Monday, June 27, 2011

Orzo Confetti Salad


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It would not be summer around here if I wasn’t carting this delicious salad off to a cookout or two! I make this all the time. Year round but mostly in the summertime. 

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It’s quick and easy and really different from what you find at most cook outs.  And it’s pretty to look at which is important since we eat with our eyes too.  :) 

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You can serve it in a big colorful bowl or spread it out on a platter.  I always set a dish of Feta cheese next to it when I am serving  it so that those who like Feta can top their salad with it. 

Here’s the recipe:

Orzo Confetti Salad

1 pound of orzo

1 lemon

1 red bell pepper, diced in very small pieces

1 15 oz. can of sweet corn, drained

1 package of fresh Chives

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp of Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and pepper

Feta Cheese (optional)

Boil the orzo pasta in salted water till tender.  (The salt will help add flavor.)  Drain but do not rinse and then place in a bowl.   Squeeze the juice of half of a large lemon or 1 small lemon over the orzo while it is warm.  Add the corn, red pepper and chives.  (I use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the Chives.)  Add the olive oil and mix.  Add the Balsamic vinegar and mix the salad well.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste the salad before adding the salt.  It might already be salty enough from the salted boiling water.  Add more salt if needed to taste.

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This makes a great main dish salad too when you serve it with grilled chicken or one of my favorites…Marinated Flank Steak.    Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chocolate and Orange Macarons

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My latest attempt at mastering the French Macaron had me proudly showing off these delicious Chocolate Orange Ganache filled little treats to my family.  These were closer to what they are supposed to look like.  I was able to lose the puffiness that my last batch had and these had the nice shiny and smooth tops and better feet!    My piping skills need work as these were bigger than they really should have been but I’ll get the hang of that.  The chocolate orange ganache makes these cookies unbelievably good.  The outsides were crisp and the insides were soft and chewy. 


  I think the trick this time was aging the egg whites for 4 days in the refrigerator.  Yes, four days!  And I also bought myself a kitchen scale so that I could follow the recipe in Jill Colonna’s book Mad About Macarons!  This is a fantastic book that shows you exactly how to make theses little treats but as I found out, all the measurements are in grams.  Measuring the ingredients and weighing them out really does give you better results with something tricky like these.

Here is the recipe I used for the Chocolate Orange Ganache

Chocolate Orange Ganache

7 ounces (200 grams) semi-sweet chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)

1  1/3 cups heavy cream

1 tsp. orange extract

2 Tbsp. butter

Mix in a saucepan over low heat and gently stir together the chocolate and the heavy cream until the chocolate is melted and perfectly blended in.  Let cool a few minutes and stir in the orange extract and the butter.  Pour into a bowl and let cool for 30 minutes till it thickens up.  (I placed mine in the refrigerator and it took closer to an hour to thicken up for me.) 

Later this week I hope to make a batch of Lemon Buttercream Macarons and I am going to try the techniques outlined in another cookbook that I just received which I will highlight in the post.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mexican Pinwheels 2

Mexican Pinwheels2 005 I made a batch of Mexican Pinwheels for the Friday Night Happy Hour last night.  They were good but of course I realized I forgot to add the shredded Cheddar Cheese AFTER I had already cut them into small pieces!   :(  Oh well.  They tasted good but not as good as they should have.  Don’t forget the Cheddar Cheese!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let There Be Lights!

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The Electrician was here today and installed our new pendants in the kitchen, pot lights in the ceiling, and a new fixture in the dining room. We are in major update mode around here.

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This new fixture replaced the old brass one we had in the dining room.  Brass went seriously out of date about 2 weeks after we moved in to this house. :)  Here is what the old fixture looked like. 

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I tried to tone down the brass with the black shades but in the end it all looked tired and dated.

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 This one looks so much better.  Next task will be painting over the red walls and getting some new window treatments.

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Another thing we had the Electrician take care of was to remove the light fixture in the breakfast area.  That fixture has been a pain since the beginning.

