My Cake Decorating Gallery

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Perfect Mango Lassi



I love indian food. I didn't discover it until moving out of my small town to go away to college in the diverse city of Ann Arbor. A friend asked if I wanted to join her for lunch and I've loved indian food ever since! My parents had also never had it and it is now one of their favorites as well - imagine finding one of your favorite foods when you're in your 50s!

Anyhoo, I have a few friends - from college and work - who have kindly offered up their expertise and family recipes to help my mother and I create our favorite dishes at home. A few years ago, we stocked up on a bunch of indian spices - Garam Masala, Tandoori Masala, Methi, Tumeric, Madras Curry Powder, etc. We tried a few recipes and - they were good - but those Indian restaurants sure do have an assortment of wonderful dishes so that was always our favorite.

Recently, a coworker brought in some of her home-cooked recipes including one of our favorites, Butter Chicken. It was awesome, better than any restaurant, and thankfully she was extremely open about sharing recipes. I ended up planning a big "indian cooking day" with my mom while The Husband was out of town, and I wanted to go "all out" and make and buy as much as we could. More on the other recipes later, but I do want to share the perfect Mango Lassi recipe.


This one, I actually found on Food Network, but no worry - all the recipes are generally the same: Mangoes, Yogurt, sugar... however this particular recipe said "try with cardamom or salt" .. the salt I didn't try but the cardamom piqued my interest. I never had any in my spice cabinet, but I always enjoyed Turkish Coffee or middle eastern treats that featured the cardamom flavor.

Lucky for me, this is prime time mango season so please go out and buy fresh mangoes now before it ends in a few weeks. I went to Nino Salvaggio's and they had an assortment of varieties and I purchased 4 green-and-red soft managoes that I could tell were perfectly ripe.


The Food Network recipe was a little different (had more exact measurements), but the main idea is that it is basically equal parts mango and yogurt. The real kicker is the cardamom, which really makes this the best mango lassi ever. Cardamom is expensive, but I hope to use my $9 jar of it in some other tasty treats in the future. My parents and I all agreed that we would take this delicious healthy drink over any greasy or sugar-laden dessert any day. It was just awesome.


The Perfect Mango Lassi
Serves 3-4

4 cups of peeled, pitted, sliced fresh ripe mangoes
4 cups of plain yogurt (not vanilla)
12 packets of splenda (I left sugar out since Splenda works so well with cold / fruit recipes... )
1/4 tsp cardamom
Optional: 12 ice cubes (will make it a cold smoothie - good choice!)
4 mint leaves for garnish

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until a smooth consistency like a smoothie. Add water if your consistency is too thick (ice helps). Serve in glasses with a sprig of mint. Mint and mango is such a tasty combination.. it's not just for looks!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Island (Maui) Style Mahi Mahi Tacos


Yes, "Fish Tacos" may sound strange unless you're from California or other coastal/island cities. We just don't seem to have many of them around here in Michigan. However, during our honeymoon in Maui, The New Husband and I saw them all over the place and I made sure to try them at least once.


The first place was at Leilani's which was our first night in Maui. It was delicious! The second time, where we both had them, was at a "Jawz Island Style Fish Tacos" roadside wagon down by Makena beach. We hung out at the south-western Maui beaches a few days in a row and this particular day had worked up quite a hunger body boarding and these large tacos totally hit the spot. I never forgot how delicious they were and how it really just added to an already perfect day.

I tried making some fish tacos once we got home, and they were pretty good but I was hoping to find an official recipe online somewhere. It turns out fish tacos are made on the east coast frequently and they are totally different - deep fried cod! The Island Style fish taco is grilled Mahi Mahi or Tilapia and had island flavors to accompany it: fresh tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime, etc. The east coast version recipes looked totally different.

