Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Nifty Napkin Folds: The Crown Fold

by Danica Waters

 

What is it?  A red banana? “

Ummmm….No.  This is the Crown Fold.  If you need something regal or royal, this is one way to pull out all the stops and embellish your table setting (in a royal banana sort of way).

Just about the time you think it’s “stuffy”, think again!  This is a terrific fold for a kids’ party; use reversible patterned napkins for fun results.

 

Don’t panic if you have to practice this one a few times.  And note: an iron and some spray starch work wonders… if you’re going to the trouble, go all the way!

 

Enjoy!

 

The Crown Fold

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally, and orient it so that the open ends face away from you.

Step 3:

Fold the right corner up so that the point rests directly on top of the middle corner and the fold creates a center line.

Step 4:

Repeat Step 3 with the other side, and create a diamond shape with all points facing away from you.

Step 5:

Turn napkin over carefully so that the new open seam lies face down.

Step 6:

Fold the bottom corner closest to you up about 2/3rds of the way up and press down well.

Step 7:

Now take the top of the inner triangle and fold it down, bringing the point to rest on the near edge of the napkin, and exactly on the center line.  Press well.  (This is a good time for an iron!)

 

Step 8:

Curl the right and left sides of the napkin up and around, tucking one inside the other so that they securely meet and hold in the middle.

Step 9:

Now stand the napkin up and tug at the sides, molding and shaping where needed to make sure it’s even and well-rounded in appearance.

Voila!

Posted November 28th, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: The French Fold

by Danica Waters

 

Of all the napkin folds, the French Fold is one of the easiest to achieve; it’s simple, elegant, and fast!   When you’ve finished the fold, simply drape it at the dinner place.  Voila!

 

Here’s the “How-To”:

 

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally, making sure the corners line up neatly.

Step 3:

Bring the top corner down diagonally towards you, so that the crease is an inch or two in from the original bottom corner and creates a new point a few inches to the right of the same original bottom corner.

Step 4:

Bring the top point down towards you, being sure to pivot at the same place the last fold pivoted, to create a new point on the far right.  Ensure the new fold is placed at an equal distance from the other folds for a crisp, symmetrical presentation.

See?  The French Fold is EASY.

 

 

Posted November 14th, 2011.

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Chipotle Cornbread

by Danica Waters

It is cold and wet today, just like the weathermen promised.  The rain is coming down in big, splashy drops and I must confess: .I absolutely love days like today.   Ella Fitzgerald is simmering on my speakers, a pot of dee-lish Lentil Soup simmering on the stove, and this spicy little number will be the perfect accompaniment to all of it.

You can make this cornbread with any type of salsa; it’s milder and more innocent with a good green chile salsa or even  a basic tomato-jalapeno salsa.  But there’s something wicked and deliberate about the smoky nature of chipotles.  Be careful – the heat will sneak up on you, so if you’re serving kids or a crowd, either use the salsa sparingly or only marble half the batch.

Enjoy!

 

Chipotle Cornbread

1 cup Yellow Corn Meal (I use Alber’s)

1 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 C milk

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 – 3 Tbsp chipotle salsa, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Spoon chipotle salsa in small mounds onto the cornbread surface; using a knife, swirl salsa through batter to create marbled effect.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13×9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

 

FOR MUFFINS:
SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.

Posted November 11th, 2011.

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The Art of Giving: The Five Week Manners Makeover Step 4

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

With three weeks of practicing Basic Table Manners, two weeks of practicing the Art of Conversation, and a week’s worth of practice on how to nail the perfect greeting and a great handshake, it’s time to move on to the next step in our Five Week Manners Makeover:

The Art of Gift Giving

 

This next step takes some time and lots of talking, so be prepared.

 

With the sometimes mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the holiday season, all too often gift-giving endeavors are reduced to:

a)  an ever-evolving list of people who should receive something of equal or greater value to the gift slated for the next person on the list, often based on a sense of historical or social obligation vs. inspiration and joy;

b)  a distribution from a pile of whimsical but impersonal things collected from various sales throughout the year;

c)  a detached, materialistic and rather mechanical “thing that must be done” during the holidays, often accompanied by little or no thought of the person to whom the gift is to be given;

d)  a dreaded financial burden when all is said and done.

 

Needless to say, kids get confused when they are told time and again that “giving is better than receiving”, and yet they never really learn the art of giving and how it can make them – and the gift recipient – feel when the act is genuine, personal, and from the heart.  Like any other life skill, kids only know what they’re taught.  Kids can learn how to “get off the hook” and mechanically give Grandpa another token pair of holiday socks just as easily as they can learn how to really consider everything Grandpa really means to them and construct a meaningful gift accordingly.

