Sunday, December 11, 2011

CHRISTMAS TRIP TO THE O.C.

Since October, I've traveled to New York, Washington, DC, Savannah, Charleston, and Orange County.  The trips were terrific and while I haven't posted about those trips, I'm posting the most recent trip to California now because every picture is so Christmasy (is that a word?) that I thought you might get some design inspiration from Roger's Gardens and Disneyland.


Roger's Gardens is a destination in itself.  My friend Pam thinks admission should be charged (shhhh on that idea) because it is so fabulous.  Always impeccably decorated, even the bedding plants are laid out in style.



          Love this lady.  The wreath elegantly placed on her shoulders looks as dressy as a fur collar.



If I had a real tree, this would be it.  I believe it's a Silver Tip and I love all that space between branches. Ornaments could dangle away and really show off for Christmas.


This tablescape is gorgeous.  The all white tree looks smashing against the persimmon-colored berries.


                                    Love the combining of various shades of green and brown.


                                      Again, white branches really make the other colors pop.


                                              Santa are all spiffed-up standing in a row.



       Green apples are always a favorite of mine.  The apples works with any seasonal decor (okay,         maybe not Halloween).


     The center of this wreath is sharply cut twigs.  Gorgeous brown velvet bow ripples along the sides.



This is three different pieces put together - a wood pedestal, a glass vase stuffed with red roses, and a lantern sitting atop.


                                           Can you tell I love anything with that bright green?


                                                                         Finally, a bit of red.


The permanent train station is also decked out for Christmas.  If I had't been traveling by plane, I would have purchased several of those little chartreuse spruce trees to bring home.



Now, believe it or not, the above picture is taken at Disneyland.  Yes!  Isn't it a clever way to grow and display herbs and salad greens?  And wouldn't any one of those pots make a great Christmas gift?  I think so.



                                                    Sleeping Beauty Castle all decked out.




My family (and friend, Miss Jennifer) and I had a super time roaming around Roger's Gardens.  And December isn't December without our family's annual pilgrimage to Disneyland. Hope you picked up some design ideas from the pics above!

Friday, December 2, 2011

TRACKING 2012


How do you keep track of your doings?  I'm always conflicted between paper and devices. Love both. Pluses and minuses for each.  I carry two smart phones: iPhone for personal, Blackberry for work.  And last year my darling friend Jennifer gave me a beautiful green Italian leather diary (see above). I had admired hers for quite some time.  The feel is rich but after a year of use I realize I need something larger for scribbling down more notes.

So, for next year's tracking of my life,  I'm giving the good old classic Moleskine a try.  Color choices: red or black.  Wishing there were a few more options, I picked red.


One of the great things about Moleskine is the price--less than $20.  While I would love a beautiful Smythson, specifically this one:

Moleskine wins (for now).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

POST THANKSGIVING TREAT - Cranberry Sauce and Yogurt

Second shelf of fridge.  Half empty container of Fage Greek yogurt.  Half empty container of Trader Joe's Fresh Cranberry Sauce. Hmmm, wouldn't that be a good pairing?



Why, yes, it would be very good.  Sweet, tart, creamy, no fat, not too many calories (ok, yes, there is sugar in that sauce). Breakfast? Afternoon pick-me-up? Dessert? Yep.  It can be whatever you need it to be.


Head to Trader Joe's before the cranberry sauce is gone--it is seasonal.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LATEST OBSESSION - MZ Wallace Navy Bedford Bianca

I love bags.  Actually, that is an understatement.  I obsess about bags.  All sorts.  Clutches, satchels,  totes, shoulder bags, cross body, you name it, I love it.

I first heard about MZ Wallace from my friends Kathleen and Liz.  They heard about it from Liz's sister, Diane. I tell you this because I haven't been able to find this brand in AZ.  Nylon bags with leather trim--really? Yes.  Lightweight when empty.  Super for travel.  Cleans up beautifully.  Fun colors with--Yes!--contrasting interior lining.  Not black.  Doesn't it drive you crazy to dig around the bottom of a black interior bag?  It does me.  I love a light to medium color on the inside--much easier to find that lipstick that jumped out into the depths of my bag from the safety of my cosmetic pouch.

The bag pictured to the left is my latest obsession. It is a rich navy blue, with black leather straps, and a bit of red peeking out of the leather seams.  The interior is a light taupe color.  And it comes with a nice strap to wear it as a cross body bag which is perfect for traveling. The photo does not do it justice.  I've seen it in person in the teeny tiny upper east side shop in New York.  Loved it in the light tan color but wanted it in something a bit more rich looking.  This navy should do it.

