Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bathing Beauties Coastal Tablescape

Who doesn’t like to set a pretty table?  My guess is no one.  Whether dinner is a quick bite, or a time to revere the evening repast, an attractive table can make any meal more enjoyable.

A couple of weeks ago I shared my Seaside Picnic table setting.  It’s one for which I have a particular fondness because of the lovely Pottery Barn linens.  So I decided to enjoy them a bit longer, but switch the table up a bit and turn it into something, seemingly, brand new.

You can do the same.  Swap out an element or two in your centerpiece.  Switch up the placements, change the napkins.  Suddenly you have something completely different.

Take a look.
I changed the rustic rectangular placemats for these round ones.  I kept the chargers and white plates, but swapped out the blue fish plates for the more subtly colored starfish plates.
Scallop shells await filling with Coquilles St. Jacques.
White plastic flatware gave way to the bamboo flatware.
 Pressed glass punch cups replace the white cups, but on the same saucers.  A few pieces of faux beach glass add a hint of color and a lot of whimsy. 
Salmon glassware was removed in favor of this stemware by Mikasa, the Marquis pattern.  Gray napkins that complement the tablecloth were given a special folding that resemble the graceful waves of the sea.  You can learn how to fold them here. 

The starfish candle holders were removed from each individual place setting and became a part of the centerpiece, joining these two lovely bathing beauties from One King’s Lane. 
Very easy, completely new, and with a minimal amount of effort.  I like that!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bourbon-Soaked Cherries

Cherries? I love 'em, but cherry season is all too brief to suit my liking. In order to preserve the season for as long as possible, I have preserved some cherries using Tasting Table's fabulous recipe for Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Oh, my.  Step aside Cherries Jubilee! These luscious, flavorful, boozy cherries turn a scoop of ice cream into an elegant dessert.  You will never again feel at a loss when unwanted surprise guests knock at your door.  

Serving cocktails?  Toss one into a fruity drink. Even a glass of sparkling water can benefit from one of these. Have some extra time?  Pat them dry and dip them into melted chocolate for an over-the-top sweet surprise. Once prepared and stored in the fridge, there is nothing additional that you need to do but soak up the compliments and enjoy!

Bourbon-Soaked Cherries

1 cup bourbon
cup sugar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1 1-inch strip orange peel
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ pound cherries, pitted

Combine the bourbon, sugar, orange juice and orange peel in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Combine the bourbon mixture and the cherries in a 15-ounce sterilized container and seal. Allow the contents to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. Chill for at least three days before using. The cherries will keep for up to 1 month.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lemon Cloud Pie with Lemony Graham Cracker Crust

What is it about summer and lemons that make such a great combination?  Is there anything more welcome on a hot day than a freshly squeezed glass of homemade lemonade? Cold and refreshing with an equal amount of tart and sweet, it hydrates, invigorates, and is satisfyingly delicious. Such is the case with this mouthwatering lemon pie. Lemon in the crust, filling, and atop whipped cream make it exceptionally good, and a light and refreshing end to any summer meal.

Lemon Cloud Pie
with Lemony Graham Cracker Crust

4 yolks from extra-large eggs
2 cans (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup juice from
Melissa’s Organic Meyer Lemons (6-8)
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Lemony Graham Cracker Crust
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup crushed Lemon Snaps Cookies*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Crush crackers and cookies by pulsing in a food processor, or by placing them in a heavy duty plastic bag and smashing them with a rolling pin. Stir in sugar and melted better and press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

For the filling, beat the yolks in the work bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes. Add sweetened condensed milk and continue beating until thick and creamy. Add lemon juice and zest, beating until combined. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until center is set, about 25-35 minutes. Remove pie and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired, and a few gratings of lemon zest.

*Like these.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh Plum Crumble

If I were to ask you to name your favorite fresh summer fruit, my guess is that a plum would be far from the top of the list. Truly, the plum is unappreciated, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. Sweet, juicy, with a tasty and nutritious skin (not to mention the antioxidants), plums make a great snack. When turned into jam, chutney, coffeecake, or dessert, they are downright delicious. If you've never made a summer dessert out of plums before, now is the time.

This recipe is from Taste of Home magazine. I adapted it from the original that called for 7 medium plums. I have no idea what a medium plum is. There are regular plums and baby plums. Is one considered large and the other small, in which case, what is a medium?  No matter, I selected two packages of organic plums from Melissa's Produce and that worked out just right.

Everyone who has tried this crumble absolutely loves it. I included a large piece when I made a dinner drop at my dad's and he deemed it outstanding. I agree. It is easy to assemble, requires no special equipment, and I give you permission to pop a couple of plum pieces into your mouth while baking. Serve this warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or without.  You'll be wishing you'd bought double the amount of plums once you taste this delicious summer dessert.

It's plum season!  Celebrate!

Fresh Plum Crumble

1 pkg. Melissa's Organic Plumcots, pitted and quartered
1 pkg. Melissa's Organic Plum Bites, pitted and quartered
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the plums, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Spoon into a greased 2-qt. baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, baking powder, salt, mace and remaining flour. Add egg; stir with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over plum mixture. Drizzle with butter.

Bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes or until plums are tender and top is golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 8 servings.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Napkin Folding 101

I have a bit of mini obsession with cloth napkins. I love them, and buy them with reckless abandon. I love plain ones, patterned ones, lace-edged ones, linen, cotton, you name it. Napkins are my Achilles heel. But when you think about it, most napkins come as a part of a set that generally includes a beautiful and, perhaps, expensive tablecloth. Buying a set of napkins can give you the luxury of owning a beautiful part of a set that you might otherwise not be able to afford. That's the way I look at it anyway. 

I have an equal amount of patterned napkins as I do plain ones, and I love to mix and match. What they do to a table is a marvelous thing. A carefully placed cloth napkin can make a grilled cheese and tomato soup lunch feel elegant. A beautiful fold can do the same thing, and it is deceptively easy. 

In the following photos I am going to show you, step by step, how to fold a napkin in the Iris style that can transform a table from plain to fancy with this simple addition. It always draws appreciative comments, and only you and I will know just how simple it is. Follow these instructions and then come back and tell me about all of the compliments you received.