Saturday, January 21, 2017

White Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup

Hello there! It's still winter, even though it's not very cold where I live. The wonderful snow we got the first week of January was gone in a matter of days. We actually had temperatures in the 60s just days after the snowfall and days when it didn't get above freezing. Crazy southern weather! The poor snow didn't have a chance. Even so, it's technically still winter and it's cold in many parts of the world, so here's a nice, hearty soup recipe for those who need a bit of warming up.

White Bean, Tomato and Kale Soup

2 cans (15 oz. each) navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomato
6 cups vegetable broth (if you avoid gluten, look for gluten-free on the label)
2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 7 cups)
1 small to medium yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup gluten-free (or regular) elbow macaroni

1) Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add carrot, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and saute for another 5 to 8 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, about 5 minutes.

2) Add the tomato puree, vegetable broth, beans and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. 

3) Reduce heat to a simmer and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil water and cook elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain pasta, add it to the soup and serve.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Black Hibiscus Candle by India Hicks

In late November, one of my favorite bloggers, Joan, who writes the beautiful blog For the Love of a House, offered a giveaway, and I was the lucky recipient of this elegant India Hicks candle! I'm one of those gals who rarely wins anything, so I was pretty excited, not to mention I am a candle addict

I would like to thank Joan and Patricia Van Essche of PVE Design, a director at India Hicks who provided the candle for the giveaway.

I chose the black hibiscus scent, partly because the description sounded great ("England in the tropics, captured by the suggestion of sea air, oranges and Earl Grey tea") and partly because of the black glass jar and gold lid. So luxurious!

 Second photo credit: India Hicks

Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Essentials

Every season has its essentials. Two essentials of mine in the winter months are hand sanitizer and warm socks. The hand sanitizer I'm liking now is Everyone gel sanitizer in coconut + lemon. I'm not a germaphobe, but I taught myself years ago not to touch my eyes, nose or mouth to cut down on germ transmission, and this technique really helps. I get maybe one cold a year. That being said, I sometimes use hand sanitizer after being in public places, or in church after we exchange the sign of peace -- when we shake hands with those around us. It is a lovely moment during Mass but not always practical during cold and flu season when people have been sneezing, coughing and blowing their noses! 

This product smells really good, not the typical alcohol sanitizer. It actually smells like dessert! I bought it at Whole Foods, but you can also purchase it online. Besides the pleasant scent, I like that this product line is certified non-GMO, gluten-free, cruelty free and uses no synthetic fragrances. The company website also has an informative "green glossary" guide to the ingredients in their products.

Warm, cozy socks are another winter essential for me, as my toes always seem to be cold (so does my nose, but so far I haven't come across a product for keeping it warm). Last year, or the year before, I discovered socks by World's Softest, an American company in Niota, TN, founded more than 100 years ago (two of their lines are still US made). 

I bought a pair last year and loved them, so I bought more this year: three pairs of ragg crew socks and the pair below (I don't recall the style). They were buy three, get one free at a local retail store. These socks are true to their name -- incredibly soft, comfortable and warm. A promotion on their website runs through January: save 20% when you spend $30 or more.

What are the essentials that help you get through these cold winter months? Let us know by sharing your comments below (click on "comments"). Thanks for visiting! Always nice to have you at the bungalow!   

While winter is certainly not my favorite season, but I do adore winter scene photographs. Check out my Winter board on Pinterest for some very beautiful images that will make you want to get outdoors and enjoy the snow -- or curl up inside by the fire!

Please note, this is not a sponsored post. I simply like sharing things I find to be good and useful products, ones that you might also enjoy using.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Good Snowfall

Oh how happy I am when we get at least one good snowfall here in the Southeast. Especially when it happens over a weekend!

I am a homebody by nature, and snow days call for nesting and being indoors, for reading and game playing, for soup-making and snuggling with doggies -- and even for house cleaning, which I plan to do (at some point) today.

Snow days are perfect for time outdoors, too. The world is so much quieter when there's a blanket of snow on the ground. Birds and squirrels are plentiful at the feeders. Watching birds in the winter is one of my favorite things to do. They are so active and easy to spot in the snow. The cardinals are especially pretty.

If you're having a snowy weekend, I hope you are enjoying it. Stay safe and warm!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year, folks! I hope your new year is off to a great start. Do you make new year's resolutions? I don't really, but I think the new year is a great time for a fresh start, for setting goals, making plans and contemplating the previous year.

One of my goals for 2017 is to blog more often. I'm sad to say that in 2016 I created fewer than 50 posts. Compare that to 2011, the first full year in which I was blogging, when I created 74 posts. Blogging is a pastime I enjoy, but to be honest, sometimes I stress over it. What should I blog about? Will people care enough to leave comments? How much (or how little) should I write? How can I find the time? I don't want this hobby to become a chore. It's also hard not to feel pressure when there are so many great blogs out there with exciting stories of travel and home renovations -- with amazing photographs to boot. 

