Friday, September 30, 2011

Any Occasion Gift - Veggie Bouquet

The nice thing about bouquets, whether floral, fruit, for food they can speak all languages and phrases...Thank you, I'm sorry, Miss you, etc. I may feel differently about fruit bouquets at some point, but as of now I just do not like them as a gift. As you know, if you read this blog, I adore flowers, but not everyone sees them as a necessity as I do. However, I was thinking what if the bouquet was more substantial...something that the bouquet recipient could actually make a meal or a side dish (or two) from. Sure you could incorporate fruit, but really who...a single family, not a cruise ship full of going to eat a whole bouquet of just fruit before it goes bad? I go on fruit kicks, but this would not work in my house, so I created something that would. 

You will need: 

  • A bundle of asparagus 
  • Cilantro sprigs 
  • Red lettuce 
  • Carrots 
  • Rubber band 
  • Raffia 
  • Grapes (optional) 

The idea is to incorporate as much color as possible while using as many vegetables that will coordinate into a meal. These ingredients are not set in stone, but they do make a nice salad. Substitute them however you would like. Just make sure you are making it visually appealing. You want to create layers, complimentary colors and height differences, and of course the obvious goal is to make it look as pretty as a bouquet of flowers. 

Bundle the the cilantro, lettuce and carrots with a rubber band. Lay the cutting of raffia on a clean surface. Align the asparagus over the raffia. You may need a second set of hands to roll the bundled vegetables into the center of the asparagus row. Use the raffia to bind the vegetables together into a bouquet. 

Add a small bunch of grapes tied beneath the raffia if possible. Another nice touch would be including a recipe card for a dish made from your chosen ingredients. 
Voila! A bouquet for any occasion.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Candy Corn Layered Candy Vases

As I stated in the last post I like setting out jars of candy’s just so fall! Layered candies in glass containers are also quite attractive. So, I combined the two. I admit this picture does not show the bottom layer that well, I failed to turn all the pumpkin stems toward the inside, and I definitely would have preferred a more golden lemon drop, but it is still a quick, easy idea to add a little bit of autumn to your home. Now that you have seen what to and not to do give it a try for your next gathering or use it as a candy dish throughout the season. If you have an hourglass shaped vase it works pretty well for a double candy corn look as you can view below.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Candy Corn Favor Cone

Though I do not particularly like the taste of the candy corn, I do rather like the way it looks, so, I fill jars with it throughout the fall season. My husband occasionally grabs a handful or two and it eventually disappears. Since I like the look, but not the taste I found inspiration for creating pretty, non-edible things in it’s likeness. 

This candy corn favor cone is prefect for multiple occasions whether you use it as a favor cone or a decoration cone is up to you. You could fill them with flowers in water picks or decorative paper shreds and string a number of them together for a festive mantle trimming, fill them to make memorable gifts for those special trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood, or if you are hosting a meal this time of year you may consider tying one of these on the back of each persons chair filled with goodies reflecting your party as shown. 

You will need: 
  • Yellow, orange, and white construction or craft paper 
  • Scissors (paper cutter optional) 
  • Glue (tape optional) 
  • Hole punch 
  • Wire cutting pliers 
  • Wire clothes hanger 
  • Ribbon (suggested) 

Measure your colored paper into squares as follows: 

Yellow - 9”x9” 
Orange - 7”x7” 
White - 4”x4” 

Cut each piece into a square. 

Fold each paper in half. 

Roll each piece of folded paper into a cone shape. 

You may want to place a piece of tape over the seam to temporarily hold the cone in place. 

You may find it helpful to draw a line after folding your cone, but before applying glue. This way you can unroll the cone and it is still marked for the area to apply the glue. Then glue the cone together. 

Trim edges for a smooth top. 

Repeat until forming three cones. 

Place glue on the insides and tips of the cones. Then stack the cones one on top of the other. 

Punch holes on opposite sides of the yellow cone. 

Place ribbons over horizontal seams and tie in back. 

I chose a basic square knot and trimmed the ribbons to equal lengths. 

Bend a “U” shape to a comparable width of the opening of your cone and clip the wire. 

Bend wire ends at a 90 degree angle. 

