Tablescaping

Spring Tablescape

Tablescaping…what is it? The term tablescape, (meaning everything you put on a table) became a part of the Oxford American dictionary (with quiet entrance) in 1991. Back then the only people talking about tablescapes were wedding planners and designers. Within the last few years, the art of decorating a table has hit  mainstream. References to tablescaping  are popping up everywhere.

We now have a plethera of cooking shows, magazines and cookbooks to inspire creativity in the kitchen. Cooking and food have never been more popular.  As more and more of us look for money saving alternatives to going out to dinner, entertaining at home has become an attractive opportunity.

Part of the enjoyment of going out to dinner is the atmosphere. Restaurants work with stylists to create just the right feel for their menu.  With a little bit of thought and planning, you can do the same thing at home on your table without spending a lot of money. You don’t have to have formal china to dress your table, and you don’t need to invest in several dish styles…spare yourself the expense and the storage space! Begin with finding a  set of white dishes.  You can find white plates that fall within your price range just about everywhere (even at your local dollar store). Food looks fantastic on a white canvas, so why not begin there, and add other elements to the table to add interest.  Think about your menu when creating your tablescape. Is your menu themed or regional?  Whether you want to create a sophisticated look, or casual and festive, your choice of color, texture and  pattern all work together to create a mood.   The possibilities are endless. Pull elements from the season, cuisine, and even the personalities of your friends that will be a part of your evening. Look for elements such as placemats and candleholders with versatility that may be mixed and matched in other tablescapes  down the road.  Just by adding a few decorative accents such as changing the fold of a simple white napkin,  or adding fresh herbs clipped from your garden,  you will create a look that transforms your table into something special.  Tablescaping allows you to express your creativity and lets your style shine through. Your guests will appreciate what you’ve done to create an ambiance for an evening enjoyed at home with friends.

Here’s a great link to a website on napkin folding:  www.napkinfoldingguide.com

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Gadgets I love…

BeaterbladeHere’s a gadget I absolutely love… an attachment for stand mixers by  Beaterblade. The blade has silicone “fins” which actually scrape the bowl as they turn and mix the batter. What does this mean to you? No more stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl! It even gets the dimple at the bottom of the bowl.

I used it to bake my daughter’s birthday cake…give it a try.

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Freezing the cake layers before icing makes decorating a whole lot easier..it  reduces the amount of crumbs, and creates a much more stable cake to work with.

Cake

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons red food coloring

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 large eggs

Frosting

3  8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 27 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely. Reserve crumbs left behind in pans for decorating. Wrap cakes in several layers of plastic wrap; freeze layers up to 1 week before decorating. Remove cake layers from freezer, unwrap from plastic wrap;  thaw 30 minutes.

For frosting:

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Assembly:

Cut each cake layer in half horizontally using a serrated bread knife. Place one of the cake layers (cut side up) on a cake plate. Spoon 1 cup of icing in center of cake layer. Use a spatula to smooth the icing over the surface of the cake. Place the  next layer ( cut side up) and spread 1 cup of icing icing over the cake layer. Place third cake layer (cut side up) and spread 1 cup of icing over the cake layer. Place the last layer (cut side down) on top of the icing. Use a spatula to spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of cake. Sprinkle reserved cake crumbs over the top of the cake.

12 servings

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Asian Themed Cocktail Hour

If you are looking for clean, fresh, flavors, this Asian themed cocktail hour is just right for you…

When hosting supper club  (or a dinner party) at your house,  reserving an  hour  for cocktails and light fare as your guests  arrive can be a great start to the evening. That window before dinner can be quite lively as we catch up  with what’s been happening with one another. No wonder they call it “happy hour”. .. The idea is to engage your taste buds and get them ready for the meal that follows. Stick with finger foods light in  flavor and complementary to your menu. My Chicken and Lemongrass Skewers with Mint Dipping Sauce really fit the bill. I love the crunch of the water chestnuts, and hints of ginger root.  Serve with  ice cold  Lemongrass Martinis and you are all set!

Chicken and Lemongrass Skewers with Mint Dipping Sauce

Chicken and Lemongrass Skewers with Mint Dipping Sauce

1 pound ground chicken

1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger root

1/2 cup finely chopped water chestnuts

2 green onions (green part only), finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha hot chili sauce

2 teaspoons minced lemongrass

1/4 chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 lightly beaten egg

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (for frying)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Form chicken mixture into 1-inch balls and add to skillet as you make them.  Cook 8-10 minutes, turning frequently, until lightly browned.  Drain on paper towels.  (May be made 1 day ahead. Cover, refrigerate and warm before serving). Serve with Mint Dipping Sauce.

8 servings

Mint Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup fish sauce

Juice of 2 limes

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon minced jalepeno pepper(with seeds)

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Lemongrass Martini

Lemongrass Martini

1 750 ml bottle vodka
3 stalks lemongrass, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 whole cloves
Rose’s sweetened lime juice

Add lemongrass and cloves to vodka; infuse overnight.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour equal amounts of infused vodka and sweetened lime juice over ice and shake vigorously. Pour into chilled martini glasses.

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Menus, recipes, and entertaining ideas for your next dinner party or supper club gathering