Thursday, February 8, 2018

Italian Cherry Cream Sodas: An Easy Sweet Valentine treat


Many among my friends and family have mixed reactions to Valentine's Day. For some it can be a holiday of grand romantic gestures complete with roses, proposals and champagne, for others a simple fun card or box of candy will suffice, and I know several who opt to forgo the "stress" of this "commercial" holiday altogether. 
 However you celebrate, it's always fun to add an  easy but sweet treat to your day as a nod to the occasion. I thought this year I'd say "Te Amo" with an aptly rosy colored Italian cherry cream soda for a quick Valentine's afternoon break.
Delicious Italian style sodas have been popular at coffee bars and cafes for quite a while now but also are fun and simple to whip up yourself at home. A quick online search lead to countless recipes for cream sodas which all basically consist of a mix of a sweet flavored syrup and carbonated water topped with whipped cream or half and half. That's it!
Elegant flavored syrups for these sodas are easily available in shops and online but as some can be a bit pricey and contain artificial colors or flavoring, I thought I'd experiment a bit with other options. I found a natural cherry juice from my local supermarket worked wonderfully. It was also easier than the cooking, straining and cooling involved in making your own syrup from berries and sugar.

Italian Cherry Cream Soda
Really a non-recipe recipe, ingredients can be adjusted to suit your taste.
I used:
natural cherry juice blend - store brand, 100% juice
carbonated or mineral water
 (some prefer club soda's milder taste but any bubbly water will do)
canned whipped cream

Since juice is less concentrated than soda syrups I used more than you normally might in this recipe. I started with about 3 parts juice to one part chilled sparkling water and simply topped generously with whipped cream and popped in a straw. 
These drinks tend to appeal more to "grown ups" as they are less sugary sweet than the traditional canned variety.
I served in tall stemmed glasses for a festive flare
send some love: image made with vintage photo from the the graphics fairy
I served with a store-bought berry biscotti and fruit

Wishing everyone
Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

La Chandeleur: French Crepe Day

                                                                                                               All Photos CPaul
I've always been fascinated by the way different holidays are celebrated in cultures around world. It seems on almost any given day of the year, there is a festive occasion of some sort going on somewhere . 
 I was delighted to learn recently that throughout France, Candlemas, also known as La Chandeleur or Jour de Lumieres, is traditionally celebrated on February 2nd by the lighting of candles and by eating that french favorite, crepes! Not as familiar stateside, this celebration of La Chandeleur seemed the perfect respite from the lengthy drab winter weeks following fun and frenzied holiday festivities and was a good excuse to try my new crepe pan! (a steal at Homegoods)
 For many Christians, this February date, marks the day Jesus was presented to the Temple in Jerusalem, but the holiday can also be traced much further back to older pagan roots, honoring the eventual return of Spring and longer sunlit filled days.
But why candles and crepes? 
Some say Pope Gelasius established the tradition in the 400's by distributing crepe like treats to pilgrims in Rome during annual candlelit processions. 
The round shape and golden color of crepes was thought to represent the welcoming return of the sun as well as, more practically, a good way to use up surplus flour, a staple that time of year.
I displayed with (flameless) candles and french and Spring inspired props
As someone who loves to enjoy these delicious and very adaptable treats, I have had limited success in making them at home. Sadly, more stacks of rubbery ill-shaped crepes have wound up in the garbage can than on the dinner table. So for my first celebration of Candlemas, I thought I'd attempt one of the easiest recipes I was able to find online at the wonderful blog savorytooth. With a few additions (vanilla and sugar), I was able to whip up some surprisingly tasty, flourless versions of these classic treats.

Wonderful as sweet desserts or savory meals, crepes can be reinvented with endless fillings or toppings from chicken and spinach to chocolate or applesauce.
I opted for sweet toppings for my customizable easy crepe bar including morello cherries in natural syrup, tangy lemon curd and fresh berries. Of course butter, honey and whipped creme are welcome additions as well.
Easy Flourless Crepes
3 eggs
1 oz package cream cheese softened (I used Neuchatel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other desired flavor)
2 tablespoons fine sugar

Simply pop ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour a pancake sized amount onto a warm skillet or crepe pan and swirl until it forms an (almost) even circle. Cook over low-medium heat until golden brown, flipping once. Dot with butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Legend says if you hold a coin in one hand and successfully flip the crepe with the other, you will have good luck in the coming year. I admit I didn't attempt this.

