Thursday, February 25, 2010

Foodie Friday -- February 26, 2010

You know you have spring fever when you start playing with food. If I can't have sunshine, I'll take edible metaphors.

Butterfly cupcakes make me think of sharp green grass and daffodils. Bandwidth found the recipe in a foodie magazine called Taste of Home. You can find the recipe on page 93.
Naturally I took a short cut.
I bought poppy seed mini-muffins and cupcakes at Publix, then cut "cone-shaped" holes in the center of each one. Next, I cut each cone in half; these pieces form the wings.
Vanilla pudding went into each hole (I piped it in, using a plastic baggie with the end snipped off). I dusted each cupcake with powdered sugar. Twizzlers formed the antennae. (I tried slicing them.)

These are adorable snacks for children and picky eaters. Dr. Gollum was a tad worried that I'd confuse all of blogdom with these mysterious cupcakes. He thought they resembled snails. My mother thought they looked like birds.

If I'd rounded the edges and added a nose and whiskers, I could have made cat cupcakes--or teddy bears.

Mr. Linky awaits your blog post's permalink along with your name (or blog's name) and the name of your recipe. If you are new to Foodie Friday, you can find detailed instructions HERE. If you have difficulty, leave a comment and I'll do my best to help.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Hint of Blue: a Tablescape

Snow has fallen all afternoon, bringing icy air to the mid-South, but inside my house, it's springtime. A white-on-white tablescape gives a nod to Old Man Winter, then sends him on his way.
Two blue hydrangeas form a make-shift centerpiece (my blogging "bucket" worked perfectly as a container). Figural Ironstone pieces add whimsy. The wintry air is banished by the fragrance of limes in a white pottery bowl.

No matter how many times I set the table with my Ironstone, it always feels fresh and filled with possibilities. Here, I've mixed American Atelier's Baroque with Villeroy & Boch's Allegretto salad plates and oversized soup bowls from Big Lots ($1 each).

Tablescaping Notes

American Atelier--Baroque dinner plates

Villeroy & Bosch -- Allegretto salad plates

Oversized soup bowls -- Big Lots

Flatware -- Towle's "Hotel" service

blue plaid napkins by Danica Imports (each purchase supports the Giving World Foundation).

Crystal -- wine glasses (Peebles), champagne flutes (wedding gifts)

Duck bowl and cow butter dish -- local antique mall

chargers and tablecloth -- Horchow

aqua blogging bucket -- Hancock's

blue hydrangeas -- Publix

Thank you so much for visiting today. Wherever you are, I hope spring won't be far behind. Please join Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday, one of the most beloved events on the net. Grab a pencil because you'll want to take notes. Prepare to be inspired.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Foodie Friday Winners Announced Plus a New Give-Away

I love giving gifts.
It's the funnest thing in the world. I must have inherited this from my mother, who turned 81 today--and she spent the morning buying food gifts for Bandwidth.
So before I announce the winners for the Foodie Friday Anniversary give-way, let me introduce another door prize:

A 20-piece set of Treble Clef flatware. It ends on Foodie Friday, March 26th, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, March 30th. You can leave a message here if you'd like to enter and mention the words TREBLE CLEF.
You can increase your chances of winning by posting your foodie photographs to the Foodie Gallery and by commenting on any daily Gollum post and mentioning the words TREBLE CLEF. Just make sure you leave a post here, too.
Now it's time to announce the winners of Foodie Friday's 1st anniversary give-aways:
Rhonda at Shellbelle's Tiki Hut has won the polka dot dessert plates.

We have 4 winners for the Irish coffee mugs:
at Cuisine Kathleen
Patti at Bramasole Home
Rettabug at The Gazebo House
Nancy at Live, Love, Laugh

Justine at Stupid Is As Sister Does has won the Gollum dishes.

Mary at One Perfect Bite is the winner of Skin MD Natural face & hand shielding lotion. The company was nice enough to offer a sample as a door prize. I've been using a sample, and it's great for cooks.

Winners, please email me ASAP, including your addresses.


The give-aways will continue all year. The drawing for the 12" copper pot will end on Foodie Friday, March 5th (winner to be announced Tuesday, March 9th).

