Monday, April 30, 2012

Roasted Chicken Breasts with Raspberry Mushroom Sauce

I love raspberry wine and combining it with chicken is delicious! Great for a romantic dinner. This recipe takes an hour, so save this recipe for a night you get home early, or save it for a weekend dinner. Light a candle, and enjoy the rest of the bottle of wine with dinner...

For this recipe you will need...
  • 2 bone in, skin on, chicken breasts
  • 6 button mushrooms + a few dried ones, if you have on hand
  • 1/2 cup of red raspberry wine, I've tried Tomasello and it's delicious
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry spreadable fruit spread, all fruit sweetened with fruit juice, I used Polaner
  • 1/4 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper your chicken breasts, and place in a small roasting pan. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter till just melted, add your red onion cook till soft, then add your mushrooms, (make sure they are dry). Cook your mushrooms until soft and then add your wine and jam, whisk until the jam is blended into the mixture. Bring it all to a boil, cook for a minute or two, and then add this raspberry and mushroom mixture to your pan of chicken breasts. Bake uncovered for 50 minutes, so the skin browns nicely. When the timer rings, carefully remove the chicken breasts and strain the liquid, setting aside the mushrooms and onions. In a separate pan, you can make your roux. (On next try making this, I'm going try thickening it with cream, and see how that comes out, keep you posted!)  Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and add your flour to it, cook until light brown. Add the reserved cooking liquid to the roux and bring to a boil, it will thicken and then you can add your mushrooms and onions. Heat through and top your chicken breasts with the sauce and freshly ground black pepper. A light side dish that went really well with this, is sauteed sliced seedless cucumbers and dill. Hope you enjoy! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheese Platter Yumminess

Let's say we went to a party together, and I was missing, the first place to look is where the cheese platter is sitting. I love cheese! The buttery cubes of goodness, combined with something sweet. There was a time, I hated cheese. Like the time in kindergarten when I was forced to eat my grilled cheese sandwich, before I went back to class. Tears streamed down my face. I laugh at the memory now, but that day made me a little unhappy. Many years later, the love affair with cheese started. And then whenever there was a holiday or special day, a cheese platter was made, this one was one of my favorites!

On the plate, going clockwise starting at the green apple slices, we have brie, cooked bacon pieces, smoked Gouda, peanut brittle, blue cheese, Jarlsberg, a little bit of  walnuts followed by the center of raw pistachios nuts and fig marmalade. All served with a big loaf of your favorite crusty bread and quick and easy homemade butter (April 16ths' post) There are so many possibilities of flavor combinations here...All creamy, sometimes salty and sweet...

  • apple slice + brie + bacon
  • bread + brie + pistachios + fig marmalade
  • Jarlsberg + bacon
  • bread + butter + fig marmalade
  • bacon + blue cheese + walnuts
  • apple slice + blue cheese + peanut brittle
  • bread + butter + smoked Gouda
  • apple slice + brie + pistachios

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mix & Match Silverware

When seeing those big arrows pointing "Garage Sale," I follow. Under trance, I am a puppet. The master being the big hand drawn arrow. I am hooked and I am there. And the more arrows to follow, the better. Especially on early Saturday mornings. There is nothing like an iced coffee in hand, on a warm day, scouting out the best goods, sun not quite as strong yet. Finding something almost too good to be true for a few bucks can put such a smile on my face. I can hardly contain myself, I do cartwheels in my head. My feet do a little happy dance. Heart palpitations follow. I think I'm being dramatic, but it's true. I'm in the zone, taking inventory of what I have, balancing it with what I need or really want. I've found some great things at garage sales and sometimes they are obvious finds. The cast iron candle holders, the lion trimmed brass planter, the vintage Singer sewing machine (that doesn't work) the rebounder (that I don't use) All immediate buys! But some of the less obvious, being forks, spoons and knives. Being drawn to the beauty of them, I started buying a few here, a few there and in their incompleteness, they are complete. Mixed and matched, making a beautiful set all on their own.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pan-Roasted Sea Salt with Rosemary & Dried Mushrooms

There are times that I just crave SALT! And this time, I really wanted to experiment with flavoring the salt. And thought that adding fresh rosemary, lemon zest and dried mushrooms would make it interesting. And it did, making it smoky and adding a depth to the salt. Here is a list of what you need...

