

For the sauce

Combine all of the ingredients together in a small saucepan. Mix well and then place the saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow the sauce to boil, whisk the sauce so as to re-combine the ingredients, and then lower the heat to a simmer.

Final assembly

Upon removing the chicken from the oven, pour the sauce over each piece of chicken. Serve immediately.


Warm Brownie Cups

Adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe

This dessert won over (and muted) every human at the table last night. Perfect, individual-sized brownies. Note that if you want your brownies to be a little gooey on the inside, just leave them in the oven for about 18-25 minutes instead of the recommended 30. Also, be sure to stick the cups in the oven immediately after you pour the batter; otherwise the batter will begin to harden.


  • 5 ounces of semisweet chocolate
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted light butter
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of sugar (I used Truvia)
  • 1/8 cup of powdered sugar, for dusting
  • optional: vanilla ice cream


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large, microwave-safe bowl (I zapped it for about 30 seconds in my microwave). Stir the melted chocolate and butter together until well-combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, stirring so all of the ingredients blend as you add them. Once the eggs and vanilla have mixed into the chocolate mixture, add the sugar to the bowl and mix well. Slowly add the dry ingredients mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring continuously as you pour.

Once all of the ingredients are well-combined, pour the batter into six ceramic soufflé or custard cups. Place the cups on a baking sheet and place in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes, or until the brownies have risen to just above the rims of their cups and the tops have begun to crack. Upon removal from the oven, the brownies should be firm to the [light] touch. Allow the brownies to cool for about 5 minutes, dust the tops of the brownies evenly with powdered sugar, and serve with vanilla ice cream.