Thursday, October 31, 2013
Looking for a last minute Halloween cocktail? Make this super easy and yummy Candy Corn Vodka courtesy of one of my dearest friends (and talented bar person)!! It's not too late to squeeze it in for your festivities tonight!
Here's a quick post for you...
Candy Corn Vodka
2 cups candy corn candies
1 bottle of vodka
special equipment: coffee filter or very fine sieve; pitcher or container
Pour the vodka into a saucepan large enough to hold all of it. Heat on medium-low heat until just about to come to a simmer. Be careful here -- we're heating the vodka to make the infusion process faster; if you let the vodka go to boil you're going to boil off all the alcohol and end up with syrup! When teeny tiny bubbles begin to form around the outer edge of the pot -- that's when you know it's ready. Turn off heat immediately and set aside.
Pour the candy corn into a large heat-proof container. A gallon container, very thick pitcher works well...something you usually use to make iced tea or lemonade is fine. Pour the warmed vodka right on top of the candy and give it a quick stir. Let it stand for a few hours. You'll notice the color will change into a super bright, perfect Halloween orange.
Take your serving container or pitcher and place the filter or sieve on top. Slowly pour the infused vodka mixture through the filter/sieve. This will catch any pieces of candy corn. If you like, you can reserve the candy corn to people on the side. Refrigerate the strained final product until well chilled. Use it to make mixed drinks or serve it as a shot as is!
Friday, October 25, 2013
Have you ever bought a bunch of parsley or dill, needing it for a tiny component of a dish, and end up sticking the bunch in the back of your fridge only to find it a week or two later old, yellow, and possibly oozing some peculiar yellow substance? Do you get pissed at spending the $2 for a bunch of scallions or parsley, and you can't get through the bunch fast enough so you end up throwing most of it away later? No more!
Now that we're in the full force of autumn with winter on its heels before we know it, most of us have to say good bye to fresh herbs growing in our garden. And prices tend to hike up at the local markets for fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, even chives. Have no fear! A trick I use that's stupidly easy can make those expensive herbs and garden growers last for the rest of the year and well into next spring! All you need is a glass jar or well sealed plastic tupperware and a freezer. Yes, it's that stupidly easy.
Freezing fresh herbs keeps them quite fresh. Perfect? No -- it's never better than fresh herbs just picked from the garden. But we'll take what we can get. Growing up my grandma would take tons of parsley growing in the yard and finely chop it, place it in a glass jar (like a mason jar) and keep it in the freezer. Any time she needed parsley for a dish or a finisher she just took it right out. Cilantro and dill also freeze quite well.
I take the parsley and usually give it a rough chop right off the stem, then freeze it. If I need some finer chopped I'll take a portion out from the freezer that I need and go ahead and chop. My grandma used to have parsley (which we used quite often) both in whole leaf form and very finely chopped formed frozen separately.
Dill is pretty straightforward; I give it a rough chop as well and then freeze.
Cilantro I keep whole leaf as much as possible. Lovage also freezes exceptionally well. I don't bother freezing fresh thyme, lavender, or oregano because their dried form work perfectly in dishes as much as their fresh versions do. Chives and scallions can also freeze well -- I give each a fine chop and add right to the freezer! Basil doesn't seem to freeze very well -- it gets brown and unappetizing. This one you're just gonna have to buy fresh at the store.
Hope this little kitchen tip helps extend the life of some of your herbs! And eases up your pockets! Happy cooking!
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Out of all three kiddos, #3 is definitely the pickiest. Add to that teething and basically food time is a nightmare. Seems like the only thing I can get her to eat is either Mediterranean in flavor or a soup of some kind. If it's a Mediterranean style soup, I get a small high-five...
On a night of desperation I opened a can of one of those tomato alphabet/character pasta soups. I thought surely she'll eat this. Nope -- hated. it. So did the other three. There goes $4 down the drain for organic crappy soup. Extremely irritated, the next day I made my own version. It was far more successful and gave me the rare small high-five.
