Friday, June 26, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Cream

I have been watching the eleventh season of Food Network Star on Sunday nights, and I have to say I am impressed with the food prepared by the contestants this year.  I had to try a recipe from the first episode created by contestant Eddie Jackson, who is one of my favorites right now.  He did not have a good night on the most recent episode of the show, but hopefully he will bounce back next time!

Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Cream has just the right balance of flavors and heat level.  As usual, I made a few minor adjustments based on personal taste preferences, but the basic recipe is the same.  The unusual flavor profile was a hit both with my husband, who normally does not care for cilantro, and with me, who is usually a wimp when it comes to spicy food.

Although this recipe was served as an appetizer on the show, I turned it into a delicious lunchtime burrito.  Unfortunately my burritos, while tasty, were not especially photogenic, which is why you are seeing the appetizer image from the Food Network website instead.  I can't wait to make this recipe again, and hopefully soon!

Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Cream

1 medium red onion
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
2 T. adobo sauce*
2 T. coconut oil
1 T. garlic powder
1 tsp. honey (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
3 avocados
3 limes, juiced
1/2 C. sour cream
1 tsp. adobo sauce**
1 jalapeño, minced
1-2 T. vegetable oil

Cut the onion in half and finely mince one half.  Combine the minced onion with the next seven ingredients and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Combine the avocados with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Grate the remaining onion into the bowl and mash the mixture until the avocado is smooth.  Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp with marinade and cook several minutes until pink (do not overcook).  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Press the avocado mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.  To serve as an appetizer, spread the avocado cream on a serving platter and place the shrimp on top (if the shrimp are tailless, insert toothpicks).

To serve as a burrito, heat a corn or flour tortilla, either in a dry pan on the stovetop or in the microwave for about 20 seconds, until warm.  Spread a line of the avocado cream near the edge of the tortilla.  Place several shrimp on top of the avocado.  Spoon on some of the cooked marinade and roll up the tortilla burrito-style (fold up the tortilla edge over one end of the filling, then turn 90 degrees and roll up the tortilla to create a leak-proof pocket).  Serves 4.

*from a 7.5-ounce can of chipotles in adobo sauce (I accidentally used 2 T. instead of the suggested 2 tsp. of sauce, but the heat level was perfect for us so I kept this change)

**the recipe calls for adobo powder, but since this seasoning is mostly salt I decided to just use more canned adobo sauce instead

Thursday, June 25, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: A New Disney Movie and an Old Disney Cartoon

From Wikia

Disney and Pixar's original movie "Inside Out" (2015) opened a couple of weeks ago, and not only was it a big box office hit, it also received many favorable reviews from critics (for a fairly detailed description and review of the movie read this article from The Atlantic).  While I will probably not see the movie in a theater, I will certainly seek it out when it is released on DVD.  Pixar has created some of my favorite animated movies in recent years, including "Monsters, Inc." (2001), "The Incredibles" (2004),  and "Up" (2009), and by all accounts this latest offering will not disappoint!

The concept of exploring the inner workings of a young girl's mind as represented by individual emotions is fascinating, but I have seen a similar idea before, and in another Disney animation.  Check out this YouTube video of Disney's 1943 anti-Nazi short film called "Reason and Emotion":

As a young girl, I saw the first half of this cartoon on the Walt Disney television series, a children's program popular since the mid-1950s.  The beginning portion of the original short was incorporated into a new episode for the show called "Man Is His Own Worst Enemy", which aired on October 21, 1962.  While I can't remember the rest of the episode, for some reason this part has stuck in my mind even after all these years, possibly because it was so original as well as funny.

Many people have mentioned online that they recall a television sitcom from the 1990s called "Herman's Head" starring William Ragsdale that used a similar technique of viewing one man's world from inside his head.  All episodes from all three seasons of the series are on YouTube (view Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3).  I never saw this series, so I recently watched the pilot episode.  While it was okay, but I did not find it to be an especially exceptional show.  You can watch for yourself and see what you think:

Even though the idea of depicting the human mind as a control center populated by tiny homunculi in charge of different functions is not new, "Inside Out" is the first full-length movie to use this concept.  It is also the first to more fully explore the mind of a child, and the choice of a female character has been praised as an important step for Disney in moving away from the tendency to feature only princess-type female figures in its animated films.  This is a movie I am looking forward to seeing, and I will do so the first chance I get!  You can view the trailer right now:


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Two Beautiful Daylilies

A garden full of daylilies
(from This Garden is Illegal)

Last Saturday my husband and I went to see the North Georgia Daylily Society Show and Sale at the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia.  We both love daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.) because they are hardy perennials with lovely, large, and colorful flowers.  There were dozens of daylily flower stems on display, and the beautiful colors were magnificent.  We arrived a bit too late to purchase any of the varieties we preferred, but I did jot down the names of three of the exhibits with the hope that I would be able to find them online.  My two favorites are indeed available:

Daylily 'Sultan's Ruby' ($12.00)
(from Whitehouse Perennials)

My first choice at the show, daylily 'Sultan's Ruby',  has rich sunfast ruby red single blooms about five inches in diameter.  The plant reaches approximately two feet in height and starts an extended blooming period in midseason.  While it is not fragrant, the breathtaking flowers are reason enough to grow this beauty.

Daylily 'Desert Flame' ($10.00)
(from Rural Roots Gardens)

Daylily 'Desert Flame' is slightly more orange-red in color.  The six-inch flower is ruffled and triangular in shape.  The plant is about three feet high and blooms early in the season.  These flowers are quite the showstopper!

I was unable to find my third choice, the intense orange daylily 'Listen to Your Heart', online except for a brief mention of the name with no description or image.  However, the multitude of daylily color choices that are available is quite mind-boggling, and it is never difficult to find more than enough options to fill any garden!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

On the Homefront: Colorful Spots and Stripes Summer Table

The colorful striped Havana serving bowls, salt and pepper shakers,
and sugar bowl and cream pitcher at the other end of the table are
by Tabletops Unlimited.

Summer starts today, so let the fun begin with a colorful table full of spots and stripes!  I have to admit that summer is my least favorite season (I prefer cool, dry weather to heat and humidity), but that is even more reason to create a fun and cheerful table that will bring a smile to my face despite the sweltering heat (and thank goodness for air conditioning).  Every color of the rainbow is welcome here, and as much of my spotted and striped tableware as I can fit on the table without completely overwhelming it!

Yellow fabric placemat, probably from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO; Santa Fe Hand-Painted Striped Stoneware dinner and bread plates from Brylane Home; colorful champagne flute as water glass (ordered from a catalog years ago, but I can't remember which one); Color Dots Goblet from Pier 1 a couple of years ago; red flatware mixed with red and white-dotted flatware from Walmart this year; colorful dots napkin (ordered from a catalog years ago, but I can't remember which one).

The other place setting color combinations.

A bowl for the garlic bread, and a sugar bowl and cream pitcher
set that will be used for grated Parmesan cheese for the pasta and
the balsamic vinaigrette for the salad.

A colorful striped vase holds vibrant color-dyed mums, something I
wouldn't normally buy but which were perfect for this table.

The menu for my table is quick and easy, as it should be for a summer meal.  Use many colors of heirloom tomatoes if you can find them, preferably fresh from the garden or farmer's market.  As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am hopeless when it comes to baking moist and delicious brownies, so I rely on store-bought ones (fudgey, chocolate-frosted, and without nuts if I can find them).  If you are more talented than me and prefer homemade, by all means bake your own!

Colorful Summer Menu:

Green Salad with Colorful Heirloom Tomatoes/
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Brownie Sundaes/Chocolate Syrup and M&Ms


The candies on the table are multi-colored plain M&M's, to be served atop the brownie sundaes:

The little orange and red-spotted pitcher will hold the chocolate
syrup (make your own, or just use good old Hershey's Syrup
if you don't mind high fructose corn syrup).

A dessert station serves as the centerpiece for the table.  Large striped bowls with big spoons will hold the brownie sundaes, consisting of a brownie square topped with ice cream (vanilla for me!), chocolate syrup, and M&M's, or any combination of those ingredients your guests might prefer.

Flora the Dalmatian sports a multi-hued lei in honor of this
colorful summer table!

For those who love summer, enjoy your favorite season, but even someone like me who is not a fan can at least appreciate the colors of summer on this spots and stripes table!

Seasonal Style: Summer Peacock Blue

From Wholesale 7

Happy first day of summer, everyone!  Although summer officially starts today, we have been having typical Georgia summer weather here for over a week, with high temperatures, humidity, and the occasional torrential thunderstorm.  All of the rain we have had means that the landscape is lush and colorful, so I've chosen a bright and cheerful pair of images for this summer's seasonal style.  The vibrantly-hued maxi dress above has a bold peacock feather pattern, and the model looks ready to dance the night away at a summer pool party.  The sunroom below is awash in white, but intense color accents with lots of peacock blue and a sofa with a wild and colorful design just beckon summer to enter through the open French doors, blurring the boundaries between indoors and out.

From Life.Style.etc

The living is indeed easy in the summertime, not to mention lively and fun!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Easy Chocolate Tea Biscuits

This recipe evolved from one I found for Foolproof Brownies.  I always have trouble when I attempt to make brownies from scratch, as I tend to overbake them and they end up too dry.  I decided to try the supposedly foolproof recipe to see if it was the one that would help me overcome my difficulties, but alas, I ended up with my usual result.

I think the problem was that I halved the original recipe and used a pan size that was too large.  I should have used an 8-inch square pan and probably reduced the baking time as well.  The brownies ended up being way too thin and rather dry.  They were still tasty, but they were more like a type of homemade slice-and-bake cookie my mother used to make than like a brownie.

That was when I had my epiphany.  I had not baked brownies, but had instead created a type of thin and slightly crispy cookie perfect for dunking in a hot beverage!  Best of all, no rolling, wrapping, chilling and/or slicing were required.  I will have to implement the modifications I mentioned next time to find out if I can make the perfect brownie, but if you are looking for a quick and easy light chocolatey treat to dunk in your afternoon tea or coffee, then you just might want to try this recipe!

Easy Chocolate Tea Biscuits

1/2 C. butter, melted
1/4 C. cocoa powder
1/2 C. sugar
2 eggs
3/4 C. flour
pinch of salt

Stir the cocoa powder into the melted butter until smooth.  Blend in the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating in thoroughly after each addition.  Mix in the flour and salt until smooth.  Pour the batter into a well-greased 9-inch square pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out dry and the cookie pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes.  Cut into 9 or 16 squares.  Serve with  your favorite hot beverage.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Black and White Anthropologie Dining Room

I always find the furnishings and home décor from Anthropologie quite inspiring, and recently I just had to put together a dining room style board based on the table shown above.  I love the stark contrast of black and white, and with a background of deep aqua blue (similar to the color the glassware), this combination is even more striking:

Clockwise from left: Handblown Bubbles Glassware; Shed Antler Chandelier; Orly Flatware Set; Chalkboard Placemats; Handcarved Gallery Chairs in Black; Chevron Inlay Dresser; Sambaya Vases; Relief Print Napkins; Center top: Kalahari Vignettes Wallpaper; Center bottom: Darlington Dining Table; Background: Sand Waves Rug; Royal Oak Hardwood Flooring in Black Tea from MacFloor.

Instead of hanging artwork on the wall, I thought it would be more interesting to build frames around several large sections of a fun and intricately patterned wallpaper.  As always, the prices for items from Anthropologie are steep, but it costs nothing to create a style board and let your imagination run wild!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Handcarved Streamlet Nightstand

Anthropologie always has unique and beautiful items for the home, and right now I am really coveting their Handcarved Streamlet Nightstand, despite the rather staggering $698 price.  Although the six-drawer dresser is no longer available, there is also a matching Handcarved Streamlet Three-Drawer Dresser ($998).  If money were no object, I would be redecorating our master bedroom with this set right now!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Lazy Day Breakfast Casserole

When it comes to brunch, I prefer savory foods to sweet ones.  I am not that interested in pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Give me a hearty egg dish instead and I am happy.  If I must make that dish myself, the recipe had better be extremely easy or my good mood may disappear.  Lazy Day Breakfast Casserole is my version of a hash brown and sausage casserole, eliminating any steps that I consider unnecessary, such as browning the sausage or hash browns before baking.  Everything gets dumped in layers into a casserole dish, and I then let the oven do all the work.  It does take a little over an hour to bake, but on brunch mornings I have the time to wait.  This casserole can be assembled the night before and baked as needed, and would be perfect if you have overnight guests who are looking forward to a hearty late morning meal.  Should anyone wake up before the dish is ready, simply offer coffee or tea and perhaps some toast and a chat while waiting.  This may not be a recipe you serve every day, but when you do make this breakfast indulgence you will enjoy every bite!

Lazy Day Breakfast Casserole

1 package (20 oz.) refrigerated shredded hash browns (I used Simply Potatoes)
5 eggs
1/2 C. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used a cheddar and mozzarella blend)
1 package (9.6 oz.) fully cooked sausage crumbles (I used Jimmy Dean turkey)

Grease a two-quart baking dish and spread the hash browns on the bottom.  Whisk together the next five ingredients and pour over the potatoes.  Sprinkle on half the cheese, all of the sausage, and finally the remaining cheese.  Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Remove the foil and bake until a knife inserted in the center of the casserole comes out clean, about 10 minutes.  Let stand for about five minutes before serving (set out catsup and/or salsa for those who might want them).  Serves 6.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Personality Quizzes

From Buzzfeed

For some inexplicable reason, I can't resist taking online personality quizzes.  Even though most of them are not well designed and the results are often questionable, there is just something about selecting preferences from a list of items and then finding out what those preferences mean that appeals to me.  I thought I would provide links to several of these quizzes that I have taken lately, ranked by me in order of plausibility, so that you too can experience the thrill of having your personality analyzed (click on the highlighted quiz title to begin)!

