Sunday, April 5, 2009

Southern Comfort

This week I want to share just a few ideas for Easter and spring meal presentation, recipes, and crafts. I'm not really an "original" person - very often my inspiration comes from elsewhere like a dear friend's home, a store or boutique display or website. I especially like to take ideas I see and give them my own twist or combine them with other ideas to make them my own. So please... no gushing. That's not why I post this stuff. I post it to hopefully inspire you. And no feeling inadequate either! If you don't have matching china (or a collection of unmatched china) decorate a paper plate or cut some shapes out of paper or fabric. If you add love to whatever you're doing it will be beautiful no matter what.

For the first time in a long time (maybe even ever...) I'm ahead of the game a little bit.

On Sunday I hosted my first annual Steel Magnolia’s party - a pre-Easter luncheon and screening of the modern classic, Steel Magnolias, for a few of my friends. Because I chose to show a movie, the space I had available was very limited - there's something slightly rude about inviting someone to your home for lunch and then to sit on the floor for a couple of hours watching a crybaby movie. I love my house - but there is one thing (OK... two things... well... maybe three...) that I don't like about it – when you first come in the door it’s pretty clear that my living room is just too small for entertaining. The rest of it I’ll get into another time.

I was hoping to have a southern ladies feel but with a relaxed atmosphere too. I served a simple lunch - we started with spring greens and salad toppings - homemade ranch and my favorite bottled vidalia onion salad dressing served from white creamers.

For the main course, we had fried chicken (with 11 secret herbs and spices... that's really the only way for a vegetarian cook to make fried chicken for her friends...) biscuits with honey butter, loaded mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and roasted asparagus with butter vinaigrette (thanks mom - it was delish! Who knew asparagus could be so good?) All washed down with either ice water, sparkling cider or sweet tea - the "house wine of the south"...

Dessert was homemade lemon bars with blue berries and strawberries and Red Velvet Cake (really Duncan Hines Devil's Food mix made with 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, a 1 ounce bottle of red food coloring, 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix on low for 1-2 minutes, scrape the sides and mix another 2-3 minutes. Bake according to directions on box in prepared pans. Moist and YUMMY - and I'd don't particularly care for cake...) More on the presentation later... let's just say, it tasted better than it looked.

When it comes down to it, I really enjoy looking at a beautiful table, and if it's easy to put together then that's the icing on the cake. Because my tablecloth and napkins were already ironed, the only table prep I really had to do was the centerpiece and that was fairly simple. I found a basket I like, filled it with paper shred and started filling it with Easter decorations I've been collecting. I chose to use purples and yellows with a touch of green for my color scheme. I pulled mismatched salad/dessert plates and cups and saucers from my tea collection in the yellows, purples and greens and just used my plain white china dinner plates. I also used mismatched white pitchers and creamers for serving the beverages, salad dressings and sauce.

Over the table I wrapped a couple of garlands I used in one of the last weddings I decorated and I strung some blown out eggs that I painted and glittered (another use for scrapbooking supplies) on some narrow ribbon. It’s a pretty easy project and I’ll share instructions and tips later this week.

I ended up with too many painted eggs to hang and put some of them in the basket centerpiece. There are some eggs that aren't painted too. I'll have to show them to you up close in another post - they're amazingly beautiful colors, pinks, light blues and greens, and they come right out of the chicken that way! I got those from my friend Lisa's chickens. She's a great friend to have, I tell ya'!
Another simple project was just printing some vintage looking Easter pictures from my Hallmark card program, and then accenting them with some colored glitters. If you do this, the only thing you have to worry about is getting the printer ink too wet so that it would run. Use the super fine glitters and a fine tipped applicator. Just do one color at a time – and if you’re doing multiple pictures – do all of a color at once… all the yellow, then all the pink, then blue, etc.
And lest you think me totally `round the bend... those "chocolate" eggs and that "chocolate bunny" are plastic. Do you really think chocolate could survive out in the open like that around here??? And isn't nice how chocolate goes with any color scheme?

