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DIY Place Card Holders – A Bit of Whimsy

I’m always looking for ways to enhance the setting of a table.  For me a pretty table tells your family and friends that time and effort went into every little detail.  I like the use of a place card – a little detail – but tells your guest they are special.  Of course store-bought ones are good but homemade says welcome, so glad you could be here.  I’ve used all kinds of items around the house as place card holders (mushrooms, corks, names written on leaves, tags etc) but these whimsical chairs have to be my favorite and are easy to make!

collect sparkling wine or champagne cages
Remove the wire that runs through the bottom of the cage.  You may have to snip where the wires have been connected if you cannot undo it (I cut them all off, no patience).  

Don’t try to straighten out the wire as you want to keep a bend to help form the back of the chair. Take one end of the wire and twist it around one of the legs near the cap (needle-nose pliers work best here).  Do the same for the other side.  Fiddle with the wire to make it look like a back to a chair.  Keep in min it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Aren’t these adorable?  Look on the web for free printable name cards.  If you like the one I used, click here.  If you don’t drink sparkling wine or champagne you can always ask your local wine cellar if they would save the cages when they offer champagne tastings.  Enjoy!

Jalapeño Cheddar Crackers

I enjoy taking the train into the city…an easy 30 minute commute to Grand Central Terminal.  Like any train station, there are newspaper boxes and one box in particular carries New York Cottages & Gardens (NYC&G).  It’s a glossy magazine filled with upscale design and decorating tips.  I picked one up for the train ride and poured over the pages, sometimes drooling over the slick interiors or lush, manicured gardens. Sometimes I find the most interesting recipes in design and decor magazines.   In this holiday issue was Ina Garten’s, ‘An Easy, Foolproof Menu‘.  The jalapeño cheddar crackers caught my attention and I was hooked. 

Makes 32 crackers
adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¹⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
5 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
3 tablespoons ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
Fleur de sel or sea salt

Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheddar, jalapeño, and chipotle chili powder and pulse again. With the food processor running, add the ice water all at once. Continue pulsing until the mixture begins to form a ball.

Place dough onto a floured board and roll it into a 14-inch log. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the dough in 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place the crackers on the prepared pan, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  These were melt-in-your-mouth goodness and a perfect size for finger food.  So tender and flaky with hints of jalapeño breaking through the cheddar.  I love the smoky essence of chipotle chili powder.  Next time I will make these with a bit more chipotle chili powder.    Enjoy!

Glacéed Orange Slices Dipped in Chocolate

This is the first time I have ever made glacéed orange slices and I have to say I was more than happy with the way this recipe turned out.  Mind you, it’s not the first time I have cooked with glacéed fruit.  I’ve used them in fruit cake and cookies but they can also be used in cakes, breads and as a topping to decorate desserts.  I enjoyed making this so much I went ahead and made candied grapefruit peel…devine (recipe and photos to follow)!  These slices are a a wonderful way to top off an evening of entertaining and lets your guests know you took the time to spoil them with these handmade treats.


Makes 24 slices
adapted from Martha Stewart Living

2 navel oranges
1 cup sugar

Wash oranges and cut into 1/4-inch rounds then cut each round into a half moon. Bring sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Wash down sides of opt with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add orange slices to boiling syrup and reduce heat. Cover with parchment paper and gently simmer until orange slices are soft and glazed (1 hour, 45 minutes).
Using a slotted spoon, transfer slices to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Let dry until just slightly tacky, about 5 hours. Dip ends of the orange slices in chocolate (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips) and place on wax paper.  Allow chocolate to harden.  Store in an airtight container for 2 days. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 weeks.

The Culinary Chase’s Note: I love the slightly chewy texture of these orange slices and a nice balance between the sweetness of the glacé and 60% cacao.  I will be making these again!  Enjoy!