Monday, March 31, 2014

Seder Placesetting

Passover is only two weeks away (yikes!)  Here is a pretty and practical place setting idea for your Seder table.
Since each person gets a hard boiled egg as part of the Seder, I thought it would be fun to personalize the name of each guest at their designated place setting. I bought beautiful blue eggs from a local farm, but white eggs would work as well. The name is simply written with a black sharpie marker.

The egg at the Seder symbolizes many things but perhaps the best explanation is this: an egg is round and symbolizes life...and Passover is the birth of the Jewish people.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Upholstery Class 101

I did it! I completed my chair at upholstery class. 
Here is the before and after so you can see the dramatic change... 
What I love about upholstery...
For very little money, you can dramatically update and change the look of an upholstered piece of furniture. I spent $14.00 on a shower curtain from Home Goods for fabric and I found the chair at a used furniture store for $40.00.

What I don't love about upholstery...
It's harder than I thought! You need strong hands to pull the fabric tight and things like corners and cording are not so easy. We used an electric staple gun in class which uses a compressor...hard to duplicate at home unless you invest in equipment.
I have two more classes left so I'll be upholstering a bench with nail head trim. We'll see how I do with that...
Have a great weekend and Shabbat Shalom. (We have eight little girls here on Sunday for Moussia's sixth birthday party—should be fun and a bit crazy!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dipped Marshmallows

In keeping with the art theme for Moussia's upcoming birthday party I dipped white marshmallows to look like they were dipped in paint!
It was easy to find kosher marshmallows this time of year in the Passover isle. I used food coloring mixed with water to get the colored effect.
A few drops of food coloring was poured into a disposable plastic container mixed with a bit of water. 
After a few dips, I mixed some of the colors to create new colors like green and purple.
They're so colorful and fun for a six year old's party!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A New Passover Cookbook

One of the perks of being a blogger is getting some great cookbooks sent my way. After receiving a copy of A Taste of Pesach, I'm actually looking forward to Passover this year so I can try some of their fabulous looking recipes! 

The cook is complied from several authors and I recently had the opportunity to interview them.
What made you decide to write a Passover cookbook?
This cookbook is actually the culmination of a series of pamphlets that we have been mailing out for the last 6 years as a fundraiser for a boys yeshiva - Yeshiva Meon Hatorah. We have over 10,000 loyal followers (read: repeat donors), and we get lots and lots of positive feedback each year on the pamphlets, along with requests to compile them into a book.
We put together the best recipes from the mailings, added another 20 recipes - and developed the book in conjunction with Artscroll/Mesorah. Those who enjoy the book can join our pamphlet mailing list by submitting their name and address to atasteofpesach@gmail.com.
What sets this cookbook apart from other Passover cookbooks?
A few things:
For one - we did the book as a fundraiser for a charity, so people can feel good when they buy the book that they are supporting Jewish education!
Also, we prepared this as a group of six friends, so the recipes have very broad appeal - all recipes had to pass a rigorous vetting process with a lot of vocal naysayers!
Every recipe is accompanied by a full color photo. The food was cooked by us - regular women, in home kitchens - so you can be pretty sure that the food that you prepare will look just like the picture.
The layout is super-clear and very readable.
We've sprinkled notes that we've received from our loyal followers throughout the book, so that readers can see what others have enjoyed.
What's your favorite recipe(s)?
Hard to choose - I love: crinkle cookies, pulled brisket, apple-strawberry crumble, seared tuna, tangy English ribs, biscotti, glazed pastrami.
If I only make one, which recipe should I make for my Seder?
That's hard, because I would say the balsamic roast (we ALL love it), but we don't traditionally serve roasted meat at the Seder, so maybe try the English Ribs instead. The Meringue Layer Cake is a showstopper!


Pulled Brisket
serves 6 to 8  
INGREDIENTS:

1  (3-4 pound) second cut brisket

1 Tbsp prepared horseradish

1 Tbsp imitation mustard

½-1 cup ketchup, to taste

1 cup water

2 tsp  garlic, chopped

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup vinegar

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste
 
INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a 4-quart saucepan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Place brisket into a roasting pan; pour sauce over meat in pan. Cover and seal pan tightly. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 200°F. Bake overnight or at least 6 hours. Remove pan from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Wearing disposable gloves if desired, remove fat from meat and discard.

5. Use two forks to shred the meat. Rewarm in sauce.

6. For a great variation of this recipe, make crepes (Perfect Pesach Lukshen, page 54) and fill with pulled brisket.

Sweet Potato Crisps Salad

Serves 8
 
INGREDIENTS:

1 large sweet potato

¾ cup oil for frying

salad

  1 (8-ounce) bag Romaine lettuce

  ½ red pepper, sliced into strips

  ½ yellow pepper, sliced into strips

  1 (8-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained

  1 small red onion, diced

dressing

½ cup olive oil

1/3  cup vinegar

½ cup sugar

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp imitation mustard
 
1. Prepare sweet potato crisps: Peel sweet potato. Using a vegetable peeler, continue to peel wide paper-thin strips of sweet potato.

2. Heat oil in a deep skillet. When oil is hot, add sweet potato strips a few at a time. When golden and crispy (about 5-7 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon. Can be made a few days in advance; store in an airtight container at room temperature.


3. Prepare the dressing: Place dressing ingredients in a small container. Shake to combine. 
4. Assemble salad: Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Place sweet potatoes on top right before serving.

Friday, March 21, 2014

This & That

I was going to start priming the front hall this week...that never happened. (Yes, we've lived here for over a year and I still haven't painted the front foyer and hall.) Not quite sure where the week goes but here it is--Friday already! 

