Friday, August 19, 2011

Forever Nigella: Picnic Pleasure


When I saw the theme for this month’s Forever Nigella, (host by Fuss Free Flavours), was picnic food, I was excited.  Picnics are so much fun!  Sophie really loves them too.  One time we went to the zoo, but I think Sophie was more excited about the picnic we had afterward than seeing all the animals.  Last week we were out running errands and needed a bite to eat.  We went through a drive-thru and took our food to the nearby Chickamauga Battlefield Park.  There was no playground, just a shady spot with a picnic table.  Fortunately, we had a blanket in the car to spread over the table.  We sat there and had a little impromptu picnic.  It was peaceful and we were spending time together as a family.   

I think a picnic calls for simplicity.  It’s not something you should be fretting over.  It doesn’t need to be an elaborate affair.  It wouldn’t be enjoyable if you had a lot to do in order to relax.  That being said, picnic food should be easy and quick to make.  It should also be able to stand up to travel and warm temperatures.  While looking through Nigella’s recipes, I found something that would be perfect to take on a picnic.  Marshmallow Crispy Squares (or Rice Krispy Treats as they are popularly called).  They are so easy, tasty and it just so happens that I was already planning on making some for Liam’s birthday.

Now I know that this recipe is not new to most people.  But that’s Nigella for you.  She’s just as eager to share something ordinary and comforting as she is the exotic.  There isn’t much you can do to change the basic recipe for these treats. It uses just 3 ingredients after all.  But Nigella offers a lovely way of displaying these squares by creating a gleaming mountain of candle studded squares.



Her other idea, the one I used, was to cut these into tiny squares, perfect for a party too.


I sprinkled the pan with sparkling blue sugar crystals while it was still warm.  I loved the look of them piled high upon a cake stand. 


I dipped some of them in vanilla almond bark and sprinkled the sugar over the top.  It gave a different flavor and texture to the treats. 


You can find Nigella’s recipe here:


For those who need a translation, in this case:

45g would equal about 3 tbsps.

300g would equal about 10.5 oz.

180g would equal about 6 cups

Now go have a picnic!

Are you interested in participating in Forever Nigella?  Here are the rules:

Forever Nigella #8
Challenge: To prepare and blog any Nigella recipe that is suitable to take on a picnic.  Proper picnic food please.
Deadline: Sunday 28th August, midnight wherever you are.
Round up: By the next weekend.

There are:

  • No rules about how often you must take part
  • No rules about stuff being secret until certain dates
  • No rules that everyone cook exactly the same thing
  • No rules about not being able to submit to any other blog events – just check it doesn’t contravene the other guys’ rules

But there are 3 rules:
1. Blog your entry by the deadline including:
a) the current Forever Nigella badge
b) a link to this page
c) a link to the official Forever Nigella page at Maison Cupcake:

2. So not to breach Nigella’s copyright you must NOT reproduce recipes verbatim as shown in her books. If using an original Nigella recipe, tell us which book it is from and/or where we find it online (see most likely sites below). If you’ve adapted the recipe in some way i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then it’s ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write the directions in your own words.

3. Tell us about your post by emailing me “helen AT fussfreeflavours DOT com”  and c.c. to “sarah AT maisoncupcake DOT com” with:
a) your name
b) URL of your post
c) a photo no more than 300 pixels wide.

Don’t forget to tweet your post with the hashtag #forevernigella – I will retweet all those I see!

N.B. Your entry must have been published since the announcement post. You may only submit something from your archives if you republish it as a new post.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Hoppin’ Party: Lily Pads


If you remember my post about Sophie’s birthday party, you may remember these coffee filter flowers I made. These inspired me to make some lily pads with water lilies for Liam’s froggy birthday party.


Coffee Filter Water Lilies and Lily Pads


Five white coffee filters for each lily/lily pad

1 white mini muffin baking cup for each

Washable markers in green, pink, yellow and purple.

Twist ties or 2 inch bits of pipe cleaner

Hot glue and glue gun


First, decide how many lily pads you want and count out that many coffee filters.  Take a green washable marker and scribble all over the filter.  It’s ok to have some blank spots.  Next, spread the filters out over a cookie sheet.  Spray with water from a spray bottle until the filters are soaked.  Put them somewhere they can dry.  I put mine in the oven on the lowest setting until dry.  Set them aside for later.  Do the same with the mini muffin cups using a yellow marker.

Next multiply the number of lilies you need by four.  Decide how many you want of each color.  I did some in white, yellow, pink and purple.  For the ones with color, follow the same directions above using the colors you want, using four filters for each flower.

Once dry, take four of the same color and make a stack.


Next, scrunch them in the middle and tie with a twist tie or bit of pipe cleaner.


Separate the layers, below is what one side will look like.


Here’s what both sides looks like.


Take each baking cup and make little snips all around, following the folds already in the cup.  It is also helpful to make a few longer cuts that go almost to the middleThese will make it easier to put them in the flower.


