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Clever Gift Idea

From The Knot's Wedding Obsessions blog comes this fun idea that I think would be perfect for a birthday, graduation, farewell, retirement....ok, really for any occasion when you need to honor someone.  Find their favorite artist on vinyl (it's easier than you think), get some paint pens, and you've got a great keepsake!

Photo source - theknot.com


Simple Breakfast in Bed

Sometimes it's the little things that can inspire you - take the charming rose napkin fold, above at bottom left. I found it while browsing Martha Stewart's site and immediately envisioned it as part of a pretty breakfast in bed presentation (and just in time for Mother's Day)!

Here's how to do the rose napkin.

You can serve the lucky recipient their favorite breakfast foods, or try out some new ones. This Bourbon French Toast with White Peach-Pecan Maple Syrup (above, bottom right) by Bobby Flay sounds delicious. So does this Pecan Praline Bacon. Add a small side of eggs and a Sea Breeze Mimosa (above, top left) and you've got a great start to the day!

Top off the presentation with a flower in a bud vase, some favorite reading material, or the TV remote (with a promise to not hijack it for at least an hour or so).

Photo credit: mimosa, flowers, rose napkin, french toast


Queen Bee theme for Mother's Day

queen bee mother's day

When I started thinking about themes for a Mother's Day luncheon, the image of a "busy bee" came to mind.  Many of my friends are new moms who have found themselves busy, busy, busy. Why not stop the buzz and celebrate the queen of your hive with this sweet spread?


Honey in cocktails? Sure, why not! Martha Stewart Living Radio has some delicious and creative honey cocktail suggestions (The Basil and Honey Daiquiri sounds fab!)


You don't want to go overboard with honey, so in addition to your regular lunch or brunch dishes, add these:

Bruschetta with Gorgonzola Cheese and Honey (pictured above, bottom left)

Three-Bean Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

Marzipan Bees (pictured above, top left)


Keep the theme going with sunny yellow centerpieces. Display yellow roses, daffodils, or daisies (any would be adorable with a black ribbon tied around the container), or put whole lemons into a vase, as pictured here. So simple!

Decorate with these salt and pepper shakers, this cute bee motif glassware (there's a whole line of tableware in the same motif), and these fun Beehive Candles (pictured above, middle left).

Bestow Mom with any number of gift sets from Burt's Bees or splurge on this Honey & Lemon Luxury set from L'Occitane.

Photo credit: marzipan bees, candles, bruschetta, flowers & lemons


Chic Cinco de Mayo

Next week is Cinco de Mayo...a minor holiday in Mexico but one that we Americans sure love to celebrate. Of course, you know the classics that typically make up a Cinco spread - margaritas, guacamole, and such. I love the old Tex-Mex faves, but if you’re looking to take a slightly more chic approach, here are some suggestions:


La Malinche. This cocktail is concocted by North Shore Distillery in Lake Bluff, IL and is made from their limited edition Mole Poblano spirit (still available in stores!). This cocktail is light, and has just a kiss of spice at the end.
2 oz Mole Poblano
1 oz Cointreau
Splash of Fresh Lime Juice
Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass. Garnish with lime.

Margarita gelées. If you can't get the Mole Poblano spirit where you live, try this creative twist on margaritas! I made them once and they were a hit.  If you decide to serve them but still want to do margarita drinks, consider serving flavored margaritas, for variety.
3/4 c tequilla
1/2 c Cointreau (triple sec)
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
6 oz can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
2 c boiling water
kosher salt

Mix tequilla and Cointreau in large glass bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over mixture and let stand 1 minute. Add limeade and 2 cups boiling water, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Pour into a 9 inch square pan and chill 8 hours, or until set. Cut into squares, garnish with lime rind or supreme. Arrange on platter with salt in the middle, for dipping.


Jicama salad Cool and refreshing! Jicama gives it a great crunch. Pictured above, top right.

Chicken mole tostadas Sophisticated nachos! Pictured above, bottom right.

Chipotle Shrimp Taco with Avocado Salsa Verde Yes, it's a taco, but they don't serve these at fast-food taco places... Pictured above, middle left

Guava-Cucumber Mousse This surprising dish is a great palate cleanser. Pictured above, top left.


Tres Leches Cupcakes An adorable take on a Mexican favorite.  Pictured above, bottom left.


Photo credits: mouse (via Foodgawker), shrimp taco, cupcake, jicama salad, tostadas


Creme de Violette makes a comeback

April Showers are supposed to bring May Flowers, but so far in Chicago all we’ve had is rain, rain, rain...not so much in the flower department. So how about drinking some flowers, instead?

I love introducing guests to new drinks, and one such ingredient that's sure to make a splash is Crème de Violette. It’s very, very French - would easily fit in with the French Happy Hour theme! - and until recently, impossible to find. Large urban liquor stores like Sam’s or Binny’s are now carrying it, but depending on where you live, you might have to have it shipped. Rothman & Winter is the most common brand in the US (pictured above...don't you love their art deco label?)

This liqueur, popular pre-Prohibition, is flavored with violet flower and has either a brandy or neutral spirit base. It lends itself well to spring cocktails. Violet Hour in Wicker Park has sparked interest in this classic spirit among Chicagoans. Here are some recipies to get you started...

Hush and Wonder by Toby Maloney at VH (source)
Rinse a martini glass (or a coupe glass, if you want to be authentic) with creme de violette

Into martini shaker, add:
2 oz rum (Matusalem recommended)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 dash bitters (Peychaud's recommended)

Shake, strain, and pour into glass. Before serving, use a grapefruit twist high above the glass, so that “just a suspicion of oil hits the top of the drink”.

Violette Fiz (source)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1½ oz gin
1/2 oz Crème de Violette
soda water

Shake first four ingredients well over ice. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with soda water.

V’ioletta by Junior Merino, pictured at very top (source)
2 oz gin (G’vine Floraison recommended)
¼ oz Crème de Violette
1 egg white
¾ oz simple syrup
¾ oz lime juice
top off with 1 oz of club soda

Pour all the ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, shake, and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with currants.

Blue Moon
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Crème de Violette
1/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass; garnish with a twist of lemon.

2 shots gin
½ shot lemon juice
⅓ shot Maraschino
⅙ shot Crème de Violette

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass

You can even use crème de violette to make cheesecake! (If you do this recipie, here's a discussion on "quark". Maria Cookies can be found in the hispanic foods aisle, or you can substitute tea biscuits.)

Photo credits: violets, violet colored drink

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