Celebrating

Be inspired by crafts, recipes, decorations and more to celebrate life’s holidays and occasions.

7-Layer Quinoa Salad

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014

7 Layer Quinoa Salad pin

A favorite 7-layer dip recipe from my mom circa 1978 inspired this healthier version. It’s a perfect side dish for a backyard barbecue or beach party.

My friend Jennifer and I like to use each other as test subjects for new recipes. It’s a wonderful excuse to get together and catch up. I recently had her over for an afternoon by the pool, and came up with this twist on a 7-layer dip. In my childhood, it was a frequent guest at a “bring a dish” party because it’s easy to assemble and nearly universally liked. This version, however, substitutes protein-packed quinoa for mushy refried beans, and there are no tortilla chips needed.

I served this with simply marinated grilled chicken breast and it was a hit! My attempt to reproduce Starbucks’ lime refresher was not as effective, however. Always tactful, Jennifer politely declined a second helping of the beverage, but went home with a container of this flavorful salad.

What You Need:

1 c. uncooked quinoa
2 c. chicken stock or vegetable stock
Olive oil
2 limes
1/2 t. each dried cilantro, oregano and parsley
Salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 7 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c. prepared tomato salsa
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. sour cream
1 small can sliced black olives, drained

 

What You Do:

1. Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions, substituting the stock for water. Place the quinoa into a large serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. (Stir in the oil and if it seems a bit dry or sticky, add a bit more oil.) Add the juice and zest of 1 lime and the herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let the mixture cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the corn, cherry tomatoes, shallot, jalapeno and the juice of 1/2 a lime. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream with the juice of 1/2 a lime and set aside.

3. To layer the salad, add the ingredients in this order, but do not stir them into the quinoa:

Layer 1: Black beans

Layer 2: Corn salsa

Layer 3: Diced avocado

Layer 4: Tomato salsa

Layer 5: Cheddar cheese

Layer 6: Limed sour cream

Layer 7: Sliced black olives

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Once the dish is presented, gently mix all the ingredients in with the quinoa so every spoonful has a little bit of everything.

Serves 6 to 8

 

 

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Flag Inspired Fruit Pizza

Posted by on Jun 29, 2014

Fruit Pizza

This “pizza” is a quick and festive option for a 4th of July dessert. I make it in a glass baking dish and serve it right out of the dish. It really doesn’t get a lot easier than this.

 

Flag Inspired Fruit Pizza

1 roll (16.5 oz) refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese  (regular or light), softened
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 dry quart strawberries
1 dry pint blackberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a glass 13×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Break apart the cookie dough in the dish; press dough evenly in bottom of the dish to form a crust. (It’s okay if the dough comes up the side of the dish a bit.) Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack.

Wash and dry the fruit; slice the strawberries and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, marshmallow creme, lemon juice and zest with an electric mixer until fluffy. Spread mixture over cooled crust. Arrange fruit in rows over cream cheese. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Serves 16 to 20.

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Setting a 4th of July Table

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014

When I was growing up, every year–come rain or come shine–we’d have a cookout on the 4th of July with paper plates held in wicker cozies and plastic utensils. Then we’d pile into dad’s car and head over to a fireworks show where I’d “oooh” and “aaaah” like I’d never seen anything like it.

Well I still like to cook on the grill on the 4th and fireworks still amaze me, but my table has grown up a bit. Here I’ve set the table with everyday place settings with just a few additions from the party store and the dollar store. It’s an easy, fun patriotic look.

4th of July placesetting

Rethink table linens.

My red table cloth looked really Christmasy, so instead of a table cloth or a runner I used red and blue napkins. Three blue napkins form a “runner” while four red napkins serve as “placemats.”

Combine old and new.

I love using seasonal luncheon plates with my everyday white china. Here I’ve combined blue plates from the local dollar store for a punch of color. They’re small enough to pack away without a lot of fuss and come out just when I need them.

 

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Make napkins nifty.

Blue and white striped cotton napkins from a discount store are tied with red twill tape. For a little fun, I stuck a red foil pinwheel pick into the folds.

 

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Red, white and bloom.

A bouquet from the grocery store can be made into a patriotic centerpiece. Combine red roses (clean off all the greenery) with white carnations in a low, clear vase. Add a pop of blue with a sparkly party pick from a party supply or craft store. Tuck a few additional picks under the vase to bring more festivity to the table.

 

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Stars and stripes aglow.

Make easy patriotic votive candle holders from ribbon, paper and punches.

 

Choosing even just one of these ideas will certainly make your table more festive this year. Wishing you a safe and happy 4th of July!!

 

 

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Tie Up Spring Decorating with Scarves

Posted by on Mar 25, 2014

The other day I met a business associate for coffee, and on my way back to my car I popped into Charming Charlie just to see what’s new. They were having a “2 for $20″ deal on most scarves. That got my creative juices flowing! I love to decorate with scarves.

