Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thought for Sunday

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

O Holy Night

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thought for Sunday

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three Thursday Things

These Three Thursday Things posts have helped me focus on little things I am thankful for this holiday season. I am so blessed to be looking forward to spending Christmas with family that everything else is just icing on the cake.

Here's a peek at "my icing" this week:

After weeks of hard work, E and I have finally finished refinishing the hardwood floors in the Sunroom. They are still "curing" but in the meantime, I can't stop sneaking peeks. They are almost too pretty to cover up with a rug and furniture.

We are lucky enough to have family and friends continue to send us Christmas cards year after year even though we don't send any in return. I especially love the photo cards!

Mom and I had a baking day Monday that went over into Tuesday. I can't wait to sink my teeth into these gorgeous homemade sticky buns!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Pears taste like Christmas to me. My family has enjoyed Harry and David's Royal Riviera Pears in December for as long as I can remember. When the box is delivered on my doorstep, I feel that Christmas is imminent.

I also try to make them last as long as I can (usually this entails ordering more than one box) and find different ways to use them. My favorite way to enjoy a pear is sliced in half, cored, and with a spoon. Of course they are also good in salads but I thought - why not in a cocktail?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Three Thursday Things

This week, I can't get enough of:

Christmas Decorations


My go to wrist stack (at least this week)

african elephant hair bracelet, jcrew pave link bracelet (similar), michael kors watch (similar), loft panther bracelet (similar)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

This recipe is one that came together by accident. I used a recipe for slow cooker chicken and E and I just weren't wowed by it. It was just okay. However, I had leftovers and didn't want to waste them. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I added some different ingredients and managed to salvage the recipe.

The second night it was way better. You know what they say, don't ever give up. You never know when a few additional ingredients can completely transform a recipe.

Lesson of the day: don't be afraid to experiment - you just may stumble upon a winner!

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken
serves 6

6 skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup peanut butter
4 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs lime juice
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp minced ginger
15oz can coconut milk
2 tbs red curry paste
1 tbs curry powder
sliced green onion for garnish, if desired

Place chicken in slow cooker. Stir together everything else and pour over chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice and top with green onions.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - The Holiday Party

For the past eight years, E and I have been attending his company holiday party. It has changed over the years for sure. Co-workers have come and gone. The parties have included everything from full dinner, to just cookies, big gift giveaways and hot drunk messes. One thing that never changes? A full bar.

That's pretty much a requirement for corporate parties, right? Perhaps the most fun I ever had was two years ago. The scene had changed from swanky downtown Baltimore hotels, to Aberdeen, and back to Baltimore again. Many of the "young crowd" of employees we were friends with weren't going to be there. We were basically just planning on making an appearance. Say "hi", have a drink or two and then be on our way. Then we run into our friends at the bar and I order an Ameretto. He mentioned if I like whiskey (um, of course!) he recommends Amaretto and Crown Royal instead.

Not only did the party turn out better than we ever expected (low expectations almost always pays off) but I found a new favorite cocktail. This now always reminds me of our friends, the holidays and the grand time we had at what would have been an otherwise forgettable party.

I will mention, don't drink these mindlessly. It may just taste like sweet Amaretto, but it is half Whiskey. I may or may not have had one too many that night and our night may or may not have included a long cab ride back to Hunt Valley:)

Happy Holidays!

The Holiday Party
makes 1 drink

1 oz Ameretto
1 oz Crown Royal

Pour over ice and stir to combine. You'll have a happy holiday indeed!

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Thursday Things

My Thursday Latelies Video fell by the wayside mainly due to the fact that video isn't really my thing (please, don't pretend to be surprised). But I still love the idea of pointing out things I am enjoying or thankful for every week.

Thus "Three Thursday Things" came about and was named mostly because I love alliteration. 

It's hard to believe its December already - the most wonderful time of the year. Because Thanksgiving was so early this year, we are left with more than a month to enjoy the Christmas season. Two things I am enjoying this week are all holiday related.

A box of Harry and David pears (a family tradition) ripening on the counter (tastes like Christmas to me)

My favorite candle to burn in December makes the house smell like it's full of freshly cut evergreens (Fresh Balsam - Bath and Body Works)

The final thing is hard earned. The reclaimed wood floors are finally down in our sunroom. Phase one of four is complete. Sanding, polyurethane, and molding still to come as well as the whole rundown of laying the floors.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Butternut Squash Orzotto

It's no secret that risotto is one of my favorite dishes. There is just something so wonderfully rich and decadent about it.

So what better thing to do it pasta then to make it risotto-like? This orzotto dish has all the wonderfulness of risotto but with orzo pasta instead of arborio rice. I like to use whole wheat orzo because it is heartier and cooks a bit longer than regular orzo.

You don't want the orzo to get mushy, so taste it often to get just to the al dente point. It will cook just a smidge more while you continue to stir it and it sits.

This orzotto is a great holiday dish or even a great use for leftovers. In fact, leftover roasted butternut squash works best. I add just a bit of chicken stock, if needed, when pureeing it in the food processor. You want the butternut squash to be thick, no too thin.