  • 3/4 cup Mediterranean sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • zest of one lemon
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried mushrooms, I used what I had on hand, (champignon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • 5 cloves
  • a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes, or more depending how much you like

 I was super excited getting the ingredients and then I realized, I don't have a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. So almost in a barbarian style, I started crushing the salt with a wooden spoon, I really went at it!  I imagined being in Tuscany, sun beating down on me as I crushed my salt by hand, but my fantasy got interrupted as salt spilled to the floor, ruining my daydream. To your salt, you want to add your chopped rosemary, fresh ground pepper, the lemon zest, the crushed red pepper flakes and crush and mix away, (great for getting frustrations out.) I imagine using a spice grinder would work better though, lol. (Our kitchen is really small, so I just have the bare essentials) Give your coriander seeds and cloves a good wack, not to totally crush them, just to open them up, to release their flavors, add to your salt with the mushrooms. Pour your salt in a pan and on high heat, stir your salt and the smell of the rosemary and cloves will be amazing! I kept it on the heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, and when cool, remove your mushrooms and cloves. Chop the dried mushrooms fine, or use a spice grinder and add back to your salt. Taste it and see how you like it, adding accordingly. I ended up adding some more fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

Still crushing...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trashy Treasure

I went for a walk, one early Saturday morning, and saw this green jem in the trash. The excitement I felt so quickly, gave me heartburn. All the possibilities of this piece of furniture, came rushing to my head. I looked at it closely, it indeed, was in the trash, black garbage bags, some metal and broken chairs surrounded it. I fell in love with it immediately. I would arrange my living space, to fit it if I had to. Now to most people, I'm sure it didn't look very exciting. But I guarded it with my life, in my workout clothes, acting like a security guard, in a high-end jewelry store. Eyeballs going left and right, as quickly as they could, so no one would swipe my treasure under my watch. A call was made, the getaway car came quickly and my green gem was in the car to be taken inside to be deep cleaned and doted on. This was my first rush of finding treasures in the trash, the next was a beautifully distressed chest. Seeing a similar one at an antique shop for $900 a few days later, gave me a sense of satisfaction and rationalized my garbage picking activities. Two summers ago, I found two sun washed deck chairs, which will be a DIY project one day. As the saying goes, "One persons' trash is another persons' treasure". And the real treasure here is reclaiming something truly beautiful that would have ended up in a landfill. Re-using, re-purposing, green all the way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rustic Potato Dumplings Topped with Sauteed Leeks & Cream

Mmm...I love making this. Especially when it's chilly out, overcast and rainy, like it is today, and I'm craving something comforting. I love cutting into the dumpling, coming across the skin of the potato really gives it that rustic feel. This recipe is a little time consuming, but not as time consuming as making actual dough, because we are using won ton wrappers! It's a short cut that really works. Here is the list of what you need to make this comforting dish...

  • 4-5 medium size golden potatoes, skin left on, cut into small pieces
  • a package of wonton wrappers
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus a little more to saute your leeks in and the dumplings
  • 1 medium size shallot, minced
  • 3 oz. of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream, plus some to top your dumplings with
  • a leek, cut into about 4 inch strips, blanched

Boil your potatoes in salted water until soft. In a separate pan saute your shallot in butter on very low heat, you want them very soft, melting into your potato mixture. To your potato mixture add your sauteed shallot and melted butter, your cream cheese and heavy cream. Season with salt to taste. You want to roughly mash this, while incorporating all the creaminess of the cream cheese and heavy cream. Yummy. lol In a pot, boil water, a nice deep pot is good, because you are going to be throwing in your dumplings, and you don't want them to stick to the bottom of the pot. I usually have a little set up going, a large platter for the dumplings made, lined with wax paper, another platter for the cooked ones and empty plates to fill with potato dumplings to serve! A lot going on, but I promise it's worth it! You can start filling your dumplings, lay your won ton wrapper down and fill with about a teaspoon of potato mixture. (Any leftover potato mixture can be used as leftovers.) With your finger tips draw a square along  the edges of the won ton wrappers with water. This is so the edges stick and fold it over diagonally.