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The light was never centered over the table and my tall husband was always hitting his head on it.   When the house was built the Electrician at the time lined the fixture up with the center of the French door.  Well, the table has never been center to that door.  We never would have been able to get in and out the door to the deck if that was the case. 

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Anyway, long story short…we had it removed and 3 recessed ceiling lights installed.  LOVE IT!    It’s now so much more open and brighter and the room looks bigger.

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And here are the pendants.  We ordered them from Lighting Universe.Com and the lights arrived less than a week after I ordered them!  Great prices and selection too. 

At one point I had a pot rack hanging here but decided it was time to take that down a few years ago.  Pendant lights are what we decided to go with and we are really happy with the look and the extra lighting they provide.  Dimmer switch too! 

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See how more open the breakfast area looks now?

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So the home improvement craze around here continues.  Last weekend we spread 15 yards of much in the yard. Looks so much better.  We keep checking things off the list.  The new granite counter tops are on the list but way at the bottom….these kids in college are keeping that one low on the list.  But in the meantime, there’s plenty of other smaller dollar amount improvements to keep us busy.  :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Raspberry Macarons

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I tried another recipe for French Macarons.  This time I made a batch of Raspberry Macarons and they are just as delicious as they look.  I made them from a recipe I found at   Irina, at PastryPal .com decided to go to pastry school after a career in advertising.  She worked in several restaurants in New York City and has some delicious recipes posted at her website. 

She also put together a WONDERFUL tutorial on how to make macarons and she called it Master the Macaron.  You can download it for FREE!!  Simply go to her site at and look for the sign up and link for the tutorial on the sidebar of her site.  Enter your first name and email address and the link will be emailed to you.  It has her recipe for macarons, step by step instructions, gorgeous photos, and great ideas for flavor and fillings.

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I used red paste food color to get these a pretty pink color to match the raspberry flavor I wanted to make.   I added 1/4 tsp of almond extract for extra flavor but I read somewhere that you can buy raspberry extract so I am going to look for that for next time. 

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My plan was to fill the macarons with vanilla ganache and raspberry jam.   I ended up drizzling the ganache across the tops instead of using it for a filling because the cookie tops were sliding off the bottoms when I used both for a filling.  In the end I filled the cookies with raspberry jam and drizzled with the ganache.  The combination of the two made for some delicious but very sticky on your fingers cookies. :)  I have them stored in the refrigerator to help firm them up. 

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So pretty and so delicious.  This recipe made for a crisper outside to the macaron and they are a bit chewy too.  So good!  I am giving you fair warning…I have a new recipe book devoted to macarons ordered and it is on the way.  So between the Master the Macaron tutorial I mentioned earlier in this post and my new book,  I see lots and lots of macarons and macaron blog posts in my future. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Smashed Red Skinned Potatoes

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This past weekend we harvested 38 red skinned potatoes from 10 plants out of the garden. 

Each and everyone perfect!  Here’s what we did with them.

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Smashed Red Skinned Potatoes

8 medium size red skinned potatoes

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

2 –3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp pepper

 Wash potatoes.  Do not peel.  Cut in half  or quarters so all are about the same size and boil till tender. (Approximately 20 minutes.)  Carefully dip out a cup or two of the cooking water that you boiled the potatoes in a heat proof cup (like Pyrex) and set aside for later.  Test potatoes to make sure they are tender and drain in a colander. Leave the potatoes in the colander.  In the empty pot you boiled the potatoes in, add the olive oil and butter and stir till the butter is melted.  Add the garlic and sauté until garlic is tender but be careful not to burn the garlic.   Add the potatoes and mix with the butter/oil and garlic.  Take a potato masher and roughly mash the potatoes together.  You want them to be smashed, mashed and lumpy with bits of the red skins mixed throughout.  If they are too thick, use some of the reserved potato water to thin them out. Add the potato water in small amounts until they are the consistency you like.  Gently mix in the Parmesan.  Do not whip these or else you will end up with “gluey” potatoes.  Mix in the salt and pepper and serve.  Serves 6

I put (optional) next to the Parmesan cheese because even though I usually include it, I forgot to add it to this time and everyone still raved about how good the potatoes tasted.  So, add it if you have it but don’t let that stop you from making them if you don’t.  I served them alongside Grilled Rib Eye Steaks and a Tomato Caprese  salad and that was one very delicious end to our weekend!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

French Macarons with Mint Ganache


How pretty are these??? Did I make them?  No, not these but I have wanted to try my hand at making French Macarons for quite a while now and today was the day.

