Sunday, January 29, 2017

On the Homefront: 2017 Year of the Rooster Table

Dalmatian Dixie Chick celebrated the Chinese New Year with her
favorite rooster pal!

The Chinese New Year started on January 28th this year.  Yesterday was the beginning of the Year of the Red Fire Rooster, so my table for the holiday had to feature this flamboyant fowl!  For a slightly different approach, I decided that my theme would be "Eastern New Year Meets Western Country", since chickens are so popular in country-style dΓ©cor, especially where I live in Georgia!  Red is also a pretty popular color choice for both styles, so there is an inordinate amount of red on my table (apparently it would be unlucky to wear red, however, and you should instead choose complementary colors like brown and yellow for apparel).  Fire, which of course is important to everyone at this time of year in particular, is represented by a scattering of candles in the tablescape.  Now if only such harmonious co-mingling could occur in the real world as well as it does on my dining room table!

Bodrum red fabric Tuscany Rooster Placemat (bought years ago); BHG Amity Dinner Plate in Ivory (from Walmart last year); Certified International Vintage Rooster CanapΓ© Plate (from Amazon); red napkin; Cuisinart French Rooster Flatware (from Amazon); clear water glass (bought so long ago I have no idea where they are from or who made them); Home Essentials Tuscana Red Stemless Wine Glass (from Marshall's last year).

The other three appetizer plate designs:

A closer look at the rooster flatware handles (and rooster place mat).

Tea is waiting to be served at the head of the table (your choice of
black or green).

I do not own any rooster dΓ©cor, but I do have a bright red ceramic hen,
so here she is as the centerpiece (after all, we know who is really in charge
for any species, right?).  Instead of eggs, she is surrounded by orange
tangerines, which symbolize good luck and wealth.

My version of a traditional tray of togetherness to offer to guests.

My tray of togetherness includes coconut chips (togetherness), peanuts (longevity), dates (sweetness in the New Year), candied ginger (good health), pumpkin seeds (fertility), candied pineapple (prosperity), macadamia nuts, and Brazil nuts (the latter two simply because I had them and did not have time to find more traditional offerings!).  The tray is surrounded by ingot-shaped, gold-wrapped chocolates to represent wealth and prosperity.

Naturally my menu had to feature poultry-based foods!  Chinese takeout from our nearby local restaurant consisting of chicken and egg dishes comprise the meal, and I even attempted to make Chinese egg tarts (dan tat), a popular dessert selection in dim sum restaurants.  My custard filling did not set the way it should have, possibly because I used cashew milk instead of regular milk, but the low-carb almond crust was perfect and the end result was still tasty (I have included the recipe if you would like to try your luck at making them).

2017 Year of the Rooster Menu:

Egg Rolls
Egg Drop Soup
Chicken with Broccoli
Chicken Lo Mein
Chinese Egg Tarts*
Hot Tea

*Chinese Egg Tarts

1 C. almond flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 T. sugar
1 T. cold butter
1 egg, beaten (reserve half)

1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
1/4 C. milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Thoroughly blend together the first three crust ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the butter and half of the beaten egg.  Cut into the dry ingredients until the butter is incorporated and the dough holds together (these steps can be done in a food processor).  Press the dough into the bottoms and up the sides of four muffin pan cups (you can use a tart tamper, but I could not find mine and used the bottom of a spice jar instead).  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Loosen the tart shells in the cups but leave in place.

Combine the sugar and water for the filling in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then cool to room temperature.  Combine the remaining egg from the crust ingredients with the egg for the filling.  Strain through a fine sieve into the cooled sugar water.  Stir in the milk and vanilla.  Strain again and fill the tart shells almost to the top (I had a lot of extra filling).

Bake the tarts at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes (watch for puffing of the filling as this may mean that the oven is too hot).  Open the oven door slightly and bake 5 minutes longer, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the custard comes out clean.  Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, and serve.  Serves 4.

Notes: In the original recipe, the crust recipe is supposed to make six tarts, but I found that the shells were too shallow, and should probably have only made four.  Also, the crust tends to puff up when baking with the filling inside, so it may be a good idea to prick them with a fork before filling (although this may cause the filling to leak through the bottom a bit).  Straining the filling mixture through a sieve helps to prevent bubbles and puffing of the filling while baking.  I did halve the original recipe, so it is easily doubled (use one egg for the crust and three for the filling).


From Stock News USA

Here's hoping the Year of the Red Fire Rooster will be a good one!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Casual and Comfortable Winter 4x4 Wardrobe

I decided to put together another winter wardrobe this week, as we are experiencing a cooler spell of weather here at the moment.  This 4x4 wardrobe was inspired by the casual striped cardigan shown above from the Serrv website, which would pair perfectly with dark blue jeans.  I also wanted to include several tops in cheerful complementary colors from the Fair Indigo website.  While navy is not really my color, even I would happily wear this collection of clothing.

Let's start with the first set of four in navy blue:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Heathered Cotton/Modal Print Henley in Classic Navy Heather; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Cotton/Alpaca Sweater Jacket in Midnight Navy; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Cotton/Alpaca Relaxed Turtleneck Sweater in Midnight Navy; Patagonia Women's Regular Fit Straight Jeans in Dark Denim.

A bright berry color is featured in the second set of four:

Clockwise from top left: Fair Indigo Organic Fair Trade Long Sleeve Scoop Neck Tee in Boysenberry; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Cotton/Alpaca Relaxed Turtleneck Sweater in Soft Berry; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Organic Full Skirt in Boysenberry; Coldwater Creek The Creek Straight-Leg Jeans in Wine.

Next up is a set of four comprised of muted golden yellow apparel:

Clockwise from top left: Fair Indigo Fair Trade Cotton/Alpaca Relaxed Turtleneck Sweater in Gold; Banana Republic Forever Crew-Neck Cardigan in Gold Orchid; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Organic Mock Neck in Honey; Coldwater Creek The Creek Straight-Leg Jeans in Honey.

The final set of four adds two more navy pieces, plus the striped sweater and a print skirt:

Clockwise from top left: Serrv Jewel Stripe Cardigan; Fair Indigo Fair Trade Cotton/Alpaca Crew Neck Sweater in Midnight Navy; Fair Indigo Venetian Blue Jacquard Skirt (temporarily out of stock); L.L. Bean Women's Slim Perfect Fit Pants in Classic Navy.

And here is the complete 4x4 wardrobe:


Next week I will add accessories to this colorful, casual, and comfortable winter wardrobe!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Flour Bread

I have been looking for recipes that will help me lower carbohydrates in my diet, and recently baked a quick bread with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour.  I found a recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Bread by Camilla Saulsbury, author of The Chickpea Flour Cookbook (2015), and had to give it a try, as I had just made my first ever batch of homemade pumpkin purΓ©e from two small pumpkins I bought for the fall holidays.  The only change I made to the recipe was to reduce the amount of sugar, as I am attempting to keep sugar consumption to a bare minimum (it was not easy giving up the honey in my morning tea, let me tell you, but I've finally succeeded, and only miss it occasionally).

While my husband did not especially care for it, I actually enjoyed this bread, and it was perfect for breakfast.  Next time I will not put so many pumpkin seeds on the top, as they made it harder to slice the bread.  I also learned the hard way that it is best to refrigerate this bread first before slicing to keep it from crumbling (the texture is similar to that of cornbread).  I am ready to make more foods with chickpea flour now, and I purchased Saulsbury's book to try more of her recipes (Chickpea Beer Bread is next!).

Spiced Pumpkin Chickpea Flour Bread

1 1/2 C. chickpea flour
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 C. pumpkin purΓ©e
2 T. sugar
1 T. molasses
1/2 C. coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/3 C. raw pumpkin seeds

In a large bowl, stir together the first five ingredients.  In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except for the pumpkin seeds.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended.

Line a 5x9-inch loaf pan with two pieces of foil, leaving a two-inch overhang on all four sides.  Spray the foil with cooking spray and spread the batter evenly in the pan. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds evenly over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Holding the foil overhang, remove the bread from the pan and place on the wire rack to cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate until firm before slicing.  Makes one loaf.

Notes: I put too many pumpkin seeds on the top of the bread, which interfered with slicing, and  found that it sliced better if I turned the loaf upside down!  I also added some pumpkin seeds to the batter before baking, but you can leave them out.  The original recipe calls for 3/4 C. sugar and no molasses, so use the amount and type of sweetener you prefer.  Also, vegetable oil or butter (melted and cooled) can be used instead of coconut oil.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Amazing New Mexico Home For Sale

I recently found a listing for the most amazing-looking home located in New Mexico.  Just take a look at the photo above!  Built to resemble the limestone rock formations which surround it, the home blends into its location beautifully.  With an open concept interior, subtly landscaped grounds, and stunning views, this home would be a dream come true for someone who enjoys daring to be different!  Here are a few more images of this stunning abode:

If this house intrigues you, take a look at even more images here.  There is also a video of this home on YouTube:

If we were a younger couple, this house would be at the top of my dream home list.  Oh well, at least I get the chance to see these photos and imagine what it would be like to live in this offbeat and fascinating place!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Petite Puppy Plates from Olive & Cocoa

Aren't these Petite Puppy Plates ($99 for a set of four) from Olive & Cocoa absolutely adorable?  The square white porcelain appetizer plates come in two whimsical doggie designs on a newsprint background, featuring either a Dalmatian or a dachshund.  While the price is a bit steep for me, I will be watching to see if these wonderfully unique plates ever go on sale, so I can snatch them up quickly!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Winter-to-Spring Transition 4x4 Wardrobe Accessories

It is time to add accessories to the winter-to-spring transition 4x4 wardrobe described in last week's post.  I went a bit overboard with the accessories for this collection for some reason, possibly because the color options were so unique and I had fun hunting down appropriate complimentary items!  Let's start with jewelry today, since I found a number of pieces that I loved:

Clockwise from top left: Novica 'Simple Essentials' Sese Wood Beaded Waterfall Necklace;  Novica 'Forest Lagoon' Beaded Necklace; Salmon Coral Necklace; Novica 'Annula in Beige' Leather Cuff Bracelet; Turquoise Nuggets & Puka Shells Necklace; Fossil Women's Jacqueline Small Gold-Tone Stainless Steel Watch; Speero & Eden Salmon Bamboo Coral Heather Bracelet.

Next up is handbags and scarves, the latter adding some fun pattern as well as color:

Clockwise from top left: Nina Bossi Judy in the Sky Crossbody Bag in Denim; Hermès Le Bal des Oiseaux Silk Twill Scarf; Steve Madden Bfarlee Tote Bag in Taupe; Liberty London Silk Chiffon Scarf in Dark Green; Day & Mood 'Hannah' Leather Satchel in Burned Red; Paisley Pashmina Shawl in Dark Green/Tan.

A wardrobe will go nowhere without shoes, so they are up next:

Clockwise from top left: Brooks Brothers Kid Suede Patent Ballet Flats in Coral; Bass Women's Libby Loafers in Sand; Vans Authentic Lo Pro Sneakers in Aqua Sea/True White; Journee Collection Sun Women's Ankle Booties in Taupe; Center: Cole Haan Pinch Grand Tassel Suede Loafers in Dark Spruce.

And last but not least, here is the outerwear, so crucial to a winter-to-spring transition time of year:

Clockwise from top left; L.L. Bean Long Ultrawarm Coat in Spruce; L.L. Bean Classic Lambswool Duffel Coat in Camel; Coldwater Creek Vest for All Seasons in Winter Coral; Coldwater Creek Double-Faced Fleece Coat in Camel; Center: L.L. Bean Around-Town Raincoat in Mint Blue.


This uniquely colorful wardrobe and accessories collection would brighten any day, even in the depths of winter!  Next week I may explore even more springlike apparel, or maybe I will retreat back into winter mode - it will probably depend on what our weather is like in the coming days!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Foodie Fridays: 30-Minute Asian Chicken Soup

I am obsessed with soups at the moment.  This week I made the 30 Minute Asian Chicken Soup from the How Sweet It Is blog, and it is just delicious!  I changed the recipe only slightly, like substituting canola oil for the butter and olive oil because to me the latter combination is not very Asian.  I also added ginger, left out the onion and increased the scallions, added soy sauce, and stirred sesame oil and seeds into the soup at the end, all for more Asian flavor.

My new favorite way to cook chicken is in the slow cooker.  I just put about two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the slow cooker, add one cup of liquid, and cook on HIGH for 3 hours.  The chicken is so tender it shreds easily and can be used in any recipe calling for cooked chicken.  I happened to have some leftover sauce from Chinese takeout that I used as the liquid, but chicken broth or stock works just as well (season to taste with salt, pepper, and any other preferences).  I had more than two cups of chicken, so I mixed the rest with some catsup and a little mango chutney that I am trying to use up, warmed it in the microwave, and served it on sesame buns as shredded chicken sandwiches (serve them with the soup or on their own).  I love it when I can get two recipes with little more effort than it takes to make one!

I've been noticing that a lot of people are feeling under the weather lately (whether they are sick or not!), and this comforting soup is sure to make anyone feel better.  The next time you are craving chicken soup, you may want to try this recipe for a change!

30 Minute Asian Chicken Soup

1 T. canola oil
1 C. diced carrots
1 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tsp. minced ginger
8-12 oz. mushrooms, sliced
3 T. soy sauce
6 C. chicken stock (I used unsalted)
3 baby bok choys, sliced
2 C. cooked shredded chicken
1 small bunch (6-8) scallions, sliced
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 T. toasted sesame seeds

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the oil.  Stir in the carrot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until the mushrooms just soften, about 3 more minutes.  Add the soy sauce and stock and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and bok choy.  Simmer for 10 more minutes.  Toss in the scallions and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the sesame oil and seeds and serve.  Serves 6.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Forks Over Knives Magazine Debut Issue

I am on a continual quest to eat healthier meals.  Last week a local supermarket was selling copies of a debut magazine called Forks Over Knives (you can find a digital issue here).  I glanced through one while waiting in line, and found the recipes interesting enough to purchase the copy.  I vaguely remembered having heard about Forks Over Knives before, but was not really familiar with the concept, so I checked it out online when I got home.

It turns out that Forks Over Knives is similar in philosophy to The Blue Zones project in that it advocates a plant-based diet.  However, it promotes a completely vegan lifestyle, and eschews all processed foods, even excluding plant-based oils!  While I find this sort of diet to be a bit too extreme for my tastes, there are still a number of recipes in the magazine that I want to try.  Right now I am focused on soups, and have already selected several from the issue that I plan to make.  If recipes in future issues are as good as those in the premiere copy, then I may just have to subscribe to this magazine!

Indian Curry Lentils is just one of the many recipes in the magazine.

There is even a feature film called "Forks Over Knives" (2013) which can be purchased or viewed at various sites.  You can watch a short synopsis of the film on YouTube:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: More Intriguing Items from Isabella

Last week's post described an item from the Isabella website, and this week I thought I would share a few more interesting finds from the same site:

If you are a jigsaw puzzle fanatic as well as someone who loves home design magazines, then the Swan Cottage Puzzle ($18.95) might be for you!  This reasonably priced 1,000-piece puzzle features a replica of the October 1917 House & Garden magazine cover depicting a charming cottage with swans flying overhead.  The cover artwork was painted by American illustrator Charles Livingston Bull.