From Food Network

1) What's Your Culinary Point of View? Quiz

The first episode of Food Network Star Season 11 aired this past Sunday, and as usual I am excited to watch.  The show has had its ups and downs over the years and my favorite contestant does not always win, but I still find the show entertaining, and often find myself really wanting to try some of the recipes.  A big thank you to Food Network for posting each episode's winning recipes this year.  I can't wait to try the Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Cream appetizer created by contestant Eddie Jackson, who is my current favorite at this early stage of the game.  Contestants are always being told to make sure they have a clear culinary point of view, which is the reason for the quiz posted on the Star Talk blog.  Although this quiz has a few problems common to quizzes of this sort (too few choices which are so specific that often none of the options apply), it was fun to take.  I even got my husband to answer the questions, and actually learned a few new things about him!

As for the results, the first time around the answer was a little off base ("New Southern Roots", which can't be right as I am not originally from the South).  I then took the quiz a second time, and I decided to choose answers based on a more generalized interpretation.  I think my second result was pretty accurate ("Big Flavors on a Budget"), although in my case it would be more appropriate to call the category "Big Flavors Using Locally Available Ingredients".

From Barkley Photography

2) What Kind of Pizza Are You? Quiz

This quiz was fun to take, if a bit silly.  I like the questions because they were often unexpected (I especially enjoyed the dinosaur question) and usually had an adequate number of answer choices covering a good range of options.  The only minor problem I had was answering the favorite chocolate question because the quiz is British and I am not very familiar with the Cadbury chocolate flavors listed.

As before, my first result was not very accurate ("Sizzling Mexican Chicken") as I am not at all flamboyant or much of a fireball.  However, when I took the quiz again I read the questions more closely and was a little more careful with my responses, so I found that once again my second result ("Veggie Supreme") was much more on the mark.

3) Which Door Would You Choose? Quiz

This very simple quiz only requires you to make one choice, and your personality is analyzed based on which one of eight doors you choose as your favorite.  My choice was door #1 (shown above), and I really do think the quiz makers got it right!  This door appeals to those who love authenticity, simplicity, and a life of quiet and solitude, preferring a homey environment and the company of family and close friends.  Out of curiosity, I checked out the description for my second choice, door #7.  I did not find this result especially accurate for me, but my interpretation of this open doorway was different.  I saw it as a clear and straight path, well lit and uncluttered, which is the way I would prefer my life journey to progress, and based on that interpretation this door also suits my personality.

From Palm Springs Real Estate

4) Do You Have Oscar-Worthy Style? Quiz

This was my favorite quiz of the four listed here.  I loved the fact that there were so many options for each question, and those options represented a good variety of home design styles.  Once you have made your selections, the results are analyzed and you are matched with a celebrity whose design aesthetic is compatible with yours.  My match was Meryl Streep, and it seems that we both love a modern look, clean lines, lots of windows, and purposeful colors (whatever that means!).  Just for laughs, I took the quiz again and chose the options that I liked the least.  My mismatch this second time was Reese Witherspoon, who apparently likes spacious rooms done in a luxurious shabby chic Spanish style.  That is very definitely not my preference!

So not my style!
(from ABC News)

If you happen to feel the urge to take just one more quiz, try the one on Buzzfeed (also linked to the photo at the top of the page) that will let you know why you want to take these quizzes in the first place.  My result?  "I just like taking quizzes, OK?" (and the comment about Solitaire was spot on!).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Crab Salad Plates

I really am obsessed with crab-themed home décor!  Last week it was the crab door mat, and this week I find myself drawn to these earthenware Crab Salad Plates from One King's Lane.  The colors are so perfect for a summery table, and the price is quite reasonable at $29 for a set of four.  The only drawback is that you must register with the site before you can make any purchases, which I am always reluctant to do, but these plates are so lovely I may just have to go ahead and sign up!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Spanish Pasta with Smoked Paprika and Manchego Cheese

I have been thinking about adding Spanish flavors to pasta for a while now, and this week I finally got around to trying it.  My recipe is loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver, although I wanted to add a few more ingredients to increase the Spanish influence.  Chorizo sausage would have been the logical choice for this recipe, but I did not have any on hand, so I used a chicken and apple sausage instead (if you use Spanish chorizo you may want to use the lesser amount of paprika as the sausage already has some added).  Similarly, roasted piquillo peppers would have been ideal, but I only had roasted red bell peppers.  I rinsed the olives several times to remove some of the brine, but feel free to rinse more or less depending on how salty you like your food (I also did not add salt to the pasta water).  The dish is definitely on the salty side because of the olives and the Manchego cheese, so do not add any extra salt.  This is a satisfyingly delicious and hearty meal, and I will be making it again!

