Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cheerios Peanut Butter Morsels

When you have hungry boys in the house, having goodies around for snacks is almost mandatory!  I was looking for something easy that could be done in a jiffy.  I checked my pantry and found  a few simple ingredients that let me create these Cheerios Peanut Butter Morsels. 
Cheerios has been a favorite of the family since the boys were little.  It is not only economical but also nutritious.  Years ago when we attended morning services, Cheerios was a lifesaver - snacking on them kept my 3 year old quiet!  Ever since, Cheerios has been a staple in our house. 

Cheerios Peanut Butter Morsels
1- 11 oz. Butterscotch morsels
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)
3 cups Cheerio's cereal
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup Reese's peanut butter chips
  • Melt butterscotch and peanut butter in top of double boiler or non stick pan over low heat.  Once mixed and melted, remove from heat.
  • Mix in cereal, raisins, then sprinkle in Reese's peanut butter chips last. 
  • Cover cookie sheet with wax paper
  • Drop by  ice cream or cookie scooper onto cookie sheet and refrigerate.
  • Ready in 15 - 20  minutes.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Customized Party Themed Banners and Accessories

I love creating customized banners that proclaim the event - they make  a statement!  Banners are one of first things that draw your attention when you're at an event.  Customized banners are normally very expensive and most of the time they don't fulfill my requirements.  When I'm doing a party I scout the walls (a great canvas to work with!) and try to find ways to enhance them given the theme and the budget.

Party 1:   Baby Boy Shower

Party 2:   Baby Girl Shower - Garden Theme

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Early Retirement Luncheon- Indoor Garden Tea Party

A very good friend asked me to help plan her early work retirement party in a garden tea setting in September.  Early Work Retirement - ahhh sounds like heaven!  There were several challenges that needed to be tackled first.

Challenge 1:  the weather is so unpredictable where she lives.  Doing the party outside while raining and/or foggy could dampen the celebration. 
Solution 1: We decided to do an indoor party and have the appetizer and initial socializing outside on the patio. So, even if it rains, we won't have to move things around in a frenzy.

Challenge 2:  Create a garden setting inside the house when the color scheme is very masculine and has a fish theme  (her husband collects anything with fish).
Solution 2: Create several fresh Floral Arrangements (flowers of her choosing) that fit the table's character; accenting it in the sweet hues of  blue and pink. 

Challenge 3Fit 40 people for a sit down luncheon in the main living room and still make it look cohesive.
Solution 3: Use round and rectangular tables to maximize the living space, make each table special by alternating the colors of blue and pink per table and accessorize with those colors.  

 As people are entering, there's a table by the entrance door that I filled with nic nacs with gardening books and tea sets to create the welcoming feel of an outdoor garden while they look over a compiled album of  co-workers and departments she's worked in.  Also, each guest receives an entrance ticket for door prizes.

For the entrance hall, I could not fit these long stemmed flowers on any of the round tables, so I decided to use her long narrow vase to highlight the height of these flowers.

The Social Order of the Day:
Appetizers, drinks and dancing in the patio while still waiting for the rest of the guests
 Luncheon: Tea sandwiches, smoked salmon, salads, fruits, desserts
Game 1:  Guess what's in her purse/shopping bag
 Game 2:   How well do you know the person?

Blue Table  1:
  Master Table - where the guest of honor is seated,  I accessorized it  mainly in blue  and created a floral arrangement combining all the flowers she bought.

Floral arrangement on the master table

 I made a card that had a poem about retirement (the card was later used for a game - we love to recycle!)   

The following Floral Arrangements are a little bit different since I only have a limited  flower selection that I could work with to create a custom design per table.
I created the flower arrangements based on the size of the tables so it wasn't  too overwhelming.

 Pink Table 1:  Rectangular Table
For this rectangular table, everything is pink  - even the flower arrangements.

a second flower arrangement almost mirroring the other on the same table

 Pink Table 2 - Round Table
Pink Table 3Transitional Table
 Where colors are starting to get mixed - there are a very slight blue highlights mixed in  (blue candlesticks, blue cards).

Blue and Pink Tables
These tables showcase the alternating colors of blue and pink.  The mixed floral arrangements dramatically highlight the combination of colors.

