welcome

Come along with me as I journal about my latest cooking and gardening adventures. Discover what grows in my zone five garden, and see what new recipes I try from my cookbook collection each week.



As I share recipes and information from my kitchen, I invite readers to comment and share ideas along with me in this blog. I am looking to increase followers to my blog, so that I may learn more about cooking and gardening.



Since moving to Midland, Michigan, I have been reading and researching many cooking journals, cookbooks and collected recipes from the past thirty years. Organizing pictures of gardens I enjoy has also been a joy for me, as I continue to learn about garden design and horticulture.

angel food cakes

angel food cakes
this kitchen is seasoned with love

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

fresh fruit platter

since i have been thinking about super bowl sunday this week, i don't want to leave out a great healthy choice for any football party table.  having a nice tray of fresh fruit is always welcome alongside many of the other higher calorie appetizers.

even though super bowl is a special event when everyone seems to enjoy a few extra calories, it is nice to have fresh orange and pear slices, a few grapes, a sliced banana and even some berries to complement the other selections on the table.

don't be afraid to offer fresh fruit for any meal or gathering.  most often guests choose the fruit tray first and appreciate the healthy selection on the buffet table.

crunchy mozzarella sticks

i recently found this recipe online and just had to try this concept, based on the fact that most homemade mozzarella sticks are just not as tasty as restaurant quality.  although this is not a low fat recipe, i was able to change a few ingredients to reduce the overall calorie count.

these mozzarella sticks are made with won ton wrappers instead of a breading that is deep fried.  the won ton wrappers are just perfect and really serve as a nice crispy crust around the melting cheese.  the recipe from taste of home calls for egg roll wrappers, but i decreased the size and find that the won ton wrappers work well and are less calories.

using low fat mozzarella string cheese, slice each tube in half.  using one won ton wrapper per half, place the cheese at the bottom corner of the wrapper.  fold in the same manner as for egg rolls, using a small amount of water on the fingers to seal the edges.  repeat with each wrapper.

in an electric skillet, with a very small amount of canola oil, heated to 375 degrees, brown the sticks.  one minute on each side will heat and brown the sticks.  melted cheese will start to ooze from the sticks in a very short time, so these need to be watched.  serve with salsa, marinara sauce or a favorite pasta sauce.

i served these on a pretty platter, on a bed of shredded lettuce, sprinkled with parsley. these are perfect for your super bowl guests.

Bang Bang Shrimp

one of the best appetizers i have tried in past years happens to be the bang bang shrimp served at the bonefish grill restaurants. they have more than 150 locations throughout the country. we first tried this restaurant when visiting our son in greenville south carolina.  this shrimp recipe comes very close to the taste of the shrimp served at bonefish, as well as the Thai chili sauce served alongside the appetizer.

i made the copy cat recipe a couple of weeks ago and served it as a main course, since the shrimp is just that good to feature for an entree.  the whole preparation time is about 35 minutes, so it is a quick cook recipe for certain.

to begin, make the sauce first.  mix 1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon Asian chili sauce, 2 teaspoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon water.  stir together and chill.

this brand of sweet chili sauce is exceptional and i use this sauce in many Asian dishes with great results.

next, prepare the shrimp. select large (26-30 count) peeled and cleaned shrimp. assemble the following ingredients:
a small amount of canola oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
shredded romaine lettuce
fresh chopped chives or thinly sliced scallions

whisk eggs in a shallow bowl.  in a second bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper.
heat oil in a heavy pot, wok, or electric skillet.  i use an electric skillet for this recipe.  bring temperature to 350 degrees.

dredge the shrimp in the flour mixture, then the egg, then return to the flour mixture again.  brown the shrimp in the oil about 1-2 minutes on each side. the shrimp will firm up and curl into a tight C when they are cooked.

serve on the bed of shredded lettuce with the dipping sauce.  top the shrimp with the shredded chives or scallions.

this is a wonderful appetizer or shrimp entree.  using very little oil and this light batter, the taste of fried shrimp has never been this good or light in calories.



