Archive for October, 2007


decorating help

Since we’re expecting our new couch any day now, I’ve been shuffling furniture around quite a bit for the past few days. I used this handy little online tool to figure out how to best rearrange my living room, so now I just have to actually put it all in place. If you think that that little tool is a bit geeky, just know that it’s a lot easier than the little paper cut-outs I used when we first moved into this apartment (can you tell that I’m an obsessive planner/control freak?!?). Anyway. So now that I know where I want all the furniture, I have to figure out where I want all the pictures. The biggest problem I have in my apartment is getting things to look clean, organized, and simple. I guess it’s hard for me to make things look that way because they’re generally dirty, jumbled, and overwhelming. We’re going to be fitting a lot of furniture into a small space, so I want to figure out how to make it appear as clean and simple as possible. The biggest problem currently is this wall:
We thought that this setup would be the easiest way to fit everything in and still have room to move about relatively freely (the new couch is going to sit across from the little loveseat that you can see there, clad in all it’s maple leaf glory). I’ve already cleared some of the books off of those little bookshelves to try and reduce the clutter. What I’m really not sure about now is what to put on the wall. Right now, we have this:
But I’m thinking that there’s maybe a cleaner way to present it? Maybe two groups of pictures over the two bookshelves? And maybe a little lower? Here are some other pictures/shelves that I have to work with:
That second one is the shelf with the teapot and paper flowers that you saw earlier in this post, along with my little “tea station”. I’m willing to move any pictures anywhere to make it look better. Does anyone have any ideas for me? It’s hard for me, being the person who looks at these every day, to get my mind to think outside the box on these things. Oh, and I’m open to ditching some of the pictures too. 90% of them are from my 7 week stint in Italy four years ago and could probably stand to be retired soon.


hot bull’s milk

As we head into the cooler months, those warm winter drinks start to sound better and better. There’s the classics like hot chocolate and tea and coffee, but those start to get a little old after a while (though I’m going to take Abra’s suggestion and add cinnamon to my coffee today). When we were first married, we spent a lot of time (and money) figuring out which cocktails we liked. One of my favorite was a very simple “Bull’s Milk” which invovles milk, ice, brandy, simple syrup, and some nutmeg and/or cinnamon sprinkled on top. In the wintertime, I love to make it hot. Here’s the general recipe:

1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 shot of brandy (less or more to taste)
a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon

Heat the milk and sugar in a pan till quite warm. When you put the brandy in depends on how ‘alcoholic’ you want the drink. I actually made this when I was pregnant and just made sure to cook off most of the alcohol, leaving the flavor though. Then sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and enjoy! If you all have any fun winter drink recipes, I’d love to hear them.


Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook. I’ve tried it twice and I love it! It is really simple and I’m not much of a baker, so I was completely impressed.

4 1/4 to 5 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 packaged of active dry yeast
1 cup of milk
1/3 cup of butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp. light cream

In a large mixing bowl combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour and yeast. In a saucepan heat and stir milk, 1/3 cup butter, granulated sugar, and salt until warm and butter almost melts; add to flour mixture along with eggs. Beat with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high speed 3 minutes. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease two round baking pans or 2 baking sheets; set aside. For filing, stir together brown sugar, the 1/4 cup of flour, and cinnamon; cut in 1/3 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Roll each half of the dough into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Sprinkle filling over dough rectangles. Roll up each rectangle starting from a long side. Seal seams. Slice each roll into 12 pieces. Place cut sides down in prepared pans or baking sheets.

Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise. Chill for 2 to 24 hours. Uncover; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Or, bake rolls right away, don’t chill the dough. Instead, cover loosely, let rise in a warm place until nearly double, about 30 minutes.)

Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half and half. Bake in a 375′ oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until light brown (if necessary, cover rolls with foil the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning). Remove from oven. Brush again with half and half. Cool for 1 minute. Carefully invert rolls onto a wire rack. Cool slightly. Invert again onto a serving platter.

Vanilla Glaze:
In a small bowl stir together 1 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 tsp. light colored corn syrup, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Add enough half and half or light cream (1 to 2 tbsp. to reach drizzling consistency).
Drizzle your heart out…….. Mmmm!



My personal favorites are cinnamon, with curry as a close second. I love how warm and full they taste. They add depth. They add a hint of creativity and lots of personality. They are my signature spices.

