Tuesday, March 18, 2014

WELCOME to SPRING: Front Door Flower Basket and Chocolate Bunny

Today I worked on a BEAUTIFUL welcome for the front door... It adds instant charm and character to even the rainiest spring days.  Today however, was sunny...and the perfect day to transition towards Easter...and sunnier warmer weather.

I used a door basket with chicken wire, green moss yellow forsythia branches (those forsythia are so spring-y to me)  Contrasted with purple and pink ranunculus, hydrangeas and white hyacinths...I think it's a very bright and welcoming look.


For the ribbon I love using two contrasting textures.  For this piece I used wired burlap ribbon, and lilac crafting ribbon....those colors played off the basket and the flowers nicely.
I set out the darling chocolate bunnies at the front door... (the bunnies were only for the photos today... maybe April 1st I might really set them out)  The bunnies are blow molds from the 1980's.  I found mine on EBay last year. 
Spring starts this week...and I for one, could not be more excited.  This has truly been a long, cold winter.  It's great to finally get outside and enjoy the sunshine.  I have spring fever...and this spring we are not traveling for Spring Break...we are instead, basking in the glow of some major home improvements we had done a few weeks ago.  Just as well... I will not miss out on one daffodil bloom or cherry tree blossom in my own backyard...
Thanks for stopping by to look at my front door.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

EASY AS PIE: Lemon Meringue Photo Tutorial


This is a really great lemon meringue pie and  absolutely worth making. Sometimes when I see a long wordy recipe, it can feel like a science experiment just waiting to go wrong.  That is why I made this handy dandy photo tutorial. There is a big recipe below...followed by lots of helpful step-by-step photos.

Here is a printable version of the recipe for you:
We are going to make this BEAUTY with the pile of lemons just below... we really are!
When life gives you lemons...
make a lemon meringue pie! 


Lemon Meringue Pie:

Serves 8 to 10

Recipe by: BlueRibbonKitchen.blogspt.com
Pie Dough- (For one pie crust)
1 ½  cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
½  tsp salt
¼  cup chilled Crisco, cut into ½ inch bits
½  stick of chilled butter cut into small bits
¼ cup chilled vodka and water in equal parts



Combine all dry ingredients is a food processor, pulse 5 seconds. Add chilled butter and Crisco while processor is running, until combined (30 seconds).  Slowly pour in the water/vodka mix until dough forms a moist ball.  All the liquid may not be needed.  Remove dough, wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, or up to 3 days.
Filling Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (fine)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Meringue Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions
1.   Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and use to line a 9-inch pie plate. Crimp the edges decoratively. Chill until firm. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork, line with parchment paper. Weight the shell with pie weights or dried beans, and bake until the edges begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights; continue baking until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes more. Let cool.
2.   To make filling, combine cornstarch, cake flour, salt, and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan.  Add 1 ¾ cups cold water. On medium heat bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. 
3.   Remove the pan from heat. Temper egg yolks by beating a small amount of hot mixture into the yolks before adding them to pan.  Add tempered egg yolks to the saucepan and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, whisking constantly.  Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes more, be sure not to overcook the lemon/egg mixture.
4.   Remove from the heat.   Add the butter one piece at a time, whisk each piece until incorporated.   Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and let cool for 30 minutes.
5.   Pour the warm filling into the cooled shell and refrigerate, cover with plastic wrap until firm, about 1 hour.
6.   For the Meringue, heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a saucepan combine sugar and water, bring to a rolling boil.  Boil for 4 minutes and remove sugar syrup from heat. Combine egg whites beat until frothy (about 1 minute) then add the cream of tartar, pinch of salt and vanilla.  Beat with electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Carefully, pour hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg white mixture while beating egg whites on low.  Once sugar syrup in incorporated, continue to beat egg whites on medium high for 5-8 minutes while the egg whites cool and become shiny and glossy. 
7.   Cover pie to the edges with the meringue, being sure to seal the edges with the meringue.  Using the back of a spoon, create whimsical peaks all over meringue.
8.    Bake pie on middle rack of oven until meringue peaks are light brown, about 4-6 minutes, watching constantly. Allow pie to cool completely before cutting.  Serve at room temperature.
CRUST
The crust is a blind baked, cooled crust.  A pre-made crust or a store-bought crust is fine to use.  
For a step-by-step crust lesson, visit my post click here: Perfect Pie Crust 101.  For this tutorial, I made my crust in advance.  This tutorial begins with the filling of the pie.

