Friday, February 24, 2012

Easy Recipes for Entertaining

My boys turn two next month, so I am in major party planning mode.  I said I wasn't going to do a big party this year, but I love party planning so of course things have snowballed out of control!  It reminded me that I never posted the pictures/recipes from the bridal shower my sister and I hosted for our youngest sister.  It was this past July, on one of the hottest days of the summer (over 100 degrees), but fortunately the party was indoors.  We kept the food very light and simple, because of the heat, and also because we each have two young boys at home and not a lot of extra time for cooking.  We did almost everything ourselves and had a great time hosting the shower.

We did a few appetizers, like cheese and crackers and some dips to start with:

And then we had a light lunch:  croissant sandwiches, mini quiches, raspberry spinach salad, Greek orzo pasta salad, grilled vegetables (now those were a labor of love--  slaving over a grill in 100 degree weather! --we should have just roasted them in the oven!), Caprese skewers, and fruit skewers.

We used The Secret Chef recipe for the mini quiches and just baked them in muffin tins.  We did half using the crab quiche recipe, and half broccoli and cheese.  These are very easy and you can make them a day or two ahead and just heat them up for the party, or you can make the batter ahead and freeze it, and then just thaw and bake the day of the party.

I used this recipe for the Greek orzo salad.  I only made a few changes.  First, I used cherry tomatoes instead of chopping up regular tomatoes.  It saves time, and I was making it a day ahead and I feel the cherry tomatoes last better in salads (and they look prettier too)! Next, I substituted Kalamata olives for the canned black olives- so much better!  And finally, since the reviews said the recipe as written tasted a little bland, I used prepared Greek salad dressing instead of the marinade from the artichoke hearts.  You could also use a homemade Greek dressing, but I had to take a few shortcuts in order to be able to pull this off!

My sister made the raspberry spinach salad, and I don't have the exact recipe, but wasn't it pretty?

The reasoning behind doing the Caprese skewers and the fruit skewers is that they are easy for people to pick up and serve, and also that I have over FOUR THOUSAND skewers leftover from The Secret Chef to use up!  The Caprese skewers are so simple to make.  We bought marinated mozzarella balls from Costco (I LOVE Costco!) and just threaded them onto the skewers with a basil leaf and a grape (or cherry) tomato.  We filled the center of the plate with extra tomatoes, and drizzled a little of the leftover marinade over the top.  Done!

The fruit skewers are almost as easy.  You just have to use a melon baller to shape the different fruit into balls and thread onto the skewers.  We used honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

We also did a dessert table.  My sister made the cupcakes, and then we had several different people bringing different desserts, including the cake (which was on a separate table).  My inner control freak was stressing out over this, but it worked out. I was in charge of the decorations for the table.  I ordered the paper flower pompoms from etsy but you can make them yourself.  (You can google "Martha Stewart paper pompoms" and probably get a tutorial fairly easily).

We also had fun decorating the outdoor space, although it was so hot, no one really went outside.  We borrowed this beautiful handmade pennant banner from my sister's sister in law:

And we hung more of the paper pompoms from the umbrellas outside:

 Overall we had fun planning the shower and I hope our youngest sister had a good time.  Hopefully some of these recipes and ideas help you in planning your future parties!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Playdough Fun

Today I watched our neighbors' eighteen month old daughter, so I had three children under two all day.  It wasn't as scary as it sounds!  She was an angel, and it was so nice to have a little girl in the house.  I have seen a ton of homemade playdough recipes on pinterest lately and thought it would be fun to make playdough this afternoon with the kids.  Rather than try a new recipe, I decided to go with my mom's homemade playdough recipe.  She's a preschool teacher and has been making it for years.  It came out great and we had a ton of fun!  Only one of the three kids tried to eat it (my Benjamin, who is the least likely to try any new "real" foods....  go figure!).  He said it was "MMMMmmmm yummy!"  Even though it technically IS edible, it is not meant to be eaten.  My husband came home tonight and decided he needed to try it too (I wonder where Benjamin gets it from?) and he said it was definitely not yummy!  If you have kids at home, this is a great recipe to make on a rainy or cold day when you are looking for something to do.  It's really easy and lots of fun.

Miss Kathy's Homemade Playdough
3 cups flour
1 cup salt
3 Tbs. oil
3 packages (4 oz each) Kool Aid
food coloring (optional- you can add a few drops for a more intense color)
3 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick (like mashed potatoes).  Cool on paper towels.  Knead lightly.  Store in airtight container.

I was worried I was going to burn it, so I ended up taking it out of the pan too early.  When I started kneading it, it was too sticky.  I called my mom and she said to microwave it at 30 second intervals until it was easier to work with.  (Moms are so smart, aren't they?)  It worked! 

My little helpers mixing up the flour and salt:

Having fun with cookie cutters!

I just love their chubby little hands!

Now I need to make some Blue and Yellow playdough!