Friday, August 28, 2015

On the Homefront: Simply Dalmatian Table

Dexter and Delilah Dalmatian cordially welcome you to the third annual Dalmatian Appreciation Day celebration!  This year the table is kept simple with a black and white color scheme and lots of spots.  On a sad note, the loss of our beloved Dalmatian Gia in January means that we are without Dalmatians at the moment, but our terrier mix Ruby and setter/hound(?) mix Maddie are honorary Dalmatians for the day, so join us as we honor our favorite purebred dog breed.  After all, on Dalmatian Appreciation Day, every dog is Dalmatian!

Dalmatian print table runner; black fabric place mat; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); Dalmatian salad plate (by Karen Donleavy); Dalmatian-spotted flatware (from Cow Depot, although they are clearly Dalmatian- rather than cow-spotted, in my opinion!); GR8 Dogs embroidered Dalmatian hand towel used as napkin (brought home by my husband this year from one of his many trips); clear water glass; black-stemmed wine glass (probably Luminarc Domino Noir, but bought so long ago I don't remember).

Karen Donleavy Dalmatian mugs used as candleholders.

A close-up of the Karen Donleavy plate and three ceramic Dalmatians
at the head of the table.

The white platter and black napkin will hold the dinner rolls,
and the mug with the Dalmatian face teabag slot holding a
white ceramic spreader will be used for butter.

A simple but elegant meal with black and white elements continues the celebratory theme.  Each course has some version of black and white (or at least a close facsimile).  Although I am not much of a drinker, there is even a Dalmatian Cocktail recipe if you are so inclined!  The salad is pretty straightforward.  Use any cooked chicken you prefer, but if you need an easy recipe, I have included one.  For the rolls, you can simply buy bake and serve or frozen dinner rolls, brush the tops with some beaten egg, and sprinkle on black and white sesame seeds before baking (if you cannot find black sesame seeds, just use poppy seeds).  If you would rather bake your own rolls from scratch, try this recipe.  The Black Velvet Pound Cake is based on a decadent recipe I found for Chocolate Fudge Pound Cake.  I chose to make it even more indulgent by adding chocolate chunks and topping it with a Cream Cheese Glaze garnished with coconut.  WARNING: This dessert is extremely rich, so serve the cake in very small wedges or beware the dietary consequences!

Simply Dalmatian Menu:

Dalmatian Cocktail*
Mixed Green Salad with Baked Chicken Breasts**/
Peppercorn Ranch Dressing
Pasta with White Beans and Black Olive Sauce†
Black and White Sesame Seed Dinner Rolls/Butter
Black Velvet Pound Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Glaze††

1 1/2 oz raspberry vodka
1 1/2 oz. white chocolate liqueur
1 oz. milk or light cream
chocolate chips
corn syrup
chocolate syrup

Pour a ring of chocolate syrup the same diameter as your martini glasses onto a dinner plate.  Dip the rims of the glasses in the syrup to coat, then freeze the glasses to set the syrup.  Pour some corn syrup onto a small plate and dip the bottoms of chocolate chips in the corn syrup.  Adhere to the insides of the glasses to create a spotted look.  Chill the glasses while mixing the vodka, liqueur, and milk in a martini shaker.  Pour the mixture carefully into the centers of the glasses and serve.  Serves 2.

**Baked Chicken Breasts (for the salad)

1/4 C. olive oil
1/3 C. white wine
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Whisk together the oil, wine, and salt.  Pour into a small baking pan (I used a 7x11-inch pan).  Add the chicken, turning to coat in the oil mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, basting with the oil mixture about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.  Serves 4.

Pasta with White Beans and Black Olive Sauce

7 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 C. pitted and chopped oil-cured black olives
4 small tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 can (15 oz.) white beans, rinsed and drained
2 T. minced fresh parsley
12 oz. whole wheat farfalle (or other short pasta)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened.  Stir in the tomatoes and olives.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and mix in the beans and parsley.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least several hours to let the flavors meld.  Cook the pasta, drain, and stir into the sauce.  Serves 4.

††Black Velvet Pound Cake

1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 C. vegetable oil
2 3/4 C. sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla
3 C. flour
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. milk*
2 C. dark chocolate chunks
Coconut Cream Cheese Glaze (below)

Thoroughly mix together the butter, oil, and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.  Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.  Add to the butter mixture one cup at a time, alternating with 1/2 C. milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (beat well after each addition).  Stir in the chocolate chunks.