Monday, January 23, 2012

hyannis port crab cakes


another wonderful cookbook in my collection happens to be "in the Kennedy kitchen" by Neil Connolly.  this cookbook has many delicious recipes that i have sampled over the years, which have both a terrific taste and lovely presentation.

the hyannis port crab cakes can be made with shrimp, lobster or crab.  so, if you don't care for one of these, try the recipe with another fish selection.  the recipe is perfect and will make a perfect fish cake every time.

start with 12 ounces of jumbo lump meat, chopped into nice sized pieces.  in a bowl, mix 2 eggs, with 2 tablespoons minced shallots, 2 tablespoons minced chives, 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.


add 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs.  stir to blend very well.  fold in fish lumps very gently. divide into 8 balls, rolling to form even portions. a small amount of flour may be needed to roll the balls to prevent sticking.  in an electric skillet, over medium heat, place a small amount of canola oil to warm. add cakes and press down to flatten with a spatula.  heat about 4 minutes per side to brown.  serve hot. 

these are a terrific luncheon or dinner entree or can be made into smaller cakes for appetizers.  serve with sliced lemons, on a bed of shredded romaine, and with chopped green onion, chives or parsley.






creamy spinach and artichoke spread

over the years, i have sampled a variety of recipes for spinach dips and spreads.  today, i am sharing my favorite spread which is both creamy and delicious.  this recipe comes from the deen brother's cookbook and happens to be quite tasty.

preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  prepare a ceramic baking dish with spray canola oil.  in a medium bowl, place 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, which as been thawed and thoroughly drained of all excess water.  next, add 1 can of artichoke hearts, which have been thoroughly drained and chopped into small segments.
then, add 6 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream (or adjust these to taste) and one to two teaspoons of Tabasco jalapeno sauce.  if preferred, use a hot pepper sauce to taste.

we prefer a milder taste and use the green bottle of Tabasco sauce.  add chopped garlic as desired, salt and freshly ground pepper.  mix the ingredients well and place into the ceramic baking dish.  bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the edges of the spread are lightly browned as shown above.

serve with flat bread, an assortment of crackers, pita crisps, or celery sticks. the cookbook uses a larger quantity of spinach and artichokes, so the recipe can be made larger for game day crowds.  this recipe works, so don't be afraid to adjust to make into a larger casserole presentation.

bacon wrapped water chestnuts

another great game day appetizer has to be the all time favorite baked water chestnut.  there are many recipes for this great snack, but i found one that seems to work nicely for me every time.  it comes from the kappa alumnae association from grosse pointe michigan.  this recipe takes about 2 hours total in preparation and baking time, so it is not a quick appetizer. however; it is worth the wait.

using one package of high quality bacon, cut the strips into thirds.  wrap two cans of drained whole water chestnuts and secure each with a toothpick.  place on a foil lined baking sheet in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, based on your oven temperature. the foil is key, as it contributes to a very easy clean up after the game is over.

next, mix 1/3 cup ketchup with 1/2 cup brown sugar.  remove the appetizer from the oven, dip in the sauce mixture, and return to the oven to complete the baking process.  DECREASE the oven temperature to 300 degrees and continue to bake for 40 minutes or until the appetizer looks browned.

serve on a bed of romaine lettuce and watch these tasty treats disappear.  this is a hot appetizer served straight from the oven, so it cannot be made in advance.  these are always a favorite for game day.


feta with herbs and crisps

super bowl is two weeks away, and the need to have a variety of appetizers ready for guests is upon us.  earlier in the blog history, i posted about this feta appetizer under herbal feta appetizer.

however, this offering can be made in a variety of ways to change up the taste sensation.  in the herbal feta appetizer post, i used a whole cube of feta, and sliced the feta into smaller cubes, seasoned the feta, and served.

for this appetizer, i used crumbed feta with a different selection of herbs to taste.  a very small amount of olive oil or grapeseed oil is needed to mix with the feta for the presentation.  herbs to consider for the feta appetizer include:  basil, parsley, dill, chervil, chives, tarragon, minced green and red pepper, salt and pepper blends. i use dried herbs for this recipe.

don't be afraid to experiment.  this is an easy recipe that really can't go wrong.  match your taste of favorite herbs to the recipe and enjoy with pita crisps or tortilla crisps as shown in this photo. 

to make the tortilla crisps, simply wedge slice tortilla shells (i use low fat tortillas), and place on a sheet pan with spray olive oil to lightly cover.  season with garlic and herb seasoning, or your favorite spices.  perhaps, parsley flakes only for the first attempt.  next, bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, checking during the baking time for browning.

