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Monday, October 7, 2019

BROCCOLI, GRAPE, AND PASTA SALAD

I was recently in need of a second side dish for a family gathering we were hosting.  I knew that I  really wanted something with veggies in it, since the other side was potato salad.

 
This broccoli, grape and pasta salad I found was an awesome choice.  It is super tasty and got really good reviews from the family!  

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup chopped pecans
1 lb. fresh or frozen broccoli (I used frozen)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped red onion
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
8 slices cooked bacon
2 cup seedless grapes, cut in half
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 box (16 oz.) bow tie pasta (farfalle)
1 tsp. salt


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a single layer of pecans on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet.  Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.  Set aside. 

Cook pasta according to package directions.    If using fresh broccoli, clean and cut florets from stems, separate into small pieces.  Discard tough outer layers. 

Place drained pasta and florets into a large bowl.  

In a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, onion, sugar, red wine vinegar, and salt.   *Pour sauce over the pasta/florets.  Cover and chill for 3 hours.  Just before serving, Toss in pecans and bacon.  Serve.  

Note:  *One individual shared that they pour half the sauce over the pasta and broccoli initially and chill the remainder, then add it at the same time the pecans and bacon are added.  I actually chose to assemble mine this way.  I liked the way the additional sauce "refreshed" the entire bowl. 

recipe c/o:  www.southernliving.com

Enjoy!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

FROSTED BANANA BARS

How is it that bananas look great one day, and the next day they're all brown?  So, what to do.....I have an awesome banana bread recipe, but I thought it was time for something a bit different.  In scouring the recipes on the interest, I stopped with frosted banana bars.  I mean.  How could they not be good? 
Here you go....so moist and full of banana goodness finished off with a cream cheese frosting!  They're so good and this recipe makes about 3 dozen!!  I actually froze some to save for another time.

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda 
dash salt

FROSTING: 

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract


DIRECTIONS:
 

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, bananas and vanilla.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into creamed mixture just until blended.

Transfer to a greased or sprayed 15x10x1 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Frost bars.  

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  Taste of Home

Sunday, August 18, 2019

CALICO QUICHE

I have several "go to" quiche recipes that I've collected over the years, but I'm always up for adding new options to my collection.  Those that I have are more breakfast type, while I would consider this one more of a lunch or dinner option based on the main protein being chicken.
 There is a bit of prep, but it wasn't too over the top....and in the end, the house smelled wonderful, and it was very tasty!

INGREDIENTS:

1  (9 inch ) pie shell, homemade or frozen 
¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup swiss cheese, grated
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
½ cup half and half
½ cup sour cream
4 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
*salt & pepper/garlic

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with aluminum foil (in the event of drippage)

Place the shell on the baking sheet.  In the bottom of the pie shell, add the chicken pieces, layer in the peppers and cheeses.

In a saute' pan, melt butter and saute' the onions until soft.  Whisk in flour thoroughly.  Stir in half and half and simmer until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Let cool.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, nutmeg and parsley.  Stir into the onion mixture. 

Pour filling into the pie crust.  ***Bake 35-40 minutes  or until set.   Let cool slightly prior to slicing.


NOTES:  

  • ***The center was still runny, and the top was pale at the 40 minute mark....it took my quiche closer to 55 minutes to fully cook and the top was a beautiful golden brown as well.  
  • I used the Marie Callendar's deep dish pie shell, there's a lot of ingredients in the recipe, so make sure you have room for everything!
  • *The recipe didn't call for any seasoning, but I would suggest adding at least some salt & pepper into the egg mixture (possibly a little garlic powder)
Enjoy!


recipe c/o:  Portland's Palate cookbook

Saturday, August 3, 2019

FOAM FLOWERS

I'm hooked!  I just learned how to make foam flowers and I just can't stop making them.  They're so fun.  I've made hairpieces for a number of brides over the years, so being able to add another variety for my clients was my goal.  I loved how realistic these looked, and I've been working on my technique ever since I found the first YouTube video on them.
I'm pleased with what I've done so far, but I know as with anything in life, I'll only improve with additional practice!  The foamiran foam currently is a little difficult to find.  This seems to be very prevalent in Europe, but not so much here in the U.S.   Shipping costs from Europe are crazy expensive, so I was thrilled when I found a source here in the U.S.

I ordered the white foam and have been practicing/learning on it.  I also purchased some oil pastels and have been playing around with "dyeing" the petals versus purchasing lots of different colors of foam.  
In the beginning, I made my own patterns (after all, I'm a professional patternmaker!), which also meant handcutting each of the flowers with my small scissors.  Some of the flowers take 6 layers, so it took a bunch of time and as expected, each layer was not exactly the same size/shape as the other.  It didn't affect the overall look of the finished product, but it meant more time for me to make adjustments along the way.  I've still been using some of my handmade patterns, but I also invested in a die cutting machine and purchased two basic dies.  What a time saver!  I can run four layers of foam through the machine and have absolutely perfect "cookie cutter" shapes in a matter of seconds.

Again, I'm finding plenty of supplies (dies, stamens, inks, etc.) in the U.K. , but the shipping is more than one die!  So, I haven't broken down and purchased them overseas yet.  I've been making due with what I can source here locally and so far so good.  Maybe in time, I'll take the leap.

I'm also playing around with options for my clients, like combs, alligator clips, and u pins.  I'm also  making sure my finishing techniques on each of these varieties is professional.   There's lots to learn, that's for sure!  I'm tending toward the plastic variety of combs since there are lots of teeth and they're really long versus the metal combs.  I absolutely want these to be secure when they're in place!
So that's my foam flower journey so far!  I love learning new things....it's good for the mind and  the soul!  I'm hopeful that these will sell both on my shop and with my local clients.  In the meantime, I'll keep making more, I really find that I get lost in the creative process and before you know it hours have gone by and I'm still at it!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

PFEFFERNEUSSE COOKIES

Just about every year growing up my Dad would buy a small box of Pfefferneusse cookies around the holidays.  They really have a totally unique flavor profile, and while I enjoyed all of Mom's homebaked cookies, the Pfefferneusse were also yummy.

Don't ask me why I thought of them or this aspect of my childhood in July....but I did....and, of course, I had to go looking for a Pfefferneusse recipe to see if they tasted like I remembered them as a kid.

They're super easy to make and I had everything but anise extract already in my cupboard! 
They really did taste like I remembered.  Spicy and slightly sweet with a firm outside and soft inside.  This recipe makes 26-30 cookies; it also requires the dough to be chilled for at least an hour so keep that in mind when considering the length of time you'll need before you can enjoy them!

 INGREDIENTS: 

1 ¼ cups confectioner's sugar 
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. anise extract
½ tsp. cardamom

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients.  

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat together the butter, brown sugar and molasses on medium spped until light and fluffy. 

Beat in the egg. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Roll dough into 1 ½ inch balls.  Place them on a cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart.

Bake until the cookies are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 14 minutes.  Let cookies cool slightly, then roll in confectioner'sugar.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2019

CATHEDRAL LENGTH BRIDAL CAPE

I love when a bride contacts me and has a custom request for their wedding day!  It makes my heart swell knowing that this particular bride will have the one and only design of its kind for her very special day.

So, when a bride contacted me through my Etsy shop asking if I would make her a custom cathedral length cape, I jumped at the opportunity.  She loved the cut of one of my  "shorter" versions on Etsy and wanted me to make it into a cathedral length version.  She included a couple of pictures for me of a cape with appliques that she loved and we continued collaborating on the final design through email.  She was an absolute delight to work with!  I sent her pictures along the way, so that she could see how it was coming together and we could make modifications if necessary.  As it turned out, she just kept giving me a "thumbs up" and allowed me to use my creative license to develop the design as I saw fit.  Just what a designer wants to hear!
The bride has an elegant and classic strapless trumpet style silk gown, with no
embellishments.  Her train is chapel length , so the cape will be the perfect accent piece for her signature look.  She plans on wearing it for the ceremony and will remove it for the reception.  Can't you just envision the entrance she'll make?


Frankly, I lost track of the total hours of labor involved after 25 hours.  There was a lot of handstitching of the appliques due to the intricacies of the leaf and floral pattern in the appliques.

Prior to the stitching though, was the time it takes to develop the actual design or layout of the appliques.  Some of them are in their original state as I received them from the vendor.  However, the vast majority I cut apart to make my own unique appliques in varying shapes and sizes.

