Foaming At The Core

Floral Arranging Prep: For Newbies
In this quick tip foam guide, the first thing that you need to know is the terms wet and dry. When it comes to foam for flower arranging, there is a difference. Whichever you choose is entirely up to you but selecting properly for your project is essential. The term wet floral foam was actually started by an Ohio-based company in the 1950s, called Oasis. 
Floral Tips:
To make the creation process easier, use waterproof floral containers, and floral foam bricks. I have galvanised containers, which are entertaining friendly not to mention, they look absolutely beautiful in a garden or alongside tablescape décor.

In these arrangements below, I've used both real flowers and silk sprays (a personal signature blending technique), in addition to paper flowers to give my arrangements texture and depth. If you're a novice, the best way to start your arrangement process is to use floral foam. I do not always use foam bricks (or blocks) but it certainly helps as a mighty guide when learning how to execute your vision in floristry.

The essential function for floral foam is to provide stability for your arrangements, to make your blooms look like a professional and keep each stem in position. I generally buy my foam bricks in bulk due to the number of arrangements I am creating. The beauty of floral foam is that you can cut and shape it yourself.



Core Selections:
Floral foam comes in various shapes as well as different grade qualities and can be purchased either in wet or dry versions. Here is the difference: the grade allows you to classify the density. When acquiring your foam, you may notice one type of foam being heavier than another, don't panic! You merely need figure out the specific foam to use for your floral project. Hence, the key terms: wet and dry.

Wet floral foam has to be pre-soaked in water before using. Dry foam can be used sans the water, therefore, more suitable for silk flowers, faux pieces, dried florals or paper sprays. Dry foam is incredibly denser than wet foam, thus seemingly heavier than wet foam before usage. This makes it perfect for artificial flowers.

Wet foam is not as compact as dry foam because it needs space for the water. For events such as weddings, I use wet foam because of the fresh florals being used but I lately, I also use dry foam cut to fit the other elements that do not need hydration (see the blended bouquets below). Consequently, when using the wet version, the absorbed water will add a large amount of weight to the foam which will keep your stems in place.

Another reason to use wet foam is that your fresh flowers will remain hydrated, typically from seven to ten days with proper care. Be certain to check the foam, and water the container once a day to keep the foam wet. You can use a lighter-grade of foam for fine-stemmed flowers that might be delicate when being inserted in a standard-grade foam. For thicker, or normal to heavier-stemmed flowers, then use a premium-grade or a deluxe quality to stabilise the flowers.

Now, that I've given you a few tips. As you can see in some of these arrangements, I have used wet foam mostly with a lighter grade for thinly stemmed flowers, then a premium and standard grade was used because I did incorporate fresh cut sprays to the bouquets.

I also like to use a variety of dry foam, and floral Styrofoam--I've done just that in the first bouquet to start off the bottom since I used paper flowers, silk florals and real and faux succulents blended in-between. Floral Styrofoam doesn't need to be soaked in water, and it's also a brilliant option for dried flowers, or creating floral wreaths (used for shaping) as a base to work from. Once you know how to use your foam variety, then you're off to a great start in basic floristry design. 
 (Above) Here were blended elements for a DIY bouquet that I made for a wedding shoot. I used silk, paper, fresh cut florals with wet foram and floral Styrofoam in this arrangement.

There's really such an art in floristry and I have always appreciated it. As you may know by now, I'm keen on staying busy, and I am continually experimenting and learning new things, so I hope this post was informative as well as inspirational for you. 



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Ageless Luxury: a coppery tale

Culinary comfort has various meanings to different people—sometimes it's the simplicity of a meal, sometimes it means a familial pasta dish, other times a favourite dessert. For me, a few things come to mind, one being a pastry topped pie of any kind along with copper cookware that my grandparents would use. Copper was certainly a distinct element in our kitchen. 

I have fond memories of pots and pans hanging from its designated space glistening from every angle when the light would hit it just right, or hearing the perfect sizzle when a fresh cut of meat would touch the bronzed heated surface.