these tortilla crisps are much less fat and calories, since they don't have any salt and are not fried.  they are crispy even with just a light spray of olive oil.

sesame asparagus

since asparagus happens to be one of my very favorite vegetables, i try to serve this side dish in a variety of ways.

this recipe comes from martha's everyday food magazine from a number of years ago, but happens to be one of the best ways to present asparagus to family and friends.

preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  trim asparagus ends, and cut asparagus into 2 inch lengths.  place asparagus into a ceramic baking dish as shown, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.  season with coarse salt.

roast the asparagus about 10 minutes, turning the tips halfway through the baking time.  add sesame seeds and continue to roast until the asparagus looks lightly browned in spots and tender for eating.  this cooking time may be 5 minutes more.

sesame asparagus is delicious and can be served with any entree, including pasta dishes.  a beautiful presentation for your guests, since knives will not be needed with these bite-sized portions.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

a thank you to my blog followers

dear blog followers,
i want you to know how much i appreciate you following my blog, especially those of you who email me when you have enjoyed a recipe.  many of you have told me that you have tried something totally new and have enjoyed reading and following my adventures in cooking.

my blog has been available on mobile devices, but has been newly formatted for the iPhone touch screen.  if you have an iPhone, i encourage you to check it out, as it will load very quickly and provide a nice abbreviated post of the recipes. 

also, my blog has been adapted for the ipad, and has another totally different look which may please you as well.  i encourage you to check it out and let me know by email what you think of these new templates.

if you have a kindle, you may want to have the blog loaded onto your e-reader.  amazon.com asked me about a month ago if i would like angel food garden formatted for the kindle and i agreed.  if you are interested, you can sign up for a 14 day free trial on your kindle.  here is the link for that format:

http://www.amazon.com/angel-food-garden/dp/B006HA13GW

please stay in touch with me, comment on the blog, and click the follow word at the top of the blog, to receive an email when i post to the blog.  i would love to have more official followers. i had over 600 hits last month alone.  if you enjoy a recipe, please share with your friends, post to facebook or twitter.  i have provided a variety of easy ways on the blog to share with others.  thanks again for your interest and kind emails.

karen

roasted radishes

radishes are almost always eaten raw as a crudity, or sliced in salads.  here is a wonderful recipe from a great cookbook by sara foster.  this recipe will serve four to six people.

find colorful radishes at the farmers market, like icicle, french or Easter egg colors with their tops intact.  preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  trim the tops of the radishes and wash them very well.  leave enough greens to make the dish look pretty.

use a baking dish or small sheet pan with sides.  drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  season with thyme, sea salt and ground pepper to taste.

roast the radishes until tender but still slightly crunchy.  the radishes will turn pale in color.  serve warm with chicken, meat or fish as a lovely side dish.

radishes are a great source of potassium and vitamin C and are very low in calories.
for more recipes from sara foster, i highly recommend her cookbook:  Fresh Every Day, More Great Recipes from Foster's Market.
 http://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Every-Day-Recipes-Fosters/dp/1400052858

spinach and bacon tart

if you like spinach and would love a great recipe for a spinach tart, here is one that seems to work every time. this recipe can be adjusted to a variety of tart or pie dishes.

to save on time, i use the red box pie crust in the dairy section of the market.  thaw as directed on the package, and place in the tart pan.  place about 2 cups of shredded monterey jack, cheddar or swiss cheese on top of the unbaked crust.

then add chopped and well drained frozen spinach, or as i did for this tart, wilted in the pan fresh spinach, sauteed with chopped white onions.
this recipe is very adaptable.  instead of spinach, the tart could be made with broccoli.  next, sprinkle crispy bacon or pancetta on top of the spinach in the tart pan.  then add more cheese to fill the pan, about one more cup.  a mixture of cheeses could be used to taste. 

then, mix 3-4 eggs, or egg beaters, based on the size of the tart dish, with about 1 cup of skim milk, whole milk, or half and half. pour into the tart shell, moving the contents to allow the liquid to fill the shell evenly. 

bake the tart at 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, again based on the size of the pan.  larger tarts may take up to 55 minutes to bake thoroughly. 

