Eco-friendly Party Serving Ware (+ Adventures in Potato Stamping)

I really, really hate disposable stuff.  I just do.  It really grates on me.  But there are times when it is the only practical option.  Times like Baby Girl’s first birthday party.  For those times, I love that there are some cool new beautiful AND functional eco-friendly options.

Price-wise, all the eco-friendly serving ware ended up being comparable to those commercial theme birthday party options (i.e. Rainbow Brite paper plates, etc.).  Our menu meant we needed a lot of different types of items, and fortunately we have a lot of it leftover for future parties (the kind that won’t have to have a Rainbow Brite, theme).

We purchased nine items from two different companies (VerTerra and Green Paper Products).  Thankfully, everything worked beautifully.  The loveliest items were definitely the VerTerra plates, forks and spoons.  The plates remind me of the Tencel items we carry at Sweet Iris – they are a beautiful and truly eco-friendly option.

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Aren’t they beautiful?  These are actually made from fallen, crushed palm leaves, + steam, heat, and pressure.  That’s it.  They utilize an agricultural waste product that would most often be burned, biodegrade in less than two months after disposal, are completely compostable, don’t transfer heat, maintain shape when in contact with hot substances, and are microwave-safe up to two minutes on high and oven-safe for up to 45 minutes at 350°.  Could you really ask for more?  I don’t think so.

I was truly thrilled with the plates.  Not only were they gorgeous, they worked beautifully–there was no sogginess or weakness at all.  If for some strange reason we used these for a normal dinner at home, I’d try rinsing the plates off and reusing them.  They can’t be put into the dishwasher, but other reviewers have had success with a quick hand wash.  They are just so pretty it feels strange to throw them away.

The plates shown above are the 7 x 8.5 inch.  This size would probably be the minimum size I would choose for an entree course (unless of course you are going gourmet and/or you use nice modest portions).  Remember, there are sloped edges on all of the plates that take away from your useable plate space.  I.e., the 6-inch plates we chose as dessert plates (but barely used as we ended up opting for cupcakes) looked so petite that I almost wonder if they might be an awkward fit for something like a really large slice of a round cake.  Judge for yourself below, where you can see those 6-inch plates below in relation to the cocktail napkins.

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You might go with something bigger if you will offer several dessert options.

We really tested the forks out, and I thought they did a great job even with the salad, though I will say that my young nephew had trouble spearing the lettuce and asked for a regular fork.  VerTerra’s website mentions that these forks are “famous for being able to pierce a raw carrot”.  I would believe it–though I think most people would be too worried about breaking a tine to really go for it.  That may have been my nephew’s problem.

You’ll also want to note that the spoons are somewhat shallow.  They worked well for our soup, but if you have a very thin, brothy soup I think they’d be a bit frustrating.  They’d give you no trouble at all with a chili or stew.

We did mess up by not getting knives, though.  Our salad ingredients didn’t get chopped quite finely enough for everyone.  Ah well, next time.

We presented the spoon and fork wrapped in blue, green, and yellow napkins and tied with raffia, in a tall thin basket (shh…it was the bottom section of a facial tissue dispenser basket) because table space was at a premium.  We wanted napkins in all our colors, but didn’t want to be wasteful buying the huge packages offered at most party stores.  Fortunately, I swung into Dollar General’s party section while on a box-of-Corn-Pops run.  3 packs of napkins, $3.  Score.

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We also bought greenpaperproducts.com punch cups, drink cups,  4 oz. portion cups and wooden tasting spoons.  The cups were all made from Polylactic Acid, or PLA, a biodegradable and compostable bioresin derived from corn.  According to their website, PLA uses 65% less energy than producing conventional plastics, generates 68% fewer greenhouse gasses, and contains no toxins.  

You can see the 4 oz. portion cups and tasting spoons below, filled with my new love, lemon-basil sherbet.  I didn’t find any of the cups to be so thin that they smash in your hand, as some other eco-friendly products can do.