Listen to your heart.

Try this:  before you write your holiday gift-giving list, take a quiet moment to ask yourself who impacted your life in a truly positive way this year.  What does that list look like?  Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised; the list may include people you don’t really know, but really, really appreciate, like that checker at the grocery store who always manages to put a smile on your face, even when you’re grumpy after a long day, or that teacher that makes your children feel inspired, like they can achieve anything?  (Note from author: To me, honoring these folks first makes me feel like I’m honoring myself and my intuition, adding emotional substance to the gifts I choose to give and the reasons why I choose to give them. It also helps me put my values and my relationships in perspective, while taking a good look at how I impact others’ lives, as well.)  Do this by yourself first; then sit down and try the exercise with each of your children.  You’ll gain precious insight into their lives and their values, as well.

 

Give unconditionally.

Sometimes folks can feel put on the spot, or perhaps as though you have ulterior motives, when they receive a gift of appreciation. In instances where you would like to show your appreciation but feel that it might result in an uncomfortable situation, giving anonymously is a great way to go.  Even if you don’t get the pleasure of seeing the recipient’s response, please don’t ever underestimate how much that coffee house gift card will be appreciated.

 

On the same note, unconditional giving means that even if you give personally and directly and do not receive the kind of appreciative response you’d hoped for, your heart was in the right place.  Do not become offended.  It just might be that the recipient is overwhelmed, self-conscious, or simply doesn’t know how to respond appropriately.  Move on, forgive, and be happy knowing you gave for all the right reasons.

 

A great way to teach your kids the joy of unconditional giving is to come together as a family to choose a recipient for an anonymous family gift.  In addition to charitable giving, choosing an anonymous gift for someone who is just simply an awesome human being is a fun way to bring your family together to celebrate great energy.

 

Great gifts mean something .

Retailers are there to be, well, retailers.  They put lots of “pretty shiny things” out to attract and distract shoppers, usually overwhelming and confusing them to such an extent that they end up purchasing items they never intended to buy in the first place.  Putting thought into the meaning behind your gift-giving will not only help you stay on track with your budget, but it will ensure that the meaning behind the gift you give will not be diluted along the way.  Does your aunt really need another scarf/hat/mitten set?  Or would it mean more to her for you to give her a unique piece of vintage jewelry to add to her collection?  In talking with your son about a possible gift for Grandpa, chances are that token pair of holiday socks will turn into an elaborate handmade picture of the time he took your son fishing, accompanied by an assortment of Grandpa’s favorite fishing snacks.  More expensive?  Nope.  More meaningful?  Absolutely.

 

“Think beyond the stuff”.

Most of the time, stuff is just that:  STUFF.  We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve already got, let alone more of it.  As a happier alternative, give gifts of shared time and/or experience, such as a monthly scheduled tea party with Grandma or tickets to the museum for your child and his/her BFF.  Be creative.  Make it special.  Try giving Grandma a new calendar with pre-scheduled dates for your tea parties already marked in bright, happy colors – make each party have a different theme, i.e. – February = Valentine chocolates, March = lemon cakes, September = celebrate the blackberries, etc.  Lighter on the heart, easier on the environment!

 

Wrap It Up!

Yes, it takes time.  And patience.  And maybe even a couple of tries.  But what would YOU rather receive:  an unwrapped gift, or one that had been carefully wrapped to the best of the giver’s ability?

 

Now take gift wrapping one step further:  how can you make it eco-friendly?

 

Here’s a video on how the Japanese utilize pieces of cloth to wrap their gifts:

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
Gift w/ Gold Ribbon courtesy of www.mysmartshop.wordpress.com

Hands holding heart courtesy of www.esquire.com

“Pay it forward” courtesy of www.midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com

Smiling Child courtesy of www.couponsaver.org

Seedlings in eggshells courtesy of www.themorningnews.org

Clip art gifts courtesy of www.absoluteuniquegifts.com

 

Posted November 8th, 2011.

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The Art of Greeting: The Five Week Manners Makeover, Step 3

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of liluinteriors.com

Remember being a little kid and absolutely dreading those first few awkward minutes of meeting someone you hadn’t seen in a long time, or perhaps didn’t know at all?  No matter if the semi-strangers had extended an invitation to an event at their home or if the occasion found them invading your home, one of two things was certain to happen during the greeting process:

1.  You’d be eyeballed up and down like you were some sort of germ-ridden-troublemaker-to-be and summarily dismissed, or;

2.  You’d end up having your cheeks pinched off your face as you were slathered in kisses and lipstick stains,  barraged with a million questions you didn’t know how to answer, by someone you really didn’t know all that well at all.

