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 Standing Fan

by Danica Waters

 

The Standing Fan fold is an elegant, show-stopping way to dress up your formal holiday table.  Although it looks  a bit intimidating, it’s actually very simple to achieve.

 

For a softer presentation, hand-pressing the folds is sufficient; however, for crisp folds, an iron and a bit of spray starch will work wonders.

 

Here’s the how-to:

 

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you.

 

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half, bringing the corners towards you. (Yours won’t have the accordion creases yet…  we’ve worked the fold backwards so you can see what it is supposed to look like!)

 

Step 3:

Fold the napkin accordion-style from either side, leaving approximately 2-1/2 – 3 inches on the opposite side un-folded to support the fan.

 

Step 4:

Fold the napkin in half with the accordion folds on the outside.

 

Step 5:

Holding the accordion folds in one hand, grab the unfolded corners with your other hand and tuck them under the accordion folds.

 

Step 6:

Open up the fan and stand it upright.  Voila!

Posted November 21st, 2011.

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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

by Danica Waters / butternut squash image courtesy of www.cookinglight.com

 

This, dear readers,  is a recipe for Butternut Squash soup excellence.  Clipped from an issue of the Rocky Mountain News years ago, this recipe qualifies as one of my personal all-time favorites for the following reasons:

 

It is definitely “comforting”, which makes it a great bet for weekend soup-and-sandwich fare (think grilled Havarti cheese with caramelized onions on French  – or better yet, homemade – bread);

 

It is also extremely sophisticated, which makes it an outstanding choice for a formal, multiple-course meal;

 

But the best part of all is that this is not your ordinary comforting cream soup.  It is far more exciting; the addition of cayenne pepper creates a sensory surprise and leaves a delicious tingle on your tongue; go sparingly at first and add to suit your preference.

 

Enjoy!

 

Creamy Squash Soup

(as seen in the Rocky Mountain News)

 

1/3 C diced white onion (don’t substitute – the white onion is more delicate than its yellow cousins!)

3 Tbsp dry white wine

1/8 tsp marjoram

2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks*

4 C rich chicken stock

1-1/2 C heavy cream or half and half

4 Tbsp butter, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Garnish:  sour cream, freshly snipped chives or fresh rosemary sprig; toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted chopped walnuts

 

Saute the onion in one tablespoon of the butter until soft and transparent.  Add the wine, marjoram, squash and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.

 

Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the squash is very tender.

 

Carefully puree the mixture in a blender, a little at a time.  Pour it back into the pan over medium heat and add cream and butter.  Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste.  Heat the soup, stirring constantly, until heated through (do not allow to boil).  Taste and add more seasonings, if desired.  If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock or cream.

 

Keep the soup warm over low heat or over a double-boiler.  Be careful not to scorch it.  Serve the soup in mugs or wide, flat bowls with your choice of garnishes.

 

Serves 4

 

*Note from author:  Figuring out how to cut and peel a butternut squash safely and efficiently is a bit of a challenge due to their hard, thick skins.  Here’s some tips:

 

1)  Use a large, very sharp Chef’s knife or Santoku.

2)  Use a thick cutting board with a non-skid bottom.  Wood is great!

3)  Turn the squash on its side, and, cutting from the widest end first, cut the squash into rings approximately 1-1/2” thick.

4)  Remove the seeds and fibers from the inside of the rings and discard.

5)  Cut the rings into quarters.

6)  Using a paring knife, peel the hard skins off the squash and discard.

7)  Cut the squash into smaller pieces if desired.

 

Voila!  You have conquered a butternut squash!  (And you get to keep your fingers!)

Posted November 17th, 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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Jam-Filled Walnut Scones

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of wowhowsnacktastic.wordpress.com

While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire.  These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.

 

They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Jam Filled Walnut Scones

(Simply Scones)

 

2 c all-purpose flour

½ C finely chopped walnuts

¼ C granulated sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled

2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ C strawberry or other preserves

 

Preheat oven to 400? F.  Lightly butter a baking sheet.

 

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture.  With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.

 

With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges.  Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet.  Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed.  Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone.  Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

 

Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool.  Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container.  These scones freeze well.

 

Makes 12 scones.

Posted November 4th, 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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Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

by Danica Waters

 

Who says cheesecake is only for dessert?  This savory Mediterranean Cheesecake is undoubtedly as addictive as its sweeter cousin.  Not too rich, but substantial enough to satisfy, the rich flavor of Parmesan mingles with the mild tang of feta to hit all the right spots for all kinds of partygoers.  Unbeatable as an hors d oeuvre or as an accompaniment to soup or salad, it is also a visual showstopper, guaranteed to rock any buffet table it’s invited to.

 

This recipe is for 1 – 9 inch cheesecake, which will feed a rather large crowd.  Because it freezes extremely well, try making two smaller cheesecakes out of one batch.  Homemade Cracker Bread is a perfect accompaniment, and is also easily made ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about on party-day.