The cut of the cape is a circular shape, so the front of the cape has a "flutter" like drape (which was one of the elements my bride really liked) versus the typical straight edge down to the floor.  This is going to create a lovely framework for her gown!

I also added 3D flowers to the appliques very sporadically....but, they pop due to the pearls and sequin accents I added....they'll look beautiful sparkling in the sunlight.  The bride's request for a floral lace pattern is based upon the fact that she is getting married in Hawaii in a garden setting!

I'm looking forward to receiving pictures from her after the wedding.  She had sent me a few pictures of her in her gown and she is absolutley beautiful.  She had a very clear vision of what she wanted and I'm honored to have brought it to life for her! 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

PARIS AND AMBOISE FRANCE

The second part of this year's Mother/Daughter vacation (after we spent 3 days in Venice) was Paris and Amboise, France.   Paris was strategically placed as our layover spot on the day of our arrival from Venice and the night before our departure back to the states.  I had only been to Paris once before, which was prior to the pyramid at the Louvre (which makes it prior to 1983 when construction began).
  I wanted to hit some highlights of the city to refresh my memory so I planned a self-guided walking tour for each of those days.  We had about 12 hours total, which allowed us to hit some of the "must-sees" on my list.  I find the metro to be a great resource in helping to navigate the city in a short amount of time.     On our first day, we saw:  Tuileries Garden, the Louvre, Palais Royal, and Le Village Royal.  We finished our evening in a sweet cafe' over a glass of wine and a lovely charcuterie platter.    The morning before we caught our train to Amboise, we rented motorized scooters and were able to see the Eiffel Tower, Place du Trocadero, and the river Seine.  It was a really fun way to get around quickly to take in the sights.    On our last night in France (our second stopover in Paris), we saw:  Sacre Couer, Montmartre, the sinking house, and just the front facade of Notre Dame (due to the recent fire, the streets were blockaded and guarded by the Police and Gendarmarie).   
    The train ride from Paris to  Amboise is just about 2 hours.  There are several choices of towns in the Loire valley to choose from for "home base"; my research suggested Amboise is one of the quieter choices.  We loved our stay here.  It was quaint, small, friendly and we stayed at an awesome place, Le Manoir les Minimes.   The bedding was very comfortable, and the room was on the larger size .  While it doesn't have a restaurant, it's literally a five minute walk into town.     Amboise also delivered the best meal of the trip !  L' Epicerie was amazing.  The owner was delightful, and helped us immensely in translating the French menu. The food was so delicious!                           

The reason I wanted to visit the Loire Valley was because of the chateaus in the region.  There are over 300!  (Not all are open to the public) I dedicated one day to our chateau visits, so I narrowed it down to the top three; the bonus fourth chateau was just up the hill from our hotel in Amboise.  This region is so romantic, I could have spent more time here for sure!

 In addition to the Chateau d' Amboise, we visited, Chambord, Cheverney and Chenonceau.  They were all beautiful, but my absolute favorite was Chenonceau.  Many of the chateaus have some rooms that are furnished so that you can really immerse yourself in the history and get a true feel of life in that era.  Again, Chenonceau was far superior to the others in the interior as well.     


Since I didn't  rent a car this trip, I found a company that I booked a "van tour" with to take us to the three chateaus (Acco-Dispo).  We were gone all day, and were able to visit the chateaus at our own pace.  Our driver was very informative as we drove from chateau to chateau.  It was perfect. 
Chateau d'Amboise
The weather during our visit was cool, but mostly dry and sunny.  We arrived just after the cherry blossoms were at their peak, but the gardens were in full bloom.  Again, Chenonceau's gardens (two) and grounds were stunning!

The Loire valley is also known for its extensive bike trails.  There are plenty of rental shops in the area, and the price is really reasonable.  You can rent by the day or day(s).  We spent one day just biking around the area.  I will say, you need to be prepared for some steep hills (there were times we actually walked alongside our bikes), and spotting the signs for specific trails was a challenge at times. But hey, we biked in France!
Chenonceau



                                             
                                                           Cheverny
I know another visit to France is in my future.  There were so many places I wanted to see when I was planning this trip, but I narrowed it down to the Loire valley this time around.    

Normandy, Provence, Brittany......a girl can dream, right?
             
                    Chambord