Butternut Squash Orzotto
(serves 5-6)

2 cups roasted butternut squash, pureed
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1 cup whole wheat orzo (or regular orzo)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
dash of ground cayenne, optional
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring 3 cups of chicken broth to a simmer in medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to low.

Melt butter and olive oil to deep skillet or dutch oven. Add shallots and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add salt and pepper and orzo pasta. Stirring constantly, toast orzo for 1 minute. Add white wine and continue stirring until most liquid has been absorbed. Add chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Continue to stir constantly adding more chicken stock only when previous stock has been mostly absorbed.

Taste orzo when almost all of stock has been used to test for pasta doneness. When pasta is al dente, add butternut squash and salt and pepper to taste if needed. Turn off heat and stir in parmesan cheese and cayenne.

Serve immediately.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thought for Sunday

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Quick Note

I need to interrupt my regular (okay, let's be serious, irregular) blogging to give you this important announcement.

You all need to know this. I just made these Buttermilk Bacon Blue Smashed Potatoes last night.

They were one of the best things to make it into my mouth this month. You. Must. Make. These.

They are indescribably good. Go! Do it now.


That is all. Thanks!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Miracle of White Paint

A little while ago, I talked about what a difference a little paint can make. I showed some before and after pictures of my heaven-sent sister-in-law's painting she did this summer while she was visiting. I still can't quite get over how much she accomplished while she was here and how good of a job she did. This past weekend, I was reminded.

I finally got around to painting the railing and molding up the stairs. All the molding in the dining room was white, so the wood railing really stood out as odd. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Just this little bit of painting, reminded me how grateful I am to Amanda for all the painting she did this summer. It also reminded me how much I dislike painting.

Check out the before and afters!

Stairwell Before:
 (Please ignore the puppy at the top of the stairs. Harper photo bombed me.)

Stairwell After:

I actually ended up doing three coats of paint because two just didn't do the coverage job I was hoping for. I removed the railing to do the first two coats and replaced it before applying the third so I wouldn't damage or mess up the paint job when I re-attached it.

Again, what a difference a little paint can make!

My next painting project? Painting brick. Wish me luck!

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Leftovers - Sweet Potato Pancakes (Gluten-Free)

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we can get on with the good stuff, like using up leftovers!

I'd venture to say most people had some kind of potato on their Thanksgiving table. If you were smart enough to have your potatoes be sweet potatoes, you are in luck. The weekends are perfect for pancakes and leftover mashed sweet potatoes are perfect for making sweet potato pancakes.

My sister-in-law used this recipe for her amazing whipped maple sweet potatoes and they were what I used in the below sweet potato pancake recipe. I made them gluten-free by using Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix but you could also substitute 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour and 3 tsp baking powder for the Pamela's measurement.

Everyone in my family gobbled these up the day after Thanksgiving including my 3 and 4 year-old nieces. It's safe to say they are kid friendly too! Of course, a nice long walk after a big breakfast is always a good idea . . .

Sweet Potato Pancakes (Gluten-Free)
Makes 10-12 medium cakes

2 tbs butter, melted
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (you will keep cooked pancakes warm until entire batch is finished).

Mix together butter, sweet potatoes, milk, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth. Add in Pamela's and salt and mix until just combined.

Heat a greased skillet over medium heat and add 1/4 pancake batter. Cook until bubbles burst at surface and then flip. Cook another minute and keep warm on cookie sheet in oven until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining batter until finished.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Wardrobe Makeover

This amazingly large wardrobe was salvaged from the back corner of the large barn at Meadowvale.

This barn, in fact. It had seen better days (perhaps because it had been living in a barn for the past two decades) but had "good bones" as my dad likes to say.
This massive piece (it's 5' tall and 6' long!) was made during the heyday of wood veneer. That basically means the piece is solid wood but has a layer of finished veneer all over. When veneer peels and falls off, its very hard to piece back together. I was unable to fix some spots and I figured my best bet was to paint the whole thing.
Because of the sheer size of the wardrobe, I choose a lighter color and new I wanted some sort of detail on the doors. I settled on a super-light sky/turquoise blue and after cleaning, lightly sanding the whole piece and 3 coats of primer, I started applying the blue. Unfortunately, some things just don't go as planned. The color ended up being far too subtle and it looked almost white.

Argh! Back to Home Depot to choose the next color on the Behr paint chip - this time it was Iconic Sky and it was perfect! One more coat of paint and more drying time. Finally it was time for the knobs and pulls. I was so excited to find what I thought was the perfect option at Anthropologie (unfortunately, they are no longer available). Then these pulls were just the thing the doors needed!
The last thing I added was the silver Moroccan pattern. I simply cut the shape out of cardboard, traced around it over and over with chalk, and then hand-painted over the chalk with Martha Stewart's polished silver metallic paint.

The next phase is to perhaps wallpaper the inside. For now, I use it to house sweaters, belts, and purses. I even use the divided drawers for jewelry.

It's currently my favorite piece in the room. That could be because I see my labor of love every time I look at it . . .

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