Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seaside Tablescapes

http://ny-image3.etsy.com/il_430xN.128126695.jpg
A bit of browsing over on Etsy stirred up these charming sea urchin-inspired bud vases by Blue Room Pottery. I'd love to mix them with a bit of the real thing—urchins, sand dollars and assorted shells—and create an ocean-inspired table top at a summer get-together. I'm thinking small "message in a bottle" invitations or name cards, fresh fish on the menu, breezy cocktails...things might get a bit nautical around here.
http://ny-image0.etsy.com/il_430xN.142984844.jpg

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Friday Giveaway Winner: Stripey Straws

Congratulations to Sian, winner of last week's Friday Giveaway. Enjoy your Stripey Straws. Thanks for reading Host-It Notes, and happy sipping!


This Turtle Wins the Race: Make a Watermelon Turtle

And here I thought your average watermelon bowl was fancy enough...this ambitious Turtle Watermelon Bowl is an impressive centerpiece all on its own! Check out the how-to at Flavors of Kentucky.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vintage Fourth of July

Vintage Fourth of July

I can't think of a single holiday that doesn't look great with a vintage theme. Create a vintage 4th of July with these images shared by The Graphics Fairy. Use the clip art on invitations, menus, on your walls, or just displayed on your tables.

Lady Liberty Postcard

This Lady Liberty is just chillin' Check out the image at the top turned into a fun tin can vase with patriotic fans.

Follow the links above or head to The Graphics Fairy to download your own. For more on the centerpiece, you'll find it at Ewenique.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Giveaway Winner: Summer Stripes

Congratulations to Dry Penguin, winner of last week's Host-It Notes Friday Giveaway. Enjoy your striped party plates and napkins. As always, thanks for reading!

This post is up a little late—apparently when I scheduled the post to publish on Tuesday, my systems didn't cooperate and never loaded them! Sorry, Dry Penguin!


Friday Giveaway: Stripey Straws

I loved using these Stripey Straws from Jack and Lulu in my State Fair-themed Fourth of July party. I picked up an extra set so one of my Host-It Notes readers could enjoy them too!

To be eligible to win these Stripey Straws become a follower at Host-It Notes or email me at hostess@host-itnotes.com (subject line: Stripey Straws). The winner will be picked randomly and posted here. Contest ends at midnight on Monday (PST). If you become a follower on Google Friend Connect you will be automatically entered for this and future contests!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crowd Pleasing Side Salads

At my early-bird Fourth of July party my guests arrived carrying some amazing salad creations. Bring these to your next party or potluck and get more props than for the average-Joe side dish. The Broccoli Salad is a favorite in my family that's changed more than one skeptic's mind, including a guest who swore she didn't like raw broccoli, only to eat my portion right off my plate after getting a taste.

BROCCOLI SALAD

2 heads of broccoli
1 chopped red onion
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup raisins
3-4 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 1/2 to 2 cups light mayonnaise
3-6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Trim and discard the tough stalk and leaves of your broccoli, then wash the heads. Slice the broccoli into smallish bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Stir, then allow the mixture to rest for 1-2 minutes. Stir again, then taste. Now slowly add the remaining amounts (if needed) of mayonnaise, rice vinegar, and granulated sugar to achieve the desired taste and texture. Dressing should thinly coat the sides of the bowl or a dipped broccoli floret rather than be thick and creamy. It should have a sweet, slightly tangy flavor. Combine onion (go light on the onion if you prefer—you can always add in more later), sunflower seeds, raisins, and dressing with the broccoli florets in the large bowl. Chill then serve.

TROPICAL FRUIT AND AMERICAN BERRY SALAD

2 mangoes
2 peaches
2 (6-oz.) containers blackberries
1 (6-oz.) container raspberries
1 (1-lb.) container strawberries
1 small ripe pineapple
3 kiwi
1 medium-large watermelon
1 lime
1 lemon

Wash all of your fruit. Peel your mango and kiwi, and cut the mango, kiwi, peaches, and strawberries into into bite-sized pieces. Cut the pineapple: remove both ends, skin the sides of the pineapple, quarter it lengthwise and slice off the core on the edge of each quarter. Cut into bite-sized chunks.

In a large bowl, combine mango, kiwi, peaches, strawberries, pineapple, blackberries and raspberries. Over these, squeeze the juice of your lemon and lime. Chill in refrigerator.

Take your watermelon, turn it on its side and slice off one end. Then remove the top quarter or third of the other end. Place the watermelon with the larger cut surface facing up and begin scooping out the flesh. We made melon balls, which we set aside to garnish with fresh mint and serve at another meal.