The soup is extremely simple and can be made with a few base ingredients. I added white beans because they are soft and easier for her little teeth to eat, and gives protein. I chopped the carrots super small. Adding both flavor and color, it's a great way to sneak in some veg if you've got a picky eater. Canned diced tomatoes together with juices as well as 1/2 can of tomato sauce to give that thicker consistency gave the irresistible red color. Some basil for fragrance and flavor, and finally super thin noodles complete the dish. If I had alphabet noodles I would have made it using those. The idea here is to use a fun pasta -- anything will due -- that's small and fun and most importantly easy for the kids to eat. If you really are up for it, it's a great soup to get them to help you to make as well! Enjoy it!
Tomato Noodle Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped very small
1 celery stalk, ends trimmed and chopped very small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small (or 1/2 large) bay leaf
1 (12 oz) canned diced tomatoes -- recommend San Marzano tomatoes (they're the best!)
4 oz tomato sauce
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (12 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed with cold water
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn by hand
about 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup pasta for noodles; (i.e. alphabet, skinny noodles, ditalini, etc.) to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir often because the dice is small; you don't want the veggies to burn! Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook another minute. Add the canned diced tomatoes together with juices directly from the can right into the pot. Add the tomato sauce as well, stir to combine. Add the broth and stir to combine. Bring soup to a boil. Add the basil leaves and white beans, mix to combine. Cover with lid, reduce heat down to let soup simmer (rather than boil) and cook for another 20 minutes or so. You want the beans to be nice and tender.
Taste the soup and adjust with seasoning to taste. If the tomatoes you used were a little tart, you can add a pinch of white granulated sugar to help balance out flavors if you like. But if you used San Marzanos, sugar is almost never necessary.
Once the soup is to your liking with seasoning, bring the soup back up to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta. Stir. Cover with lid and cook according to pasta directions -- using very thin noodles like I used will take under 5 minutes; thicker pasta like alphabets or ditalini will take more like 8 or even 10 minutes. Taste the soup and when the pasta is al dente, the beans are tender, and the seasonings are good, the soup is ready.
I serve it pretty warm with oyster crackers or Goldfish crackers on the side for the kids to drop in and "fish" out with their spoon. Crusty bread is also a great option.
This soup is fantastic the next day as well, so make a big batch with leftovers for the next day!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The weather has been horrid in Seattle lately. Record rains and dipping temperature have already ushered in the first snow of the season in the local mountains. Driving by the local farms dotted with specks of perfect orange pumpkins, cold wet rain, and snow-capped mountains off in the distance immediately sends me into the kitchen to make soups. Today I went for a old standby I've gotten away from for a while. And like an old friend, it was lovely reconnecting...
I'm obsessed with this combination: white beans, rosemary, parmesan cheese, truffles. I make a variation of this combo as a dip, a crostini, a salad, and as a soup. The simplicity of the ingredients is what makes this recipe (and the other versions) so successful. Truly, it is imperative you select only the best -- good quality beans, fresh rosemary, imported parmesan cheese (I'm talking about the kind that breaks off so easily when you try to grate it), and truffles. If you don't have real truffles no problem; use the truffle oil (I confess, I do!).
I love everything about this soup. The texture is silky, the color palate is so soothing, the hints of rosemary and truffle add an irresistible earthiness to the hearty white beans. I like adding a small drizzle of excellent olive oil right before serving for a luxurious and fragrant finish. This recipe comes from humble beginnings -- prepares very easily with readily available ingredients -- but finishes and serves so elegantly. It's hearty without being heavy, effortlessly elegant, and at the end of the day does what we want from every soup: comforts and keeps you warm.
You can certainly make the soup in advance. In fact, I recommend it. As the soup sits, the flavors develop even more. This soup is fantastic the next day, making it a perfect appetizer or main course to serve for a dinner party or lunch that can be prepare well ahead of time. It reheats beautifully on a gentle heat. To serve I'll sometimes float a crouton on top, or just serve with warmed crusty French bread. It's heaven.
This recipe makes 4 appetizer portions. You can easily expand it to suite a larger crowd. Enjoy it and stay warm out there!
