Friday, November 30, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Carrot and Peanut Salad

This tasty recipe is based upon Nigella Lawson's Carrot and Peanut Salad from her cookbook "Forever Summer".  It is a wonderful dish no matter what the season, and made from ingredients available year-round.  Lazy cook that I am, I would of course prefer to use pre-shredded carrots, but I find they can be a bit bitter, so I recommend just biting the bullet and shredding them yourself (a food processor can be used).  If you can find it, maple vinegar adds amazing flavor to this salad (Boyajian's Maple Vinegar is my favorite).  I sometimes add raisins for a little more sweetness, and have been known to stir in a dab of peanut butter for creaminess.  If you are not going to eat the salad right away, wait to add the peanuts until just before serving so that they stay crunchy.  This is a great side dish, but it is so tasty that you may just decide to eat the whole thing as a meal!

Carrot and Peanut Salad

4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
2 T. peanut oil
2 T. maple or sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 C. salted peanuts
1/4 C. golden raisins (optional)

Combine the carrots with the next five ingredients.  Add the peanuts and raisins.  Refrigerate for about an hour to let the flavors meld, then serve.  Serves 4.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Flower Power Breakfast Nook

From Maggie O'Neill Fine Art

Continuing the theme of "Summer in November", the fantastic ceiling treatment pictured above gave me the idea for a colorful and flowery breakfast nook.  I would love to have this vibrant orange and white breakfast table setting in the space:

From Urban Comfort

And this small natural oak dining table with four chairs would fit into the nook perfectly:

From Wayfair

A Beverly Jean painting of red daisies in a yellow vase adds just the right pop of intense color to the wall behind the table:


And a floral rug such as the one shown below echoes the bright flowers painted on the ceiling:

From Wayfair

This flower-shaped white pendant light continues the floral theme without competing with all of the color in the room:


Even on the dreariest of late autumn mornings, I could almost hear the birds singing and feel the warm sunshine of a summer day in a flower power breakfast nook like this!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: A Secret Garden Retreat

From Sunset

Autumn is my favorite season.  Right about now, though, just after Thanksgiving, even I have to admit that the late autumn landscape is beginning to look a little bleak.  I am actually starting to miss the overly balmy days of summer, so I have decided to dedicate this last week of the month to "Summer in November"!  You know, sort of like "Christmas in July", but instead of bringing the winter holiday to the heat of summer, I want to experience summer's lush beauty at fall's end.  One item always on my wish list is a garden retreat, a secret spot to enjoy the outdoors in privacy on a warm summer day.  The garden pictured above would be perfect -- just add a chair and it would be the ideal spot to sit and read outdoors.  The one below would be great as well:

From Sunset

Or for a more contemporary look, either of the two spaces shown below would work:

From Sunset

From Sunset

The best thing about "Summer in November" is that I can get a head start on planning my secret garden retreat!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Leftovers Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

From Food Network

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and chances are you have quite a bit of food left over.  Leftovers Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie is a tasty way to help you recycle some of that remaining bounty.  This recipe is based on one from Rachael Ray, and is quite versatile.  Substitute white potatoes for sweet, or combine them for twice the flavor!  Throw in any leftover vegetables from the day before.  And if by chance you have no leftover turkey, substitute a 2-pound package of ground turkey instead.  Add your favorite seasonings, such as thyme or even some curry powder, and bump up the flavor even more.  Who knows, this dish may become a more beloved family favorite than the Thanksgiving feast itself!

Leftovers Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

2 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 C. chopped leftover turkey
1 1/2 C. gravy
1 package (10 oz.) frozen peas or 1 C. leftover peas
2 C. cooked sweet potatoes
2 T. butter
2 C. shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the first three vegetables until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the next three ingredients and heat through.  Heat or microwave the potatoes with the butter, mashing the potatoes if necessary.  Place the meat mixture into a greased casserole dish and top with the mashed sweet potatoes.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Serves 6.

