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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!
The Crown Fold
Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
Fold the napkin in half diagonally, and orient it so that the open ends face away from you.
Fold the right corner up so that the point rests directly on top of the middle corner and the fold creates a center line.
Repeat Step 3 with the other side, and create a diamond shape with all points facing away from you.
Turn napkin over carefully so that the new open seam lies face down.
Fold the bottom corner closest to you up about 2/3rds of the way up and press down well.
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!)
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.
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.
Posted November 28th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Posted November 18th, 2011. Add a comment
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.
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.
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. Add a comment
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!
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. Add a comment
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.
Nifty Napkin Folds: Basic Buffet Roll
Lay napkin face down in front of you.
Fold one corner down to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle. Position the triangle so that the open corners face away from you.
Place your utensils along the bottom and in the center of the long side of the triangle.
Fold one end in to cover the utensils.
Fold the opposite corner in to completely cover utensils.
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. Add a comment
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 pinecones – ACK!!)
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.
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.
Lay the napkin face down in front of you, seams facing upwards.
Fold the napkin in half diagonally.
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.
Fold up the left side just as you did the right; pat well to reinforce the seam that runs down the center.
Carefully lift the napkin and turn it over, keeping the open end facing away from you.
Fold the top, open section of the napkin down towards you and make the two points meet at the point nearest to you.
Flip the napkin over, keeping the open end towards you. Fold the napkin in half along the center seam and stand up.
Posted October 17th, 2011. Add a comment
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.
Marbled Blackberry Pound Cake
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. Add a comment
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.
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
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.
by Danica Waters
After spending a happy, busy weekend experimenting with different variations of stuffed grilled zucchini (so far I’ve done it Italian-style, Asian-style, and with green chiles and Parmesan cheese – yum!), this variation nearly got me a standing ovation. Folks were placing dibs on leftovers for lunch the next day.
The secret ingredient is the tequila in the marinade. It gets ‘em every time; it deepens the flavors and mingles well with all things grilled.
Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Southwestern-Style
4 medium-sized Zucchini
¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tequila
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 – 15 oz can black beans
½ red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut to ¼” dice
2-3 diced green onions
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob
½ C cold cooked jasmine rice
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp whole cumin seed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
½ C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 fresh jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced
Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise). Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides. Marinate zucchini in tequila mixture; set aside.
Heat grill to medium.
In a small sauté pan, sauté minced jalapeno with diced red pepper in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add cumin seed, allow to cook for a minute to release the flavor of the cumin, and remove from the heat.
In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients with peppers and cumin and mix well. Fill zucchini sections; drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section. Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.
Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.
Posted September 1st, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters (photo courtesy of www.buckcooks.com)
The end of summer quickly approaches, and gardeners across the Northern Hemisphere are getting the first tastes of their soon-to-be-overly-prolific zucchini vines.
While this versatile garden favorite is an old stand-by in stir-fry dishes, minestrone soups, and of course, sweetbread, I must admit I have discovered a new all-time favorite way to adore zucchini:
Grilled and Stuffed.
I have recently discovered that zucchini, filled with fresh, flavorful ingredients and ever-so-slightly charred, takes on an entirely different persona; it is smoky, delicious, and wonderful warm or cold.
This week The Allspice Chronicles will happily feature four variations of Grilled Stuffed Zucchini. They’re terrific for buffet tables and lunchboxes alike; I hope you find them as addictive as I do.
Zucchini: Grilled and Stuffed Italian-Style
6 medium-sized Zucchini
Italian dressing or olive oil and salt and pepper to marinate zucchini
½ C dry bread crumbs (substitute gluten free bread crumbs if desired)
2-3 fresh Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and diced to ¼ inch.
2-3 diced green onions
1 Tbsp fresh minced parsley
2 tsp fresh minced oregano
1/3 C shredded Parmesan
1/3 C shredded mozzarella
Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive Oil to bind mixture
(Note: To make a heartier version of this little gem, add some cooked Italian Sausage or Italian-seasoned Vegetarian Crumbles to the filling mixture.)
Trim ends from each zucchini; cut in half on the bias (crosswise). Cut each zucchini section in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, scrape seeds and pulp from the center of each zucchini section, leaving about a quarter-inch border on all sides. Marinate zucchini with your favorite Italian dressing or simply coat with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; set aside.
Heat grill to medium.
In a medium bowl, combine diced tomato, diced green onion, oregano, parsley, bread crumbs, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and olive oil. Fill the cavity of each zucchini with bread crumb mixture. Drizzle any remaining marinade over each stuffed zucchini section. Grill zucchini 3-5 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly charred and cheeses are thoroughly melted; remove from grill and arrange on serving platter.
Allow zucchini to rest another five minutes before serving.