White Bean and Rosemary Soup with Parmesan and Truffle
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped small
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small bay leaf
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 (12 oz) can white beans (aka cannellini)
4 cups chicken broth (recommend: Swanson's)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan cheese
Special equipment: blender, food processor, handheld immersion blender to puree the soup
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook onions until well softened and just beginning to caramelize, on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary and cook an additional minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the beans (together with the bean juices in the can) and mix to combine. Stir in the broth. Bring soup to a boil, then cover with lid and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, for flavors to develop.
Taste soup and adjust seasoning to taste.
Remove the bay leaf and if using an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot. If using a blender or food processor, wait until the soup cools down to room temperature, then puree the soup in batches. (If you puree the soup piping hot in a blender or processor be advised you'll have to do it in very small batches. Remember that heat has volume, so if you're not careful and put too much hot soup in, you can blow the top off and make a huge hot mess all over yourself and kitchen. This is why it's best to just let it cool down and then work with it!)
You want a nice smooth consistency. Once everything is pureed and you've adjusted with seasonings, add a very small drop of the truffle oil -- about 1/4 tsp's worth -- but you can add less if you find the taste too strong. I prefer to add the truffle oil while the soup is hot; the temperature helps to really bring out the truffle flavor instantly. Mix the truffle right into the soup. You want a balance here -- enough to taste it but not so much as it overpowers.
If serving immediately, ladle soup out into portions and top with a good sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Add a small drizzle of good olive oil right on top if you like. Serve hot.
Make Ahead Tip:
You can make this soup a full day in advance. Do everything including the pureeing up until the point of adding the truffle. Bring the soup to a boil, then once hot, add the truffle and serve as suggested.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Little Girl came home yesterday sick. Sore throat so bad she could barely talk, I knew I had to do something to get her back into shape. Enter my Emergency Matzo Ball Soup....
A quicker version of my traditional recipe from scratch, this version utilizes the ingredients I always have on hand in the fridge and pantry starting in fall and going through winter and spring when colds and flus are more rampant in our house. I highly suggest you do the same. Not only can you make this super healthy and healing soup, these ingredients are bases for a whole slew of different dishes you can make. A more detailed blog later, but for this post in my Cold Busting Arsenal I have:
- chicken (breast, thighs) I keep in the freezer
- dried herbs including bay leaves, thyme, herbs de provence, etc.
- lots and lots of ready-made boxes of broth (chicken, vegetable, beef)
- matzo ball mix
- noodles or small/thin pasta I can throw into soups and stews
PS This soup tastes even better the next day!
Emergency Matzo Ball Soup
2 chicken breasts (or thigh, etc)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, ends trimmed and chopped
1 large bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 tsp dried thyme (to taste)
8 cups chicken broth (recommend: Swanson's brand); (there are 4 cups of broth per box of broth)
1/2 cup matzo meal to make matzo balls
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp water
Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a large pot. Brown the chicken on both sides until golden brown. Remove chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the same pot now, add the chopped carrots, onion, and celery. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaf and garlic and continue to cook another minute. Add the thyme and mix to combine. Slowly add the broth, making sure to scrape up the "brown bits" that formed on the bottom of the pot and sides -- they add flavor to the soup. While the soup is coming to a boil, shred the chicken or chop it into bite-sized pieces, then add it back into the soup. Don't worry if the chicken maybe isn't done all the way through; it will be fully cooked in the broth.
In another small bowl, whisk together the matzo meal, vegetable oil, water, egg, and a pinch of salt if desired until well combined. The consistency will be like thick, wet sand. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes take the matzo ball mixture out and begin scooping out about a heaping teaspoon's worth and using damp hands, form the mixture into a ball. Drop the ball into the boiling soup, and proceed to make more matzo balls. After you form each ball place it directly into the soup. Make sure they're not sticking together in the soup, then reduce heat down to medium and cover the soup to finish cooking. Cook for about 30-40 minutes. You'll notice the matzo balls have puffed up and the vegetables are nice and tender.
Taste and adjust with seasonings as desired. Remember, the soup will get saltier as it stays. So if you're making this soup in advance of something keep that in mind; the matzo balls will flavor and salt the soup the longer they stay in. If you taste it the next day and it's too salty, add some plain water to balance it out.