So, since I absolutely can't justify a new bag. Well, a full-priced bag, I should say (I can pretty much rationalize anything), I will have to wait until I find a decent discount on this one.  But I'm dreaming of taking it on my next out-of-the-country trip knowing it will be the perfect bag.  How long can I wait?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A RED HERRING WITHOUT MUSTARD - Alan Bradley - Book Review

Flavia de Luce is a smart little chickadee.  A Red Herring without Mustard is the third in the Flavia de Luce novels and I find the stories to be a treat.  I want to swoop in and tell her bratty sisters to stop it and play nice.  I would like to smack her detached Father and tell him to wake up! Yes, your wife has moved on to the next life but, really, get a grip and start paying attention to these three girls you have.  In other words, I become an engaged reader and that is usually a good sign.

You don't have to read the books in order but I do think it helps since 11 year old Flavia looks back a few times at previous incidents.  She snoops around on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, solving crimes in her little village of Bishop's Lacey and spends time in her laboratory at her ancestral home, Buckshaw, plotting ways to seek revenge on her two older sisters. Anyway, Alan Bradley has written a fine series that I recommend.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SPICY PULLED PORK - Pioneer Woman Cooks PARMESAN-ROASTED BROCCOLI - Barefoot Contessa


Another yummy shredded pork dish.  Not too saucy but I think that's because I should have doubled the ingredients since I practically doubled the amount of pork used.  But, it was delicious and not too spicy.





Spicy Pulled Pork - Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds (up To 7 Pounds) Pork Shoulder (I used a 12 pound Pork Shoulder, had tons of leftovers)
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon (to 2 Tablespoons) Salt
  • Pepper To Taste
  • 3 cloves (to 4 Cloves) Garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon (to 2 Tablespoons) Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons (to 3 Tablespoons) White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 whole Onion
  • Lime Wedges

Preparation Instructions

Rinse and pat dry the pork shoulder.
Add dried oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar and brown sugar into a food processor or blender. 
Cut one onion into quarters and put it in the food processor with the spices. Blend mixture until totally combined and then pour it over the pork shoulder.
Rub it into every nook and cranny of the meat, tucking it under folds an in crevices.
Place the pork into a roasting pan or Dutch oven and add a couple of cups of water. Cover tightly and roast pork at 300º for several hours, turning once every hour.
When it is fork tender, crank up the heat, remove the lid, and roast it, skin side up for another 15 to 20 minutes to get the skin crispy. When it’s done, let it rest for 15 minutes before shredding.
Shred the pork shoulder (two forks work well). When it’s all shredded be sure to pour the juices all over the meat.

The broccoli wasn't quite the hit I had hoped for.  It was waaaay too lemony.  Next time I would skip the lemons altogether.  Garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and basil were enough of a pick me up to the broccoli and the lemon was just too tart.  If I make it again without the lemon, I'll let you know.


PARMESAN-ROASTED BROCCOLI - Barefoot Contessa
Ingredients
4 to 5 pounds broccoli 
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced 
olive oil 1 1/2 teaspoons
kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon 
freshly ground black pepper 
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (too much lemon zest for my family)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (too much lemon juice for my family)
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted 
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)  


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  
Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. 
Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets.
 Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 
5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. 
Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.Remove the broccoli from the oven and 
immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

THE GREATER JOURNEY - David McCullough



Loved this book. I am asking you, pretty please, go and buy/checkout/download this book.  Anything David McCullough writes works for me.  The Greater Journey Americans in Paris is his latest work that I had a hard time putting down.  We learn about the Americans who visited Paris for various lengths of time between 1830 and 1900 to perfect their craft.  The list of recognizable folks is eye-popping.  Name after name of people you will recognize makes it so much fun to read: Samuel Morse; Henry James; George Healy; James Fenimore Cooper; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Mary Cassat; Augustus Saint-Gaudens; Henry Wadswroth Longfellow; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Harriet Beecher Stowe; and John Singer Sargent.  The list goes on and on.

Getting to know about the relentless work of American minister to France, Elihu Washburne, was in itself worth a read.  Even the source notes are interesting.  I highlighted many quotes in this book but instead of noting them in this review (because I would end up quoting the entire book), I promise you will enjoy this book.  If you don't, you'll learn something anyway so it won't be a waste of  your time.

