Tag Archives: holidays

A Spring Table

image via mochatini

Who cares that there is a negative wind chill in the double digits and snow on the ground outside? It’s officially spring! and that’s as good an excuse as any to throw a party. Here are some table setting ideas that are a breath of fresh spring air, because whether you’re hosting Easter dinner or a spring-themed brunch, a perfect meal begins with a well dressed table.

image via on Sutton Place

No spring soiree is complete without flowers. You don’t need to spend a small fortune at the florists to style a table full of flowers. A few supermarket bouquets and some pretty jars or simple vases are all you really need. Put a handful of flowers in each container, the result is unfussy and pretty.

Sissinghurst Castle Dinner Plate from anthropologie

Sometimes all you need to create a spectacular table is the right set of dishes. These painterly plates from Anthropologie are bursting with spring blooms. I’m envisioning these with crisp white linens and gold plated utensils.

image via intimate weddings

A single colour like white, yellow, or in this case, Robin’s Egg blue, is a good starting point when designing a table. Making a bird’s nest out of twigs or grass is an easy way to create a quick centerpiece. The beauty of painted eggs, or even the simplicity of unadorned eggs, makes a lovely substitute for flowers.

image via house and home

A tempting dessert table is a lovely way to turn a meal into a special occasion. Pastel coloured treats and vintage serving platters are a dreamy combo for Easter brunch or dinner. If you don’t own a cakestand here is a great tutorial for making one out of vintage dishes.

image via Red Sole Diary

Of course, you can always ditch the pastels and go bold; lemon yellow and sky blue evoke spring in much the same way, plus they are invigorating. The tulips are definitely in keeping with the casual, fun-loving vibe of this table.

family photo eggs from a subtle revelry

For a family breakfast or brunch I love this idea of personalized photo eggs for place orders. Such a cute way to decorate. Plus it’s a good excuse to dust off those egg cups and put them to use.

Happy Friday Everyone!


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Fertililty Symbols

Via Inhabitots

As somebody who hails from a place where it’s hot and humid for most of the time, I am quite fascinated by where the seasons are so radically distinct, and felt in the most in-your-face way. I don’t experience the bite of winter nor the accompanying longing for spring, nor the giddy high when this longing is finally fulfilled.

I find it intriguing how a lot of the customs that are practiced even in my corner of the world revolve around celebrating spring, the season of fertility and rebirth. For instance, a lot of weddings happen this time of year, and I’ve only recently realized how appropriate it is! Weddings are traditionally a prelude to child-bearing, and what better season to procreate than when the earth is sprouting seeds, shoots, and flowers?

So for today’s post, we’ll celebrate spring by celebrating fertility symbols!

Woman of Willendorf

She used to be called Venus of Willendorf (modern-day Aggsbach, Austria) and she’s estimated to be 20,000 years old. That’s a lot of zeroes, which means she’s way older than the Venus of Roman mythology, which is probably why the name didn’t stick. She has no feet, and she can’t stand on her own. Her face is covered by horizontal bands which many figure to be plaited hair. Archaeologists have unearthed many other figurines that look very much like her. Scholars think that her disproportionately large breasts and belly, and very detailed nether parts, point to her having been used as a fertility symbol in ancient times.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Eggs & Bunnies

These are nowadays are used as Easter symbols, but they are so because they represent fertility. Eggs are themselves evidence of fertility, and bunnies, well, they are known to reproduce really quickly and easily.

Via Inhabitots

Via Simply Living, Living Simply

Lingling-o

These are female fertility charms that are used in indigenous cultures in the Philippines and in certain parts of Southeast Asia. Its key characteristic is in its shape — rounded with a slit in the bottom. The negative space in the middle is said to resemble an embryo with an umbilical cord attached. The shape too makes it easy to be worn as ear ornaments, but they can also be used as pendants.

Via Baybayin Alive

Chopsticks

It’s strange, I know. But it just so happens that the Chinese term for chopsticks, zhu, also also translates as “many sons”, and because of this chopstick sets when given as wedding gifts are said to bring luck.

Image via Live Auctioneers


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Thank Goodness for Guinness! Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

It has been so grey and gloomy lately that I’m ready for a little fun. Fortunately, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day on Sunday which, for me, means some loud Irish music, lively dancing, and a good hearty meal washed down with a Guinness or two.

Image: The Roanoke Times

If you haven’t tried this dry Irish stout, don’t be afraid of its dark, opaque colour. It is actually a relatively low-alcohol beer with a smooth, slightly sweet malt flavour. It pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes, which also makes it a great beer for cooking.