 

Enjoy!

 

Savory Mediterranean Cheesecake

(Fine Cooking Magazine)

 

1-1/2 C Panko Breadcrumbs

6 Tbsp butter, melted

 

3/4 C butter

¼ C minced green onion

¼ C chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, or enough fresh spinach that has been chopped well and wilted to render approximately 1-1/2 C.

3 – 8 oz packages cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened

¼ C heavy whipping cream

4 large eggs

½ tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

2 – 2.5 oz cans sliced black olives, drained

1 C grated good-quality Parmesan cheese

1 C crumbled feta cheese

 

Sour cream

Fresh chopped herbs

*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

 

In a small bowl, combine panko and melted butter.  Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (or use two 5-inch springform pans).  Bake 8 minutes.

 

In a medium skillet, melt ¾ C butter over medium high heat.  Add onion, parsley, and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender.  Add spinach, and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and set aside.

 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, cream, and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.  Beat in oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Divide mixture evenly into two medium bowls.  Stir spinach mixture into one-half of cream cheese mixture.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with sliced olives.

 

Stir Parmesan cheese and feta cheese into other half of cream cheese mixture.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over olives.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes (for 9-inch springform;  if using smaller pans, adjust time accordingly).  Let cool completely in pan.  Gently run a knife around edges of pan to release sides.  Cover, and chill.

 

Prior to serving, remove cake from springform ring.  Top with a light spread of dairy sour cream, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

 

Serve cheesecake at room temperature with assorted crackers (try homemade Cracker Bread)

 

Note:  Cheesecake can be made up to one month ahead!  Wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap, and freeze.  Simply let come to room temperature before serving.

Posted October 27th, 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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The Five-Week Manners Makeover

by Danica Waters (photo credits at end of post)

Aahhhh…. Autumn.  Blustery late-October winds send the last leaves scattering and Christmas holiday merchandise creeps steadily onto Store-Shelves-Near-You.

This is an exciting time of year; with the onset of winter holiday festivities, you find yourself considering travel plans and gift lists, mulling over menu options and guest lists. And then, at the dinner table one night, the chilly mists of anxiety waft over you as you realize that the family table etiquette you thought you’d whipped into shape long ago has not even remotely recovered from the long, lazy, finger-licking days of summer.

 

Finger-licking indeed.

You watch for a minute or two with a bit of a sickening feeling accompanying your current state of disbelief.  Yes, you really did see Johnny lick his fingers after using them to pick up a long green bean and nibble it from the bottom up.  And yes, you really are watching little Katy blow air in and out of a limp macaroni noodle that has had all the cheese sucked off of it.   Eeesh.


The Five-Week Manners Makeover

There’s just enough time from now until Thanksgiving to give the whole family a manners makeover.  Since most major holiday celebrations involve lots and lots of time around a table, practicing basic table manners is the best place to start.

Week 1:  Focus on Table Settings and Basic Table Etiquette

Explain the placement of table settings and let them practice setting the table properly at mealtimes.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ll learn with a little practice!  To brush up on the correct way to set a table, feel free to visit the following videos, compliments of The Emily Post Institute and Howcast:

 

Basic Table Setting

 

Formal Table Setting


 

Review the Other Behavior Basics:

1.  Wash your hands before coming to the table.

2.  Put your napkin in your lap.

3.  Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, or until the hostess eats.

4.  Hold and use your utensils properly.

5.  Say “please” and “thank you” when food, seasonings, or condiments are passed.

6.  Food is usually passed from right to left to avoid confusion; however, observe what’s happening and act accordingly.

7.  If you happen to be overlooked for something, no reaching across someone else’s plate; quietly ask for something to be passed.

8.  Chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with your mouth full.

9.  Wait to be excused from the table; offer to help clear dishes from the table.

10.  Always remember to thank the cook!

 

It’s their party, too. 

Kids learn better when they are involved and treated as an integral part of the big picture.  Rather than teaching manners as “Rules-That-Must-Be-Followed”, explain that using good manners helps make everything more special.  Then get them involved in the creative and planning stages of the event.  Entrusting them with responsibilities, such as folding fancy napkins or making personalized place cards for all the guests, gives them a personal stake in the overall success of the event.

Practice makes perfect.

Every mealtime presents another opportunity to make something good even better.  Use the extra time afforded on weekends to practice something a bit more formal.

And remember: kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders and repetition. (Just sayin’.)

 

 

 

 

 Photo Credits:

table image:  www.photoshopessentials.com

girl licking fingers:  www.chocolates-made-easy.com

boy scratching head:   www.mombuzz.com

boy eating spaghetti: www.parentsconnect.com

man eating spaghetti: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

 

 


 

Posted October 18th, 2011.

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