Sunday, March 31, 2013

On the Homefront: Easter Brunch Table

Easter Dalmatian basket from Walmart;
sweetgrass basket from the City Market in Charleston, SC.

Oh, the Easter Dal basket is here,
Full of flowers and lots of good cheer!
And I hope it will bring,
On this fine day in spring,
Fun and joy to you all, far and near!

Easter has arrived, and with it comes a new tablescape (and I hope more springlike weather as well)!  I rarely use pastels, but I made an effort for this table.  My inspiration was an egg plate that I am pretty sure I bought at TJMaxx (now HomeGoods) many years ago.

More Easter Dalmatians!

The plate is blue with swirl patterns in yellow, orange, green, and blue, so I tried to choose softer shades of blue and green paired with bright yellow and orange.  Also, no Easter theme of mine would be complete without eggs, chicks, bunnies, and of course candy (lots and lots of candy!), so all of these items have made an appearance on my table.  Since our Easter brunch will feature lemons, it made sense to add some of these bright yellow fruits to the mix.  The Dalmatians, however, are a choice uniquely my own!

Blue and green Croft & Barrow Checkerboard tablecloth from Kohl's; blue placemat, green napkin, and orange water glass from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO; yellow dinner plate (Block Basics by Cerind of Portugal); blue dessert plate from Publix; small Easter plate from HomeGoods topped with a yellow chick Peep; blue wine goblet from Target (if I remember correctly!); wire egg cup with chicken is one of a set of four that was a gift from my husband many years ago; I can't remember where I got the faux wood-handled flatware.

Dalmatian mug (Royal Westbury Bone China made in
Staffordshire, England).

A better view of one of the wire egg cups with chickens
(thank goodness Publix always sells dyed eggs every Easter,
since I really dislike making my own!).

Egg candles from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO.

Blue pedestal bowl from TJMaxx (now HomeGoods) filled with milk chocolate Lindt Italian Eggs.

Blue bowl with butterflies (inherited from my husband's mother) filled with fragrant lemons.

Our Easter brunch menu:

Lemon Peep Mimosas (lemonade and sparkling wine with Peeps on a skewer)
Turkey Breakfast Sausage
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Butter
Buttered Challah Bread
Fresh Strawberries

As always, help yourself to a little bit of candy if you like.  We have plenty -- Gold Bunnies in milk chocolate and chocolate Italian Eggs in five flavors from Lindt; six Godiva Spring Truffles with yummy fillings like key lime; and a white ceramic egg carton from Kohl's filled with assorted Easter candies:

Oh, and let's not forget the yellow chick Peeps, since this is the 60th anniversary for Peeps!  I wish I had been able to find the speckled vanilla creme-flavored Peeps created for this special occasion, but alas, it was not to be!  At least I can watch my very favorite Easter Peeps video on YouTube:

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

On the Homefront: Easter Fireplace Mantel

In celebration of Easter, I decided to decorate our fireplace area with a few holiday touches.  For spring, I always turn the Ikea chairs away from the fireplace and replace the autumnal leaf pillows with light-colored ones in a bird and branch pattern.  The rock surround can make the fireplace look a little dark.  Since there is a lot of the color orange in our living room, I chose a toy bunny with an orange bow, some orange egg candles, and a few orange tulips in a red-orange vase to complement our décor and brighten up this space a bit.  By the way, did you know the correct spelling is "mantel" and not "mantle" for that decorative shelf above your fireplace?  I didn't, until I looked it up!

I'm liking the way our fireplace looks for Easter.  Even the weather is starting to cooperate -- temperatures are finally warming up.  The birds are chirping, forsythia and fragrant daffodils are blooming, squirrels are digging in our outdoor flower pots... wait a minute, that last one has got to stop!

I think spring has arrived here in Georgia -- I hope it has come to you as well!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Brownies

From Mountain Breaths

Since lemons will be featured for our Easter brunch this year, I decided I would make a lemony dessert recipe that I have never tried before.  Lemon Brownies sound perfect!  Citrus desserts are among my favorites, so I can't wait to taste these.  I am already thinking of future variations.  My chocolate-loving husband might appreciate some semisweet chocolate chips added to the batter, and of course chopped nuts such as pecans would be delicious.  I'm thinking some chopped crystallized ginger would be tasty as well.  And for true decadence, leave off the glaze, slice a lemon brownie in half, and top with sweetened strawberries plus whipped cream for a version of strawberry shortcake.  But first, I think I will just make the original recipe for Easter, and I am sure they will be wonderful!

