Our Porcelain Amuse-Bouche set is new!

amuse bouche appetizer spoons set
Have you ever been to a restaurant that has offered you an amuse bouche? Literally meaning a mouth amuser, they are served in fine restaurants as a gift from the chef to start the meal with excitement.  Served in a small dish or a spoon, they are generally very decorative and exciting to look at.  These beautiful porcelain amuse bouche set of 6 spoons will do the trick and get your next party off to a great start.

They are also lovely for a tiny dessert when you want something rich but don’t want to overwhelm your guests with a heavy meal.  A chocolate truffle would be beautiful and top off any dinner.

This great recipe will get you started on an amuse-bouche for your next party!

Cheese Cones with Avocado Salsa

Cheese cones with Avocado salsa

Cheese cones with Avocado salsa amuse bouche recipe.
Thanks to Katy Atlas at Sugarlaws.com for the photo

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup grated cheddar
1/4 cup grated Asiago

1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 small tomato, seeded, juice removed and diced
1/2 red sweet pepper, roasted or fresh, seeds and stem removed, diced into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 red onion, diced very small
1/2 cup corn
1 tbsp cilantro chopped finely
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp lime juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Mix the cheese together. Pour a heaping tablespoon of the mixture onto a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. Repeat with the remaining cheese, leaving at least an inch between piles. Bake for 3 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Allow to cool for one minute, then wrap the cheese around a peeled carrot to create a cone. Allow to cool until hardened.

Mix together the avocado, diced tomato, onions, red pepper, corn, olive oil, cilantro & lime juice so the avocado doesn’t bruise. Fill the cones with the mixture and serve!  Want to heat it up? Use Jalapeno or Serrano peppers to give it a kick!

Dueling Edibles: Radishes, Dill & Chives

Radishes Dill and Chives salad

Image from 1000 + 1

 

Radishes are often called the “instant gratification” crops of the garden, because they are easy to grow and go from seed to harvest in practically no time at all. Dill is super hardy and rules the container garden; while chives will grow in just about any type of soil with varying degrees of sunlight. These three garden edibles are surprisingly versatile, and any way you prep ‘em, they are sure to please your impromptu cocktail hour guests.

How to serve radishes

Nothing says spring like the crisp, peppery bite of a radish. When you garnish your Bloody Mary at brunch, have you ever thought of using pickled radishes instead of celery? How about piling pickled radishes on top of a juicy grilled burger? It gives the same crunch of lettuce with a lot more flavor.

Image from Relish!

  Easy Sweet and Sour Pickled Radishes

3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 bunches radishes, rinsed and drained

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large jar. Close the jar with its lid and shake it up until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Quarter the radishes. (Smaller radishes can be halved and larger ones may need to be cut into sixths. You’ll want them to be roughly the same size.) Pack the radishes into your jar, cover with the brine and then the lid, and place in the refrigerator. They can be eaten immediately, but will taste best after sitting for 3 days. They’ll keep for up to a month in the fridge.

How to grow radishes

Image from Garden of Eaden

Fast growing radishes are best sown in the cool periods of spring and late summer/early fall.

  • Days to harvest- 30 days from seed to harvest.
  • When to sow radishes outdoors- In spring, sow radishes at 10-day intervals starting two weeks before your average last spring frost, continuing to three weeks after your last frost date. Sow seeds half an inch deep and 1 inch apart.
  • Harvesting- If you pick radishes in warm weather, cool them off by immediately dropping them in a bucket of cold water. Trim off the green before storing them in the fridge.

Radish varieties to try

  • Easter Egg Blend- This variety comes in an array of beautiful bright colors. It’s a pretty and crispy addition to any salad or relish tray, and is great for pickling.
  • French Breakfast- The classic French way to serve these radishes is on a platter with sea salt. Try it- their mild flavor is irresistible! If you like in a warm climate, this heat tolerant variety is a great choice.

How to serve dillThe flavor of fresh dill is a great pairing with just about anything: sprinkled on popcorn, spread with butter on baked fish or grilled corn on the cob, chopped and stirred in with eggs and omelets, or of course added to homemade dill cucumber pickles. But how about infusing dill in vodka? Try it for an amazing new twist on the classic martini.

