Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Let It Snow Tablescape

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During the last year or so your enjoyment of candlelit romantic dinners has probably been few and far between considering the shut down of restaurants worldwide. It’s times like these when we need to get creative and enjoy our own candlelit romantic setting at home.

The shorter days of winter seem to provide the perfect opportunity for dinners such as these. After all, what is more cozy and enjoyable than being inside enjoying warmth and delicious food while outside snow is falling?

This is my second winter tablescape for this year, and I had great fun putting it together. It began with the centerpiece featuring two faux pine trees covered with a sparkling crystal “ice.”

My favorite oil-rubbed bronze metal houses, illuminated from within, give the feeling of a romantic night in the woods. A project that I was working on requiring polyester fiberfill caused me to put some in place to represent snow.

An abundance of candlelight was a must so I used both my little reindeer candleholders as well as snowflake candleholders. I always hate putting these away after Christmas, so try to get as much mileage out of them as possible.

Three twig reindeer round out the cozy scene, dappled with little snowflake plaques.

I wanted to keep the colors as neutral as possible to represent winter. I used a repeat of my favorite checked tablecloth, topped with a macramé table runner from Anthropologie.

White metal chargers from Pier 1 are topped with nubby-edged, chestnut brown dinner plates are also from Pier 1. The salad plate features a wonderful pheasant.

Flatware in this table setting is from Cabela’s as it was in the last table setting, this set featuring a cozy cabin.

Pure white cups and saucers are a further reminder of white blankets of snow; the crystal stemware represents ice.

If you’re trying to create a romantic setting nothing beats candlelight, the more the better. Even the simplest place setting can look quite elegant in candlelight.

This post is linked to:

Tablescape Thursday



Monday, January 18, 2021

Chicken & Dumplings

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Last week I gave you a recipe for amazingly good biscuits the scraps of which I turned into dumplings for chicken and dumplings. Today I’m going to give you the recipe that I used to make the soup. (If you don’t want to go to all the trouble I did for the dumplings, make it easy on yourself and use the recipe on the Bisquick box, or simply get a can of Pillsbury biscuits, separate them, quarter them, and drop them into the simmering soup.) As I enjoyed every delicious, comforting mouthful of this scrumptious meal-in-a-bowl, the likes of which would have made grandma proud, one thing came to mind -- if my mother truly didn’t enjoy chicken and dumplings, then she was obviously crazy. Somehow we just didn’t see it.

Chicken & Dumplings 
Slightly adapted from The Novice Chef

6 T. butter

1 c. chopped Melissa’s shallots

1 c. matchstick carrots

1 c. diced celery

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 T. flour

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

32 oz. (1 quart) chicken stock

4 c. shredded cooked chicken

1 t. dried thyme

1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Salt, to taste

 In a medium stockpot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook for five minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Add garlic, and cook for one minute more. Sprinkle flour on top of the vegetables, stir to combine, and cook for one minute.

 Slowly pour in evaporated milk and stock, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and add chicken, thyme, pepper, and salt. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, while you make the dumplings. Once made, drop dumplings directly into the simmering soup. Scatter them around the surface so they don’t cluster in one section. Press them down gently so that the soup runs over the tops of them.

 Cover the pot (I like to use a glass lid so I can see what’s going on), and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes; gently stir the soup and dumplings. Cut one dumpling in half to check for doneness. If dumplings are not yet done, simmer an additional 2 to 3 minutes and check for doneness again.

 Serve immediately.





Friday, January 15, 2021

Black Pepper Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

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For the most part, we all tend to like the foods with which we became familiar in our youth. Generally, if our parents didn’t like certain foods, they never became a part of our culinary experience. I was thinking about this the other day, puzzled by the fact that my grandmother made chicken and dumplings, and yet my mother didn’t like them. Ergo, I had never eaten chicken and dumplings in my life. The more I thought about this, the more I knew I had to have them. I mean, what’s not to like about a creamy chicken soup full of fluffy biscuits?

I started doing some research into a variety of ways to fix chicken and dumplings, and found a recipe that looked appealing. Dumplings, I learned, are essentially biscuits. So why, I asked myself, not look for an incredibly delicious biscuit recipe to use for dumplings. How could I go wrong?