Pour the batter into a bundt pan that has been greased (I like to save the butter wrappers for this) and dusted with cocoa powder.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Drizzle with the Coconut Cream Cheese Glaze and serve.  Serves 20.

*Since I did not have the Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder used in the original recipe, I decided to replace 3 T. of the milk with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup and make chocolate milk for this cake to add even more chocolate flavor (as if it even needed any more additions!).

Coconut Cream Cheese Glaze: Beat 4 oz. softened cream cheese until very creamy.  Beat in 1/2 C. confectioner's sugar.  Stir in 1/4 tsp. coconut extract and 2-3 T. milk (I prefer a thicker glaze so I used 2 T. milk).  Beat until smooth.  Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake and sprinkle with sweetened flaked coconut.

The candy on the table today is a big Dalmatian dog bowl full of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Nuggets (which of course no dog will be allowed to touch!).

Spot the Dalmatian can't wait to celebrate
Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

The honorary Dalmatians were not very willing to pose for the camera (they did not like the flash), but I did manage to get one sort of decent photo!  (They were much happier when allowed to lick bowls and pans used for the festive dinner preparations.)  I hope everyone, canine and human, has a wonderful time on this third annual Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

Foodie Fridays: Golden Raspberries and Black Mission Figs in Cream

This is not much of a recipe, but the combination of flavorful fruits is a rare summer indulgence only possible for a short time during this bountiful season.  I adore fresh figs, especially the black mission variety.  I am not as much of a raspberry fan, but the golden ones are a little less acidic, and complement the flavor of the figs nicely.  Add a bit of turbinado sugar and an embarrassing amount of cream, and a blissful summer dessert can be yours!

Golden Raspberries and Black Mission Figs in Cream

10 black mission figs, quartered
3 oz. golden raspberries (half of a 6-oz. container)
2 tsp. turbinado sugar
2-4 T. light cream*

Place the quartered figs in a large shallow bowl.  Scatter the raspberries on top.  Sprinkle on the sugar and gently pour the cream over.  Grab a spoon and indulge!  Serves 1-2.

*If you find yourself a bit leery about using so much cream, try using one of the nut-based milks instead.  I've seen almond, coconut, a coconut-almond blend, and even cashew, and I think any one would be a great choice.

(Realistically, this recipe should probably serve 2, but my husband dislikes figs, so I get the entire dish all to my unabashedly greedy self!)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: "Edward Scissorhands" Neighborhood, Then and Now

This month the Tim Burton movie "Edward Scissorhands" (1990) has been on television on a fairly regular basis.  I decided to watch it again, as it has been a while since I last saw this film, and I got to wondering about the fictional suburban neighborhood which is the backdrop for most of the scenes.  Much to my surprise, I discovered that the place was not a movie set, but an actual subdivision in Lutz, Florida.  At the time the movie was made, the subdivision was brand new, so there really was no mature landscaping.  The houses were painted four very specific pastel colors just for the movie, but other than some minor modifications the architecture of the homes was almost unchanged.

Even more interesting is the fact that the neighborhood still exists, and there are at least two sites with before and after photos!  The most recent post has some pretty amazing images:

What a difference 25 years makes!  It's hard to believe that there are so many stately trees now in a place where there were once no trees at all, but in Florida's mild climate I suppose a couple of decades is plenty of time for trees to mature.  Even more surprising is how little that house on the corner has changed, other than the paint color -- even the privacy fence looks original!

As in the first photo, little seems to have changed in this part of the neighborhood either, except for paint color and more landscaping (and the addition of a stop sign?).

The movie home of the Boggs family, who took the title character in to live with them, still looks very much the same as well (that is Dianne Wiest as Peg Boggs and Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands in the top photo).  I prefer the new paint color, but I think I would add some plantings to replace the shrubs seen along the front of the movie house so that it looks a little less bare.  I do like the little palm tree!

A post from three years earlier has even more before and after pictures.  Check out the back yard of the Boggs house compared to what the yard looks like now:

The little citrus tree is nice, but the family topiary created by Edward in the movie yard is so unique (Alan Arkin as Bill Boggs, Robert Oliveri as Kevin Boggs, and Johnny Depp in the top photo)!

In the movie this house belonged to Joyce, the neighborhood seductress, played by Kathy Baker.  The owners have done a great job with the house, in my opinion, and it looks very attractive.

Another location used in the movie is the Southgate Shopping Center in nearby Lakeland, Florida, which has a very retro 1950s appearance that does not seem to have changed much at all.

Take a look at both posts for even more photos of the "Edward Scissorhands" neighborhood, then and now.  And in case you were wondering, here are a few interior scenes from the movie (all of which were movie sets in California, by the way):

From the witch of the waste

Should you feel the urge to watch the movie, it will be shown on IFC one more time this month, on August 31st at 5:45 PM EST.  Have a wickedly wonderful day in the neighborhood!

Interesting facts: An extinct lobster-type creature with scissor-like claws was named Kootenichela deppi after Johnny Depp as his Edward Scissorhands character.  And Lutz, Florida, earned the strange nickname "Cactus Hat" after an unusual type of cactus called Cleistocactus, normally only found in the mountainous areas of South America, mysteriously began to grow abundantly in the town in 2003 (cue the creepy "Twilight Zone" music here!).


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Mikasa Autumn Nights Dinnerware

A couple of days ago I was checking out some of my favorite blogs and saw a post on Home Is Where the Boat Is entitled "Fall Is a Southerner's Reward for Surviving Summer", which is a quote credited to James Farmer.  Living in Georgia, I found this quote to be especially apt!  Several links to past autumn posts were featured, and one in particular caught my eye.  It showcased Autumn Nights Dinnerware by Mikasa, and I was instantly smitten.  In fact, I decided I just had to order a set!  I checked out the Mikasa website and was delighted to find that this dinnerware is one of their Deals of the Week, on sale for $79.99 (normally $119.99) for a 16-piece set.  Of course I placed my order, and look forward to setting a beautiful autumn table when the season finally arrives (I can't wait!).

Friday, August 21, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Med-Mex Salad Roll-Ups

This recipe is a mash-up of one that I found on a new favorite food blog (Two Peas and Their Pod) for Greek Tacos plus the ingredients in a fabulous Mediterranean Salad my husband and I enjoyed recently from a new restaurant in nearby Athens, Georgia, called Taziki's Mediterranean Café (eat there if you get the chance because the food is delicious!).  What I like about this dish is the fact that it combines two cuisines, Mediterranean and Mexican, both of which I love.  Even better, you can vary the ingredients should you wish to favor one type of cuisine more than the other, or add more ingredients if you want an even more complex flavor profile.

Both of the original dishes called for garbanzo beans, but I did not have any so I used a can of tricolor beans (black, kidney, and pinto) instead.  The Greek Tacos included diced cucumbers, but I did not have that either, and I do not like cucumbers, so I left them out.  Ditto for the tzatziki (or taziki) sauce, even though, perversely, I love it despite the fact that there are cucumbers in it.  I had queso fresco but no feta cheese, so that is what I used.  The pecans are from the Mediterranean Salad, although they are more of a Georgia specialty than a Mediterranean one.  If you can find good pita bread (preferably not the dried out kind from the grocery store), try using that as the wrap instead of tortillas.  In fact, feel free to make any of your own adjustments, because these roll-ups are sure to taste great no matter what you add, subtract, or substitute!

Med-Mex Salad Roll-Ups

1 can (15 oz.) beans, any type, rinsed and drained
1/4 C. diced roasted red bell peppers
2-3 T. Kalamata olive pieces
1 C. diced fresh tomatoes
1/4 C. diced red onion
juice of one lime
2-3 T. balsamic vinaigrette*
1/2 C. pecans
4 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas (or whatever you have)
salad greens (your preference)
1/2 C. crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
extra balsamic vinaigrette

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  Put the pecans in a dry pan and cook over medium-low heat until toasted (do not allow to burn!).  Taste the bean mixture for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if needed.

To assemble, warm a tortilla in the pan used for the pecans (or in the microwave).  Top with a small handful of salad greens.  Add a couple spoonfuls of the bean mixture.  Sprinkle on some pecans and cheese.  Drizzle over a little more salad dressing (or some of the liquid from the bean mixture).  Roll up and serve (careful, they will be messy when you pick them up!).  Serves 4.

