Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inspiring Readers

This week is dragging a bit for me.  Lots of homework + tests. For Andrew, not me, but as any parent of a third grader knows, when they've got homework, you've got it too...  We have after school dentist and doctor appointments...  Weird spring like weather in the dead of winter....  I have been on an organizing mission and stepping up my housekeeping skills {not hard to do since they were lacking} since the start of the new year....  Till this week...  Now I'm pooped...  So much for that. Anyway, before I climb into bed with what is likely my 5th cup of tea for the day, I wanted to share a couple stories about two blog friends....

I do not do a blog roll, but if I did a "Reader Roll" these two lovely ladies would be at the top.  I'm always grateful to receive kind comments and emails from readers.  But now and then, I'll get the most heartfelt email and it will blow me away, completely make my day, and give me all the gusto to keep on blogging.  Occasionally, they are from women that don't have blogs of their own, so I don't "know" them they way the "know" me. Over Christmas, I got the chance to know a couple such readers better when they shared pictures of their homes.  I was so inspired + impressed that it is high time I shared them with you too....

First is Kelly {"from Georgia" which is how her comments read}.  Take a look....

Looks like a magazine, right?  Well, that's because it is!!  She doesn't have a blog YET, but her home was featured in the Christmas issue of Cottages a& Bungalows.  So pretty. So much to love.  She doesn't know this, but when I was out Christmas shopping I grabbed a stash of shelter mags to peruse while I drank coffee and this home {HER home} brought my page flipping to a halt. I actual bought the issue just to tear the above image out for my files. It wasn't until a couple weeks later that I found out the Kelly in the mag was the Kelly that reads my blog.  Unbelievable.  Crazy.  She needs to hurry up with her blog.  Until then, more of her home can be seen right here...{click link}

Second, Michelle, another reader whose very kind words have made my day on more than one occasion. Michelle has just started her own blog and shared a couple peeks into her gorgeous home...

This is the dining room that she is REDOING!!  Yes, how pretty is it to start?!! And her sitting room below...

It's so fun to see how she has such similar taste to mine!  Very traditional, loves antiques, blue + white, books, etc.  She has two adorable children and she writes well.  All the makings of a fabulous blog. I can't wait for her to share more.  Please check her out here... A Haus to Call Home

So thank you. To Kelly and Michelle for letting me share a little of your lovely homes on my blog. And to all of you that stop by here. I've always wanted my blog to feel like I was sharing a bit of my life with you, but when you share a little of your lives with me it's even better.  Blogging friendships are definitely real and you are all such a supportive bunch!!!  xo, Tessa

Days 1 to 31...

A picture a day. 
For 365 days.
A personal challenge.
Using {only} my phone + instagram.
Spontaneous, Unedited. Everyday Life.
Here's January.

When {if} I get to day 365, I'll make a slide show.
A year in our life.
I've blogged about it, so therefore I must do it.

Care to join me?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quiche + Savory Madeleines + Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Happy, almost, Friday all!!  I think I'm setting some sort of personal record in blog posts this week.
Are you all tired of me yet??!! :)  I wanted to finish up the week posting a few savory recipes.  The first is for a ham and leek quiche.  When I was growing up we frequently had our friends over for dinner.  My Mum is an incredible cook and served exotic dishes like buttered, caramelized endive, yorkshire pudding and leeks. Back in the 80s, in Southern Ohio, these were highly usual and made for lively dinner/European food lessons for my friends.  Everyone always loved the leeks. My favorite way to eat them was with a cream sauce along side mashed potatoes. My brother's favorite way to eat them was rolled up in ham and baked with a Gruyere sauce over top.  Now leeks are main stream and no one thinks twice about cooking with them.  I still often make them the way my Mum did and having them for dinner always brings back good memories of growing up and our dinners around the round kitchen table with the giant mid-century, egg yolk yellow, light fixture overhead.  It was a horrible thing, back from my parent's very contemporary Scandinavian furniture days.  For all I know, it was from some famous designer, worth a boat load of money today, and sold by my parents in a garage sale. Anyway, I digress.  {Gosh I wish I had a picture of that light fixture + table. I'm going to look in my old albums tonight, see if I can't resurrect that thing for all of you to see!}  Ok, back to the quiche.  This was the most requested recipe from the shower {along with the cake}.  Kevin, if you are reading, tell Toni to make it for you because you will love it!  I hope you all do too.  I liked it so much I made it again for dinner tonight.

