Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter Basket Fun

I like to use containers for my Easter baskets that are unique and can hopefully be reused by the recipient. I found these baskets with net lids at World Market and decided to use them for Amby and Nathan's Easter baskets.

The purpose of the net is to protect your food from insects and other various uninvited dinner guests. There will be no flies on those Cadbury Mini Eggs.

Nathan likes honey in his tea, so I got him some for his basket. I found this cool burlap bag at Paper Works. I wrapped the honey in tissue and tied it with a rope.

World Market also carries two of their favorite sauces. I found this carrot tissue paper at Pier One and wrapped them in it, then put them into clear bags.

I got Amby some jewelry and put it in a drawstring bag I found at Michaels.

Here they are, ready to be packed and mailed. I hope they like them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Uncommon Easter Tablescape

This is an Easter tablescape which is a whimsical welcome to spring. It would be great for a kid's party, or perhaps for a ladies' lunch.

I found these cute buckets last year (Target $1 each), and used them for fresh flowers, but this year I used them for something else. I decided that they would be perfect to accommodate some freshly baked cookies. (For directions on how to make these cookies go to my post, Cookies on a Stick).
I used some oasis that I already had and pieced it inside the buckets. I like oasis because it is easy to slice with a knife, but you can use whatever foam you might have on hand. You will be covering it, so you don't have to have brand new foam.

I covered the foam with foil:

Then I filled the buckets the rest of the way with Easter M &M's:

After I filled the buckets with the candy, I gently placed each of my cookies on a stick into the foam:

For my tablecloth, I used a white matelesse bedspread as the base and placed a small square Battenburg lace tablecloth on top of that. The crispness of the white is really a fun canvas to use as a base for the pastel colors. I placed the cookies in the center. The tiny chicks came from Pier One. I think they are adorable with their fly-away feathers. Then I chose some pastel plates from my Fiesta Ware.

The M & M's are also cute in candle holders. If you would like to use a different Easter candy, jelly beans work well for this, too. (I got this candle holder at Michael's for $1.99). Of course if it is a day party, you won't need candles, but they are still fun.

I found this colorful cording at Hancock a few years ago. I taped the ends to keep them from raveling. You can also use a product called Fray-Check, which is available at Hancock. I used this cording to tie my napkins and it added an additional touch of color.

This is the finished table:

The cookies would be great to take home as favors.

Cookies on a Stick

This is a fun project that you can do for a child's birthday party, a shower, party favors, or, as in this case, an Easter decoration. In this post, I will show how I make these cookies, and in my next post, I will show how I used them in an Easter tablescape. In the past, I have used craft sticks the size of popsicle sticks, but this time I found these longer, thinner ones (pictured above) and liked them better. I got them at Michaels.

First of all, I prepared the cookie dough. I used the Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of the bag, but used miniature morsels. Then I placed a few pastel Easter M & M's on the top of each cookie. You can also bake M & M cookies if you would rather not use chocolate morsels.

Once the dough is prepared, shape each cookie into a nice thick round shape. Then place the stick into the dough.

Place the M & M's onto each cookie. Allow plenty of room on your cookie sheet. And make sure it is greased.

Bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes. The M & M's will crack.

Lay a square piece of plastic wrap on the counter with the bottom corner facing you, and place the cookie in the middle:

Then bring the top corner over to meet the bottom corner:

Wrap the sides of the plastic wrap around the cookie toward the back and pinch it together under the cookie. Tie a ribbon around it:

With only a small amount of effort, you have transformed an ordinary cookie into a very special treat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Chips

I found these pretzel chips at the grocery store and thought they would taste good if they were dipped in chocolate. Then I thought that brightly colored sprinkles would be fun for Easter. I tried the colored sugar shown in the photo, also, but it didn't show up well. This would be a fun project to do with your kids. The ones I dipped in the white chocolate were my favorites.

Chocolate Covered Pretzel Chips

1 bag pretzel chips (or you can just use actual pretzels)
1 bag white chocolate morsels
1 bag milk or semisweet chocolate morsels
colored sprinkles

In separate bowls, melt chocolate in microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth. Dip each chip into chocolate, scraping off the excess chocolate on the edge of the bowl. Place on a parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Add sprinkles. Chill for about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sausage and Cabbage in a Bamboo Steamer

Tonight I decided to experiment with my new bamboo steamer. There were not a lot of helpful instructions online and none that came with it, so I improvised. I had pizza in the freezer just in case a disaster ensued.

I steamed cabbage in the top half of my steamer and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and Cavender's Greek Seasoning:

I cut the sausage in small chunks and placed it in the bottom half:

I placed the whole steamer in my large skillet. A wok could also be used. I used about 1-1/2 cups of light beer and 1 cup of water as my steaming liquid, which I poured directly into my skillet. I turned it up on high, and once it started cooking I turned it down to low. I steamed it for about 15 minutes. The cabbage cooked down, so the top did not stay ajar like it is in the picture:

The cabbage turned out tasty and tender:

And the sausage perfectly done:

I made cheese muffins to go with it:

It turned out to be quite delicious. I will definitely use my bamboo steamer again.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Asian Chicken Salad with Toasted Pita Bread

I found this recipe in a Cooking Light magazine and I made a few small changes in it to suit my personal taste. The result was a light, very nutritious salad with an amazing Asian flavor. I thought it needed a little something to go with it, so I buttered and toasted some pita bread wedges. They actually ended up looking like little fans, which tied in nicely with the Asian theme.

Asian Chicken Salad

3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion (optional - I didn't add this)
1 (8ounce) can water sliced chestnuts, drained
1 (10 ounce) package angel hair slaw

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rice or balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and chill for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with almonds and sesame seeds before serving.
Yield: 6 servings

Pita Bread Triangles:

2 pita bread rounds (I used whole wheat)
melted butter

Cut pita bread into wedges with a pizza cutter. Brush with butter and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Chop the bell pepper and celery and drain the water chestnuts:

Lightly toast the sesame seeds and almonds. Set aside to garnish the salad later.

Mix the chicken with the slaw and vegetables. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over it. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Cut pita bread into triangles with a pizza cutter. Place in baking dish and brush generously with melted butter. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Top salad with the toasted almonds and sesame seeds. Serve with the warm pita triangles.