Bon Appetite!
For more on Chandeleur click on why-do-the-french-eat-crepes-on-le-chandeleur

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Autumn Antler Tablescape

While turkeys understandably take center stage at Thanksgiving, it can be fun to include nods to other wildlife in your seasonal Autumn displays as well.
 With my Halloween props and pumpkins still on display, I thought I'd use what was on hand to create a quick and easy Fall centerpiece.
Pumpkins and Fall foliage are natural holdovers from the previous holiday and since this year my "costume" consisted of plastic antlers from Walmart (and some stick on deer face stickers from the drugstore) I thought I would play to the still popular antler trend this Thanksgiving.
Birds, a fox mask and deer made for a woodland twist on Halloween
deer friendly plastic antlers
I simply arranged the costume antlers with mini pumpkins, dried corn, faux leaves and Fall foliage in an old soup tureen base.
Nature inspired tableware, touches of gold and flameless candles complete the warm Fall palette 

Admittedly smitten with these forest friends, last year I opted for Thanksgiving deer decor as well with a vintage stag image and easy pumpkin redo.
simply click link for details

Give Thanks for Unknown Blessings already on their way
                                             Native American Saying

Wishing our U.S. followers 
our friends worldwide a 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thrift Benefit for Animals, Last Chance Ranch and a Halloween Black Cat Shoe

If, like me, you love a good browse through a thrift shop, you know your purchases are all the more special when the proceeds go to a charitable cause close to your heart. A few years back, the talented blogger and animal lover Jeannette Cheney, from Country Design created an event to highlight those resale shops who specifically benefit our beloved furry, four footed, or feathered friends. 
The mission:
 Make a purchase from a thrift store that benefits animals or animal charities.
 Makeover the item (large or small) in a fun new way.
Then join up with other bloggers in sharing it all in a post on October 26th. 
This way bloggers from across the country can help promote these worthy causes and their big hearted shops. 
Lucky for me there is a delightful thrift shop in my area run by Last Chance Ranch, a wonderful organization that helps foster, care for and lovingly re-home countless abandoned or abused animals from horses to dogs to parrots and even lizards! 

 click link above to learn about this organization's history, mission and amazing work on behalf of animals
Their Shop
 The ranch's bright and cheerful shop features a wide variety of well displayed and fabulously priced items. 
It boasts an extensive array of pet supplies for dogs, cats, horses, fish and birds as well as gently used clothing, accessories and jewelry for their human friends. Also not to miss, are books, furnishings and home decor items. 
Since this thrifty blog challenge coincided with Halloween time, I thought it would be frightfully fun to do an easy project in the spirit of the season and happily wandered the charity's shop until inspiration hit, in of all places, the shoe section.
Charlotte Olympia Cat Shoes $495.00
I remembered a while ago these "cat" shoes had taken the internet by storm, appearing on celebs and "cat walks" and while undeniably charming, the $495.00 price tag was not. Of course crafty cat fancier fashionistas everywhere immediately took to making their own less pricey versions and I thought Halloween would be the perfect time to follow their lead and recreate this whimsical feline footwear. After all, what could be better for the well dressed witch this October season?
I found these black pumps with "kitten" heels on a display for $2.99 and was delighted to find they had been marked down to a mere $1.00
My other fab finds (I had to share) also included an almost new good sized pet carrier, pet dish, picnic basket, lace up riding boots (for my occasional lessons), classical CD, and a beautiful coffee table book on dogs - all for $17.00! 
   DIY Kitten Heels
With some basic crafting supplies, this was a fast and easy redo. Since I would only be wearing them for the "witching hour" as costume wear, I opted to quickly hot glue and paint on accents instead of more complicated sewing. Being fairly dainty, of course, these would not be good shoes for long walks, for children or for dancing the night away, but for a few hours handing out candy, I figured they would serve me in seasonally spooky style. 
I began by removing the decorative pearl accents and saving them for some future project down the line (one adorns the hat on my bewitching faux feline friend above). For the eyes, I used beads from a strand found at Joann's Fabrics in a sale bin, but you could opt to use buttons, paint, or for those talented in needlework, embroider eyes on as well.
Scraps or a sewing patch kit in a coordinating color is perfect for the small amount of fabric needed for the ears and squeezable fabric paint makes quick work of the simple ear accents, pink nose and silver whiskers. Simply glue and paint accents as desired to create your own fabulous feline, no great artistic skills needed.

