Friday, March 28, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Rainbow Jello Squares

From Crafty Corner

Sometimes I feel the need to try a recipe just for the fun of it.  Lately I have been in a very colorful mood, and when I saw images of these cheerfully bright Rainbow Jello Squares (aka Hawaiian Rainbow Jello) I knew I had to make them!  The recipe is very simple, but a bit time-consuming since many different-colored layers must be set one by one.  I decided that the time was worth the end result.  After all, this dessert is more art than science, and all artists must sacrifice a little in some way for their masterpieces, right?  If you are in a creative and colorful mood, perhaps you will feel the urge to create this recipe as well!

Rainbow Jello Squares

9 individual packets of Knox unflavored gelatin
2 cans (14 oz. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 package (3 oz.) grape Jello
1 package (3 oz.) berry blue Jello
1 package (3 oz.) lime Jello
1 package (3 oz.) lemon Jello
1 package (3 oz.) orange Jello
1 package (3 oz.) strawberry Jello

About two hours prior to starting this recipe, chill a 9x13-inch glass baking dish in the refrigerator.

Pour 1 1/2 C. boiling water into a 4-cup measuring bowl.  Add three packets of unflavored gelatin, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Pour in both cans of sweetened condensed milk, stir well, and add a little more hot water to make a total of four cups of the milk mixture.  Set aside.

Pour 1 1/2 C. boiling water into a medium-sized bowl.  Add one packet of unflavored gelatin, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Add the box of grape Jello, stirring until completely dissolved.  Let cool, then pour into the chilled baking dish.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until set.

Pour about 3/4 C. of the cooled milk mixture over the grape Jello.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes until set.  Repeat these steps with the remaining boxes of Jello (be sure to thoroughly clean the bowl after each use) and milk mixture, ending with the strawberry Jello layer (there will be eleven layers, with one less milk layer than Jello layer).  After the last layer is added, refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

For dessert servings, cut the Jello layers into large squares.  If desired, top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream and some colored sprinkles.  Serves 12-16.

Note:  Stir the milk mixture often to keep it smooth.  If it begins to gel, put the bowl in the microwave on the lowest setting for about 15-20 seconds just to warm it, then stir until smooth again.  Make sure the mixture cools completely before using.  To serve as snacks rather than dessert, the Jello layers can be cut into about 54 1-inch squares instead of large ones.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Colorfully Eclectic Global Living Room

Not everyone is a fan of snakes.  In fact, I would venture to say that the majority of the population have little love for the apodal ophidian.  What a pity, as these misunderstood creatures are mostly innocuous and even beneficial (they help to control the numbers of vermin such as rodents and insects).  The relatively few dangerously venomous species, plus the legless movement and unnervingly low profile of snakes, have given them an undeservedly evil reputation.  While I admit that I do not seek out the companionship of snakes, I do admire them for their positive qualities, and am even rather fond of a few species such as the brilliantly colored and mild-mannered smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis):

What a lovely color! Would St. Patrick really want to drive
such a beautiful creature away?
(from HRM)

When I saw the colorful artwork at the top of the page on the Furbish Studio website, I decided I had to give these lovely prints and their under-appreciated subject matter a place of honor on a living room style board.  The Furbish Studio site was full of additional suitable items appropriate for my special board, and here is the end result:

Clockwise from top left: Collage of Snake Prints I-VI by Sarah B. Martinez; Wishbone Chair (Natural); Stepping Out Side Table; Black and White Spotted Pillow; Brass Faux Bamboo Floor Lamp; Metallic Zebra Dish (Gold); Abella Coffee Table; McCauley Upholstered Sofa; Background: Angers Kilim Rug.

Who knows, in such a colorful and eclectic setting everyone's least favorite reptile may just become the darling of the design world!  Well, okay, maybe not, but at least more people may come to appreciate the fascinating and unique beauty of snakes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On the Homefront: Sweet Little Bouquets

Lovely spring flowers!

A couple of evenings ago my husband came home to find a small bouquet of pink flowers stuck in our driveway gate.  The next morning, as I headed out with our dogs before sunrise for our morning walk, I found another small bouquet, this time with daffodils, in the same place!  I placed each bunch into small glass vases, and voilà, I had beautiful floral arrangements for the house!  We still don't know who left the flowers (my theory is some neighborhood children who went for a walk in a park near us and left their picked posies behind in a convenient spot just for fun), but I have to smile every time I see these sweet little bouquets left by a budding floral designer in our entry gate.  Isn't spring a great time of year?

Wish List Wednesdays: Gump's Reversible Art Deco Jacket

Spring is the time of year when I am most likely to feel the need to spruce up my wardrobe.  After the drab days of winter, I am also ready to inject some color into my life, and this Reversible Art Deco Jacket ($148) from Gump's does both jobs nicely.  It is practical for the unpredictable weather of early spring as well, which can turn chilly without warning.  This jacket coordinates beautifully with casual jeans or tailored slacks, but I could also see it with more formal attire for an event or dinner, especially when reversed to the teal silk side.  A little black dress (or dare to be different in antique gold), these pearlescent Peter Kaiser Diana Slingbacks ($250), and a Whiting & Davis Metallic Mesh Evening Bag in Pearl (on sale for $79.99) with the jacket would be a lovely evening ensemble:

Of course, as the jeans-and-T-shirt type, I would be more likely to wear the colorful print side of the jacket in more casual settings, but it is so nice to know that its reversible versatility would give me many options!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Shrimp and Peanut Butter Noodles

Pasta and peanut butter are two of my favorite foods -- as in, I could happily live on just those two foods for the rest of my life!  Combine the two, and I am in culinary heaven.  Add two more beloved comestibles, namely shrimp and broccoli, and I have found nirvana.  Who knew that peanut butter and shrimp would work so well together?  Obviously, the person who posted this recipe for Shrimp and Peanut Butter Noodles, to whom I am forever grateful.  I changed the recipe only slightly.  I used spaghetti instead of udon noodles, which I did not have.  I also substituted rice wine vinegar for Chinese black vinegar, which I also did not have and had not even heard of before.  And then I doubled the amount of broccoli and stirred in some leftover sliced scallions.  (Really, these were very minor changes and only necessary for convenience.)  If I had to choose just one meal to consume for the rest of my life, this would be it.  Could I really give up cheese and all manner of sweets for this dish?  Thank goodness I'll never have to find out!

Shrimp and Peanut Butter Noodles

1/4 C. peanut butter
2 T. light soy sauce
2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. sugar
1 T. sesame oil
8 oz. spaghetti
1 lb. frozen jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined*
2 C. broccoli florets, steamed
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 C. chopped peanuts (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients.  Set aside.  Cook the spaghetti according to the  package directions, adding the frozen shrimp for about the last three minutes, cooking until the shrimp turn pink and opaque (do not overcook).  Drain the pasta mixture and return it to the pot.  Stir in the broccoli.  Add the peanut butter sauce and toss until the pasta is well coated.  Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts, if desired.  Serves 4.

Note:  If the pasta seems a bit dry after stirring in the sauce, add 1-2 T. vegetable oil, or reserve some of the pasta cooking water and use that instead.

*If you do not plan to serve the entire dish at one meal, you may want to cook the shrimp separately in the amount needed (about five jumbo shrimp per person) and stir it into the individual servings, because reheating leftover shrimp will make them tough.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seasonal Style: Spring White

Spring, or the vernal equinox, has finally arrived, even if in name only for some parts of the nation!  Since snow is still a reality for many, my style image choices are reflective of spring greenery valiantly attempting to push through the white stuff in a determined effort to make the new season a reality.  The casual white outfit below hints at the rebirth of plant life with the green bag as an accessory:

And this white living room suggests the season with accents of green in pillows and accessories, as well as the view of verdant abundance from the windows:

Despite some rather dismal weather, here in the South spring blossoms have already begun to open (this week the wild cherry trees are in bloom), and a few hardy plants are starting to leaf out.  If you are in a location that still has snow, I hope that spring white will soon give way to spring green for you!

This 'n That Thursdays: Reigning Cats and Dogs

From Steve's Hallmark

Anyone who is owned by a cat or dog knows who really rules the roost.  Our furry companions have us wrapped around their little paws, and they sure know how to work it to their advantage!  Two of my favorite sites make this fact perfectly clear.  Dog lovers in particular should check out the website "Dog Shaming".  New images are posted every day by owners whose dogs insist on asserting their rights.  The site name would suggest that our canine overlords might have just a smidgen of regret for some of their actions, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  I think the "shame" aspect is just wishful thinking on the part of their devoted human slaves!  One photo I especially love from the site is the following, because it so perfectly applies to our dogs as well (I for one am under no delusions as to who is in charge):

Do these dogs look ashamed?  I think not!

For cat lovers, there is a delightful YouTube series called "Simon's Cat".  Simon is the hapless lackey of a cat who is well aware that his poor human is no match for feline superiority.  Here is a classic episode:

Occasionally Simon's cat does not get his way, but only in typically feline situations and/or with nonhuman creatures, especially other cats, as in this recent installment of the series:

If you have never seen these videos and you have some spare time, watch them all (they are quite short) to truly appreciate the antics and absolute ascendancy of Simon's cat!

I just recently discovered this YouTube video which offers proof positive that humans are no match for canine cleverness (and the cat in the video clearly had no need to remind the human of a cat's rightful place in the home!):

Why do we even try to delude ourselves that we are in charge?  At least some of us have the means to properly indulge our furry friends in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed:

Pampered dog and cat at The Barkley luxury pet hotel
in Westlake Village, California
(from The Telegraph)

(BTW, if you are not one of the privileged elite who can afford The Barkley, under no circumstances should you allow your pets to see this post!)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Lancaster Soft Crèmes

From Candy Warehouse

Not all of the items on my wish list are outrageously priced and/or difficult to obtain.  Sometimes the object of my desire is quite easy to find and relatively painless to purchase, like these new Lancaster Soft Crèmes from the Hersey Company.  As soon as I saw them advertised I knew I had to try them, so on my last grocery shopping trip I picked up a bag of the Vanilla and Caramel Soft Crèmes ($3.58 for an 8-ounce bag at Walmart).  Oh, they are so delicious!  I am even going to go out on a limb here and state that these soft and creamy candies have officially kicked chocolates to the curb for me!  I have always had a sweet tooth, and have always liked the flavor of caramel, but never found exactly the right ones, as most are either a little bland or too hard (I prefer soft caramels).  I also never really got excited about the fad for caramels with sea salt.  These Lancaster Soft Crèmes, however, have finally gotten it right for me.  I plan to try the all-caramel and vanilla-and-raspberry flavors as well, although I have a feeling the vanilla and caramel variety will remain my favorite!

From Lancaster Candy

Monday, March 17, 2014

On the Homefront: Subtle St. Patrick's Day Table

Darby O'Dall and the little "sheeple"!

The Dalmatian Darby O'Dall's
Hanging out with his favorite pals.
He calls them his "sheeple".
He knows they're not people,
But says they're the best guys and gals!

I have officially come full circle in my tablescaping blog cycle.  I posted my first table last year for St. Patrick's Day, and lo and behold that holiday has rolled around again!  The look this year is subtle with a little less green, and in shades more olive than emerald.  However, my Irish Dalmatian is back (in his emerald-green St. Patrick's Day hat).  This time he is accompanied by some Irish sheep friends as well as a leprechaun's pot of gold.  Certainly a Dalmatian has no need for gold, and he is just keeping watch over the treasure until its rightful owner returns.  Darby O'Dall is much more interested in the upcoming Irish feast, so let's get this party started!  Here is a look at the table:

Dark brown wooden bead place mat from Target; square white dinner plate (Denmark Tools For Cooks) from HomeGoods; Green Bird Dessert Plate from Pier One; white flatware from Target; olive green napkin (bought when we first moved to the Athens, GA, area, but I can't remember where); green goblet (I can't remember when or where I got this one); water glass (bought, I have no idea where, by my husband while on sabbatical in Santa Barbara, CA).