You can sign up here for the Treble Clef flatware drawing (ends on Foodie Friday, March 26th) with the winner announced March 30th) and be sure to mention the words Treble Clef.

Good luck--and happy cooking!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Part 2: Creating a Place to Blog, Tablescape, & Brainstorm

Week 2:
The Thank-Goodness-I'm-Making-(Some)-Progress Phase

Each week Metamorphosis Monday is a chance to start over, whether you're reorganizing the flatware drawer or an entire basement. In my case, the job is epic, and I don't think I would persevere without MM's Sunday night deadline.

Despite pulled muscles and self-doubt, somehow I made it to Week 2. Seven days ago, this is what our basement looked like:

These two rooms are open, which makes it difficult to "zone" the areas for function.

We moved the furniture, added the "summer" rug from our bedroom, and vacuumed 2,000 dust bunnies and other unmentionables.


The other end of the room had been a sitting area--but everyone avoided it due to Bandwidth's theory about windows and security.


You can read about Part I of the basement make-over HERE. While cleaning, I encountered a profusion of spider webs and ladybugs; the insects inspired a bugs and frogs tablescape.

Of course, rooms are not like fairy tales. They don't live happily ever after. They change as we change...and they need care. Dust bunnies pile up, puppies get into mischief, and ceiling tiles collapse. Because households are always on the verge of some kind of something (be it good or bad), I need a quiet place where I can write and brainstorm, where I'm surrounded by little things that mean the world to me.

Big Lots had a 20% off sale, and I found Martha Stewart Living ribbon in the $1 bin (see above)and a folding screen. They only had one screen, but I knew exactly what I could do with it, so Dr. G and I lugged it home.

Now we have a moveable "wall" that allows light yet creates a private zone.

Not a lot of space is needed for creativity--just a corner of a room will work beautifully--but we do need an imaginary door.

It can be hard to find. Once you find it, it's even harder to make it work. A screen is an old solution for artists and writers. Its function isn't to shield you; rather it's a sign to your subsconscious that it's time to work, and it's also a subtle reminder to others that you are concentrating.

When you're finished, move the wall--that should be easy because writing can be harder than moving mountains. Finding time to write is the biggest challenge.

Now you see it, now you don't. We moved the "wall" as a divider between the dining area and the study.

After all that work, we worked up an appetite, so we recharged our batteries with green tea cupcakes. You can find the recipe HERE.

So, now I'm on the lookout for another screen. It's hit-or-miss at Big Lots, but that's part of the fun.

Stay tuned for next week's adventure. Company's coming, and a celebration dinner is being planned for my sweet mother. She is the dish expert, so I'm hoping she can offer advice about the dish storage area.

To see 100s of before-and-after projects,visit Susan at BNOTP.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Green Tea Cupcakes

When my husband requested a healthy dessert, I leaped at the opportunity to play Mrs. Frankenstein and whipped up a batch of green tea cupcakes.

I have plenty of green tea from failed weight loss experiments.
Green Tea Cupcakes
1 box Duncan Hines Butter Cake Mix
2/3 c. green tea, cooled
3 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped pecans
Mix batter according to directions, substituting tea for water. Fold in (with spoon) raisins and pecans. Pour batter into cupcake tin. Bake 18-20 minutes. Cool. Ice with Green Tea Icing.

Green Tea Icing

confectioners' sugar

green tea

1 drop food coloring

Well, you know me and icing. Oil and water, baby! TRAINWRECKS!
I shall christen them Mac Arthur Park Is Melting in the Dark Muffins. But they are so good. Next time (and I will definitely bake these again), I will add more sugar for a fluffier icing.

The tea added a fresh, light flavor. It cut the sweetness just a little and added depth to the icing. Not only are they delicious, they are laced with antioxidants. My husband has eaten four, and he's just not into cupcakes (as a rule). So, if you are looking for something quick and different (and good for you), try Green Tea Cupcakes.