Lemon Brownies

1 1/2 C. flour
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. salt (I used half this amount)
1 C. (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
juice from 1/2 lemon
zest from 1 lemon
Lemon Glaze (see below)

Line the bottom only of a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.  (You could probably use foil instead if you have no parchment paper, draping the edges over the sides for easy lifting when removing the baked brownies.)  Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the butter with the eggs.  Add the lemon juice and zest.  Stir the lemon mixture into the dry mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  When completely cooled, drizzle the glaze over the brownies and sprinkle with more lemon zest, if desired.  Makes 24 brownies.

Lemon Glaze (optional): Zest and then juice one lemon.  Combine 1 C. confectioner's sugar with enough lemon juice to get the right consistency (about 2 T. juice).  The glaze should be the consistency of corn syrup. To test, take a spoonful from the bowl and drizzle it back in; the drizzled glaze should leave a well-defined but temporary trail.

Update: These brownies are delicious!  I halved the recipe (except for the lemon, since I prefer a more intense flavor) and baked them in a disposable 7.75x7.75-inch foil pan I happened to have on hand.  Since there are only two of us, I did not think we needed two dozen, but I may find myself regretting that decision!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Spring-Inspired Anthropologie Living Room

The beautiful Ditte Sofa from Anthropologie inspired me to create a living room style board based on the colors pink and green, a perfect combination for spring:

Clockwise from top left: Traveler Side Table; Ditte Sofa in Agave Ikat; Traveler Coffee Table; Linen Corrigan Chair in Grey; Fleurs Sacrees wall hanging by Aurelie Alvarez; Petits Fleurs De Pechers wall hanging by Aurelie Alvarez; String-Of-Pearls Base table lamp; Center top: Stitch-Striped Pillow; Center bottom: Lys wall hanging by Aurelie Alvarez; Center background: Coqo floral Rug in Lime; Background: Surreptitious Wallpaper.

I am not normally a pastels sort of gal, but this beautiful collection of interior décor items from Anthropologie may just make me change my mind!  And who wouldn't love to have the colors of spring in their home all year round?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Color Dots Stemware

My recent interest in tablescaping blogs led me to The Little Round Table, a delightful site which features Fiestaware, as well as other vintage-style items such as tablecloths.  But that does not mean more modern accessories are left out!  A case in point is the Color Dots Stemware from Pier 1 Imports, recently featured in one of the tablescape posts.  These lovely and colorful glasses are available as goblet or balloon wine glasses and as martini glasses, and are $10 each.  I just purchased four of the goblet wine glasses, and if I had the room to store them I would buy four each of the other two as well.  Blogging can truly be dangerous, at least to the wallet, but it is so much fun!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

From theKitchn

For some reason, spring and Easter make me think of lemons.  The bright yellow color, the refreshing acidity, even the compact ovoid shape are just so vernal to me!  For Easter brunch this year I thought I would serve recipes that feature lemons, and Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese sounds perfect.  The only problem is, I am not especially fond of either leeks or goat cheese.  I find the cheese rather cloying, and the only time I have had leeks they made me feel queasy.  I am thinking of substituting spinach and scallions for the leeks, and possibly my favorite queso fresco for the goat cheese.  On the other hand, maybe I will give both of these ingredients one more chance and prepare the recipe exactly as it is written.  After all, spring and Easter are both times of rebirth and renewal.  Perhaps my taste buds will be reborn and renewed and I will find these flavors to my liking now!

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

7 eggs
1 Meyer lemon, zested
3 oz. goat cheese
1 1/2 T. olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed and cleaned (see Note)
1/3 C. chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the broiler.  Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the lemon zest.  Crumble in the goat cheese.

Slice the halved leeks crosswise to create half moons.  Heat 1 T. olive oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and cook just until wilted.  Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.  Cool for a couple of minutes, then pour into the egg mixture and stir.

Reheat the skillet over medium heat with the remaining olive oil.  Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet and cook for 10-15 minutes until the frittata is mostly set.  Use a spatula to lift the edges and allow uncooked egg to run into the bottom of the pan.

Put the frittata under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the top is golden brown and slightly puffy.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Slide onto a platter and serve immediately.  Serves 6.