Five stars from me.  (Of course, I don't really review on a "star" basis, but if I did.....)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CREAMY PUMPKIN-PEANUT SOUP


Don't know where this recipe originated from but I was lucky enough to receive it from my friend, Kathleen, who raved about it.  I made up a quick batch today for lunch having all the ingredients on hand except for the garnishments which I skipped.  This is a great Fall soup even though the high today here in sunny (perpetually so) AZ is 92 degrees.


Creamy Pumpkin-Peanut Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 1/4 cups)
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 tsp ground turmeric (you can substitute ground mustard and saffron, per Kathleen)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 can solid-pack pumpkin puree (15 oz)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 jar roasted red peppers (7 oz), drained, 1 tablespoon chopped and reserved for garnish
1/3 cup smooth reduced-fat natural peanut butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp chopped scallion greens

1. Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.

2. Add turmeric, paprika, and chili flakes; stir. Add pumpkin puree, broth, peppers, and peanut butter; whisk to incorporate and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in sugar, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

3. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with sour cream, peanuts, reserved chopped peppers, and scallion greens.

Makes 4 Servings.
Per serving: 270 cal, 18 g fat (4 g sat), 22 g carbs,
450 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 10 g protein


Saturday, October 8, 2011

PEACH CRISP WITH MAPLE CREAM SAUCE - Pioneer Woman Cooks


I've made so many fruit crisps, cobblers, etc. that were all delicious.  But what sets this recipe apart is the luscious maple cream sauce that is swirled around a scoop of this peach crisp. Any leftover sauce could be drizzled atop a hot bowl of oatmeal the next morning, but who would ever do that?  


Ingredients

  • 5 whole To 6 Whole Fresh Peaches (best When Not Overly Ripe Or Soft)
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 stick Butter (1/2 Cup)
  • 1/2 whole Lemon
  • 7 Tablespoons Real Maple Syrup, Divided
  • 1-1/2 cup Whipping Cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup

Preparation Instructions

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt using a fork or pastry cutter. Cut butter into small pieces and gradually add to flour mixture until evenly mixed.
Peel peaches into a bowl. Add the zest from half a lemon. Squeeze juice from lemon half and stir in with peaches and zest. Add 2 tablespoons real maple syrup to peaches, stir well.
Pour peach mixture into a small pan (8” or 9” square) and cover evenly with crumb topping. Cover with foil and bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp and brown on top. I broiled the top for about 2 minutes because our family loves the almost burned brown sugar that dots this yummy dish.
Maple Cream Sauce:
Pour whipping cream into a saucepan. Add 5 tablespoons real maple syrup, 3 tablespoons corn syrup and stir over moderate heat until thickened and reduced by about one-third, approximately 15 minutes. Refrigerate mixture until it is cold and thick, or set the saucepan into a small bowl of ice (the ice will melt and turn into ice water). Stirring your mixture, it will cool and thicken in about 15 minutes. Drizzle sauce over peach crisp. Serve warm.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

CHICKEN, QUINOA, AND GREEN-OLIVE STEW - Sunset Magazine

In honor of our official entry into the "ber" months (yea for October!), I made a new soup recipe today from Sunset Magazine.  Yes, it is 97 degrees today, but I'm pretending there is a chill in the air. 


The ingredients were a new combination for me--I've never made anything combining green olives and orange zest, but it works.  It is spicy so if you aren't one to enjoy a slight burn on the tongue, you may want to back off the chile powder and cayenne.  I made the recipe as is without any changes and savored every bite.  Technically it's called a stew, but it seemed more soup-like to me.  It's now my sister's new favorite soup recipe.  Go forth and make.


Ingredients

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 pounds boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup chopped ripe plum tomatoes (about 2 large) or fire-roasted diced canned tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed if canned
  • 1 cup pimiento-stuffed small green olives

Preparation

  • 1. Bring broth to a simmer in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and lower heat to a simmer. Cook chicken, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through; transfer to a plate. Pour broth into a large bowl and set aside. Wipe out pot.
  • 2. Add oil, onion, and salt to pot and cook over medium heat until onion softens and is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
  • 3. Stir in cumin, coriander, oregano, and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Add ancho chile powder, cayenne, chopped tomatoes, reserved broth, orange zest, and quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until a white ring appears around each quinoa seed, 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, shred chicken.
  • 4. Add shredded chicken, chickpeas, and olives and heat through.