A Note about the beribboned cupcakes: I found the ribbon at Big Lots. It's the Martha Stewart Living brand and comes in a packet of 4--same color, different patterns. I didn't notice it was La Martha till I got home and started baking. BL has a whole bin of ribbons, $1-$3.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Foodie Friday's 1st Anniversary Party

Welcome to Foodie Friday's one year anniversary. One year ago, the night this virtual potluck made its debut, I managed to erase all of the recipes from Mr. Linky. Susan stayed up late with me, showing me the Linky Lingo, and Mr. Linky himself offered advice. There was only one solution: re-enter the erased information. With shaking fingers, I typed in each permalink.

All these months later, I still get a queasy feeling when I add the linky link, but it vanishes in a heartbeat when I hit the enter button and see that All is Well in linky land. (Just last night, I had a Linky Lapse and entered the wrong permalink for Tablescape Thursday, but Susan at Between Naps on the Porch graciously repaired the damage.

This past year has been a joy. I've met so many people, found the best recipes in the world, and forged friendships. Because the recipes get buried in my blog posts, I set up a Flickr gallery. If you'd like to add your photos and blog link each week, or if you see a recipe that interests you, just click on the permalink and you can read more about the recipe.

For those who get the newsletter, you'll be hearing the story behind the teacup in the first photo. The pattern is Spode's "Queen's Bird." If this is your first visit to Foodie Friday, check out tonight's door prizes--a set of white dishes, polka dot dessert plates, Irish coffee mugs, and Skin MD Natural hand lotion for cooks. The winners will be announced Tuesday, February 23rd. You can find more information about the door prizes and upcoming give-aways (a 12" copper pan) right HERE. There are other fabulous give-aways in the works, too.

Since this Friday is a milestone, I thought I'd actually cook something (as opposed to gild something storebought), so I made Almond Basil Shortbread and Reeses Peanut Butter Bars. Bandwidth and I were madly cooking all day, and he got tickled because my poor shortbread took all day to make and looked very weird, but he took back his jokes after he tasted it. If you're thinking basil is an odd additive for a cookie, you are right, but they are absolutely delicious--a savory/sweet cookie that's perfect with afternoon tea (Kathy, you will love this). The peanut butter bars were easy and so rich and decadent, you can only eat just one. Truly. Which makes them a sort of diet food, right?

Reeses Peanut Butter Bars
1 box Krusteaz Bakery Style Peanut Butter Cookie Mix
1 egg
3 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
1 cup Reeses Peanut Butter chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix egg, water, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add cookie mix. (I used my KitchenAid and added a bit more oil, just a drop or two. This batter is dry and stiff. Grease your hands and pat batter into a 9 x 9 x 2" pan. Pat and pat. Add chips and apply gentle pressure to anchor them. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 28 minutes. Add Reeses sauce, if desired.

Almond Basil Shortbread

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (heaping)almonds (grind in a food processor or blender)
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil leaves
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Place room temperature butter into a mixing bowl. I usually take my butter out of the refrigerator when I make my morning coffee, then I unwrap and place the butter into the mixing bowl. By the time I'm ready to cook, the butter will be soft.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. The almond extract and confectioners' sugar will be added next; beat till fluffy. Find another bowl and mix flour and salt. I NEVER sift. I stir the flour with a fork (in the bag) and pour into a measuring cup. Add salt to the bowl and do the fork trick again.

In small increments (1/4 c), add flour/salt to the whipped butter. Mix. Now, stir in the ground almonds and mix the dough on slow speed. Add basil and zest and stir to incorporate.

Place two sheets of Saran Wrap on the counter and spray sheets with PAM. Place dough on the wrap. Chill at least 45 minutes.

Spread flour onto a cutting board (or two sheets of waxed paper). Roll dough on paper. Using a cookie cutter, cut dough. Gather scrapes and knead a little, then roll onto board and continue cutting cookies.

Place parchment paper in the bottom of cookie pans. Put uncooked cookies on the pan and chill for 15 minutes (at least). The dough is fragile and will stick to everything, even if you spray the rolling pin with PAM. I gave up and made a giant cookie, which I cut into bars.

Preheat oven: 350 degrees.

Bake till brown, 10-25 minutes.

Here's Mr. Linky. I think: