Berry Patriotic!…

july 4 th dessert Okay,  all you strawberries…stand at attention!…

patriotic desserts

Straight lines now…

red, white and blue dessert

Heh! You in the front line…no leaning!…

patriotic strawberries

That’s better…

chocolate filled strawberries July 4th Want to have some fun with fresh strawberries this 4th of July? Have your strawberries “stand at attention” by sticking them onto toothpicks that have been inserted into an easy-to-make decorative foam platter! Your guests can pick out their favorite star-studded strawberry and then just slide it off without any fear of knocking the other berries over.

Who wouldn’t love a red ripe strawberry presented this way, filled with white chocolate cream and topped with a blue chocolate star on the 4th of July?  ;)

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Items needed:

12- inch disc of styrofoam – 1 inch thick

Decorative ribbon ( 1inch wide)…

patriotic ribbon

Parchment paper

Toothpicks

Stick pins…

stick pins

Small star-shaped cookie cutter

6-inch shallow clay disc…

Hot glue gun

Fresh strawberries

Ingredients for White Chocolate Cream Recipe (recipe below)…

Velvet Red Fondant recipe and ingredients (you will be substituting blue confectionary wafers and frosting for the red, called for in the recipe) This recipe will make considerably more fondant than you will need for making the stars. Unless you are making a very large number of stars, you may want to half the recipe…

Making the Blue Chocolate Stars…

Prepare one recipe of Velvet Red Fondant according to the directions (click here for the recipe) but substitute blue wafers and blue decorator’s frosting for the red wafers and frosting called for in the recipe.

**For my stars,  I added some Royal Blue powdered coloring and some Violet Purple food coloring paste to the fondant  so that it would become more of a navy blue color…

Let the fondant sit for 24 hours for easier handling…

After the fondant has sat for 24 hours and has become very hard, break off a chunk and begin kneading it to soften it…

Dust a smooth rolling surface with cornstarch…

cornstarch for fondant

Place some fondant on the surface and puff with just a light dusting of cornstarch…

Roll it out until you reach the desired thickness of your stars ( I made mine about an 1/8 inch thick)…

Take a pastry scraper and slide it underneath the fondant to loosen it from the bottom…

Lightly reroll over it again to smooth it down. Take a pastry brush and brush off all excess cornstarch from the fondant’s surface.

Take your star cutter and cut out the shapes..

Place them on a smooth surface that has been dusted with cornstarch…

Decorate the stars with red and white frosting and sugars…

 Preparing the serving “plate”…

Take your ribbon and wrap it around the outer edge of the foam disc and overlap it by about 1-1/2  inches…

Trim it off and set this aside…

Place the foam disc on a piece of parchment paper…

 Then with a pencil, draw a line about ¾ of an inch out from the foam’s edge, and draw around the disc…

You should now have a circle drawn around the foam that is slightly larger than the foam disc…

 

Cut out the parchment circle…

Lay the  parchment circle on top of the disc, lining it up so that it is centered over the disc…

Stick a toothpick into the middle to secure the paper to the foam so that it doesn’t shift around…

Begin folding down the edges of the parchment paper and place the ribbon over the parchment . Secure the ribbon to the paper ( and to the foam)  with stick pins…

july 4th craftsContinue folding down the parchment paper, wrapping the ribbon and sticking in the pins until the edge has been completely covered around the disc…

Remove the toothpick from the center and tip the “platter” upside down…

Tip the clay dish upside down and put some hot glue around the edges…

Center the clay dish on top of the foam platter…


And then tip right-side up to cool…

Gluing this dish onto the bottom of the foam disc not only makes the platter easier to pick up, it adds weight to the foam platter so that it makes it easier to pull off the berries…

** If I am planning on making a lot of the filled strawberries for my guests, I make a second foam platter that is undecorated – and minus the clay dish. This way I can put the extra filled berries on the toothpicks and stick them in the refrigerator so that they are decorated and ready to go…ready to be placed on the decorated platter when the berry plate needs to be filled again. It is just less hassle than standing at the counter, filling and decorating strawberries during a party…  

White Chocolate Cream Filling…

Into a medium-sized heavy saucepan, put:

3 oz. cream cheese (or about a third of an 8 oz bar, reserve the rest)

3/4 c  heavy whipping cream

Over medium high heat, begin melting the cream cheese into the cream. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon. When the cream starts to bubble, turn down the heat. (At this point, switch to stirring with a whisk. It will help break up the pieces of cream cheese) Stir until the mixture is smooth. Turn down the heat to low and then add:

1 heaping cup white confectionary wafers ( or white baking chips will work also)

Slowly stir until the wafers have been melted and the mixture is smooth. Use the whisk to whisk out any remaining tiny lumps of wafer or cream cheese.