The only emerald green on the table.

A closer look at the centerpiece, with just a few pieces of
emerald green glass as an accent.

Darby's emerald-green hat and the green "grass" pad for the
sheeple stand out on this subtle table.

St. Patrick's Day is on a Monday, so the menu is quick and easy.  The main dish can be made in minutes.  The bread and cake were made the day before, and are actually better the next day!  I found the recipe for the Irish Whiskey Cake here.  If you like coffee (I don't, and my husband won't drink it in the evening), serve up some original Irish Coffee with the cake.  And if you are especially tipsy daring, have a little Bailey's Irish Cream as well!

St. Patrick's Day Menu:

Irish Butter
Irish Whiskey Cake*

*Irish Whiskey Cake

3/4 C. butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 C. golden raisins
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. Irish whiskey (such as Jameson)
1 1/2 C. confectioner's sugar
juice of 1 orange (about 1/4 C.)

Cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl.  Stir together the flour and baking powder, then add to the creamed mixture.  Stir in the raisins.  Beat in the eggs until well blended.  Add the whiskey and mix carefully to a dropping consistency (the batter will be thick).  Spoon the batter evenly into a greased Bundt pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Combine the confectioner's sugar and orange juice.  Spread the icing over the warm cake.  Let the cake cool before serving.  Serves 12.

Note: There may be leftover icing, so save it to serve over individual slices of the cake.

As always, some Lindt Lindor truffles can be found on the table (I swear I don't work for them, I'm just a huge fan of their truffles!):

A black pottery "pot" of gold-wrapped white chocolate
Lindt Lindor truffles sits on a lovely white dessert
plate rimmed with shamrocks on a basket-weave edge
(dessert plate is by Global Design Connections
from HomeGoods this year).

Darby O'Dall shows off his pot of gold and little sheeple pals
(the latter are from Pier One).

And what better way to end my post than with a video of Sean Connery singing a little Irish song in the movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959), which would be an excellent viewing choice for St. Patrick's Day!

We can ignore the fact that Connery is Scottish, not Irish.  After all, he is Sean Connery, and he sings surprisingly well!  Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all!  Or as they say in Gaelic:

“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Mexican Shepherd's Pie

My husband dearly loves corn muffins -- they are one of his ultimate comfort foods.  In fact, whenever inclement weather threatens, he makes sure to stock up on boxes of corn muffin mix.  Unfortunately, the man rarely if ever actually makes corn muffins.  Thanks to the unusually nasty winter we had this year, we now have an inordinate number of corn muffin mix boxes languishing on pantry shelves and taking up precious space.  The only solution, of course, is to start making recipes that use this mix.  Mexican Shepherd's Pie is one such recipe.  Easy to make with staples that can be picked up at our small nearby grocery store, this one-dish meal is hearty and filling, great for the few remaining chilly days we have left here in the South before spring gains its eventual foothold (our daffodils and forsythias are already flowering, and the lovely but malodorous blossoms of the Bradford pears have just started opening).  I suppose it would make sense to bake a pan of corn muffins as well -- but I'm not sure I really want to encourage my husband to run out and buy more muffin mix!

Mexican Shepherd's Pie

1 lb. cooked chicken, shredded (or 12-16 oz. ground beef, browned)
1 can (15 oz.) no-salt corn (or 2 C. frozen)
1 jar (16 oz.) salsa (choose the level of heat you prefer)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 C. sour cream
2 C. shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 boxes (8.5 oz. each) corn muffin mix
2 eggs
2/3 C. milk

Combine the cooked chicken or beef with the next eight ingredients plus one cup of the cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Pour the mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining one cup of cheese evenly over the top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Stir together the muffin mix, eggs, and milk in a medium bowl just until blended (do not overmix).  Let rest for about four minutes.  Remove the baking dish from the oven.  Spoon the batter evenly over the chicken mixture, then spread the batter to within 1/2-inch of the edges.  Bake 25-30 minutes longer until the topping is golden brown and the filling is heated through.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.  Serves 6-8.

Note: If you choose to use refrigerated fresh salsa, drain off the liquid first or your casserole (like my first effort) will end up more like a watery stew, which is still tasty but can leave the bottom of the cornbread topping slightly underdone.

Those infamous but yummy corn muffins!
(from Babble)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Chick Flick Favorites


This is spring break week at the University of Georgia where my husband teaches.  Right now he is doing field work in the tropical ambience of Puerto Rico and won't be home until late Sunday night.  I am, as usual, at home with the animals, but the good news is that our weather has turned lovely and mild.  I plan to get a little yard work done while I can.  Of course, since this is March, the nice weather won't last, and we should be getting some rain and cooler temperatures later in the week.  I've decided that this rainy day will be a chick flick day, because for some reason (could it be a longing for spring?) I've had a hankering to do a chick flick movie marathon.

And just what movies will I be watching?  Well, first I should clarify my definition of a chick flick, which may be a little different than most.  To me, these movies are about events in the lives of ordinary women, sometimes but not always in extraordinary circumstances, not necessarily about romance, usually not tearjerkers, often with funny scenes but not mostly a comedy, and always to some extent character- rather than plot-driven.  I am not a fan of epic romances, so no "Titanic" (1997) for me.  And while I love a good romantic comedy, I do not include all of them in my chick flick category.  (I admit my choices here are rather arbitrary.  I could watch "The Goodbye Girl" (1977) and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (2002) over and over, but not as chick flicks for some reason -- possibly because they emphasize comedy and romance more than character?)  As for the movies I do put into this category, I won't be watching anything new, but I do have a collection of favorites that I haven't seen in a while.  I also recently purchased an older movie that I saw again a few months ago and decided I needed to own, so adding that to the queue, here is a list of five favorites, in no particular order, that are distinct possibilities for my movie marathon:

1) "Babette's Feast" (1987)

This is the movie I just bought, and I don't know why it took me so long.  It is a beautiful movie set in the 19th century, Danish with English subtitles. It is about two elderly unmarried women, daughters of the now deceased minister of their small village, who spend their time taking care of fellow villagers and trying to set a good example, at the expense of their personal lives.  They are asked by an old friend to provide a safe haven for a French woman named Babette who has just lost her husband and son in the war, which they agree to do.  This simple act of kindness makes a world of difference in the lives of this woman, the sisters, and the inhabitants the Danish village, especially after Babette wins a lottery prize!

2) "Enchanted April" (1991)

The 1991 version of "Enchanted April" is my favorite movie of all time, and I have described it in an earlier post.  Since it is set in the spring, now is the perfect time to watch it again.

3) "Strangers in Good Company" (1990)

While I find this movie fascinating, it is not for everyone.  My best friend thinks it is slow-moving and uninteresting, but I love character-driven movies, and this one goes into great detail about the varied lives of a group of older women who find themselves trapped in the middle of nowhere when their tour bus breaks down.  They surprise themselves with their own resourcefulness, and we get to learn about their earlier lives and how their experiences shaped them into the women that they have become.  No matter how many times I watch this one, I am always drawn into their stories, probably because so much of the dialogue is spontaneous and straight from the hearts of the nonprofessional actors.  I wish more movies were made like this one!

4) "Amélie" (2001)

I don't know anyone who doesn't love this movie, and that is despite the fact that it is in French with English subtitles.  Amélie, as portrayed by the actress Audrey Tautou, is such an appealing protagonist, and the characters who inhabit her world are quirky, amusing, and for the most part likeable in an average, everyday sort of way.  But it is Amélie's vivid imagination and her fateful decision to do good in her little world that make this movie so enjoyable and worthy of repeat viewing.

5) "Chocolat" (2000)

A stranger and her daughter move to a French village and open a chocolate shop just before the season of Lent.  Her arrival causes an unexpected upheaval in a town that prides itself on "tranquilité", and the mayor is determined that she must leave.  A battle of wills ensues between the woman and the mayor, and the town is changed forever, as is the life of the woman and her daughter, but only in a good way.  Once again this is a movie with a superb cast of characters, and excellent actors who portray them.  Be prepared to develop quite a craving for chocolate, though!

Of course there are quite a few other movies that qualify as chick flicks for me, but I think five is more than enough.  In fact, I doubt I will even make it through that many, but at least I know I will not run out of entertainment for a rainy day!  Quite coincidentally, I read a blog post the other day by another woman who is ready for a chick flick marathon.  She writes a food blog, and suggested this cheesy popcorn recipe as the perfect accompaniment.  (BTW, to me her movie selections are more romantic comedy than chick flick, according to my quirky definition.)  Armed with popcorn, chocolates, and a big bottle of water, I am ready to indulge unapologetically in a day of nonstop video entertainment.  I'm actually hoping rain stays in the forecast this week!

"Chocolat" and Pot au Chocolat
(from Kahakai Kitchen)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Pastel Panache

I've mentioned before that I am not especially fond of pastels, but I have been noticing so many pastel items for spring this year that I actually find myself admiring!  A case in point is the pure silk Fantasia Dress ($205) above from Arhaus Jewels.  The lively flame-stitched pattern and soft flowing lines are quite attractive, and the combination of pastel colors really is eye-catchingly beautiful:

The model is wearing the Dusk to Dawn Necklace ($86) and Antigua Sandals ($160) from Arhaus Jewels, but I think I would ramp up the eclectic look of the dress with their Taj Mahal Necklace ($88) and comfortable-looking Gumdrop Shoes (on sale for $59!):

I might even be tempted to add the colorful Paint Me a Dream Belt (also on sale, for just $38), although that might be just a little too over the top.  I may have to save this belt for another outfit:

The wide-brimmed Honduras Hat ($96) would be a smart accessory to shade my eyes from the sun which has been far too infrequent this winter:

I would definitely keep the hot pink Frangia Clutch Bag (on sale for $321), which complements this dress so well, if I could convince myself to pay the price!

I am so looking forward to weather suitable for this outfit.  I can't wait to bid farewell to winter and welcome warm spring and summer days!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Chicken and White Bean Chili with Cornmeal Dumplings

This recipe is a modification of one that I found for White Chicken Chili with Cornbread Dumplings.  So many recipes have way too much salt for my taste, so I almost always modify them to reduce the sodium content.  This chili is absolutely delicious (probably my second favorite after the Italian Black Bean Chili I have been making for years) even with a significantly reduced salt load.  I think it has something to do with the Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning I substituted for the sodium-laden taco seasoning in the original recipe.  In fact, I may be using that fantastic blend instead of my usual chili powder in all of my chili recipes from now on!

Chicken and White Bean Chili with Cornmeal Dumplings

1 T. oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 C. chicken stock or broth
1 C. water
1 lb. chicken tenders
1 T. Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning blend
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can (15 oz.) large white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) no-salt corn, undrained
1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup (I used Campbell's Healthy Request)
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles, drained
1 box (8.5 oz.) corn muffin mix
1/4 C. sliced scallions
1 egg
1/4 C. sour cream
1/4 C. shredded Mexican-blend cheese

Heat the oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent, about five minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one minute longer.  Add the stock, water, and chicken and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook 15-20 minutes until the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken from the pot and shred it (you can use two forks or a food processor, but I just let it cool a little and used my hands).  Add the beans, undrained corn, soup, and chiles to the stock pot.  Stir in the chicken.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat while making the dumplings.

In a medium bowl, combine the corn muffin mix, scallions, egg, sour cream, and cheese.  Mix well until a stiff dough forms.  Using only half of the mixture, drop the dumplings by teaspoonfuls (I got about eight of them) into the pot.  Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes until the dumplings are done.  To test, stick a toothpick into the middle of a dumpling.  If it comes out clean, the dumpling is cooked.

Spoon the chili and dumplings into bowls.  Top with shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired.  Serves 4.

Note: The original recipe recommends using only half of the dumpling dough in the chili and baking the rest as muffins, as the dumplings will absorb too much of the chili liquid otherwise.  I did not find this to be the case.  I initially used half of the dough, cooked the dumplings, and found that there was still plenty of liquid.  I added the rest of the dough and cooked the chili for another ten minutes with perfect results and double the dumplings!  My dumplings were small and dense rather than large and puffy, which is actually the way I like them.  Of course, I used a different brand of corn muffin mix than called for in the original recipe, and the box was past its expiration date, so that may have affected the results.  I suggest you start with half the dough and judge for yourself whether or not you can use up the rest of it in the chili based on how much liquid is left.  You could even add more chicken stock or broth to the chili if needed to use up the rest of the dough for dumplings.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Small Plates I Am Currently Coveting

Too many dishes!
(from Kitchen Hunter)

Last year I became very interested in tablescaping blogs.  I have always loved setting a pretty table, but lately this love has become an obsession.  I now have way too much tableware!  I am trying very hard not to buy any more sets of dishes.  However, anyone who has seen my tablescape posts has probably noticed that I prefer to limit my settings to a two-layer stack of plates, a large dinner plate and a smaller salad or dessert plate.  I usually rely on the smaller plate to add some color and/or pattern to my table, and I often buy just small plates rather than an entire set of dishes.  Somehow in my mind this does not count as dish buying, so my good intentions to stop adding to my collection have been thwarted by this illogical rationalization.

Lately I have noticed some small plate designs available now which are just right for spring, and I have a feeling that I will succumb to one or more before long.  Below are just a few that I am coveting:

These watercolor creations by Oregon artist Dean Crouser on seven-inch square white stoneware come in four different designs (bluebird, cardinal, chickadee, and hummingbird) which are sold separately to mix and match as you choose.  One plate costs $15.95, but you can buy two or more for $14.35 each.

Lemon Salad Plate from Sur la Table

The Lemon Salad Plate is part of the Lemon Collection of dishware and accessories available from Sur la Table.  The 8.75-inch round earthenware salad plates can be purchased separately for $9.95 each, but it may be hard to resist purchasing the complementary dishes that make up this collection!

Little Bird Plate from Pier 1 Imports

Pier 1 has several sets of bird-themed dishware, including chickens, peacocks, and owls, but I find these colorful little birds irresistible.  The white, glazed porcelain 8.5-inch plates are made in Portugal, and are available for just $7.00.  The simple but colorful design makes these plates very versatile -- I have several sets of dinner plates that would combine well with these dishes.

Just in time for cherry blossom season in Washington, DC, these specially commissioned porcelain plates are perfect for spring!  They are sold as a boxed set of four for $35, and complementary mugs and a teapot are available as well.  These are the plates that I have a feeling I am going to end up purchasing, as I have nothing like them in my collection and I think they are absolutely beautiful!

Bunny Plate from Crate and Barrel

Easter is fast approaching, and Crate and Barrel offers these white Portuguese earthenware Bunny Plates embossed with a sweet bunny doodle by artist Elvis Swift as the ideal holiday dishware.  The 8.5-inch plates cost $7.95 each, and there is even a 20-inch coordinating Lamb Platter available for $29.95.

So many beautiful dishes, so little storage space!  I can feel my will power crumbling at this very moment.  I guess I am just going to have to come up with more creative storage solutions, as it does not look like I will be able to curb my penchant for plate purchasing any time soon.