Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bloglight: La Tartine Gourmande

Finally (a month late...), October's Bloglight! You now get to find out where the inspiration for creating my own recipe came from... La Tartine Gourmande and it's author Bea Peltre. She is Frenchwoman living in Boston, MA. She travels like crazy, is a food photographer, and is constantly experimenting with recipes and trying different, *healthy* ingredients.

Her photographs are AMAZING! Not only that but her recipes look divine and while I look at them my mouth waters and I secretly wish I was her next door neighbor so that I could be her guinea pig and try all her delicious looking dishes!

She writes regularly for the Boston Globe in their food section and the travel journal and she is also a freelance writer, photographer, food stylist, and recipe developer.

I recently made my own version of this perfectly delicious little dessert, Red Currant and Apricot Calfoutis. A Calfouits is a little tart like dessert with a pancake like batter that you pour over any combination of fruits - and the best thing is that it is SO EASY!! I used fresh apples from my grandma's house as a subsitute for the apricots and red currants with the exception that I sprinkled the apples with a little cinnamon for some extra flavor boost!

I love the flexability that Bea gives with her recipes. They are all (for the most part) gluten free but she mentions that you can certainly subsitute regular flour if that is what you keep on hand. She also throws in creative ingredients which I don't typically use, for example, in her Curried Winter Squash Soup she uses Coconut Milk which is an ingredient I don't typically stock my shelf with, but the great thing is, basic subsitution - Milk!

One recipe I am DYING to try is the Upsidedown Apple Cake with Olive Oil, Vanilla, and Cinnamon. This looks like a mouthfull of pleasing spice and sweet yet tartness from the apples! Her photo doesn't help deter me... I think that is a big problem with how I choose recipes, they HAVE to look good in the picture. Most of the time, if a recipe doesn't have a photo, I will skip right past it. That is a bad habit I know but I want to have a visual feast before I attempt making it myself.

I feel a special connection with Bea right now because she is pregnant too - with her first. I don't know what it is about being pregnant at the same time as other women but there is like a mutual feeling of, I know what you are experiencing and because of that we are friends.

Hopefully you all can now go and be envious of the extreme talent and abilities of Bea our French photographer, chef, mother, and writer extrodinaire!

Thank you Bea for sharing your gifts with the rest of us!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dr. Seuss Baby Shower

It was a success! And a LOAD of fun! We started decorating at about 1 p.m. and took our time making sure things looked great! We started with making sure the food prep was well on its way.
We (well, my mother-in-law) made the blue jell-o sky desserts {recipe to follow} the night before so we didn't have to worry about those the day of. Also parts of the food were pre-made like the salad was just a delicious Costco-made chicken salad and we added lettuce.
A close up of the centerpieces, they were fish bowls from Michael's Crafts Store with red and white carnations, and those twigs that are swirled at the top with sparkles on them in red and silver. We used this blue fuzz that was found at the DOLLAR store!!! We also put some blue rocks at the bottom of the fish bowls. To create interest we took the middle bowl and put in on a cake stand and wrapped the bottom of it with a red feather boa. It just looked so cute!

The red polka dots were just pieces of red felt (you could use paper too) that we traced three different sizes of circles.
Here are a few of our guests enjoying the food! My sister-in-law's mom made some YUMMY cocktail meatballs.
Now for the fun stuff - the dessert table side of the table!! To the left - some way yummy and WAY easy Brownie pops! I was inspired by Amy with Amy Atlas Events ( - sorry, for whatever reason I am having a hard time getting my html to work correctly.)

Basically what we did was use the pre-made brownie bites from Costco with those cookie/candy sticks inserted into the middle. We then melted some Almond Bark vanilla flavored and either dipped the entire brownie or just drizzled the brownie with the chocolate. While the chocolate was still soft I sprinkled them with various colors of sprinkles - or you could leave them just plain. Either way they look ADORABLE - and don't forget how good they taste. My mother-in-law said they taste like an inside-out Oreo. Just make sure to let the chocolate harden before you serve them or I am sure you would be left with a huge mess.

We wanted to stick with the bright colors and so we found these giant lollipops at Wall-greens for $1!!! We had to have the "red fish" aka swedish fish. I just wish they made them in all blue too so we could have done, "red fish, blue fish!"

Licorice added a nice touch because of the texture and length. The skittles were fun too because the colors matched perfectly! Way before the party started I had certainly had my fill of candy. It was so hard not to because it all looked so good in those big jars and it was so accessible.

My Mother-in-law also found these little key chains that were bright colors and little spikey rubber balls. They were really cute and were supposed to be the favors but not many people remembered to take one.

