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Archive for September, 2010

The other day I hosted a party which gave me the opportunity to put together a buffet table. Using a fall theme, I knew I wanted to keep it simple, but still have fun with it.

The three elements to setting a successful buffet table are height, color and texture. Remember those three things and you can’t go wrong.

When you are setting a buffet, start with a table covering. It can be anything you want to use. Feel free to get creative and think outside the box. I like to use flat sheets because they are inexpensive, drape well, are easy-care and come in a variety of color and sizes. Go with a neutral base. For this buffet I chose black as my neutral. Add some height elements, remembering to keep your centerpiece on one end of the table to create visual interest. I just used some cardboard boxes to create height then covered them with another black cloth. Over the top of that I layered a fun pumpkin print fabric to add more color and texture.

The centerpiece was the next item to go on the table. Using fall florals from my yard, it came together nicely. Except for the lack of something green and fern-like. (Side note: carrot tops look green and fern-like if you don’t have anything else handy and they stand up much better than I thought they would!).

Plan where each dish will sit on the table. I like to make little party cards that say what  is in each dish and then place them on the table beforehand. That way once it is time to put out the food, I know exactly where it goes. I have also been known to set out the serving pieces before I put the food in them so I can see how the table will look.

Once you dish up the food and put it on the table, it will really start to pull the look together. The combination of height, color and texture found in your table coverings, serving pieces and food will impress your guests and look fantastic!

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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I was standing in the baking aisle at the grocery store the other day trying to decide what to make for an upcoming party when my eye landed on these.

I think I heard music playing and someone shout “Yahoo!” (that may have been me). Caramel bits. What a concept. Little bits of delicious caramel ready to turn into something amazing. The part that I really loved is the line that says “Unwrapped for Easy Melting.” Right on! Call me lazy and a slug, but I hate wasting time and precious brain cells unwrapping caramels. So I generally just don’t make anything with caramel for that very reason.

The file of recipes stored in my head immediately went to a recipe I have for toffee bars. They are moist and delicious and completely bad for you. What would happen if I threw in some of these caramel bits? I had to find out!

So I brought them home and whipped up a batch of caramel toffee bars. I almost fainted when I took a bite out of one warm from the oven. They are sooooo good. No really, in the top 10 of bar cookies I’ve ever tasted (and believe me, there has been a lot of cookie tasting!).

The cast of characters for Caramel Toffee Bars, minus the coc0nut I forgot to put in the photo.

You start with a simple crust pressed into a baking pan.

While the crust is baking, melt the caramels with a bit of cream.

Pour the melted caramel over the top of the crust.

Top the caramel layer with the filling layer and return pan to oven. Try to keep from melting in a puddle while this bakes. When you take it out of the oven, it will be all golden brown and smelling incredible. Sprinkle with Heath Toffee Bits, which will start to melt into the top.

Take a deep breath, take a bite - and then melt in a puddle before eating the rest of the bar.

Caramel Toffee Bars

Crust:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup flour

Cream together and press in bottom of baking pan. I used an 11 x 7  inch pan but you could also use an 8 x 8 inch pan for a thicker bar or an 9 x 13 inch pan for a thinner bar. Bake 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Caramel Filling:

bag of caramel bits (11 ounce bag)

1/3 cup of heavy cream

Put caramels and cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring until caramels are melted. If you aren’t a lazy slug like me, you could use regular caramels. You’ll need about 2 cups. When melted, pour over the top of the cooked crust.

Topping:

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 cup coconut

1/2 tsp. salt

1 package of Heath Bits ‘o Brickle Toffee Bits

Mix ingredients together and pour over the caramel on top of the crust. Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

When done, remove from the oven and top with Heath Toffee Bits. If you want to turn this dessert from something incredible that will make your taste buds scream “Thank you!” for days into something even more wicked…. try drizzling a bit of melted chocolate on top. You may need someone nearby to help you off the floor after you take a bite. Melt about 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 2 tbsp. of heavy cream in the microwave. Just use a spoon or a knife to drizzle over the bars.

Happy Entertaining and Enjoy!

