Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Fourth of July Weekend Wardrobe

The Fourth of July is on a Monday this year, making for a perfect three-day weekend.  Normally I have no interest in seaside locations, but my ideal getaway for this holiday would be to a little bed and breakfast in some cool, quiet coastal New England village where I could eat lobster, watch fireworks over the bay, and revel in the chilly temperatures before returning home to the sweltering South.  Of course I would have to buy the perfect wardrobe, and I found pretty much everything I could possibly want at Catalog Favorites. Here are the items I would choose:

(tank and pants only)

(in blue)
(in red)

Now that my wardrobe has been selected, all I have to do is find the perfect destination for my dream Fourth of July vacation!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Yellow Squash Casserole

From Real Mom Kitchen

Nothing says summer in the South like Yellow Squash Casserole!  There are many variations on the recipe, but this one is my favorite.  Add a green salad and maybe a little chicken or ham and your meal is complete.  If you have never had this dish, then you are in for a treat -- enjoy!

Yellow Squash Casserole

6 C. (about 6 small) yellow squash, sliced
vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 T. butter
1 C. sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1 C. crushed butter crackers (Ritz)

Sauté the squash in oil over medium-low heat until soft, about 15 minutes.  Drain in a paper towel-lined colander.  Squeeze in the towels and set aside.  Sauté the onion in the butter for 5 minutes.  Stir in all ingredients except the cracker crumbs.  Pour into a greased casserole.  Top with the crumbs, and additional cheese if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Serves 6.

Update: My new favorite way to prepare the vegetables is to put the squash and onions in a roasting pan with about 2 T. olive oil plus the salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes until tender (omit the 4 T. butter).

To turn this into a main dish, I stir in a package (about 9 oz.) of crumbled cooked turkey sausage (ham would also work well).

For the topping, I now melt 2 T. butter and stir in the cracker crumbs (and additional cheese if desired) before sprinkling them on top of the casserole (hey, I never said this dish was low-fat!).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Patchwork Sofa/Twig Mirror

This patchwork Bensington sofa by Timothy Oulton is so not my style, but I found myself unable to take my eyes off of it, so here it is on my wish list!  What I find attractive is the vibrant colors, and it also looks extremely comfortable.  I was actually surfing the Web for interesting mirrors and did find this handcrafted Willow Twig Mirror from Daily Grommet, which would look great in the same room as the sofa:

I do love color, and I think these two items would certainly add that to any room!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Thai Chicken Salad

From Prevention

Who wants to cook when temperatures are over ninety degrees every day and the humidity is high as well?  Not me, that's for sure!  During those sweltering summer days when the thought of turning on the stove or oven, or even firing up the grill, does not appeal, I turn to recipes like Thai Chicken Salad, which only requires mixing a few ingredients together and then eating.  If you feel like it you can cook the chicken yourself (poaching a couple of chicken breasts would work), or just buy a rotisserie or precooked chicken and dice the meat.  Quick, easy, and best of all no cooking required -- the perfect summer meal!

Thai Chicken Salad

1/3 C. canola or other light oil
2 T. peanut butter
4 tsp. soy sauce
4 tsp. cider or rice wine vinegar
1½ tsp. sugar
1 T. hot water
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
3 green onions, sliced
2 C. diced cooked chicken (I prefer all white meat)
Leaf or butter lettuce leaves
Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

Whisk oil with next six ingredients.  Stir in onions, then chicken.  Roll up spoonfuls, topped with chopped peanuts if desired, in lettuce leaves to eat.  Serves 4.

Note: If you are feeling up to the heat, cook a package of ramen noodles (noodles only) or some spaghetti and add to the chicken salad (add a small amount of pasta water to thin out if needed).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Holiday Hits: National Lobster Day

By Chris Silas Neal

Today is National Lobster Day!  To celebrate, you might want to peruse these recipes from the Maine Lobster Council, supposedly the world's largest collection.  Make your selection and dine in on a home-cooked lobster dinner, unless you are a kitchen klutz à la Woody Allen in "Annie Hall", in which case dining out would probably be preferable (and besides, you already celebrated your holiday on June 13th!).

From The Best Picture Project

Wish List Wednesdays: Lobster-Inspired Kitchen and Dining Room

 In honor of National Lobster Day, today I will finally complete the Crustacean Décor story I started weeks ago by describing my idea of the perfect lobster-inspired kitchen and dining room.  If I were a traditionalist, I would want to have a kitchen similar to this one:

From Hardin Tiles

I love all of the lobster tiles, and I would somehow work this lobster print wallpaper into the room, or maybe into an adjacent dining room:

From Go Home Urban Wallpaper

However, my preference is for a more contemporary look, so I would probably start with a kitchen similar to this one:


The red and white color scheme is a natural for lobster décor.  I would add a white tile backsplash behind the sink, with these tiles randomly interspersed:

From The Mind Gift Shop

This lobster tile mosaic would be perfect on the wall behind the cooktop:

Lobster accessories would include the following:

Napkin holder
from Stonewall Kitchen
Salt and pepper set

Lobster stockpot from
Dish towels
from Daytrip Society

The appropriate red and white dining room would look something like this:


For the perfect lobster table setting, these items would be ideal:

Lobster dinnerware
from Microwave Cooking for One
Lobster placemat
from Velocity Art and Design

Beverage glass
from Cottage by the Cove Decor
Wine glass
from Cottage by the Cove Decor

The final touch in the dining room would be this 40x66-inch lobster painting by Charlotte Nicolin:

Life with lobsters may not be for everyone, but I would be quite happy surrounded by this homage to Homarus americanus!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Seven Layer Bars

From Coconut Recipes

I have been making this recipe for decades, ever since I was a college undergraduate.  Seven Layer Bars are simple to make, and so rich and satisfying that they must be cut into many very small bars to serve.  They are a great dessert for a crowd -- I have made them for class field trips, day trips to the beach, and numerous casual parties -- and there are never any leftovers!  These bars would be perfect for the Fourth of July and any other summer gathering!

Seven Layer Bars

1/4 C. butter
1 C. graham cracker crumbs
1 C. shredded coconut
1 C. (6 oz.) chocolate chips
1 C. (6 oz.) butterscotch chips
1 C. chopped nuts (I use pecans or walnuts)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

Melt butter in 13x9x2-inch pan.  Tilt pan to coat bottom evenly.  Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over butter to form crust, again tilting pan to spread crumbs evenly.  Sprinkle on next four ingredients in order listed, pressing down lightly on each layer.  Pour milk evenly over all.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool completely and cut into 1x2-inch bars.  Makes 48 bars.

Note:  You can play around with the ingredients list, using any type of nut, different flavors of chips, sweetened or unsweetened coconut, other types of cookie crumbs, etc.  I tend to stick to the ingredients listed and prefer to use pecans.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Sesame Seed Grinder/Sesame Seed Toaster

From The Perfect Pantry

This sesame seed grinder, available from the Gourmet Sleuth Shop, is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  I find it to be more essential than a pepper grinder, since I am not a big fan of black pepper.  Grinding the seeds helps to release the oils, which is of course the most delicious part.  Use it to grind toasted sesame seeds over soups, salads, vegetables, pastas, meats, even desserts -- in my opinion, there are few foods that are not improved by the addition of sesame seeds!  I really enjoy them on tomatoes -- cut the tomatoes into chunks and sprinkle with coarse salt and ground sesame seeds.  Since I already own one, this sesame seed grinder is obviously no longer on my wish list, but I think everyone should have one, and at less than seven dollars it is certainly affordable!

One item that I do not have which sounds equally useful is the sesame seed toaster, also available from the Gourmet Sleuth Shop ($9.95):

Although you can buy sesame seeds already toasted, warm and freshly toasted sesame seeds would add even more flavor to a dish.  This is one item I may just have to get for myself!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Four Ingredient Nutella Brownies

By Savory Sweet Life

I came across this recipe a few days ago while reading an article about Nutella on the NPR website.  It is from the cookbook Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients by Abby Dodge.  Any recipe that is quick, easy, and contains Nutella is a winner in my opinion, and I can't wait to try this one!

Four Ingredient Nutella Brownies

1/2 C. Nutella spread
1 large egg
5 T. flour
1/2 C. chopped hazelnuts

Line a 12-cup mini-muffin pan with paper or foil liners.  Whisk together Nutella and egg.  Stir in flour until well blended.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins (about 3/4 full) and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 11-12 minutes, until toothpick comes out with wet, gooey crumbs.  Cool completely on rack before serving.  Makes 12 brownies.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Puffball Pouf

I am not sure how practical poufs are, but I love the fun colors and fabulous texture of this puffball pouf from Viva Terra.  I think I would use it as a foot rest in front of a comfortable reading chair -- those soft round puffballs would probably feel wonderful on my feet.  This pouf would also add a bright pop of color to the space.  In fact, I think it would pair well with my favorite pool blue club chair -- all I need now is a good book!