Drop one or two at a time into boiling water. They cook quickly, in a matter of minutes. The outside of the dumpling turns translucent and they rise to the top. Scoop them out using a drainer spoon. Keep going, forming them, dropping them in the water and scooping them out onto your platter, waiting to be sauteed in butter...Mmm...

In a separate pan heat up your butter till it's sizzling and saute your leeks till a little crispy. Put that in a separate bowl and your heavy cream in a creamer, so everyone can top their dumplings as they like. When everyone is ready to eat, just saute your dumplings in butter and serve. This serves about 4 people. Enjoy!

Paper Bags Make Great Gift Wrap!

Happy Earth Day! It's a day to celebrate the earth and do something good for her with hopes of doing more all year long. All week long I plan to post earth hugging ideas along with my regular posts. This idea was inspired by my cousin which would wrap gifts in newspaper comics, giving the newspaper a new purpose. Getting birthday gifts when I was a little girl, wrapped with Charlie Brown always put a smile on my face. I adopted the idea until the day I had a gift to wrap and there was no newspaper. This time, with no Peanuts gang, I eyed my paper bags that I usually have on hand and made my own wrapping paper. It's great because it can be personalized and if you have kids, they can help with the designing! Just tear the bag along the seam, cut out the bottom, and go to town! Polka dots are super easy, stencils are great also. I really like the paper crumpled up a bit and I love using jute twine as ribbon. The best part after the gift is opened the paper can be recycled and the jute twine can be re-used. It's a small step, but it's one step closer to making Mother Earth smile.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Chamomile Tea & Ginger Ale Cocktail

I love chamomile tea, and thought why not bring it into a feel good, mellow you out spirit? Dressing up the glass is half the fun and makes the drink festive. You could personalize the glasses for your guests, instead of drink labels, you could use different combinations of flowers & greens. Just cut your flowers to size, and wrap with jute twine, and tie a little bow. This one is dressed up just for me, hubby didn't want flowers tied to his glass. lol The list is short & sweet...

  • 4 bags of chamomile tea
  • 5 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • vanilla vodka
  • ginger ale
  • ice

Steep your tea bags in a tea pot. I steep them for a while, then remove your tea bags, add your honey and stir till it's dissolved. Let it cool. For each drink, I use 4oz. of tea, 2oz. of vanilla vodka and a 2oz. of ginger ale. Stir it up and pour it over the ice (you can also make a pitcher if having more people over) and it's time to party.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seared Scallops over Napa Cabbage & Quinoa Salad

Craving something healthy yet tasty, this salad ended up on the dinner table. There are so many flavors going on in this salad, but they all go together nicely. There is a basil pesto vinaigrette, the sweetness of carrots and snow peas intermingling with the napa cabbage and quinoa.'s what you need for this healthy, yet filling salad.

  • 1 head napa cabbage, medium size, chopped
  • a bunch of spinach, roughly chopped, about a packed cup
  • 1 sweet carrot, grated
  • a few snow peas, chopped for the garnish
  • 1 bunch of basil, about a packed cup
  • 1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup walnut oil, (olive oil is more than ok)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • about a cup & 1/2 of cooked black or red quinoa 
  • about 12 scallops, 3-4 per person

