Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cod Collage: Roasted Vegetables and Fish could be Art

"Seriously, you could print that and hang it as art in your kitchen!" - my mom

My mom was very enthusiastic about my dinner Monday night. I am out in Seattle right now and I have a little more time to grocery shop and cook. I was skimming Pinterest recently and saw a image of roasted vegetables and fish. I looked at the recipe and it looked so easy, I had to try it.  Voila. By far the easiest dinner I have made in a long time.

There is no recipe, really. Just a few guidelines:

I bought 2 pieces of frozen cod (individually shrink wrapped within a bag in the freezer section) and defrosted them in the fridge all day.

The oven temp is 425 degrees

I put a little olive oil in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and added big pieces of red, yellow and orange peppers, zucchini halved lengthwise and crosswise, slices of red onion, cherry tomatoes and black olives

I closed the bag and rubbed the contents around to coat the vegetables. I poured the vegetables onto a foil lined cookie sheetI zested some lemon over everything and put the leftover lemon in wedges on the tray. I cranked a little "Grind to a Salt" spice blend over everything and put it in the oven to roast for about 20 minutes.

I took the cookies sheet out of the oven, placed the pieces of fish on top of the vegetables, cranked "Grind to a Salt" spice blend on top of the fish and sprinkled oregano over everything and put it back in the oven for about 20 minutes

It was delicious! Light, fresh, healthy, picture-worthy. Can you resist giving it a try? I couldn't.

Do I regularly cook fish and therefore have secret "fish is done" knowledge? No
Did this recipe make the apartment smell like fish? No
Will I make this again? You betcha

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

High Tea: An Afternoon of Delight

My friend Kathleen loves absolutely everything about tea and tea parties. I've mentioned her growing scone business, Flour, Sugar Salt and am lucky to be on the advisory board of women she relies on for feedback when she is testing new recipes. 

Kathleen loves hosting tea parties for her friends and she goes to great lengths to offer a full English high tea. Last week, she invited five of us to an afternoon of tea and conversation.  We ate ourselves silly and relished the chance to really talk. 

There is storytelling that invariably happens when someone hands you a cup of tea. The topic turns to grandmothers, tradition, memories. I think that is how you really learn about someone; Listen to them talk about their grandmother. Kathleen's maternal grandmother was Scottish and her ritual of tea and treats made an indelible impression on Kathleen. 
Our first course was Kathleen's homemade tea sandwiches: Tarragon chicken salad in a lettuce wrap, Dilled cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, Curried egg salad in phyllo cups and Sun dried tomato lavosh. Yum and yum. I was feeling a little rattled that day (I had only 6 days in Michigan between my trips to Palm Beach Gardens and Seattle), so I was happy to drink cups of hot Citrus Chamomile tea and let my blood pressure come back into range.
Our second course was Kathleen's famous Lemon Cherry and Cranberry scones served with homemade lemon curd and whipped cream. Her scones are perfect: tender, flavorful and just the right size for tea. Don't tell anyone, but I ate three.
Could we find room for dessert? Oh, we managed. That is the beauty of high tea - no rushing allowed. And with time comes room for more sweets. The dessert tray was loaded with chocolate-dipped brownies, almond madeleines, biscotti and lavender shortbread. 

It was a perfect afternoon. We all had a chance to catch each other up on our lives and let our conversation wander into hobbies and trends. I have a feeling that Kathleen may branch out into hosting tea parties professionally. She certainly has the passion and skill set to wow any tea lover. Everything Kathleen serves is always spot on.

Have you been to a tea party lately? Or visited a new tea room? I am drawn to them, of course and what I love most is the time commitment it requires. You are not meeting for a cup of coffee, when you go out for tea. A longer time frame is understood and that is a beautiful thing.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Seattle: Pike Place Market: A Floral Corridor to Make You Swoon

Yes, it was pretty much the best day ever. I was back in Seattle with Dan and we had a Saturday all to ourselves.  Since flowers are my oxygen, we planned our day around a stop at Pike Place Market on the waterfront in Seattle.

