Sunday, May 30, 2010

With Gratitude


Thank you


Memorial Day Revisited

I am joining Chari at Happy to Design for Sunday Favorites with one of my very early posts--before I learned to enlarge pictures. Still, it's one of my favorite tablescapes and originally posted for Tablescape Thursday. With Memorial Day on Monday I thought I'd indulge myself. Join Chari here for some classic reruns!

On Monday May 25th, our country will celebrate Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who have given their lives while in military service. Schools will be out, government offices will be closed, and thousands will fire up grills to celebrate the day with friends and family. I started looking in the cabinets and this tablescape almost made itself!

It seems I have a lot of red, white, and blue without even knowing it. When I found these William-Sonoma lookalike placemats at T.J. Maxx, that closed the deal! I started playing and this is what I ended up with!

For me flowers are an important part of any great tablescape. What could be any more American than daisies in a Mason jar? I'll tell you what--daisies from the 1/2 price container! And look-- Savannah Grace and William are back from their honeymoon and already at work. They're very patriotic birds. I've even lit the red and white candles. After all, it is a celebration!

We've all seen these versatile white Gibson dishes from Big Lots. I don't know how I ever lived without them. Now is a good time to share a little secret. You may already know, but if not, you're going to love it! Hobby Lobby has a section with kerchiefs and bandanas in tons of colors and different prints. The best part--they are all under a dollar! I buy these when I need a particlar color napkin or basket liner and don't want to splurge on expensive napkins .

The napkin rings are a Pier One find. I like the way they echo the pattern in the placemat. And that white- handled flatware--? I bought that for my daughter's first apartment so I know it was cheap. I've reclaimed it now that the bride to be has considerabley better flatware coming :).

Red, white, and blue is one theme that is very easy to carry into dessert. Cool Whip, blueberries, and strawberries in a parfait glass make a light and patriotic way to finish the meal.

I hope you and your family get to spend time together doing whatever makes you happy --whether you are visiting friends, taking a hike, or simply enjoying a day of rest. So fire up the grill, hang your flag, and don't forget to say thanks to a veteran!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

“Bee” Happy Cupcakes

If you came to the garden party yesterday, thank you! I had fun recreating the Pottery Barn catalogue cover. To show my appreciation, I want to serve dessert. After all, I want my guests to “bee” happy!


We’ve been invaded by bees…the friendly kind…more importantly, the edible kind. And yes, I am shameless once again. This is idea was taken directly from Woman’s Day Magazine. That’s what it’s for…right? :)


Last week I gave you a link to make homemade fondant. The store-bought kind tastes like rubber. This, on the other hand, is made from marshmallows, costs much less, and doesn’t require a trip to the craft or baking store. This was my first time to work with fondant. I was intimidated, but found it surprisingly easy!


I bought a few basic tools at Michael’s. The bands on the edge of the fondant roller help you roll the fondant to the correct thickness. Both the roller and the cutters were made by Wilton and were inexpensive.


Did you play with Play Doh when you were a kid? Yep, you’re qualified!


I made the fondant flowers the day before. They could actually be made several days in advance. I attached the smaller flowers to the larger ones with a drop of Karo syrup. These don’t get as hard as purchased fondant (that’s one of the reasons they taste better). From here, it was smooth sailing and time to make the bees!


You’ll need Tootsie rolls, yellow peanut M&Ms, and clear spice drop candies. I bought several small packs of M&Ms and felt obligated to eat the unneeded colors :). Just tear off a piece of Tootsie Roll and roll a thin string with the palms of your hands. Flatten the spice drop and cut into about a 1/2 inch circle I had to get creative here since I don’t own a 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Just look around the kitchen—I used the clip on a candy thermometer. Cut each circle in half. NOW-wrap the Tootsie Roll strings around the M&M. Attach the “wings” by pressing into the front band of the Tootsie Roll stripes. Make two little eyes with a brown food marker.


These cupcakes have so many possibilities:

For birthdays—It’s great to “bee”__________(fill in the age)

For baby showers-_______is going to “bee” a mom!

For bridal showers—Hoping you’ll “bee” happy!

As a thank you—Thank you for “beeing” a great____(teacher, friend, neighbor, hostess, etc.).

I used a lemon-honey cupcake recipe. They are just right for the theme, but you could use any recipe you like. I’ll be making this one again.

