Friday, September 15, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Toasted Open-Faced Caprese Sandwiches

I have been so busy lately that I do not have much time to cook, but I have been enjoying Toasted Open-Faced Caprese Sandwiches almost every day because they are quick, simple, and delicious.  I love a good Caprese salad, but now that the weather is slightly cooler a toasted sandwich version seems more appropriate.  Luckily we did not lose power when the effects of a considerably weakened Hurricane Irma arrived here, so my little toaster oven is getting quite the workout toasting up these sandwiches for me when I finally quit yard cleanup for the day!

Toasted Open-Faced Caprese Sandwiches

2 slices Italian bread (I like mine sliced as thinly as possible)
1-2 T. prepared pesto sauce
2 small tomatoes, sliced
2-4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

Spread the bread slices generously with pesto sauce and place on a small foil-lined baking tray.  Top with enough tomato slices to fit on top of the bread (I use three tomato slices on each piece of bread).  Top the tomato with enough mozzarella slices to cover completely.  Toast the sandwiches in a regular or toaster oven until the cheese melts but before the bread burns (this will not take long so keep an eye on them!).  Allow to cool slightly before devouring.  Serves 1.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Two Excellent Movies About Two Remarkable Women

Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's first Lake District home
(from National Trust).

While staying with my sister in New York, I watched a lot of movies with her as she recuperated from her surgeries.  One of her friends from church offered to check movies out of the local library for us.  We requested one that we both wanted to see, and this friend also included another she thought we might like.  Both movies feature remarkable women, and my sister and I ended up enjoying both movies so much we decided we need to own them!  Below is a description of each movie:

From Cover Browser

1) "Miss Potter" (2006) - this lovely fictionalized biography stars Renée Zellweger as Beatrix Potter, the beloved English author and illustrator of the popular Peter Rabbit children's books.  The film begins just as Miss Potter is about to submit her first book for publication.  The book is accepted but only one of the publishers, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), believes that it will be a success.  Norman becomes her editor and the two grow closer.  He asks Beatrix to marry him, but her parents are opposed.  They agree to postpone their marriage for a few months, only to have their engagement end tragically.  Miss Potter grieves for her fiancé and decides she cannot live in her parent's house any longer.  She has made enough money from the sale of her books to buy a farm in the Lake District, where she becomes actively involved in preserving the area from overdevelopment.  If you are an Anglophile and/or have any interest in Beatrix Potter and her children's books, then this move is a must-see for you, and even if none of these topics interest you I would still recommend it!

From Amazon

2) "Temple Grandin" (2010) - this film is a biopic starring Claire Danes as the title character, an autistic woman who overcomes great odds to become a respected animal scientist as well as an autism advocate.  Temple Grandin was born into a wealthy Boston family, and despite recommendations that she be institutionalized, her mother (portrayed in the movie by Julia Ormond) sought out specialists in an attempt to help her daughter become better socialized.  On a visit to a family ranch in Arizona, a young Temple becomes fascinated by the use of a squeeze chute to calm cattle while being handled.  She invents a variation of this device which she calls a "hug box" for herself when she realizes that it can help calm her anxieties as well.  Thanks to dedicated family and teachers as well as her own determination, Grandin is able to graduate from universities with degrees in psychology and animal science.  She develops a structure for dipping cattle humanely, which paves the way for her acceptance into the male-dominated field of animal science.  At the end of the movie Temple Grandin attends a conference on autism, a condition for which little was known at the time, and realizes that she is uniquely qualified to educate others on this condition from first-hand experience, leading to her advocacy for early autism intervention.

I have a degree in animal behavior and was somewhat familiar with Temple Grandin (who is currently on the faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University), but I had no idea this movie existed before my sister's friend brought it to our attention.  The film is so well done that I would urge anyone to watch it, whether you have an interest in animal science and/or autism or not.

Dr. Temple Grandin (from Maker Bolder)


I am in the midst of major one-woman property cleanup campaign after the mess Hurricane Irma left, so I will not be watching movies for a while.  However, when I get a chance I am going to reward my efforts with a major Amazon order, and these two movies will definitely be included!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Two Animal Print Tops from L.L. Bean

I was determined to keep clothing purchases to a minimum this year, but I have lost enough weight on the low-carb diet I started last year that I have been forced to replace a lot of apparel.  When I returned from New York I went through most of the items in my closet and donated quite a few that no longer fit.  I am now on a mission to replace some of the clothes I gave away (not all of them though, as I was overdue for a closet purge anyway!).