Begin by making your basil pesto. In a blender, combine the basil, walnut pieces & oil. This makes about a cup, (reserve 1/2 a cup for another use, it's great mixed with mayo & used on sandwiches) Into your 1/2 cup of remaining pesto whisk in the lemon juice, vinegar and honey and season with salt & pepper. Add your pesto vinaigrette to your cabbage, spinach & carrots and mix well. Now you can make your scallops. Searing scallops always intimidated me for some reason, lol I've come to find that it is not complicated as I once thought. In a non-stick pan heat up a tablespoon each of butter & canola oil. Once the pan is hot & sizzling, add your dry lightly salted scallops and I know it's tempting because they look so juicy, but don't touch them until you see them brown on the edges, about 2 minutes, you want them nice & crusty. Flip them and cook about another 2 minutes, and they are ready. And you are ready to assemble your salad, layering the napa cabbage mixture on your pretty plate, followed by the quinoa and then the scallops. Garnish with the chopped snow peas & enjoy! This salad makes about 3 servings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gnome Invasion

Ahh...springtime, more like summertime, it felt like yesterday with temperatures near 80 degrees. But the gentle breeze is back and the promise of new growth is here once again. I woke up super early today and got the leash ready and boy was Daisy happy! Returning from our walk, Daisys' tail wagging, we see we are not alone. The gnomes have come back! Warm weather is here to stay, and they have moved in. Gnomes have been known to bring good luck to your garden and home. And who doesn't need a little extra luck these days?  I love the folklore of them, running in between your flowers, watering where you missed and protecting your home with a watchful gnome eye. Do you need a little magic in your garden? Or a smile on your face? These cute little guys in red caps make it happen ;)

Close up of the red capped cuties

Monday, April 16, 2012

Homemade Butter

 Homemade butter is so easy to make! All you need is heavy cream and a hand held mixer. I chose to keep mine simple and unsalted. Besides "churning" butter (shaking it for a long time in baby food jars) in third grade and spreading it on saltines, (the best day EVER, that school year) this is a new first for me! I started out using a whisk lol, and tired myself out, asking my husband to help me, lol. He calmly brought out the hand held mixer, and I was in business. Butter was being made, quickly, deliciously, almost effortlessly, in front of my eyes. The recipe is simple, I used a small amount of heavy cream, about a 3/4 cup. And "churned" it, until it formed a thick cream. The thick cream turning into a separation of creamy colored butter and liquid, which I later learned was buttermilk. I lined a colander with a paper towel, and squeezed the buttermilk out. And turned the butter out onto wax paper, formed it, wrapped it up, labeled it and added a bow. Going to pasta night at a friends' house? It's a great little hostess gift! And who doesn't love fresh homemade butter on their bread?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Herb Salad with Goat Cheese & Pistachios

Parsley, dill, Belgian endive, goat cheese...pistachio nuts...What's not to love? Especially when combined in a salad?  And I think it's such a pretty salad too! The Belgium endive frames the plate, and the best part, you can use the leaves to scoop the salad up. Visions of hot summer days, sweet sticky barbecued chicken wings and this salad are dancing in my head. lol All fun finger food! Can't wait! But as of now, it's a chilly night and this salad is a nice break from all the indulgences lately! Here's the list of goodies...

  • 3 Belgian endives ( I used large ones)
  • 1 very small head of radicchio, chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped parsley (about one bunch)
  • 1 cup of chopped dill 
  • 1 small shallot finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fig marmalade
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese, or more...
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachio nuts, chopped fine

Trim the bottoms of the endive, remove the largest leaves and form them in a circle around a plate. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the endive, (chopped into small pieces) the radicchio, the parsley and the dill. In a separate bowl, combine the shallot, olive oil, juice of the lemon, red wine vinegar, honey, fig marmalade, salt and pepper. Pour the salad dressing over the herbs and lettuces and combine well. Take your salad and pile it in the center of the plate. Top with your goat cheese and chopped pistachio nuts and enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Birthday Manicure!