Lemon-Honey Cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Line about 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk first four ingredients together in medium bowl. Whisk sour cream, milk, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl until well mixed. Beat butter, honey, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy and light. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low speed, beat in 1/2 the flour mixture and then the sour cream mixture. Add the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Spoon 1/4 batter into muffin liners. Bake 18-20 minutes. Cool on wire rack completely before frosting.

Lemon-Honey Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

7-8 teaspoons lemon juice

A few drops of yellow food coloring

Beat butter, honey, and lemon zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer. On low speed, beat in the confectioners’ sugar until blended. Beat in lemon juice and a few drops of yellow food coloring until you have the desired color. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes.

I am joining Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Click on the FF button for transportation—I know you’ll “bee” amazed! Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend and remember to fly your flag in honor and memory of those who have served us in the military forces!

ps-Liz over at Hoosier Homemade told me about Cupcake Tuesday at her place--cupcake Heaven for me! You can find this delicious party here!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Garden Party

Some people might call it a form of plagiarism. A harsher person might even call it downright theft. I prefer to think of it as inspired imitation :).


My spring Pottery Barn catalogue arrived in the mail not too long ago. Sometimes I find my catalogues as good a source for ideas as magazines. The moment I saw the front cover, I knew I wanted to duplicate the tablescape. The crisp yellow , white, and green color scheme, the clean lines, and the organic elements appealed to me.


The star of the tablescape was easy to reproduce. I bought 49 cent clay pots at Michael’s and painted them with sunny yellow spray paint—one coat was enough. I had some wheat grass seed and in seven days I was growing grass!! I have lots of plans for these little pots. I think you’ll see them in future tablescapes. For the price, I think they are good investment and the style is limited only by the available spray paint colors and my imagination.


I wanted the centerpiece to echo the plan—the colors, the simplicity, and the organic elements. I used my favorite short and squatty square vase for a variety of monochromatic flowers. The flowers are low enough to allow easy conversation and the drooping tulips draw the color down to the table. I used limes instead of foam or pebbles to anchor them.


By now, we all know that the white Gibson china from Big Lots is a tablescaper’s best friend. I call it the “little black dress” of tablescaping---dress it up or dress it down. I’m thinking of buying another set with a different edge design to mix things up a little. The wine glasses are simple and inexpensive (probably from a sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond). I use them for everything from lemonade to ice water.


In keeping with the organic theme (and staying true to my southern roots) I used white cotton napkins. I found these in a variety of colors at Steinmart. I loved the simple detail, the ease of care, and the price.


I served ice cold water “spiked” with lime slices, but homemade lemonade or sangria would be perfect too.


I scattered lots of candles in a variety of shapes and heights all over the table. When the sun goes down they will provide a soft glow and the citronella will keep the critters away.


Now this is your place setting---come back tomorrow and I’ll be serving dessert. I’ve made some fun garden party cupcakes with the homemade fondant I told you about last week. I think you’ll “bee” happy if you do :)

I’m joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. Click on the TT button on the sidebar for immediate transportation and inspiration!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Falling in Love….With Cupcakes


During the planning of Sunshine’s wedding last year I fell in love too…with cupcakes. This is a picture from the photographer’s blog where she so graciously did a post about the wedding and reception held at the zoo. We served miniature cupcakes in the groom’s choice of flavors instead of groom’s cake. It was a resounding hit with the guests. I decided then and there that I wanted to explore the world of cupcakes when time allowed.


In March, Sunshine whose before-marriage culinary expertise was limited to pouring Raisin Bran, expressed interest in taking a cake decorating class. We found a cupcake and cake bite class that fit our schedule at the Viking Cooking School. Firstborn and I had previously taken a sushi class there, so I knew from experience that the classes are top notch.


There are sixteen Viking Cooking Schools scattered from Alaska to Mississippi home of the Viking Range Corporation. I love the variety of classes scheduled—camps for kids and teens, date night gourmet meals, and girls' night out menus. They offer both demonstration and hands-on classes. You can read more about them or find out if there is one near you here.


The kitchen is a cook’s dream, and, of course, filled with Viking appliances whose headquarters are in Greenwood, Mississippi. The instructor was personable, knowledgeable, and willing to answer any question.


The class was from 9:30-2:30 and, at lunch time, a fabulous salad was served at a table right in the kitchen. We met another mother/ daughter team from Nashville and Memphis. The daughter was a passionate cookie maker and told me about one of her favorite blogs the decorated cookie.