The other day, I got a hankering for fish tacos again, especially after looking through the honeymoon photos. I searched online again in hopes that a recipe had appeared recently and I happily came across a recipe which I used that night. I also came across reviews for Jawz, (not all great - some people in Cali really say their tacos are better), and a Jawz Fish Tacos website to refresh my memory on what we ordered from the road-side taco truck in Makena. The Island Style recipe looked pretty darned close, even with the red and green sauce... and "Island Style" is the same term Jawz uses. I was pretty excited to give the recipe a whirl.

I didn't follow the recipe to a T but what we came up with was awesome. The Husband said it was great, but couldn't remember if it was like our honeymoon meals... I thought it was pretty close but it has been a year and a half so who knows. Whether it's like Maui or not, this recipe is excellent.

Island Style Fish Tacos
with Creamy Garlic Dressing and Salsa Fresca

See here for the original recipe I found online.
Here is the recipe I used, with my personal changes noted.


1 lb of Mahi Mahi (made about 4 tacos, enough for 2-3 people)
Fresh (I only had dried) herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper
Olive Oil


1 package of seasoned bell peppers and sweet corn (I bought this at Nino's just for a quick side and decided to add it into the taco, which tasted great. Just used canned corn (and cooked diced bell peppers or buy the can that already has those), and season with garlic, salt, pepper, and maybe cumin). Mexican or spanish style rice would also be a good "filler"

1 package sliced cabbage
1 lime cut into wedges
4 soft flour fajita-size tortillas
1 cup shredded white cheese - chihuahua or monterrey jack or mozzerella



Salsa Fresca
1 Large Ripe Tomato, Finely Diced
¼ Round Onion, Diced
1 T Cilantro, Minced
1 Large Clove Of Garlic, Crushed
½ Green Bell Pepper, Minced (I later realized that I forgot this ingredient, oops!)
Chili Flakes, Pinch
Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper



I didn't make the exact Garlic Dressing because I didn't want to buy buttermilk for something just myself wanted a tablespoon of... so here's what I did:

Quick Creamy Garlic Dressing
1 tbsp of mayonnaise
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp garlic powder (was too lazy to use blender so I didn't use fresh garlic)
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped fine

This sauce was a nice addition to the taco, though I bet the original recipe's sauce is better!

Directions
Chop the fish into bite-size cubes and place in a plastic bag with herbs/seasonings and olive oil. Put in fridge for an hour. Immediately start making the Salsa fresca - I used my mini-chopper and chopped all of the ingredients together, and then let sit in the fridge for an hour as well. Make sure to taste the salsa and add enough salt as needed.


While things are marinating, make the garlic sauce (or you can skip this if you don't like mayo like The Husband, and in a pinch regular tartar could work). I also put the cabbage into a bowl and added some cilantro and got out a lime to use to sprinkle on top at the end. I also heated up (microwave) the corn mixture, and this can be skipped or you could add rice for the taco.. all these combinations would be tasty.


After things have marinated, bring out the fish. I used my grill pan and grilled the fish until tender but cooked through. I warmed the tortillas in the microwave for a minute or so.


To assemble the tacos - just start layering the different ingredients on top of the tortilla. Fish, corn or rice, shredded cheese, cabbage, salsa fresca, garlic dressing, and garnish with a lime. Unlike the original recipe, I added shredded white cheese which I thought was definitely a must. Enjoy!



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tastes Like Summer: Mojitos and Burgers


In Michigan, we can have long winters - as we just had this past season. We had some significant snow in March and even some horrid days in early April. After being cooped up inside for 5 months, we have finally been seeing some wonderful breezy days with temps in the 60s and low 70s.. and SUN, SUN, SUN.

The SUN is a big deal for us. It wasn't until some one mentioned it to me that I realized --- we sure have a lot of cloudy days in this state. Having grown up here, you just get used to it and this is "normal" ... but check out these figures:

From World Facts and Figures

Here is a Sampling of US cities and the number of Sunny Days (not partly cloudy or partly sunny, just sunny) over the course of one year.

