Monday, January 31, 2011

How to avoid Blasé Wedding Decor- Tables and Centerpieces

So your planning a wedding. Congrats! The I'm engaged buzz is gone and its time to focus on the big day, which you've been dreaming of since you were a little girl. Well weddings were a whole different ball game back then and times are changing along with whats currently IN on the wedding scene.

One thing that drives me up a wall is that couples aren't aware of their wedding resources, and wind up going to their local florist and paying and arm and a leg for something that's been done already! If your a traditionalist don't run away just yet, theres nothing wrong with white linens, red rose centerpieces and babies breath,...well I lied about the babies breath. Get creative! You want your guests to walk in and not dissect everything because it's all obvious. These are a few tips I've learned from my past weddings that you should keep in mind for any event situation, wedding or large gathering.

The first thing your guests see are the tables. And whats worse then putting all this effort in the perfect linen and centerpieces that completely clashes with the decor of the room. Instead of boring white linens, pick a different solid color, even a darker one because the items on the table will pop out more and give the room a richer feel.

Next play around with varying centerpieces. Cookie cutter clone tables are out! Take advantage of the height of the room and use tall cylinder vases and candles on some tables and smaller clustered flower arrangement and votive candles on others. Same for rooms with low ceilings, create 2 or 3 different kinds of centerpieces using the same items in different configurations.

Want your room to really pop? Skip the idea of using 4 different colors for your "wedding color palate" and pick one! Monocramatics are great because you use shades of one color. It's very clean, and bold when you pair a soft blue next to a navy blue like flowers in vases. Even this flower arrangement, that doesn't include any leaves, just flower heads in hues of red/pinks.

What not to neglect thats totally unexpected? The chairs! Not into the look of chivari chairs but can't use the huge fabric cushion chairs found in hotels? Not a problem. Lose the sash idea and get a little couture!

So thats a little taste of some simple tips to consider. It's just about making different choices in linen colors, or using your centerpieces in different ways, also not neglecting the details. Once you've got a hold on that your on your way to one hell of a party!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day 2 Recipe

So it's snow day number 2. The Velvet Chicken Soup day 2 is even better than day 1's version, since all the flavors have melded together over night. I Die. So naturally because there's snow on the ground, the sun sets and you cuddle up in front of the fire and you instinctively crave Hot Chocolate. Well instead of a mug of Swiss Miss, why not grab a piece of Chocolate Velvet Cake [the recipe I promised you all yesterday]. Another Helen Corbitt classic from the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook.

"The name Helen Corbitt gave this cake made me want to try the recipe, and I can vouch that chocolate lovers everywhere will not be disappointed. It is not your typical chocolate cake-it is dense and a little chewy but not too intense. It travels well; the frosting sets up perfectly and looks, well, good enough to eat. These qualities make it the perfect dessert to take along for a party or dinner event. Over recent years it has become a favorite of our guests at Neiman Marcus, especially for birthday celebrations."

For the Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for the pans
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

For the Frosting:

1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 dark corn syrup
16 ounces semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

To prepare the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine the sugar, sour cream, and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and add the oil, shortening, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for about 2 minutes, until well incorporated and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and then add the eggs, 1 at a time. Scrape down the bowl again and add the flour and cocoa mixture in one-third increments, waiting for each addition to be incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake pans and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a work surface to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Place the cream and syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the cream mixture into the chocolate, whisking until smooth. Let cool and then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for about 4 minutes, until fluffy. Spread the frosting between the 2 layers and then frost the top and sides of the cake.

Serves: 8
Simplicity: +++

*add in different flavoring like espresso, or extracts for even more depth

Hope you all enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Day Recipe

I LOVE to cook, if it isn't obvious enough. Last year I was given a copy of Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook for Christmas. I have yet to actually use it, but seeing as today in Philadelphia there's 10 inches of snow on the ground and still climbing I thought I would spend some time in the kitchen. The recipe I've chosen, which was sooo difficult to pick cause EVERYTHING looks incredible, is Chicken Velvet Soup. In case anyone else out there feels the need for a hot creamy soup to warm you up today I wanted to share the recipe:

Chicken Velvet Soup

Intro: "Reading through Helen Corbitt's recipes from forty and fifty years ago, it's exciting to realize she was ahead of the paradigm shift that has occurred in American food. She paid considerable attention to texture and enjoyed creating layers of flavor, a goal sought by many of today's leading chefs. The velvety smoothness of this soup is a quality she also sought in her chocolate cake [ I'll be posting that recipe soon!]. When you taste the rich and creamy but simple-looking soup for the first time, you'll find it surprisingly light and refreshing."


1/4 cup olive oil
1 frying chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into pieces
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh parsley (6 to 8 sprigs reserved for garnish)
2 dried bay leaves
8 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
6 cups heavy cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and sear them, turning occasionally, 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to the same saucepan and saute for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine, bouillon, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Add the flour and thoroughly mix together. Return the seared chicken to the pan and mix well. Add the cream and bring the soup to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for about 1 hour, or until the chicken meat falls off the bone.

Strain the soup into a clean saucepan, reserving the chicken (discard the vegetables). When it is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken meat (discard the skin and bones) and add it to the soup base. Return the soup to a simmer and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley.

Chefs Notes: the bouillon cubes add an element of flavor that cannot be replicated with stock or other ingredients. it's a truc, or "culinary trick", the great Paul Bocuse taught me."

Serves 6 to 8
Simplicity: + + +

Please leave comments so I know how well the recipe worked out and any adjustments!