Image from StarChefs

  Simple Dill Infused Vodka

1 bunch of fresh dill, washed and trimmed
1.75 liters of good quality vodka

Place the dill in a bottle with an large mouth or a jar. Pour in the vodka so that it covers an inch or two above the dill. Place this in a dark place, such as a closet or pantry. Shake the mixture every day for 10 days. (Or leave it longer if you want a stronger flavor.) After 10 days, the vodka will have taken on a pretty chartreuse tinge. Strain the vodka through a piece of cheesecloth to remove the solids. Serve it chilled in a martini glass, along with a fresh dill sprig and a slice of cucumber as garnish.

How to grow dill

Image from You Grow Girl

Dill will grow best in a sunny spot. It’s a great choice for container, and can grow quite tall, so make sure it doesn’t block the sun from your other plants.

  • Days to harvest- 70 days from seed to harvest.
  • When to sow dill outdoors- Sow dill outdoors in the spring, about 4 weeks before your last spring frost.
  • Harvesting- You can harvest the leaves of dill any time before the plants flower. To dry the leaves, place them on a wire rack in a cool and shady place.

How to serve chives

Chives are most famous for their oniony flavored green foliage. Potato chip dip just wouldn’t be the same without them! But did you know that chive blossoms are also edible? The lovely lilac colored blossoms make an unexpected addition to pasta salad or deviled eggs. The trick is just to pull the blossoms apart so you don’t have a big fluffy flower in your mouth all at once. If you’d prefer to leave the pretty purple blossom in tact, use it as a garnish on any savory cocktail, such as an Old Fashioned, a martini, or a Bloody Mary. Or, pep up your salads with this chive blossom vinegar from Calendula and Concrete.

Image from Jax House

 Chive Blossom Vinegar

1 large bunch of fresh chive blossoms
1 quart of white vinegar

Place the chive blossoms in a bottle with an large mouth or a jar. Pour in the vinegar so that it covers an inch or two above the blossoms. Place this in a dark place, such as a closet or pantry. Shake the mixture every day for 14 days. (Or leave it longer if you want a stronger flavor.) After 14 days, the vinegar will have a beautiful bright pink color. Strain the vinegar through a piece of cheesecloth to remove the solids.  The vinegar will have a mild oniony flavor, which is excellent for homemade salad dressings.

Image from Flickr/ Bitter Jeweler

How to grow chives

  • Days to harvest- 6o days from seed to harvest.
  • When to sow chives outdoors- Plant chives outdoors in the early spring or in the late summer/early fall.
  • Harvesting- Use a sharp pair of scissors to cleanly cut your chives. Leave about 2-3 inches of the chive leaf at the base. You can harvest chives in big handfuls, all season long!

How to combine all three edibles: radishes, dill & chives

Whip up a quick batch of this butter from Pink of Perfection with fresh herbs from your herb garden. The creaminess of the butter, freshness of the herbs, and spiciness of the radishes are an irresistible combination.

Dill Butter
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup or 2 ounces soft goat cheese

In a small bowl, mash together the dill, chives, shallots, butter, and salt. Mix until the herbs are evenly distributed throughout the butter. Crumble the cheese on top of the butter and stir a few times, just long enough to work the cheese into the butter, but keep the cheese a bit chunky. The dill butter will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week, but bring it back to room temperature before serving. Serve with cold radishes and a pile of salt.

 

 

 

Nontoxic Spring Cleaning

Nontoxic Spring Cleaning makes it easier and safer for your family!

There are certain things that we always think of when we hear the word “spring.” Among them are daffodils, rain galoshes, and of course, spring cleaning. While we can usually think of plenty of ways we’d rather spend our time other than cleaning, we admit that we do enjoy the post-winter opportunity to open the windows, clear out all the cobwebs and start fresh.

In recent years, you’ve surely noticed a nationwide effort by many around you to eliminate toxic cleaners from their homes. This makes perfect sense to us; after all, it is pretty counter-intuitive to wipe off a smudge of dirt with a dangerous chemical.

Think all the green cleaning buzz is just hype? No way. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that proves that standard household cleaners are detrimental to our health. 150 chemicals that are commonly found in homes today have been linked to cancer, allergies, and birth defects. Formaldehyde, phenol, benzene, toluene, and xylene are all chemical ingredients in standard household cleaners that have been proven toxic to the immune system. Household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air is. Three times. Yep, if you are not using green cleaners, it’s definitely time to start!