I know that this is a long introduction for this biscuit recipe. The reason I wanted to tell you all this is that not only did I make these biscuits as is, but I also made dumplings out of the remaining part of the biscuit dough for a big pot of magnificent chicken and dumplings, the recipe of which I will share on Monday.

Now, I’m not going to lie, these biscuits are work. The worst part, in my opinion, is grating frozen butter on a box grater. I did not enjoy that at all. Plus, there is the dicing of the bacon (I froze my bacon first to make it easier), and then the hand mixing. On the plus side, I thought they rolled out like a dream. I do have a
marble rolling pin that made this easy; if you don’t, you need one. It makes a world of difference any time you need to roll out a biscuit, cookie, piecrust, or any type of pastry.

As soon as I made these biscuits, I drove half of them, hot from the oven, to number one son’s house for his family to try. They were happy to be guinea pigs, and thoroughly enjoyed these biscuits. You will too. It’s not my recipe; it comes from the Damn Delicious blog. So good!

 Black Pepper Cheddar Bacon Biscuits

From Damn Delicious

 6 slices bacon, diced

4 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley leaves

4 t. baking powder

2 t. freshly ground black pepper

1½ t. kosher salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. garlic powder

¾ c. unsalted butter, frozen

1¾ c. buttermilk

 Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Drain excess fat; transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a large bowl, combine bacon, flour, cheese, parsley, baking powder, pepper, salt, baking soda and garlic powder.

 Grate butter using the large holes of a box grater. Stir into the flour mixture.

 Add buttermilk and stir using a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

 Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3-4 times until it comes together. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 1¼" thick rectangle. Cut out 14-16 rounds using a 2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Place biscuits onto the prepared baking sheet; place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove biscuits from freezer. Place into oven and bake for 14-17 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Serve warm.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Winter Hutch

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Two of my favorite seasons when it comes to decorating my 10-foot-wide wall unit, commonly referred to as “The Hutch,” are autumn and winter. I suppose it’s because I have so many dishes that lend themselves well to both of these seasons. The fact that they are two of my favorite times of the year may have something to do with it.

 In winter I tend to focus largely on white to represent frosty gray winter days and snow. This year I added a new tray (at center, I found it on Amazon here) and my mother’s Wilton Armetale. Lately I have become a bit obsessed with Wilton Armetale, and am lusting after this darling Sea Turtle Chip and Dip Divided Server.

Adding whimsy to this group are the elk salt and pepper shakers that you first saw in last week’s “Winter in the Woods” tablescape. I have to admit these became fast favorites despite being a bit awkward to use.

I also tend to gravitate toward pitchers, clustering them in groups of three. (I am currently stalking this one for a Bee Tablescape that I am planning for the spring.) I like to offer plenty of beverages at the table from ice water to ice tea to juice, even mulled wine. There’s something about the relaxing process of sipping something delicious that makes a shared meal so relaxing.

Touches of green keep the silver and white from becoming boring. The texture provided by the mini pine tree gives it warmth.

Do you change up your hutches, buffets, sideboards, or china cabinets with the seasons?


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fannie Flagg’s Cheese Ball

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Years ago, when life was simpler and Facebook was fun, I followed Fannie Flagg. She is one of my favorite authors, and I always wanted to make sure I was well aware as to when her latest book was going to be released. I also enjoyed reading her witty comments and observations on life. Back in 2014 she posted a recipe for a cheese ball. As with everything she does, this cheese ball was unique. All my life a cheese ball has been covered in chopped pecans; leave it to Fannie to do things differently, and blend those pecans into the mix. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this cheese ball once made, but I absolutely love it! The strawberry preserves topping just adds to the goodness.

In her own words, “The all-American cheese ball is great for the holidays, or to keep around in case of unexpected guests, or just for informal bowling on the lawn.” I’m not much of a lawn bowler myself; I will just tell you that it is wonderful with crackers, crudités, or crisp slices of apple. If you love cheese balls as much as I do, give this one a try.

Fannie Flagg’s Cheese Ball

4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¾ c. mayonnaise
1 small onion, peeled and grated*
1 c. chopped pecans
¼ t.
red pepper
Strawberry preserves

Combine cheese, mayo, and onion in a food processor until blended. Stir in pecans and red pepper. Shape into a mound on a serving plate, then cover and refrigerate for two hours. Spread preserves on top before serving with crackers.

*I used a shallot from Melissa’s Produce instead. I like the milder flavor.



Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Industrial Chic Bathroom

I’m going to admit something to you that I don’t just tell everybody. I went a little crazy during lockdown. Something about being stuck indoors for weeks on end had me looking at my home with new eyes. All of a sudden, the contractors' white walls started closing in on me, the boring fixtures that were in the house when I bought it were annoying me, and the days of solitude caused the real me to finally emerge.

Fortunately, day one of lockdown, my remodeler was here to do a little work. That little work turned into a lot of work, and the place looks entirely different.

One of the things I love the most is my industrial chic master bath. There is absolutely nothing special about my bathroom, it’s pretty basic. Personally, I don’t like investing loads of money in a bathroom because I don’t spend all that much time there, and let’s face it, it’s not like I’m going to be doing any entertaining in the bathroom, am I? Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge those of you who do. If you want to turn your bathroom into a spa, more power to you. Me? I have a spa day when the steam from the dishwasher hits me in the face.

Little things can make a world of difference, paint being an economical biggie, so the wall color changed from a flat sage color that I was never happy with to “Foothills” by Sherwin-Williams in an eggshell finish. The light fixture had to go, and I wanted something unique. I spotted this one on the Lamps Plus website, and in less than a week it had been mounted.

I love the look of weathered old wood. I had (don’t ask me why) taken a finial off of the weathered fence of our old house before we moved. I gave that finial to my remodeler, Joe, and told him that I wanted the mirror framed with wood that looked old and weathered like it did. 

 I also wanted the ridiculous towel rack over the toilet (Who uses a towel rack over a toilet? It’s too far away from the sink and the shower to be practical. Let’s not even discuss it’s possible other uses.), and replace it with two shelves in the same weathered wood with brackets made of gas pipe.

It was Joe's suggestion to use that same gas pipe for the toilet tissue holder. I love it!

The leafy candle sconce that used to be on the wall was replaced with a blueprint of a hot and cold water mixer valve from 1893.

One of my dreams was to have a skylight in the bathroom in order to fill it with plants. I did get the skylight, but, it doesn’t let in enough light to allow me to fill the bathroom with plants, still I do have a lovely little corner of low light plants that are doing just fine.

 The rug, a bold choice, what is the final addition. I love the simplicity of everything, the clean lines, and every time I’m in the bathroom it makes me smile.

One final thing, the toilet is new as well, and I’ll be dating myself when I say this next thing... I love my new toilet! Comfort height, an elongated, self-closing seat, and skirted, making it a dream to clean.

I know I’m not alone in making changes. What have you done in the past year as far as improvements to your home? 



Friday, January 8, 2021

Curry Mushroom Soup with Spinach

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Periodically I will wax nostalgic and get out of all of my mother’s recipes. When she passed away, I made sure that I took every box, binder, and envelope containing her recipes because it represented such a large part of my life. In going through them I see handwritten recipes of friends and relatives who have since passed away, so it’s like spending time with old friends.

Mother had a lot of clippings from various books and magazines as well, one of which sounded interesting on a number of levels. It was a recipe for Curry Mushroom Soup. What puzzled me about her having this is that I don’t believe she cared much for curry, nor did she like cream soups. (“Too many calories!” she would say, eyes cast toward my thighs.) I, on the other hand absolutely love curry, and a soup can’t be too rich for me.

This morning, I satisfied my curiosity about this soup; it is without a doubt one of the most delicious mushroom soups that I have ever eaten. This, my friends, is restaurant quality. Because my mother cut this recipe out of a magazine, I have no idea as to the source. I do know that the name is a bit of a misnomer because there is a lot of spinach in the soup; so I’m going to take it upon myself rename it to reflect just that. The recipe directs topping it with bacon. I think the soup is plenty rich on its own, but have at it if you’d like.

Curry Mushroom Soup with Spinach

¾ c. butter, divided
4 c. sliced fresh mushrooms (about 12 oz.)
1 c. finely chopped Melissa’s shallots (about 3)
⅓ c. flour
3 T. curry powder
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. kosher salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
4 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (for garnish)

In a large skillet, melt ¼ cup butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion; cook until tender. Remove from heat. In a Dutch oven, melt remaining ½ cup butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, curry powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook two minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add milk and cream, and cook until thickened. Stir in mushroom mixture and spinach. Cook until heated through.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle bacon over top.

Yield: 8 generous one-cup servings.