Spanish Pasta with Smoked Paprika and Manchego Cheese

1-2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 oz. sausage link, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (5-6 oz.) sliced pimento-stuffed green Spanish olives
1-2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 C. chicken or vegetable stock
8 oz. bottled roasted peppers, diced
1 C. crumbled Manchego cheese
12 oz. farfalle, cooked and drained
1/2 C. Marcona almonds, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the sausage and cook 5 minutes longer.  Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Stir in the olives and the smoked paprika.  Spoon in the tomato paste and mix in the vegetable broth until the sauce is smooth and thickened.  Remove from the heat and add the roasted peppers.  Stir in the cheese and then the pasta.  Serve topped with chopped Marcona almonds.  Serves 4.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Jonny Quest Movie


After I finished last week's post I thought I was done with nostalgia for a while.  Then I checked the news headlines and found out that one of my favorite childhood cartoons was one step closer to becoming a live action feature film, so here we go back down memory lane!  "Jonny Quest" was considered a very innovative cartoon for its time, as it was one of the first to feature characters that looked like real people.  The action/adventure story lines were also quite different from the standard comedic cartoon episodes of the day.  The show debuted during prime time and was meant for an adult audience as well as children.

Production problems and lack of adequate funding led to the cancellation of this animated series after one season, but the episodes then began to air on Saturday mornings, when just about all baby boomers were watching television.  I think this is when I discovered the show, and I watched every episode.  I didn't just like this cartoon, I actually wanted to be Jonny Quest!  (Someday I will have to post a rant on the lack of strong female role models in film.)  That boy had the most exciting life, traveling all over the world, meeting all sorts of interesting people and visiting all kinds of exotic locales.

Jonny was always in the company of his father, famous government scientist Dr. Benton Quest, his father's government-assigned bodyguard, "Race" Bannon, his adopted brother from India, Hadji, and even his pet bulldog, Bandit.  There was never a dull moment as Jonny and his group thwarted evil wherever they went, usually using high-tech gadgets invented by his dad against similar gadgets invented by villains.  This futuristic aspect of the show gave it a fresh and innovative appearance, and even today it sometimes seems ahead of its time.  If you have about two hours to spare and are as big a fan of this cartoon series as I am, check out this three-part documentary on YouTube and you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about "Jonny Quest":

I certainly hope the live action movie version of this cartoon favorite of mine will faithfully recreate the feel of the show and not veer too far toward a kiddie-themed version.  "Jonny Quest" was meant to be more like an action/adventure comic strip than a comedy show, although a bit of levity was usually included to lighten the tone (bad guys actually died in this cartoon!).  The best aspect of the series was that it did not dumb down the content in an attempt to appeal to children, and it would be a shame if the movie did not make the same effort.  At least the film is now closer to production with the selection of Robert Rodriguez as director, as apparently this film has been in the works for quite a while.

It will be interesting to see who they choose to play the main characters.  One article mentions that at some point Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was committed to playing Race Bannon (awesome, but how would he look with white hair?), and Zac Ephron signed on for the role of Jonny Quest (definitely too old now).  Fan suggestions for casting include Gary Oldman as Dr. Benton Quest (yes, I can see that) and Angelina Jolie as recurring character Jezebel Jade (yes again, but oh that character name).  If any of these actors are chosen for the roles, filming had better get started soon, as they aren't getting any younger (happy 40th birthday, Angelina)!

I have to say that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of this movie, and I sure hope that I won't be disappointed!

And who will be chosen to play Bandit?
(from Vimeo)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: "Don't Be Crabby" Dirt at Bay Doormat

Last week I featured a vibrant outdoor rug with a lobster design, and this week I have the perfect complement for the rug -- the fun and colorful "Don't Be Crabby" Dirt at Bay Doormat from Wisteria!  Made from coconut husk fibers and eco-friendly dyes, this doormat is thick, durable, and easy to clean.  Best of all, it is on sale right now at 35% off for only $22.97, so now is the time to add this cute crab mat to your outdoor décor!