June 8th, 2009 |

Graduation Pops!

My baby brother graduates today from 8th grade……I can’t believe he will be in high school next year!  No matter what the age, or what level of education achieved, graduations are a time for celebration!  These treats are sure to put a smile on any graduates face!graduation-cap-pops

The oh, so talented Bakerella came up with this creative idea for all of the upcoming graduation parties.  Using easy-to-find candy (mini peanut butter cups, godiva chocolate squares, and sour strings), you can quickly whip these up for your graduate’s special day!

Check out Bakerella for the full instructions!

graduation-cap-pops-how-to

June 5th, 2009 |

Family Dinner on the Patio

Family Dinner on the Patio

Now that the summer months are upon us, we will take to the patio for all of our family dinners.  There is just something about being outside that makes everyone relax and enjoy themselves.  This weekend, gather your family or friends for a simple dinner on the patio.

Add instant ambiance by hanging mason jar lanterns from your umbrella to add a little twinkle.  Dress up your table by adding a touch of nature to your placesetting.  I love the idea of tying a leaf or flower from your garden onto everyone’s napkin…it’s the perfect touch of color!

I’m on a bit of a fruit kick lately, so for dinner serve a peach, arugula and goat cheese salad, mango and chicken skewers, with brown sugar peaches with ice cream for dessert.  Yum!

What will you be serving at your next family dinner?!

June 1st, 2009 |

Iced Tea with a Twist

grenedine-iced-tea

Try this refreshing summer drink at your next BBQ…

One of my Food Network favorites, Giada, came up with this festive drink:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups iced tea (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup grenadine
  • Ice, for serving

Directions

In a large ball jar (or other transporting container), mix together the tea, lemon juice, and grenadine. Pour over ice when ready to serve.

May 31st, 2009 |

Simplify the Sundae Bar

simplify-the-sundae

Country Living is the magazine behind this genius idea….

To make summer parties a little bit simpler, try dressing up a dozen cones before the party starts to streamline the ice cream sundae process. To make these treats, just dip each cone in melted white or milk chocolate and roll in tiny marshmallows, coconut flakes, chopped nuts, crushed cookies, or candy chips. Set out a selection of ice cream flavors chilled in a tub of ice, and voila!  Dessert is done!

May 30th, 2009 |

Do-It-Yourself Picnic: Reusable Sandwich Bags

stylish-sandwich-bagsLast week, I posted on creating the perfect, modern picnic for the summer.  I just discovered this idea in Tastebud magazine – and it’s perfect for our modern picnic!

Make a simple reusable sandwich bag from oil cloth. There are tons of great prints out there (look at your local fabric or craft store) and can be hand washed after each use.  Stylish and good for the environment – they would also be great for your kids playdates!

Here’s the how-to:

  1. cut a rectangle approximately 8 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ out of oilcloth with pinking shears or sharp scissors.
  2. turn edges under 1/4″ and stitch with machine.
  3. with wrong sides facing each other, fold over oilcloth leaving 2 1/2″ of extra material for the flap.
  4. stitch along sides to form the pocket.
  5. attach velcro on flap and pocket of bag.
  6. enjoy your reusable sandwich bag and hand wash with soap and water.

I found some great oilcloth fabric that you can buy by the yard at Doxie Shop.  Here are a couple that I think would be perfect for these sandwich bags:

stylish-sandwich-bags-fabric

May 19th, 2009 |

Summer Skewers

Summer Skewers

Fire up the grill and add a little excitement to your next party with these summer skewers!  Everyone has their go-to kabob or skewer for summer BBQ’s, but these 4 new crowd-pleasers from Better Homes and Gardens will leave your mouth watering!  (and your guests!)  Perfect for a Memorial Day BBQ or just a weeknight dinner on the grill.

Steak & Potato Kabobs

Pineapple & Scallop Skewers

Fontina-Stuffed Meatball Kabobs

Skewered Shrimp & Zucchini with Basil Cream Sauce

May 18th, 2009 |

Summer Treat: Frozen Watermelon Pops!

Watermelon Pops

Looking for a healthy summer treat?  Try these frozen watermelon pops for your next party….

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups cubed, seeded watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon light-colored corn syrup

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender; cover and blend until smooth. Press fruit mixture through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl to extract juices. Discard any solids. Pour the mixture into 3-ounce paper or plastic drink cups or pop molds. Cover cups with foil; cut a slit in the foil and insert wooden sticks.

2. Freeze several hours or overnight until pops are firm. To serve, remove from cups or molds. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe (bhg.com), patio (crateandbarrel.com), watermelon pops (corrinekozlak.com)

May 12th, 2009 |

Sips & Dips: A Cocktail Party

sips-dipsI fell in love with this invitation from Tiny Prints – Sips & Dips – what a perfect theme for my next cocktail party!

