Friday, August 30, 2013

Foodie Fridays: White Cornmeal Blue Cheese Muffins

From Yummly

Back when I set my blue and white fish-themed table, I tried to serve as many blue foods as possible on the menu.  One of the blue foods that did not make it on to the menu was blue cornmeal, since I was unable to find any locally.  I did try a muffin recipe using white cornmeal and blue cheese, however, since white cornmeal is widely available here in the South.  The basic recipe I chose came from the website Abby Dodge.  I liked it because the quantity of muffins made is only six (perfect for a household of two) and both a sweet and a savory option are given.  Since I have made sweet blue cornmeal blueberry muffins in the past, I decided to try the savory version, modifying the recipe only slightly to suit our tastes.  They turned out to be even more delicious than the sweet type, and would be great for breakfast, as an accompaniment to lunch or dinner, or just as a snack.  One of these days I may even get to try them with blue cornmeal!

White Cornmeal Blue Cheese Muffins

3/4 C. flour
1/3 C. white cornmeal
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried dill
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. (about 2 oz.) crumbled blue cheese
1/2 C. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 T. oil (olive oil is good)

Combine the first five ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir in the dill, nuts, and cheese.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over the dry ingredients and fold in just until moistened.  Spoon the batter evenly into paper or foil liners in a 6-cup muffin tin.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are pale golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Serves 6.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Ramen Burger


Most of the time I do not mind having a red meat allergy, but every once in a great while I really wish I could still eat beef.  Case in point -- one of the newest food fads in New York these days is the Ramen Burger, and I would love to try one!  Ramen Burger creator Keizo Shimamoto (a ramen noodle fanatic!) grills a beef patty and serves it between two bun-shaped ramen noodle cakes which are heated on the grill alongside the burger.  A special teriyaki-flavored shoyu sauce, sliced scallions, and arugula complete this luscious-looking concoction, and according to reports, the taste is fantastic!  There are a few recipes online, so I may try making this burger at home with a chicken or turkey patty instead.  It won't be quite the same, but at least I can hopefully get some idea of how the original Ramen Burger tastes.  Take a look at this video of a Ramen Burger tasting and just try to resist craving one of these unique burgers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the Homefront: Dalmatian Appreciation Day Table

Dexter and Delilah Dalmatian cordially invite you to partake of
an elegant afternoon tea celebrating Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

In honor of my favorite dog breed, and all of our Dalmatians (past and present, actual and honorary), today is Dalmatian Appreciation Day at our house.  I have set a very Dalmatian-themed table for afternoon tea to mark the occasion.  Almost all of my Dalmatian tableware has made an appearance in the dining room, though not all of it is on the table.  Black, white, and red are popular color choices for Dalmatians, so those are the colors I used.  Black and red also happen to be the team colors for the University of Georgia, where my husband teaches and where classes have recently begun for the fall semester.  Even though the football team is called the Bulldogs and not the Dalmatians, as I've mentioned before, "On Dalmatian Appreciation Day, every dog is Dalmatian!", so today even the Georgia Bulldogs are honorary Dalmatians (Go Dawgs!).  Anyway, here is my table for this very special day:

Black tablecloth from Walmart last year; round red place mat from KMart a few years ago; black dinner plate from Big Lots many years ago; Dalmatian bread plate by Karen Donleavy Designs; Dalmatian mug by Royal Westbury Bone China of Staffordshire, England; small glass soup bowl (Cosmos by Luminarc); white dog or cat cream pitcher by Ascent Porcelain from, I think, Peppercorn in Boulder, CO; small scalloped bowl for sugar from Pier 1; spotted flatware from Cow Depot Cow Kitchen; spotted and red napkin rings (the latter from Pier 1, can't remember where I got the former); can't remember where I got the water glass or white napkin.

Dalmatian spotted teapot on Dalmatian spotted place mat with
Dalmatian salt and pepper shakers (red plate for tea sandwiches).

Red teapot on Dalmatian spotted place mat with
Dalmatian salt and pepper shakers (red plate for tea sandwiches).

Dalmatian mugs as candleholders.

Three-tier Tripoli Server from Crate and Barrel holds Lindt Lindor truffles,
chocolate Dalmatians cookies, and chocolate chip scones.

Dog and cat cream pitchers; small scalloped bowls for sugar.

Spotted and red napkin rings; spotted flatware.

Our afternoon tea will start off with a brilliant red strawberry soup, to be followed by tea sandwiches, scones, and cookies which are all spotted!  I like to serve my favorite Darjeeling tea, although just about any tea would work.  Scones are best served freshly baked, and if the sandwiches are made a couple of hours in advance be sure to cover them with a damp towel or they will dry out.  The cookies and even the soup can be made ahead of time.  You can find detailed instructions for brewing a perfect pot of tea here, but remember, all that really matters is making a pot of tea that you (and any guests) will enjoy!

Dalmatian Appreciation Day Menu:

Currant or Chocolate Chip Scones/Butter
Tea Sandwiches:
Ham, Arugula, Mayonnaise, and Honey Mustard on Raisin Bread
Tomato with Mayonnaise on Olive Bread
Darjeeling Tea

Once again Lindt Lindor Truffles are served -- this time in milk chocolate (red) and extra dark chocolate (black).  They make a perfect top layer on the three-tier server.

More Dalmatian tableware sits on our credenza and tea cart:

A ceramic Dalmatian recently purchased from a local flea market.

Dalmatian bowls

Dalmatian Dog Tea for One teapot and cup

Dalmatian bowl by Karen Donleavy Designs

Happy Dalmatian Appreciation Day, everyone!

Wish List Wednesdays: Dalmatian Rear Window Car Decal

I can't believe I have owned cars for so many years without finding one of these delightful Dalmatian Rear Window Car Decals sooner!  The back view of the dog is cute enough, but the spotted sticker for the windshield wiper "tail" just makes this car décor irresistible.  At only $22, it is certainly affordable, but I do wish it was sold through a US company, since I really dislike buying things online.  I suppose I may have to make an exception in this case, however -- how can I live without this wagging Dalmatian car decal now that I know it exists?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seasonal Style: Summer Desert

It suddenly occurred to me, now that summer is almost over, that I forgot to post a Seasonal Style update for the Summer Solstice.  Well, better late than never as far as I'm concerned!  Our recent trip to Santa Fe brought to mind a look inspired by the desert:

From Su Princess

From Kendle Design Collaborative

Casual and neutral, this look is stylish but cool and comfortable.  It is also easy on the eyes, since after a day spent in the glare of the desert sun you will want to give those eyes a rest.  We have had an unusually mild and wet summer so far here in the Southeast, but lately that has changed, and the current heat wave has me longing for a retreat and an outfit like the ones shown above!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Chocolate Chip Scones

From SacFoodies

Autumn is just around the seasonal corner, which has me thinking about afternoon tea.  I love the thought of taking a late afternoon break on a cool autumn day for a mug of tea and a treat, like a Chocolate Chip Scone.  I found this recipe in SpecialTeas by M. Dalton King, an excellent source for teatime sandwich, scone, and dessert ideas.  These are drop scones, so no kneading, rolling, or cutting is required.  If you are really feeling indulgent, spread some butter on your scone, but it is equally good plain.  Scones are easy to make and not too sweet, and few foods go better with tea.  If you don't care for tea, try them with your favorite warm beverage, or even a glass of milk, and you too may become a scone lover!

Chocolate Chip Scones

2 C. flour
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. cold butter
1 egg
3/4 C. milk
1/2 C. semisweet chocolate chips (see Note)
1 egg
2 T. water

Stir or sift together the first four ingredients.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives (or quickly rub in with your fingers) until crumbly.  Beat together the egg and milk.  Blend into the dry ingredients just until moistened.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Using an ice cream scoop, form the scones and place on a greased baking sheet.  Beat the second egg with the water.  Brush each scone with the egg wash.  Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Makes 10 scones.

Note: If you want something a little more traditional, substitute currants (or raisins if you can't find currants) for the chocolate chips.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

Our Dalmatians

I think it must be obvious by now that I am an avid lover of Dalmatians.  We have had three so far.  Our first Dalmatian came to us as a puppy in 1990, not long after I lost my beloved first dog, a black and white beagle/pointer mix who had a ticking pattern on her white parts that gave her a vaguely Dalmatian look.  Our Dalmatian pup was born on August 28th.  When we lost her as well as the wonderful husky mix who was her best friend, we decided to adopt two adult Dalmatians from a rescue group in Atlanta.  Our sweet and wonderful Diamond, a Dalmatian mix, passed away in December 2012, exactly six years to the day after we lost the first Dalmatian.  Her best friend, a liver-spotted purebred that we adopted at the same time, is still with us.  Unfortunately, we never knew when either of these two were born as they were both rescued strays.

Since I love Dals so much, I have decided I must dedicate a day to celebrate the breed.  Therefore, August 28th (the birthday of our first Dal) will be declared Dalmatian Appreciation Day at our house.  It will be rather fun to have our very own holiday, and I think our current Dalmatian (and her terrier mix buddy) will enjoy it as much as we do.  In fact, I have a feeling that she will love it even more, as snacks will be involved, and our old girl is quite the chow hound!