I bought the bouquet above because I couldn't resist one last chance at pink tulips. The season was early here this year and I know that they are almost gone. Plus the bouquet had white lilacs and real pussy willow branches. I was holding the best of Spring in my arms.
The second bouquet I chose looked so completely French and fabulous that I couldn't resist it. Enormous orange/green parrot tulips (the size of water goblets!) and white/green parrot tulips with fresh greens and white/peach daffodils. This bouquet belongs in the finest French restaurant. Dramatic, yet believable, this arrangement had to come home with me.

There were bulk tulips for sale - typically $1 per stem
There were bouquets dedicated to every shade of purple... 
Some bouquets looked like bridal arrangements in pink and peach...
I just learned that Mother's Day Weekend is the Pike Place Market Flower Festival.  How could they possibly have more flowers than this? I can't wait to see. I'll be your eyes and ears and report back.

Mother Nature was showing off. Cameras rule along this floral corridor and it was fun to overhear the comments. My favorite was when a young woman exclaimed, " that a tulip?" pointing to a cluster of double tulips (aka peony tulips). The vendor and I said "Yes!" in unison.
When I am in a place like this I really have to use willpower. Not to resist buying too many flowers. No, I need willpower to keep myself from climbing behind the tables and helping the women make more bouquets. 

I can imagine the heady feeling of having buckets and buckets of tulips at my disposal and the day ahead of me to invent color and texture combinations to make people swoon.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Nate Berkus: That Cutie Pie Knows Design

This was the first room I tackled in our new apartment in Seattle. The key design materials are grey, black and white - a cookie cutter bathroom if there ever was one. My goal was to create a bathroom that looked beautiful, but not feminine.

My life saver was Nate Berkus and his current collection at Target. Have you seen his striking collection of linens and housewares? Bulls eye, indeed. 
What a difference a shower curtain makes! I immediately knew that this was the direction that I wanted to go in. The "quaint blue" diamond pattern (truly lavender, to my eye) was graphic, but not dizzying. Confident, but not demanding. Can fabric be described in such a way? You bet your boots. I also bought the companion bath rug and it was a perfect fit in this cozy bathroom.

When I was shopping in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, look what I found! A beautiful white ceramic dish with a pale lavender blue hydrangea blossom lid. Each petal is made of ceramic. I swooned at Homegoods and then put it in my cart. This lovely dish will start by housing Q-tips on the bathroom counter top, but if I get too nervous about it chipping, I'll move it to my bedroom dresser. Either way, I know that I will continue to love it every time I see it.
You can see how beautiful it looks next to one of my Nate Berkus for Target "quaint blue" towels.

Want to hear the kicker? This very dish is featured in Victoria magazine this month! The May/June 2015 issue, page 16. It is referred to as the "Gracie" box from The Import Collection, but I wasn't able to find you a link online. I love when designs I love get featured in magazines, even if its just to show Dan that other girls "had to have it" too.

As for the overall bathroom design, thank you, Nate Berkus. I can't really paint this apartment. Wallpaper is out of reach, but you've given my bathroom style for miles. Yes, I still think of you as Cutie Pie. I loved all of the work you did on the Oprah show and I am so very happy to bring your aesthetic into my new home. I owe you one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stuffoli: An Italian Holiday Dessert

Have you ever seen one of these? It's an Italian Struffoli. I had admired them at Easter time in a gourmet grocery store 3 years ago, but never put one in my cart. The next year, I wasn't in Florida over Easter and I missed my chance. I checked in with their bakery a few times while I was there, but they kept saying "not yet" in a teasing tone, knowing that so many were anxiously awaiting this popular Easter treat. It made me want to try it even more.

The dessert is a large mound of fried dough balls that is soaked in a honey syrup and sprinkled with tiny candy balls. I happened upon a Giada de Laurentiis episode one day and she was making Stuffoli! Here is her Food Network episode.
This year the stars and moon aligned and I was in Florida for the week leading up to Easter, I made it to the grocery store and found a table full of these festive treats all wrapped for the holiday. I would love to bring this to someone as a hostess gift, wouldn't you?

The dessert was unusual - sweet and crunchy. We actually ate it with ice cream and imagined the Struffoli balls as little cream puffs. It was super sweet, but I liked it. Have you ever had Struffoli?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Palm Beach Gardens: Paris in Town restaurant

It was the perfect spot for a girly lunch. Who can resist a crepe? My aunt was in town for Easter and suggested that we peel away from the large group for a couple of hours and have lunch. 

With my mom and her sister in the car, I headed toward our favorite place for lunch in Palm Beach Gardens: Paris in Town, located at Downtown at the Gardens.  This lovely little bistro has outdoor seating and we chose a table with a nice breeze in the shade. 

Look at our magnificent lunch! They chose French Onion soup and a Quiche Lorraine, each with a small salad, and I had a Ham & Swiss crepe. Ooh la la, as they say. 

Paris in Town is a quiet restaurant with a menu full of your French favorites. I often suggest it when I want a cafe au lait and something wonderfully sweet in the afternoon.

My cousin came to the area for the first time in years and when she called, she said she found a cute place that I had to try. It was Paris in Town's other location called the cafe on US1 and PGA Blvd. I told her she had found a gem.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When the Atlantic Looks Endless

Some days the ocean really does look endless. This was an early morning photo that I took around 10 days ago. There wasn't a soul on the beach. 

This morning reminds me of a quiet morning on the Atlantic years ago. A small group of women had moved their yoga class to this beach. I think it was a group of friends who had traveled to Florida to have a girls getaway. They had the entire stretch of beach to themselves and from my balcony I could see them making a memory.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015 Pantone Color of the Year: Marsala

I think it is wonderful that the renowned color company, Pantone, proclaims a Color of the Year and every year I write a post to give it some attention.

Design professionals around the world reference Pantone colors and numbers to describe colors accurately. Pantone's website describes it as providing the "standard language for color communication." What a cool business. As a color lover, nothing makes more sense to me than having a worldwide reference point. Saying that I wanted a wall color that matched a Revlon lipstick or a DMC embroidery floss, would drive a painter bananas.    

Pantone's Color of the Year for 2015 is Marsala 18-1438. Now I know that when interior designers think marsala, it's unlikely that red velvet whoopie pies come to mind, but I think they are a perfect match for this unusual reddish brown color. I scoured my photo drive looking for a photo that was a good example of marsala and can say with certainty that I am not drawn to that color. I have photographed every imaginable shade of pink and blue in my day, but there is a somber quality to the color marsala that has made it easy for me to pass it up.

Now if we're talking baked goods, I like color marsala just fine. 

*Note: I photographed these gorgeous Red Velvet Whoopie pies in Bar Harbor, Maine back in 2009.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Meri Meri Cupcake Kits Make Dessert Darling

I found a Meri Meri "Hop to It" Easter cupcake kit a month ago and I was hoping for a chance to use it. When my aunt invited us over on Easter, I accepted with a rousing, "I'll bring dessert!" 

The cupcake kit included 2 patterns of cupcake papers (12 each) & 6 girl bunnies in calico dresses, 6 boy bunnies in striped shirts and 12 flower picks. Aren't they darling?

I made 24 Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake mix cupcakes with Martha Stewart's homemade buttercream frosting recipe (*I use salted butter) and they ate every one.

I just love the designs by Meri Meri - their cupcake kits are just darling. Happy Easter, indeed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Napkins: Colorful Bunnies Add Easter Cheer

I have been waiting 365 days to use these napkins.  Aren't these Easter-fabulous? I found the fabric when I was in Seattle and I've been saving it ever since. The shape and style of the bunnies reminded me of the original Mrs. Grossman's stickers and I couldn't resist.

I knew that if I used my serger loaded with lime green thread spools the quick and easy finished edge would give me an instant napkin.  I made them luncheon-size (12 x 12) and they are perfect for our vacation celebration.