I have an obsession with animal-themed shirts lately, especially birds for some reason.  Many clothing websites had fabulous sales over Labor Day, and I recently purchased the Owl About You Tunic (above, now on sale for less than half price at $34.95!) from Coldwater Creek that I described in a previous post at a great discount.  I also found a couple of cute tops from L.L. Bean with wildlife prints, and decided to buy them during the Labor Day sale as well:

1) Signature Lightweight Duck Print Flannel Shirt in Darkest Gray ($64) - this may look like something an avid duck hunter would wear, but I really liked the colors and the print, and the cotton flannel is very soft as well as lightweight enough to wear indoors as well as outdoors.

2) Signature Deer Print Cotton Turtleneck in Fawn ($44) - this lightweight 100% cotton turtleneck has a comfortably loose neck and a cute deer print in warm autumn colors.

I had a chance to wear my owl tunic yesterday, as we had an unusually cool day after Irma left her mark on Monday (thankfully not as bad for us in northern Georgia as it was for most of Florida).  As the weather continues to cool off I look forward to wearing my new L.L. Bean purchases in the near future.  Here's hoping no more hurricanes decide to decimate our nation this season!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

On the Homefront: Touch of Pink Dalmatian Appreciation Day Table

Dexter and Delilah Dalmatian chose to dress simply in the featured color -
Dexter sports his only pink baseball cap, while Delilah selected her hot
pink sunglasses!

Dals Delilah and Dexter are here
For their favorite time of the year.
Said Delilah, "I think
That this time we'll do pink!"
Dexter wisely responded, "Yes, dear!"

Even though this has not been the best summer for my family, I still managed to set my annual Dalmatian Appreciation Day table on August 28th since this event is my own special holiday.  Last fall I bought a set of four pink Dalmatian-themed salad plates from Anthropologie, so of course my table features these pretty finds.  The only problem is that I have no other pink dinnerware (and considering how much dinnerware I own I find this rather astonishing!).  My solution was to limit the other items on the table to a black and white color scheme (aside from a pale pink flower vase), so that the pink plates stand out.  I also chose a menu that focused on pink foods, adding just a touch more of this color to my place settings.  I am happy with the way this table turned out, but I think I am going to have to do a little shopping to add more pink to my life (although heaven knows I certainly do not need more dinnerware!).

Black round woven placemat; spotted dinner plate (made in Portugal - from HomeGoods last year); Dalmatian Dog-a-Day Dessert Plate (from Anthropologie last year - Dalmatian design no longer available); spotted flatware (from Cow Depot); black cotton napkin; black-stemmed wine glass; clear water glass.

A pale pink vase full of white and pink flowers, plus two stuffed toy
Dalmatians carrying pink hearts, join kissing Dalmatian salt and pepper
shakers at the head of the table.

A Dalmatian-themed dog bowl from Karen Donleavy holds a large pillar
candle and sits atop the Dalmatian print table runner in the center of the table.

Another Karen Donleavy Dalmatian creation sits on the table as a serving dish.

As I mentioned earlier, I chose a mostly pink-themed menu to complement this table.  I started with a seafood cocktail because my sister and I shared one at a fantastic restaurant called Pasta Pasta in Port Jefferson on Long Island and I have been craving another one ever since!  Seafood cocktails are easy to assemble - just boil your favorite seafood (lobster, crab, and shrimp were featured at the restaurant), chill until very cold, and serve with cocktail sauce.  I combined equal parts cocktail sauce and tartar sauce to create a pink color.  The rest of the menu is just as easy to make as this appetizer.  If you want some carbohydrates simply add whatever you like (I think a risotto would go particularly well with this menu, and some Italian bread if you are feeling really decadent).

Touch of Pink Menu:

Seafood Cocktail with Cocktail/Tartar Sauce
Salmon Roasted in Butter*
Sautéed Baby Greens with Lemon, Garlic, and Butter
Simple Strawberry Mousse**

*Salmon Roasted in Butter

4 T. butter
2-3 lb. salmon fillet
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Melt the butter in a medium roasting pan in the oven as it preheats, watching carefully so that the butter does not burn.  Remove the pan from the oven and add the salmon fillet, skin side UP.  Roast for 5 minutes, then flip and roast 3-6 minutes longer until the salmon is done (flesh just begins to flake with a fork).  Season to taste and garnish with parsley, if desired.  Serves 4.

**Simple Strawberry Mousse

1 lb. fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
2 T. sugar, honey, or maple syrup
1½ C. heavy cream or full fat coconut cream

Place the strawberries and sweetener in a blender and blend until puréed.  Pour the cream into a cold bowl and beat until soft peaks form.  Fold the strawberry purée into the cream until thoroughly incorporated.  Spoon into small serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.  Serves 4-6.


Dalmatian Appreciation Day is usually the last table of the summer for me, although this year I might do one more before moving on to more autumnal themes.  I hope you had a happier summer than I did this year, but I am ready to move on to better times now.  Hopefully my favorite season will not disappoint me!