Once you've cored out your watermelon, leaving enough flesh at the bottom to keep your salad from leaking out, use a vegetable peeler to expose some of the whitish rind at the top, giving your bowl a decorative edge. Transfer the chilled fruit mixture to the watermelon bowl and serve.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Funnel Cake and Pocket Pies

At my faux-Fourth of July party, I wanted the day to have a sweet ending—which of course meant funnel cakes and pocket pies.

Remember these nifty pie molds from Williams-Sonoma? I finally got to give them a test run. My worker bees rolled out some homemade pie crust (try Betty Crocker's Pie Pastry recipe, or use a store-bought dough if you prefer). Using star- and apple-shaped molds we cut, filled and crimped fruit pocket pies to be given as favors to the guests. My reaction? The star shape is a bit too small for my taste, but the apple mold gives you a nice palm-sized pie. The star is by far more adorable, though, especially when full of bright red cherry filling.

Give your molds a quick spray or rub with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Aim for a thinner, sweeter crust—anything too floury or thick will overpower the filling. Once cut, filled and crimped the pies get an egg wash and a sprinkling of sugar, then it's into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

The pocket pies were meant for the road, but first I had to tickle the taste buds of my guests with something hot and sweet. That meant deep fried funnel cakes. I followed a recipe by Tracey Seaman, found online at Every Day Rachael Ray, and modified it slightly to get the texture I wanted.

FUNNEL CAKES

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable oil
4 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3/4 cups milk
3 large eggs
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Pie filling (homemade or store-bought), preserves or jam

Directions:
1. In a deep medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 350° to 375° on a deep-fat thermometer. If you don't have a thermometer, just get it good n' hot and test it with a blob or two of batter once you've mixed it up.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and add the milk and eggs; whisk until smooth.
3. Transfer the batter to a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, remove the excess air and seal the top. With scissors, snip off a corner to make a 1/4-inch-wide hole. Carefully squeeze about 1 cup batter (one-eighth of the mixture) back and forth into the oil, making a free-form lacy web. Cook until golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the cake over and cook until golden on the other side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the funnel cake to a cooling rack over paper towels to drain briefly. Repeat with the remaining batter.
4. Dust the funnel cakes liberally with confectioners' sugar and top with a dollop of filling, preserves or jam. Serve hot.

My first attempt at this involved an actual funnel, but I found squeezing from a plastic bag provides the pressure you need to keep a steady stream of batter flowing. Don't worry if you have a few pieces break off from the pack and float outside the web—they taste just as delicious, and powdered sugar covers a multitude of sins.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fourth of July Inspiration

This weekend I hosted a Fourth of July-themed barbecue for my family, and I'm here to provide a little party inspiration as you prepare for your own Independence Day. My inspiration was the State Fair (if you're a New Yorker, your average street fair will do). The State Fair is full of fried food, cool drinks and bright colors. I packed my party full of tasty foods, showcased some homemade goodies—decorating with a pyramid of my aunt's homemade cherry preserves—and even tried my hand at a few crafts. Take a look!

The sweet treats on this tabletop include lemonade with strawberry and lemon slices, and star and apple-shaped handheld fruit pies to be given as favors after the party. More on the pies tomorrow, for now let's talk paper goods.

I've featured these adorable Stripey Straws before, and just knew I had to have some for my faux-Fourth party. I paired them with mason jars for drinking.

The striped paper plates and blue and red napkins are from Ikea (head straight for the Market section), the red-checked napkins are from Cash & Carry.

I used cherry preserves and fresh cherries as decorations to help give it a homemade feel without feeling too country.

At any fair, State or street, there are a few things I keep my eyes peeled for: lemonade, polish sausage, and corn dogs. I love "gourmet" corndogs hand-dipped and fried, but since i was already serving up polish sausage I opted for cupfuls of mini corn dogs as an appetizer. Polish sausage and marinated chicken breasts provided the main course with some of my family's favorite salads on the side.

I sweetened the deal with funnel cakes topped with cherry pie filling or homemade blackberry jam, all washed down with lemonade chilled with star-shaped ice.

Check back tomorrow for a how-to on making pocket pies and funnel cake, and again the following day for some terrific side salad recipes!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Table Toppers by MADE

Host-It Notes reader, Morgan, pointed out a terrific post over at MADE. Rather than sew yards of fabric or buy tablecloth after tablecloth to set a scene, blog author Dana keeps large squares of colorful fabric on hand to toss on atop a white or black tablecloth for a pop of color. These 45x45 or 60x60 inch squares provide all the coverage and design you desire without much hassle.

