ALL POSTS IN Entertaining

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I’m once again suggesting you take the party outsideCrafternoon style this time! My good friend Whitney threw a wonderful crafting party in Washington Square Park last week. The event was a hit and I highly recommend throwing your own crafting party in the park, or any outdoor venue you prefer. After staking out a perfect spot in the shade, the afternoon was comprised of great friends, delicious food, adorable puppies, lots of pictures and beautiful paper flowers. While bringing craft supplies outdoors may seem counter-intuitive, the open setting gives you ample space to create. (Plus it’s so nice to be out in the fresh air during these hot summer days.)

Whether you host a big crafting event or just a get-together with a few close friends, this summer party idea is great for guests of all ages. Here are a few tips to make your own Crafternoon a success:

Throw a Crafting Party

Photo: Courtesy of Whitney Penn

Pick a Convenient Craft
Make sure you pick a DIY project that is nature-friendly — in other words, nothing that requires excessive materials, cleanliness, or, of course, electricity.  Whitney cleverly chose paper flowers for her party craft, which fit both thematically and logistically. The craft itself was simple and the components were easy to transport. Plus, if the petals got a little crumpled or dirty, it just made them seem more realistic.

More paper flower crafts: Fourth of July Wreath, Wedding Bouquet

Other easy outdoor crafts: Coiled Wire Ring, Felt Bowls, Friendship Bracelets

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Crispy Chicken

Here is a skillet supper that truly uses one pan to create all the components of a great meal. Crispy Chicken Breast Filets, flattened to quicken the cooking process, are paired with sweet corn medallions, bulb onions and fresh tomatoes. It’s a delicious party menu that utilizes peak seasonal ingredients to keep the flavor high and costs low. Outside of the pan, I’ve also included a dessert of Cherry Cream Pie which is a revelation in contrast to the recipes found on the back of cream cheese packets.

Norm’s Notes: Seasoning Salt and Blends

In today’s culinary world, salt and pepper reign as the undisputed kings of flavor enhancement. The numerous variants of sodium chloride and pungent berries are prized among cooks who often adjust and combine different types to meet specific uses. However, store-bought seasoning salts and blends, popular with most home cooks, often get no love. Since many peoples’ cabinets are littered with half full cylinders of them, I think salt and pepper elitism needs to be addressed.

Seasoning salts and blends are great because they will go with just about anything you can think of, quickly enhancing the taste of foods with little effort. The main problem is many of the seasonings lose potency and pungency over time. So that seasoning you bought for that one recipe you made, for that thing, two years ago, may be past its prime. A good rule is if you haven’t used it within the current calendar year, it probably needs to be discarded, but check the expiration date to be sure. My advice is to use seasoning salts and blends often and boldly. Shake a bit on fresh cut veggies, salad, eggs, grits or anywhere you would use salt and pepper or hot sauce. If anyone sticks their nose in the air about your love of seasoning salt and blends, smile at them, shake on more, and enjoy.

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If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain,” then National Pina Colada Day was made for you. And how perfect that it falls in the dog days of summer when nothing seems more refreshing than a cold, tropical cocktail in hand. So “put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up,” I say. But if you’d rather skip past the drinks and head straight to dessert, then try these pina colada baked doughnuts or pina colada key lime pie. Both look exceptionally sinful.

Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Photo and recipe courtesy of Cornelia Guest

 Spiked Strawberry Pina Colada Pops

Ingredients

3 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup rum
1 cup strawberries, sliced

Instructions

Puree all ingredients (except strawberries) in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Add strawberries, pour into ice-pop molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Insert sticks and continue to freeze overnight. For best results, leave ice pops in the freezer for at least 24 hours.

10 More Recipes to Try

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Watermelon Salad with Quick Pickled Jalapeno

Whether you’re lugging home a 15-pounder to slice into wedges or grabbing a pre-cut version, my guess is that your watermelon will generally be served plain. May I recommend you add some intrigue to your melon by pairing its sweet succulent flesh with the fruity spice of jalapeno and acidic tang of lime? The Latin-inspired combination transforms plain ol’ watermelon into a complex dish with loads of sweet and spicy flavor. These 3 recipes are all paired with fresh jalapeno and lime to provide a few more interesting ways to enjoy summer’s unofficial fruit.

Norm’s Notes: Pick a Pepper

I don’t know if it’s because of drought or my selection habits, but most of the chiles (especially jalapeno) I’ve had this year are really, really spicy. Although I generally like spice, sometimes there is such a thing as too hot. If you are in the same boat and want to keep the heat of chiles to a minimum, remove the seeds and inner white membrane with a sharp knife. Doing this will not only reduce the heat level, but will help bring out more of the chiles’ fruity flavor. Also, thinly slicing or finely dicing the peppers helps to evenly distribute the spiciness in a dish, allowing for a more predictable heat level and giving a peppery pop of flavor to each bite.

Delicious Recipes

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Fireworks are normally the main attraction of a Fourth of July party, but it’s time for the menu to take center stage. It’s easy to come up with creative menu items for this holiday because it’s so festive, and the main course revolves around my favorite — the grill. These patriotic recipes will surely be the talk of your party.