FILLING
1.  Juice lemons, 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice is needed
2. Use 5 fresh eggs
3.  Separate the yolks and the whites.  Be sure there is no yolk in the whites, it will not make fabulous meringue later on if there are yolks in them.
4.  Strain the seeds and pulp from the lemon juice.  Set juice aside.
5.  Zest the lemons... you can do the zesting before cutting and juicing the lemons in step one...just as long as you get some zest...TIP: I LOVE to use my Microplane grater--it is the PERFECT tool for getting fine shreds of citrus zest.
6.  Add cornstarch, cake flour and salt to a non-reactive pan...
a stainless steel is a great choice of pan for this pie making event.
7.  Add sugar to the pan too.
8.  Add your water, 1 3/4 Cup.
9.  Whisk until combined.
10.  Heat on medium until thickened.  Whisk the entire time... if you stop whisking it will stick and quickly burn...gently whisk and turn down the heat if it gets too thick, too quickly.
Once thickened...
11.  Temper the eggs.  Off of the heat, add a few tablespoons of the hot thickened cornstarch/sugar mixture into the eggs...warm thee eggs up by stirring this into them, then...
12. Add the warmed up "tempered" eggs to the pan of HOT thickened cornstarch/sugar.  (tempering prevents the eggs from being scrambled and lumpy)
13.  Combine...whisk... whisk... return pot to the heat.
14.  Cook until mixture is bubbly. 
15.  Add lemon juice and zest...whisk
16.  Let cook for two minutes more after adding the juice and zest.  It will be thick and bubbly...keep whisking.
17.  Remove from heat and add butter, stir until smooth.
18.  Pie Crust...ready and cooled.
19.  Pour lemon filling into pie crust.
20.  Smooth filling...an offset spatula works great for this.
21. Chill the pie.  I let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before refrigerating it...

MERINGUE 
If you have a stand mixer, it makes quick work of the meringue.  I sometimes make meringue with a hand mixer... Using a hand mixer just requires a little more time and special care when handling the hot sugar syrup.  TIP: If using a hand held mixer, be sure to also use a metal mixing bowl to whip up the egg whites, as we will be pouring very hot liquid into the mixing bowl shortly. 
Use the whisk attachment.

22. Add water and sugar to a pan, heat on medium high.
23. Over at the mixer...add egg whites to the metal mixing bowl.
24. and 25. Whisk the egg whites on low, increasing the speed once the vanilla and cream of tarter are added.
Look...It's thickening up.
Meanwhile, at the stove the sugar and water are creating a simple syrup.
 Once the all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is bubbling vigorously it will be EXTREMELY HOT.  Use caution.   The Simple syrup is now ready to be SLOWLY poured down the side of the bowl with the mixer on LOW.
26.  As the syrup is on the stove top bubbling and heating up, continue to beat the egg whites until foamy soft peaks form like in the photo above.  If  the egg whites reach soft peaks before the sugar syrup is ready, turn off the mixer and wait on the syrup to get hot, then proceed when ready.

Both are ready now...The egg whites formed soft peaks AND the sugar Syrup is HOT

Hot sugar Syrup below.
(I have to say the photo makes it look like the mixer is whizzing at high speed...It is on LOW speed)
27. Carefully, VERY carefully, and very SLOWLY pour the hot (look it's still boiling) down the side of the mixing bowl.  The mixer MUST be on the lowest/SLOWEST speed.    
( Again, I promise it was on low speed )
28.  Once all the sugar syrup has been slowly poured into the egg whites.  Slowly begin to increase the mixer speed.  The egg whites will be cooked by the hot syrup.  CAUTION: The mixing bowl will now become EXTREMELY HOT too... after all, we just poured boiling hot syrup into a metal mixing bowl.
29.  Mix at medium-medium high speed for 6-8 minutes until meringue is glossy, shiny and billowy...and cooled.
Stiff peaks, We are ready to apply meringue to the pie now!
30.  Spoon on the gorgeous meringue.
Simply lovely!
31.  Using the back of a spoon, make decorative peaks on top of pie.

 
33.  Spread the meringue all the way to the edges of the entire crust.  Sealing the edges will keep the meringue from shrinking when it goes in the oven to brown.
 34. Place the pie in a pre-heated 400 degree oven. 

 Ohhh...We made it!  Now it needs to chill...trust me...it is WAY better chilled. 
 
35. Enjoy!


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Saturday, March 15, 2014

EASTER BUNNY MENU & PLACE CARDS

This makes me so happy...the promise of warmer days ahead...
These beauties are from today in our front yard.  There were plenty of bees buzzing about; they too, are a very welcome sight!

