Month: January 2014

Oyster & Leek Chowder

oysterleekBetween feeling under the weather and the colder than usual days this past week, I needed something extra hearty to warm me up. This recipe, from Cooking In Season with the Fresh Market, was filling enough and had plenty of flavor (even to my dulled taste buds), all while providing me with a healthy dose of fresh greens to help with my recovery. This soup is plenty on its own, but would also be great served as an appetizer for any winter get together or dinner.

Ingredients

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes

4 bacon slices, cooked, coarsely chopped

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped and well rinsed (1 1/2 c)

2 large celery stalks, cut into 1/2 in dice

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

4 1/2 c whole milk

1 pint shucked oysters, drained, juices reserved

salt and freshly ground black pepper

minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (for serving)

Recipe

Place cubed potato in medium sauce pan, covered by one inch of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes (or until potatoes are tender to knife’s touch).

In a large saucepan, melt butter, and add celery and leeks. Cook covered for about 5 minutes, until leeks are tender. Add flour and stir, cooking about one minute (do not let flour brown).

Add milk and oyster juices, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add oysters, potatoes, and bacon, and simmer until oysters and plump and edges curl.

Season with salt and pepper, serve hot with fresh parsley and oyster crackers.

photo 1-87oysterleek2photo 2-91oysterleek1photo 3-73oysterleek3photo-37photo 5-45

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Snow Day

snowday

Yesterday, the weather channel called for snow for the second half of the day, so naturally, I had a whole day perfectly planned out – which consisted sitting bundled up, crafting, and watching the snow fall. When late afternoon approached and I hadn’t yet seen a flurry, I began to fall into a funk as my perfectly planned afternoon fell to pieces. Just as I was about to give up on the day, Ryan came to the rescue, and suggested we build our gingerbread house that had been sitting in a box since before Christmas (don’t worry, we don’t plan on eating it). Just as we began to construct, a little bit of snow started to fall, and though it didn’t last for long, the nostalgic feeling of waiting for that first snow flurry and building a gingerbread house was enough to turn my day around.

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Morning Tea

morningtea

There’s an entire section in this book dedicated to little sweet treats to serve with your morning tea. Since I spent the majority of this weekend laying in bed sipping hot tea, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try them out. Given that I can’t resist anything sweet and cream/pudding filled, these are the two I decided to give a go.

Cream Puffs

creampuffsIngredients

3 oz butter

1 c water

5 oz all purpose flour

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

whipped cream (for filling)

powdered sugar (optional)

melted chocolate (optional)

Recipe

Boil water and butter, add flour, and beat until mixture leaves sides of saucepan. Remove from heat, add sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each. Please spoonfuls onto greased baking tray, and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Once cooled, split puffs in half and fill with fresh cream. Dust with powdered sugar, or drizzle with melted chocolate to serve.

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Neenish Tarts

neenishtarts

Ingredients

Pastry:

4 oz butter

4 oz superfine sugar

1 egg

8 oz all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

Filling:

2 1/4 oz butter

8 tbsp powdered sugar

4 tbsp sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp cocoa

Recipe

For pastry: cream butter and sugar, add egg, and beat well. Sift dry ingredients and mix with creamed mixture. Knead, then roll out and cut into rounds. Please into greased patty tins, prick pastry with a fork, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

For filling: Combine softened butter, powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice. Divide mixture in half, and add cocoa powder to one half. Mix, making sure each mixture is  the same consistency (tip: add more powdered sugar to ‘white’ mixture).

Place spoonful of each side by side in baked pastries. Place in fridge to set.

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Cabin Decor

logcabindecor

The countdown is officially on for the closing of our log cabin in a couple weeks.  This means it’s time to get inspired and get ideas for decorating the new place. My sister and I have been told that we each get to decorate our own rooms (read: we can pick out things we like and run them by our mom for approval), and this has got me doing some intense digging into decorating cabin bedrooms. I’ve narrowed it down to just a few looks that I love, and will be finding ways to somehow incorporate these ideas into my little space in our hew home.

cornerseat

While my room in the cabin doesn’t have a corner seat, I still love the idea of having a non-traditional spot to sit on and read a book. I’m hoping to substitute a corner seat for a trunk covered in warm, cozy blankets and pillows, pushed up next to my window to take in the mountain views.
open