1 refrigerated pie crust
1 TBS butter
3 c thinly sliced leeks
kosher salt to taste + 1/2 tsp
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 c diced smoked ham
3 eggs
1.5 c heavy cream
small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c finely shredded Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400.
Butter + flour a 9 inch pie dish or removable bottom tart pan.
Unfold dough in prepared pan, fold over excess dough to form crust.
Line pie crust with a piece of foil and fill with pie weights. {or dried beans}
Bake 15  minutes.  
Remove foil and weights and cook 3-5 minutes longer till very lightly golden.  
Remove and cool.
Reduce oven temp to 350.
Melt butter in saute pan, add leeks, cook 5 minutes, season with salt + pepper.  Let cool.  Add diced ham.
Whisk eggs and cream. Season with 1/2 tsp salt + pepper + nutmeg.
Cover pie crust with leek mixture, poor egg mixture over top, sprinkle with cheese.
Bake 40-45 minutes.
{recipe from williams-sonoma}

Next, I made a savory version of the traditionally sweet Madeleine cookies.  It looks like I doused them in salt, I promise I did not. :) Ok, maybe a little, because that fleur de sel is oh so delish. I made them the night before, but I think they would be best eaten fresh from the oven.  Still mighty tasty though.

1 stick of butter, melted
1 c cake flour
3 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp fluer de sel
1/4 tsp ground pepper
4 eggs
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 TBS sugar
1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Put rack in lower third of oven.
Brush molds of two 12 well madeleine pans with 2 TBS of melted butter and dust with all purpose flour. 
Sift the cake flour into in a bowl and gently stir in the rosemary + 1 tsp fleur de sel + pepper. Set aide.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high until yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the cream of tartar and sugar and beat until the mixture drops from the whisk in ribbons, about 3 minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture and 1 cup cheese, then remaining 6 TBS butter.
Spoon into prepared molds and bake 12 minutes. Immediately remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with salt and cheese and serve.  Makes 18.
{recipe from williams-sonoma}

And last {sorry for the long post, I vow in 2012 to find a better way to post + organize recipes!!} is an oldie but goodie recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto. Sun-dried tomatoes in the 1990's were like the salted caramel of today weren't they?!  They were such a hot ingredient and now you rarely come across recipes featuring them.  Since I was in college in the 90's and armed with my first subscription to Bon Appetit, I became quite fond of the sun-dried tomato.  I actually far prefer sun-dried tomato pesto over traditional pesto.  A little less over powering, though you really aren't very kissable after eating either.  Not a great date food, but the perfect meals-on-wheels food, welcome new neighbor food, potluck, appetizer, etc food.  I love it tossed with pasta like here, but also I use it to coat chicken breasts prior to searing them in the pan.  Works like a charm, so good and the easiest dinner ever. This will keep in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. For the shower, I skewered tortellini tossed in the pesto and served them at room temperature. {picture below was my lunch the day after}.

1 c drained, oil packed sun-dreid tomatoes {6 oz}
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese {or Parmesan}
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
2 TBS pine nuts
3 cloves of garlic
3/4 c olive oil

Combine tomatoes, cheese, basil, pine nuts + garlic in food processor. With machine running slowly add olive oil and process till smooth paste forms.
{recipe from bon appetit, cira 1994!!}

That's all folks!  Have a great weekend!! xo

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paper Flower Wreath ~ Tutorial

When I saw the gorgeous cover of the February Martha Stewart Living magazine with the big Valentine heart constructed out of paper flowers, I knew I wanted to create something similar for Katie's shower.  I approach all crafts, particularly Martha's, with slight trepidation.  I've had enough failed attempts to know that I'm not the world's craftiest girl, but it is fun to have something homemade so I'm willing to keep trying.  March on craft soldiers, march on... But this time it turned out to be pretty simple and very cute.  Here are the deets.....

6 packs of tissue paper, 8 sheets per package {i used three shades of pink}
styrofoam wreath {i used one that is flat on top + bottom see link, i didn't have one for this post}
floral wire
fabric strips to wrap wreath
glue gun

step 1: wrap wreath with fabric, pin in place {i like these pins, extra snug}

step 2: take one stack of 8 sheets of tissue and fold them accordion style starting along the short end. i did about 1.5-2 inch folds.

step 3. cut in half for big flower or thirds for smaller flowers.

step 4. wrap floral wire around the middle

step 5. round off ends with scissors

step 6. fan out and begin lifting one sheet of tissue at a time, till you have a pretty flower. then ohhh and ahhh at your crafty self!

{tip: the smaller flowers are a little more difficult and easier if you use fewer sheets, i did some with 6 sheets and that helped.}

step 7. once you have a collection of flowers, begin playing around with an arrangement on the wreath.  when it looks good, slather wreath with hot glue and hold flower in place.  once it dries there is no moving them so make sure you like it!  finish by pinning on ribbon.  i pinned a small loop of ribbon on the back to hang it.

If you make one I'd love to see pictures!! It really would be super fun for Valentine's Day too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sugar + Spice {and everything nice} Cookies

That's what was inside the treat bags.  I love a crispy cookie, more so than a soft and chewy cookie.  In fact, when I make chocolate chip cookies I slightly overcook one batch just for me. These sugar + spice cookies are crispy, not chewy, and perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, first thing in the morning or while watching TV at night.  My boys love them and can eat a dozen without blinking.  While the original recipe suggests decorating them with royal icing, I prefer a dusting of powdered sugar.  I made these very early in the week, then froze them.  I took them out the morning of the shower, sprinkled with sugar and put them in the bags.