Sunny Days City
242 Yuma, AZ
210 Las Vegas , NV
186 Los Angeles, CA
157 Amarillo, TX
139 Oklahoma City, OK
131 Kahului, HI
115 Denver, CO

Now let's look at the "below 100" cities...
97 Saint Cloud, MN (even with that name, they beat us)
84 Chicago, IL
77 Duluth, MN
75 Detroit, MI
66 Flint, MI

This doesn't mean we're clearly the worst place - it just is related to how we are situated within the Great Lakes... for instance some parts of Hawaii also see a lot of clouds, but that's a totally different climate than Michigan!



Anyway, after we had yet another decent weekend of nice weather (it was even better since they called for rain and we were all pleasantly surprised to see sun), The Husband and I wanted to grill! With all this great weather, I had purchased a Grilling magazine and have been avidly shopping for Patio furniture. It's time to go outside!


We had Moose over and the menu was hamburgers... but not any ole boring hamburger, because.. that just sounds boring. The Husband hands-down loves Dale's burgers (Dale's is a tasty seasoning/marinade) which he learned about during a fishing trip, and it's a tasty way to do burgers. We've had one complaint that it was salty but so far everyone else loves Dales and you can typically find it in your local grocery store, at least around here - near the BBQ sauces.



The Husband rolled the ground chuck (The Grilling magazine says to use beef with 20% fat.. interesting, I had been using sirloin before) into balls and we put them into a ziploc bag and poured Dale's on top to marinade in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. The longer you marinade, the more you'll taste the salty goodness of Dale's. 30 minutes (flipping from time to time) was enough to get a subtle flavor.

The Husband also seasoned with montreal steak seasoning and some garlic powder. The Grilling magazine also said to not press down on the burgers in a flattening motion, otherwise you'll lose your tasty juices - so that was another good tip.



Of course, I had a slew of toppings, most of which the boys would not touch. Lettuce, onion, tomato, mayo, mustards, ketchup, BBQ sauce, ranch, bacon, and swiss or american cheese. You could make your hamburger however you like it! I also used the onion-sprinkled buns from Brownberry which were tasty. I served the burgers with parmesan roasted asparagus and herb roasted redskin potatoes.



To wash down a tasty burger, a wonderful summer cocktail is the Mojito. We first encountered this drink a few years before it became popular everywhere in the US - at which time we were in Key West, close to its origin in Cuba. The mojito is a refreshing combination of mint, lime, rum, and sugar.

These measurements are estimations, adjust to your liking:

The Original Mojito Recipe

Ingredients
(for 1 serving, however making several at a time is a good idea)

8-10 fresh mint leaves
1.5 to 2 oz. of White Rum
2-3 limes, halved, and then juiced to make 1-2 oz

1.5 to 2 oz of simple syrup (see below) ... original recipe would use sugar cane juice, but who has that?
Crushed Ice
Club Soda
Straw, for drinking

Directions
Break apart or roughly chop your mint leaves and place in the bottom of your glass(es) - a pint glass works well. Pour in a little bit of the lime juice and use your juicing utensil or a spoon to muddle into the mint in the bottom of the glass. Once the mint is beaten up, pour in the rest of the lime juice (1-2 oz) and rum (1-2 oz). Pour in the simple syrup, stir, and now you can taste-test here. The drink will be concentrated but just make sure you have it tangy enough (lime) and sweet enough (simple syrup), and adjust as needed. Fill glass to the top with crushed ice, and use Club Soda to top of the beverage (probably an ounce will fit). Serve with a straw, and I like to jam the straw up and down to melt in some of the ice and club soda. This is delicious, try it! (Or come over and I will make you one!)



Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Heat 1 cup of water in a microwave safe bowl until boiling. Remove from microwave and stir in sugar until it is all dissolved. Let cool and set aside for use with cocktails. Will keep at room temperature for a few days. This can be done in a sauce pan, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hunting and Fishing Theme Party

To celebrate The Husband's 30th birthday, I threw him a hunting and fishing themed party to honor his two favorite hobbies.