One interesting thing I learned in class is that most fondant tastes like rubber—pretty, but tasteless. Another drawback is that it can be hard to find and expensive. Meaghan Mountford the author of the decorated cookie had a recipe for homemade fondant that promised to be tasty, easy, and made with readily available ingredients. (It’s marshmallows!)


I had a question about adding gum paste to make the fondant stiffer to hold up for making flowers. I emailed Meaghan and quick as a flash she responded with the answer. You can find the recipe here. I made pink, green and blue!


The cooking class was a success! We had a great time, learned lots, and got to come home with some of our creations. In short, I’ve fallen in love with cupcakes! Come back next week for Foodie Friday and I’ll show you some special cupcakes I have since whipped up at home using the homemade fondant!

I am joining Michael Lee West our ever-gracious hostess for Foodie Friday. Click on her button on my sidebar and you’ll be transported to a world of good food and beautiful photographs! I am also linking to Lori at All That Splatters for her Saturday Blog Showcase here. Stop by and visit both places--you'll come away hungry!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Refeathering the Nest

I think we all have at least one chair that we love—the one that you go when you really need a rest—the one that has all the same lumps and curves that you do—the one that just fits like a glove.


Beloved sits on the left. I call it “the nest”. He gathers all his favorite things around him (including the remote )and he NESTS. Unfortunately even the best nests require refeathering from time to time. And these nests had seen better days :). With its library paneling, antique rug, and distressed leather sofa this room has gentlemen’s club feel to it. But it needed a change and I thought I knew exactly what I wanted------not so fast!


I thought I wanted this houndstooth print in tan and brown. I thought a masculine print would be perfect…and I could have had it….for a little under a $1000! X two plus an ottoman…..maybe not :). So I set out just to find the fabric instead of new chairs. I searched locally and on line. I finally found 12 yards; I needed 20. Time to broaden my horizons.


I love this heavy brushed velvet look and the detail on the back, but I thought I need a print since the sofa is a solid leather.


I loved this look and the shape of the chairs is very similar to mine. Maybe it’s time to add a feminine touch. But I thought about it.


Put a husband and two dogs in the picture and a light colored fabric like this wouldn’t have a chance….not for long. No matter how pretty it is, if it’s not functional, it won’t work.


I considered lots of fabrics—too light, too dark, too old-looking, too expensive, too fussy….etc., etc., etc. And then I saw a pillow.


It’s an inexpensive pillow from Steinmart, but I loved it. It reminded me of the beautiful crewel work my mother and grandmother did when I was a child. Crewel, a technique that is at least a thousand years old, is a decorative form of embroidery that uses wool and a variety of stictches to follow an outline on fabric. Maybe this doesn’t have to be a gentlemen’s club after all….maybe just a worn and loved library look….


Beloved even agreed to the print…..after all, it’s his nest. The fabric looks as if it as been hand embroidered and provided a much-needed feminine touch.


The color is a deep apricot and pulls out a color in the rug. It’s sturdy enough to withstand many more hours of nesting! The chairs have been replumped thanks to a wonderful upholsterer who has been doing work for me for twenty years. Best of all--- having the two chairs and ottoman reupholstered cost less than buying one new chair!!!


Cooper, the granddog, was here for the weekend….he approves!

I am joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Metamorphosis Monday and Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday. I hope you’ll visit both of these ladies! I know you’ll come away inspired! Thanks for dropping by—I hope you’ll say hello!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

All of the Pleasure; None of the Guilt

Ann over at Thibeault's Table has a fun party on Saturdays. It's a great way to make sure you haven't missed a good recipe and to get another slant on it. I'm joining for the first time. You can join The Saturday Blog Showcase here!

About four o’clock every day I have what my mother in law called a “sinking spell”—that’s spa-ull with two syllables :). When my children were young, it hit at the exact time I needed to be starting dinner, helping with homework, or putting on my chauffeur’s cap. Not a coffee drinker, I got in the habit of having a little hot tea or hot chocolate either with Oprah or in the car. And it is no secret to anyone that I love dessert. I still need that late afternoon pick-me-up---and that, as they say, is where the trouble began. happyhour-1

With a Starbucks on every corner and now even in Target (are they out to get me? ) I became quite attached to the caramel frappuccino—caffeine and dessert! But at 430 calories and around five dollars for a grande, the evidence began to pile up---in unattractive places :)


But “they” weren’t through with me yet. Then I discovered Sonic’s caramel/mocha/ hazelnut java chillers—even more decadent and I didn’t even have to get out of the car! And it so happens even more calories---about 540 for 14 ounces. I was just about to go back to hot tea with Splenda when I saw this recipe for Home Brew.