Note: I stirred half of the cheese into the potatoes and sprinkled the rest over the top.  The cheese adds extra flavor and creaminess to the potatoes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Unique Thanksgiving Table Settings

Happy Thanksgiving!  I do love an attractive table setting, and this is one of the best holidays for creating a gorgeous dining display.  Here are a few examples of the more unique ones I have found:

From Design Concept Ideas

From Mochatini

From Mochatini

From Mochatini

From Williams-Sonoma

From Martha Stewart

From Real Simple

From Haven

This is how our table looks this year for Thanksgiving:

However you choose to set your table, I hope you and your loved ones have an enjoyable family feast!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Estate Turkey Dinnerware

It's time to finish setting my Wish List Wednesday Thanksgiving table, and Williams-Sonoma's Estate Turkey Dinnerware will complete the look.  The platter is perfect for serving the bird:

The dinner plates are sized to fit generous portions of the holiday feast (dessert and soup plates complete the set):

Who wouldn't want to dine upon a meal that looks as appetizing as the one above?  The Alton Flatware shown is available from Williams-Sonoma, but the Estate Turkey Dinnerware collection is actually now sold out.  However, it is already showing up on eBay, so there is still hope if you would love to own it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy

Last Thanksgiving I was so sick I lost my sense of taste and was unable to cook.  This year one of my dogs is seriously ill and I don't know if I will have time to cook.  It seems that I am destined never to  make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner again!  However, if I do find I have some time, I can always prepare Food Network chef Claire Robinson's Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy.  It takes a mere hour and a half to make, uses only five ingredients, and tastes divine.  I have made it in the past when pressed for time, and have not been disappointed.  Oh, and if your knife skills are less than stellar, ask the supermarket butcher to cut a whole turkey breast in half for you -- it's a free service, and will save you some hassle.  Since I will only be cooking for my husband and myself, there will be plenty of leftover turkey, and everyone knows that leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner!  Give this recipe a try, even if you aren't suffering from a time crunch like I am, on Thanksgiving or any other day.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy

2 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 (3-pound) fresh bone-in turkey breast halves
10 T. (1 stick plus 2 T.) butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste
2 C. low-sodium chicken stock
2 T. flour

Scatter the shallots on the bottom of a roasting pan and top with a wire rack.  Dry the turkey breasts with paper towels and place on the wire rack, breast side up.  Rub 4 T. butter all over the surface of each breast and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the stock into the pan.  Roast at 375 degrees for about an hour, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey reads 165 degrees and the juices run clear (begin checking the internal temperature after 45 minutes to avoid overcooking).  Remove from the oven, place the turkey breasts on a cutting board, and tent with foil.  Allow to rest while making the gravy.

Strain the pan drippings into a small pot over low heat and bring to a simmer.  In a small bowl, mash the flour into the remaining 2 T. butter with a fork to form a paste.  Whisk into the simmering stock, season with salt and pepper, and cook until thickened.

Carve the turkey and arrange on a serving platter.  Serve with the gravy on the side.  Serves 6.

Note: This recipe uses a lot of butter.  I have rubbed less butter on the meat prior to cooking and it came out just fine (just make sure to cover the entire surface thoroughly).  You might also want to try substituting olive oil for some of the butter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: A Blissful Viva Terra Bedroom in Autumnal Hues

I love everything about the Viva Terra bedroom shown above -- the rustic wood furnishings, simple white linens paired with geometric pillows and throws in autumn colors, even the earthy pottery mug on one of the stools -- to me, this is the perfect restful retreat.  And it certainly doesn't hurt that this company is dedicated to selling only products that fit their philosophy of living in harmony with nature.  The bed is Viva Terra's Vintage Fir Platform Bed made of reclaimed wood in a light stain.  The jewel tones of the handmade Raw Silk Striped Coverlet and Shams add warm color when placed atop the eco-friendly BambooWeave Duvet Cover and Shams.  Unfortunately the wonderful Mango Wood Round Stools are no longer available, but other options include this Striped Jute Bench in shades that complement the striped bedding:

