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April 26, 2012

Around Our House | Lilacs & Emma

Here's a little sneak peak to a project I've been working on...


April 24, 2012

Better Pasta Bolognese

I will admit, before 10 years ago I had never heard of Bolognese.  In our house, like many other families, it was called Meat Sauce.  It was my favorite version of "spaghetti."   Most versions are basically browned ground beef with garlic and onions, then various canned tomatoes and dried Italian seasoning.  Simple and good.  Since then, I've been introduced to Bolognese.  There are many different recipes for bolognese ranging from very simple with few ingredients to many with a slew of meats to create a very sophisticated flavor complex.  My version is someplace in between.  It is special, but simple - similar to the good ole Americanized "Meat Sauce," but with a couple more enhancements to add depth of flavor.   

Pasta Bolognese
my version of a classic

1/4 pound of pancetta, diced
1 pound of ground beef
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of onion, small dice
1/4 cup of red wine
1 teaspoon of tried Italian herbs
2 bay leaves
1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/4 cup of cream
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 pound of pasta

In a sauce pan, cook pancetta, rendering fat.  When almost crispy, remove the pancetta and set it aside leaving the fat in the pan.  Add the ground beef and cook it until it has browned.  Add olive oil and onion, cook for 3 minutes then add garlic.  Cook for 30 seconds, then add red wine.  Cook for 3-5 minutes on medium until the onion has absorbed the wine.  Add herbs, tomatoes and tomato paste.  Cook for 10 minutes until simmering.  Lower heat and add cream.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes at a low simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

In the meantime, begin boiling a large pot of salted water.  Cook pasta until it is almost done - be careful not to over cook it.  Remove it from the water and place it directly in the saucepan.  Stir to coat.  Serve garnished with parmesan.

April 22, 2012

Lemon, Garlic & Thyme Roasted Chicken on a Sunday night

This past week and weekend has been sunny and hot in New England.  Then today, out of no where, it was 50 degrees and rainy.  All day.  And it will continue to be cold and rainy all week.  After a week of grilling out and eating fresh, a real meal sounded good - I jumped at the chance to make us a comforting dinner on a Sunday night. 

Roasted Chicken
with lemon, garlic & thyme
4 chicken breasts, split
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup of white wine (optional)
6 cloves of garlic
10 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon of cracked pepper

Place chicken breasts in a baking dish.  In a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and garlic.  Place thyme sprigs on top of the chicken breasts.  Pour mixture over the chicken.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the breasts.  Cover and marinate for 1 hour or more, if you have the time.

Bake chicken covered in foil at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.  Remove from the oven, let sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Chicken breasts in my baking dish.  Notice the mini bottle of white wine - I've been buying them to use in my cooking because we never have a bottle of white around the house.

Juicing the lemons, seeds?  What seeds?

I like to pour the marinate over, then season.  If I season them first, then the marinade just washes it away.

Ready to go into the fridge for an hour - if you have the time.  If not, just go ahead and put them in the oven.

Put the chicken under the broiler for 2-3 minutes if they skin has not browned enough.  

This is perfect - I love how the lemons get roasted, too. 

I served them with mashed potatoes and drizzled the sauce over.  Be sure to squeeze a little bit of the roasted lemon over, too - it has an amazing flavor after cooking in those garlicy juices.

April 20, 2012

Creative Layer Cakes : Share Your Photos!

I'm always so interested in what you are cooking and baking... Hey- I need inspiration, too.  So, I'd like to invite you to a Share Your Food Photos on My Community.  I'd like to make this a weekly thing! 

Here's how it will go :  You submit your photo via My Community (you can upload a photo when you reply to the Conversation).   Describe the elements you used in your recipe, and how your family and friends enjoyed it.  I'll select one (or more...) of the submissions to feature here on the blog the following week.  I might even ask you to share the recipe!

This week, I'd like to see what Layer Cake combination you can come up with.  As you remember from last week, I posted about my Vanilla Pound Cake with Lemon Curd, Whipped Cream, Berries & Black Plums... What combination can you come up with?  Be creative, or classic - whatever your family will love.

Please share your photos by Monday morning on this conversation thread.  I can't wait to see what you've been up to.

New to food photography?  Here are a couple of Food Photography Quick Tips that will help your layer cake look its best.