Image: A Communal Table

One of my favourite Irish foods is brown bread. It is served with almost every meal in Ireland and it is always delicious. It’s nothing like the dry, often tasteless wheat bread we get here. A Communal Table’s version adds Guinness for extra flavour and is a quick-bread, which is perfect for a timid baker like me.

Image: Postcards from Somewhere Here

It’s a little warmer in Louisville this week but if it turns cold again, I’ll be looking for some comfort food like Guinness and Onion Soup with Cheddar Croutons.

Image: Steamy Kitchen

Beer and cheese are a wonderful pairing but for those who like a little more cheese in the equation, Aged Cheddar and Guinness Fondue provides a modern take on this retro classic. Just don’t get too tipsy around that molten cheddar!

Image: BBC Good Food

When people think about cooking with Guinness, everyday meals like beef stew come to mind. But it can also be incorporated in more upscale dishes, like a Guinness and Honey Glazed Pork Loin, which would be a showstopper carved tableside.

Image: Browned Eyed Baker

As much as I love the richness that Guinness brings to savory foods, I think it works best in desserts, especially chocolate ones. Stout helps to bring out its flavour in the same way that a bit of vanilla does. Browned Eyed Baker’s Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream has both and yields a cool, silky treat.

Image: Jules Food

The only thing that could make it better is a healthy drizzle of Guinness Extra Stout Caramel Sauce on top-yum!

Image: Sprinkle Bakes

To go really over the top for the holiday, I’m tempted to make a Sweet and Salty Guinness Chocolate Pie with Beer Marshmallow Meringue. Sprinkle Bakes didn’t hold back with this one, which layers a Guinness-infused chocolate pudding on top of a sweet and salty pretzel crust. If that wasn’t enough, it is finished with a toasted marshmallow meringue that has even more Guinness! Now that is decadence worthy of St. Paddy’s Day!

Image: Smithsonian.com

If you are heading out to pick up some alcohol for the holiday, grab a few extra cans of the beer that drinks like a meal and treat yourself to a meal that tastes like a drink!


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Forget the Turkey, Let’s Talk Cranberries

Next week our American friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving and cooks across the country are busy planning a feast with all the fixin’s.  Unfortunately, for many this will include the monstrosity that is canned cranberry sauce.

cranberry sauce from a canImage: Zipongo

This processed product has ruined the concept of cranberries for many people, which is a shame because this tart fruit is the perfect counter for the rich, heavy foods that grace a Thanksgiving table.

homemade cranberry sauce by Smitten KitchenImage: Smitten Kitchen

Do yourself a favour and pick up a bag of fresh or frozen cranberries and make your own sauce this year. With a few simple ingredients and about 20 minutes you can make a dish your guests will really love. Smitten Kitchen has a great collection of recipes for the cranberry sauce novice.

cranberry cookiesImage: Ocean Spray

While you’re at it, pick up a few extra bags for treats to last through the holidays and beyond. These versatile gems work well in both savory and sweet recipes. If shortbread is part of your Christmas baking ritual, why not mix it up a little with a blue cheese and cranberry version?

baking with cranberriesImage: Wives with Knives

I’m a little addicted to Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps, especially the Cranberry Hazelnut ones. However, I can’t always find them where I live now so I was thrilled to find a copycat recipe posted by Wives with Knives.

cranberry, bacon, chestnut dressingImage: BBC Good Food

Why limit yourself to cranberry sauce at your holiday table? I often add apples to my stuffing but cranberries would work well too. BBC’s Good Food offers up a delectableChestnut, Bacon, and Cranberry Dressing that can be baked or rolled into balls and fried- fun!

Image: Healthy Happy Life

If vegetarians are joining you, Healthy Happy Life’s Cranberry-Soy Sauce Sticky Sweet Tofu Steaks make an excellent meat-free entrée.

liquor and cranberries

Image: The Endless Meal

Cranberries also work well in cocktails, though most people never venture past the standard Cosmopolitan. The Endless Meal shakes it up a little by replacing the vodka with bourbon in what they call The Best Bourbon Sour. I’m eager to see if they are correct!

cranberry coctailImage: The Corkscrew

If tequila is your tipple of choice, you should indulge with a Razzelberry Dressing Margarita, full of antioxidant goodness.

orange, clove and cranberry infused bourbonImage: My Recipes

I love making my own infused alcohols and Orange, Clove, and Cranberry Infused Bourbon sounds like the perfect antidote to winter’s chill. This is also the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for guy on your Christmas list.