Not knowing what to do in either instance, you’d visibly shrink there next to your parents, feeling awkward and silent and uncomfortable and wishing to all heck you could will yourself to disappear altogether.  Anxiety amplified as you quickly realized that your own embarrassment was unwittingly embarrassing your parents.   “Say something, silly!” they would admonish, nudging you further into the line of fire. “Don’t just stand there like a bump on a log!  Ha ha ha….!  Kids – I’ll tell you…”

And there you were, feeling like a germ-ridden-troublemaker the rest of the evening.

 

In the words of America’s etiquette expert, Peggy Post, “Most etiquette dilemmas arise when people don’t know what to do. This results in a feeling of uncertainty and, ultimately, a sense that you may do something wrong or offend someone.”  Yep.   And that’s not a happy space for anyone to be in – especially kids.

Now’s the time to practice the Art of Greeting, so that your children can negotiate these awkward moments with confidence and poise now and in the future.

 

Tips to a perfect greeting:

1.  Look the person in the eye and smile!

2.  No mumbling!  Speak confidently and clearly, even if you’re feeling shy.

3.  It’s best to call the person by name:  “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Humphries / Aunt Matilda / etc.  It’s nice to meet you/see you again.”

4.  Strangers or acquaintances should be greeted with a handshake; if the person is a relative or someone close to you, you should greet them with a hug.

 

How to give a proper handshake:

1.  Right hand to right hand, thumbs up (not a limp, palms-down hand)

2.  Firm grip, but not too tight or too limp

3.  Only two to three “pumps”, then release hands.  No shaking the other person’s arm off!

 

Other tips:

1.  Feeling useful is one of the most powerful confidence builders out there.  If the event is being held in your home, children can offer to help take guests’ coats or show them a secure place where they can put their bags.  Teach them to treat these articles with care.  (If you are attending an event at another home, remind children to say “thank you” when someone takes their jacket.)

2.  If you’re hosting the event, it’s a great idea to review the guest list with your kids in advance.  Letting them know about the personalities and interests of the people coming to the party goes a long way towards helping kids feel confident about their participation in the event.

 

With practice, your kids’ kind, confident greeting skills might even help them avoid lipstick and cheek pinching altogether.

And remember:  keep practicing Basic Table Manners  and The Art of Conversation!

 

 

 

Posted November 1st, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: Basic Buffet Roll

by Danica Waters

With Holiday buffets lurking around the corner, today’s lesson in nifty napkin folding is the incredibly simple, sturdy, straightforward Basic Buffet Roll.

Enjoy!

 

Nifty Napkin Folds:  Basic Buffet Roll

 

Step 1:

Lay napkin face down in front of you.

 

Step 2:

Fold one corner down to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle.  Position the triangle so that the open corners face away from you.

Step 3:

Place your utensils along the bottom and in the center of the long side of the triangle.

Step 4:

Fold one end in to cover the utensils.

Step 5:

Fold the opposite corner in to completely cover utensils.

Step 6:

Roll tightly from bottom up.

Voila!  You’re done!

 

While this fold holds just fine on its own, you can tie a bit of decorative ribbon, raffia, or other decorative on each roll to dress it up a bit.

Posted October 24th, 2011.

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Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.moosecrossinggardencenter.com

 

There are lots of recipes for sautéed green beans out there in the wild blue yonder.  Most of those recipes invite a whole lot of other ingredients to the party: tomatoes, wine, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, etc. – the list goes on and on.  It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that the good ol’ green bean can hold its own on the dinner table; its simple, spectacularly fresh flavor doesn’t need a lot of help as long as it’s treated properly.  Allowed to simply be itself, the green bean has all sorts of great things to offer:  Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and a full range of beneficial B Vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidans are but a few of its virtues.

 

This recipe is simple.  It features fresh green beans sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until crisp tender, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice.  Exquisite!  .

 

An excellent accompaniment to Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, these green beans go well with French and Italian cuisines, in addition to fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes.  This preparation is so delicious, it might have you looking at that grayish green been casserole on the Thanksgiving menu in a whole new light.

 

Enjoy!

 

Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil

(serves 4)

 

1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and patted dry

2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Kosher Salt to taste

 

Prepare beans, be sure they are thoroughly dry to avoid splatter when they are added to the oil.

In a wide, shallow sauté pan or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking.  Add green beans and cover; allow to cook for about a minute.  Beans should be lightly browned, but not charred – keep your eye on them.  Remove cover and allow condensation to run back into the pan; turn beans and cook another minute.  Once beans are browned a bit on all sides, add 2 -3 Tbsp water to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to steam until beans are bright green and crisp tender, approximately an additional 3 -5 minutes, depending on your preference.