The next time you see some cute theme fabric, think napkins.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spice Bar: Buying Spices By Weight Allows for Experimentation

I am always looking for new products in the grocery aisle. I love to cook and I like to try new things. A little something for my salt collection, perhaps? A new flavor of Jell-O. Perfect pot-size spaghetti. I take my time when I'm shopping and have fun dreaming up what I can make.

When I saw this buy-by-weight spice display, I stopped in my tracks. How can this be? Can a spice company really survive if customers started buying by the pinch? 

One of the biggest obstacles in home cooking is having all of the ingredients. I know we often pass on a great looking recipe when it calls for a spice we don't already have in the house. 

While replacing our tried and true favorites can be expensive, experimenting with a whole bottle of Cream of Tarter or Chinese 5 Spice feels somewhere between wasteful and reckless. Why? I'm not sure, but I know that I can't be along in this feeling.

I found this Spice and Tea Bar by Frontier Natural Products Co-op in a Washington QFC grocery store and I bought from it the very first time I saw it. I was going to make a small batch of pickles in my hotel room and I needed only a smidgen of turmeric.  I had resigned myself to buying an entire bottle, but when I saw this display and figured out how to dispense a little into the provided bags, I ended up buying just enough for one recipe: 17 cents worth. It felt like I had conquered a big hurdle. 

I felt what I can only describe as a sense of freedom knowing that I now had a way to experiment with a whole new selection of spices without a big commitment. This is a revolutionary development in cooking as far as I'm concerned. We no longer need to buy an $8.00 bottle of ground cardamom, when the recipe only calls for 1 teaspoon. Head to the store with your list of ingredients and come home with exactly what you need for the recipe. When a recipe becomes a favorite, buying the bottle makes sense. No one liked the curried lamb chops? No biggie. Toss the recipe and move on.

I read a lot of magazines and watch plenty of cooking shows, yet I have never heard anyone mention this new buy-by-weight spice bar concept. Have you? Help me get the word out - this is big!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Collecting Shells: White Chocolate Treats You Can Eat

Look at my beautiful collection of shells. I mold each one, dusted it with edible luster and set it on a bread-crumb covered tray. Pretty realistic, isn't it?

Oh yes, these are candy. Each shell is made of white chocolate.
The process is as easy as can be. You'll need a bag of white (vanilla flavored) Wilton Candy Melts and plastic candy molds in different shell shapes.

Now you simply follow the instructions of the candy discs to melt them in the microwave - I put a cup of them in a Ziploc bag and microwave at intervals of 10 seconds, kneading the bag in between.  Once the candy is smooth and pour able, snip a small corner of the bag off and pipe into the molds.  I use a flat plastic scraper to wipe off the excess chocolate and leave a smooth flat back to the candies.  Then holding the mold just above the counter top, gently tap-tap-tap the filled mold on the counter over and over again and watch the bubbles rise and break on the surface of the chocolate.  This removes the bubbles and helps the chocolate to flow into the intricate detail of the mold.  

Keeping it flat, place mold in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set the candy. Then remove from the refrigerator and hold it over a cookie sheet gently flip it over so that the candy falls onto the cookie sheet.  If any of the pieces don't fall out, twist the mold slightly and they should release.

Dip a paint brush into the edible pearl luster dust and gently brush it over the white chocolate to add a lovely light color. 

When I am going to serve them on a cake or cupcakes, I use graham cracker crumbs as my sand. I don't have any graham cracker crumbs in the house, and since I am enjoying them as edible art, I arranged them on a platter of bread crumbs. It looks just as realistic, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter: Decorate your own Robin Eggs

This is my kind of Easter activity. This year Hershey introduced a "Decorate Your Own Eggs" kit with Whopper malted milk eggs and food coloring markers. What fun! I found this kit at a CVS.

The pens come in green, blue and yellow ink. The eggs are large enough to hang onto easily while you decorate. Don't miss my Michigan State Spartan egg! Go Green! and Happy Easter!