Note:  Be sure to clean the leeks thoroughly, as they are often full of sand.  Trim the leeks and slice them in half lengthwise, then rinse in a bowl or sink filled with water.  Swish them around vigorously.  You can also slice them into half moons and put those into a bowl of water, then drain in a colander after rinsing.  (The pieces will float; lift them out by hand, and do not pour the whole bowlful of water and leeks through the colander or you will just mix the sand back in again).  Dry the leeks as much as possible to avoid causing the hot oil to splatter when cooking.  Also, the recipe calls for a Meyer lemon, but if this is unavailable I'm sure a regular lemon will do.

Update: The frittata was excellent!  I wimped out and did not use leeks.  Instead, I bought baby Vidalia onions, which are abundantly available right now here in Georgia:

Baby Vidalia onions with a Meyer lemon.

I thinly sliced the bulbs, quartered on the thick parts and halved on the thin parts.  I also stirred in about 3 oz. baby spinach with the parsley, and threw in about 2 T. sliced scallions at the last minute just because I had them.  I did use the goat cheese, and am pleased to say that I found it delectable in this dish!  It is still not my favorite cheese when eaten alone, but as a cooking cheese I would definitely use it again.  I am not sure I would bother to seek out another Meyer lemon -- next time I will try a regular lemon to see if I notice a difference.

I just couldn't resist photographing some of the beautiful spring produce and eggs I used for our Easter brunch.  Everything was so fresh and vibrant -- I even had a few naturally green eggs laid by Ameracauna chickens that I found at The Fresh Market!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Cooking Methods That Are "Just Plain Damn Weird"

If you've watched the movie "The Spirit" (2008), you may remember this scene about an experiment that is "just plain damn weird" (okay, I admit I have quirky taste when it comes to movies).  I would apply the same description to some unusual cooking methods I discovered recently.  I have yet to try most of them, but I do have to wonder how anyone came up with these in the first place!  Without further ado, here are some truly unique ways to prepare food:

1) Boil-in-Bag Omelet


This is one I had never heard of before, but it has apparently been popular with campers for quite a while.  Of course you end up with a bag-shaped omelet, but the advantages are that each person can make their own individual omelet with preferred added ingredients and there is no cleanup.  Some concern has been expressed about the advisability of heating plastic storage bags to high temperatures, but since no definitive conclusions have been published it seems to be a matter of deciding for yourself whether or not the risks, if any, outweigh the benefits.

I suppose I would try this cooking method at least once just to say I did, since it is so easy!  There are a number of recipes available -- the one from Mr. Breakfast is simple and he does warn about the possibility of the bag melting, but goes on to say that it has never been a problem for him.  The most important tip to remember is to squeeze all of the air out of the bag before boiling or you risk getting exploded egg everywhere!  The bag can also be microwaved instead of boiled.

2) Ironed Cheese Sandwich

From wikiHow

This is the only oddball cooking method that I have actually tried, and it was my mother who taught me how to do it!  I don't know where she learned about this alternative to grilling a cheese sandwich, but her favorite sandwich made this way was mozzarella cheese and ham in an onion bun, which I still think is the best combination.  Basically, you just wrap your sandwich well in a piece of foil (making sure there are no gaps where cheese could ooze out), then iron both sides, 30-60 seconds each, with your iron on its highest setting.  Check to see if the cheese is melted -- if not, rewrap and iron a little more.  You can butter the outside of the bread slices if you like, but it is not necessary.

Once again the advantage of this method is the lack of cleanup, and you don't even need a plate since you can use the foil wrapper instead.  This is also handy for anyone who does not have access to a stove (college students come to mind).  I haven't read about any deleterious effects of this method to one's health, but your iron may suffer if the sandwich is insufficiently wrapped!

3) Dishwasher Salmon

From I'll Send You a Link

No, no, not like that!

From Mama Tommy's

Okay, that's better -- it needs to be wrapped in foil first.  You can even do the dishes at the same time the fish is cooking (as long as the foil is well sealed), and vegetables can be prepared using the same method!  The end result of Mama Tommy's recipe actually looks pretty good:

Unfortunately, I dislike salmon, so I don't think I will be trying this one any time soon, but from what I've read salmon cooked this way is exceptionally moist.  Maybe I'll pass the recipe on to my salmon-loving husband -- I might even be able to get him to do the dishes that way!