This of course forced me to admit my secret shame...I don't sew. But don't you think the same effect could be had with fabric squares and a bit of hem tape? That's right, I'll be taking the lazy man's way out...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Giveaway: Summer Stripes

Hooray for Friday! To ring in the weekend we have a Friday Giveaway here on Host-It Notes. It's a cute striped paper plate and napkin set made by Old Navy, great to keep on hand for impromptu summer snacking. The picture doesn't do them justice—they're extra cute! To enter to win, email hostess@host-itnotes.com or become a Host-It Notes follower via Google Friend Connect—you'll find a link in the column on the right. Contest ends at midnight on Monday (PST). I'll announce the randomly selected winner the next day. Good luck!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I {Heart} Terrariums

I have a crush on terrariums. Terrariums done right, that is, and it doesn't get much better than these gorgeous creations by Botany Factory.

Based in San Francisco, Botany Factory, specifically plant pro Katie Goldman Macdonald, creates terrific terrariums that are like a green thumb’s version of a ship in a bottle, full of twee plants that are cleverly combined. Katie works with Oakland-based glass artist, Evan Kolker, to come up with hand-blown glass shapes for her creations. Put one of these beauties on your table and you’ll be sure to blow a few minds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time for Tea

Remember this creative invitation suite with an Alice and Wonderland theme? Designer Jag Nagra threw the mad tea party itself and shared pictures of all the fun.

I'm always a fan of cute teapots, but the flamingoes are what really make it over the top awesome for me! Check out more pics over at Page 84 Design.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wooly Booly

This just hit my inbox today. I'd love to give credit where credit is due for these adorable lamb cupcakes, but it's one of those friend-of-a-friend-of-a-colleague things, where the original details got lost on the way. Well, let me just say bravo, dear baker! A bit of frosting and a pink marshmallow have turned this cupcake into one fluffy bit of fun.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peachy Keen

Mmmm, I'm drooling over these ripe, juicy...cakes?

That's right, these pretty peaches are actually a clever use of cake mix and frosting. Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen used colored sugar, mini ball pans, cinnamon sticks and peppermint leaves to create the look. I love them so much, I could throw a whole Peaches and Cream party in their honor! Head over to Big Red Kitchen for the recipe and photos.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Toadstool Cool

Are you seeing this? It's a radish turned into a toadstool with just a few slices of a sharp knife! Perhaps it's because of all of the Super Mario Bros. I played as a child (oh who am I kidding...now I play it on the wii), but I love me some toadstools! I hope this inspires me to get a little more creative with my garnishes in the future.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

My World Cup Runneth Over

Kara's Party Ideas scores with an insanely cool World Cup-themed party by Julie Gallagher from In Good Company. The best part? Free downloads! Banners, invites, party bags, place mats, super cute finger puppets and tons more! Click here to get yours now. Goal!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

The first time I tasted salted caramel it was Restaurant Week in New York and I was living it up at One If By Land, Two If By Sea, an elegant restaurant that was normally way above what my entry-level publishing job could afford. I remember finding the food delicious, but the only dish I can recall in detail is the dessert: Caramel ice cream with a brushing of salted caramel on the plate. It was dessert magic, and artfully done. Salt brings out the sweetness of caramel in a deeply satisfying way.

Needless to say I was hooked, and I've been thinking about that dish for years, trying different salted caramels along the way. I can't wait to try these cupcakes from Joy's Hope. They combine the best of salty, sweet, and chocolatey things. For more pictures and the recipe for Salted Caramel Cupcakes, click here.

Found via {Cupcakes that Take the Cake}

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Strawberry Shortbake

I've just started following a new blog, and it only took one picture to convince me it was worth keeping an eye on. I'm head over heels for these strawberry cookies in berry baskets. The cookies are by Bake at 350, my newest flavor of the blogosphere. The berry baskets are from Bake it Pretty, a site full of sweet supplies for bakers (one that's about to get a pile of money from me—I've spotted the twine I've been looking for for weeks!).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Sweet Meetup

For my New York City-based readers and friends, mark your calendars for the Cupcakes Take the Cake picnic in Central Park this Saturday, June 12th from 2-4pm! No rsvp needed, just bring cupcakes (yours or bakery-made — I suggest red velvet cupcakes from Buttercup Bake Shop). Go, admire cupcake artistry, taste and try, and take pictures for me to post on Host-It Notes, of course! Check out these Cupcake Kebabs:

Here are the details from Cupcakes Take the Cake:

Cupcakes Takes The Cake will be celebrating our 4th annual picnic at Central Park. We will be at Cedar Hill which is near 79th Street and 5th Avenue on the east side of the park. Take the 6 to 77th Street and walk west to 5th Avenue. Bring homemade or store-bought cupcakes to share. Or bring picnic stuff (blankets, napkins, knifes, water).

You can also join their Meetup group to check out their monthly events. Wishing you sweet eating!

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