These Convertible Wood Cubes made from sustainable monkey pod trees are another alternative:

A Bamboo Plush Rug (another eco-friendly product) in any one of the three colors would add luxurious comfort underfoot:

Recycled Bottle Lamps with cork shades on reclaimed fir Modern Side Tables would make reading in bed a pleasure:

Viva Terra also has a Vintage Fir Modern Dresser and Chest of Drawers to finish off the furnishing of this blissful bedroom design:

And these Recycled Jewel Tone Vases would add a bit more autumnal color:

Retiring to this relaxing boudoir would be the perfect way to wind down after an eventful autumn day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Estate Turkey Tablecloth

This week I continue to set my dining room table for Thanksgiving with the help of Williams-Sonoma by covering said table with their elegant Estate Turkey Tablecloth.  The simple color scheme of brown and white will let the food take center stage -- the golden turkey, ruby red cranberry sauce, mellow orange of sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, green vegetable of choice, even the buttery yellow of cornbread dressing will stand out on this cloth.  The Estate Turkey Napkins would have been the logical accompaniment, but since they are no longer available I would choose these Vintage Harvest Jacquard Napkins instead:

I like the fact that the table linens are not perfectly matched -- it creates a more casual look.  For more contrast I would use the Hemstitched Linen Place Mat in Chocolate to complement the other linens:

My Thanksgiving table is well on its way to welcoming guests to a bountiful holiday feast!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Oil-Poached Rice Egg with Sesame Spinach

Today's recipe is based on a comfort food from my childhood.  Although we called this a rice egg in our house, it is really just an omelet filled with rice.  Many restaurants serve their own version topped with catsup, but we always soaked ours in soy sauce.  This is still the way I prefer to eat it, albeit with a lot less of this sodium-filled condiment than I used as a child!  My favorite addition to the basic steamed rice filling is sesame spinach, a simple dish of spinach marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.  And just recently, thanks to a happy accident (I clumsily poured too much oil into the sauté pan), I have discovered the joys of an oil-poached omelet, which keeps the bottom from browning too much while the top of the omelet cooks.  I am not especially skilled at making omelets and often tear the egg when folding it, but since this is only a single serving no one else has to see my creation, and all I care about is the taste, which is always perfect!

Oil-Poached Rice Egg with Sesame Spinach

1 bag (6 oz.) spinach
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. sesame seeds
2 eggs
1 tsp. water
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 C. leftover steamed rice (I prefer brown, but grew up eating white)

Make a slit in the spinach bag and microwave the bag for 1 1/2 minutes to steam the spinach.  Place the spinach in a container with a lid.  Add the next three ingredients, cover, and shake the container to mix the ingredients.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles gently when added.  Beat the eggs with the water and pour into the hot oil (the oil should just cover the egg).  Cook for about a minute until the bottom is firm but the top is still a bit runny.  Cover half of the omelet with the rice, then add as much sesame spinach as you like (unless you really like spinach, there will be about one more serving left over).  Fold the omelet in half, cook for about 30 seconds, and then slide onto a plate.  Top with soy sauce and serve.  Serves 1.

Note:  Any leftover sesame spinach makes an excellent side dish.  If you have a fair amount left over, you can add some slivered roast beef (or sautéed shrimp or scallops) and a sliced scallion, allow to marinate for about an hour, and serve over rice for a delicious light meal.