Christy over at Southern Plate posted a recipe last year and I’ve been making it ever since when the weather is warm—iced, delicious coffee that is inexpensive, low in calories, and easy. It is decadent pleasure with none of the guilt. I use a coffee bean grinder (which can be bought for under $15), but you could use ground coffee or grind the beans at the grocery store. The fresh beans have a little more ooomph! Those are coffee beans bought at Costco.


Put a cup of coffee grounds in a one quart container. Add water almost to the top leaving about an inch of space so you can shake it up. Let it sit about twelve hours or overnight. Using a strainer and a large coffee filter, pour the liquid and grounds in slowly to drip into another bowl. Pour slowly. You may have to change filters about half way.


You’ll be left with this concentrate that will store in the refrigerator for days---but it won’t last that long :)Now for the mixing: Mix equal parts of the concentrate and milk. I use 1/2-3/4 cup concentrate and the same amount of skim milk. I also use three (yes, three) packets of Splenda. You may want to experiment to find the right strength for you. Add ice, a squirt of Readi-Whip, and a straw.


My sweet reward for a day of hard work—about 45 calories for the skim milk and 20 calories for the topping--- dessert, caffeine and end of sinking spell :)I’m joining Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Our dear hostess always has something to offer that is as pretty as it is delicious. Click on her button on the sidebar for immediate transportation!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who’s Going Home?

Okay, I admit it. I’m hooked on American Idol. It’s the one show Beloved and I agree on. I was little underwhelmed by the solos tonight, but the duets (one in particular) gave me goose bumps—my scientific indicator of good music :).


So, who do you think is going home?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fiesta Delicioso

At our house we celebrated sies de Maya—I know a day late for cinco de Maya, but just as good! We had a full-blown Mexican feast!


We started out with a black bean and corn salad recipe from Yvonne at StoneGable. Yvonne’s recipe included red pepper. Beloved doesn’t eat bell peppers in any color so I substituted chopped green onions for a little zip. I served it in a tomato cup to add more vitamins and color. The leftovers were great on tortilla chips! You can find the recipe here.


The main course was hot tamale pie, a recipe I’d almost forgotten. It’s easy, delicious, and even better the next day. It makes a large amount and could easily be divided. I love recipes that make enough to eat one and freeze or share one.


Postre (dessert) was a classic Mexican flan! Save room for this caramel custard with a fabulous sauce or you’ll be sorry. I love this almost as much as its French cousin creme brulee’. This recipe is in the April/May Taste of Home magazine. It’s my go- to place for finding recipes for those “what can I make for dinner?” days! Qui aproveche’—Enjoy your meal!

Hot Tamale Pie

Cornmeal Crust—Combine 5 cups of cold water with 2 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tblsp chili powder. Stir well. Cook over medium heat until thickened (about 15 minutes). Add water if it becomes too thick. Line the bottom and sides of 9X13 greased casserole with 2/3 of the mixture. Reserve the rest.

While this is cooking, brown 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves crushed garlic. Drain. Add 1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes and 1 can cream style corn. Fill the cornmeal crust with the meat filling. Top with remaining cornmeal mixture and grated cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

Giant Flan

2 cups sugar, divided

3 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2 %)

6 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tblsp. vanilla extract

Cook one cup sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until melted without stirring—about 15 minutes. Reduce to low and simmer 5 more minutes until syrup is a golden brown, stirring occasionally. Pour into an ungreased 10” round cake pan tilting to coat the bottom of the dish. Let stand for 10 minutes. In a large saucepan, heat milk until bubbles form around the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl whisk eggs, salt, and remaining one cup sugar. Stir in one cup of the warm milk mixture to temper eggs. Stir in vanilla. Slowly pour into baking dish over syrup. Place cake pan in a larger baking pan. Add hot water to 3/4 inch. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes or until the center is just set. It will still jiggle. Remove to wire rack and cool for one hour. Chill overnight. To serve run a knife around edges to loosen and invert onto a rimmed serving dish. Add a dollop of whipped cream if desired!

I am joining Lisa at BlessedwithGrace for Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays. Join her for more great recipes here!