Food Photography : Quick Tips

Natural Light : Take your photos by a window and turn off all overhead artificial lights.

White Curtain : Hang a white curtain over the window.  This will soften the light and any harsh shadows.  You'll be surprised to see that your photo is actually lighter than if you didn't use the curtain.  No curtain?  Be creative, use a sheet or tea towel.

No Flash : Turn off your flash!  Food taken with a flash will look greasy and have major shadows.

LEFT : This is what my 'set-up' looked like when I was creating the Spring Header.  Notice the white curtains.

April 18, 2012

Scones, Scones, Scones... I'm fool for Scones | Quick Blueberry Lemon Glazed Scones

 By now you've all tried the Cranberry Scones with Orange Glaze, right?  Several times?  Me, too.  Several times.  Yesterday morning, I wanted more. 


I had no cranberries.  No oranges for the glaze.

However, I did have some blue berries and a lemon...  

Fresh Blueberry Scones
with a lemon glaze

2 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt using the paddle attachment.  Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add the butter to the dry ingredients and mix on low until the butter is mixed in and is the size of peas.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs and whipping cream with a fork.  Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the cream and egg mixture.  Turn off the mixer once added.  Fold in blueberries . 

Put some flour on the counter.  Turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  Add some flour onto the top of the dough, then pat it out into a disk - about 8-9 inches in diameter.  Cut the disk into 6 pieces like a pie. 

Separate the pieces and put them on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-17 minutes. 

To make the glaze, stir together orange juice, zest and powdered sugar.

April 17, 2012

Flowers & Herb Planter | DIY Gift Idea

I know I am not the first to think of this... but I don't see it that often.  Maybe it is just something I've never done, combined the two- flowers and herbs.  Normally, I plant them separately.  But I like this idea... and I think my herbs will have better luck outside on my steps than they do, often neglected, inside.

Talk about a great Mother's Day gift - she's pretty and productive, just like Mom herself.

April 16, 2012

Everyday | Living Well Everyday | Mr. Darcy

If you are a regular follower or you've read the "About" section of this blog, then you know that I write about Occasions- more specifically, Everyday Occasions. 

What does exactly does this mean?

It means not waiting for 'special occasions' to celebrate life.   Everyday we have the opportunity to live well.

It means not waiting for the next period in your life to live thoughtfully and purposefully.  It means enjoying and recognizing little moments on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. 

It means that instead of sleeping in, getting up early for a sunrise walk.  Or instead of getting up early, sleeping in and stopping for an extra large latte and scone and not feeling guilty about it. 

It means opening a bottle of wine on a weeknight and staying up past your (self-instated) bedtime to chat like you used to when you were dating.  It means using real vanilla beans in your morning coffee or in the whipped cream on the apple crostada you whipped up on a Wednesday night. 

It means whipping up an apple crostada on a Wednesday night.  It means folding your towels just right so they fit in the linen closet neatly. 

Sometimes living well takes extra effort. 

 Sometimes it takes less effort.

It means making the bed not because it will make your room look tidy, but because it will feel good to get into that night.

It means having seasonal flowers planted in pots on your front steps and a wreath on your front door that makes the house look cheery when you come home from the grocery store everyday. 

It means putting a single flower on your bedside table (or beside the rocking chair in the nursery) so you can smell it when you wake up.

I believe the art of living well is found in between the big moments- those little opportunities we have to make life special.

April 13, 2012

Planted Pansies Centerpiece | Spring Centerpiece | Mother's Day Centerpiece

It is no secret that I like planted flowers indoors - I love that they are seasonal, last longer than cut flowers and are usually much less expensive.  Do you know how much it would have cost me to make a floral arrangement to fill this pewter bowl- especially if I had it done at a floral shop.  Hundreds.  Hundreds!  For $12 I made this very sweet and seasonal centerpiece that would great for Mother's Day... or any other occasion like a Tuesday? 

Use potting soil to fill the container.  After a couple of days the flowers should be transferred to a pot, as this bowl doesn't have any drainage.  It will work great for about 5-7 days, though.  

Start by placing the flowers around the perimeter of the bowl, then fill in with soil.  Pack them in tight for a full effect.

Use moss to cover any exposed dirt... not a lovely sight on the dining table.


 Here is the easy-to-pin strip!

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