I’m having some old friends over to catch up, and I want to put together a party that is casual but chic.  A few great cocktails, some tasty appetizers and maybe a few delicious desserts – add in some creative presentation and I’ve got myself a party!

There are a few key components for creating a visually appealing appetizer spread.  Let’s take a look at a few ideas:
Sips & Dips

To give it a modern look, I’m going to use all-white serving dishes. The food really stands out, and it will give my table a uniformed look.

Instead of just throwing the food on a plate, I’m going to neatly place the individual pieces of food in tidy rows on their trays maintaining an equal distance between them. This works especially for things like mini pizzas, tiny quiches, small crab cakes, and individual desserts.

A couple of more ideas I like to remember: you can also add some some interest to your plates by adding another element or pop of color under your food.  For example, arrange pot stickers on a bed of green beans (see photo above).  Try thinking outside the box when it comes to the serving pieces you use – instead of arranging a veggie platter the traditional way with the dip in the middle of a pile of vegetables, try using small esspresso cups to serve your dips, and place the veggies standing up in glasses – place all on a tray for a colorful presentation.

Hmmm….now all I need to do is figure out what I’m serving!?!

Images: sips & dips invitation (tinyprints.com), martini’s (socialdesign.com), outdoor patio (cocomale.com), orange tulips (aboutdetailsdetails.com), appetizers (brides.com)

May 7th, 2009 |

Farmer’s Market Dinner Party

Farmer's Market Dinner Party (small)

With the arrival of spring finally here, I am so enjoying cooking with the  light, fresh flavors of the new season. Asparagus, artichokes, strawberries – oh, the list could go on and on!   My favorite source for peak-of-season produce? The local farmers’ market.   Not only do I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, many markets also offer locally produced breads, cheeses, other specialty foods……not to mention gorgeous flowers!  When I’m planning a Spring or Summer dinner party – it’s one stop shopping – I can pick up my ingredients and supplies for my centerpiece all in one place!

To help make your farmers’ market shopping more pleasurable, here are a few tips from Williams Sonoma:

Bring plenty of small bills plus shopping bags or baskets. Arrive early for the best selection—and to avoid the crowds. Before you buy, stroll through the market to see what’s available and to compare prices and quality. Many farmers encourage customers to taste before buying. And be sure to talk with the growers. They’re happy to introduce you to new and unusual ingredients and to offer cooking suggestions.

Farmer’s Market’s are a great place to gather fresh ingredients – but there is a way to make it even easier on yourself to eat locally and seasonally, all the while supporting farmers and taking advantage of the abundance of each season: by subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  Local Harvest is a CSA program that offers subscriptions all over the country.  Each week, you’ll get a box brimming with that week’s harvest.  No requests – you will get what is in season at that time and the selection varies from region to region and from farm to farm.  But if you like to experiment and love to try new things – this could be a great program for you!

Now that my local Farmer’s Market has begun, I have decided to host a dinner party in the garden using all fresh produce.  When you’re cooking from the farmers’ market, keep preparations simple so the garden-fresh flavors can shine.  I am going to serve a salad of mixed greens and toasted baguette slices topped with warm goat cheese, and fish fillets with asparagus and orange.  For dessert, something lemony…  stay tuned for ideas!

I love the idea of setting up an outdoor dining room – use your table as the central focus, place some throw pillows on the chairs, hang a light fixture or lanterns from the trees above the table to define the space.  Set up a bar on a garden work bench, and enhance with bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Create some ambiance by decorating the space with lanterns.  A few ideas for setting the table – use cotton linens and create a loose centerpiece of seasonal blooms and fruit (have a bunch of grapes overflowing, or a few baby artichokes or lemons placed into the arrangement).  Use woven charger plates to add a natural feel to the table, and enhance your napkin with a raffia tie and fresh vegetable such as a radish or carrots.

This Famer’s Market dinner party is a recipe for success – great, healthy food, a stunning setting and good friends!  What could be better?!

Images: radish napkin (bhg.com), goat cheese salad (williams-sonoma.com), white ceramic and woven dishes, outdoor bar (potterybarn.com), garden table (artfool.com)

May 7th, 2009 |

Tangy Lemon Treats

Tangy Lemon Treats (small)

There’s just something tantalizing about the tanginess of lemon….it’s light and fresh….and I could eat an entire plate of lemon bars if you were to put them in front of me!

These tangy desserts offer an intense burst of citrus flavor that will compliment any Spring meal:

1. Lemon Madeleines

2. Lemon-Raspberry Ice Cream Bombes

3. Creamy Lemon Bars

4. Icy Lemon-Mint Parfaits

5. Marbled Lemon Tart

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