You will also have oil left over in the pan when the egg is done.  For a special treat, fry a couple of slices of good bread in this oil.  The first side into the oil will soak up most of it, so lightly butter the top of the bread slices while the bottom is frying, then flip to fry both sides.  Plate with the omelet for a delicious meal hearty enough to serve as dinner!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: The Colors of Autumn

From Softpedia

My favorite color palette is made up of autumnal hues.  Pumpkin orange, cranberry red, chestnut brown, golden wheat -- these colors are warm but muted, which to me gives a very inviting and casual feel to the home.  I created a living room style board which is very similar to the look we already have, with just a few updates, like the beautiful rug and the rustic but simple lamp that I would love to own:

Clockwise from top left: Acacia Wood Media Center from Viva Terra; Giant Sunflower Oil Painting from At West End; Beverly Jean Poppy Bouquet Print from Art Print Solutions; POÄNG Chair from IKEA (color no longer available); Edgewood Coffee Table from Crate and Barrel; Anthony Hydrocal Table Lamp from Inviting Lighting; Leick Windswept Nesting Side Table from Wayfair;  Henry Leather Sofa from West ElmBackground: Albertina Rug from West Elm.

I would liven up this look with colorful throw pillows like these:

From left: Caravan Cotton Burnt Orange Throw Pillow from Amazon; Autumn Leaves Throw Pillow from Amazon; Harbor Cranberry Large Square Pillow from Unison.

Now all I need is a living room with a rustic stone fireplace in which to place all of these lovely items:

From Log Homes

I can just imagine sitting snugly in front of that fireplace with a hot beverage and a good mystery novel, surrounded by my cozy furnishings, while the wind whips colorful leaves about on a crisp autumn evening -- I'm ready to move in right now!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Turkey Tiny Taper Holders

I'm already thinking about setting my Thanksgiving table, and these Turkey Tiny Taper Holders from Williams-Sonoma are a good place to start!  After all, this holiday's meal is all about the bird, so why not let it reign on the table in more ways than just the main course?  A set of four taper holders is $19.95, so I could purchase a couple of  sets for a centerpiece focal point.  Williams-Sonoma also sells the taper candles (12 for $12.00 in ivory).  I think a rafter of these white turkeys with tapers would make my holiday tabletop extra special.  In fact, I may just want to increase their numbers by adding a Turkey Place Card Holder (four for $19.95) at each place setting!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Jam Puffins

From Hunch

Back in September I published a few posts about my favorite bird, the Atlantic Puffin.  I vaguely remembered reading about a quick bread with the same name, and after a short search was rewarded with this mouthwatering recipe for Jam Puffins!  Best of all, it calls for buttermilk, so I can finally end my quest for recipes that use buttermilk, since baking these should finish off what I have left.  And what a delicious note upon which to end -- I can't wait to devour one of these sweet treats!

Jam Puffins

2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. butter, melted
1 1/4 C. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
fruit preserves or jam (your favorite flavor)

Stir together the dry ingredients.  In a large bowl, combine the eggs with the next four ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold together just until moistened (do not overmix). Spoon the batter into lined muffin tins, filling two-thirds full.  Top with about a teaspoon of jam and lightly press the jam down with the back of a spoon.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Cool and serve.  Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: The Halloween Boudoir

Halloween may be over, but wouldn't it have been nice, after all of the "spooktacular" festivities ended, to have slumbered in a ghoulishly-appropriate sleeping chamber?  Should you be so inclined, I have scared up just the right accessories for your ideal Halloween boudoir, all with a decidedly bony theme!  First up is the perfect bed:

Skull Island Bed from ShopWindoz

Honestly, who wouldn't want to sleep with a gigantic skull and crossbones looming overhead?  Dress this lovely bed in frightfully complementary bedding:

Voodoo Bones Bedding from Sin in Linen

Visions of skeletons will dance in your dreams all night, especially if you add this rug to comfortably pad your feet on the way to and from your place of repose:

Milliken Skeleton Rug from Nilima Rugs

And let this grinning skull lamp light your path:

Skull Lamp from Skeletons and More!

On the walls how about some skull and skeleton paintings by artist Chris Peters, like the one below:

It may be a day late for this year, but start shopping now and you will have a boudoir fit for a scream queen by next Halloween!