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As much as I really enjoyed working on this Bambi themed dinner it was really difficult to do in the dead of winter. It has been bitterly cold, snowy and rainy winter as usual here in the Northeast and I want nothing more than to ‘Sing A Gay Little Spring Song’ As I mentioned in a previous post I had worked on the dinner during the holiday season- I did want to hold on posting this as I had been working on a woodland theme baby shower. I used a lot of the same elements in the baby shower as the dinner and this is a great example of what I have been talking about with adapting the dinner to a larger party.

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One of my main goals in choosing the menu for this dinner was to keep everything as earthy and simple as I could. The fresh flavors definitely transported you to the forest. I also made my first foray into pasta making! I was always intimidated by the process but even without a pasta machine it was surprisingly easy. It was a little time consuming but definitely worth it.

Menu

Stuffed Mushrooms

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

Apple/ Butternut Squash Soup

Brie and Pear Grilled Cheese on Focaccia Bread

Pumpkin Filled Ravioli in a Browned Butter Sage Sauce

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

 

Recipes

IMG_2055Stuffed Mushrooms- This is a go to recipe for me and unfortunately I don’t have exact measurements.

Clean Mushrooms and Remove Stems

Mix equal parts Italian Breadcrumbs and Shredded Parmesan Cheese in a bowl. Add a pinch of fresh parsley.

Fill Mushrooms with Mixture. Place in an oiled pan. Drizzle Oil over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

 

Strawberry Goat Cheese SaladIMG_2047                                Another Easy non-measurement recipe.

Wash and Pat Dry Fresh Spinach

Add Chopped Pecans, Chopped Strawberry and Crumbled Goat Cheese to Taste.

Toss with your choice of balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

 

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Butternut Squash Apple Soup 

(recipe from Just A Taste)

1 cup diced pancetta
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 medium (about 3/4 pound) Yukon Gold potatoes
2 medium Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
2 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
2 to 2 1/2 cups water
Sour cream, for serving

 

Cook the pancetta in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally until crisp, then transfer the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot. (Add vegetable oil to equal 2 tablespoons if your pancetta is very lean.)

Add the celery, carrots and onions to the pot, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until softened but not brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, uncovered, stirring for 1 minute.

While the vegetables are cooking, peel and coarsely chop the potatoes. Peel, core and coarsely chop one apple.

Add the chopped potatoes, apple, butternut squash, stock, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the pot. Simmer the mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in four batches in a blender until smooth. Return the puréed soup to the cleaned pot and thin it with an additional 1/2 cup of water, if necessary. Heat the soup over low heat until warmed throughout then season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the remaining apple into matchsticks then spoon the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, a few apple matchsticks and the reserved pancetta.

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Pumpkin Goat Cheese Ravioli in Brown Butter Sage Sauce

This was my first time ever making homemade pasta. It was definitely a lot easier than I had anticipated. I didn’t have a pasta roller so it ended up a little thicker and chewier than it would had I not rolled it by hand. As I am new to this I am not going to share the pasta recipe I used- use your favorite or do a search for your favorite chef’s recipe.

Filling

1 shallot diced                                       1 can of pumpkin puree                               1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese                       1 pinch of salt                                             1/2 t nutmeg

Sautee shallot in a pan over medium heat until they are golden brown. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

Place half of the rolled dough on a floured surface. Drop a teaspoon of filling about 2 inches apart. Carefully place the other sheet of dough over the filling. Use a knife or pasta cutter to shape ravioli. Use tines of fork to tightly close the dough.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add ravioli and cook until they begin to float (this should only take a few minutes). I used a strainer to cook a few at a time and carefully lift them out. When they are all cooked add 4 Tablespoons of butter to a large skillet on medium-low heat. Slowly brown the butter. Add Ravioli and Sage until ravioli is golden brown on both sides.

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Pumpkin Maple Cupcakes

Here is another case of my cake mix doctoring. For the cupcakes I used a yellow box of cake mix, followed the instructions on the box, added a can of pumpkin puree and a teaspoon of cinnamon and a half teaspoon of nutmeg- bake as directed.

For the frosting I used my favorite buttercream recipe. Cream 2 sticks of butter in a mixer. Add 6 cups confectioners sugar. Add Maple syrup until frosting reaches desired consistency.

For the little acorn toppers use chocolate or frosting to connect hershey’s kisses, Nilla Wafers (the mini wafers are best) and Butterscotch chips.

Decorations

As with the menu I wanted to keep the decorations organic and fresh as well. One of my favorite design elements is burlap and lace. It is really so simple but has such an earthly elegance to it. I have used this design for western parties, baby showers and even fall dinners. Burlap is fairly inexpensive and you don’t need very much lace- definitely a suggested element to keep in your supply closet.

A staple of any rustic wedding are the wood slices or country rounds. I don’t believe I have ever had more compliments or asked where I got something more than I have had on these. You can get wood slices (also called country rounds in some places) at most craft stores. Amazon also has them for somewhat decent prices- you can find them here.

My stuffed Flower and Thumper as well as some flower branches to complete the picture.

 

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I am very excited to finally be able to bring some of the abstract party ideas to life. This was a work baby shower so the decorations weren’t as elaborate as I would have done for a private event- but there are some great examples on how I adopted the menu and added a few elements.

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Menu

The Mommy-to-Be is gluten free so our entire menu was made with her in mind. I adapted some of my favorite recipes to use gluten-free ingredients or no gluten at all.

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

Cheese Plates

Antipasto Skewers

Stuffed Mushrooms

Hedgehog Cheese Ball

Assorted Sandwiches

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

Candy Acorns

Owl Cupcakes

 

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We also had little owl party favor bags. I filled them with gluten free pretzels to evoke the idea of an owl sitting on a twig.

And my favorite added element- the make your own trail mix bar. I have talked about how much I love food bars in my last post so I wont bore you by saying the same things over and over but they are so fun!!!

 

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This bar was made up of an assortment of nuts, dried fruit and candy chips. My favorite part of this bar was the adorable Bambi brown bags. They were inspired by Jettabees Deer Treat Sacks – you can find her Etsy store here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve Seen A Peanut Stand


I’ve seen a rubber band/ I’ve seen a needle that winks it eye but I have never seen a dinner as easy as this.

I have never been a huge fan of Dumbo- but it makes a great theme for a dinner or party. Carnival/ Circus themed parties are very popular right now and stores are filled with supplies- making it specifically Dumbo definitely gives your circus party a little more direction.

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Like I mentioned in a previous post I did this dinner amidst the craziness of the holidays – and I must say this was perfect to adapt into a super quick dinner. If you are not doing dinners in order this is a great one to do on a night when you are strapped for time.

It is also great for a large party because everything is so easy.

What I did-

Made Popcorn in My FunTime TableTop Popcorn Maker - microwaveable popcorn would work too

Bought Animal Crackers

Bought Cracker Jacks

Made Soft Pretzels with Fleissman’s Pretzel Mix- (I was so surprised how easy it was!) The mix only makes about 9 small soft pretzels so if you are having a party you may be better off with frozen ones- or plan on spending a lot of time folding pretzel dough.

Warmed Up Frozen Corn Dogs- Found in the Freezer Section of your local big box store (Costco, BJs, Sams) I have a strange affinity for these and look for any excuse to have corndogs for dinner- but in hindsight I wish I had made it a little more special by making corn dog cups- Just use your favorite corn bread recipe and a muffin tin and put pieces of hot dog into the middle before for you bake… so yummy!

Warmed Up Frozen French Fries

Used my Cotton Candy Maker- again this can easily be purchased to make it even easier.

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The packaging and presentation of the food is definitely what will make your event stand apart. The striped bags above (purchased from Oriental Trading) are perfect for peanuts or popcorn. Crackers, cookies and french fries are super cute served in cones. These can be purchased or are easily made- contact me if you would like a template. And I love my tiered circus tent cupcake tower- I have had this for quite a while and don’t remember exactly where I got it but I have seen it at party stores and Oriental Trading.

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Decorations-

As you can see- I kept it super simple. I wanted to get the circus feel without using some of the cheesy decorations out there.

Table- One of my favorite design tricks to dress up boring table cloths is to pick out a few coordinating ribbons and drape them over the table. I like to make them different lengths to really add contrast to the display.

Tent- I LOVE my hoop canopy. This is definitely not the last time you will see it. It always adds an air of fantasy. I like to tie different color tulle to the hoop for different events. The red above made it feel like a circus tent but pinks and purples instantly evokes fairies and princesses.

Dumbo- So you have the circus elements what can you do to make it specifically Dumbo? Add Pink Elephants of course! I used my Create A Critter Cricut Cartridge for these. I hung plastic fillable ornaments to mimic the bubbles that dominate that scene.

Crows, Clowns and Trains also evoke Dumbo for me.

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What Can you do for your Dumbo Themed Party?

Serve on a Train- Casey Junior is one of my favorite things in Dumbo- Use cardboard boxes to create train cars and serve a different item on each ‘car’

Hot Dog Bar- I love having different food bars at parties they give your guests an opportunity to get involved with their food and are always a hit! My biggest advice here is to get creative- add the ketchup, peppers and chili that you know everyone will love but also put a few out of the box options- I am always surprised at how popular the ‘different’ items are.

Other Circus Snacks- Funnel Cakes, Corn on the Cob on Sticks, Caramel/Toffee Apples, Salt Water Taffy, Chili Fries- don’t forget to personalize it by adding your favorite carnival treat!

Create the Fun Atmosphere of a circus by hiring performers. Clowns are always fun for kids! Balloon Artists, Acrobats and Animal Tamers are all great options. Don’t forget the carnival games, if you have a larger budget these can be rented at almost any party rental place, or get creative and make your own games- ring tosses, balloon darts, potato sack races, egg relays, duck ponds, and can knock downs are all really easy. Obstacle courses require a little more work and forethought but are so much fun!!

If you are in the Boston area and need help hosting your next event check out www.christinascelebrations.com. If you aren’t but need a little extra help flushing out some ideas don’t hesitate to  contact me!

 

 

Fantasia Cupcake Tutorial


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I LOVE making cupcakes- it really interests me how many different flavors and decorations there are for this little dessert. I find it so relaxing and fun to play with flavor profiles that I usually opt for simpler decorations that reflect the flavors used. Today, however, I will show you how to make simple but adorable adornments for your cupcakes. The alligators and hippos are perfect for any jungle themed party and the Fantasia Mickey’s are just so cute even I keep trying to find excuses to make them.

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Because today I was focused on what was going on the cupcake I was far less worried about what was in them. I used a box cake mix to make the cupcake. I tend to use the boxes when I am short on time or making cupcakes in bulk. I also like to use them when I am creating new flavors- the boxes are designed for the home cook to make errors and when I am creating new flavors making mistakes is something I definitely do. What I have learned from the thousands of cupcakes I have made- your cakes can be the perfect consistency with amazing flavors but people will always remember the frosting. Make as many cupcakes from the box as you want but ALWAYS make a fresh frosting. That is what I did with these.

Choose your favorite cake mix (I used Duncan Hynes Devil Foods Cake) and follow the baking instructions. Let the cupcakes cool fully before frosting (I like to make them the day before and store in an airtight container over night.)

My Famous Buttercream

2 sticks of butter room temperature *It is very important that you let the butter sit out for a few hours before using*

3-4 cups Confectioners Sugar

A Pinch of Salt

A Dash of Vanilla Extract

A Few Tablespoons of Milk or Cream

This recipe can be adapted to any flavor you want by switching out extracts, using other liquids instead of milk and adding any mix-ins you want

1. Cream the Butter in a Stand Mixer. Put it on Medium Speed and Let it Mix until Butter is Light and Fluffy.

2. Add Confectioners Sugar- for a smoother consistency sift sugar before mixing.

3. Add the Rest of the Ingredients.

4. Let mix for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency. Add sugar or milk if needed to thicken or thin as needed.

*Another Tip- For Professional Looking Cupcakes always pipe the frosting on. You don’t need professional pastry bags and tips, in fact I prefer just a regular gallon ziplock bag with the corner cut off. Best thing about it- you just throw the bag away when you are done- No clean up!!!!*

Now that you have baked and frosted your cupcakes it’s time to decorate them.

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What You Will Need:

Hippo- Nutter Butter, Orange Fruit Loops or Apple Jacks, Black Decorating Gel

Alligator- Wafer Cookies, Green Frosting, Green Fruit Loops or Apple Jacks, Buttercream Frosting in Ziplock bag, Wilton Color Spray Green, Black Decorating Gel

Sorcerer Mickey- Nilla Wafers, CakeMate Glitter Icing, Wilton Pearl Sprinkles, Mini Oreos

 

How To:

Hippo

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1. Take the Nutter Butter and Your Plastic Bag of Butter Cream- put two dots of frosting near the top of the cookie. Put the Orange Cereal into the frosting for the ears. Hold in place a few seconds for it to set.

2. Make Two more frosting dots this time on the other side of the cookie where it is flat. Place the cereal flat onto the cookie for the nose.

3. Put two more frosting dots on the top of the cookie. Closer to where the ears are.

4. Take the Decorating Gel and make two little black dots on the white frosting- this makes the hippos eyes.

5. Enjoy all the complements you will get about your hippo cupcakes.

 

The Alligator:

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1. Take a Wafer Cookie and spread frosting onto the top of the cookie.  You can tint the frosting green when you are making it by using green food coloring but if you dont want to make a huge batch you can just use Wilton’s Color Spray in Green.

2. Place the cereal loops on one end of the cookie, sticking into the frosting. These will be the eyes

3. Take your buttercream (Mine was in a sandwich bag with a tiny bit of the tip cut off to make a very small hole) and pipe a zigzag onto the sides of the cookie. These will be the teeth.

4. For further detailing use your gel decorator put two small dots into the center of the cereal loops and the tip of the cookie near the death to add pupils and nostrils.

5. Enjoy your adorable snack.

Sorcerer Mickey Hats

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1. Using a Nilla Wafer as your base pipe on the CakeMate Glitter Icing in concentric circles (like you would ice a cupcake.)

2. Place Wilton Pearl Sprinkles into the icing. (If you sprinkle them they dont really stick well so I placed each sprinkle individually.)

3. Add Mini Oreos to either side of the ‘hat.’

4. Take Lots of Pictures!

 

If you have any questions comment in the section below- I will be more than happy to answer anything.

We’re Back!


I am very sorry for my delinquency in posting. I have mentioned that I am an event planner and as you may have guessed Dec/Jan is my busiest time of year. I thought I had it all figured out and I would be able to keep up with the blog- but the happiest season of all definitely got the best of me. I have a few dinners I did during the holidays I haven’t gotten around to posting- These will be great posts which will have a bunch of time saving short cuts. You will see those throughout the next week starting with Dumbo this Monday!