Another selection for the lover of house and home is the Home Is Where the Heart Is Tea Light Holder ($15.95).  This inexpensive metal structure of four houses with window and heart-shaped cutouts will hold four tea lights, and is perfect for Valentine's Day!

I love the colors of this Jewel Toned Glass Bead Necklace ($18.95), and the price is so reasonable!  The 44-inch necklace is long enough to wear as single or double strands, and it even comes with its own tin storage box.

Christmas items are still available, and the sturdy ceramic Christmas Morning Coffee Cake Dish ($39.95) could easily become an annual tradition at your holiday brunch.  The coffee cake recipe is printed on the bottom of the serving dish, which is decorated with a rim of holly leaves and berries.  No need to worry about trying to find the recipe at the last minute, or splattering your recipe card (you can find the recipe at the link as well).

These are just a few of the unique items at Isabella, so check out the site to discover more.  You may just find the ideal gift for a loved one, or even yourself!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Winter-to-Spring Transition 4x4 Wardrobe Inspired by a Henry Farrer Watercolor Painting

From Invaluable

One of the many things I love about The Vivienne Files fashion blog is the fact that, in addition to being introduced to new wardrobe ideas, we also learn about artists with whom we may not be familiar, as art is often the inspiration for the wardrobe collections.  A recent post used a painting by English-born American artist Henry Farrer as the starting point, and this work was so lovely I just had to find out more about him.  Most of his later works were painted in the tonalist style, which I find rather dreary, but some of his watercolors feature a style and colors that appeal to me.  One such work is shown above.  I find the color choices intriguing, and the homestead depicted is one I wouldn't mind living in!  I decided to use some of these fascinating colors from the trees, house, grass, and chimney in the painting as inspiration for a winter-to-spring transition 4x4 wardrobe:

The first set of four focuses on that interesting spruce green color from the trees:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Pima Cotton Turtleneck in Deep Teal; Land's End Women's Relaxed Supima V-Neck T-Shirt in Deep Pine; L.L. Bean Stitchworks Cardigan in Spruce; Patagonia Women's Fitted Corduroy Pants in Arbor Green.

The color of the farmhouse, a nice basic tan, was selected for the second set of four (unfortunately the tops are no longer available in the oatmeal heather color, but the cream color is available and would be a good substitute):

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Three-Quarter-Sleeve V-Neck Tee in Oatmeal Heather (color no longer available); L.L. Bean Women's Interlock Turtleneck in Oatmeal Heather; (color no longer available); Coldwater Creek Pinwale Stretch Corduroys in Sand; L.L. Bean Women's Twill Easy-Stretch Pants in Khaki.

One of the main colors in the painting is the unusual aqua green hue of the grass in the foreground, which is the choice for the third set of four (I now own that teal green heather fleece vest and love it!):

Clockwise from top left: Coldwater Creek Vintage Floral Print Easy Care Shirt in Teal; L.L. Bean Trail Model Fleece Vest in Teal Green Heather; Fruugo Animal Lilly Sui Women's Jumper in Dusty Aqua; Coldwater Creek Washed CottonLuxe Straight-Leg Pants in Dusty Aqua.

For the last set of four, I chose a clay color which is not prominent in the painting, but shows up in the chimney of the house:

Clockwise from top left: West of 5th Joie Trip Dolman Sleeve Sweater in Heather Pale Clay; Coldwater Creek Essential Supima Boatneck Tee in Papaya; Coldwater Creek Classic Cardigan in Papaya; Coldwater Creek Essential Supima Crewneck Tee in Papaya.

And here is the complete 4x4 wardrobe incorporating all of the apparel pieces:


Next week I will add accessories to this winter-to-spring transition 4x4 wardrobe, and with its offbeat set of colors as inspiration who knows what I will find!