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Here are ones I made.   Not too bad for my first try.  They were not as difficult as I had thought but I can see how I need to get my technique perfected. :)  I even used a piping bag for the first time and I believe that all I need is some more practice .

I piped most of the cookies too big and they definitely need to be a more “petite” size.  Seems like the bigger ones were the ones that cracked.   But, on the smaller ones I was able to get the coveted “feet” and and the smooth tops like you see on real ones from a Parisian bakery.

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Next time, I will definitely pipe them a smaller size.   For this batch, I tinted them with green food coloring and filled them with a mint chocolate ganache.  So good!

Here is the recipe I followed for the Macarons:

Fine Cooking Magazine French Macarons

and here is the recipe for the Mint Ganache.

Chocolate Mint Ganache

1/2 Cup heavy cream

4oz. mint chocolate chips

1 Tbsp. butter

Heat the heavy cream and the mint chocolate chips in a sauce pan over low to medium heat.  Stir gently until all of the chocolate melts.  Stir in the butter.  Mix well.  Set aside to cool.  Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to speed up the cooling.  Cool till the ganache is a nice spreading consistency.  Use it to fill your macaron cookies. 

My next attempt I’m thinking that lemon will be the next flavor I give a try. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pickles and Cheese

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1.  We saw the movie Midnight in Paris yesterday!  We actually found a theater in NC playing it.  I was tipped off by the very nice Laura at the Ronald McDonald House in Winston-Salem the other day who saw my blog post lamenting the fact that I was probably never going to find a theater to see the film in.  She told me about a small independent theater called The Aperture in downtown Winston-Salem that was opening the film yesterday.  So, my husband and I took the afternoon off and went to the 3:00 afternoon matinee.  I would call The Aperture a boutique theater that plays unique, festival winning, independent films.  It had a nice selection of beer, wine, and delicious bakery items along with some heavenly smelling popcorn.  I am so happy to have found this gem of a theater.  Thanks Laura!  And the movie, was very entertaining.:)

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2.  Handyman #2 told me he just started to raise chickens.  He has 12.  He told us that he was forced to get 12.  The powers that be require you buy chickens by the dozen to discourage haphazard chicken buying.  They don’t want the “non-serious “ to buy chicks for Easter baskets and such.  So anyway, he asked me if I would like some fresh eggs when they start laying!  So I have that to look forward to!

3.  Did you know that you can spray paint  purses and shoes?  This just opened up a whole new world for me! :)


4.  Southern Living Magazine has put together a list of 36 Summer Salads.  I’ll be making one of them soon for dinner. (Potato Cobb Salad) 

5.  We harvested our red skinned potatoes out of the garden. (Maybe I could add them to the Potato Salad in the photo above?)  I figured they were ready to be harvested because the top plants were starting to die off.  What fun.  Have you ever grown potatoes before?  When you did them up it’s like digging for buried treasure.  We were digging and sifting for bright red jewels.  Stay tuned, I’ll be posting my recipe for Smashed Red Potatoes in the next few days.

Another hot and sultry day in the sunny South! 94 degrees yesterday.  About the same again today.  Stay cool!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dressing and Attitude


Meet Jessi Arrington from  the blog Lucky So and So.  She is a  Graphic Designer who lives in Brooklyn and she loves color.  She appears to me to be one of the happiest people on the planet.  I saw a video of her on TED Talks and loved what she had to say.  The video is about 5 minutes long and in a nutshell, she was asked to travel to Palm Springs, California to speak in front of a TED Talks audience and she decided to travel light.  She only packed 7 pieces of underwear in her suitcase with the plan to buy everything she needed for the week once she got there….and she got it all at thrift shops.   I don’t think that is something I could ever (or want to do) but I can admire it!!  She’s an entertaining and  uplifting speaker and here is the link if you have a minute.

