Chicago Blogger Network




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ABCD Design
At Home with Kim Vallee
Celebrations at Home

The Daily Basics
Everyday Celebrating
The Gracious Girl
Housewife Bliss
Hostess with the Mostess
It's in the Details
The Party Bluprints Blog
Pepper Design Blog
Thoughtfully Simple
Unchained Kitchen



Flowers for Dummies

I'll admit, I'm not so good with flowers. They're my weak spot when it comes to event planning.  For instance, I didn't know what a stephanotis was until seven years ago, when my wedding florist informed me that their proper name was not "those little white ones that look like a starfish".

Ah, I know what these are!

Although I do much better these days, guides like this one by Real Simple make flower selection stupidly easy. It's great for any type of event, not just a wedding. Simply select the season, the type of bloom (big, med, small), and colors and voila! the guide will reveal which bud's for you:

Real Simple Flower Finder


Afternoon Tea vs High Tea

Today's post is really more of a Public Service Announcement.  Here it is:

"High Tea" is not what you think it is.

I'll admit, this is a somewhat obscure pet peeve, but I cringe whenever I hear someone use the terms High Tea and Afternoon Tea interchangeably.  They are actually very, very different.  If you think that "high tea" means an elegant affair of scones, pretty sandwiches, and wee little pastries served on a three-tiered server - well, I'm sorry.  That's not High Tea.  That is Afternoon Tea. I think the confusion comes from the word "high" and many people assume that "high" means fancy.  In this case, it doesn't.


This is AFTERNOON TEA, not HIGH TEA!  (photo source)

So what is High Tea?  It's a casual mini-meal eaten at the end of the day and often consists of a hearty meat pie and strong black tea.  It was originally practiced by working men in the UK who would would come home hungry from work, but find that it wasn't quite time for supper.  The name comes from the high-topped table that one would historically sit at to eat such a snack.

The term "Afternoon Tea" originates from the time of day that society ladies would gather in their parlors to sip tea from prim cups and eat dainty treats served on china.  Since true High Tea is hardly a special occasion worth mentioning, it's safe to assume that when someone says "High Tea" they actually mean "Afternoon Tea".

Armed with your newfound knowledge, if you're in Chicago and are looking for a place to have Afternoon Tea, I highly recommend the Four Seasons.  After years of intensive field research (a.k.a. excuse to chat over fancy food), my friend Andrea and I have decided it's the best.


OMG, there's a National Grilled Cheese Month


I know.

I mean, it's not like the grilled cheese sandwich needs its own month to raise awareness, but whatever...I am only too happy to celebrate this divine foodstuff for the rest of April.  BTW, who decides these things?  Is there a National Grilled Cheese Board?

Disclaimer: if you're looking for healthy recipes featuring low-fat cheese and bread alternatives, keep looking.  It's a big internet.  I'm sure they're out there somewhere - just not here.  When it comes to grilled cheese, I'm only interested in the real deal.

Right, so what can you do to commemorate this glorious sandwich?  I propose serving the following at your next gathering, even if it doesn't take place in April.  I won't tell the National Grilled Cheese Board.


Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Four Ways

Bread: White, buttered on both sides of each slice. (I insist that you do this, and be sure to use softened butter)
Filling: Aged sharp cheddar.  Bacon and tomatoes (with pulp removed) optional.
Accompaniment: Tomato Soup

Bread: Brioche or hearty multi-grain
Filling: Brie and thinly sliced green apples
Accompaniment: Chutney

Bread: Jalapeno
Filling: Mild cheddar, Jarlsberg.  Sliced jalapenos and peppers optional.
Accompaniment:  Berry preserves (blackberry or raspberry recommended)

Dessert (pictured at top)
Bread: Challah
Filling: Mascarpone spread
Accompaniment: Chocolate soup (see recipe in link above, or purchase from Frontier Soups)


Part 2 of 2 - Easter eggs au Natural

Part 1 - Fancy Eggs

Part 1.5 - Paper couture

And now, Part 2.  If you eschew the chemical dyes and wish to channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder, this post is for you.

When I was little, I used to watch my grandmother dye eggs according to the Onion Skin method, which produces eggs like those shown below.  Instructions are here.

image source

You can also create stunning red eggs, in the Greek tradition.

Lastly, Martha Stewart has (of course!) a very comprehensive guide detailing many different types of dying methods and their resulting colors.  Beets, cabbage, and coffee - oh my!


What to do with all that matzo

Passover begins tonight!  For some, that means a house that has been thoroughly cleaned in accordance with tradition (plus the very modern desire to "spring clean"), an interactive dinner that lasts for hours ("Is it time to eat yet?"), and matzo.  Lots and lots of matzo.  There are lots of suggestions out there for what to do with all that matzo, which, let's face it, can get a bit boring.  Here are a few recipes that look so good, they almost make me want to buy some extra boxes.

First, from a charming little blog called Matzo Outside the Box, we have Brie en Matzo Croûte.

Another inventive brie (not the cheese, but the method of preparing matzo) comes from Jayne Cohen's recent book, Jewish Holiday Cooking.  Her Savory Artichoke Matzoh Brie (pg 479) would be a lovely brunch offering.

From The Kitchn by Apartment Therapy comes a twist on the well-known matzo toffee.  This is Matzo Crack:


from The Kitchn




...and finish with this Kosher Champagne Cocktail from Gourmet!

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