First, let's take a look at The Cake. In my book, it was OK... hard to follow the baby shower cake that I was so proud of. This hunting cake looked more homemade... but still a winner in the "cute" department. The Husband didn't decide he wanted a party until less than 2 weeks before, so I really had very little time to put the ideas together for food and get everything done. The one weekend prior, we had my fat-raise-celebration and then a 20 mile run and a party the next day, so I really had to do all the party prep during weeknights which was rough. I recommend starting earlier! The invitation was taken care of by Evite.com, which was the first time I used them and was able to incorporate hunting and fishing pictures of The Husband into the background. It worked out pretty well, tracking all of the RSVPs for us, and we were happy to have around 25-30 people at the party despite many of his closest friends having moved to Chicago!


After looking for ideas on http://www.cakecentral.com/, I decided on the "hunting scene" idea, with the hunter sleeping and a big buck coming in. I saw that idea somewhere, so I will not take the credit but my cake looked a lot different. I hoped The Husband wouldn't get too mad (because he is a very attentive and successful hunter actually), but the silly cake was all in good fun.


I started out looking for a hunter and deer cake props at the local cake shop, which was a no-go. No hunter, and just a bag of tiny tiny 1 inch deers, which wasn't going to work, unless I wanted a microscopic hunter. I looked online and did find a decent set which I put the order in just in time. It was $4 and shipping was $7, BUTto make matters worse, it was the same stupid size as the tiny deer at the cake shop.... the cake in the photo online must have been tiny and I couldn't see the proportions. So, by Tuesday when this arrived, I knew I had to create my own hunter and deer out of fondant. The hunter had to be done, so I could make him sleeping, but I knew the deer would be tough.



I used Wilton's ready made fondant, which was plenty. Using basic 2nd grader playdough skillz, I molded the hunter's body - arms behind head and legs crossed - in a snoozing position. I also made a vest (to be painted orange) and attached it to the hunter. I was pretty pleased with how he turned out.




Next was the deer. I started molding the fondant which I quickly realized was too soft to be able to hold itself up. I created the body, neck and head, and four legs, and finally realized I needed another plan because the deer wasn't going to stand but melt down into itself with big fat 1 inch legs. Using my engineer problem solving skills, I knew I needed a rigid frame for the fondant to attach to, which would hold the weight. I used some little wood sticks (from JoAnn fabric that I had other plans for) and used the hot glue gun to make a "deer frame" and then tore my deer apart so I could wrap it around the wood frame. Having one leg bent to simulate the deer walking was a bad idea, because then the deer never quite stood up straight... as it turns out, he sank into the cake anyway. If I were to do this again, I'd maybe attach the frame to a flat square of wood so the legs wouldn't dig into the cake - to evenly distribute the deer weight. The platform would be covered in frosting, anyway.





Still, while my deer turned out lumpy because I slapped him together quickly (and I like to say it was even a little frumpy), he wasn't too bad. The antlers were tiny pieces of fondant rolled and attached (using water), with a small piece of dowel rod that I pushed into the head of the deer. It didn't fit perfect but as long as it was remotely looking like a deer... it was midnight and I was happy with that!



Next I used some camo fabric and those same little sticks to create a "deer blind" and a "camo chair" for my hunter to sit behind and in, respectively. These items turned out super cute and only took another half hour with the magic of my hot glue gun. I had some extra sticks and made a "Bliss Deer Camp" sign which I thought would be cute for the final cake. Finally, bedtime! I was hiding all these details from The Husband and performed some crafts in our extra bedrooms, including the computer room. He thought I was creating a birthday software program for him (whatever that would entail), because he couldn't imagine what else I'd be doing "online" for hours to prep for his party. Haha!




Wednesday the fondant figurines had hardened enough and I knew I had to try out the "painting" idea to make sure it was going to work. I had purchased some special powdered food coloring and had vodka on hand to mix it with to create a paint (like watercolor.. however I imagine there is a way to make the colors darker by using more paint, less vodka, or using gels).


