27 February 2017

Wood Serving Trays For Fruit And Cheese Plates

This is a long overdue blog post for sure, but one I had such a good time putting together. I love wood serving trays and we've been loving fruit, veggie, cheese plates the past few months. I think it all started last summer when I was looking for light fare that would incorporate a lot of different kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables. We started trying to eat the rainbow and began counting how many vegetables and fruit we could pack into one dinner. I had a couple of small, oblong serving trays that were so perfect for lining up a rainbow of beautiful fresh foods along with cheeses and crackers. But they weren't quite big enough and I happened upon some beautiful new wood trays one day at TJMaxx.


I thought these would be perfect for entertaining too and I could just imagine serving all sort of foods on our patio with them. I bought two matching sets of these rectangle wood trays, each came with three different sizes and I picked up two bamboo tongs for easy serving as well.


I can't wait til it warms up so that we can have friends over for dinner outside. We've been working hard getting the inside of our house pulled together so that when warmer weather gets here we'll be ready to go. It will be especially fun to have a pool party or two this summer. With a white sheet we can pretty easily pop up a movie theater in the back on the wall as well. Fun stuff.


I also found these wood fruit-shaped trays the same day and couldn't resist. The wood is so beautiful and I like the big, flat, open space on these for a nice variation from the thin rectangle trays I have quite a few of. These would work for so many things and we've been using them for our fruit and veggie cheese plates the past few weeks.


Of course, I'm especially fond of the pineapple tray. I have another small pineapple tray that this would go perfectly with. Wouldn't this be delicious covered in pineapple bites. I am totally craving pineapple and fresh fruit right now, I think because we don't have a lot in the house and it's winter and all. I think we only have apples and pears around right now.

I would love a big tray of strawberries, pineapple, oranges and more to appear in our kitchen on one of these trays right now! My mouth is totally watering just thinking about it. We need to splurge and get some pineapple soon! Actually we have some canned pineapple in the cupboard and I may just crack open a can to go with our Japanese wontons, gyoza and rice dinner. (Inside right now I'm silently screaming "Oh Yes!" - ha)

I have been refurbishing and collecting wood trays for a while now. I use them all over the house. I think I still have one little one I haven't even fixed up yet in a drawer in my craft storage. Wood trays can be quite expensive at full retail price but buying and refurbishing them from a thrift store can be quite a great deal. Most of the bowls and trays I have purchased and fixed up were all under five dollars. Here are a few other posts on beautiful wood trays and bowls.

Thrift Store Small Rectangle Tray (with DIY instructions on how to bring a crusty old tray back to life.
My dream bread bowls I saw these at ABC Home in NYC and couldn't justify the investment at the time but found something at my local thrift store just days later.

Bamboo Tray Fix-up A great thrift store find that I fixed right up and made look new again. So easy.

Woven Tray This large serving tray is perfect for transporting things outside, to the dining table or for breakfast in bed. A great deal and it was so easy to repair.

24 February 2017

Big Likes #1: My Favorite Cocoa

I was feeling like I hit a bit of a rut this week here at the blog. It's funny how you can feel like you have lots of blog post ideas and then some days just nothing inspires you. So today I decided to start a new column of sorts called Big Likes. Big likes are things I'm really enjoying at the moment.


I was out early this morning for an appointment and I will just say that the freezing cold wind is still blowing. Ergh. So when I got home I was ready for something cozy and decided that some cocoa would really hit the spot.

Yesterday would have been my paternal grandmother's 116th birthday and she made the absolute best cocoa I have ever tasted. I learned to add salt and vanilla from her. She also made her cocoa with evaporated milk which of course was delicious. I think she mixed regular milk with the evaporated milk. It's been so long since I watched her make it as a little girl that I realize I can't quite remember anymore. That's a little bit sad. Life passes so quickly!

I generally don't make a big pot of cocoa and I'm really the only one in the family who drinks it. The Man drinks his cocoa from a water-added packet made with his Keurig machine. Ick! So I make my cocoa one cup at a time for myself.

I have been loving Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa all winter long. I love all these "Simply" products that have been coming out that use real sugar and real ingredients without all the additives. I will gladly pay the extra to support any company who is returning to a more all natural ingredients list for products that I want to use!

I love that Simply Cocoa is a "mix with real, hot milk" version. No watered down gunky cocoa for me! I want creamy and not too heavy. Last fall I found these on sale for a dollar per box so I loaded up and what a great idea that was. I had a nice supply to get me through the winter and it was there waiting for me any time I wanted something warm. I'm down to one box, so it's time to stock up soon. Here's my secret recipe:

For a large "cappuccino" size mug:
Cup full of 1% milk
1 & 1/2 packets of cocoa mix
3-5 drops of vanilla extract
dash of kosher salt

I heat the milk up in the microwave on high for 90 sections, then stir it so that the heat distributes evenly and does not curdle the milk. This time and temperature can vary from microwave to microwave. In LA, our apartment microwave could only do a minute at a time without ruining the milk so you have to experiment. I have a bunch of little whisks I use for stirring throughout my cocoa making process. I use one to stir the milk and then they are great for incorporating the cocoa powder and other ingredients.

After stirring I microwave the milk for 30 more seconds. Then I add the cocoa mix, vanilla and salt and stir it again with my cute whisk. And we're done. So yummy. You can top it off with whipped cream if you want or add cream or half and half or whatever you want. We keep a can of spray whipped cream in the fridge at all times so it's easy to create a big whipped cloud on top if I'm in the mood.

I can't tell you how happy it made me to sip a cup, all alone in my office this morning when I got home and was chilled to the bone. I turned on my little space heater and was one happy camper! I paired my cocoa up with toasted waffles topped with a yummy new preserve I picked up this week. That will be the subject of my next "Big Like."

If you want to make a big pot of delicious, rich cocoa here is a fantastic recipe. This is perfect for a party or family gathering. 

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