On Dalmatian Appreciation Day, I am setting an appropriate table, celebrating the day with a Dalmatian-themed afternoon tea (more about that in a different post).  Much (but not all) of my Dalmatian tableware will make an appearance.  A great time will be had by all, both canine and human, Dalmatian and non-Dalmatian.  This will definitely become an annual event at our house!

Our honorary Dalmatians:

On Dalmatian Appreciation Day, every dog is Dalmatian!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Dalmatian Adjustable Accent Chair

I have found my perfect chair.  It looks so comfortable and attractively modern, not to mention the fact that it swivels and the height is adjustable.  But the clincher, of course, is the fact that it is upholstered in a Dalmatian print fabric!  Right now the Dalmatian Adjustable Accent Chair by Coaster Furniture is on sale at Furniture Cart for about $249.  I could use a new desk chair, and this one just might work (I don't care that it is not on casters).  So I need this chair.  Now.  Period.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

On the Homefront: "Something's Fishy" Table

Coco the Dalmatian graces an otherwise fishy table featuring her
favorite color -- brown! 

If you are getting a feeling of déjà vu looking at this tablescape, you are right -- you have seen this table before, sort of!  In addition to the set of blue Fitz and Floyd Les Fish salad plates, I also have a brown set.  I thought it would be fun to do a table very much like my previous one, using a lot of the same or similar elements, but in a more neutral color palette using my brown plates.  Here is the result:

Dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target; speckled brown dinner plate (made in Japan, no manufacturer) from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO, years ago; square appetizer plate in one of four coffee colors (espresso, mocha, latte (shown), café au lait) from Crate and Barrel years ago; brown and off-white Fitz and Floyd Les Fish dessert plate; small white scalloped bowl for dipping sauce from Pier 1; white flatware from Target; white coastal design water glass from Big Lots; white bone china fish sculpture napkin holder; woven natural fiber Threshold table runner from Target; can't remember where I got the wine glasses or the brown napkins.

Close-up look at some of the fish-shaped chopstick holders
decorating the centerpiece.

Notice the color-coordinated brindle brown and white dog
in the background!

I decided to go with a distinctly Asian-themed menu this week.  Of course fish had to be on the menu again (fried Korean-style this time).  You can use store-bought fresh or frozen Asian dumplings (I got shrimp potstickers from our local Publix), or you could make your own if you are feeling really ambitious (one of these days I will post my mother's recipe).  The Dipping Sauce for the dumplings is simply 4 T. soy sauce mixed with 1 tsp. sesame oil.

My husband loves the Sesame Zucchini and Radish Salad, but I seldom make it because I am not that fond of radishes.  In this dish, however, their spicy bite is toned down and complements the other flavors well.  I also find it rather tedious to julienne vegetables.  My mother, who taught me this recipe, had the best knife skills of anyone I have ever known -- she could slice vegetables so quickly and uniformly it was almost scary!  Unfortunately, I did not manage to learn that skill from her, so it takes me forever to cut up the ingredients and they are not always pretty, but at least they still taste as good!  To serve this salad, place a mound of hot rice on a plate and make a depression in the center.  Put the cold salad in the center and spoon some of the soy sauce marinade over the rice, which will absorb the liquid and take on its flavors.

Dessert is the only course which has nothing to do with Asian food, but the bar cookies are delicious and figs (my favorite fruit) are in season now, so either one is still a great way to end the meal.

Brown and White Fish Menu:

Asian Dumplings/Dipping Sauce
Steamed Rice
Sesame Zucchini and Radish Salad*
Fresh Figs/Demerara Sugar and Light Cream

*Sesame Zucchini and Radish Salad

1 medium zucchini, julienned
12 red radishes, julienned
2 scallions, sliced
1-2 T. soy sauce
1-2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Serves 4.

For something completely different, instead of Lindt Lindor Truffles the candy bowl contains a Korean hard candy with a toasted rice flavor.  My mother told me that one of her favorite snacks as a child was the golden brown crust left on the bottom of the rice-cooking pot, known as nurungji.  Apparently this is a beloved flavor throughout Asia, and quite a few toasted or "scorched" rice snacks are available, including these hard candies.  To me they taste a bit like burnt caramel with a toasty undertone -- you can read another blogger's rather funny description here.  I think we both agree that these treats are worth a try, but we would not buy them again!

Now I can't decide if I like my blue and white or my brown and white table setting better.  Luckily, I don't have to choose, since I can do either one whenever I please!