I didn't want to buy every color in "powder" form at $2 a piece so I eventually used my regular paste food colorings with the vodka, and it seemed to work fine. The point of the vodka is that it will dry quickly so while you paint the color on the fondant, you won't affect the fondant finish with water damage. I found the figurines were sticky even with the vodka, after being painted, but they did eventually dry in a day or two.



I created jeans, shirt and other details on the hunter and tried to paint the deer... but he still looked frumpy. I liked the deer's black little hoofs but unfortunately those sank into the cake.



Also on Wednesday, I spent working on more grocery shopping (must've been the 3rd or fourth time!) and a really cute photo album of "Your First 30 Years" by collaborating with The Husband's mother. This was set out at the party and everyone enjoyed seeing photos from his past, years 0 to 30!


On Thursday, I had to cook the venison chili (turned out GREAT... sorry no recipe, I just throw in anything)... some rice krispy treats (The Husband notified me last minute that he needed a "birthday treat" to bring into work for Friday because his secretary was taking the day off.. it wasn't mandatory but he gave me those puppy dog eyes. Nino salvaggio's provided some tasty muffins, cookies and doughnut holes - I was just booked and couldn't imagine actually baking anything). Lastly, as it was past 9pm, I knew I had to decorate the cake as Friday was also booked with his birthday plans. The two layers were baked already (earlier that week) and I knew he liked store-bought frosting so I actually incorporated some of that into my decorators frosting. The cake HAD to be yellow with chocolate frosting (his favorite combo), which worked well with my outdoor scene - chocolate is like dirt! The usual Wilton's chocolate frosting for decorating was used, and shhh, a bit of store bought (don't tell my mom!) It worked quite well actually! I filled the two layers and put on the base chocolate crumb coat (this time I trimmed the cake to make it an even box shape). I used some of the cake trimmings to make a hill, just for some interest in my outdoor scene.

Note that this time I trimmed the edges and top of the cake and it is definitely less pillowy and rounded looking - more of a square. I also used the hot water/spatula technique to smooth out the frosting after it was on the cake.

Next, I started placing my figurines and realized they were WAY too big, but oh well - in cake land, proportions don't have to be perfect. The fake trees I was going to use were too small, so they played the part of "saplings" in the scene.



The hunter in his hunting chair, the deer blind, and the deer all found their homes on top of the cake.



I mixed up some white frosting (Wilton's) with green food coloring to make the grass (using a grass tip), and also the lake (blue frosting) was born.


I added some lake weeds in yellow, for effect. I didn't have time to try to make fondant cattails but the thought was there.


I saved off some white frosting and spent a good hour making various colors of camouflage - a dark green, light green, brown, etc. My plan was to make the sides of the cake a neat buttercream camouflage.



As you can see in these photos, the camouflage is harder than it looks (I saw lots of examples on http://www.cakecentral.com/, but who knows how they pulled that off!) so I actually had to scrape it off and start over - luckily I only did the front side before changing gears. I didn't like what I did next, but after midnight, I wasn't thinking too straight. I decided to just press cookie crumbs (shortbreads) for an "Easy side" but.. honestly it still took a lot of work and looked... well... frumpy again! I should've stuck with smooth sides and put some cute polkadots or even just LINES. These crumbs would be nice for a beach cake.



Anyway, it took a long time to finish everything but I was pretty happy except the crumb siding (though I did add a finishing border along the top edge of the cake on Saturday) and cleaned everything up, and wrapped up the cake to put in the fridge.

I also had to cover the cake (used a cut-up paper grocery sack) so he wouldn't be able to see it when he opened the fridge, as it was a surprise.


It had been a long evening, but productive.


Friday was his actual birthday so we celebrated at Mario's (see post), but I knew I had to assemble my mexican layer things so I stayed up until 1am making those post-dinner. The Husband went out to the bar so he was out of my hair. I set my alarm so I had a full night of sleep, but got right to the preparations Saturday morning.



