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February 25, 2014

Slow-Simmered Cabernet & Thyme Mushroooms

It is hard to believe that these slow-simmered mushrooms were my favorite part of the meal last weekend.  You know something's good when it almost outshines Beef Tenderloin.  Even Mike (a known non-mushroom fan) took a liking to them.  They had almost transformed after being simmered in cabernet all day a turned an amazing deep purple color.   

They are completely effortless to prepare - you just have to make them early in the day so they have time to cook about 4-6 hours and make the transformation.  

Cabernet & Thyme Mushrooms

Get my Printable Recipes, here.

1 stick of butter
4 cloves of garlic
4 cups of Mushrooms (I used baby bella), cut in half
1/2 bottle of Cabernet
2 cups of beef broth
2 teaspoons of sea salt
6 sprigs of thyme

In a medium/large heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.  Add wine, broth, salt & thyme.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, covered for 4-6 hours.

Looks like a great way to start a recipe - all of my favorite things.

Be careful not to burn the garlic, keep the heat low.

Add mushrooms and let them begin to soften and absorb the butter.

Add wine, broth, sea salt and thyme.  Rosemary would also work - especially around the holidays.

Simmer on low (or put in the oven covered) for 4-6 hours until the mushrooms have absorbed the wine and become deep purple.


I served the mushrooms piled next to the Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin and Roasted Colorful Carrots at our Dinner Party with friends last weekend.  More of the recipes coming this week... including Baked Truffle Parmesan Fries!

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February 24, 2014

Progressive Dinner Party Prep | Steak Frites with Truffle Fries & Carbernet Thyme Mushrooms

Our entertaining style has definitely evolved a little bit since we've had Emma.  Before she was born we hosted our friends all of the time to long, lingering dinners around the table with multiple bottles of wine - it was our favorite way to spend the weekend.

From the time she was 6 months until she was about a year and a half, we would invite friends over at 7 for drinks, put Emma to bed at 8 and served dinner at 8:15.  It worked perfectly when her bedtime routine was being rocked for 10 minutes and she fell asleep, done.

Nowadays, her bedtime routine looks more like : playing dress-up for 20 minutes, dancing for 20 minutes, running around for 20 minutes, then reading books for a half hour... it is drawn-out to say the least.  We love the routine during the week, because it is a fun, no TV just fun and silly time for us to spend with her.  However... it makes it hard to have a post-bedtime adult-only dinner while they're waiting on you to put her down.

So, entertaining at our house has become more family friendly - which we love, but sometimes I get the itch to have one of those lovely, long and lingering candlelight and multiple bottles of wine dinners like the old days.

I planned the weekend as a little treat for everyone, Emma got to stay the night at her Mimi & Papi's house, and I planned a fun progressive dinner party with some of our friends.  We went to one of the neighbors for Cocktail Hour, here for dinner, then to the last couple's for dessert.  It was such a great time and the food and drinks was fabulous at every house.

Earlier in the day I made out my to-do list and schedule for the party as I always do - an old habit from catering days.  Getting a timeline down on paper really helps me be on autopilot, otherwise, I'll just keep thinking about what happens when and it will drive me crazy.  

This was the simplest menu I think I've ever prepared.  The prep work literally took me 30 minutes... which gave me a little more time to spend on the table.

Last week was a beautiful week with a tiny glimpse of spring for a couple of days... and now it is going to snow again this week.  For the dinner party, I wanted it to feel like spring so used purple hyacinth and daffodils "arranged" in drinking glasses.  I like to keep the flowers really simple and casual for friendly dinner parties, otherwise it can feel a little too fussy for my style.  But, I do like the table to feel full and festive, so I always make sure I have plenty of candles and usually multiple small bunches of flowers.  I like it to look fresh and pretty, but not too sparse - hosting friends should be about sharing bounty and abundance. 

For the candles, I used my new favorite Thin Taper candles.  This is a tip I "borrowed" from Eddie Ross a couple of years ago when he led me on a tour of the Creative Candle factory (the same candles I now carry in the store). 

He said he often uses an array of glass containers down a table with candles set in sea salt.  I love the idea and use it all of the time - especially in the summer with pillar candles. 
I used my Anna Wheatherly powder blue gold rimmed plates - I love how they look with the yellow daffodils - and classic white hemstitch linen napkins.
Dinner was so simple - and one of my favorite meals yet.  No surprise, Beef Tenderloin was the centerpiece.  It can be a little pricey, but it is just so darn easy and fabulous that it is worth it.  Prep is simple - drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Full recipe here.   I'll share the rest of the full recipes this week.

We've really been into roasting these "colorful" carrots lately.  Simple, fresh and beautiful to serve. 

I cooked mushrooms all day in garlic, red wine and thyme... so, so good.  I served them piled up next to the beef on the platter, and the sauce on the side.  This was my first time slow cooking them - and I can't wait to make them again.  Well, actually, I already did last night for dinner.   So good.

Another new favorite, well, an old favorite, but the first time I've made them at home.  The big secret is that I used frozen french fries, then dressed them up with truffle oil, parmesan and thyme.  Completely amazing.  I'll also be making these again very, very soon. 

As always, when I'm planning a dinner party I like to create a menu that can be made in advance.  For this dinner, everything was made earlier in the day, then popped in the oven during cocktail hour.  Simple.  

Here is the table all set before we headed out for cocktail hour.

Dinner is served.  I snapped this photo just before everyone sat down for dinner. 

I love to put everything on one platter - beef down the middle, and mushrooms and carrots piled on the sides.  You can see the truffle fries on the other corner of the table.  I walked the large platter around and served everyone while they passed the fries and sauce - it makes a very friendly and casual serving style and gives me a chance to chat with everyone.

I'll be sharing the rest of the recipes this week and hope to get the recipes we enjoyed at the other houses, too - Amy's Goat Cheese & Peppadew Dip and Annie's Mocha Silk Pie were both amazing.    Hope you are off to a great week.

February 20, 2014

Blueberry & Vanilla Bean Pancakes

Our February Saturday mornings have been very cozy around here.  Usually, I get up early and get to go to the grocery store all by myself : )  Little luxurious.  Strangely enough, I always buy/spend way more when I'm alone - probably because I'm a more ambitious cook when I'm shopping in a non-hectic, chasing after Emma fashion.  On this Saturday morning, (in addition to quite a few of other things) I came home with Blood Oranges, Blueberries and Tulips to inspire a big breakfast.

Our Saturday morning breakfasts usually consist of scones, pancakes or cinnamon rolls, bacon or sausage, herb scrambled eggs and fruit.  Much to Mike and Emma's delight, I've recently been experimenting with different pancake recipes.  I started with two favorites - Barefoot Contessa Sour Cream Banana Pancakes + Pioneer Woman Perfect Pancakes.  After tinkering with the proportions of each, and adding our own favorite flavors (blueberries & my coveted vanilla bean paste), I came up with our new go-to recipe.  One of the tricks (brought to my attention by my sister) is to cook them in half oil and half butter.  You get the brown crisp from the oil and the lovely buttery flavor.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen the above a sneak peek from the morning of.  By the way, Instagram is the easiest way to get in touch with me if you have any questions or comments about a recipe.  I find that I am actually pretty quick with responses on there because they come right to my phone and I don't have to login to the blog, as I do when responding to comments below.  Just an FYI if you need to ask me a question in a hurry.

You'll also see a lot of Emma on my Insta : )

Emma's doing her part and setting the table with her flower arranging... her favorite craft of the moment.  I must tell you that we discovered the tulips were a little bit more challenging than the spray roses.  The stems were a little too tempting to snap in half... making a couple of very tiny tulips that had to spend the rest of the week in a mini latte bowl sitting in water.

Our Favorite
Blueberry & Vanilla Bean Pancakes

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups of milk
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Paste
1-2 cups of fresh blueberries (depending on how many you like)

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter

Softened Butter
Real Maple Syrup
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Begin by mixing together dry ingredients.  Separately, whisk together milk, sour cream, eggs and vanilla bean paste.  Mix wet and dry ingredients, then fold in blueberries.

Heat a skillet on medium with oil and butter.  Lower heat just a little bit and cook pancakes for 3-4 minutes on each side over medium-low heat until browned.  Keep warm on baking sheet in oven while cooking the rest of the pancakes.

Serve with softened butter and warm Real Maple Syrup.

Emma's tulip arrangement in my favorite Match Pewter pitcher - a wedding present from my Aunt Lisa.

Emma saying her prayer for us with a sweet little bud vase tulip for her high chair tray.


February 18, 2014

Our New Addition : Kitchen Plans... Need your help!

The time has finally come to bring you back into the New Addition loop.  Well, almost.   We are very, very close to having everything settled and official.  I'll post the entire plan when we get the sign-off from the city in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed...).  Until then, I'm going to share our plans for the main part of the new addition, which is pretty solidified.

We've been planning this add-on since we bought the house a year and a half ago - as you know if you've been following along.  We bought the house because we love the charming neighborhood, and because I have a thing for New England style architecture.  Since we were moving back home from Mass, I loved the idea that I would could still have a New Englandy style Cape Cod house. 

Like most cape-style houses, it is small - right around 1,100 sqft.  Most of the houses in our little neighborhood were build in the 40's and are very cottagy and charming.  A majority of the homes have been added onto and remodeled to accommodate modern living... but not ours, which is exactly why we bought it.  

Here is our plan for the new addition.  As I mentioned, there are other details I'll share in the future as well, including garage, mudroom, second floor with master suite which plans are being tinkered with at the moment.

We're merging the existing kitchen and dining space with a new 15-ish foot bump out that will include a new hearth area and larger kitchen.  The room will be filled with windows, french doors, painted (Navajo White) paneling and moldings. 

I love small cozy rooms, but love an open floorplan for living and entertaining. While designing this space I've made a conscious effort to keep this wide open plan feeling cozy.  I'd love your input and ideas. 

Here are some photos that I've shared before and some new that will give you a better idea for my vision.  Resources can be found on my Pinterest board :

I really like this - I've gone back and forth many times... should I change my Baking Counter into a cozy breakfast nook?!  