this recipe is wonderful and can be served with a side salad, fruit or a small muffin for lunch.  i have made this recipe with many combinations, including all colors of peppers, red onions, and even just bacon and cheese.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

fresh herb spoon rolls

here is another great recipe for an herbal dinner roll that i have saved from a magazine.  these herb rolls are great when prepared with fresh herbs, but can also be used with dried herbs during the winter months.

these rolls are wonderful warm from the oven and served with margarine. this recipe makes 2 dozen rolls, so divide in half if you only need one dozen.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  combine 1 envelope active dry yeast with 2 cups of warm water, around 110 degrees.  allow the yeast to proof in the water about 5 minutes.

stir in 4 cups of self rising flour, 3/4 cup fresh chives, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 large egg.
spoon the batter into 24 lightly greased muffin tins, filling about three quarters full.  bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.

this stir and bake batter is very quick and easy.  in 45 minutes, fresh rolls are ready to serve hot from the oven.

christmas cookies

as i looked through my Christmas photographs today, i couldn't help but notice the delicious cookie plate that i shared with my family this year.  in the blog, i have already posted recipes for the candied citrus peels, the peppermint bark, and the iced snowflake cookies.  so, thought i would share two more cookie recipes as they were both delicious as well.

the first is for flourless peanut butterscotch cookies.  this is a Martha recipe, though i took out the chocolate chips and substituted the butterscotch chips.  these were excellent tasting and wonderful texture.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  in a large bowl, mix 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 3/4 sugar, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. stir in 3/4 cup butterscotch chips. (or chocolate chips as Martha suggests)  then, mix in 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts.

using a cookie scoop, place on baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.  cool for 5 minutes and enjoy !

the second recipe is for slice and bake chocolate sugar cookies.  another one of Martha's excellent recipes that can be made with a variety of flavors.  i chose the chocolate variation for my cookie plate this year. 

with an electric mixer, beat 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature with 3/4 cup granulated sugar.  next, add 1 egg yolk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  mix 1 and 2/3 cups of flour with 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa.  incorporate into the batter. 

transfer the dough to waxed paper and roll into a log.  wrap well and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  when ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  roll the log in sugar crystals and slice into cookie rounds.  place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.

if you chill the dough overnight, the sugar will not stick unless the dough is warmed up.  this year, i used red sugar crystals.  the cookies tasted delicious.

italian dipping oil blends

one of the easiest appetizers to have on hand for drop in visitors would be Italian dipping oil seasonings. in a matter of minutes, a small amount of light olive oil can be mixed with a variety of seasonings, creating a wonderful taste for dipping crusty bread.  i have purchased a couple of different types of Italian seasonings and have used them a number of times with great success.

by choosing a nice Italian mixed blend, the work of creating just the right taste with the perfect combination of herbs and seasonings is minimized.  i often use a dipping oil plate which has a recessed area where the herbal mix is placed and then topped with the oil.

the choice of bread should be soft enough that the oil is absorbed, but sturdy enough for reliable dipping without sogginess. everyone likes to dip bread and just a few pieces makes a nice appetizer.

choose this presentation before a pasta dish or even a nice fish entree.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

easy grilled pineapple chicken

my family loves grilled chicken.  over the years i have created a whole library of ways to make tender chicken breasts in a variety of dishes.  one of my quick favorites is easy pineapple chicken.  using as many chicken breasts as desired to feed your guests, find a prepared marinade that has a depth of flavor.  i particularly like this brand as the pineapple sake gives the chicken a wonderful taste.

i allow the chicken breasts to soak up the flavor in a bowl, covered with plastic in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.  the longer the chicken is able to soak up the flavor, the better the dish will taste.
when ready to grill on the stovetop, heat the grill pan, and then, use a quick spray of canola oil to discourage sticky juices from adhering to the pan.

grill the chicken and then add the pineapple pieces, either fresh or drained from the can.  allow them to grill after the chicken has a head start on cooking.  i usually decrease the temperature of the grill pan and place a cover over the pan to allow the chicken to cook through, but not to over cook the sauce.

certainly, sliced onions or green peppers could be added to the chicken, but this recipe is quick and easy.  serve the grilled pineapple chicken over rice along with some greens for a garnish. i topped this dish with some toasted sesame seeds.  delicious !