The party turned out great. I had planned on Andrea coming over early to help set up and I would've been way behind if she hadn't, whew! It was a drizzly day but I donned my best camouflage and was giving the house a good deep cleaning, and then commenced decorating. I had driven up to my parents house the previous Sunday to gather a few hunting supplies - specifically Mr Fake Deer for the lawn. I worked on the sign Monday or Tuesday night on bright orange paper (to go with my hunting theme of course) mounted on foam board and tied with twine, which included a birthday greeting for Tim, and would welcome guests. It turned out cute!




I also had ton of help from Kitchen Marx and Kitchen Bliss The Original (sister- and mom-in-law) who thankfully provided me some tasty guacamole and chocolate brownies, both of which I received a ton of comments on how delicious they were (and I concur!)


Now let's get to some recipes. I had a heating tray set up to keep some food warm and was able to cater some of the food. As you may have read in our Pasty Taste-Off, Weldon's Pasties are The Husband and I's favorite locally, and I asked them to make me some special half-size pasties which worked out perfectly when cut into three triangles, as bite-size pieces. I also made the Mini Bacon BBQ Cheese Burgers as seen during the superbowl (though I did a better job on the Super bowl ones, oh well!), and I made a miniature vegetarian version of my 7 Layer Tortilla Pie - and made Mini Four Layer bean and cheese triangles (see below). That plus the venison chili rounded out the main eats. No recipe on the chili.. way too many ingredients. I tried writing it down but it is also special knowing it'll come out a little different each time.


I had appetizers which included chopped veggies and fruits with a Dill dip from Nino Salvaggio's, and I had two cheeses out with rosemary crackers. The only other thing that was homemade was the Spinach Artichoke dip (I finally tried Andrea's recipe which was different AND WAY BETTER than the one we tried for the Wreath Party), which was awesome with chips and chunks of rye bread.

I was a little behind on prepping the Mini Bacon BBQ Cheese Burgers but after they were finished this was a very low-maintenance food party so I was able to enjoy myself. I only had to periodically heat food in the oven and then place on the heating tray as needed. Crockpots did the rest of the warming work!

Mini Mexican Triangles (Vegetarian)

Ingredients2 cans refried black beans (I used Amy's organic)
1 can black beans
4 cans of refried beans
1 1/2 cups salsa, or however much. I didn't measure.
taco / southwest seasoning, garlic salt, and cumin
cilantro
shredded cheese
32 tortillas (I enjoyed the three different colors: tomato basil-red, spinach-green, and regular (2 pkgs))


DirectionsMix the refried beans with most of the salsa and add taco seasoning/garlic salt/cumin until it's tasty.

Mix the black beans into the black refried beans and add the chopped fresh cilantro, a little bit of salsa, and some taco seasoning, garlic salt, and cumin until it's tasty.

Starting with one regular tortilla for the bottom, layer with refried beans and some shredded cheese of your choice. (I used white cheese with the black bean layer and yellow with the other two.. it really doesn't matter). Place a green tortilla on top and spread with black bean mixture, and white cheese. Place red tortilla on top and spread again with refried bean mixture and more cheese, and put another regular tortilla on top.

I stacked these into piles of two, separated with one paper plate, and covered each pair in foil, to make a total of 4 pairs. These were fine in the refrigerator for up to a few days, and when ready to eat - take them out and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 15-30 minutes or until crispy and melty. You could also fry them, or just warm them up in the microwave for a soft consistency.

I cut them into 6 triangles after baking, and placed on my heating tray for the party. I served them with salsa and verde sauce, and sour cream or guacamole would also be tasty.

I didn't really take a close-up picture of these, so.. you'll just have to imagine or look in the background of one of my decoration pictures.