4) Beer Butt Chicken

From WasabiBratwurst

Now this chicken cooking method is probably familiar to just about everyone.  I haven't tried it yet, but one of these days I will get around to it.  My husband and I are not big drinkers, but we always seem to have cans of beer sitting around forever in our basement fridge, left over from potlucks or other events.  I would have to get my husband to drink the extra beer that must be removed from the can before use since I don't like beer either (picky, aren't I?), but I don't think he will mind.  The recipe from WasabiBratwurst sounds like a good one, but there are numerous ones out there on the Internet if you care to shop around.  All I have to say is, who in the world managed to think this one up anyway?

5) Ice Cream in a Bag

From 2 Little Hooligans

This novel way to make ice cream is popular with mothers of young children.  It is a unique activity for a child on a hot summer day, and also results in a treat for the child.  The ice cream can be eaten right from the bag, so once again there are no dishes to wash.  The only caution needed is to be sure the child who is shaking the bag does not freeze his or her little fingers, so gloves of some sort might be a good idea.  The recipe from 2 Little Hooligans is well written.  The only thing I might do differently would be to double bag the ice cream mixture, as suggested on a few other sites, as extra protection against leakage (no one wants added salt in their ice cream!).

So there you have it -- five different methods for preparing food in offbeat ways!  As long as the end result is tasty, I don't see any reason not to try them.  For me, even the salmon sounds much more appealing than these:

From Burger Broads - The BrOadHouSe

Now those really do look like a science experiment gone horribly wrong!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Seasonal Style: Spring Floral

Spring has finally arrived, and that means it is time for a Seasonal Style update.  This year I thought I would greet spring with flowers:


From Home Design

Bold pinks and pale purples bring a decidedly feminine touch to both the dress and the living room.  To me this colorful and pretty floral look just shouts out spring, and after the long, wet winter we've gone through here in Georgia I am more than ready to usher in the new season!

Wish List Wednesdays: Lavender Wreath

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I love lavender!  I wish I could grow a field full of this fragrant herb, but here in Georgia conditions are not ideal.  Instead, I grow a few plants in pots to enjoy in the summer, and now I can purchase this lavender wreath from Harry & David to get my lavender fix off-season as well.  The 16-inch wreath costs $49.95 and will fill my home with its delightful scent for months.  I have already placed my order, and look forward to its arrival!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

On the Homefront: St. Patrick's Day Table

Meet Paddy O'Dalley!

A Dalmatian dog in a hat
Is ready to honor St. Pat.
His topper is green.
Though not Irish, he's keen
To proclaim he is really just that!

Welcome to my St. Patrick's Day table!  I don't have a lot of green tableware, but I used what I had to achieve the appropriate setting.

Dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target; dark green velvet placemat from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); green fern print napkin from Kmart; dark green dessert plate for bread from Target; small white scalloped bowl for butter from Pier 1; white flatware from Target; green shamrock votive candle holder from Hobby Lobby.  I can't remember where I got the black-stemmed wine glass or the water glass.

Fresh ivy from the garden for the centerpiece.

On the menu for St. Patrick's Day:

Irish Butter
Pan-Fried Gammon Steaks with Whiskey Sauce*
Coffee or Tea
Bailey's Irish Cream

*Pan-Fried Gammon Steaks with Whiskey Sauce

4 gammon (ham) steaks
2 T. butter
1 tsp. minced onion
2 T. flour
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. Irish whiskey
1/2 C. water or stock
salt and pepper to taste

Pan fry ham steaks in a skillet to heat through (a little water in the skillet will keep the ham from drying out).  Remove to a plate and keep warm.  Melt the butter in the skillet and add the onion, cooking until translucent.  Stir in the flour.  Remove from the heat and slowly add the water or stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Return to the heat, add sugar, and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently for two minutes to cook the flour.  If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little water.  Add the whiskey and season to taste.  Pour the sauce over the ham steaks.  Serves 4.

Recipe adapted from Broth & Blarney: The Irish Eye Cookbook

Please feel free to help yourself to some Lindor truffles (white chocolate or dark peppermint) while we wait for dinner.  Just don't spoil your appetite!

I hope everyone has a happy St. Patrick's Day!

May your mornings bring joy
And your evenings bring peace.
May your troubles grow less
As your blessings increase!

From InfoBarrel