If you'd rather not bother with the matzo balls you can instead add some noodles or pasta -- flat egg noodles, super thin spaghettini broke into tiny pieces, or small shaped pasta like mini shells or ditalini work perfectly in this soup as well.
Enjoy and feel better!
Ok....it's fall, it's colder out, Starbucks has put their crap out and frankly I've never been a fan of their scones; I think they taste like cardboard. Yet, I always buy them, hoping maybe this time it'll taste better. But it doesn't. Then I get frustrated, and I swear off eating another scone again. Which is a shame because I heart scones. Of every shape and size, savory or sweet. But the pumpkin scone I've had so many bad versions of, I just can't...I can't...
A friend of mine posted on Facebook she made a pumpkin scone recipe, but expressed frustration with the result: "not spicy enough...I didn't have cake flour...the icing was off." It was just what I needed to get me out of my pumpkin scone funk. I happened to have a can of pumpkin puree in the pantry, and went to work on this gloomy, chilly Seattle Wednesday to give my friend (and you) the pumpkin scone recipe we all deserve to enjoy this season.
I'm pleased with the results.
There are different kinds of scones -- some flakier, more like biscuits while others are puffier and more cake-like in consistency. I think both are great, depending on what ingredients you're working with and what the ultimate goal is for serving them. These came out more cake-like; the pumpkin puree is automatically going to yield a puffier product whether you're making pie, scones, cake, bread, or cookies. They are super moist and packed with the spices of the season (cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and nutmeg) but without overpowering the delicate sweet pumpkin flavor. The glaze as per my friend's request is flavored with molasses, perfectly complementing the scones both in color and flavor.
I used my secret ingredient for fall baking: crystalized ginger.
Many recipes call for ginger powder or ground ginger; I thoroughly useless spice in my opinion. It completely tastes flat, has zero umpf power that we all know and love of real ginger. The closest you can get to fresh ginger is crystalized ginger -- almost just as powerful, for baking in particular it's even better if you want to include some kind of texture. I often like to surprise people with my baked foods substituting out sprinkles or chips with other ingredients that give the same texture. Here, I used finely chopped crystalized ginger for both amazing flavor and a little surprise of texture in the scone. I think it works. If you hate it, take it out and use 1/2 tsp of freshly grated ginger instead. Throw out the damn powder version. While you're at it, throw out the dried basil and parsley too please. But back to scones...
My scones came out tasting like pumpkin pie but having the consistency of scones, hence my name for them. These are very easy to make and are just delicious with a hot cup of coffee or tea. Just perfect. You can serve them as an afternoon snack or perfect for a brunch or breakfast. Cut them into smaller portions (make 16) and package them up in clear plastic bags with a pretty autumn colored ribbon, add some nice earthy herbal tea and cute mug or tea cup for a lovely gift. These are great for bake sales and parties too! I think I'll make these again come Thanksgiving!
This recipe yields 8 larger sized scones; you can cut them smaller if you like for more adorable bite-sized versions. If you need more don't double the recipe; instead keep making more batches so there's consistency and quality control.
Pumpkin Pie Scones
1/2 cup unseasoned (i.e. plain) pumpkin puree*
1/4 cup half n half (can use milk or heavy cream)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg or mace
1 tsp ground clove
1 Tbsp finely chopped crystalized ginger (or to taste; I like the smell and taste of ginger)
1/2 cup (usually 1 stick) cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the pumpkin, half n half, brown sugar, vanilla and egg in a bowl until just combined. You want a nice, smooth consistency. Set aside.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg/mace, clove, and ginger in the bowl of a standing mixer (or conversely, a very large mixing bow). Stir with whisk or fork to get everything lightly combined. Set aside.