We know, it can be overwhelming to think about tossing all of your cleaners and replacing them with eco friendly alternatives. But we have an excellent starting point for you: it’s called the Full Circle Come Clean Natural Cleaning Solutions Set. This set comes with everything you need to switch to a safe and environmentally friendly spring cleaning routine, including a spray bottle, juicer (lemons are disinfecting as well as fresh smelling), and a microfiber cleaning cloth. The best thing about the set is that it contains a clear and easy to use guide that contains recipes for household cleaners. And the ingredients are ones that you probably already have in your home! So not only are Full Circle’s cleaning methods going to create a much healthier environment for your family, but they will also save you money in the long run.

Once again, Full Circle (one of our favorite eco-conscious companies) has thought of everything: ease of use, practicality, cost efficiency, and environmental safety. So when time for spring cleaning is upon you this year, turn over a new, greener leaf by eliminating the use of toxic chemicals in your home.

 

 

Six Gift Ideas for Gardener and Foodie Moms

If you’re reading this, you’ve waited until the last minute to find that perfect Mother’s Day gift that says you care, but you also want to get something you know she’ll use. What mom doesn’t love to receive gifts that are practical and stylish all at the same time? We hand selected these gift ideas for their affordability, ease of shipping last minute, and grouped together, they make a great gift basket. Any foodie or gardening mom is sure to appreciate their function and style.

  1. Allsop Write + Erase Plant Tags $16.00 — Mom will never forget what she plants this spring, and no matter how stylish they are, the birdies won’t fly off with them either. She can use them year after year. Available in herb and botanical prints.
  2. The Locavore Way $12.95 by Amy Cotler — We know, your mom is the best cook, but this book will take her one-dish wonders to a whole new level with tips on sourcing and preparing delicious local foods.
  3. Chicobag Produce Collection $11.95 to $15.95 — Help mom eliminate her co-dependency on single-use produce bags with ChicoBag’s washable bags for fruits, veggies, and bulk items like beans and pasta. Available in four different colorful styles.
  4. Botanical Interests Seeds $1.59 to $3.99 — It doesn’t get any more local and fresh than growing your own produce. We’ve made it even easier for today’s busy moms by selecting varieties that are easy to direct sow in the soil – no fancy indoor seed starting kits needed. Read more about why we think herbs are the rockstars in the garden.
  5. Full Circle’s Ring Veggie Brush $4.99 — Finally, a kitchen gadget mom doesn’t have to hide away because it’s an eye sore. The ring makes hanging over the kitchen faucet convenient for daily use. Made of eco-friendly materials too!
  6. Full Circle Scrap Happy Compost BinFull Circle’s Scrap Happy Compost Bin $14.99 — If you’re mom is the Queen of Clean while she cooks, then she’s gonna love how this compost bin conveniently mounts on a kitchen drawer, making food prep clean up a breeze. The silicon bin is freezable so food scraps awaiting the compost heap can be stored away without stinking up the kitchen. Available in orange and green.

Last day for on-time Mother’s Day delivery is Wednesday, May 9. Does your mom live out of state? No worries, we can gift wrap it for you and include a special message.

Get Creative with Edible Cocktail Garnishes

Lavender as garnish, image from cocktaildrinkrecipes.com

Have you ever noticed that a simple garnish can take a cocktail from being run-of-the-mill to totally extraordinary? It’s definitely true that we enjoy cocktails with our eyes and our noses, not just our taste buds, so a garnish is an essential element of a well crafted cocktail that should not be overlooked. No need to invest in mini paper umbrellas, though, because just like the best cocktail ingredients, the best garnishes come from your garden.

Savory Cocktail Garnishes

An awesome cocktail garnish will serve three different purposes: (1) it will look pretty when you serve the drink, (2) it will smell nice when you sip it, and (3) it will taste nice on your palate. So you should always add a garnish that will contribute to the flavor and aroma of your drink. Here’s some of our favorites:

Our Favorite Savory Cocktail

We cannot get enough of this Tomato Water Martini, one of Ivette Soler’s signature cocktails. The heirloom tomato and basil leaf garnish is not only colorful and fragrant, but it makes a delicious little munchy, too.