Fit the wire through the holes and Voila!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall Into Fall - while revisiting some past projects

After long consideration and a couple overly busy weeks in a row the decision was made that if I cancelled some of my weekend plans I would accomplish a large pile of mounding tasks and make my home’s transition into my favorite season...fall. As for the mounding tasks, well, not so much more than an insignificant dent, but I did manage to create a warm and festive living space. 

Most unfortunately, my pumpkin vines have held back producing anything resembling a pumpkin until the last couple days. The very first day there is the slightest nip in the air...and in Oklahoma that could be first day that tops out in the low 90’s...I am ready to scatter a wide variety of colors and shapes of pumpkins across the front flower beds, around the front porch and any indoor space I can find. As I am not one to criticize on the matter of “fashionably late” these little seeds sprouted into vines and grew through the spring and summer leading me to assume they would produce such an abundance of pumpkins that I would be a proud first-time pumpkin farmer by the time I could buy them in the markets. Maybe my daily battle with the squash bugs that were seemingly unaffected by anything in my arsenal or the record breaking heat and severe drought this summer are to blame for their untimeliness. Or maybe it just does not matter when the pumpkins are planted or begin to flower, but rather when they decide to grow on their own schedule. Like I said, this is my first experience growing pumpkins myself, so I have much to learn. Although, I sound disheartened not to have full-grown pumpkins yet, but I must say I was absolutely delighted to see this little guy today! 

I wanted to revisit some older posts to help you transition into autumn with a few little twists on some projects you have, hopefully, already created. 

  • I’ll Drink to That Centerpiece 4/22/11 
  • Feather vases 5/9/11 
  • Decorative Balls 6/15/11 
  • Make a Topiary 6/17/11 
  • Wineglass Lanterns 9/5/11 

If you remember the “I’ll Drink to That Centerpiece” it was more of a teaching exercise, but it is also a great staple to rotate pieces in and out with the seasons. I found these pumpkins with fun faces at Kirkland’s probably 3-4 years ago. They were very affordable...somewhere between $5-$10 for all 3. I like that they are a deeper shade of orange, it gives a richer, more full color. 

The other great part about these “pumpkin-heads” and nestling them amongst the corks is that post Halloween you can turn them around and leave them on display until Thanksgiving. 

Now let’s look back at the feather vases post. First you will want to find some miniature pumpkins and 8”-10” vine clippings. I placed the vines in filled water-picks to cut down on excess water and mess in the vases.  If you do not have water-picks by all means just put water in the vases.

As long as you used a fairly natural colored feather on your vase you should be able to find a pumpkin that looks nice with it. I used an orange pumpkin with black feathers, but a white or variegated miniature pumpkin, aka gourd, would look nice with brown feathers too. 

They can be displayed as a single pieces or along a narrow table, such as a buffet, in sets of three. 

If you are looking for a quick cheap way to add an autumn flare to a room check out the decorative balls post. Choose a great fall-time ribbon with rich bronze and deep rusty red-orange tones. Pair it with a gold or bronze colored tack and it will last you for the next couple months. Or keep the silver tacks and choose a Halloween ribbon, something maybe in black with printed webs, for a crisp October theme. 

Keep the topiary you made back in the summer, but change the ribbon to a more seasonal one. Mix it in among your fall-time garland and it will look perfectly at home. 

When I very first made the wine glass lanterns I could not help but think how I wished I had waited a few weeks to post it. Even then it looked so much like an autumn piece. I could just envision a mini pumpkin on top in place of the floral frog arrangement or tiny rust-colored mums clustered atop the stem base. You could even tie pretty raffia bows or knots around the stems of the glasses. 

I hope this has jogged your memory on some pieces you may have made and helped you successfully transition into this lovely season.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shop Your Closet: Change it, Don’t toss it!

With the last few weekends before autumn’s arrival still nice enough for strapless dresses and outdoor parties, in the lower half of the nation that is, why not breathe some new life into a forgotten dress. 

I had moved this dress to the section of the closet, the holding area before they become a thrift store donation, when a novel idea hit me to wear it once more...but different. Part of the reason that the dress did not suit me was the angle of the halter triangle pieces. I am not big, but I am still curvy. When you have the top of the dress directing your eyes outward toward your shoulders and the bottom of the dress flaring from your hips even a great hourglass shape becomes squashed and disproportionate. Given this information you would expect changing the top to a more vertical angling would create a definite pear shape, but you do not lose the fullness through the chest, just the awkward angling. 