*I always keep a bottle of Marzetti's Simply Dressed Light Balsamic Vinaigrette in the fridge because it is my favorite dressing at the moment, but feel free to make your own or use any dressing you prefer.  Or you can use tzatziki sauce instead, or use both!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Season 11 Food Network Star Winner

Congratulations to Eddie Jackson, the most recent winner of Food Network Star!  Not long ago I featured the recipe for Chipotle Shrimp with Avocado Cream that he made on the first episode in one of my Foodie Friday posts, and raved about how good it was.  As the series progressed, his cooking point of view evolved to one emphasizing southwestern and especially Caribbean flavors.  He used many newer cooking ideas, such as coconut oil and veggie ribbons "pasta", always keeping healthy eating in mind but also making sure that the food was interesting as well as satisfying.  I visit a lot of food blogs by young cooks who incorporate so many of these new approaches, and it would be refreshing to see someone on Food Network who could teach me how to become comfortable using these unfamiliar ingredients and techniques in my own kitchen in a healthy and nutritious way.

If only the network would actually allow him to cook rather than merely showcase the menus of various restaurants as the pilots of all three finalists did.  Unfortunately, I am afraid that we will not be seeing much cooking, as the first episode of his new show still has the title of "BBQ Blitz" (to air on Friday, October 9th, at 10:30 PM EST) just like his contest pilot.  I fervently hope the Food Network executives will see the light and allow the format of his show to change.  Come on guys, I still have an almost full can of chipotles in adobo sauce left over from his first recipe that I need to use up, and I'm counting on Eddie Jackson to help me do it!

(Good luck and best wishes to the two other finalists, Jay Ducote and Dom Tesoriero, who were also superb in this contest and deserve shows of their own as well!)

You can find the recipe for Eddie Jackson's Summer Veggie Pasta Scampi shown above as well as more winning recipes by him and other Season 11 Food Network Star contestants here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Fall Foliage Crewel Belt

My fascination with fall fashion continues this week with the Fall Foliage Crewel Belt ($69.95) from Coldwater Creek.  This wool belt from Peru has colorful leaves embroidered on an olive background.  I think it would look great with the Pendleton Tee-Shirt Dress I mentioned last week, or the Coldwater Creek Simply Charming Skimmer Dress ($59.95) which some reviewers suggested needed a bit of shaping.  Of course, it would also be nice with a comfortable pair of old jeans, and I already have those!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On the Homefront: Colorful Summer Fruits Table

A big bowl of summer fruits is the centerpiece, and the
tangerines replace candy on this table!

A set of four salad plates from Stein Mart a few years ago, each with a different fruit slice design, was the inspiration for this end of summer table.  Bright shades of red, orange, yellow, and green make this table eye-catching and cheerful.  Each place setting is different, both in terms of fruit plate and color palette, but the brown place mats help to ground the dazzling display of colors.

Dark brown wooden bead place mat from Target years ago; lime green dinner plate (one of four different colors, unmarked and bought from a catalog ages ago); watermelon design salad plate (Fruit Salad by Robin Pickens from Certified International); red-handled flatware; red napkin (one of four colors from various sets); orange water glass from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, CO, ages ago; lime green champagne flute for wine (one of six different colors, from a catalog years ago).

The other three place settings:

Nothing says late summer like a vivid arrangement of sunflowers!

Of course the menu had to reflect all of these summery fruits!  From a watermelon salad to the orange-flavored dessert, each of the four fruits represented on the salad plates was incorporated into the meal.

Colorful Summer Fruits Menu:

Garlic Lime Chicken*
Lemon Rice**
Sautéed Baby Greens and Mushrooms with Lemon***

*Garlic Lime Chicken Breasts

1/4 C. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 C. olive oil
1 T. minced garlic
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (which are actually halves)
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and garlic.  Place the chicken in a large shallow pan (I used a 9x13-inch baking pan) and pour the marinade over, turning the chicken to coat completely.  Marinate the chicken, covered and chilled, for at least two hours and up to one day, turning once or twice.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding leftover marinade, and space well apart, skin sides up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees in the upper third of the oven for 25-30 minutes until just cooked through.

Change the oven setting to broil and broil the chicken about two inches from the heat until the skin is crisp, about two minutes.  Serve with lime wedges.  Serves 4.

