Just a few new things around the home to share with you…
Chris made me that beautiful coffee table for Christmas which now lives up on the second floor in our loft space. It’s so nice to have a place for our feet to rest upon, stacks of books, a space for board games, and our Downton hot chocolate parties!
My mama gifted me a set of those lovely iron sconces for Christmas this year. She overheard my love for them while we are away at Shehawken this summer visiting here. She’s so sneaky!
I have been on the look out for some new linens and found an amazing lot of napkins with beautiful embroidery work along with that tablecloth while thrifting last week. I will be using my antique wooden ironing board on a weekly basis!
We are off to sunny Florida in a few hours. I will be posting photos here all week.
Have a lovely weekend my friends!
~Hannah had picked out the bandana cowl from The Purl Bee and it proved to be a big hit and the perfect style for my almost teen! Both Norah and Chris now want one too.
~Norah wanted a “slouchy” hat so I made this pattern and it hasn’t left her head since I gave it to her. She was actually wearing it the other night with her pajamas.
~Norah is modeling one fingerless mitt of a pair (that is not quite finished) from this pattern. These will be for my sister-in-law whose birthday was back in the beginning of December. She was so distraught when she lost one of the mitts I had knit for her many years ago that I had to knit her a new pair. I plan to finish the other one poolside next week as we are heading to Naples Florida for the week to visit Chris’s parents!
Last Monday Norah was away on a trip with friends so we didn’t get to making bagels. We are excited for the opportunity to visit our favorite bagel shop in town next week to help make a batch so we decided before we brave our way through making our own we would wait to get some tips from the professionals.
Today Norah wanted to bake brownies.
Because she really enjoys watching cooking tutorials (as do I) we skimmed the Martha Stewart site and became intrigued with a recipe made with black beans.
It was a simple recipe with a short list of ingredients all of which we had on hand.
These brownies are decadent, chewy, rich, moist and fudgey.
And taste great with a cold glass of milk.
Last night I put on the works and served an array of toppings including bacon, avocado, shredded carrots, cucumber, pickled beets, hard boiled eggs, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, tuna, garbanzo beans, edamame and quinoa.
I roasted an entire cast iron skillet of sweet potatoes doused in coconut oil and made a batch of pita chips.
It’s so much fun setting the bar up but it’s just as much fun seeing everybody’s creations.
And there is always a trip back for seconds.
Yesterday as I was preparing and setting up to host a few lady friends for a gathering I found myself in a rhythm. I truly love to entertain (maybe that’s where Norah gets it) and have found a routine that I seem to follow as I primp my home for guests.
I always rely upon a few items when entertaining. The tools I use for parties and gatherings are part of my every day decor. I don’t have to rummage through cabinets and closets each time I entertain. Because I buy things that I find beautiful and that I truly love, these items are always out on display and easily accessible.
:: My glass pedestals (all thrifted) live on the top shelf of my open pantry. I have a variety of heights and sizes and love how they look all displayed together. Pedestals look beautiful all on their own holding a cake or quiche or towered on top of one another with cookies, bars and chocolates. I find a table presenting foods at varying heights is pleasing to the eye.
:: Cutting boards, many of which were thrifted, are daily essentials in my kitchen. They live stacked up against one another on my counter top and I have a few hanging up almost as artwork around the kitchen. They are all easy to grab and I find myself reaching for them every time I entertain. They work great for anything that needs to be sliced or forked like meats, fishes and cheeses. I like to add a few bowls with olives and nuts on top. Remember this big cutting board I made! I have a variety of shapes and sizes and love the organic feel they bring to the table.
:: I adore my antique cutlery caddy (thrifted) and have it out on full display in my kitchen at all times. It’s beautiful, functional and versatile, the perfect combination. I keep my antique silverware in it which gets used on a daily basis. When it’s party time I add a few paper napkins on the other side of the silverware, grab the handle and plop it where it needs to go. In the dining room, by the stove for soup, outside on the patio. Makes for easy set up!
i grew up in a house where the presentation of a meal was just as important as the meal itself.
i don’t remember ever a bottle of ketchup or dressing on our dinner table. my mom would squeeze condiments into etched glass bowls with tiny silver spoons. we would make fun of her and i admit to sometimes being embarrassed when friends came to visit.
when chris and i first started dating he pulled me aside one night after dinner and said “your mom doesn’t have to make things so fancy just for me every time.” i didn’t have the heart to tell him at first that this was just the way things were.
little did he know what he was getting himself in to.
i am not sure if it was ingrained in me or if it’s in my blood, but i too love to present a meal.
i sometimes think i like it better than cooking. i love the process of it and the mood it sets.
tonight was salad bar night, a meal that we all love and with a little creativity, can satisfy everyone’s taste buds in our household. it’s a simple meal actually, that can pack a punch with proteins such as sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs, chopped up bacon and feta cheese to compliment the greens and other veggies. fruits such as sliced up apple or pear, pomegranate seeds and grapes are favorite toppings as well. i like to experiment with making a new and different dressing each time. tonight’s was cilantro-jalapeno-lime. i toasted up some pita and served it with some olive oil for dipping. there are so many variations to this meal especially as the seasons change. it’s a great “clean out the fridge” kind of meal where all sorts of left-overs can act as toppings.
i feel lucky that my girls have always liked a variety of vegetables. but i think their love was born out of the freedom and fun to create their own salads. chris always says “you don’t make a sandwich, you build one!” well i believe this speaks true for a salad too.
no matter what i am preparing for dinner, even if it’s a pan of scrambled eggs, i like to follow a few simple guidelines ….
:: before i pull anything out of the fridge, start chopping or mixing, i light a few candles and turn on some music. i love our local jazz station. i pour myself something special, i deserve it. tonight was a glass of red wine. but even a glass of seltzer with a squeeze of lemon is nice.
:: i don’t believe that your best china, glassware, linens and silverware are meant for dinner parties and guests. beautiful things are meant for every day. sometimes sitting at a table with a thoughtful presentation of your favorite things can enhance the flavors of meal. a beautifully set table can feed my soul just as much as the food can satisfy my appetite.
:: although the table where we sit down to meals is used for many other activities, i try to always keep it clean and free of debris as much as possible. this allows to easily set it for each meal.
:: fresh flowers on the table at all times is a must for me. whether it be a store bought bouquet or a bundle of weeds from the backyard, it sets a mood and creates a sacred space.
:: cloth napkins make me happy. they are pretty and can brighten up a table. they can be used over and over and come in all different patterns and colors. i am always on the look out for them while thrifting. it’s nice to have several sets to use throughout the week.
:: even though we are not religious folk we do like to say a few words of appreciation before we dig in. a prayer, refection or even a moment of silence before a meal is a nice way to connect with each other, your home and the food that was prepared.
::digest! i used to be one to eat and run. i would immediately begin to clear the table and clean up after a meal. what’s the rush? sit and linger i say! pour a pot of hot herbal tea and continue the conversation.
a few scenes from our saturday. a wonderfully lazy one.
1. i have been lighting candles every night. today was snowy and a bit grey which called for some afternoon candlelight.
2. i turned 41 this week. gifts from my sister are always my favorite.
3. today was a nachos kind of day. i pulled out a jar of pickled sweet and spicy peppers we canned this summer.
4. chris is away on retreat this weekend with my pop. nan came to stay with us.
5. i cannot get enough of pomegranates these days. i put the seeds in salads, oatmeal or just simply eat with a spoon.
how was your day?
So let’s talk soup!
We eat a lot of it in the winter months and I can honestly say it’s one of my favorite meals.
I even eat it for breakfast.
I love the versatility of soup. I am not a rule follower and usually never refer to a recipe when making anything except baked goods.
I think that’s why i like soup so much. It’s a simple meal that allows for some creativity but there are no strict rules. Soup is pretty hard to get wrong. Especially if you follow a few simple guidelines.
I usually cook a whole chicken in the crock-pot once a week at this time of year. It provides us several meals including stock for soup. After we pick the meat off we immediately throw all of the bones and excess into a pot and cover with water to boil and then simmer for a few hours. We then strain the golden juice into a jar for the next batch of soup. Although I often use store bought chicken broth, there is nothing like homemade. It’s like liquid gold in any soup.
If you have a good quality broth, olive oil, onions, garlic and a few vegetables (especially those stragglers in the fridge that are a little past their prime) you are ready to make some soup!
a few simple soup tips…
:: Always have onions and garlic in the pantry. All other veggies can vary but these two will really enhance the flavors of the other veggies you use especially when sauteed all together in olive oil or butter.
:: Clean out your fridge. Yes, you can use rubbery carrots, limp parsnips and wilty greens. When cooked up with other ingredients they will still taste good. Soup is a great way to reduce waste in your kitchen.
:: Experiment with herbs and spices. I admit to being a curry-aholic and make a lot of curry based soups but there are so many herbs to choose from. Don’t be afraid to use fresh herbs too, especially sprinkled on top of individual bowls of soup. I love fresh chopped parsley or cilantro.
:: Condiments can add flavor. Things like ketchup, sriracha, worcestershire and soy sauce have made their way into many of my soups.
:: Tomato sauce, tomato paste and canned tomatoes are a soups best friend.
:: Add greens. Swiss chard, kale, collards, bok choy, spinach, turnip greens…. they all taste great in soup. I always have a sad looking bunch of greens sitting in my fridge that can quickly be rescued in to soup.
:: Broth heavy in roots and squashes can be pureed into a creamy flavorful soup. Save the last few cups of the batch and freeze to add to your next soup’s broth to provide a rich texture and flavor.
:: Boost your broth with a Parmesan rind. It will add substantial flavor to your soup.
:: If not adding meats to your soup, add lentils or beans for a boost of protein. Lentils can be directly added to simmering broth and other ingredients. Other hardier beans will need to be cooked ahead of time.
:: Taste, sip, sample while you cook. I am a big supporter of adding ingredients and then tasting. There is nothing more disappointing than making a meal without tasting as you go along to find that the is just too salty or spicy. Although there are a few tips to reverse these mistakes I still recommend getting out a spoon and sipping as you go.
:: If you have a husband like me who doesn’t accept soup as a meal unless bread is involved, try other alternatives to store bought. Homemade biscuits or cornbread are really simple to whip up and with a nice hunk of cheese you have a complete meal.
Next week I will offer a step by step guide to my weekly soup.