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

Liven up your Disposable Ware (etc.) with a Potato Stamp

We also chose these biodegradeable, compostable, renewable sugarcane barreled soup bowls and were very happy with them also–the size was perfect, they didn’t get too hot, and they weren’t too floppy.  We  partied them up using a potato stamp and a tube of yellow paint:

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Festive, right?  If you’re like me , it’s been a decade or two since you’ve tried your hand at a potato stamp.  My tip – keep your design extremely simple, and if you are working with a rounded surface, keep your design small.  This was a surprisingly time-consuming project for me, as it was difficult to get the large lemon design we chose to print clearly and evenly on the rounded surface–I had to keep tweaking my stamps.   In sum, you’ll want to do as I say, not as I do.  🙂

To potato stamp all you need to do is draw your design outline on your potato-half with a pencil and cut away the outside, leaving a quarter-inch-or-so tall raised design.  I could draw a decent looking lemon freehand with a pencil, but if you need a more symmetrical design, you can push a cookie cutter into your potato half, then use a paring knife to slice through the potato until your knife hits the cutter.  Even with the precision of a cookie cutter, I don’t think that potato stamping lends itself to a flawless, professional look (am I wrong here? If so, comment below), but if a more hand-crafted look works with your decor (as it did with our “painted” napkin-inspired party), give it a try.

Hope that helps!  If you want to see the deliciousness that landed on so many different products, click here for our menu.

Not-too-Sweet Yellow Party Punch

This punch is close to crossing the line between a drink and a punch: it’s not nearly as sweet as most punches can be.  This would look beautiful served with blueberries, lemon, or orange slices frozen in a smaller portion of the punch (minus the ginger ale).

Yellow Punch

Ingredients:

2 (6 oz.) cans frozen orange juice concentrate

2 (6 oz.) cans frozen lemonade concentrate

1 (46 oz.) can pineapple juice

2 quarts water

1 (2 liter) bottle ginger ale

Preparation:

Combine all juices and water. Chill.  Add ginger ale when ready to serve.

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

I know what you are thinking.  “Basil???…Sherbet???”  But trust me, this is lovely.  This may be my favorite recipe from my daughter’s first birthday party.

It was wonderfully light, summery, and fresh with a very subtle basil flavor.  This would make a gorgeous little palate-cleansing entremets if you were planning a truly luscious dinner party.  We used it as a simple taste-of-something-sweet after lunch, but before the real dessert, lemonade cupcakes, was served.

I found this recipe over at Baking Obsession, where you’ll also find a beautiful (but a bit labor intensive) presentation idea: serving in a lemon-half.

This recipe freezes perfectly, so feel free to make this several days in advance of your event.  That’ll give you more time to scoop out lemons and find itty-bitty basil leaves for garnish.  😉

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

Ingredients:

A large bunch of basil (leaves weight – 30 g)

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

2 2/3 cup whole milk

Grated zest of 2 medium organic lemons

Preparation:

Tear the basil leaves roughly. Put the leaves and sugar into a medium bowl. With your fingers massage the leaves with sugar to release the basil aroma. Add the lemon juice to the bowl, stir, cover, and let stand for an hour.

Stir the milk into the lemon juice mixture. Strain through a fine sieve into another bowl or a large liquid-measuring cup, pressing lightly on the basil leaves. Add the lemon zest. Chill for about 4 hours. Process in an ice cream maker. If there’s any lemon zest accumulated on the dasher, scrape it and stir it back into the sherbet with a fork. Serve the sherbet soft right from the ice cream maker or transfer into an airtight container and transfer to the freezer to firm up (at least 3 to 4 hours) before serving.

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken

In the midst of all the craziness one of the last things to get done was a really good recipe for our grilled chicken.  We were getting desperate.  After tasting another Weber seasoning (Garlic and herb) we have used and loved in the Reel household, my mom picked up Weber’s Zesty Lemon.  At that point, with three very busy days to go before the party and no chicken recipe picked out, she gave the prepared seasoning a go, and was duly impressed. The incredibly easy chicken “recipe” we ended up with was so delicious you’d think it involved actual work!

Doesn't Get Easier Grilled Chicken and Spring Mix Salad

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken and Spring Mix Salad

Amazingly, this simple rub gave the chicken a lot of flavor, even in just four short hours.  The chicken didn’t really scream lemon; instead, it had a very well rounded, summery, and fresh taste with subtle lemon flavor.    It would also be delicious on salmon.

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken

Ingredients:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts

Weber Zesty Lemon seasoning

Preparation:

At least four hours before grilling very lightly score your chicken, only on the fattest area of the breast.  Sprinkle with lemon seasoning.  Refrigerate four hours.   Grill, being careful not to overcook.  Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before slicing.

Serve with salad, if desired, and citrus-basil vinaigrette.

Yellow, Blue, and Green Lemon-themed Party Decor

After months of being on hyper-drive trying to get Sweet Iris launched, general parenting, and other miscellaneous craziness, I had really planned to keep things simple for my daughter’s first birthday party.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.  Who was I kidding?

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We were rushing around trying to get ready, but I managed just a few pictures that’ll give you at least an idea.

