Colorful Spring Crostini

You remember my birthday party spread? Delicious spring ingredients and lots of finger foods!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I am mildly obsessed with crostini. You’ve seen my fall fave, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash Crostini, and I’m here today to share some delightful spring combinations! This isn’t an exact recipe, but rather a guideline on a great, easy, and colorful way to make a huge variety of crostini.

 

Colorful Spring Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

For my party, I started with a few basic crostini ingredients: baguettes and spreads. I knew I was going have quite a few people over, so I thinly sliced two baguettes and toasted the little pieces in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. I wanted them to be golden, but not browned at all and just perfectly crunchy. While they were toasting, I made my spreads. Since I was doing many different flavor variations on the toppings, my spreads were basic. I used about 12 ounces of ricotta per baguette, mixing it with a bit of cream so it would spread more smoothly. I then took half of the ricotta-cream mixture and microplaned in the rind of one lemon as well as the juice. You could easily add some chopped fresh herbs at this stage too. After that it was all the toppings! The night before I’d roasted my veggies for about 10-15 minutes with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, leaving the vegetable-y taste: cherry tomatoes, thin slivers of zucchini and carrot, red bell pepper. I whipped up a little caramelized onion: letting it sizzle gently on the stove for just under and hour before adding a bit of water and some balsamic vinegar. I also boiled some asparagus for about 5 minutes until it was just cooked, but still had a bit of a crunch. Other toppings I used included toasted almond slivers, walnuts, and pinenuts, avocado, and cucumber. After that, it was just a little more flavor with herbs: fresh mint, basil, and dill thinly sliced and sprinkled on top. On some crostini I gently drizzled a little honey to bring out a bit of sweet flavor.

 

Crostini Close-Up | Land of Laurel

 

Simple right? And oh so delicious. It was a lot of toppings, but the prep was simple and I did most of the cooking the night before. The day of, I took all the veggies out of the refrigerator and brought them to room temperature before putting all the crostini together. It was quick and painless and abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous!

 

Colorful Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations:

 

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Basil, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Avocado, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Bell Pepper

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Carrot, Mint

Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Toasted Almonds

Ricotta Spread, Walnuts, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Basil, Toasted Almonds,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Roasted Carrot, Dill,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Walnuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Almond, Basil

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Walnut, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Basil, Pine Nuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pine Nuts, Roasted Zucchini, Dill

 

The best part is an hour and a half of prep with just a little bit of a whole lot of ingredients gets you a wonderful plethora of creative and colorful crostini! At my party I was able to prep some other dishes that involved more knowledge of the recipe, while putting three great helpers on crostini duty. I gave them my list of suggestions, but they enjoyed coming up with their own creative combinations, leading to a delightful, varying snack.

 

What’s your favorite party food? Do you like to prep a bunch of food before hand or cook everything the day of?

Celebrating 24

This past Saturday I turned thirty-five twenty-four and despite my wish to be about ten years older, it was a wonderful birthday weekend!

 

Friday evening I threw a big birthday party at my house. I absolutely love having parties. They don’t need to be formal or a lot of work to be fun! I did most of my party prep on Thursday evening after work so Friday I had plenty time to do the last few things before my guests arrived. Lucky me, I had some wonderful helpers on Friday who helped get everything ready to go in the last few minutes so I had time to shower!

 

I’ll be sharing a few recipes the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to give you a little preview. We prepped quite a spread. My personal food mantra is there is never too much. I’ve inherited a love of food and feeding people from my father’s side of the family. I simply am not comfortable when I have visitors unless there is a drink in their hand and a snack in their mouth. I have aunts who simply will not rest when you come over, unless you’ve eaten a post-dinner snack and have a bowl of ice cream with homemade fudge sauce in your hand. It’s one of the most endearing qualities of my extended family. These are definitely traits that have been passed on from my parent’s generation to my cousins and I. My food table was quickly full!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

So at the party I wanted to do a few simple things. I prepped a quick version of my delicious, thick, vegan Butternut Squash Soup on Thursday evening. On Friday I quickly heated up a veggie broth, added everything I’d roasted the day before, and pureed it all together. Then my three helpers (my darling sister Bronwyn, and two of my best friends, Hannah & Nicole) put together a small army of crostini, the toppings of which I’d also prepped on Thursday. Now I love a good crostini, they’re delicious! I’ve already shared my favorite fall appetizer, a Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta crostini and these spring versions were just as easy! They came out just gorgeous and oh so colorful! I promise they also tasted as good as they looked. Other foods I served? A delicious (but small) Mango-Mint Salad, a cheese plate, and a Spring Veggie Couscous salad. Yum!  To top off the entire evening of eating, my sister made an absolutely gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake. It was beautiful! Chocolate raspberry is my dream cake so I was in dessert heaven.