Another something that makes me very happy...planning my Easter menu!!  I like to know ahead of time what is on the menu. That way, I can begin picking up items a little at a time leading up to the big day.  It makes me a much more relaxed hostess and keeps the budget under control.
I like to do menu cards for the table.  It's a nice way to share the days' fare with guests. 
Smaller versions of the menu are great to place by new or unfamiliar foods on the buffet...  Sometimes a heads up that a spread is "bleu cheese"  or "crab stuffed...whatever" is a wonderful help to your guests who may choose a different option. 
Smaller bunnies can used as place cards too, just add the name.
Making the menus ahead of the holiday always helps me get focused.  When I have too many great foods to fit neatly on my menu card, it's a pretty good signal I should scale back...I can get a little over zealous in the food department...not to mention the dessert table.
 
These rabbit silhouettes I used are from the fabulous Matthew Mead in 2012.  A printable template is or (once was) available on the site.  Here is the link to Matthew Mead...please visit his site for just unbelievable creativity...a truly gifted individual and team. 
The Bunny Template
Below, I have the bunny template I used from 2012...this will get the job done if you plan to use this bunny silhouette.  This is 100% not my artwork or my design, it's all Matthew Mead--giving credit where it's due.  The free printable template was available for a very long time on the Pinterest link and the website.  If you can find the template on the website and know how to access it, please let me know and I will update this post. 
Until then... Happy menu planning!
Templates:
 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

SO SIMPLE! SPINACH DIP

I love to snack...and if I could pick my all-time, most favorite thing to snack on, it would have to be "chips and dip"  I'm not too picky when it comes to what kind of chips and which kind of dip--I'm an equal opportunity snacker!  This is a dip that my kids happily eat--and yes, there is a vegetable in it!
This is a fantastic "good enough for company" dip that can easily be made with what I usually have on hand anyway. Spinach, mayo and garlic--So Simple!!  Sometimes simple ingredients really reap the best outcome--and in the case of this dip --that is more true than ever.  This dip goes especially well with tortilla chips or fresh vegetables...

It comes together in just minutes. Literally--just minutes.

INGREDIENTS:
Fresh baby spinach (enough to fill your food processor)  2-3 Cups,
1/2 cup real mayo
1 clove of garlic peeled
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
In a food processor, add spinach, garlic clove.  Chop well.  Add mayo.  Blend.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

* Substitute plain Greek yogurt for the mayo for a more healthful option.
*Can be made ahead, the flavors get stronger...and it is still excellent.

ENJOY...maybe buy some gum...the garlic in this dip is delicious!!

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Wow Us Wednesday at Southern Savvy Style

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

EASTER KIDS TABLE

kids table (n):  A place where children briefly gather separate from the adults of the family for the purposes of eating holiday meals. Participants usually sit next to out-of-town cousins, share funny elementary school jokes, laughter is guaranteed.  The children use their very best manners reserved for special guests, dignitaries, principals and grandparents. This all takes place while trying to eat just enough "green stuff" to be excused, in hopes of returning to holiday festivities.
Love 'em or hate 'em, we usually have a kids table for our big family holiday gatherings.  Our dining room just isn't spacious enough to accommodate everyone...I wish it was ...and a girl can dream about future renovations...but until that day...A kids table is in the mix.
Our kids are little for such a short amount of time... As long as we are having a celebration, the celebration extends to the kids table as well.  I try to make it as whimsical and magical as possible.
A big fan of bunny ears... or whatever over-the top head gear I can find that they still lovingly wear without embarrassment... so cute!

Some of my favorite favors for the Easter pails are: mini hand sanitizers, sunglasses, chirping chicks, wind up hopping bunnies, jelly beans, new crayons, little bug boxes with magnifying glasses, butterfly nets, lip gloss, Lego mystery mini figures.

I love those little metal pails.  I can find them at Target or the local dollar stores ...it's a great way to add a few favors in a clever take home container.
I try to make mini-sized, kid friendly options for part of the meal... no one wants to eat too much of the "green stuff" especially on a holiday.

The Jell-O desserts were so easy...Choose rainbow Jell-O colors of your choice, I used red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Make Jell-O according to package instructions one color at a time.  Spoon in the first color (I found that I only needed a few spoons of each color in these small dessert glasses)  Let chill.  When first layer is set up, repeat process with the next color.  Finish with mini marshmallows.  It was a HUGE hit...the kids were beyond excited...and it was Jell-O...how easy.  * This would make a great St. Patrick's Day dessert too!!
 Even the "big kids" like to eat their dessert on a bunny cupcake plate!

Check out these adorable springtime DIY Easter projects that make the holiday extra special in these recent blog posts: