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May 27, 2013

Cape Cod Weekend | A Classic New England Clambake & Emma on the Beach

**I'm re-sharing this post from our trip last Memorial Day Weekend to Cape Cod.  This year in our Cape Cod-style house we've hosted two parties and will have attended two others by the weekend's end of both new and old friends.  While I miss our vacation lifestyle with weekend excursions to fabulous New England locations, I love being settled into our new house in our "home" city.

Emma's on Summer break this week, so my blogging might be sparse... but I'll be sure to take a lot of photos of our projects.  I hope you're having a great weekend!


Last year when we first moved to the Boston area, we drove out the Cape to see what it was all about.  We came across the beautiful Chatham Bars Inn on our driving tour- it was picture perfect Cape Cod.  It went right to my list of 'musts' during our stay in New England.

On Thursday last week I got the itch to get out of town.  I needed that feeling of freedom.  That mind clearing, its the weekend, free from the computer, free from laundry, give me a cocktail feeling that only a vacation can give you.

After a two hour drive we were transported to the grand and stately Chatham Bars Inn.

The moment we entered, I was taking design notes the entire time, noting fixtures, upholstery choices, drapes, the subdued color palate and the refined, yet comfortable feeling the rooms had.  I was thinking, "I would love for our future home to feel like this..." Then the inevitable day dreaming of our future 'perfect' home/life begins.  My mind starts racing- how I long for a stately home to fill with unique finds, comfortable furnishings and pieces full of character... budget?  What budget?  Ah, what a lovely life that would be.

Then we step out onto the beach.  Restored.  My crazy head stops its babbling and I breathe.  Fresh. Ocean.  Air.

I watch Emma smile at the wind in her face.   All of those thoughts about needing, wanting, waiting for more seem distant, almost insane to think that they would make us...


I think God for vacations...

...that remind us to breath.  And smile. 

Maybe that is what vacations are for.  To get rid of the if, when, if only, then, then our lives will be perfect state of mind.  They wake us up- you're already there.

Enjoy the ride.  And so we did...

At our first official clambake.  Clambakes hold a special place in our hearts.  You might remember that Mike and I have hosted a clambake at our house for the last 3 years... in our old backyard, back in the Midwest.

It was our tradition.   Actually, it was my tradition... Mike was a only guest at my first clambake. 

Clambakes throughout the years...

The Clambake of 2012.

It was almost surreal as we sat there feasting in the sand during sunset with living music playing, a bonfire roaring and lanterns lit.  We missed our friends that made those backyard clambakes so great, but loved celebrating our first clambake with Emma.


Snuggled, getting ready to drift off...

Enter: Daddy 

And time for s'mores.

The view as we walked back to our cottage.

 A great weekend.

May 24, 2013

Grilled Romaine Lettuce | Summer Grilling

When I was in college I worked at a Micro-Brewery (Flatbranch for my fellow Mizzou folks...) and there they served a grilled romaine salad.  As this was around 13 years ago, I know that grilled salads are not new to most of you... but I had never actually tried one until a few weeks ago.  We had dinner with my brother and his Claire at one of our local favorite spots - Gram and Dun.  (It is a sort of chic comfort food type place with great drinks.  You might remember, last year I shared my version of their Chorizo & Mussels.)  Along with the mussels (again!), I ordered their grilled salad that I've been anxious to recreate.

My version starts with a basting liquid with rosemary, lemon and garlic that you brush over before and after grilling.  After the grill, I squeezed with fresh lemon and topped with parmesan cheese.  Sooooo good.  The slight grilled rosemary flavor is really special with the freshness of the lemon and lettuce.

Grilled Romaine Salad

1/2 cup of olive oil
1 lemon, juice & zest
1 tablespoon of rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon of garlic, minced
sea salt
cracked pepper
2 small-ish heads of romaine (I used the pre-packaged hearts)
1 lemon, quartered
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, fresh grated
cherry tomatoes

Start grill or prepare coals.  While the grill is heating up...

Wash and dry the romaine lettuce.  Cut in half length-wise.  Mix together the oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Brush mixture on the cut side of the lettuce. 

Grill lettuce, cut side down for 2-4 minutes (depending on the temp of your grill) just until grill marks appear.  Remove from grill and brush again with liquid.  Top with tomatoes, squeeze of lemon and parmesan cheese.

May 23, 2013

Grilled Tomato, Goat Cheese, Fresh Sweet Corn & Basil Appetizer

I'm always looking for new fresh ways to serve our favorites - Tomatoes, Sweet Corn & Basil.  During the summer we get tired of just sliced tomatoes and corn on the cob - somehow - though it seems impossible right now.  This little appetizer is an amazing combo of everything we love.  Grilling the tomato adds a slight smokiness, and warms the goat cheese, offset by the cold and crunchy sweet corn kernels and fresh basil.  Though I don't always serve plated starters when we have friends for dinner, sometimes I come across something so special, it is worth washing the extra dish.  You can also serve this as a traditional shared appetizer if you cut it into wedges and serve it with grilled bread... which I think I'll do for a party this Friday.  

 Grilled Tomato, Goat Cheese, 
Fresh Sweet Corn & Basil Appetizer

4 thick slices of tomato - firm enough to grill
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
4 ounces of goat cheese
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels cut off
2 tablespoons of basil

Place the 4 slices of tomato on a pan or plate ready to go to the grill.  In a small bowl make the brushing liquid by stirring together oil, lemon juice, vinegar garlic salt and pepper.  Brush on both sides of the tomato.

Grill tomato for 2 minutes, then flip.  After flipping, top tomato with goat cheese (a little goes a long way...) and more of the lemon garlic oil.  Grill for 2-3 more minutes until the goat cheese is warm and soft.  Remove from the grill.  Plate and sprinkle on fresh corn cut from the cob and basil.  Drizzle on more of the lemon garlic liquid.

May 22, 2013

The BEST Brownies... Truffle Brownies | LG EasyClean Oven Range

Last month, I shared one of my "Messy Recipes" (a recipe book or card that was splattered with ingredients from being used over and over again) from my little blue book that was my journal during my catering days - it contained all of my favorite recipes that I made over and over for my clients.  Well, this month, I was asked share another sort of "Messy Recipe" by the folks at LG.  

They have recently launched their new generation of LG EasyClean™ Double Range Ovens that can be cleaned in minutes instead of hours... meaning less time cleaning and more time to spend doing, well, anythingelse!    All you do is spray the oven interior with water, press the EasyClean button, then in just 20 minutes, wipe away any residual bits.  I love that there are no chemicals or high heat needed - something I always consider. To learn more about LG EasyClean click here.

1 pound of butter (4 sticks)
2 pounds of chocolate chips
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cup of flour
6 eggs
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean

In a microwave safe bowl, place chocolate chips, then top with 4 sticks of butter. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, until butter melts and covers the chips. Stir to melt.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add it to the chocolate mixture in a kitchen aid, fitted with the paddle. 

Add the eggs and stir until just combined. Bake in a large 13x18 baking sheet at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. I let these cool overnight in the refrigerator to help the cutting process. Then enjoy!

Now it’s your turn to tell me - what is YOUR favorite recipe that leaves your oven messy? Let me know in the comments for your chance to win your own LG EasyClean™ Double Oven Range!
Sweepstakes Rules:
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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winner  will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.
This sweepstakes runs from 5/22/13 - 7/15/13.

May 21, 2013

Summer Grilling Menu : Tomato, Goat Cheese & Corn, Grilled Romaine Salad, and Grilled Pesto Shrimp

Today, I had a little fun and prepared the freshest, most flavorful, non-traditional grilled menu.  We just set up our grill last week and after making one round of burgers, I was ready to dive into new ideas for the grilling.

I started with this appetizer that is a slice of tomato topped with goat cheese and grilled.  During the grilling process, it is drizzled with a lemon garlic olive oil.  After the grill, it is topped with fresh basil and fresh sweet corn kernels.  I LOVED this... would've been great with some crusty bread.  On the grill, of course.

I recently tried a grilled salad at one of our favorite restaurants and had to try to recreate it.  I brushed mine with an olive oil, lemon, garlic and rosemary mixture, then topped it with tons of Parmesan cheese.