Pour mixture into a bowl and place into the refrigerator to cool down…

To prepare the berries, core the strawberries using a sharp knife…

Begin sticking toothpicks into the foam platter and adding the berries as you go…

strawberries on tootpicks

After all the berries have been attached, finish making the whipped cream, by placing into a mixing bowl:

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Beat until stiff peaks form. When the cream cheese mixture has completely cooled down and is cold, place the mixture into another mixing bowl and add the rest of the bar of cream cheese. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add the whipped cream and beat well, scraping the sides of the bowl often…

Place the whipped cream mixture into a large decorator’s bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the whipped cream into the berries…

pipe cream filling into strawberries

Swirl  a generous amount around the top of the berries and add a decorated star…

july 4th desserts

chocolate filled strawberriesIf your stars are very thick or it is very warm in your kitchen and your whipped cream seems too soft to hold the stars, try placing the filled strawberries into the refrigerator for awhile. When the whipped cream has firmed up a bit, garnish with the stars. Return the completed strawberries to the frig to remain cold until you are ready to serve them…

Happy 4th of July!!

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For another colorful way to celebrate the Red, White and Blue, please check out my post how to make this stunning jello poke Flag Cake…

It’s refreshing, yet dazzling as well…

flag cake

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My posting is going to be very erratic for the rest of the summer due to me working on some  fun and exciting floral cookie bouquets coming out later on this Fall! If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, now might be a nice time to subscribe… especially if you don’t want to miss out on the latest floral cookie bouquet creation this summer! :)

Happy Summer to you!…

Frozen grape salad…

sunflowersI’m originally from a small rural community in northeast Nebraska and this time of year always makes me homesick for my little hometown. It’s nearing county fair time and the fair always reminds of beanwalking. ( In case you have never heard of “beanwalking”,  it’s where a person walks through a field of soybeans and takes a hoe or corn knife and cuts out the weeds )

It’s a hard, buggy and very dirty job and it’s strange when I think of my experience with it when I was growing up. I would expect to feel a sense of relief that I never have to do it again. But you know, around this time of year,  I actually  get the yearning to go back to the beanfields!

Now , don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish for the experience with the all the bugs. I swear there was every shape, size and color of bug out there that just seemed to wait and then jump! out at me when I least expected it.  I don’t miss those bugs, but what I do miss is the feeling of being out in the fields…

Watching the sun come up…

early sunrise

sunrise

Even the weeds out there can look beautiful in the morning light…

wild flower

weed

Back when I was in high school, the whole beanwalking experience would start off this way…

The phone would ring and  our hearts would sink as we’d hear Mom say, “Beanwalking? Well sure!  The kids would love to help out. What? Sure…they’ll be there at 4:30 a.m. and ready to go!”

So before dawn, we’d get ready and ride out to the beanfields. When we would get out of the car, the air would be thick with that heavenly  moist smell of damp earth, weeds and alfafa. We would stand outside the car, look out across the beanfield we were going to conquer that day and then… the part I hated most began, climbing over the barbed wire fence to get into the field!

soybeans

 

For some reason, I could never get over the fence without ripping my pants on the barbed wire. It was such a common occurence I could feel the hesitation of the leader as he would pause to hold the wire down so that I could swing my leg over the fence. It was almost like he was thinking “okay…wait for it…”   Rip. Okay, now her leg is over the fence, the whole group can get into the field.