For one of the party favors, I filled some cellophane cones (the kind you make the hot cocoa cones out of at Christmas time…) with orange jelly beans and tied them with green raffia (also left over from Christmas.) You don’t have to fill them really very much – just enough to look like a carrot!

A second favor was a basket of pocket packs of Kleenexes for weepy movie watchers.

One fun touch was the Oreo Egg Truffles in the little baskets at each place setting. The baskets I’ve used for Easter before (they’re actually wedding favors that cost about $1 each). The Oreo Truffle recipe I got from my friend Cricket years ago – I just decided to make them egg shaped this time and dip them in colored candy melts to match my color scheme.

The recipe is way too simple – Take a package of Oreos, remove 9 and either crush them to use as garnish or eat them. It’s totally up to you.

Pulverize the remaining Oreos (I use my mini Cuisinart food processor) and mix them into an 8-ounce bar of softened cream cheese. I used the fat free cream cheese and didn’t get any complaints.

Roll the mixture in to 1 inch balls (or in this case eggs) and dip into either melted chocolate or candy melts. If you go with the chocolate, you can sprinkle some of those crushed Oreos on top (unless, of course, you ate them…) I took a contrasting color of the candy melts and (after melting them…) put them in a Ziploc bag, snipped the corner off and drizzled it over my dipped eggs.

Let your truffles chill on a wax paper covered cookie sheet for an hour in the fridge to firm up the cream cheese again.

One FLOP that I had was my Bleedin’ Armadilla Red Velvet Cupcakes. It was a nice thought… but cream cheese frosting just won’t do it. At least not the soft warm stuff I was trying to use. I’ll have to work on this one. I used Wilton pan with half egg shapes to make the armadillo bodies, and those little foil wrapped chocolate eggs for the heads. You know… the line in the movie is “I can’t even begin to think of how to make gray icing!” Well – it’s pretty easy – You just buy black food color! Seems there are a lot of Bleedin’ Armadilla cakes around now than there were 20 years ago when the movie came out.

I’m excited to continue this tradition next year. When my guests first arrived, I gave them a little 60 question quiz on the movie – if you’d like to try it, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send it your way :0) They did pretty well, over all. It will be tough coming up with new questions next time. My friend Heather won the prize (that I haven’t given her yet…) with 47 correct.

I watch this movie every year at Easter and I've lost count long ago of how many times I've seen it. I could be a line coach for sure.

But it seems there's a little bit of Southern Bell in all of us. This time it was especially fun for me to watch one of my favorite movies and hear a room full of favorite friends quote the best lines along with me and use words like "honey" "precious" and "darlin'" all afternoon.

Maybe by next year I can have my expansion done on my living room so I have room for MORE friends to join me. Start studyin' now, darlin', just in case...

I'm linking to Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch. You'll be overwhelmed with inspiration there!


  1. Lovely decorations! What a great idea for a party too! Glad it was a good time :)

  2. It was lovely...and I was glad to be a part of it's loveliness and food ;)

    You should link up to "What works for me Wednesday" many others may be looking for help in this area.

  3. I agree about linking up for WFMW...

    I also loved being there. It was a fun time. You are an incredible hostess. Truly.

    Next year, you could invite the next group of women on your list. Those of us who got to come this year, could come the year after. Sorta a rotating schedule. That would be really nice of you/us....
    but I would be sad to miss it, darlin'!

  4. I totally forgot about my prize! It was a wonderful are indeed a fantastic hostess!!!!
    Thanks for the invite!!!!
    Hugs, :) Heather

  5. You are just awe inspiring! You constantly amaze me. I have given you a little award over on my blog!

  6. It was lovely. Where did you get the idea for the basket on the table? (wink-wink) I agree that imitation is the highest form of flattery. :)

    Really, your house looks great. I am impressed with it all. The southern meal was fabulous. Well, maybe not the gray cupcakes...a little weird. LOL! (notice I still ate one!) Lisa~

  7. Your table looks so beautiful! What a special time holidays are at your house!


  8. BEAUTIFUL!!! Loved the basket centerpiece. You are very creative.

  9. Wow, everything's so beautiful! Your party must have been so much fun; one of these days I must watch the movie in your honor. Wish we lived closer, and looking forward to August.


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