And finally, my favorite grilled dinner - herb shrimp with pasta tossed in a fresh pesto sauce.

I'll post all of the recipes later this week!

May 20, 2013

The Great American House | New, New Addition Plans for Our House

One of my Mother's Day gifts was this book, The Great American House by Gil Schafer.  I've been eying it for months... but since it is not available on the ipad, I hadn't gotten around to getting it for myself. 

There are a million reasons why I love this book and the style that Mr. Schafer presents - but mostly, I love that the book is all about embracing modern living and making it work with true American style.  He designs home with large mudrooms and open kitchens that feel like they were built 100 years ago. 

As we're planning our addition, it is something I've been struggling with as we interview contractors and architects... I don't want our house too look or feel like a brand new house.  I want it to have the charm and character of an old house that has a history. 

A couple of months ago I posted my sketches of our vision.  I got great feedback from all of you and have made adjustments accordingly.  The biggest addition to the addition as been that of a large mudroom and dry storage, and a studio for me.   

As you can see - attached to the garage is a studio (that envision to look like a classic potting shed) with french doors that will lead out to the garden.  Hopefully it will be a place that I can do projects, make messes and then just hose down.  I've also included a dog wash area in the garage - another recommendation from the readers! 

Instead of losing the charming porch off of the side of our house, we're now considering a detached garage instead of an attached.  I think the little jog over to the mudroom/studio and garage will add some charm to the exterior.  We're also hoping to add a covered porch off of the kitchen (accessed through double french doors) that will step down to the patio. 

Another new idea is instead of turning the old garage into a guest bedroom, we'll be using it as a library/dining room.  I think I would miss having a formal dining room for the holidays, so I think this will be a nice addition... and it can be more of a library/study the rest of the time.  Because the rest of the house will be pretty open, it will be nice to have place that can be a cozy quiet zone for working and studying.

THIS is exactly how I want our kitchen table and hearth area to be... french doors and all.  In fact, I love everything - the beamed ceiling, and the paneled fireplace with a stone inset.

I love the stone floor and the dutch door of this mud room.

 I wish we had room for a barn : )

Again, these are just my own preliminary sketches and ideas... I'd love your input!

May 16, 2013

Strawberry Iced Sugar Cookies

For each holiday, Emma and I have decorated sugar cookies together and Mother's Day was no exception. 

You can see all of her cookie projects :

1st Valentines Day (2 Months)
Pumpkins (10 Months)
Snowflakes (12 Months)
Easter Chicks & Eggs (14 Months)
Strawberries (17 Months)

As she's gotten older she likes to be more hands-on in the decorating process... no longer can I give her a cookie to play with while I intricately decorate the others.  So, I adopted a new, streamlined method for decorating.

Instead of classic Royal Icing, I made a simple butter glaze that I pour over cookies when they're still warm.  The glaze covers the entire top of the cookie and the remaining drips off.  Then, I go back and add very simple details with a piping bag (usually during nap time).   I found that the butter in the glaze keeps the cookies really moist and tastes better, too.    And, as always, you can find my standby Sugar Cookie recipe here.
As you can see, Emma chose to sugar some of her cookies before baking.

Butter Glaze Cookies

-Sugar Cookie (warm from the oven) recipe here
-Cooling Rack
-4 tablespoons of butter, melted
-2 tablespoons of milk
-3 cups of powdered sugar
-food coloring

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave butter with the milk until the butter is melted.  Add powdered sugar until good, pourable, but not too runny, constancy is achieved.  Add color (see my tips here).

When cookies come out of the oven, remove the cookies with a spatchula and place them on a cooling rack.  Place a clean baking sheet lined with parchment underneath.  Pour icing glaze over the cookies tilting each cookies so the tops are completely covered.

She's a very serious and precise decorator - next time I'll video!  She'll spend several minutes on each one dunking, re-dunking and tasting.

Almost nap time! 

Speaking of strawberries - it is almost strawberry picking time.  Emma and I plan to be there next week during the first few days of the season filling our baskets!
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