 All a person could hear out there were the birds singing… or maybe the faint sound of a tractor in the distance…or one of  my favorite sounds, even to this day – the rustling sound corn leaves make when there is a breeze..

cows

 

wildflowers

grass

 

When bean plants are small and about knee high, it’s easy to spot the weeds and the beans are easy to walk through but when they get tall…

soybeans

…they become very difficult to walk through. When they are as high as your waist, the beans will start to lay down and sort of grow together so you will literally have to begin pulling yourself through the rows of beans as you walk. You can’t see your feet or what you are stepping on or tripping over underneath the beans…

windmill

storm clouds

One year, it rained and rained. When the fields were relativey “dry” , we ventured out. Every step we took, we could feel the suction of the mud pulling on our legs and feet. By the time we reached the end of the rows, our shoes and pants were so caked with mud we couldn’t even see our shoes, they were literally just big round balls of mud!

 In fact, one time we all sat down on break and laughed when we noticed how incredibly dirty we were. ” I can’t even see my shoes!” someone commented and then someone replied ” Yah, I can’t see my shoes either, wait – ” and he wiggled his feet, ” I think my shoes are gone…” He scraped the thick cake of mud from his feet and said “Yep, they’re  gone!”  

Sometimes we would be invited to a farmplace for lunch and that would be such a treat after being out in the stiffling hot beanfield. I always enjoyed the drives up the long lanes to the farmhouses. It always seemed so peaceful…

lane

Once we reached the house, there may have been a cat or two to greet us by showing off his excellent claw sharpening skills…

cat

cat

…or a beautiful garden filled with flowers and vegetables…

pink flowers

red flowers

 But one thing was for certain, if we were going to be served a lunch, there was no doubt it was going to be an awesome meal!  My favorite thing was a frozen salad. Nothing could top that after being out in the hot sun all morning…

 So today, I thought I’d share a recipe for a frozen grape salad! This salad doesn’t have to be served frozen, but in the summer, it can be a real treat served that way!

Frozen Grape salad

Wash and dry:

      4 cups red (or green) seedless grapes

Place a clean dish towel on a cookie sheet and then pour the dry grapes  on the towel, spread them out  and freeze until firm. ( Freezing them on the towel prevents them from freezing to each other or onto the cookie sheet)

Into a  large mixing bowl place:

      1 c sour  cream

      1/4 c brown sugar

      2 teas maple flavoring

Whisk until smooth and the sugar has melted. Add the frozen grapes and gently stir until the grapes have been coated. Serve in about 10 minutes, this will give the grapes a little time to thaw so that it will be easier eating them…

You can also spoon the coated frozen grapes into little plastic cups and return them to the freezer. About 15 minutes before you are going to serve them, take them out of the freezer. Then add a sprig of fresh mint and/or sprinkle toasted chopped pecans over the top as a garnish…

Whether you spoon the frozen grapes into beautiful martini glasses or pre-make them in plastic cups, these grapes make a lovely salad, appetizer or even a cool refreshing dessert for a hot summer’s day…

Chicken Alfredo Sandwiches

 

 

magnolias in spring

I think I shrieked when I saw that the magnolias were blooming! This has to be one of my all-time favorite flowering trees in the spring…

magnolias in spring

 

magnolias in spring

magnolias in spring

I grabbed my camera and just went crazy…

magnolias in spring

magnolias in spring

It felt like I just couldn’t get enough photos of the tree and just kept snapping away…

When the kids started saying, “Heh, Mom, we’re hungry!” I knew that it was time to put the camera away and get them something to eat!

Do you ever open the door and stare inside of your full refrigerator and  think, “there is nothing in here to fix for lunch…”  That was me the other day. I stood and just stared at the icebox, while holding one child in my arms, while the other one sat on my foot and hugged my leg. I sighed. I scanned the kitchen and saw some french bread on the counter and then began to think,  “I wonder if I have any…”  and began to assemble some simple little sandwiches.

They turned out to be a hit, that is with my daugher anyway  ( my little boy still steadfastly refuses to part from his diet of bananas, peanut butter, noodles and milk……sigh). And my husband didn’t get any because…well, we ate them. Sorry, honey :) but I’ll be making more some other time!

Sandwiches, they can be made out of “nothing” and still taste great!