baked camembert appetizer

an old standby appetizer has to be a small wheel of baked Camembert or baked brie.  i prefer the Camembert cheese, as it melts so beautifully and is able to be spread on a cracker very nicely.

purchase a small wheel of Camembert or brie cheese and place on a baking dish, after removing the paper covering.  the cheese is coated with a thick white covering, which i often score lightly with a knife on the top of the wheel.  i place about one tablespoon of margarine on the cheese, about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and then some sliced almonds or chopped pecans. 

the cheese is baked in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes.  based on individual oven temperatures, the cheese will soften and begin to ooze from the sides.  it may even begin to puff up on the top of the wheel.  this signals that the cheese is ready to be served hot from the oven.

serve with a selection of crackers for spreading.  i have found that this appetizer is always a party favorite, but it will begin to solidify soon, so it is not one to be made ahead of time.  baked Camembert must be served hot from the oven.
with a selection of crackers either placed around the baked Camembert or on a separate plate, the appetizer will be a party favorite.

seed shopping for the garden

one of the best things about the month of january is the terrific mail for gardeners.  in fact, this year, the seed catalogs started to arrive in december.

i have so many favorite seed catalogs which provide such a great variety of plant options.  since i have been a master gardener for five years, i have been learning a great deal about seeds and plants.

the photo in this blog story was taken last year with seeds that i purchased for the garden. some of these seeds were used for winter sowing, some were used to get an early start on plantings under grow lights, and others were directly sown into pots or the garden itself after memorial day. 

a wonderful friend already gave me some seeds for this year's garden, and i have been looking at the packages for several weeks just anticipating when it will be time to plant them.  one of the best things about shopping for seeds is that the variety is spectacular compared to what is mostly available in the local garden center.  the cost of seeds is so minimal that one package usually lasts a couple of years, making the investment very small.

here are some of my very favorite seed catalogs: http://www.reneesgarden.com/about/index.htm ,
http://www.seedsavers.org/ , http://www.territorialseed.com/ , and http://www.burpee.com/ .

any of these catalogs will provide an afternoon of reading and learning about growing seeds. i hope you plant a garden of your own this year.  it is a great reward.

Monday, January 9, 2012

penne with vodka tomato cream sauce

one of my very favorite pasta dishes is vodka penne.  i found this recipe in a catholic school cookbook that i have owned for many years.  it is one of the best recipes around.  your guests will be quite impressed with the taste and flavor of this pasta dish.

this recipe will make four large servings as shown in the photo.  this recipe could very well be served in a smaller portion along side a roasted vegetable.  i do think your guests will ask for more, as the sauce imparts such a delicious flavor.

to make the recipe, begin by melting 1 tablespoon margarine with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy saute pan over medium heat.  saute 1 small finely chopped onion until very soft.  then add one 28 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes and cook until the juice has evaporated, stirring frequently for about 25 minutes.

cook the penne during this time period as directed on the package. i used 2 cups of penne for this recipe, and drained before mixing into the sauce.
next, add 1 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup vodka, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the tomato mixture, while stirring the sauce.  the tomatoes will turn a beautiful pink color. then, increase the heat, and bring to a boil and allow the sauce to thicken.  season with fresh or dried basil which has been finely chopped, salt and pepper to taste.  add 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to finish the dish. add the penne and serve.

to increase the recipe to serve more guests, increase the penne to 3 cups for 6 or more servings.  and, increase the tomatoes to three 14.5 ounce cans. adjust the other ingredients as desired.
this pasta dish can be served with crusty bread and a side salad, or in smaller portions with steamed or roasted asparagus.

wedge salad with poppy seed dressing

i have owned this salad dressing recipe book since 2002.  it is a small paperback book that has wonderful recipes for every classic salad dressing that can be imagined from florida to washington d.c.  one of my favorites from the book is called sunrise boulevard. it is the salad dressing served at the neiman marcus restaurant at the galleria mall in florida.

it is a wonderful poppy seed dressing and i highly recommend trying to make it at home.  as with anything else, homemade salad dressings taste so much better than store bought.  and, this recipe is super simple.
i made one half of the recipe in the book, so here are the smaller quantities.  they can be doubled if desired.

mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar with a hand mixer or blender.  add one cup canola oil and continue to mix until VERY thick.  stir in 1  1/2 tablespoons of poppy seeds.  this recipe makes about 2 cups of salad dressing and will last in the refrigerator 2-3 weeks.


served over a simple wedge of iceberg lettuce, this salad dressing is simply amazing.  of course, any mix of salad greens, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, or even raisins would be delicious with this dressing.  however, i think the dressing speaks for itself. simply tasty !