Panna Cotta Shooters

You can’t get any more patriotic than these adorable shooters. Layers of red, white and blue creamy panna cotta and edible gold stars make this a true patriotic treat.

Panna Cotta Shooters

Get the Full Recipe Here>>

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While you embrace the Fourth of July with tasty seasonal fare and vibrant fireworks, don’t forget about a festive, signature party beverage. With the summer heat bearing down, these icy concoctions will certainly hit the spot.

Fourth of July Recipes

Courtesy of Cornelia Guest

Star-Spangled Spiked Smoothie

Ingredients

1 ounce vodka
1 cup mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
1 8-ounce container vanilla yogurt
coconut flakes, for garnish

Instructions

Combine vodka, berries and yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with blueberries and coconut flakes.

More Recipes to Try >>

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It’s officially summer, and for some of you that means throwing a Fourth of July party. A patriotic vibe is the first thing your guests will notice, so set the bar high when it comes to decorations. To help you, I’ve rounded up my favorite easy decoration and activity ideas your guests will love.

Paper Flower Wreath

Give your home a patriotic feel even before your party guests walk in the door with a crepe paper flower wreath. Choose unconventional Fourth of July colors like coral, cobalt blue and ivory, or go with the classic red, white and blue hues.

Paper Flower Wreath

Get the Full Step-by-Step Instructions Here>>

Ombre Party Linens

Dyeing basic white table linens in an ombre pattern is a modern way to show your patriotism. Despite how intricate this looks, these are easy to make.

Patriotic Ombre Party Linens

Get the Full Step-by-Step Instructions Here>>

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In case you haven’t heard, it’s National Candy Month! However, June is quickly drawing to a close, which means there’s only 5 days left to celebrate this tasty occasion. You can either gorge on candy from your local convenience store, or you could go for a slightly different approach. In the spirit of Ogden Nash’s wise words, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” here are 6 candy-inspired cocktail recipes for you to try:

6 Candy-Inspired Cocktails: Heath Bar Cocktail Recipe

Heath Bar Cocktail: Heath Bars are one of my personal faves, so this toffee-flavored cocktail topped with shaved chocolate looks absolutely irresistible to me! GET THE RECIPE>>

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Greek Style Baby Artichoke Salad

Baby artichokes are one of those farmers’ market purchases many people commit to due to a persuasive salesperson or solely based on their attractiveness, but soon regret the purchase when left pondering “how do I cook these?” To solve this common problem, here is an illustrated guide on the bare necessities to preparing those prickly pears into something delicious. Included are 4 simple ways to serve these babies to your friends and family.

Norm’s Notes: Trimming Baby Artichokes in 3 simple steps

STEP 1:

Trimming Artichokes Step 1

Pluck away any leaves attached to artichoke stem. Remove tough outer layer covering the stem with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

STEP 2:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 2

Cut away top ¼ portion of leaves, leaving a flat surface, cut artichoke in half lengthwise.

STEP 3:

Trimming Baby Artichokes Step 3

Examine each artichoke half to see if the choke (the fuzzy parts right above the heart and just below the purple line ends) is a bit overgrown (the fuzz will tend to stick out from the cut side if overgrown). If they are, carefully scrape away choke with the tip of a paring knife.

Artichoke Recipes

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The summer months call for cold and refreshing treats like ice cream and ice pops, but these warm-weather staples aren’t just for kids anymore. This season, indulge in some adult desserts made with fruity wines and sweet liqueurs that are sure to satisfy the child within.

Limoncello Pops Recipe

Courtesy of Maria Nelson of Pink Patisserie

Sea-Salted Limoncello Pops

Makes 6-8 large ice pops

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
zest from 1 large lemon
pinch of sea salt
1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Villa Massa Limoncello
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

Instructions

In a large saucepan, combine water and sugar over low heat. Heat just until sugar has dissolved. Grate lemon zest on top. Add pinch of sea salt, stir and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, add lemon juice and Limoncello. Stir and pour into ice pop molds. Cover molds with aluminum foil and freeze for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, make a slit in foil and place sticks into molds. Freeze an additional 6 hours or overnight. To remove, run molds under warm water for 2-3 seconds. Melting will occur quickly, so don’t run under water for any longer than 2-3 seconds. Just prior to eating, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Skinny Amaretto Recipe

Courtesy of mixologists Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark

 Skinny Amaretto Cappuccino Granita

Ingredients

2 cups Nescafe Dolce Gusto Skinny Cappuccino, cooled
2 ounces amaretto liqueur
1/4 cup crushed almonds

Instructions

Prepare two cappuccinos and let cool slightly. Add to blender with amaretto and whip on high for 1-2 minutes until frothy. Pour into shallow freezer-safe dish and cover. Let set for 3-4 hours, stirring a few times with a fork to mix and make fluffy. Before serving, fold in crushed almonds. When ready, scoop into dishes and top with almonds.

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