Chicken Alfredo Sandwiches

First, heat according to the package’s directions:

        Tyson brand frozen grilled chicken breasts ( 1 breast will make about 2 sandwiches)

Then slice:

        french bread

into thick slices ( about 1 inch thick).Then open a jar of:

      Alfredo or creamy garlic sauce

and spread this over the bread slices…using about a tablespoon and a half per slice of bread. Then slice the grilled chicken breasts and arrange them over the slice of bread. Sprinkle:

      shredded cheddar cheese

over the top and broil in the oven until the cheese has melted. (If you would like to add a little heat to the sandwiches, add a few drops of tobasco or hot sauce to the sauce before spreading it on the bread)

Enjoy!

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I hope that you all had a nice Christmas!

Are you celebrating New Year’s Eve? We usually keep it pretty low key around here. My only tradition for that evening is watching “The Twilight Zone” marathon on the sci-fi channel. I love the old shows – the black and white ones. They have such a charm to them and can be sort of spooky without being scary and horrifying. I can’t stand horror movies and “The Twilight Zone” is about as scary as I care to watch!

Well, that being said, what’s more fun than watching old black and white shows? Eating while watching them! :)

Here is a recipe for my favorite all-time comfort food! Hot and cheesey Spinach and Artichoke spread/dip!  This can be baked in a casserole dish or spread on pizza crust, topped with cheese and baked like a pizza!  But no matter how it is served, it makes a nice comforting dish on a cold winter’s night…

I like to serve this dip/spread with thick slices of bread,  made with frozen bread dough. I prepare the bread according to the directions on the package, but place it on a greased cookie sheet so that it can spread out a bit. Once baked, I brush some melted butter over the top and sides then  sprinkle on some LaVae! Seasoning.  It makes a very nice herb bread and compliments the cheese and other flavors in the dip/spread.

I hope you all have a safe and happy New Year!

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Into a large mixing bowl place:

      1 c mayonaise

      2 – 8 oz cream cheese, softened

       1/4 t nutmeg

      2 T  chopped garlic

      2 T garlic flavored Ms. Dash seasoning

Mix until creamy. Then add:      

      1 – 14 oz. can artichoke hearts (unseasoned,well drained and chopped)

      9 oz. box frozen spinach (thawed,drained and rung in a towel to remove all excess moisture)

      1 c  grated parmesan cheese

      8 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese

Stir until combined. Place in a greased casserole dish and top with:

      8 oz. shredded mozarella cheese

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbling and the cheese is starting to turn a light golden brown. Serve with chunky slices of herbed bread or any other bread you would like to use…

Another blanket of freshly fallen snow…

We had another snowstorm up here in Minneapolis and once again, I am looking out into a winterwonderland! I love when everything is covered with that brilliant white blanket of freshly fallen snow…

I’ve just been waiting to share one of my favorite recipes with you! It is for a cheese spread and I thought Christmas would be the perfect time to share it to you because of all the parties and celebrations going on this time of year!

Cheese spreads make such a wonderful appetizer because they can be made days ahead of your party, cutting down on prep-time the day of  your party. Actually, I have  found that most spreads should be made a couple of days ahead of your event because it gives the ingredients time to marry in flavor and you will be left with a much more flavor-filled spread/dip.

This spread is a creamy combination of sweet red grapes, salty feta cheese, onion, cream cheese and walnuts, and looks very pretty on any holiday table…

I hope that you are all having a wonderful Christmas season!…  :)

Creamy Grape and Feta Cheese Spread

Into a medium-sized mixing bowl place:

      8 oz softened cream cheese

      4 oz. container Garlic and Herb Crumbled feta cheese

      1/4 t salt

      1/4 t pepper

Mix until thoroughly combined. Then add:

      1  1/2  c diced red seedless grapes

      1 c  finely chopped walnuts

      1/2 c finely chopped onion

Mix until combined. Place in a small serving bowl, cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

If you would like to serve this as a cheeseball:

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and spoon the mixture into the bowl. Smooth down the top. Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the mixture and place in the refrigerator until firm. Then remove from bowl, unwrap, and then press on finely chopped walnuts, if you wish…

 I recommend letting it sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to let the flavors come together. Enjoy!