Now you are ready to put the lily pads together.


Glue the yellow baking cup into the middle of the flower and fluff.


Finally, position the lily onto the lily pad at a bit of an angle and close to the edge so it looks as if it is coming up from the water below and resting on the pad.  Make a small triangular cut in the lily pad to finish it off.


Placing the lily pads on a blue tablecloth looks nice.


Some were placed on green tablecloths.  Here we find a little froggy resting on the lily pad. 


This was a super easy project and would be great to do with kids!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Hoppin’ Party: The Meal


When it comes to first birthday parties, since your little one isn’t likely to have a bunch of cronies yet, it’s likely the guest list will be made up with mostly family and close friends.  By the time I added up everyone who absolutely had to be invited, it was already going to be a big guest list, so why not add a few more people who love our son?  We had invited about 60 people in the end.  We also decided that an evening party would be best for several reasons.  This worked out great because some family wouldn’t have been able to come to an earlier party.  Since we were having an evening party, we decided to serve a full meal. 

We kept the menu simple: salad, two kinds of pasta and bread.  My Mother-In-Law took care of the salad and bread.  My Sister-In-Law, Leigh, made the spaghetti sauce which I used to make Baked Spaghetti.  Basically, I just mixed the cooked spaghetti and sauce in a pan and added a few cups of shredded mozzarella to the top before covering with foil and adding to a warm oven.  I used the Hefty EZ Foil Party Pans Giant Size (19 1/2 in x 11 1/2 in).  They fit over the steam tables we used.  I was able to fit four 1 pound boxes of thin spaghetti plus sauce and cheese into the one pan. 


The other pan held 3 batches of Chicken “Fettuccini” Alfedeaux.  This is alfredo for people who don’t like alfredo. Trust me, I live with one of these people.  My husband WILL NOT eat fettuccini alfredo, but he loves this!  I think the secret to this dish’s success is that the cream sauce is not thick and overpowering as you will usually find alfredo sauce to be. 

And if you’re wondering about the spelling of Alfredeaux, that is because the chicken is seasoned with Cajun spices.  I only seasoned the chicken so that it wouldn’t be too spicy, but it is really good with a little dash over the top of the pasta too.


I lost count of how many requests I had for this recipe; it really is that good!  But I can’t take credit for it as I once requested this recipe from our friend Keith.  Thank you so much Keith, I am so grateful!


Chicken “Fettuccini” Alfredeaux

6-8 servings
1-12 oz. package of wide egg noodles
1 package of Knorr White Sauce or Alfredo Sauce Mix
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 large boneless chicken breasts
Cajun spice mix to taste
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 stick butter
1 pint heavy cream (although half and half works too)

Prepare noodles according to the package directions, drain and set aside.

Bake or grill the chicken seasoned with the Cajun spices.  Cut up or tear the chicken into small pieces.

Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add the packet of sauce mix and stir.  Add the cream.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for four minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat: add the cheese and garlic and mix well. 

Mix well and pour over the pasta.  Toss the pasta well until the sauce is distributed throughout.  Finally, add the chicken and stir into the pasta.

Serve warm and with a dash of Cajun spices over the top.

Click here for the Printable Recipe at Tasty Kitchen.

Linked to Suzy’s Artsy Craftsy Sitcom and Today’s Creative Blog.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Hoppin’ Party: The Invitations

Our little Liam is growing up too fast!  This weekend we celebrated his first birthday with a hoppin’ froggy party.  It was so much fun!  I’ve been very busy the last few weeks with planning and preparations, but it was so worth it; you’ll soon see what I mean.  I’ve got a lot to show you, so I’m going to spread this out over several days.

I’m also using this week as a way to introduce you to a new section of my blog: A Girl In Her Kitchen Crafts.  It just so happens that I do a lot of non-cooking projects in my kitchen.  It has great daytime lighting and LOTS of counter space.  This week’s craft posts will be duplicated in the crafting blog.  In the future, they will, with few exceptions, be found only in the crafting section.  You can follow the crafting blog in blogger or with Networked Blogs, (see the right hand side of the craft blog.)  Or you can just pop in from time to time to see if I’ve been up to anything new.

We’ll begin with the invitations to Liam’s birthday party.  I made them using Microsoft PowerPoint. 

First, I scanned into my computer a few pieces of scrapbook paper in blues and greens.


In PowerPoint I arranged the paper to where the front of the card would be.  I used more paper to create 3 little rectangles where I then added black and white photos of Liam at different times during his first year. At the bottom I wrote Look who’s turning one!


Here’s a peek at the inside.  I found both the frog and the poem online.


The back of the card (not shown) also had his monogram for a nice little touch.  After printing, I stuffed them into light blue envelopes. 

These were easy to make and so cute.  If the guests were like me, they displayed their invitations where they could bask in the cuteness.

I’m sharing this project, literally, by making it available in Google documents.  Hopefully, you can edit it there for your own little one.  Or you can write me for it at emcook17[at]comcast[dot]net.