A girls' gotta have a little pampering, especially on her birthday! :) This year the birthday girl is gonna make it a little special and add some glitter! On all nails is Revlon's "Angelic no.141" It's iridescence is truly magical, and reminds me that wishes can come true! (Cheesy right? :) I can't wait to blow out the candles!) And on the ring fingers is "Wet & Wild's Fantasy Makers Confetti" (I found this around Halloween time last year, but a craft store will also have glitter.) Just sprinkle it right onto the wet nail polish and shake the excess off. (Put some paper underneath your nails, so you can pour the excess glitter back into the bottle.) Finish your nails off with a top coat. And now...where's my cupcake?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Split-Pea Soup with Celery Leaves favorite recipe to make the days following Easter is a nice split pea soup. I hope that everyone saved their ham drippings! It's a cold evening on the east coast and I can't wait to have a hot steamy bowl! Gather all your ingredients, so you can join me...


  • a ham bone, with about 3 cups of ham chopped or shredded
  • pan drippings from ham
  • 1 pound dried split peas
  • 2 celery stalks and a few smaller inner stalks with leaves diced, save some celery leaves for garnish
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 or more cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 cups water
  • half a leek, the lighter part, diced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour  

Bring the ham bone, split-peas, bay leaf and water to a boil, then simmer on low heat for half an hour. Skim off the foam as it cooks. Carefully remove the ham bone and let it cool. Add the chopped vegetables and ham and bring to a boil then simmer on low for an hour. Make the roux, which is super easy, it just sounds complicated. On low heat, melt the butter, you don't want the butter browning, then add the flour. Stir until there are no lumps and it browns lightly. Add the roux to your soup, bring to a boil, then drop the heat to low. At this point you can season your soup with the reserved pan drippings, adding a little at a time. You can add any meat that you can get off your ham bone and remove the bay leaf. Really take this last half an hour of cooking time to adjust the seasonings. In my opinion, the best pan drippings come from spiral cut hams with sweet glazes. I used, I almost hate to admit it, 8 tablespoons of pan drippings. It's worth all of the calorie overload! I only make this once a year, really. In my dreams more, lol. Then top with (my latest food obsession) celery leaves and enjoy!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reflect, Refresh & Renew

 I found this framed picture of Jesus at a garage sale for an amazing $4. The minute I picked it up, it reminded me of my younger days when I would go to church with my mom and spend most of the days leading up to Easter Sunday, in deep reflection. After so many years, it is almost a habit, that I take this time to reflect and renew. Spring is in the air, flowers are breaking through the dirt, making their transition to beauty. Is it a time for you to look deep inside and possibly reinvent, yourself also?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Savory Steel Cut Oats with Calamari in Tomato Sauce

I wanted something quick  for dinner one night and I found myself reaching for the steel cut oats tin??? And I know what you're thinking, "Oatmeal for dinner?" I thought the same thing, until the one night I found myself cooking it ...and adding salt and ground pepper (I've graduated to adding saffron threads, really yummy). And then I topped it with calamari in tomato sauce! And what happened that night was an oatmeal-for-dinner-lover was born! And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
  • 1 pound of calamari, however you like it, I use a mix of tubes (cut into rings) and tentacles. 
  • about a half a cup, or more of good marinara sauce, if I don't have any homemade on hand, I use Victoria's
  •  fresh garlic or garlic powder, ground pepper, fresh basil, if you have any on hand 
  • steel cut oats, (1 cup of water to 1/4 cup of oats will make a 1/2 cup cooked)
Use whatever you like to coat your pot, a little butter and olive oil is nice. Add your tomato sauce and spices, cover and bring it to a simmer. Add your calamari and cook until opaque. It doesn't take long, sometimes I cover the pot, to speed up the cooking process. Stir it a few times to make sure the heat is distributed evenly. I usually start cooking the steel cut oats, while I add the calamari, to the tomato sauce. When your oats are done, spoon them into a nice roomy bowl and top with your garlicy calamari in tomato sauce. Top with any additional freshly ground pepper or fresh basil. This can nicely serve 6 people.