I clustered all the greenery in this room to make the room more like a greenhouse

These floral arrangements were later given as prizes. 

Luncheon Meals
Assorted tea sandwiches
Assorted fresh fruits (not pictured)
Smoked salmon
Honeyed Ham
Assorted bread and cheese (not pictured)
Assorted drinks (not pictured)
Assorted Teas (not pictured)

Dessert Table
Chocolate Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Carrot Cake
Assorted Tea Cookies
Rum Cake
Strawberry filled with cream cheese filling

To make this  wall (which is normally  decorated with a huge historical map) conform to the scheme color of the party, I covered it with a garden quilt that my husband's grandmother made.  Majority of the desserts were homemade.

I created a 3D effect of a ceramic watering can next to a quilted pot of flowers.  I also created the 3- tiered cake to symbolize a sprinkling of wishes to her old life  (chocolate cake) and more wishes to her new beginnings (white cake).

 Overall, given the floral arrangements and accessories ( highlighting the blues and pinks) had given my friend's house a magical transformation that she and her coworkers enjoyed!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Floral Arrangement - Silk Flowers

Over the years I've created a number of silk flower arrangements that befit the occasion or the season.  I love to be surrounded by colors anytime of the year, especially during the cold, dreary winter months.  What better way to do that than flowers.  I depend on silk flowers because they provide me better selection and do not confine  me to only seasonal flowers.  I love to mix and play with the different textures of silk flowers, all of which makes for a better display.

 Below are a few samples of floral arrangements I've created using silk flowers:

I designed this floral arrangement for a baby shower on a hot summer day, given theme colors of pink, yellow and green.

I made this silk floral arrangement as a memento of a successful  non profit event I co chaired, and gave it to the founding president.  This silk arrangement has samplings of the silk flowers that were used to design the event's tables given the theme colors of pink, purple and green.

I love the elegant way these flowers looked -  especially in a cluster -  because they reminded me of early fall.  I wanted to preserve that autumnal feeling by adding artificial water to this  floral arrangement (I used Quick Water for Silks).

This was my very first creation that combined real flowers with silk flowers.  One fall day,  I ended up with extra carnations from a floral arrangement I made for a friend and I decided to experiment mixing it with silk.  I was trying to tie the colors in one of the mirror in the room with blue, red, white and pink colors, thus, the result.

 One of my first creations on a cold and dreary January day.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake is one of my favorite cakes because of its exotic look, versatility and rich flavor. I've used it on many occasions, recently  on Valentines Day and some birthdays.  It took me a long time to find a good recipe that I thought was just perfect.  After many trials from different sources, I finally found the perfect combination of the cake and the frosting from  Boss Cake Chef, Buddy Valastros.  I've  varied the recipe a little bit to my liking (you'll see the difference in red on the ingredient list).   So, here's my ultimate Red Velvet Cake recipe.  Enjoy! 

 Note:  For this cupcake I used Smucker's Chocolate Fudge Magic Shell on top of the Cream Cheese Frosting.

Made for a sister in-law's birthday

Red Velvet Cake
Servings:  two 9 inch cakes or 24 cupcakes
  • 1 1/4 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons red food coloring gel
  • 3 cups cake flour ( I use Softasilk Cake flour)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract ( I use Madagascar Vanilla)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease two 9" x 2" round cake pans and flour them.
To make cupcakes: Line muffin pan with paper liners
  • Position rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350˚F.
  • Put butter, sugar, cocoa, food coloring, flour, salt, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar in the bowl. Mix to combine, starting at low speed, then raise the speed to low-medium and mix for about 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each is absorbed into the mixture. Add the buttermilk in two portions, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl between additions.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, or muffin pans.  
  • For the cake, bake until the cakes begin to pull from the sides of the pans and are springy to the touch, 35-40 minutes.
  • For cupcakes, bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour. The cakes should be at room temperature before you remove them from the pan.
  • Refrigerate or freeze until ready to decorate with frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields:  about 3 cups 
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered confectioner's sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
  • Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or handmixer). Mix at medium speed until creamy, approximately 30 seconds (for handmixer, a little bit more).
  • Pour in the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and mix until smooth, approximately 1 minute after the last addition.
  • Use right away, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.