In collaboration with Mauviel 1830, for this spotlight series, I am featuring copper cocottes from their M'Heritage collection. Mauviel is a generational company with copper in its DNA and premium manufacturing at its core. It's not surprising that the esteemed brand is globally celebrated by professional chefs and seasoned home cooks.

Family-style cooking and entertaining is a big deal in our household, whether on the weekend or during the week. There's nothing like cooking for friends and loved ones, what's more, comfort cooking on a slightly chilled autumn evening. 

When it comes to one of your childhood dishes, no matter how simple or complex it might be, it must be cooked right to offer a casual frisson to the taste buds. These mini cocottes allow you to do just that, not to mention it's so much nicer serving individuals to guests, making one feel as if they're some sort of dignitary, even if only for the evening! These are excellent; with bi-laminated copper stainless steel safely lined on the inside and a polished copper exterior (90% copper, 10% stainless steel). 


Why copper? Well, aside from its sumptuous aesthetic, firstly, it's a brilliant heat conductor. Using copper allows you to cook more evenly, consequently providing better cooking control and higher performance at a swift speed than other metals. It's also good for delicate sauces that need tending to properly, hence it gives a cook the ability to control the temperatures.

I decided on a family-style stout pie with a homemade pastry crust and a piquant sauce fit for a hearty autumn palate. It's the type of pie that puts any shepherd's pie to shame and did I mention how much I absolutely love shepherd's pie, and blueberry pie, and Cumberland pie for that matter. You get the gist of where I'm going with this.  

Give me a flaky pastry filled with succulence any day. Cook it very well, serve it in copper, and I will be your friend for life! I will leave you with these delicious visual snippets from our kitchen to yours. Enjoy.

Have you used copper cookware? What do you think of these cocottes?



Shop The Collection

The goods: Copper mini  Cocottes-c/o Mauviel 1830. To view the M'Heritage collection or to shop Mauviel 1830 click here. Handmade DIY painted board, Ceramic autumn pumpkin-(Shop), Copper tray-Vintage-(Shop), Decor rounds-(Shop). This post contains some sponsor/affiliate links. As always, all opinions are honestly expressed and my own. 

      Shop the Inspiration
           

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Kitchen Destinations

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of RAGÚ® Pasta Sauce. All opinions are entirely my own.

Cooking for friends is always a joy, especially when they invite you over for a lovely holiday stay. As a “thank-you” I wanted to make a meal that wasn’t going to take hours of preparation. Naturally, serving guests spaghetti came to mind but then I thought pizza would be better. Not just any pizza, a clam pizza with veggies and cheese sauce!

On a recent journey to Nashville, I decided to pop into a Publix to pick up some RAGÚ® Pasta Sauce. I was eager to try RAGÚ Family Size Cheese Creations Classic Alfredo Pasta Sauce since I’ve never actually had store-bought Alfredo sauce. I know, can you believe that? I usually just make my own cheese sauce because of the simple ingredients. However, when you’re on the go or simply want to cook a quick meal, well, a stash of ready-to-serve sauce is supremely ideal.

The sauce has a cheesy taste, made with fresh cream, and Romano and Parmesan cheese. It bursts with cheese flavour. You can definitely use this in many dishes—try it with Cajun Fettuccine, or as a broccoli and cheese sauce over a baked potato. It is available at Publix in 16 oz. and 21.5 oz. jars.

You can also take advantage of the Publix BOGO event NOW through October 11 and buy one, get one RAGÚ Pasta Sauce free.

View the recipe below to see how I used this Alfredo sauce. 

Clam Alfredo Pizza
Ingredients:
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for frying, plus extra for pizza dough
1 ½ teaspoons yellow cornmeal
1 onion, roughly chopped  
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped   
50 g (1/2 cup) grated parmesan cheese
1 lime, juiced
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine  
50-60 littleneck clams, rinsed
6-8 pieces (1 small jar) artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
260 g (1 cup) RAGÚ Family Size Cheese Creations Classic Alfredo Pasta Sauce
1 homemade or store-bought pizza dough, room temperature  
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes  
6 anchovy slices, cut in half (optional)
Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Yield: 6-8 servings Bake: 475F / 240C / Gas Mark 9
Prep: In a large pot, add in the clams and pour in about 240g (1 cup) of water, then cover with a lid and cook until the clams have opened about 4-5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove clams from the pot, and let cool. Remove clams from their shells, tossing the shells. Set aside in a glass bowl.  