Shanna

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Today is just one of those days when time is getting away from me. I have a houseful of company coming tonight and must stick to my timeline to get everything pulled together in time.

Here is a link to a post about Timelines I did a while back about how entertaining following a timeline makes everything go so much smoother and easier.

Happy Entertaining!

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As I sit here writing this today I’m wearing pink for the third day in a row. Not that it would be completely unheard of for me to do that because I do like pink, but we have been asked to wear pink at work this week to go along with a promotion we are holding to support a local organization that provides support to breast cancer patients.

Most of us can easily think of one or two people we know who have battled breast cancer or been affected by it.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. I encourage you to coordinate or participate an event that helps bring awareness to others and raises funds for patients or research. Every little bit helps.

Here are links to a few great website resources:

National Breast Cancer Organization

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

American Cancer Society

Wear Pink, get involved, help save lives. You’ll be glad you did.

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With the official first day of fall just days away, think about things you can do to bring fall into your home.

A great place to start is by going outdoors. What fall leaves, branches or natural items – like grasses, pinecones or nuts – can you bring indoors for an inexpensive accent to your decor?

Use neutral tones highlighted with fall colors focusing on the vivid jewel tones of autumn like rich reds, warm golds, brilliant oranges, deep greens and pops of purple. The buzz for fall is all about gray being the new beige. Think about ways to incorporate it into your decor.

Create a fall welcome at your front door by placing pumpkins on steps, a twiggy wreath around an exterior light or baskets of bright fall flowers like mums.

Use fall scents like pumpkin, cinnamon and apple throughout your home. Whatever scent you choose, make sure you stick with it consistently so you don’t have scents overpowering each other. No one wants to walk into a scent war-zone!

Fill bowls with nuts or pinecones for a fast fall accent. Place large leaves between a serving tray and a piece of glass. You can use this as a centerpiece, serve warm mugs of cider on it and leave it on the coffee table as a conversation piece.

Keep your focus on warmth. Warm colors and cozy fabrics create a fantastic sense of welcome.

When entertaining guests, serve food choices that bring fall to mind like pumpkin, apple, cinnamon.

And, as always, remember to sit down and enjoy your guests. That’s what it is all about!

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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Word of the Week: Heirloom

heir·loom

{air-loom}

adjective

being an old variety that is being cultivated again

Heirloom Carrots

Way back in the spring when the gardening bug was nipping away at me, I decided to plant carrots. The only problem was that I couldn’t find any carrot seed. Crazy, I know, but true.

So Hubby came home one day with a packet of heirloom carrot seed. I didn’t think anything about the seed being “heirloom” and quickly planted them. It wasn’t until I pulled up a purple carrot and stood looking at it a bit confused that I finally remembered we’d planted heirloom carrot seed.

It has turned into somewhat of an adventure. When you pull up a carrot, you never know what color you are going to get. It could be traditional orange, glowing white, brilliant yellow or purple.

A plate of shredded funky-colored heirloom carrots.

The other day when I decided to make Hubby his favorite carrot cake, I had a plate full of  oddly colored carrot shreds and wondered what they’d look like in the cake batter. Turns out, you can’t even tell. But I will tell you, it was an excellent cake. The carrots were so fresh and soft and rich it made a huge difference in the texture of the cake.

I would encourage you to try planting a few heirloom seeds next spring and see how much fun (and how tasty) it can be!

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The other day Hubby and I actually had a small window of time to have breakfast together. Wanting something filling and fast, I decided to whip up a skillet of eggs and sausages. We happened to have several leftover brats from a barbecue the evening before, which worked perfectly.

Ingredients for Eggs and Sausages. Please ignore the fact this package of brats is frozen.

You will want to use pre-cooked sausages. You can use whatever kind of sausage you like, we just happened to have brats on hand. I use a two egg and one sausage per person ratio. Except with Hubby, then it is more like two sausages and one egg. Oh, my.

Thinly slice the sausages and toss in a skillet over medium heat with a heaping spoon of butter. Let them get hot and then add your eggs. Stir around until eggs are set and serve.

Enjoy!

Happy Entertaining!

Shanna

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