Tomato water martiniTomato Water Martini(aka Pomodoro Martini) – makes 2 martinisIngredients:

2 and ½ shots vodka
1/3 shot olive juice
2 shots tomato water (see below)
A lot of ice

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8 Reasons Why Herbs are Garden Rock Stars, try herb gardening and find out!

fresh herb photo by Do It Delicious

Always wanted to start herb gardening, but never known where to start? This spring, start by planting some herbs. There are countless benefits to having an herb garden, whether it’s in a large plot in your backyard, or just a few pots on your windowsill. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that herbs are the rock stars of the gardening world. Here are our top reasons why.

Herb Growing Kits from aHa! Modern Living

Top 8 Reasons Why Herbs Rock

(1) You get a lot of bang for your buck. Pretty much the only expense is the seeds, a watering can if you don’t have one already, and your time. Not exactly a pocketbook buster! Many herbs, such as sage, thyme and mint, are perennials, which means you only have to plant them once and they’ll come back year after year.

(2) They can improve the health of your cooking. If you rely on salt to add zing to your food, it’s time to switch to a healthier alternative. Stir some chopped up herbs into your food instead, and not only are you adding gobs of flavor, but you’re adding extra antioxidants, too. Some herbs, such as basil, are even known to offer protection against heart disease, respiratory problems, cancer, and arthritis.

(3) Herbs don’t need fertile soil. Some plants are super finicky about their soil. Not herbs. Many actually do better in non-fertile soil (just be sure the soil drains well). Valerian, caraway, elderberry, and comfrey all actually improve the health of your soil when you plant them.

(4) They are stellar companion plants. You can integrate herbs into your flower, fruit and vegetable beds to help boost the health of your plants and keep pests away, too. Some pairs that grow well together are basil + tomatoes, borage + strawberries, chives + carrots, oregano + grape vines, parsley + asparagus, and sage + cabbage.

(5) Instant gratification is yours. Many herbs, such as mint, are known for spreading quickly and growing tall and strong. You don’t have to wait several seasons before you can harvest your herbs.

Planting Tip: if you give mint an inch, it will take a mile…or two. Plant mint in containers, whether on a patio or in the ground, to keep the underground runners from speading all over your yard.

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Grow Herbs for Cocktail Infusions and Simple Syrups

Vodka infusions

Infused vodkas make great gifts (photo by Ashley English)!

There are several different reasons that you may grow herbs to make an infusion. You can infuse herbs in water to make a healing medicinal liquid; or you can infuse herbs in olive oil to make salad dressings. But the most fun way to make an infusion? To infuse herbs in booze, or course!

What is an infusion?

An infusion is the result of steeping botanicals in liquid to extract their flavor, scent, and nutritional or healing properties. Many of us create a simple infusion every day without even thinking about it by brewing herbal tea. Typically, the botanicals used in infusions are leaves, berries, fruits, and/or flowers.

Herb Infused Vodka

Rosemary, mint, and thyme are common ingredients

We recommend using a good quality vodka for your infusion. Since it is primarily colorless and flavorless, it really takes on the flavors of the infused herbs and spices very well (some people even call it the chameleon of liquors).

To create a vodka infusion, you will need:

  • 1 liter of vodka
  • an airtight mason jar – 1 liter capacity
  • an airtight bottle – 1 liter capacity
  • a funnel
  • a piece of cheesecloth or a small strainer
  • herbs, fruits, or spices to flavor your vodka

The goal of any infusion is to extract the delicious scents and flavors into your vodka. This means that you will allow the herbs, spices and fruits to “steep” in the vodka, then discard the solids. The amount of time that each flavor needs to steep will vary. For example, lemon peels will need to be left in the vodka for a good week or two, whereas strawberries will only take about 24 hours to steep.

Our Favorite Infused Vodka Recipes

Lavender-Lemon MartiniRosemary and Lavender Infused Vodka

This vodka lends a wonderful soft floral note to all of our favorite vodka drinks. Try it in a vodka martini, a vodka tonic, or mixed with lemonade for a fragrant twist.