 

Remove to a serving dish; squeeze fresh lemon juice over beans and season with Kosher Salt to taste.  Toss well and serve.

 

Posted October 20th, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: The Pyramid Fold

by Danica Waters

Ok folks.  The arrival of mid-October means only one thing besides Halloween:

The. Holiday. Season. Is. Upon. Us.

Face it.  We’ve got about a month until the nostalgic refrains of Christmas carols, sparkly-twinkly lights and the heavy, inescapable scent of cinnamon pinecones inundate every venue in the northern hemisphere and beyond.  Brings tears to my eyes.  (Not the holidays; the cinnamon pineconesACK!!) 

 

Since we published ideas and etiquette tips on The Great Buffet, the Allspice Chronicles had countless requests for instructions and ideas on napkin folds.  Given that there’s no time like holiday time to practice and perfect the timeless art of “napkin origami”, every Monday from now until the end of the year we will happily feature a new napkin fold, from fancy-schmancy to buffet-roll basics.  Add them to your entertainment arsenal and perfect your party-making prowess; and for heaven’s sake, teach them to the kids!  Napkin folding is a great way to keep older children occupied and feeling productive while you’re doing everything else.

Today we’ll start with something on the simple side.

Enjoy!

 

The Pyramid Fold

 

This fold is relatively easy to achieve with almost any sort of cloth.  While all napkin folds will work best with a medium weight cloth, most or all of them can be achieved even on flimsy, lightweight material if you use a bit of spray starch and an iron.

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you, seams facing upwards.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally.

 

Step 3:

Rotate the napkin so the corners on the open end face away from you.  Fold the right corner up to meet the top corner, making sure that the new fold cuts directly down the center.

Step 4:

Fold up the left side just as you did the right; pat well to reinforce the seam that runs down the center.

Step 5:

Carefully lift the napkin and turn it over, keeping the open end facing away from you.

Step 6:

Fold the top, open section of the napkin down towards you and make the two points meet at the point nearest to you.

Step 7:

Flip the napkin over, keeping the open end towards you.  Fold the napkin in half along the center seam and stand up.

Voila!

 

Posted October 17th, 2011.

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Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Having grown up under the influence of heavy-duty Southern Sensibilities and then steeped in the sweet civility of British living once or twice, I must admit that I have come to truly appreciate the merits of a good pound cake.  While most folks shudder at the thought of what a pound cake can do to a diet, I personally feel better if I’ve got three or four of them tucked away in my freezer for gift giving and emergencies.  And tea.

My Nana was famous for handing out pound cakes to visitors.  It was just what she did.  The mailman came with packages during the summer and received pound cake and lemonade to go.  Mothers would come to pick up their kids after a play date, and they, too, received some version of a delectable pound cake.   A cake walk or a bake sale at the school?  Yep.  Pound cake.  She always spoke to the fact that a good pound cake went with everything, was admired by everyone,  remained virtually indestructible during transport, and always showed up looking good at a party.  While that sounds more like a great travel garment than something you’d eat, go figure; I now find myself collecting great pound cake recipes, baking them in wee tiny pans and putting them away for gift giving, emergencies, and yes, afternoon tea.

This is a lighter version of a pound cake I found on Martha Stewart’s website.  It could easily be made with any type of jam, but is completely smashing with a  fresh blackberry swirl.  As a footnote, I chose to leave my blackberries crushed but not pureed, and the result was fantastic.  Super easy to make ahead and freeze, this is a great way to get a head-start on the holiday season.

Enjoy!

 

Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake

(Martha Stewart)

 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; butter parchment. In a food processor, puree blackberries with 2 tablespoons sugar. (Or, for a more rustic texture, simply crush blackberries and combine with sugar.)  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Transfer half the batter to pan and dot with 1/2 cup blackberry puree. Repeat with remaining batter and puree. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl batter and puree together. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 30 minutes. Lift cake out of pan and place on a serving plate; let cool completely before slicing.

 

Posted October 11th, 2011.

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

 

I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine.  It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family.  Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.

 

In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter.  It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.

 

On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams.   Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.

 

Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a  diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.

 

He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting.  Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley.  The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.

 

Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does.  With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow.  After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.

 

The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen.  Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert.  I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite.  Even the kids were quiet.  No joke.

 

Need some magic?  Try these.   Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD.  They have no frosting.  Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Taste of Home August/September 1994

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

¼ C baking cocoa

½ tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

¾ C water

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Filling:

 

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 C sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp salt

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C chopped walnuts

 

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups.  For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl.  Add egg and salt; mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Posted October 7th, 2011.

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