Before I started exploring Mediterranean foods, it never occurred to me that spices could be used in such a variety of ways. I’m sure most of you have figured this out, but you can put cinnamon in almost anything. Spaghetti sauce, home-made salad dressing, stir fry, on slow cooking meats….my husband’s favorite it is to add it to fresh ground coffee before it is brewed. The smell is intoxicating and the extra flavor adds a nice little kick to your morning routine. Curry, similarly, can be added to the vast majority of casseroles, vegetable dishes, and pasta creations. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to explore your favorite spice. Re-invent your favorite recipes with it. Your consumers will be asking what your secret is, I promise. 🙂


saturday night date

The grandparents abducted our daughter on Saturday so we found ourselves with an open evening and no child. We had dinner at home and then went out for some shopping and drinks. I love taking the time to make a nice dinner for my husband, and I also love making a fabulous Sabbath dinner for my family, so I combined the two and made a great Sabbath dinner for my husband (and me). I love being able to pull out the nice table cloths and napkins and my Wedgewood dishes. Here was the menu:

Broiled Salmon with Garlic, Mustard, and Herbs

Zucchini Gratin

Sourdough Bread with Four Pepper Chevre

Abra’s Bitter Chocolate Mousse

I’ll say right now that that mousse was fantastic. I’ve never put whipped cream on a mousse before, and it was really really good. The menu was simple, but we were quite full afterward. Here are the recipes for the salmon and the gratin:

Broiled Salmon with Garlic, Mustard, and Herbs
from this great cookbook

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoon sdijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
nonstick olive oil cooking spray
6 (6 to 8 oz) salmon filets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 lemon wedges

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, both mustards, rosemary, and thyme. Mix in the wine and oil. Set the mustard sauce aside.

Preheat the broiler. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray. Arrange the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Broil for two minutes. Spoon he mustard sauce over the fillets. Conntinue broiling until the fillets are just cooked throgh and golden brown, abou five minutes longer.

Transfer the fillets to plates and serve with the lemon wedges.

Zucchini Gratin
from this fantastic cookbook

3/4 stick butter, plus extra for topping
1 pound yellow onions, cut in half and sliced (3 large)
2 pounds zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick (4 zucchini)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup hot milk
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a very large (12-inch) saute pan and cook the onions over low heat for 20 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Add the zucchini and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Stir in the flour. Add the hot milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until it makes a sauce. Pour the mixture into an 8 x 10-inch baking dish.

Combine the bread crumbs and Gruyere and sprinkle on top of the zucchini mixture. Dot with 1 tablespoon of butter cut into small bits and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.


spinach quiche

I mentioned in my post about Chantal bakeware that I have one of their quiche pans which I love and use often. The other night I made a spinach quiche (the recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook) and thought I’d show y’all how that red pan really does just make it look fantastic. I seem to remember hearing at one time that the attractiveness of the dinner table that your husband comes home to should reflect your appreciation of his day of work. I still need a lot of help in that area (our dinner table doubles as the receptacle for our keys and piles of mail, etc.), but I think that these red dishes really help bump it up a notch.
yes, that is a bit of a knife cut in the top of the quiche . . . I had just started to cut into it for dinner when I remembered that I should take a picture. My husband laughed. He’s quite amused by the fact that the camera always gets the first taste of nearly all our meals now.



This paper thin pastry is used for making meat, vegetable, cheese and egg dishes as well as sweet pastries. It can be purchased in 1 pound packages in some specialty stores, or you can make your own, using this recipe.

2 2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. warm water
2 tbsp. oil

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Gradually add water, stirring to make a stiff dough. Turn onto a pastry board. Place oil in a bowl and spread a little of it on the palms of your hands. Knead the dough adding more oil to your hands when it becomes sticky. Continue until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough and the oil is nearly all used. Then roll the ball in the oil to cover all sides, place a clean cloth over the bowl and let rest 2 hours. (A barely warm oven is a good place for this). Separate 1/4 of the dough and roll to 1/4 inch thickness on a board rubbed with cornstarch. Cover with cloth and let rest 10 minutes. Cover a table (card table or larger) with a smooth cloth and carefully lift dough onto it. Put your hands under the dough, palms down, and gently stretch dough with the backs of your hands, working your way around the table, until dough is as thin as tissue paper. Do not worry if it hangs down around the edges. Cut off the thicker edge and save the scraps. (They can be used by putting them in a moist bowl, kneaded and rolled again). The Filo is now ready to be cut in pieces with scissors if you wish to use it moist. If you prefer dry Filo, allow it to stand about 10 minutes, then cut into desired size. Hints On Handling Filo: Use moist, not dry, sheets of Filo, with moist mixtures (cheese, custard, meat or vegetable fillings). Always use moist Filo in a recipe in which the Filo is rolled or folded. Dry Filo can be sprinkled or brushed with water to make it more pliable. Because the sheets of Filo dry quickly, keep all but the sheet you are working with, covered with a towel. Do not unwrap Filo until you have the filling prepared and are ready to use it. Filo will keep for several months frozen. Keep package sealed tight while frozen. Thaw at room temperature when ready to use.