I began with a basic tie-at-the-neck, halter top dress. 

And, Really, it is this easy. I just pinned the right sides of the neckline together. 

Tie the neck ties in a bow and Voila!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gone Fishin’ Themed Cake

We celebrated my dad’s birthday this past weekend. Fishing has long been a hobby of his. I wanted to make a fun cake in a theme he would enjoy. 

You will need: 

  • A cake 
  • Icing (blue and brown)
  • A large marshmallow 
  • Gum drops (red and green) 
  • Gummy ribbons 
  • Sugar art eyes 
  • Pirouline creme filled wafer 
  • Chocolate covered nuts

Cut a “V” in the flat end of the large marshmallow. Then cut off one of the corners on the other flat end. 

Separate the colors of the candy ribbon into strips. Or you can use something similar like a Twisler. 

Flatten the gum drops. Shape the red gum drops to fit the mouth portion and smash the green gum drops until they achieve some translucence. You can always choose to make your fish a color other than green. 

Create scalloped strips from the green gum drops. If the gum drops do not stick to the marshmallows dab a few drops of water to the marshmallows and backs of the gum drop strips. 

Do not forget to place the eyes on the sides of the marshmallow and use a piece of pink sour strip to outline the mouth. I had a bag of these pre-made eyes on hand. If you do not have pre-made eyes, before dying your icing, set aside a spoonful of icing for the eyes. Place your two white icing dots on either side of the marshmallow and color the icing before placing a second inner dot. 

I dipped almonds in chocolate because the cake was a chocolate almond cake. You could use store bought chocolate almonds or dip any type of nut you like in chocolate to create the rocks around the edges of the cake pond. 

Use a long piece of the sour strip and a creme filled wafer to create the end of the fishing poll and line. And Voila!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Creamy Turkey and Pork Roll-ups

Ok. So I admit the idea for this recipe came from Mr. Food on the noon-time news. But, as always, I have put a spin on the original basic, simple entree, and made a tastier, less simple version. I think this is a great combination dish as we wind down summer and segway into autumn’s heavier meals. 

This can be served with sides as a meal or in mini versions as hors d'oeuvres. You can easily control the portions with your meat selections, also. 

You will need: 
  • 6 oz. pork chops or pork loin cut into 4 thin slices 
  • 1 coarsely chopped or sliced roasted red pepper 
  • 1 coarsely chopped or sliced roasted green pepper 
  • 4 oz. low fat cream cheese 
  • 1/8 c. basil pesto 
  • 4 (or 8) slices of smoked turkey 
  • 1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese 
  • 3/4 c. crumbled light cheese flavored potato chips 
  • fresh basil, garlic, rosemary and thyme (optional) 

Toss in olive oil and place coarsely chopped or sliced roasted red and green pepper on a non-stick baking sheet. Sprinkle a handful of finely chopped fresh basil, garlic, rosemary and thyme over the peppers. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees F. 

While the peppers are roasting remove your cream cheese from the refrigerator. Place the cream cheese in a small-medium mixing bowl to soften. 

Remove the roasted peppers and herbs from the oven. You can sauté the peppers and herbs in a skillet if preferred. Stir the basil pesto into your cream cheese, then add all the contents from the baking sheet into bowl. Mix to the point of coating the peppers. 

Spread your cream cheese and pepper mixture down the center of one side of each piece of turkey and pork. 

Layer the pork onto the turkey. You should have from bottom to top: turkey, pepper mix, pork, pepper mix. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the top layer of the cream cheese and pepper mixture. 

Now let’s roll! If your turkey slices are wide enough you can tuck in the edges. If your turkey slices are not long enough add a second slice. Secure your turkey/pork roll with a couple wooden toothpicks each. 

Place your crumbled potato chips (or Italian bread crumbs) in a bowl. Dip each meat roll into the bowl lightly coating the turkey slices. 

Bake on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, or follow the baking directions on the pork, since it is the only raw portion. 

Voila! Entree or hors d’oeuvre.