I found one that is gray, black and raspberry in a trendy suzani print–perfect for the living room.

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I styled it with apothecary jars from Urban Home and Cost Plus World Market.

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I also turned the fun Stockholm bowl ($20 from Ikea) into a candle sconce by placing it on a plate holder and just setting a pillar in front. (It looks awesome at night!)

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I still needed a second scarf for my “deal” at Charming Charlie. I looked around and almost gave up, but then I found a botanical print in hues of lime and aqua and I thought it would be great to wear.

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But when I got home, I happened to set it down on the table in the foyer (when I was putting the other scarf on the console!) and thought – wait a minute! This looks great right here.

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It looks great with the Bosphorus bowl from Pottery Barn, layered with river rock and moss, plus some spring branches and a rabbit ready for Easter.

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So maybe I’ll wear the scarf someday. But for now it’s a great spring look.

Scarves make a great table runner or a topper for a decorator round table. More ways to use them in your decor:

  • Tie two square scarves together and use as a decorative pillow cover.
  • Use the scarf as a wall hanging, attaching it with 3M strips or, if it has fringe, tie the fringe to a few nails or hooks in the wall.
  • Cotton bandanas can be used as napkins for a casual meal.
  • Drape scarves over chairs, benches, or sofas — anywhere you need softness, pattern and color.
  • Tuck a couple of scarves into your suitcase to liven up your hotel room.

Why not raid your scarf collection with a new perspective and see what might look fabulous in your home? Have fun with it.

That’s a wrap!

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Answer to a Holiday Entertaining Question

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013

 © John Saunders – Fotolia.com

© John Saunders – Fotolia.com

Just in time for holiday parties, a reader sent in a frequently asked, and sometimes tricky, question about entertaining. AM in Michigan writes:

Q.:

I’m tentatively planning appetizers for an “around the world party” – how many different apps. should I have for 4 adults (and 1 child)?  One adult has a severe food allergy (no dairy, and no most kinds of meat), so I want a least a couple options for him, but I do like cheese so I want other things as well.

A.:

What a great theme!!

A great rule of thumb for a cocktail party is, “make 3, buy 3.” So 6 different apps gives a good variety while not being overwhelming for either the hostess or the guests. Plan at least 4 pieces of each app per guest – more for the options that your allergy guest can consume, since he will have fewer options.

Hope this helps!! Enjoy the party!

If you ever have a question about party planning, home decorating, gift giving or smart living, please post your questions on the Facebook page.

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Easy Christmas Snack: A Merry Mix Up

Posted by on Dec 15, 2013

Easy Christmas Snack recipe

Putting together your own snacks mixes takes just a few minutes, and you have complete control over the ingredients. Substitute dried fruit and nuts of your choice, add cereal pieces … it is all up to you! This seasonally–minded mix is perfect as a festive nibbler for those holiday parties. It pairs well with everything from hot mulled cider to sparkling wine!

Ingredients:

1 16 oz. bag of pretzels (use the square waffle-like pretzels; they catch more chocolate)
6 T. butter, melted
1/3 c. sugar
1 ½ t. cinnamon
½ c. cinnamon sugar* (see below)
1 c. white chocolate chips or melting disks
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. shelled pistachio nuts

Directions:

1. Pour the pretzels into a large microwave-safe bowl. (I divided them into two large mixing bowls.)

2. Whisk together the melted butter, sugar and cinnamon. Pour the mixture over the pretzels. (Divide the butter mixture evenly if you’re using more than one bowl for the pretzels.) Gently stir the pretzels until they are completely coated with the butter mixture.

3. Microwave the pretzels on high power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave for another 45 seconds.

4. Pour the pretzels onto a parchment-lined tray in a single layer. Sprinkle generously with the reserved cinnamon sugar. (If you have any leftover cinnamon sugar, save it in an airtight container and sprinkle it on toast or oatmeal.) Allow the pretzels to cool completely.

5. Microwave the white chocolate morsels or disks in a microwave-safe bowl on high power in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment, until almost completely melted. Stir until it’s completely melted.

6. Using a tablespoon, drizzle the melted chocolate generously on the pretzels. Top immediately with the cranberries and pistachios, so the toppings stick to the chocolate. When cool, break into pieces and pile into a serving bowl or divide to use as favors or gifts.

*To make the cinnamon sugar, combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar and 1 t. cinnamon in a small bowl.

Gift ideas:

  • Make it a party favor: package the mix in clear cellophane bags tied with a festive ribbon and a Christmas poem or verse.
  • Package the mix in mason jars; use scrapbook paper to make labels; top it with a bow.
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