Friday, March 29, 2013

MORE Expanded Mealtime Entertaining Space

With wonderful Easter coming in the next day or so, we thought we'd share one more idea for expanding your mealtime entertaining space. This is for those of you planning a family Easter dinner and will have small children on your guest list.

Consider arranging place settings at your coffee table, but set it near the main dining table, if this is possible. Set this table as nicely as you will the table for adults. Bring in some cushions from couches, cover them with cloths, and set them at each place setting. Here is Alice's coffee table, arranged with four grandchildren in mind:

Notice the plastic place mats. She's used a smallish table cloth before, but found that either little legs got tangled in it, or it tended to get pulled, putting dishes at risk.


Also notice the table is placed near the main dining table. Children find this calming, and adults like this also--they can keep track of little ones this way.

And notice, also, the votive candles running down the middle of the table, that the table is set with glass glasses as well as the same china the adults will be using, and that each place setting has a napkin (albeit paper). We're big believers that exposing children to small niceties and giving them the opportunity to use nice things (even if they could break), prepares them for real life. Our experience is that children rise to the occasion and meet our expectations! If a glass should break, it's no big deal--we get them at the dollar store for 99 cents.

So get creative with your space and invite folks in for a good home-cooked meal! We hope your Easter is lovely and that the meal and time you share with loved ones this weekend is delightful!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's the Little Things That Often Save Time!

You know how sometimes you go "DUH...why didn't I think of that sooner?" That's what Alice felt the day it dawned on her that she could save lots of time if she did 2 simple things:


FIRST: She transferred her powdered sugar to a glass container (found on a 1/2-price sale at Hobby Lobby--but a quart canning jar would work just as well). Why is this a time-saver? The plastic packaging powdered sugar comes in is messy to measure from and tends to make for dibs and dabs spilled or leaked onto the cupboard shelf, calling for constantly wiping it up. When it's in a glass container, that kind of mess is eliminated. (And it looks nicer--not a time-saving element, but an important element, nonetheless.)


SECOND: She cut  the frosting recipe she loves to use off the plastic bag and taped it onto a side of the jar. Having this recipe right at her fingertips--attached to the powdered sugar container--saves her lots of time by not having to look the recipe up in a cookbook or in her recipe box every time she wants to make frosting.

Sometimes it's the little things that often save us some time. Look around your kitchen for things you could change that could save you some time, too. Let us know what they are--others might not have thought of them. Meanwhile, here's to getting another great meal on the table!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Expand Mealtime Service Space

Research says there are a LOT of benefits to mealtime entertaining:

1. Children have opportunity to demonstrate their table manners
2. Mealtime socializing is an effective way to instill values as well as validate the importance of eating together
3. It's a great time to introduce new foods and food combinations
4. Including children in meal prepping gives them the chance to learn all sorts of things (food prep, table setting, place card making, organizing and executing the process of getting a meal on, center piece making)
5. Children learn social graces and conversation skills

There are other benefits, but these mentioned give you an idea of the BIG DEALNESS of gathering friends and family in for a well-prepared meal. And now that we know why it's a good thing to entertain, let's talk about expanding mealtime space.



Do you have ample room to set food out for a buffet? If not, consider this fun idea: A vintage wooden ironing board, covered in a pretty cloth, can make a darling expanded space for your dinner fixings.

Alice found this at a vintage/antique store for $20; she'll be adding some painted decoration to the top.

Anyway, the point? Don't put off having folks in for a shared meal just because you think you don't have enough space. People are happy to place plates on their laps--no big table is really needed. And to expand your mealtime food service space, think outside the box and look around for clever ways to set up a buffet. Meanwhile, here's to dinner our (our dinner backwards!).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Enjoy Easier Cooking with "CENTERS"

How are you doing with your kitchen organization? Are you hanging things up, as much as possible, to create more space? It's really worth the time and effort reorganizing your kitchen space takes, because a more user-friendly kitchen means it's easier to get a meal prepped. And when things are easier to do, we're more likely to do them!

So how about another organization idea? Separate all the ingredients you use for cooking from the ingredients you use most often for baking. In other words, create a COOKING CENTER and a BAKING CENTER. You bake with flours, sweeteners, fats, spices, flavorings and baking soda and baking powder. You cook with oils, herbs, vinegars, salt and pepper, grains, and dried mixes.

You'll customize this basic outline to your tastes and needs, but the idea is to create separate areas for the two jobs so when you do cook or bake, you can easily go to the ingredients you need and quickly find them. We waste a lot of time pawing through stuff to get to what we actually want to use.

Once you've got things separated according to their main purposes, storing in a designated spot is next. We like to use the plastic single and double turn tables you can find at Walmart or Target. Here is Alice's BAKING CENER, showing these turn tables.

Sweeteners on on the bottom shelf--powdered sugar, brown sugar, honey, xylitol, molasses, and white sugar. To the right of the sweeteners is a turntable holding vanilla and coconut flavorings, baking soda, and a variety of salts.

The upper shelf holds her coconut oil (the fat she bakes and cooks with), dark and white chocolate chips, raisins, dates, dried cranberries, baking cocoa, shredded coconut, and raw chocolate pieces. To the right of all that is a double turntable that holds other flavorings, baking powder, and baking spices.