Besides that debate, I love the beams in this photo, the white on white, wooden stools and the classic rugs.

I've officially decided to have wooden countertops.  It will be my third kitchen with wood and I just can't get away from it - I love the rustic, cozy factor it adds.  I'm sure I will add some marble details, too... because that is my other tempter.  What do you think about wood topped island and marble surround?  Or, marble subway tile backsplash with all wood tops?

We will also have brass pulls and lanterns mixed with polished nickel faucets.

This is how I envision the hutch that merges with the baking counter - glass front, but I'll probably keep cake stands and baking pantry essentials in it.

As you can see from the plans, we've also included a large bank of windows over the baking counter vs. upper cabinets to bring in light.  I'm planning to keep a stool under the cabinets also so I can sit there during the day and work while I have a great view of the backyard.

I'd love to have the windows be something really beautiful... diamond pattern leaded glass?  Old windows?  New with cottage shutters?

 Love this mantle and paneling detail.

Also, love this mantle - you can see on the right side of the photo.  I love how it is boxed in with paneling... and love the beams.

As we're gathering resources and beginning to think about placing orders, I'd love your input.   You all always have the best and most creative solutions - I can't wait to hear your ideas and thoughts on our projects.  Here are specific areas that we need some help and resources :

Doors & Windows
Sink - Apron Front, Farm-style
Cottage Shutters?
Upholstery - New Sofa and Chairs
Stone/Brick for Fireplace
Beams - Boxed in or Reclaimed/Exposed?

February 11, 2014

How to Arrange Flowers at Home

The following is an excerpt from my monthly column on My  Read the entire article with step-by-step photos, here.

Step-by-Step Guide: Arrange Flowers Like a Pro

We all think about setting the table with fresh flowers when we're hosting a party, but one of my resolutions that I'm trying to keep this year is to keep fresh flowers in our home at all times. It is such an easy and simple way to bring life and beauty into our homes, especially during long winter months.  Not only does it make the house feel alive, but I get great pleasure out of making the arrangements myself.  

I love to pick up seasonal flowers from the grocery store and make simple arrangements myself.  Usually, I make a small arrangement for the kitchen table, then I will put a single bud in a small vase by my kitchen sink, on the bedside table and on the side table in the living room.  

Flower arranging can be a fabulous hobby to begin - the supplies investment is minimal (fresh flowers, scissors & a vase!) and you can start small.  For some reason, most of us believe that only professional florist can make a flower arrangement.  It is true that they know many tricks and techniques that help them make beautiful arrangements, so today, I'm sharing floral design tips that I use at home that I learned from my years planning events and weddings.

Read the entire article with step-by-step photos, here >

Read the entire article with step-by-step photos, here >

February 06, 2014

Vanilla Bean Sugar | Easy No Bake Homemade Gift... And Valentine's Sale!

As you may have guessed by now, I'm sort of a coffee person.  Anytime I'm making plans I always add it in : Getting out of bed for early cold morning walks are so much easier when envision the steaming coffee in my thermos.   I love going to Target just so I can get a latte while I shop (and Emma can have a "lollipop" aka cakepop) and browse.  There are not many activities that the thought of a hot cup of coffee or creamy cappucinno doesn't make better - everything seems a little more cozy and comforting when I'm clutching my coffee. 

Actually, now that I write this, it sounds a little nuts - is anyone else relating to this?  It is not that crazy... right?  I guess Starbucks' success answers that question.

To further my point, I said to Mike just yesterday, "I think the Nespresso is my favorite gift of all time."   (This is not a sponsored post.)

Maybe I am nuts. 

Or maybe it is because I've been adding Vanilla Bean Sugar to the milk pre-frothing in my Aeroncinno and it whips it up so frothy, it is almost like hot vanilla bean whipped cream?

The best part of this "recipe" is that it is not really a recipe at all.   It takes seconds to make.

 I used to make it by scraping vanilla beans, but my new favorite way is to add vanilla bean paste to sugar in the food processor (or blender or mixer) and mix until combined.   You can add as little or as much as you like.

I put it in these Kraft "Coffee" Bags to give as gifts.  Literally the easiest gift to make.

It is ready to be added to coffee or  used for baking.  As I said, I add a good tablespoon or two to my pre-frothed milk for my lattes.


Or for Vanilla Bean Scones...

You can see how frothy the milk is and laced with the tiny vanilla beans from the Vanilla Bean Paste.


Supplies Needed :

Kraft Coffee Bags (set of 20), $10-12

Vanilla Bean Paste, $12

Vanilla Sugar Labels, On Sale $4

Granulated Sugar

Tomorrow is the last day for Valentine's Day orders... and I have a couple of things on sale:
Rosy Lip Gloss Pink Ribbons, $8-20

Vermont Red Ribbons, $8-20
Rosy Lip Gloss Pink Bakers' Twine, $14

Vermont Red Bakers' Twine, $14

Emma's Room Pink Celebration Candles :

6" Celebration Candles, $5.50

15" Celebration Candles, $12.00

Don't forget- I have $5 Shipping on any order : )
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