Take the butter and cut it into the flour mixer. If using a standing mixer, simply add the butter and turn on the mixer to speed 2 and mix until butter has been worked into the flour mixture and is the size of larger peas. If doing by hand, use a pastry cutter or fork and manually work the butter into the flour. You want the result to be little pieces of butter coated by the flour mixture; again the size of the butter about the size of peas. Why? These pieces will melt into the rest of the dough during baking, creating flaky and buttery goodness.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a dough is formed. The dough will be wetter and a little stickier than say a biscuit dough, but considerably firmer than a cake batter.
Add a little flour on a working surface and turn the dough out onto it, then sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough. Using your hands, work the dough to come together into a nice disk shape about 3/4 of an inch thick. It doesn't have to be perfect, but do try to get as good of a circle or disk shape as you can to make cutting triangles for you later easier!
Cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to get cold. Don't skip this step! It will make better scones, allowing the butter to melt properly!
Take the dough out and using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into 8 equal triangles as you would a pizza. Take each triangle and place on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with a little milk or cream, or egg wash if desired, and place in oven. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes. The scones will puff up nicely, and the tops will just begin to turn golden. The bottoms will be golden brown. They are ready when you can tap on the top and it sounds hollow; if you can't tap on the top it's not done yet.
Let stand to cool completely before adding the icing. The icing will melt and run off of the scones if they are even a little warm.
Serve with your favorite tea of coffee!
*At the store be careful -- they sell pumpkin puree that is plain (the ingredient it literally just pumpkin) and "seasoned" or "flavored" pumpkin -- this version has spices added to it in the hopes of making your pumpkin pie preparations easier. Please use the plain version and go with my recommended measurements of the spices; it will taste much better.
1 cup powdered sugar (no need to sift it first)
1 Tbsp unsulfured molasses
splash of cream or half n half (or milk) -- that's about a tablespoon's worth
Whisk the ingredients all together until smooth and well combined. The more sugar you add the thicker it will be; for thinner consistency add more milk. If you add too much of one or the other it's ok....keep working against the other until you get the consistency you like. But the above measurements should work well enough.
Take the completely cooled scones and using a spoon, take the icing and drag it back and forth over the top of the scone. Hold the spoon about 6 inches high from the top of the scone for a nice effortless effect. Conversely, you can transfer the icing to a plastic or pastry bag and do it that way. But I do like the organic, homemade feel of freehanding it with a spoon.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Five. He's turning five already. I remember five months old, five teeth, giving a high five. But this...I can't take this. Too fast, too soon. Ah, but I digress...
To commemorate this amazing milestone, Little Boy asked for a Star Wars themed party this year. Specifically, an emphasis on Darth Vader in particular. I admit, at first I was skeptical. He hadn't had that much exposure to the franchise, so I assumed the theme would change and change again for the course of the months. But it did not. Rather, it grew stronger like...wait for it...The Force. September rolls around and I'm in full on Star Wars Party prep mode.
I'll be totally honest with you. I know nothing of Star Wars, let alone the intricate plot lines, familial dealings, or frankly what a "death star" even is. I know Yoda is a tiny adorable green guy who speaks funny who looks like my grandma, there's a princess who's kind of bitchy with a spectacularly bad hair style, and it involves Harrison Ford. So for this party I had to do a bit of research. That was in part a bad idea, because there's a shitload of Star Wars stuff out there and I got super overwhelmed. After an initial panic, I got down to business, focused on the theme and colors, and went from there. The result? Well...you tell me...
First off the color and overall theme I wanted to go for obviously Darth Vader as the dominate theme and bolster with a more modern Star Wars take. I wanted space elements, the future, and bright colors. I anchored myself largely on the main key notes in the franchise: light sabers (ya, worked that theme to death, man), Darth Vader himself (both in colors as well as physical appearance), and mixed it all in with kid-friendly foods requested by the birthday boy.
I kept the colors mainly black which was personally very awesome for me (I love black) and accented with bright red (Vader's saber color) and mixed in some shimmering silvers, golds, bright neon greens (the "good" sabers) and cool "universe blues" (think midnight blue, laser light blue). I made the birthday sign myself, using simply black and bright red cardstock paper I cut myself and glittery silver sticker letters. Both can be found at Michael's craft stores. I hung the banner using silver floral twine -- I wanted to do an effect like the letters were suspending in space (ha -- there's that theme!) but didn't have time to really work the wire out to achieve the proper affect. Next time.