This post is about the really fun stuff: the decor!

Also check out upcoming posts about the fab menu (including, but not limited to: Sweet Corn and Cilantro Soup, Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken salad,  Citrus-Basil Vinaigrette, 30-minute yeast rolls, Lemonade cupcakes, and Lemon-Basil sherbet), unusual serving pieces, and the crazy new kind of eco-friendly disposable serving ware we tried out (made from crushed leaves! Say what?).

So other than the doily dyeing tutorial we already did, I don’t *think* anything requires an elaborate tutorial.  Instead, I’ve offered a few essential tips  throughout the post to help you as you create similar items.  Please comment if you have any questions at all.   Here goes!

Inspiration

So this whole blue/green/yellow lemon “theme”, if you can call it that, was basically inspired by a couple of packs of gorgeous Isabelle de Borchgrave napkins that I fell in love with and nabbed on clearance(!) at Target a few years back.  I LOVE these gorgeous napkins, and we tried to use our measly 16 dinner napkins to big effect, loaves-and-fishes-miracle style.

Centerpieces

The half-dozen centerpieces were a major part of the napkin-multiplication project.  These were born out of a look around the house: “Ok we have a circle punch.  We have tin pails.  We have some napkins.  We have trees in the backyard.”  Et voila!

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The napkins were ironed and used to mat simple tree branch centerpieces with 3-D ornaments.  To create the napkin mat, the back ply of the napkin needs to be removed (because otherwise it starts to separate itself and peak out after ironing).

My very favorite thing about these centerpieces is something I didn’t expect at all–the  3-D circle “ornaments” spin gently in the A/C or the breeze.  It is a surprisingly nice little feature.

We used spare tissue paper for the “grass” on these centerpieces–honestly because I just didn’t have the energy to drag the baby into town (read: Raleigh) and buy something better.  Sorry about that.  The student will surpass the teacher, right?

Finally, we broke up the harsh lines of the mat and integrated the centerpiece and the table by scattering a few butterfly and bow confetti die-cuts, purchased from Purple Corner on Etsy.

Entryway

While we’re talking Etsy, we also got tulle-backed ragged yellow flowers that we pinned onto the buffet table from I Felt Sprightly.

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As you can tell, all the drama (and most of the work) was in the entryway

Here and on the front porch, the irregularly-ribbed paper lanterns (yellow, chartreuse, and deep blue), parasols, and yellow sandalwood fans (which doubled as favors for the kids) are all from paperlanternstore.com.

Fireplace

Also from Etsy’s I Felt Sprightly, I picked out some die-cut felt flower sets, which consisted of four different size petals, intended to be formed into 25 four-layer flowers.  We thought these looked great randomly ordered and sewn into a garland for the fireplace (along with some Rit Lemon Yellow dyed doilies).  We could have also used this garland draped on a chandelier or hung in close rows and gently gathered like a curtain on either side of a doorway or entryway.

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I really hate that I didn’t get better pictures of the fireplace, because it really did look pretty.  You can check  the background of other pictures in this post to see more of the fireplace.

Front Porch

In the front porch picture, you can see how we hung the sandalwood fans on the porch.  We found that the best way to keep them open was to wedge a folded piece of paper into the tail of the fan.  The fans had small metal hooks which made hanging them a breeze.  Evidently I was in such a hurry to snap this picture before the guests arrived that I didn’t notice the giant yellow lantern that had eased its way onto the railing to “sit a spell”.

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Oops.  It was a really humid day, and the painter’s tape we tried to use to hang the lanterns just wasn’t cutting it (or, rather, “hanging” it).  Fortunately we had a roll of my Sweet Iris packaging tape handy, which I’m thrilled to learn can hold up through any sauna North Carolina can throw in its general direction.   I did think about cropping that lantern out of the picture, but we do try to keep it “Reel” around here.  🙂

So while we’re outside, want to see the final product I teased you with in our doily dying tutorial post?  Here’s what a simple foamboard cut-out, yellow paint (b/c the door is glass and you’ll see the backside), a hot-glue gun, and 109 doilies in varying shades of  lemon yellow can do for you:

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Lovely, yes?  This is much easier if your child has a nice symmetrical initial: no hunting down letter templates or enlarging things on copying machines, just a ruler and a pencil will do the job.  Come to think of it I may need to prioritize first initial symmetry when picking out baby names in the future…

I hope some of these ideas help you!  Please comment below and let me know if you have any questions or tips.

For the rest of the story about this party, click here for the menu, and here for the cool eco-friendly serving stuff.