Method:
  1. Position a rack in the lower part of oven; place a pizza stone on rack. Preheat the oven to 475F degrees at least 30 minutes before cooking. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and artichoke hearts; cook, and stir until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Add white wine to the same pan and cover; bring liquid to a boil.  
  2. Cook liquid over medium-high heat, whisking in the parmesan cheese, and RAGÚ Cheese Creations Classic Alfredo Pasta Sauce and continue cooking until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and let the sauce cool.   
  3. Drizzle olive oil on a large round baking tray or pizza stone. Lightly dust cornmeal on top. Shape pizza dough into one large even round on the baking tray or pizza stone. Par-bake the dough in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven.  
  4. Use olive oil to lightly brush the outer edges of the pizza dough. Spoon just enough of the RAGÚ Cheese Creations Classic Alfredo Pasta Sauce over the pizza dough to cover evenly. Top pizza with the sautéed vegetables, clams, and anchovy slices, then sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.  
  5. Bake until the pizza is crisp and the edges of the dough have browned (8-12 minutes). Remove from the oven. Drizzle fresh lime juice over the pizza. Garnish generously with chopped coriander and basil leaves. Serve hot. 
Have you tried any of the RAGÚ Cheese Creations?








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October Party: The Afterglow

It's almost that time of the year again—autumn breezes rolling in with crisp air against our faces and soon little ones will be in adorable costumes going from door to door for Halloween treats. I did not grow up celebrating this holiday so it sort of fascinated me the older that I got. 

Halloween can be fun and your theme doesn't have to be bloodsucking or gory to make the most of the entertaining bit. Whatever theme you decide on though, stick to it without wavering in the styling details. 

Over the weekend as I was perusing raw materials for an upcoming craft project, I saw a cute little boy looking for costume ideas at a fabric store with his parents. They were so engrossed in the experience as a whole—that family was on a mission.  

Since we aren't dressing up or having an actual Halloween party this year, due to so many other commitments I thought I'd share a fun session that I did a couple weeks ago for Oriental Trading 



Have a look at the tablescape as well as the fun "BOO lollipops" that I used. This time, I went for a simple aesthetic, versus last year with our elaborate décor As you can see, there's so much that you can do with spooky decorating without having gaudy or terrifying elements. Go for printed pieces such as these cups and plates. The plates are my favourite because they don't exactly translate directly as Halloween per se, and can be used for other events.  



Lemonade Out Of Lemons: in this case, Resse's!
Here's what to do when your Reese's Pieces (Halloween) candy melts! Sadly, when my bags of Resse's arrived, it was melting. I decided to make little-candied bars with a pretzel crust. It's very easy.  
I crushed a small bag of pretzel rods to use as a crust and mixed it with a good dollop of warmed ghee. Then, place the crumbled pretzel mix in small rectangular cavities (or you can use muffin tins). Heat chocolates or Resse's Pieces (I used about 12 bags of these) in a large bowl over boiling water until melted. Add a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, and stir with a silicone spoon. Fill small cavities with the melted chocolate-peanut butter mixture. Stick in the freezer for at least one hour. Now, you're ready to enjoy (view images!)

Stay tuned for more inspiration, I have exciting things in the works to share with you including food, fashion, décor, and of course my favourite party styling tips.  

The goods: Some items in this post were provided by Oriental Trading. Shop the Halloween collection here. As always, all content and opinions are honestly expressed.  

Are you planning on decorating or attending any parties for Halloween? 

DIY: These Halloween bags were turned into lanterns. Just chop them from the top and add an LED light or gold foil with the cauldrons.
   

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