Tables were rented and of course black chairs to match the theme. Black disposable table cloths from the party store makes for kid-friendly spills and super easy clean up. Instead of using the plates, napkins and cups all with the image of Vader or Star Wars, I chose to do black plastic plates and keep the napkins and cups with the Vader theme. I think this works much better because it doesn't overly crowd the tables with the theme; it looks much sleeker and I think gives a nicer effect. Each table had a collection of balloons -- again, red, black and contrasted with silver stars. Added nice height and decoration.
I think the best part of the tables though were the silver star confetti! This was totally a last minute decision I'm glad I made. They added a perfect color contrast to all the black on the tables without being overpowering. They were festive, brought in that outer space element again, and added a feeling of celebration that really, really worked.
On the food table I had the food and drinks. I kept the desserts inside this time because we had an unseasonably hot day today and didn't want the cake or ice cream to melt! Among the food included:
Vegetables with "Thomas" (aka hummus) as requested by the birthday boy
Sandwiches from local Jimmy John's
Guacamole with Chips
Rice Crispy Treats
Teddy Graham Crackers
and two kinds of punch
Of course everything couldn't be called by their boring earth names; I crafted some very simple food cards using silver glitter cardstock with gold letter stickers. The food table also had a fabulous sign made quite easily using this subtly sparkly black scrapbook paper that had the perfect effect of outer space combined with neon "space" type font sticker letters. All I found at Michael's in the scrapbook section.
Given the space theme I wanted to go very sleek, modern and simple. It was kind of refreshing to be totally honest not to worry about lace or glitter or perfectly punched holes for pretty ribbons. Everything was about straightforward, clear communications and bright colors to contrast with the black. It was a lot of fun working with that palate actually. I tried to look to bright colors both in the décor and the food wherever I could, also doing a cheeky take on the Star Wars theme.
For drinks I wanted to use the beverage dispensers. I kept it really simple. I wish I could have used a more modern vessel like maybe a modern wine decanter for a better look, but I figured this was easier for kids. If you're doing this for adults then I'd say definitely go for the modern wine decanters!
We decided on Yoda Soda and Vaderade for the drinks. The Yoda Soda was green Hawaiian Punch I combined with some Mountain Dew. I did a 75-25 ratio punch - soda because I didn't want the kids to be too coked out on the sugar and caffeine. The punch gave a fantastic neon green base color and the Mountain Dew gave a delightful fizz for taste.
I also used these straws I bought from Ikea months ago -- they were the perfect shade of neon red, purple, green, and black that matched the palate perfectly. I think I spent less than $5 on a huge back of straws. I placed them in a simple glass container along with the themed Vader cups.
The Vaderade was a Cool Aid I made using the premix powder form (the just-add-water). Very simple, and it created the perfect shade of Darth Vader red. I didn't want to do Hawaiian Punch again, so I went this route. You could use most any red colored drink for this. I did really love how the hue came out however. It popped as did the Yoda Soda against the black and dark blues of the table.
The light saber theme was recurring throughout the party. I thought it was pretty smart to include them on the table quite easily in the form of freeze pops. Naturally the shape of light sabers, they have fantastic bright colors and gave a great focal point to the table. Needless to say, the kids loved them as well. I saw other parties that did light sabers in the form of dipped pretzels; great idea but this is far less work and on our hot day they were a huge hit to help keep the kids running around hydrated too!
I was stressing out about what kind of serving platters or vessels to use for this. I didn't want to necessarily invest $500 in modern platters, so instead I used more affordable glass flower vases. They ended up working perfectly. The round bowl-shaped ones reminded me of the helmets they wore when driving the space flying thingies (I told you, I'm really bad with the movies) and the other simple, slightly tapered vases looked like modular-type. I don't know, they really fit in I think in their simplicity of shape and color.
To play on the theme, we did Rolos titled Hans Rolos, cocoa-crispy treats I formed into balls (not that creative, but it worked) to be Death Stars, and teddy grahams for Ewok Cookies. The pretzels -- you can correctly assume the saber shape once again. I thought it'd be gratuitous to write another card for them.