I have stayed in basements of several rental mountain houses that are dark and musty. There is barely any light, and then in addition, the room is decorated with dark, dreary colors. For my room, I hoping to make it cozy, while keeping it open and airy. I plan on using light colored linens with just pops of richer accent colors, as well as rustic, white furniture, to keep the space from feeling like a dingy basement.

lavenderThis picture is my true inspiration for the look I hope to achieve. The pop of rich, royal blue found in the quilt is a must-do for my room, and I have already purchased lavender plants wrapped in burlap to sit on my nightstand. I love that this room feels mountain cozy and warm, without being covered in bear prints and antlers.

hanginglaternsMy room in the cabin does not have a fire place (but notice that every room I have pulled inspiration from does have one), so we will be purchasing a small fireplace, similar to this, to place in the room. The room I stay in at my parents’ house has one, and it has always made coming home that much better. As for the lighting, I am in love with the overhead lanterns hanging here. Every room needs its ‘quirk’, or conversation piece, and for my room, these lanterns are it.

Currently

chickenandhoney(The most amazing chicken + honey at Beasley’s)

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be getting sick, and while I thought I had managed to dodge the cold going around, it caught up with me the last part of this week. Though I feel under the weather, it means I get to spend my weekend taking relaxing baths, curled up in bed with Luna and a good book, and sipping soup and hot tea. I never complain about having a weekend where it’s all about taking it easy, and getting a little R + R.

photo 5-38(Racko meets puppy chow: game night with Ryan)

photo 3-66(A quick breakfast with my mom before a day of cabin decor shopping)

terranium

(Planting my own terrarium – a gift from my aunt)IMG_5462(A print that now resides above my bar cart – and makes for one less empty wall in my place)

Clover Club

photo 1-76Ever since I received this book for my birthday last year, I’ve wanted to concoct some sort of cocktail for game nights at home. I’ve never been much of a drink connoisseur (the most advanced “mixed drink” I can make is a Shirley Temple), but the idea still seemed fun. I picked a recipe out that looked sophisticated, yet still had basic ingredients and a short list of steps. Though the end result was tasty, I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be becoming a bartender anytime soon.

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DIY Flower Arrangements

diyflowers

After attending the bridal expo a couple weekends ago, I realized creating a cohesive bouquet required much more effort than sticking flowers in a vase. In a effort to make my sister’s wedding as homemade and DIY as possible, I started doing some research on bouquet making. I focused on making four different types of presentations: a single bud vase, a tall narrow vase, a long, rectangular centerpiece, and a potted grouping. After extensive reading and trial and error practice, here’s some tips and tricks of what I found helpful when putting together a flower arrangement.

singlebudvaseFor creating a single bud vase, one of the most important concepts is to play with proportions. Choose larger flowers for smaller vases, or for tall skinny vases, choose wide, flat flowers. It gives it a more imperfect, random look. Some good flowers to use are carnations, gerbera daisies, single roses, or peonies. These add pops of color when placed in a room as a single vase, or can make a statement centerpiece when grouped in sets on a table.

tallnarrowvaseTall and narrow vases are one of the best for beginners. The smaller the neck of the vase, the easier creating an arrangement will be (as it does the work for you, holding up the flowers, and allowing them to drop ever so slightly to the side). Start with your main “showcase” flower, and cut to size. Avoid having it be the tallest flower, or letting them group together in the center. This will give a more varied, natural look in the end. Fill in with greenery and less expensive filler flowers. This can help cut down on costs. As a good rule of thumb: stop filling  the vase just before you think you are done. That way, it will prevent you from over-crowding and over-doing the arrangement. Less is more.

tallnarrow1

photo 5-36photo 3-63longrectangularA long, rectangular vase is a nice alternative to use on a table setting. It allows for easy conversation, as it doesn’t block your view of someone across the table. The trick here is to use flowers that are nice and full, which will provide enough volume to completely cover the open surface of the vase. Cut the stems long enough to stick into the vase at a slight angle, and allow the flower bud to rest just above the rim of the vase. A flower frog is helpful for arrangements like this to keep the stems in place.

photo 1-75photo-34smallpottedThe final arrangement I made is a small potted grouping. The trick here is to create a grid-like pattern on the top of the pot to hold the flowers in place. Do so by placing floral tape (or clear tape cut in half – just avoid it getting wet) as seen below. Place the flowers into the slots one by one, starting with your more dominent flowers and then filling in with greenery. The technique here is similar to that of the tall narrow vase, aiming for a random assortment look rather than a perfectly-planned symmetrical arrangement.

pottedgrouping1photo 3-62