Here is the link: Jessi Arrington - Free Spirit, Graphic Designer, Blogger, TED Talks Speaker, and breath of fresh air. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Guaranteed Smile – Kindergarten Guitar Band

This is a guaranteed smile maker!  Thanks for sending it to me Mom!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

DIY Stone Patio Landing

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From the comfort of the Adirondack chairs which were perfectly relocated to the shady side of the yard, I supervised the placing of the stones.   :)

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The DIY bug has taken hold.  I think a lot of it has to do with finally finding a Handyman to help us with the things we don’t dare do ourselves.   Ask and you shall receive.  Now I’m not bragging …well, maybe I am a little…but now we now have two Handymen.  Handyman #2 turned up last week.  Turns out he was the Project Manager who helped build our house 10 years ago and he just happens to be friends with Handyman #1 who recommended him to us when we asked him if he knew a gutter guy.    With the building business the way it is these days, we thought he was long gone.  Our new gutter guy, Handyman # 2, knows our house inside and out.  Probably better than we do!  It was fun to see him after all this time.  Between the two of them, Handyman #1 and Handyman #2, we should have this place in great shape in no time. 

Anyway, while the Handymen were hard at work doing the things we don’t dare try ourselves, we decided to try our hands at installing some cobblestones and make ourselves a small stone landing area at the bottom of our deck stairs. 

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My handsome husband dug out the area and we spread the screening material to help secure the stones and make the area level.  We played around with the layout of the stones.  We had a mixture of large and small stones.  At first we wanted to curve the edges but being the green and totally un-experienced beginners that we are, we decide to stick with a more rectangular shape.  The main reason for this is that the curves left lots of gaps and spaces.  And since the last thing we wanted to do was rent a wet saw to cut the stones into smaller pieces, we went back to the safety of the square/rectangle.    Maybe we’ll tackle something curvy in the future. 

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  After the stones were set, we spread more screening across the top to fill in the gaps. 

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My husband swept it and then sprayed it down with water.  We have to get back to Lowe’s where we purchased our materials to get some sand.  We are going to spread some sand across the top to fill in some more after everything dries. 

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There are lots of video’s and help out there.  Here is a link to a video on YouTube that helped us out a lot.

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This was not expensive to do.  Less than $100 dollars and we that realized that we bought too many stones after we decided to abandon the curvy layout so we have about 20 that we can return

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We still need to clean it up and get all the excess sand removed but you can get a good idea from this shot how it looks.   

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Now, back to sitting in the shade with some ice cold drinks and a few magazines where we can discuss our next project.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pickles and Cheese


Finally!  A movie I am excited to see!  Midnight in ParisCan I find it in Greensboro?  Of course not.  Is it even playing in the state of North Carolina.  Don’t make me laugh!  Makes me sad really.


I thought this was a cute idea.    Reavealing the baby with a cupcake with blue icing inside.


I am a big fan of Sarah Richardson and was happy to find a post filled with rooms done by Sarah Richardson over at The Enchanted Home.  Pop by for a room tour.



I am still having some fun with my fingernails.  I found some silvery gray polish a lot like this one and I got more compliment over this past week.  I  actually found a blog  dedicated to nail polish.   It’s called e-polish blog.  It’s a great source for what new in the world of nail polish. 


I have to order myself one of these.  I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer and to think they make an attachment that I could really use!  I’ll pass on the sausage making attachment but THIS I can’t wait to get my hands on.  Click on the photo and you can check it out.

And for your entertainment….and mine as well, I found an E-Trade Baby commercial that somehow escaped me.

Wanna see my shocked face?