The littler kids I found liked the ewok cookies. The Death Stars worked but in retrospect I wish I used some colored sprinkles or maybe even pieces of broken up pretzels mixed in to somehow make it more special. I recommend that if you try this for your party. The Hans Rolos were of course a hit with the kids.
Yes....this totally happened...
Sorry, I couldn't resist.
I used store-bought cinnamon rolls (the ones in the canister) and to make them smaller, I unrolled them, cut them in half, then rolled each half so instead of 6 larger cinnamon rolls I had 12 per container. This made the bite-sized portions way easier for everyone to eat. You can also just buy some cinnamon rolls from the bakery; I know Whole Foods sells a container with even smaller bite-sized versions that would also work.
The randomly requested Vegetables with Hummus:
Finally, I'd like to present on the food table, the Piece de Resistance:
Ya, that just happened too.
Make your own guacamole or use store-bought and shape the guac freehand into a yoda head. It was not that hard at all. I swear you can do it. Then for the eyeballs I did two dollops of sour cream that I smoothed out with the back of a spoon into eye-shapes. Two slices of olives completed the eyes. For the mouth I simply took a black olive and sliced thin slices I then placed in pieces for the mouth. Because we were doing Darth Vader, I used red tortilla chips. The whole dish sat on a simple black plastic platter I bought from the party store.
For desserts the birthday boy wanted cake as well as cupcakes. And he wanted me to make both. Thankfully he likes my red velvet cake (coincidentally the only cake recipe I can do well) so we did a traditional red velvet inside. He wanted chocolate frosting and black fondant with stars.
After my first birthday cake making experience back for Little Girl's Sleeping Beauty themed party which was a DISASTER of epic proportions, I swore I'd never make another birthday cake again. But how could I say no? Thankfully he didn't want anything terribly complicated or tall or intricate, so I felt confident I could pull it off.
I did my red velvet cake recipe (post coming soon!) and a simple chocolate buttercream frosting. I used store-bought Wilton brand fondant for the outside in black (SO EASY) and then cut out stars using cookie cutters with white fondant. I printed out a star wars font and created the letters freehand using the font to help me. And I totally cheated and used a plastic Vader figurine to finish off the décor, and I'm totally fine with that.
The cupcakes were chocolate with ice cream in place of frosting and sprinkles (post coming soon!).
The activities included a bounce house and Darth Vader piñata which was unceremoniously broken on the second hit by the birthday boy, who was first in line to try his hand at it. My planned activity that was supposed to take at least 15 minutes was over in less than 30 seconds. At least it was him who broke it though!
And finally, no Darth Vader party is complete without a special appearance by Vader himself:
Oh this poor guy didn't stand a chance. The kids' party gifts were light sabers (in addition to whatever they accumulated via piñata). They chose Sith or Jedi sabers (and I had some purple/pink ones as well) and they just completely accosted poor Vader.
He taught them some lessons and games, including how to use the Force...
How to run away from a shitload of kids armed with batons...
And various other games. The kids had a blast, and Darth Vader was an amazingly resilient good sport about the whole thing.
Thankfully we had a nice flat backyard and beautiful day to partake in all the space mayhem. Seriously though, I have no idea how Darth Vader survived.
The birthday boy and other kids were exhausted. I think I was partially forgiven by the parents for cracking their kids out on sugar and candy throughout the party, given how much energy they got out between the bounce house and running around playing with Darth Vader. I know the birthday boy himself really had a blast.
|learning some jedi fighting skillz|
|a lesson in using the Force|
The party was so much fun. I ended up loving the theme. I highly recommend a Star Wars themed party if you're wondering what to do. You can completely tailor it to a certain character, or even add more girly or boy elements depending on the celebrant. This would be fun to do as an adult party too one of these years! And I probably would still rent the bounce house even for adults as well.
Everyone was exhausted at the end. A sign that the party was a success. I think this picture says it all:
So in the immortal words of I Forget Who Actually Said It, "May the Force...be with you!"