 

For my actual birthday on Saturday, I went out to brunch with my parents and sister at a place in North Berkeley called Cafe Leila. The food was alright. I think the pastries are the way to go at that place, but I ordered pancakes. They were a bit undercooked. Oops! Their selection of teas and lattes is pretty amazing though. We all shared one of their cronuts as well. That was flakey and delicious! My parents gifted me an amazing sewing machine that does an amazing number of awesome stitches so look forward to some sewing tutorials in the future! First step? Hemming some curtains for my bedroom!

 

After brunch my parents left and my friend Hannah arrived. My sister, Hannah, and I then all headed down the California coast towards Santa Cruz! We got a super late start, leaving shortly after 1:00pm. We took 92 over the San Mateo Bridge and over into Half Moon Bay. Before we got to the cute town, we stopped at some of the nurseries to see the amazing array of plants. The greenhouses were humid and simple signs reading “Orchids for Sale” did nothing to disclose the amazing sites within. Orchids as far as you could see in every direction. In every color! It was beautiful!

 

Orchids to Die For | Land of Laurel

 

In another greenhouse, there were amazing carnivorous plants (many of which I wanted to buy considering our summer fly problem!) and nestled among them tiny fairy houses. It was so cute! And these carnivorous plants were so interesting and unusual.

 

Carnivorous Plants & Fairy Houses | Land of Laurel

 

Lastly there were the succulents and cacti! Plants to die for! I wanted to take all of them home and slowly kill them (my go-to method for succulent care). They were so beautiful though!

 

Cacti & Succulent Nursery | Land of Laurel

 

After I’d died and gone to heaven at the nurseries we continued the little ways down Highway 92 into Half Moon Bay where we stopped briefly for sandwich snacks at a small deli and creeped on adorable chicks at the cute hay and feed store on Main Street. Some day I will get to go in and buy those baby chicks rather than just looking! Seriously, there is nothing cuter, y’all!

 

Baby Chicks | Land of Laurel

 

After our pit stop, we hopped onto Highway One and continued down the beautiful coast, stopping occasionally to take in the ocean views. At one point we found what seemed to be a wind surfing convention. Literally dozens of windsurfers were winding their way around in the water by this one beach. It was beautiful and so colorful! All the colors of the sails seemed so joyful against the backdrop of the blue ocean and sky.

 

Windsurfers | Land of Laurel

 

By the time we got into Santa Cruz it was already pretty late. We stopped first at Penny Ice Creamery for Bitter Carmel cones topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it! It’s the most amazing combination! The only Penny Ice Creamery to have this combo, seemingly, is the one on 41st Street, so be sure to plan accordingly! We walked with our cones down to Pleasure Point where we found a nice bench to finish devouring them. We spotted a pod of dolphins in the distance which made it even more lovely. We walked down East Cliff for a little while, watching the surfers and beach-goers.

 

Santa Cruz East Cliff | Land of Laurel

 

After our short walk, we headed to Pacific Ave for some window shopping before finishing the evening with dinner at I Love Sushi (we got four of the five Vegetarian Special Rolls and split them) and a bowl of soul at Verve Coffee. All too soon it was time to hit the road, but it had been a truly lovely birthday!

 

What do you like to do for your birthdays? Celebrate with a big party? A few friends? Just spend time with your family?

Happy Holiday Garland

Happy Monday everyone! I wanted to share this fun garland I made with all of you. I worked on this before Christmas actually and finished it about two weeks before hand. I never showed our holiday decorations though, because I was too busy celebrating! This garland is just so fun though, I think it deserves a shout out.

 

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my mother and her three sisters got together to make holiday crafts. This isn’t a family tradition, but something new this year, and we all loved it! My Aunt Chrisy ended up not being able to make it, but my mother and her two other sisters got together at my Aunt Karolyn’s in Davis for a little holiday magic. My cousin Kelly and I decided to crash the party too! Because I am a planner, I got incredibly excited and started scrolling through Pinterest to see what kind of inspiration I could find. Crafting is basically my own personal Pinterest-Challenge. I fell in love with several ideas, but the one that truly captured my heart was this. It was just so colorful and happy! I knew instantly that it was perfect and I had to try to make it. Yes, it’s not very Christmas-y, but that was what I inherently loved about it! The garland is bright and exciting and could be used for absolutely any holiday or celebration. Multi-use decorations? Count me in!

