CRAFT: Anise Napkin Rings

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Anise Napkin Rings


Each year before the holidays, I spend a lazy afternoon by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa and a huge stack of magazines. And they aren’t any ordinary magazines. I gather all of my November and December issues of Martha Stewart Living from the archives I keep in a special trunk in my office, and plan out my holiday baking and crafts. It’s a personal tradition, all mine, and I cherish it!

Here’s a little DIY gem I found from the November 1998 issue–star anise napkin rings! Fastened to autumnal-colored linen napkins, they are a fragrant, elegant and budget addition to a holiday table. I’m excited to make these today, not only because they look simple and easy, but also because I already have all the materials in my house – brown suede cord, star-anise pods and of course, the ubiquitous hot glue gun.

MAKE IT: Thread a piece of suede cord (or ribbon) under the stiff stem of the spice pod. If there is no stem, place a small dab of hot glue on the back of the spice pod, then press it into the cord or ribbon. Roll your linen napkins, position the star anise in front, then tie the cord in the back to secure it.

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Easy Winter Salads

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Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I’d do just about anything for a perfectly ripe garden tomato.

There are so many reasons to be fond of winter, but the dearth of fresh, seasonal produce is not one of them. But all is not lost. At these times one must simply drop to their knees and thank the universe for LETTUCE.


Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, a variety of tasty organic lettuce is available all winter long.  I love to toss salad greens with some dried fruit, toasted nuts or whatever else I have around already.

The basic formula is this: lettuce + fruit + nuts or seeds + cheese, all gently tossed with a quick vinaigrette I shake up in a jam jar. The result? A seasonal, healthy, unique and delicious salad for lunch or dinner.

My basic vinaigrette takes less than a minute to prepare; for a more unique salad I might add an ingredient or two. Into a small jam jar goes a half cup of olive oil, 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar or lemon juice, a small dab of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. I toss in half a minced shallot if I have it on hand. Screw the lid on and shake it. Voilà.

Here are some of my favorite winter salad variations. 

mixed greens and shredded napa cabbage + chopped apple + currants + spice pepitas + gorgonzola (use unfiltered apple cider vinegar for vinaigrette)

baby spinach + chopped preserved lemon + toasted walnuts + goat cheese (add a touch of honey to vinaigrette)

mixed greens and shredded fennel + dried cherries + toasted pine nuts + ricotta salata (add a pinch of Indian curry to vinaigrette)

butter lettuce + mango chunks + roasted peanuts + feta cheese (add a pinch of smoked paprika to vinaigrette)

mixed greens + Mandarin orange slices + toasted pecans +  goat cheese (add chopped red onion to vinaigrette)

escarole + dried cranberries + toasted hazelnuts + stilton

arugula + chopped figs + toasted almond slices + goat cheese (use sherry viniager in vinaigrette)






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