cranberry sorbetImage: Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Sweet-tart cranberries can help you end your large meal with a pucker.  Fresh Cranberry Sorbet would be a great palate-cleanser or an indulgent addition to apple pie or pecan pie.

cranberry curd pavlovaImage: Supper in Stereo

If you really want to wow your guests, skip the pie and make Supper in Stereo’s Cranberry Curd Pavlova. I’m sure it is as delicious as it is stunning.

pino cranberry gemsImage: Food Shed

I love the idea of sending guests off with a little treat to enjoy when the food coma wears off and Food Shed’s Pino Cranberry Gems, a boozy take on traditional French pâte de fruit, is the a perfect way to say that you enjoyed their company.

cranberry heartImage: The Southern Vegan

No matter how you be spending the holidays, I hope that you will have lots to be thankful for!

Sweet Treats for Easter and Passover

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

The holidays are only a few weeks away, so now is the perfect time to start planning what sweets you will use to fill your Easter baskets or what decadent dessert will finish your Passover dinner.

Modjeska Egg by Dundee Candy Shop(Dundee Candy Shop Modjeska Egg, Photo: Tracey Eckersley)

I never gave much thought to Easter chocolate until I moved to Louisville but the holiday is widely celebrated here and the local chocolate shops go all out with exotically-flavoured cream eggs and chocolate molded into bunnies, chicks, and lambs. My favourite treat is a Modjeska egg, a variation of local confection made from gooey marshmallow and rich caramel with an added dark chocolate shell to form the egg shape.

Chocolate bunny by SOMA Chocolatemaker(Photo: SOMA Chocolatemaker via Facebook)

If I was in Toronto, I would be heading straight to SOMA for a few of their adorable bunnies made with luscious artisanal chocolate. But what can you do if your town doesn’t have such wonderful shops? Why not make your own?

Marbeled Egg featured on BBC Good Food(Photo: BBC Good Food)

The chocolate eggs featured on BBC Good Food look like they came from an expensive boutique but they really are simple to make; you only need good-quality chocolate and some egg-shaped molds, which you can purchase at craft or baking supply stores. These would also look great with white chocolate coloured with different pastel shades.

Bright Rainbow Jelly Egg(Photo: Choose to Thrive)

If you are looking to brighten up your Easter table, you might want to try these rainbow jelly eggs. Choose to Thrive provides a step-by-step tutorial to achieve this effect using a Jello Jigglers egg mold (available from the Kraft Corner Store).

Bunny cupcake toppers by Sweet Sugar Belle(Photo: Sweet Sugar Belle)

As if Easter doesn’t bring enough of a sugar-high, Sweet Sugar Belle has created a cute bunny treat that combines cupcakes AND cookies. Yum!

Candy Centerpiece by 24/7 Moms(Photo: 24/7 Moms)

If you can restrain yourself from eating it all, use extra candy to create a playful centerpiece for your holiday dinner table. But make sure to use two vases, as per the instructions on 24/7 Moms, or you will have a sticky mess on your hands as the candy dissolves in the flowers’ water.

Flourless Chocolate Cake perfect for Passover(Photo: The Cooking Channel)

Passover is a holiday that brings family and friends to the table for the Seder meal. Of course you want to serve a spectacular dessert but the Pesach restrictions on ingredients such as flour and yeast-based leavening agents can be a challenge for home cooks. Fortunately, the days of rock-hard sponge cakes and overly sweet macaroons are over and dozens of tasty recipes are available on the Internet.  The Cooking Channel’s take on the traditional flourless chocolate cake is as beautiful as it is delicious and is completely dairy-free for those who keep their meal strictly kosher.

Pates de Fruits by Serious Eats(Photo: Serious Eats)

For a lighter treat, Serious Eats has created a variation of the French pâte de fruits with Manischewitz wine and seedless jam. While you will need to find kosher gelatin, available in many grocery stores this time of year, this recipe does not require a lot of preparation and will allow you to concentrate on other parts of your meal. For more great ideas, check out Smitten Kitchen’s 20 Flourless Dessert Ideas but check with your guests about any ingredients they might be avoiding on Passover, as some of the recipes contain peanuts, which are legumes, and dairy.

One of Smitten Kitchen's  Flourless Desserts(Photo: Smitten Kitchen)

No matter which holiday you celebrate, I hope that you get to spend some quality time with your family and friends and are able to share some of these sweet treats with them!


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