 

First I headed to Joanne Fabrics to pick up some supplies. I debated which colors to use before settling on light blue, teal, yellow-gold, yellow, bright magenta, baby pink, maroon, lime green, forest green, white, and neutral beige. I tried to coordinate my colors so there was a darker and a lighter version of each hue. I added the neutrals in because I didn’t want the color to be too overwhelming. I got 1/4 yd of each of my colors, and a 1/2 yard of the white and neutral. In the end, I had way too much fabric, especially of the neutrals. I’d suggest getting only 5″ strips of fabric for anyone planning on trying this. That’s less cutting for you too! The fabric on the bolts was doubled over, so in the end I got 9″ wide and 96″ long strips of each color except the neutrals.

 

Colorful Felt | Land of Laurel

 

I decided to make my life easy and simply cut my fabric down the middle until I had two long strips of felt approximately 4.5″ wide. Then I cut my long strips into 3/4″ pieces. I ended up with a ginormous pile of colorful felt strips. So happy and bright!

 

Pile of Felt | Land of Laurel

 

I then took strong, white embroidery thread and a needle and got down to stringing my garland together. Because felt is so easy to puncture, I used a nice big blunt needle. I started with a big knot in my thread. Then I took a piece of felt from my pile and quickly found a good way to string them together.

 

Stringing Together a Garland | Land of Laurel

 

I took each piece of felt in my hand…

 

Felt in Hand | Land of Laurel

 

… and then pinched it in the center like so.

 

Pinched Felt | Land of Laurel

 

Then I took my needle with my other hand and stabbed it through the pinch fabric pulling it through both sides of the pinch.

 

Needle in Felt | Land of Laurel

 

I wanted my garland to be extra strong for years to come, so I then threaded that needle back through the pinched felt a bit higher than the original hole. Here you can see the two strings coming out the one side of the felt (one attached to the needle, the other to the rest of the garland) and the small white stitch on the pinched fabric.

 

Second Time Through Felt | Land of Laurel

 

I pulled the embroidery threat tight which pinched fabric together more and then pulled the felt strip to the rest of the garland. Once it the felt strip was tightly pushed against the garland, I threaded a third stitch, taking the needle and pushing it through the center of the pinch and up.

Third Stitch | Land of Laurel

 

This kept the fabric pinched, but left the thread and needle coming from the center of the strip, ready for the next piece of felt.

Ready for the Next Strip | Land of Laurel

 

You guys, I did this about ten million times over the course of two weeks.

 

Next Piece | Land of Laurel

 

Since I was using doubled over strings of embroidery thread about one yard long, I would periodically run out of thread. When I got to that point, I would thread my needle through the last three felt strips twice and tie a big knot. I would cut off any excess thread. Then, with my new length of thread, I’d go back through those three strips of felt again. Basically, my transition points between thread lengths are super, duper strong rather than being weak points! I’m hoping this will help the garland last for years to come!

 

Still Going | Land of Laurel

 

I planned to hang my garland across the front windows in the living room. The windows are huge and I wanted the garland to hang down each side as well! It took forever to get the length I needed for this, but it was totally worth it! The process of threading the strips of felt became oddly addicting and almost meditative. I sat at the island and worked on it. Then I sat in bed and threaded felt strips. I made my garland while watching TV, waiting for food to roast in the oven. I made my felt garland before bed, before breakfast, after dinner, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. It was a HUGE time suck, but all the supplies for my garland cost less than $15.00 and it’s much stronger than anything you’d find for that price in stores!

 

In the end, I was able to stretch it across our big living room windows. It looked lovely. This is kind of a terrible iPhone picture, but it really shows how long this thing was when I finished!

 

Garland Across the Windows | Land of Laurel

 

The felt garland also looked great when I wrapped it around myself. Haha! It was like swimming in a sea of happy, bright, fun, and exciting color!

 

Finished Garland | Land of Laurel

 

I am so pumped for this garland! It’s perfect for the upcoming Valentine’s Day, for Easter, for Birthdays, for any and every occasion! I’m so glad I went with the colorful option rather than doing holiday colors. I have so much felt left over, I plan on making another similar garland in all neutral colors! Anyone else tried something like this?