Ok, now for the blue desserts - my mom found this idea on this lady's blog:
I LOVED this idea so here are the basic directions. We, of course, had to double this recipe and we didn't fill the glass quite as high so we could stretch the recipe a little more but here it is -
- 2 pkg Berry Blue Jello
- 2 cups Heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups of ice (make sure the pieces of ice aren't too small or they will melt too quickly)
- Parfait glasses or some sort of clear container.

Place whipping cream in a large bowl and beat on high speed until just starting to thicken. As you continue to whip the cream slowly pour in your sugar, continue whipping cream until it forms super stiff peaks. You want to make sure that it is good and stiff so that it will hold it's shape later in the jello. Keep chilled in fridge until needed.
For the jello, pour 2 cups of boiling water into a large bowl and add both boxes of berry blue jello powder. Stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Now you are going to add your 2 cups of ice, this is going to set your jello nice and quick. Stir the ice around in the bowl for about 5 minutes until the jello has thickened and remove any left over ice that didn't melt. (My mother-in-law had ice that was too small so she would just place it in the freezer for a few minutes until it became glopy.) Your jello won't be super thick like after it has set in the fridge, but it will be jelled enough to scoop out on a spoon in a blobby form.
Start placing a few spoonfuls of jello in the bottom of your parfait glass, then take your whipped cream from the fridge and drop in a spoonful or two and press it against the side of the glass. This is going to form your cloud in the sky. Try not to smear any of the whipped cream where you don't want a cloud, it will show up as streaks when you put more jello in, so wipe away any unwanted marks.
Continue layering the jello and whip cream, alternating where you place your cream clouds so that you get a nice staggered effect.
Voila! You've created a little chunk of sky in a glass and guess what... it tastes WONDERFUL!
{if you are having trouble making these, I would suggest going to her website - she has wonderful step by step picture directions to help you make your sky desserts perfect!}
For an added touch, we made "green eggs!" All we did was hard boil some eggs then cut them in half spooning out the yolk. We whipped the yolk, mayo, mustard, a little garlic, salt, pepper and a tiny bit of Worcestershire sauce with some green food coloring! Then I piped them back into the whites and sprinkled them with paprika. Those were a hot item!

The recipe for the cocktail meatballs are as follows -
- 1 can jellied cranberry sauce
- 3/4 cup chili sauce
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- bag of frozen mini meatballs, thawed {you can also use mini franks}
Place in a crock pot and simmer until soft and delicious!
We scattered actual books around on the food table as well as other places in the house which we ended up giving as gifts to our guest of honor and in the large living room we hung Chinese lanterns from the ceiling to add another element of fun to the large room.

The giant cardboard books turned out great too! The Cat in the Hat book is pictured below and if you look hard you can see the Oh the Places You'll Go book in the bottom right picture.

Again, thanks to Amy at Stem Parties for the fabulous inspiration! Also a HUGE thanks to my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law's mom and sister, they were all HUGE helps!

And a congrats to my cute Sister-in-law, we can't wait to meet little Oscar!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I love Cardboard!

Wow, I must say, I have been on a roll lately with blogging! Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the Bloglight for this month - last night I was really busy making this cute little guy!!! I now understand why little children could have so much more fun with a box than the actual toy that came inside the box. 

I made Horton here from a refrigerator box. (However, I was informed that refrigerators no longer come in "boxes" it is more like they are fully wrapped in cardboard... I don't really know the difference but there you have it!) 

I was so excited about him! 

You can't totally tell from the picture but I used his cute little face
 from his book (the picture is on one of the first pages if you want to grab the book to compare...) I even gave him a little clover too! The clover was cuter in my mind but it works. 

He and his little fishy friends are going to be perfect! I am thinking that I could make the fish into a mobile afterwards too, if my sister-in-law likes them. 

Do the fish with big bright colored circles like the ones here on Martha Stewart's website under "The Modern Baby Shower"
So a basic "how-to" on the cardboard figures would be to simply find a picture of the item you want to make (it could be a giant baby bottle, a Noah's Ark, a dinosaur, or even for halloween you could do a big moon with a witch flying across it!) Then do your very best to free hand the picture onto the cardboard just lots bigger than the picture in your book. {If you can figure out how to do it you could blow a picture of your figure up HUGE and use that to trace it onto cardboard but then that takes all the fun and creativeness out of things!} Once you have the basic outline of your shape cut it out with a box cutter. 

Paint it with your basic solid color (a few coats) and then I just used a permanent marker to make the black outlines! You can get as detailed or as simple as you desire! Just have fun and experiment with it and see how things turn out! 

Next to come: GIANT Dr. Seuss books!