Quick tips: a paper template keeps ears uniform in size. Depending on the brand, squeezable fabric paint can sometimes take hours to dry so be careful to avoid smudges while waiting for paint to set

I then popped in a pair of inexpensive leopard insoles for comfort and a chic touch.
 I chose black low heels for my project but any style shoe and combination of colors from tabby to tortoiseshell would be fun!
Wishing all of our friends, on two feet or four,
 a bewitching Fall Season!
Last Chance Ranch resident and four footed 
volunteer Mugsy and friends bring 
smiles to seniors in assisted care

For more on thrifty DIY's and Animal Charities, please pop over and visit these other creative bloggers participating in this fun benefit!
For Pennywise's previous benefit posts on the Ranch, Animal Lifeline and Animals in Distress, click HERE

Monday, September 18, 2017

Whoooo wants dessert? candy covered owl cones

 Perhaps it's the owl's mysterious association with Halloween or maybe their wise nod to back-to-school smarts, but it seems come the Fall season these feathered friends are especially popular. So what better way to celebrate these beloved birds than with an easy to make, fun and whimsical treat featuring their likeness, made all the better filled with seasonal sweets.
Chocolate Owl Cones
We simply dipped store bought cones in melted chocolate and added some sweet owl features with ingredients you may already have on hand in your kitchen
You'll Need
candy melts in preferred colors and flavors
I used classic cocoa and toffee
candy decorative eyeballs 
Eyes are available in the cake decorating 
section of supermarkets, walmart or craft stores. 
I used the larger size eyes available
sliced almonds, candy corn or
 desired cake decor accents for decorating

Melt chocolate according to package instructions and let cool slightly. 
Dip top part of cone in melted chocolate and swirl to cover well to desired height.
Set cones on wax paper lined tray and allow to harden completely. 
(You can add eyes at this point if desired.)
I found the toffee chips melted to a thicker consistency than the chocolate so I could stand them upright without worrying about dripping.
You can coat inside of cone as well to prevent moisture rich fillings from making your cone soggy
Once melts are set, use additional melted chocolate to attach rows of almond wings and ear tufts or "horns" and a candy corn beak.
I opted for a very simple and comical look but you can experiment with your favorite sprinkles, icing, candy and baking accents for more elaborate owls.
These are fun for serving ice cream, candy, fruit, small brownies, cupcakes or this easy Autumn mousse.
         Three Ingredient Pumpkin Mousse
I've adapted this basic recipe for several Pennywise desserts including our french style Valentine's Couer a la Creme and faux charlotte dessert from our party post inspired by Downton Abbey

1 small container Pumpkin greek yogurt
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
I accidentally bought fat free but the taste was fine
2/3 cups confectioners sugar

Combine ingredients until fully blended. 

Chill until ready to serve then pipe or spoon into owl cones. 
Serve immediately for best results

Waste Not, Want Not.....
Extra leftover ingredients or no time to make owls? 
Pumpkin mousse is a lighter yummy seasonal treat on it's own or serve as a sweet dip with sliced apples or ginger cookies.
Likewise leftover chocolate melts, candy and nuts can be used to make a yummy candy bark. Simply spread any remaining melted chocolate on wax paper and sprinkle with the leftover almonds and candy corn, roughly chopped if desired. Drizzle more chocolate on top and chill. Break into sections once hardened.

Add tags to bark or candy filled cones for a sweet gift

Tag created with owl image from The Graphics Fairy

Wishing  Everyone