Pinky the Dalmatian could not let you leave without sharing a very
important message for Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Chinese Stir-Fried Tomatoes and Eggs

About a week before I left my sister and New York, one of her friends from church invited us over for a dinner to be prepared by her daughter, who is a college undergraduate and already a fantastic cook.  The daughter had just returned from a trip to China and was excited to prepare a meal of Chinese dishes she had sampled while there.  One of the dishes she made was Chinese Stir-Fried Tomatoes and Eggs, which is apparently a type of comfort food for many Chinese.  Both my sister and I loved her version of the dish, and my sister decided she had to try making it herself.  She found a recipe online and printed out a copy for me.  She made the dish after I left and loved it.  I finally had a chance to prepare this recipe for myself last week, and I loved it too!

You could serve this dish as breakfast, brunch, lunch or even a light dinner.  Traditionally these eggs are served with rice, but since I try to avoid carbs I eat them plain with a side dish of cooked vegetables (sautéed greens and/or sliced summer squash work well).  The only change I would make next time from the original recipe is to reduce the catsup by half as I found the taste of this condiment to be a bit too strong for my liking.  I used more eggs than called for because our hen Dixie is laying right now and her eggs are smaller than those used in most recipes (I also reduced the amount of cooking oil slightly because it seemed a bit excessive).  I am so happy to have another excellent egg recipe to help use up Dixie's eggs!

Chinese Stir-Fried Tomatoes and Eggs

6 large eggs (I used 10 medium-sized eggs from our hen)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 T. rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp. cornstarch
1-2 T. catsup
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, or 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes in juice
3 T. canola oil
3-4 scallions, sliced
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger

Beat the eggs together with the next three ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Combine the cornstarch with 2 T. water in a small bowl until well combined.  Stir in the catsup.  If using fresh tomatoes, core them if they are large and cut into 1/2-inch wide wedges.

Heat a wide nonstick skillet over high heat with 2 T. canola oil.  When the oil shimmers, add the scallions and cook, stirring, for about 20 seconds, until very aromatic.  Add the eggs and cook, stirring well with a spatula, until just set but still runny, about 45 seconds.  Pour the egg mixture back into the mixing bowl and wipe out the skillet with paper towels.

Reheat the pan over high heat with the remaining oil.  When it is hot, add the ginger and cook until aromatic, about 15 seconds.  Add the tomatoes (with salt to taste if desired) and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but still firm enough to retain shape and the juices have begun forming a sauce, about 2-3 minutes.  (If using canned tomatoes, add the juice as well and cook for about 4 minutes until the mixture reduces to a sauce-like consistency.)

Reduce the heat to medium.  Stir the cornstarch mixture and add to the skillet.  Cook, stirring, until the sauce returns to a boil and thickens.  Stir the eggs in the bowl to cut up the curds a bit.  Add them to the skillet and cook, stirring, for a few seconds to finish cooking the eggs.  Serve over steamed rice and top with additional sliced scallions, if desired.  Serves 3-4.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Leaf-Inpired Home Décor for Fall

Falling Leaves Giclée Print by Susan Avis Murphy
(from Amazon).

The autumn leaf-print cardigan from yesterday's post encouraged me to seek out more autumn leaves in the form of home décor.  Now that fall is just around the corner I am ready to think about adding some seasonal touches to my home.  Peak leaf color is still weeks away where we live, but we are already starting to see signs of change.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and the colors in my home reflect that preference, but I would not mind a few leaf-print décor items like the following options around the house to celebrate the season:

Foliage Rug from Company C.

Traditional Cappuccino Accent Chair in Autumn Leaves Print
from Totally Furniture (image from Houzz).

Fall Breeze Table Runner from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Asheville Leaves Dinnerware from Pier 1 Imports.

Home Classics Sarah Fall Leaves Quilt and Sham from Kohl's.

PookieandJack Fall Leaves Throw Pillow Cover from Etsy.

Morgan Home Fall Leaves Print Throw Blanket from Amazon.

The Big One Autumn Leaves Oversize Throw Blanket from eBay.

Sognoametista Autumn Leaves Wall Clock from Etsy.

Autumn Leaves Table Lamp with Tree Trunk Base from Houzz.

Creative Home Ideas Blowing Leaves Shower Curtain from Amazon.


I am especially ready to see the seasons change after the terrible summer my family has endured this year.  Bring on those falling leaves, warm autumnal colors, and cooler temperatures - they can't come fast enough as far as I am concerned!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Mountain Inn Cardigan from Coldwater Creek

I always look forward to the seasonal print cardigans at Coldwater Creek, and I find their latest version for fall, the Mountain Inn Cardigan ($79.95-$89.95), to be especially attractive.  Autumn-hued leaves are scattered across an alabaster background on this fine-gauge knit sweater in a mid-weight cotton/rayon blend.  This cardigan may just have to find its way to my clothes closet in the near future!