Sunday, January 8, 2012

snowflake cookies

this recipe for snowflake cookies is one that i have saved for years, and was removed from a magazine.  this recipe makes perfect cut-out cookies with a delicious glaze.  these cookies will bake just as photographed every time.  depending on the size of the cookie cutter, this recipe makes around three dozen.

preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  in a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup shortening with 1 cup of sugar.  next, add 2 eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. mix and incorporate.

in another bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer.  form dough into a flat shape, about 1/2 inch thick and place on a small sheet pan.  i refrigerate the dough, covered with plastic wrap for at least one hour.

then, on a floured surface, roll dough and cut out the cookies.  this is a wonderful dough that does not stick and cuts with the cookie cutters perfectly.

place the cookies on cookie sheets.  the recipe says ungreased, but i always give a quick spray with canola oil just to be certain.  bake the cookies for about 8 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.  the cookies must cool slighty before glazing.

Almond Sugar Glaze recipe
in a large bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, with 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  beat all with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  the glaze could be tinted with food color if desired.

using a flat icing spatula, paint the cookies with the glaze while still a bit warm.  if desired, lemon, orange or cherry extract could be used in place of the almond extract.  the cookies could be made for valentine's day with a heart shaped cutter, along with cherry extract and a red tinted glaze.

new year's eve table decorations

some of my favorite table or buffet decorations are very simple.  i use silver bells in clear glass jars for both christmas and new year's eve decorations.  the silver bells make a wonderful sound that reminds me of "ringing in the new year"

i have purchased several different sizes of bells and use them on the table or around the center piece. 


this year, i used a large jar filled with silver balls and silver tinsel, and then rimmed the heavy silver tray with silver bells.  i added a silver clock to highlight the new year's midnight ball drop, and the table was complete. a white table runner with white candles keeps the design simple.

taco salad party

another fun choice for entertaining has to be taco salads made to order.  each guest is able to make their own with ingredients provided for them buffet style.  for parties where some prefer beef, others prefer grilled chicken, and still others may be vegetarian; everyone can choose their own protein or simply the vegetables and condiments.

some individuals may choose to season their chicken or meat, and i have found this seasoning to be quite tasty.  seasoned meat is not required for this salad, just an option. if used, add to the meat while cooking or grilling on the stove top.

for these salads, i used round tortilla shells, chopped lettuce, ground beef, cooked corn, chopped red tomatoes, chopped black olives, chopped green onion, shredded cheddar cheese, or a selection of shredded cheeses, salsa, sour cream, and a red based salad dressing.  store bought honey french dressing or Catalina dressing is very tasty on this salad.
 
using similar serving bowls adds to the festive nature of the presentation.  these star bowls were purchased online at crate and barrel several years ago and are not available there today. 


gelato

my frequent blog readers know that i prefer homemade ice cream to anything store bought.  and, i am routinely making my own ice cream desserts.  however, i have found one brand of gelato, which seems to be quite delicious and actually is so smooth and creamy.


talenti gelato is my favorite brand.  this belgian milk chocolate flavor is one of the best and can be served for an easy holiday dessert.  add a drizzle of chocolate topping and a few chopped nuts with whipped cream, and your guests will really appreciate this light ending to the meal.

for more information on talenti gelato, follow this link: 

http://www.talentigelato.com/Products/BelgianMilkChocolate.aspx

shrimp cocktail appetizer

on christmas day, it is especially nice to serve a special holiday appetizer.  for this year's meal, i served shrimp cocktail.  the shrimp are pre-cooked with tails on and served chilled in a pedestal glass on a bed of shredded dark green romaine. 

a selection of shrimp toppings are served on the plate.  this year, i used minced red onions, horseradish sauce and olde cape cod seafood cocktail sauce.  served with a small shrimp fork, this appetizer is a lovely presentation.