Note: If you prefer to grill, by all means grill this chicken instead, but you will not have the leftover pan juices to pour over the rice, which for me is the best part!

**Lemon Rice

1 C. water
1 C. chicken broth
juice and zest of one lemon
2 T. butter
1 C. uncooked long-grain rice
1 tsp. dried basil
(salt to taste if using unsalted broth)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Serves 4.

***Sautéed Baby Greens and Mushrooms with Lemon

2 T. olive oil
16 oz. sliced mushrooms
13-16 oz. baby greens*
juice of one lemon
1 T. butter
 salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms until soft, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the baby greens, a few handfuls at a time, adding more as the previous batch wilts down.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Toss the vegetables with the butter until the butter melts.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serves 4.

*I used the 13-oz. bag of New Star Cooking with Spinach Plus Baby Kale.

With a dessert like the one above, there was no need for candy on the table, especially as there was more watermelon plus sweet, juicy tangerines available for anyone preferring a lighter ending to the meal.

Such a radiant table just might require eye protection, and
Sunny the Dalmatian has come prepared!

The end of summer is bittersweet.  While I will not miss the incredibly hot and humid weather, the fading of this year's especially lush garden and the slow but steady decrease in daylight mean that another year is more than half over.  Although it has not been the best year for us, there were still some good times, and hopefully there will be more before we move on to 2016.  This table and accompanying menu are a tribute to the end of the season, and they are truly a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Foodie Fridays: Orange Dreamsicle Pie with Chocolate Crust

Years ago one of my favorite summer desserts was Edy's Swiss Orange Sherbet, which was simply orange sherbet with small dark chocolate bits added.  It was light, tangy, and refreshing, and the chocolate was the perfect complement to the sweet sherbet.  Unfortunately, this flavor no longer seems to be available (although it did show up on this website).  I suppose I could just buy plain orange sherbet and stir in some mini chocolate chips.  However, I recently found a recipe for an Orange Dreamsicle Pie that I decided could be enhanced by using a chocolate graham cracker crust instead of a plain one, so that the taste would be similar to the frozen dessert from my past.  The result is just as tasty as my late lamented sherbet flavor, and is the perfect finale to a summer meal.  This recipe is a variation on an old one for Cherry Cream Cheese Pie, and I can't wait to try lemon and lime versions as well!

Orange Dreamsicle Pie with Chocolate Crust

1 1/2 C. chocolate graham cracker crumbs (10 full sheets or rectangles)
6 T. butter, melted
1/3 C. sugar
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 C. orange juice
Orange food coloring*

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar and stir until well blended.  Dump the mixture into a 9- or 10-inch pie plate and press down with the bottom of a glass measuring cup to form the crust on the bottoms and up the sides of the plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Beat the cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Slowly beat in the sweetened condensed milk at low speed until well combined.  Stir in the orange juice and food coloring.  Spoon into the graham cracker crust and spread evenly.  Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until firm.  Serves 8.

*I used liquid food coloring (3 drops of red and 5 drops of yellow).  Feel free to omit the food coloring if you prefer a natural color to Day-Glo orange!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: Pendleton Fall Fashion Wardrobe

From Pendleton

Normally I am not very interested in fashion, but the new fall collection from Pendleton really appeals to me, with intriguing colors and a look that is comfortable and casual.  I decided to do something that I never do, which is put together my ideal selection for a fall fashion wardrobe.  I chose eleven apparel items from Pendleton that I feel would get me through the season in style (although it may strain my budget a bit!):

Clockwise from top left: Boyfriend Slim Jeans in Cool Blue; Washable Merino Classic Turtleneck in  Camel heather and Red Ochre Heather; Casey Stretch Cords in Camel; Non-Iron Fitted Bridgette ShirtBarn Blanket Skirt; Short Sleeve V-Neck Tee in Faded Indigo Heather and Red Ochre Heather; Zipster Vest in Faded Indigo Heather; Tee-Shirt Dress in Red; Center: Pinyon Jacquard Duster.

The necklace from Pendleton that I described in yesterday's post would accessorize these items nicely, as would some comfortable Shortie Slouch Boots in Cafe/Chocolate and the big, roomy Leather Melissa Satchel:

One-stop shopping from the Pendleton catalog and my autumn wardrobe would be complete.  In a perfect world, it really would be this easy!