Sugar + Spice Cookies
4 3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1 3/4 c sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c molasses

1. combine dry ingredients, set aside
2. in bowl of electric mixer beat butter + sugar until fluffy {about 2 min}. add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. beat in medium until combined.
3. add molasses, mix till combined. add dry ingredients and mix till combined, about 30 seconds.
4. transfer dough to work surface.  roll into 4 1.5 inch diameter logs. wrap in parchment and refrigerate till firm. 1-2 hours.
5. heat oven to 350.  slice each log into 3/8 inch thick rounds. place on parchment lined baking sheets. cook 12-15 minutes.

recipe via
treat bags, round stickers, pink bakers twine 
and the striped straws {below} 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Best Chocolate Cake

There are a few staple recipes every cook should have and the perfect party cake is one of them. Until recently, I never seemed to be able to master the traditional layer cake.  I tried many that were good but not great, so I tended to favor box mixes because they just seemed moister.  Then one night I stumbled upon the easiest of recipes in an attempt to meet a sudden chocolate cupcake craving from Andrew.  This used ingredients I had on hand, only one bowl, no dry ingredient sifting or room temperature eggs.  I was skeptical.  Then pleasantly surprised.  Actually, somewhat blown away.  The best news is it gets better with each passing day.  Hitting its peak around day 3, or so I hear, it never seems to last quite that long in our home! Boxed cake mix lovers let me reform you...

You'll Love Me Forever Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa {I like Ghirardelli}
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk {I've used 1% and whole with equal success}
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp good quality vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour cake pans or line muffin pan for cupcakes.
Combine sugar through salt in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well and add remaining ingredients, except the boiling water.
Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
Then stir in one cup boiling water.
Batter will be smooth and very runny.
Pour into prepared pans.
Cook for 30-35 minutes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese from fridge
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 cups powdered sugar
4-6 TBS heavy cream

Blend butter.
Add cream cheese, blend till combined.
Add vanilla and cocoa, blend till combined
Add powdered sugar blend on low till combined, increase speed to medium and beat till fluffy.
Slowly add cream to desired spreadability.
Beat till fluffy.
Lick the beater or if you are feeling generous, share with your child!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Baby Shower for Katie

I had the pleasure of treating a beautiful friend to an afternoon in her honor as we celebrated the upcoming {in 2 weeks} arrival of her baby girl.  Katie is the kind of friend that makes you want to give her a party ~ someone who has all the qualities you most want in a good friend.  We had a really nice time and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all this pink in my typically boy filled home. 
{Recipes, party sources and a coupe DIYs to come next week! Promise!}   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tag, I'm it...

my friend, tara, at Between You & Me tagged me in a fun little Q&A game.  tara is a genuine sweetheart.  the real deal in blogging.  so, while i'm not normally a chain letter, tag-it, kind of girl, for tara i will play along.....

1. share 11 facts about yourself
2. answer 11 questions from the blogger that tagged you
3. tag 11 other bloggers {i'm breaking the rules and skipping this part!}

11 facts about me...
1} four foods that i could not live without {in order}: chocolate, cheese, pasta, bread

2} i don't drink beer. {ever} but i do love wine and the occasional cocktail!
3} i don't swear. {almost never}
4} my favorite actresses that i'd also like as friends ~ kate winslet, amy adams, and anne hathaway.
5} one celebrity that i think would make an excellent dinner guest is john stewart.
6} two places i want to visit while i'm still young {relatively speaking} ~ the south of france and tuscany.
7} i prefer B&W photos.

8} i'm not a good dancer, but that doesn't stop me! :)

9} i get lost all the time and have no sense of direction. {ok, and then I swear}
10} hot baths are overrated...i'd rather take a steamy shower.
11} i've been in love once. and married him.

my answers to tara's questions:
1} favorite season? 
2} favorite food? 
3} name three things on your bucket list.
1. take a cooking class in france, 
2. open my own antique + home shop,
3. own a small cottage by the sea that is in walking distance to the beach + a cozy cafe + a bookstore.

4} favorite quality about yourself?
5} least favorite quality about yourself? 
6} favorite thing to do on a lazy day? 
a perfect lazy day would include a walk with my hubs, quiet time in front of a fire to read, good coffee, a chocolate dessert, french food, a matinee,  music while I cook, a friendly gossip session with a girlfriend and sleep.

7} favorite brainless tv show? 
"the bachelor"
8} favorite quality in a friend? 
sense of humor.
9} three things you love about your spouse? 
his compliments, his laugh, his patience
10} hardest part of parenting for you? 
letting them make and learn from their own mistakes without interfering.

11} dress up or casual? stay in or go out? 
hmm. that depends.  with young children our "dates" are typically a movie + take out + a bottle of wine, so sometimes it's fun to dress up, feel a little sexy, put on heels, and go out.  but i'm also quite content to grab a coffee together and hang out at a bookstore.

i'm not tagging anyone, but i'd loooooove to know from you....
1} if you could invite someone famous to dinner who would it be? 
2} what is your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
3} your blogging pet peeve?

have a lovely week!!  
xo, tessa