Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Table Decor

How to Make the Most of your Display

by Jaelyn Penner

You're hosting the big Halloween Bash this year, and want to make it an event to remember.  You have the menu, the party tunes, the costume... now you just need to set the scene for your guests!

I like to start with the table.  Note:  These tips are for parties that have finger foods/appetizers, not a seated meal.  You can (and probably will) have food set up in multiple locations, but you need a main hub - a home base - a focal point that wows!

Find Your Signature Piece

Start with one major element that everything else centers (figuratively speaking) around.  A "signature piece."  For this year's party, I knew just what I wanted:  an authentic, ornate, elegant, slightly gaudy, antique-looking candelabra!  I have collected a lot of decor pieces over the years, but this is something I did not have.  And I did not intend to spend a fortune on one.  Hello, Goodwill!  It's truly amazing what you can find in a thrift store.  I absolutely lucked out - the candelabra was part of a "lot" of silver plated antiques, which I was able to win at auction for under $40 - and many of the pieces ended up being perfect for the party!   I know what you're thinking, "stop bragging - I can't go out and get bunch of silver pieces that easily." Well, you never know.  Go to your local thrift store and see what they have!  If I hadn't found the candelabra, I would have settled for something else.  Your signature piece simply needs to grab attention.  Large is great, and  illuminated is awesome.  A large cylinder vase filled with lights and fake bones;  a stand with a fantastic jack o'lantern displayed on top; a spooky candle tree... you get the idea. 

Go Vertical!

Now you have your signature piece.  It's time to build around it.  You'll need to pull out all the serving dishes and vases you have and see what you have to work with.  The key is to make it interesting.  You can stick with one color theme - I did silver and white - but use dishes of different sizes and especially different heights.   If you don't have a tiered tower like the one in the pic, put a sturdy box or block on the table, cover with some creepy cloth or black fabric, and place one of your servers on that.  Do it in varying heights for different dishes.  A great-looking table needs to go vertical!

Find Some Symmetry

 Your table does not have to be perfectly symmetrical, but it will look most pleasing to the eye if there is at least rough symmetry.  In the picture above, there are varying heights, but the very outside edges start off lower, raising to the tallest points on each side, and then lowers a bit in the middle.  Keep it interesting by not being strictly symmetrical - but keep it in harmony by maintaining the illusion of symmetry.

Light It Up!

Lighting is essential for any occasion, but especially as a contrast to the darkness of Halloween!  Varying sizes of candles work great for this type of setting.  Another great option is to fill vases with battery-operated mini light strings.  I found some LED lights in the craft section of my local grocery store - the lights were meant to go on a poster, but they would be great in a vase with some fake spider webbing, or clear floral rocks, or a bunch of fake bugs!  You'll want to keep the lighting fairly symmetrical as well - make sure there aren't any too-dark spots, make sure the food is lit, and if you have something interesting on the table (like the skull above) make sure it's visible!


Other things to keep in mind for your Halloween table...
  • Dark tables or tablecloths make your decor pop.
  • Layer your tablecloths - in the pic above, I have a dark wood table, so I laid down a piece of light-colored 'creepy cloth' (you can find it at any Halloween store), then laid a black lace table runner on top of that.  The effect was some contrast and "framing" for the rest of the pieces.  On another table, I used a large piece of metallic silver fabric that covered the entire table, and layered on top of that a black lace tablecloth that covered it completely. It made the lace pop and looked fantastic! 
  • Disperse interesting props between your serving dishes.  I used fake bones - a skull on a platter, feet on another platter, and random bones scattered throughout.  Just the right spooky touch!
  • Use all of your resources!  Remember that "Candy Bar" you had at your wedding?  Fortunately I remembered mine - I used several of the same containers from that in this display.  Try to use objects you already have at home to make your display interesting and save lots of $$.
  • Use signage.  You will inevitably have to answer the question "what is that?" when serving your food.  Add some interest to the table and make it easy for guests to choose their food by creating signs to place in front of the more mysterious dishes.  Use Google - do a search for your theme and "printables" and you'll be amazed at what you find for free!  You don't have to label everything, just the harder-to-identify foods.

Now you should be ready to have the most talked-about table of the Halloween season!  Happy Haunting!
Please leave comments or questions, or your suggestions - we'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pesto-Mascarpone Torte

by Kristen Barchers

I am a fool for pesto. On pasta. As a sandwich spread. Drizzled over grilled vegetables. I’m pretty sure I was Italian in a past life. I’ll happily eat any kind of pesto, though the classic basil version will always be my favorite. The combination of sweet, pungent basil with the nuttiness of Parmigiano-Reggiano has no equal.

This particular recipe brings to mind a very important day in my life – my wedding day.  I was married to my husband on a beautiful summer day in the mountains of Colorado. The setting was breathtaking, the love of my life was dressed to the nines and the food was to die for. Or so I hear….

The typical wedding excitement left me with only a vague recollection of dinner.  The whole ‘cake in the face’ thing meant that I didn’t actually get around to tasting dessert. But the real culinary tragedy of the day was the failure of our caterer to bring us any nourishment during our painfully long photo shoot. By the time the photographers were done with us, every presumably delicious morsel had been scarfed down by our guests, leaving none for the bride and groom.

I had been looking forward to the appetizers most of all, and particularly this pesto-mascarpone torte.  

This spread pairs the intense aroma and flavor of a classic pesto with the smooth and rich palate of mascarpone cheese. The combination is bliss. Serve with crackers and crudités and prepare for your loved ones to duke it out for a taste. 

In honor of starving brides and grooms everywhere – enjoy this dish!

Pesto-Mascarpone Torte

1 8oz. package of mascarpone cheese* (room temperature)
6 oz. basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
¼ c chopped pistachios

*Mascarpone cheese is a soft Italian cheese similar in texture to cream cheese but without the tang.  For a frugal alternative, cream cheese, while adding a slightly different flavor, can be substituted for mascarpone.

Cheese cloth*
Loaf or bowl that will hold at least 14 oz.  This container will determine the shape of your torte.

*If you don’t have or can’t find cheesecloth, I recommend using parchment paper.  Cut two strips, one the length and one the width of your pan.

  1. Line pan or bowl with enough damp cheesecloth so that some extra hangs over the sides.  If using parchment paper, layer strips so all inner surfaces of the pan are covered.
  2. Place pistachios in the bottom of the pan or bowl on top of the cheesecloth.
  3. Spoon a quarter of the mascarpone cheese on top of the pistachios and spread out to form an even layer.
  4. Spoon half of the pesto on top of the mascarpone and spread out to form an even layer. Take care not to press to hard and squish the mascarpone into the pesto. The idea is to keep the layers separate and distinct.
  5. Repeat this layering process until you have three layers of mascarpone and two layers of pesto.
  6. Place the torte in the refrigerator to chill and set for at least an hour

To Serve:
  • Place your serving dish on top of the torte and flip it over.
  • Gently lift the pan/bowl and pull on the edges of the cheesecloth until the torte slides onto the plate.
  • Peel off the cheesecloth.
  • May be refrigerated up to 24 hours before serving.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A little teaser from the Real.Beautiful.Good. Halloween Party!  In an upcoming post, we'll show you how to use lighting to make your parties impress!
The Birds... the Birds!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Subscribe for email updates (on the right side of the screen) so you don't miss the big blog launch - just in time for Halloween!   

We'll have some great Halloween entertaining tips, including recipes and decorating ideas you will LOVE.

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