And here is Alice's COOKING CENTER showing more single turntable use. The bottom shelf turntables hold her most-used herbs (less used are in her pantry). She keeps a narrow tray of cooking oils to the left of the herb turntables. The glass containers hold all grains and seeds she cooks with.

The bottom line? Separate things according to use and then group and store like items together.
It's amazing how much easier this simple concept can make your cooking and baking. See if you don't enjoy easier cooking with "CENTERS," and here's to gettin' another meal on the table!



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bring Creative Water to Table to Celebrate World Water Day

Who doesn't love water? And who could live without it? That's the focus of World Water Day, which is coming up--March 22 to be exact.

With this in mind we thought it would be fun to have on hand and serve at the dinner table, some very upscale water. While we're sipping and enjoying, family table talk could center on the blessings of water. Even little children can talk about all the things we do with water--especially why we need it.

So here's a wonderful recipe we found on Food.com, shared by BecR. We thank her for it. And as we all bless the food during our meals this month, let's be sure to express gratitude for water!

HERBAL LEMON CUCUMBER WATER (serves 6-8)

1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large lemon, scrubbed and thinly sliced
About 1/2 gallon bottled water
2 to 3 sprigs of fresh lemon verbena (or your favorite herb)
Ice (optional)

Place water in a large glass pitcher, Mason jar, or beverage dispenser. Add thin slices of cucumber and lemon, and sprigs of your fresh herb (mint, rosemary, scented geranium, lemon balm, basil, or lemon thyme are all lovely touches). Cover and chill for several hours or overnight. To serve, pour over ice into tall glasses. Each batch will last a day or two.

NOTE: We recommend organic cucumber and lemon, since pesticides can easily leach into water. Organic produce will keep your water not only tasty, but safe.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

GET ORGANIZED--Hang Stuff Up!

Just a quick little note today to suggest that March is a good time to get more organized in your kitchen so meal prep will be quicker and easier.

A place to start is to look around and see if things are being stored closest to "point of use." A perfect example of what we mean: Your mesh strainer or colander. These tend to be bulky items, so sitting them inside a cupboard isn't the best idea--they're taking up precious space other things could use.

The alternative? Store them closest to "point of use." Where do you use these tools? At the sink. So store them there, but don't sit them there, HANG them there. Either pound a small finish nail at a severe angle into the inside cupboard door, or attach a plastic hook--the kind that has double-sided adhesive sticky tape.

Here's Alice's colander (old, shabby, and well-used), hanging on the inside of the door of her sink cupboard, from said hook. There's plenty of space next to the colander for the mesh strainer to hang as well.

Alice learned to hang as much as possible when she was raising her 7 children in a home that had a kitchen the size of a phone booth! Next to no cupboards and few drawers made it necessary to come up with alternate storage solutions--hanging things on the insides of cupboard doors was her answer.

So if you're singing the "Got No Storage" Blues, then hanging might be your answer--just be sure to put things closest to "point of use." In the meantime, here's to doin' what we can to make Dinner Our happen!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fast and Easy Crepes

We've missed you. We've been working on a cookbook, doing some cooking demonstrations, and getting organized for 2013. You'll likely notice a new look and a new, and shorter blog name. No, we didn't make a spelling mistake--it's DINNER OUR on purpose, because this way it says OUR DINNER backwards! Coming or going, dinner is where we're headed!

Now it's almost spring--are you all ready for the demands warmer weather can bring? Whether it's getting the garden prepped, cleaning out flower beds, or washing winter grime off the windows, we tend to have less time for meal making as the days get longer, for some reason. If you can relate, then you'll like our recipe for fast and easy crepes. They are Ooola-la Crepes because they are not only delicious, they are made in a blender and don't need a crepe-maker. And they're so versatile they work well for either sweet or savory crepes.

Following the recipe you'll find a video demonstration, so you can see what we mean when we say this recipe is FAST and EASY! Let us know what you think if you try it out, and in the meantime, here's to gathering 'round the table for dinner our!

OOOLA-LA CREPES (Yield: 15 crepes)

Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 5 minutes

2 cups whole milk, divided
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put 1 3/4 cups of milk, eggs, and salt into a blender. Whiz for a about a few seconds until everything is blended well. Remove lid and add flour. Cover and blend until batter is smooth, about 20 seconds. Remove lid, pour in melted butter; cover and whiz until combined, about 10 more seconds.

Transfer batter to large glass bowl. Let batter rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 24 hours. (If resting more than 30 minutes, store batter in refrigerator). When ready to make crepes, test batter's consistency; it should be as thick as heavy cream but not as thick as pancake batter. If it seems too thick, whisk in up to 1/2 cup of remaining milk.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat until it's hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle upon contact. Using a folded paper towel, spread about 1/2 teaspoon butter over pan surface. The butter should sizzle but not instantly turn brown.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour batter into hot pan and move pan so batter covers entire bottom of pan. When edges of batter start to crisp and the batter surface is no longer shiny, it's time to turn your crepe. Cook other side until nicely browned.