February 2014 archive

5 Ways to Fake an Early Spring

Pink Peonies

Have you ever heard the adage “fake it until you make it”?  I think I am going to test that theory because I am really, really, ready for spring.  Unfortunately, it is quite some time off.  I have to admit it is difficult to wax poetic about adding joie de vivre to everyday life when right now the everyday is gray and dreary.  But that is the journey isn’t it?  Finding some color in what can seem,  at times,  a black and white world.  To make matters worse I have been wearing lots and lots of…you guessed it, black and grey.  Don’t get me wrong, I love how elegant basic black can look.  I wear it often.  But as I looked in the mirror,  again donned in slim black pants and a grey turtleneck,  I realized that I had given in.  Detesting the dreary weather but then dressing to match it!  How crazy is that?  What is it about a rainy day which makes us dress in similar colors rather than reach for the shocking pink or sunny lemon yellow?  There is something so terrific about bright yellow rain slickers and red rain boots and I have always adored fun colorful umbrellas.  And yet, here I sit.  Dressed in black.  Mourning the long winter.  Okay people. Time to shake things up.  If spring won’t come, I will create my own.

So my strategy is simple.  Bring on the color.  Color on the table, color on the plate, color on me, color in the house.  I am going to fake spring until spring arrives.  Here is the plan:

  1. Buy flowers.  I love crisp white…but now I want bright.  The brighter the better.
  2. Set the table with a bright and unexpected combination of color (I have some raspberry colored napkins which might just do the trick).
  3. Make a salad.  Make sure it looks like a color wheel exploded and tastes delicious.
  4. Wear color.  Nothing muted allowed, bright and bold.  Pink and orange, why not?
  5. Arrange a spring like display either on the kitchen counter or coffee table.  Somewhere where we can see it often.

I know Spring is a ways off yet.  But that does not mean I have to live in a greige world until then.  I’m imagining daffodils emerging as we speak.  I will post on how my quest for an early Spring is proceeding!

Microwave Chocolate Cake For One

mug_cake

It’s cold and dreary and we are all fed up with freezing weather and piles and piles of snow.  I wanted to come up with a special something to drive these mid-winter blahs.  So as an suprise afternoon snack I made these Chocolate Mug Cakes.  Individual little treats perfect for one.  And what makes them even better is that they are done in 3 minutes…in the microwave.  I use Pernigotti Cocoa for this. I love that deep chocolate flavor!  I used to be available at Williams-Sonoma but I don’t think it is any more.  I found it here (the packaging isn’t that exciting but the cocoa inside is divine!

An amazing way to serve this is to top with a small scoop of ice cream.  Mmmmm.  The winter blues are vanishing before my eyes!

Microwave Chocolate Cake For One
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts

Instructions
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a microwave safe mug.
  2. Add egg and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour in milk and oil, mix.
  4. Add chocolate chips and/or nuts.
  5. Place mug in microwave and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. The cake will rise over the top of the mug…don’t worry!
  7. Allow to cool a bit and either eat out of the mug (for one) or turn out onto a plate to serve two.

Notes
*I prefer Pernigotti Cocoa

 

Baked Feta Bruschetta

baked_feta

How about a little special treat for a snowy Monday evening?  A pre-dinner bite of melty feta goodness to eat with that frosty glass of white wine.

This has to be one of the easiest and most delicious appetizer recipes in my repertoire.  In fact, when I first discovered it I made it three times in one week for lunch.  That is the sure sign a recipe is a “keeper”.

Fabulous feta.  It is a magical type of ingredient.  It tastes so different depending upon how it is prepared.  Crumbled over a salad it has that great bite.  Heated it mellows and becomes the perfect vehicle for whatever little treasures you might want to bake right along with it.  In this case, roma tomatoes, red onion, capers, oregano and olive oil.  A sublime Mediterranian combination of ingredients.

They key with the recipe is to add the ingredients to your taste.  I have given quantities however you should add more or less of whatever you prefer.  No hard and fast rules here. Some quick chopping, assemble ingredients in a baking dish, bake.  Done.  A quick toast of some thinly sliced baguette slices and you are in business!

Baked Feta Bruschetta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser

Ingredients
  • 1 Block of Feta cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons Red Onion, diced
  • 4 Tablespoons Fresh Oregano
  • ¼ cup diced Roma Tomatoes
  • 4 Tablespoons Capers, rinsed
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
  • Pinch Salt
  • Drizzle of good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Baguette, thinly sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 clove of Garlic, cut in half (no need to peel)

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Place block of feta in a small baking dish
  3. Layer red onion, tomatoes, garlic and capers
  4. Drizzle with olive oil
  5. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, black pepper and oregano in dish
  6. Cover tightly with foil
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes until soft and bubbly
  8. Sprinkle baguette slices with olive oil
  9. Toast baguette slices under broiler until crisp (in oven with the feta)
  10. Once crisp, remove from oven and rub each slice with the halved garlic

 

Valentine Typography

IMG_2928I have always been a big fan of typography.  There is something special about letters…perhaps because I have always loved to read and write.  But also because using letters and words can also bring a sense of whimsy to holiday decorating.  Especially if the letters are oversized. This year I thought I would combine my love of typography, oversize letters and Valentine’s Day for a Valentine Typography project…what resulted was a Valentine’s Day jumbo Faux finished silver XOXO Letters extravaganza!

The first order of business was the letters themselves. I wanted oversized…at least 12″ high, sans serif, in a font which had a modern graphic feel (not too chunky).  I had been working on Olympics Party decorations (more on that in a future post) and so was a bit behind in tracking down what I wanted.  Normally I can find just about anything I can dream of on the internet but because of my Olympic project it was too late to order anything.  Off to the stores I trekked.  I say trekked because it is very much like Siberia here.  Tons of snow and bitter cold.  But I digress…

Four stores into my journey I finally found what I was looking for.  Note to self, large letters = Jo Ann Fabrics.  The selection of letters was quite something, a whole aisle in fact.  There were even HUGE paper mache letters which had to be 3 feet tall.  Another note to self, figure out that to do with those enormous letters!!  Within that aisle of type I found the exact letters I had imagined.  Oversized, san serif, modern looking wooden letters.  I especially liked that there were very flat, it added to the modern appeal.

nestingwithstyle_xo

Standing in the “alphabet aisle” it suddently occured to me that I was in such a rush to find the perfect letters themselves that I neglected to finalize what I was going to spell.  I did have a short list but hadn’t pulled the trigger on what exactly it should say.  It came down to: LOVE, KISS, XOXO or I (some sort of large heart) U.  As I looked at the letter shapes it became immediately clear that XOXO was the winner.  There was something about the O’s that made me swoon. Oh shoot, that would have been a great one  SWOON.  I picked up two X’s and two O’s and off I went into the frozen tundra.

I knew I wanted something metallic looking, shiny, but not too shiny.  After a quick sanding and a base coat of white primer the letters were set to be transformed.  It took three coats of metallic Silver Craft Paint to cover them.  They were shiny.  Too shiny.  I dove back into the paint drawer and mixed up my go-to glaze of black, burnt umber and water.  The consistency should be of dirty water.  Nice image I know but that is what it looks like!  With a foam brush I covered a section of the letter and then wiped most of it away with a paper towel.  Work quickly here because the glaze dries fast.  In no time at all the letters had that patina I was looking for.

nestingwithstyle_shinyX

I love the way the letters look…especially with the contract of a huge red glittered heart between them. I could almost swoon.