Andrea's Artichoke and Spinach Dip (this is a keeper!)
Ingredients
2 cups mayonnaise (real, not Miracle Whip salad dressing)
2 cups shredded monterrey jack
2 cups parmesan cheese
2 10oz frozen spinach packages
2 cans artichoke hearts, chopped

Directions
Drain and chop the spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix all ingredients together in a very large bowl.
This can bake in a 9x13 pan in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350. However, we put as much that would fit into my mini Crock Pot on "high" which heated it up until it was melty and delicious, which was perfect. The Mini Crock Pot worked great on "warm" keeping this recipe out, and you only needed to stir it every once in a while as it sat. I baked the excess that didn't fit into the mini crockpot and refilled the crockette as necessary.



Ideas About Throwing A Hunting and Fishing Theme Party
DecorationsChances are that if you're throwing this party, your husband has tons of supplies that can be used as decorations. Think outside the box but keep it safe (avoid lures with hooks!): Decoys (ducks, geese, etc), bobbers (new from the store), live shotgun shells and other ammunition to sprinkle over the table, pine cones (I had some leftover from Christmas), camouflage chairs, seat pads, and go to the craft store for some camo fabric (often on sale!)
I cut up camo fabric to use as table runners in the kitchen, dining rooms and living rooms. I used several hunting accessories for decorations and made sure to get out his duck and deer calls / sound makers. Camo hats, gloves, masks, can all be fun. I used some camo plates and cups (as found on this website which I highly recommend - http://www.justcamousa.com/) as well as some regular army camo plates and cups from Walmart. The rest were blaze orange or other coordinating colors from Paper Party Place in Troy.

We had our basement ready for the at-home archery range and invited other guys to bring their bows for some indoor archery but you could also set up a skeet-shooting outing or do it yourself if you live in the country. A fishing outing would be cute, too, at your nearest public lake.

Other ideas I considered but didn't have time or just decided against them: having outdoor / hunting theme shows on the TVs in the background.. (the best I could do here was Deadliest Catch), getting fish bowls and buying some real goldfish for added affect - put the bobbers to float on the top, have some "outdoor sounds" playing in the background, use pine-scented room spray, incorporate some pop-up camo tents (maybe assemble outside?) for kids or people to check out, and maybe construct some kind of fishing game where you win a prize (this would be good for kids)
Food
Let's face it, you'll have to get creative here. A google search of "hunting theme party foods" comes up pretty short. If you have a full freezer of game, that is a good place to start. Think about having a fish fry, making venison chili (or venison something), using up those venison sausages, or other meaty appetizers (duck, pheasant phajitas, etc!)
After I exhausted the freezer raiding ideas, I started thinking about Deer Camp / Hunting Lodge foods that the guys typically eat. Chili, lasagna, mexican stuff, and at least in our part of the midwest - PASTIES. Pasties are described in one of my other posts, but this was a perfect thing to serve, whether you do it in cut triangle pieces or miniature size, or whatever. I haven't met anyone who didn't like a little pot pie. See above picture for the mini pasties which were cut into 3 triangles, baked for 30 minutes at 350, and then placed on the heating tray.
You can also attempt to find animal-shaped items like Goldfish crackers or little peep marshmallows... caribou tracks (those Caribou Coffee chocolate covered coffee beans or even chocolate covered raisins would work)... who knows what you'll come across here!


Lastly, you can get creative with incorporating animals or the act of hunting into your foods. For instance, the cookies my girlfriend Andrea made were absolutely adorable - little duck and bunny shaped cutouts, with arrows shooting into them and blood splatters, using food coloring gels. That was perfect for our humor, anyway... we loved these!


I also was going to try camouflage covered rice krispy treats using colored white chocolate, but seeing how my camo came out on the cake, thank god I didn't attempt that. Done right, that would've been cute. Or even blaze orange drizzles over your favorite bar cookie, etc. Think outside the box!
I could only come up with a few ideas that would work for my situation so the rest of the food was just regular party fare and birthday boy favorites! Have fun!