Here is what I did get done...
I put together this mood board for my clients that are redoing a small den/sitting room. They needed a new sofa, storage for books/art supplies and a desk for their young daughter to work on her arts and crafts. Because it's on a budget I found almost all the pieces from Ikea.  The rug is from Overstock (it's an indoor/outdoor rug which is indestructible!) and the desk is from Staples.

Earlier in the week I found myself at a consignment shop on the other side of town looking at a sofa for a client. Turns out it was too small but I spotted this great lamp and black globe and bought them for our own home. Check out the prices!
Left photos were taken at the consignment shop, the right ones are sitting happily in our house!

Last but not least I bought this beautiful kiddush cup...
I love the simplicity, the hammered finish and the gold peeking out.

Have a great weekend and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Favors for an Art Birthday Party

Now that Purim is behind us I can start preparing for the next big event at our house...Moussia's Art themed birthday party!
These party favors are filled with mini art supplies and candy and the clear containers show off the supplies.
1. Found these plastic canisters from the dollar store...the size and shape are perfect!
2. Each one is filled with mini watercolors, markers, colorful pads of paper and candy.
3. Moussia wrote a thank you note and I made color copies of it reduced to fit on a small tag.
4. Colorful chevron ribbon is the perfect finishing touch.

Still have much to do but I can cross party favors off the list!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Fun and Festive Purim!

Purim was non-stop here on Sunday. We had our daughter's family visiting for the weekend which made the holiday even more fun than it already is! Here's a little peak.
1. My baskets were wrapped and ready to go the week before so I had one less thing to worry about.
2. & 3. Moussia and Yosef loved being my "delivery kids" traveling from house to house and delivering Shalach Manos.
4. Here are some the beautiful food gifts we received for Purim (before we ripped them open!)
5. Zelda loved her little Shalach Manos filled with candy and small toys.
6. Our community Purim party was an Under the Sea theme...colors were blues and greens.
7. The children enjoyed a live bubble show and inflatable bouncers.
8. Yosef's costume was laser boy and Moussia was a cowgirl!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Celiacs Just Wanna Have Hamantashen

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease eight years ago and haven't eaten gluten since. Back then, gluten-free products were hard to find but today gluten-free has become the "in" way to eat—even for those that are not diagnosed with Celiac. Although I buy gluten-free pizza crusts and breads, I haven't tasted Hamantashen in years. So when I saw this recipe on chana's art room, I had to try it.
I already had all the ingredients since I bought some almond meal at Trader Joe's a while ago and had no idea what to do with it!
I liked that all the ingredients are tossed into a food processor—no mixing or sifting.

The recipe is really healthy, so these don't taste like a sweet cookie. I even added peanut butter and dark chocolate as my filling so they're packed with protein.
Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Purim Seudah Dinner

The Purim seudah, or festive meal is unlike any other in the Jewish year...in addition to good food and lots of alcohol, the meal is characterized by its zany raucous atmosphere!
For our seudah, each guest is given a gold maskthe idea of wearing a costume is to symbolize the hidden miracle of the story of Purim

Flowers and ferns in green hues add to the bright green palette. Homemade pom-pom groggers keep with the bright citrus colors.

We'll be celebrating on Sunday, so stay tuned for pics of our Purim celebration next week.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hello Sunshine: Shalach Manos Baskets

It's been a rough winter here in Connecticut and I'm sure our friends and family could use a bit of sunshine! This year my theme for our Shalach Manos baskets is all things lemon.
I made the sunshine gift tags on PicMonkey and tied the whole thing up with a yellow and white striped ribbon.

Here's what's inside each basket...
I had so much fun searching for "lemon" items to use for our baskets!
Since many of our recipients are very strict with their kosher observance,  I include a guide explaining the kosher certification of items I may have unwrapped like the jelly beans and cookies.

I started a tradition a few years ago. I give each grandchild their own Shalach Manos gift—I used to get away with only two but this year Zelda is almost two years old so I needed to put together three since she MUST have the same thing as her older brother and sister! The yellow boxes are Chinese food "take out" containers from Michael's filled with special candy and small toys and wrapped with the same yellow striped ribbon.
I love making these so much I actually have my theme picked for next year's Purim!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cupcakes for an Art Birthday Party

I've been experimenting with ideas on how to serve the cupcakes at Moussia's birthday party and I came up with an easy, fun idea that the girls will love!
We'll bake plain white cupcakes with vanilla frosting and the girls will decorate them with fun sprinkles! The "paint brush" is a pretzel rod dipped in colored candy melts for the paint.
I bought these paper platters from the supermarket and the plastic shot glasses at the party store. Each one was cut into a palette shape, and colored sprinkles were poured into the shot glasses. So easy and cute!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Napkin Rings Fit for Royalty

The story of Purim is filled with royalty...from King Ahasuerus, to Esther becoming the new Queen of Persia. That said, these crown napkin rings are the perfect accessory for the Purim table.
They cost pennies to make and all you really need is some metallic paper and stick-on rhinestones.
I found tweezers helpful to place the rhinestones where you want them.
A bit of tape keeps the crown closed. So simple, but they really capture the story of Purim. If you'd like to read about what the holiday is all about, you can here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Birthday Invites for an Art Party

Moussia will be turning six in a few weeks and requested an Art birthday party. (A girl after my own heart!) 
With the help of PicMonkey I put together this cute invitation in less than an hour.
The inspiration for the design came from my favorite children's book...the "I Spy" series by Walter Wick...
If you're not familiar with "I Spy" books, here is a spread from a book I keep at my house.


Next, it's on to the party planning!
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