Directions:

  1. Pluck 1 large sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender from your garden. Rinse them well, and add them to your clean mason jar.
  2. Pour 1 liter of vodka into the jar. Give the jar a few gentle shakes.
  3. Seal the jar of the lid tightly, then store it in a cool, dry place for 3 days.
  4. After 3 days, open the jar and give the vodka a taste test. If the flavors are as strong as you would like, it’s time to remove the vodka from the jar. If not, store the vodka in the jar for 1-2 more days.
  5. When ready, hold a strainer or piece of cheesecloth over a pitcher, and pour the vodka from the jar into the pitcher. This will strain out any lavender blossoms and rosemary needles.
  6. Place the funnel on the top of the bottle, and pour the vodka from the pitcher into the bottle.

Muddle Your Way to Garden Fresh Cocktails

Hemingway Muddlers

Hemingway Muddlers

We may not all be Tom Cruise in “Cocktail,” with sexy bottle flipping moves, but if you do want to impress people with a delicious signature drink at your next garden gathering or party, a muddler is an essential tool for you. Muddling allows you to add fresh home-grown flavor to any beverage of your choice.

What is a Muddler?

A muddler is a wooden tool, shaped sort of like a miniature club, that is used to mash aromatics at the bottom of a cocktail glass. Muddlers have a specially designed tip in order to crush, or gently bruise, the item in the bottom of your glass without pulverizing it. Some muddlers have a flat tip, while others are rounded or pointed. Each one serves a different purpose. The Roost Hemingway Muddlers are sold as a set of three, which equips you with a muddler for every application, from mint leaves to delicate berries to pink peppercorns.

How to Use a Muddler

A muddler is intended to be used with a gentle wrist twisting action, rather than an up-and-down plunger action. Simply place the item you wish to muddle in the bottom of your glass of choice, then gently press with the muddler, softly grinding and mashing the item along the bottom and sides of the glass. Continue with a gentle pressing and turning action for about a count of 10. If you are muddling both herbs and fruit, muddle the herbs in the glass first, then add the fruit. Or if you are muddling herbs alone, try adding a sprinkle of salt, sugar, or brown sugar. The coarseness will help to abrade the surface of the leaves without complete shredding them.

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Plant the Seeds for a Healthy Lifestyle: Garden With Your Kids

Children of all ages are great learners and willing participants when it comes to spring gardening. If it’s still a little cool in your neck of the woods, begin by starting seeds indoors. This way, your child can plant seeds in small pots inside, then can transplant the seedlings outdoors once the temperatures grow a bit higher, and the days longer.

Get Growing!

Check out the Green Toys Indoor Planting Kit, which includes 3 planting pots, a pea pod shaped pot tray, a trowel, soil, and 3 packets of organic seeds. The pots and trowel are sized just right for mini hands, and even made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic (milk jugs!), too.

Once your kiddo has planted the seeds, all he or she needs to do is water them. You can even make this task fun with a cute elephant watering can and the Greenbo Frog Water Meter. Over watering is one of the most common causes of houseplant death, so prevent it with this adorable and super easy to read meter, which clearly indicates whether the plant’s soil is dry, moist, or wet.

Indoor Planting Kit

Indoor Planting Kit

Green Toys Planter

Green Toys Planter

Frog Water Meter

Frog Water Meter

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Pair Dainty Snowdrops with Roost’s Glass Bird Vases

Snowdrops Roost Glass Bird Vases

Signs of spring are popping up in masses under trees, along walkways, or maybe even scattered throughout your lawn. Early spring flowering bulbs, like snowdrops, crocuses, and tulips, offer flower lovers the season’s first cut flowers for indoor bud vases.

We’ve discovered another perfect pairing for our Roost Glass Bird Vases. Snowdrops. You may not think of Snowdrops – or galanthus – as a cut flower, but their dainty, honey-scented flowers are natural companions for small vases with narrow openings.

What are Snowdrops?

Snowdrops are an early spring blooming bulb from the amaryllidaceae family, with over 20 different varieties to choose from. Look for Galanthus nivalis, or common snowdrop, it’s the most widely known variety and can be found in most garden centers. Galanthus elwesii, or giant snowdrop, have larger flowers and wider leaves than it’s more common cousin. Both varieties grow up to about 4-6″ tall.

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