The blogs I find most enjoyable are those that feature real lives. Blogs like Jones Design Company; For the Love of a House; Classic, Casual Home; Nine & Sixteen and Posie Gets Cozy, to name just a few (see the sidebar for links to more of my favorites). These blogs feature real stories, great photos and personal details. Even though we haven't met, I feel like I know these folks. I would like for my blog to provide that same feeling. Real, honest and personal. So in 2017, I'm going to attempt to post more to my blog and worry less about creating the perfect posts (and how many comments they will or won't generate). I need to remember that I have many readers who don't leave comments, but who enjoy my posts. For this I am very thankful.

Another goal for 2017 is to read more books. Do you know about Goodreads? It's a great place to keep lists of books I've read and those I'd like to read, as well as read member reviews and get recommendations based on books I like. 

Last year I set a reading goal (I'm not even going to share with you the pitifully low number of books I aimed to read) ... needless to say, I didn't meet my goal. Not even close. This year, I have a new reading goal (the number's even higher!), and I am off to a good start already. Yesterday I began reading an Alice Hoffmann novel called Blackbird House, and so far I love it. I read 73 pages in one sitting, which is really good for me, considering that reading almost always puts me to sleep in 20 minutes or less. That's probably one reason I didn't meet my 2016 reading goal. Ha!

A third goal for 2017 is to exercise more. I'm an avid swimmer, and have been lap swimming regularly since 2015. But I slip into periods when I don't work out for a week or more. And a week can easily turn into two weeks or three. It's really hard to get up at 5:00 on a cold winter morning, pull on a swimsuit and get into a cold car to drive oneself to the gym. Then there's getting into the chilly pool ... There are too many reasons to stay in a warm bed snuggling with my hubby until 6:15! But swimming is the best thing for me physically and mentally, so I need to make it a priority. It takes diligence. But I can do it, if I just remind myself of the benefits, like the 5 pounds I lost this past year and how good I feel after a 30-minute swim.

So what resolutions, goals or plans do you have for 2017? If you'd like to share -- and I hope you will -- just click on "Comments" below. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks, as always, for following My Little Bungalow. Here's to a great year ahead.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef in Red Wine)

In my last post, I shared with you the traditional Danish Christmas dessert I made for our holiday meal in honor of my husband's father's family. Today I'm featuring what I made as our entree -- a traditional French dish called boeuf bourgignon, or beef in red wine, in honor of my mother's side of the family. 

My mother's father came to the U.S. from France and my mother's mother was also of French descent, so her cooking was very French-influenced. Mom would make boeuf bourguignon for special occasions such as Christmas. Even though I no longer eat beef, I wanted to make something special for my husband and his family. I actually found this meal very enjoyable to prepare -- and it was a connection to my mom, who passed away more than 15 years ago. I thought of her frequently as I made it

Mom always served boeuf bourguignon with egg noodles and buttered croutons. I followed suit, leaving off the croutons. Before the main course, I served a simple mixed green salad with homemade white wine vinaigrette which had two of the main dish's ingredients in it: shallots and parsley

Below are the recipes for both the beef and the salad dressing. My recipe for the beef is a simplified version of the original, which calls for rendering salt pork and cooking the onions and the beef in it. I use avocado or olive oil instead, which is both simpler and healthier. If I remember correctly, my mother would cook bacon and use the fat to brown the onions and beef. I believe she then added the crumbled bacon to the final dish.

I bought the best looking beef from Whole Foods. At $9.99 a pound, it's not inexpensive (but what do I, a non-meat eater, know about beef prices?). It is locally raised, grass-fed and hormone-free, and very lean. I thought it looked like very good quality -- good enough for a photo!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Avocado oil or olive oil
20 to 25 peeled white pearl onions, about 1 inch in diameter
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, sliced
3 lbs. lean, boneless stew beef (pieces roughly 2 inches in size)
Bouquet garni (4 fresh parsley sprigs and 2 bay leaves, tied together
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup very finely chopped carrot, peeled
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot beef stock (I used Rachel Ray brand)
2 cups red Burgundy or other dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

To ensure no one element of your boeuf bourguignon is overdone, cook the onions, mushrooms and beef separately before finally combining them. I made the beef two days ahead and refrigerated it. The day before, I cooked the onions and mushrooms and added them to the beef. The day of, everything simmered on the stove top an additional 20 minutes or so.

The onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy 8- or 10-inch skillet, heat a small amount of avocado or olive oil. Add the peeled onions and cook over medium to medium-high heat, turning them to brown them as evenly as possible. 

Transfer onions to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in one layer. Bake in the oven, uncovered, turning them once or twice, for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove from oven and set aside.

The mushrooms
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in an 8- to 10-inch stainless steel skillet. When foam subsides, cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are slightly soft. Add mushrooms to onions and set aside.

The beef
Preheat oven to 350. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the beef chunks, 6 to 8 at a time to avoid crowding the skillet. Turn each piece to brown on all sides.

Remove beef with tongs to a heavy 4- to 6-quart Dutch oven or casserole dish (one with a tight fitting lid). Repeat with remaining beef. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat.

After all beef is browned, add the chopped shallots and carrots to the skillet, adding oil as needed. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly colored. Stir in the flour, adding a touch more oil if the mixture looks dry. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the flour begins to brown lightly, being careful not to let it burn (keep stirring). 

Pour in the hot beef stock, blending vigorously with a wire whisk over medium-low heat. Blend in the wine and tomato paste and bring to a boil, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Stir in the minced garlic, dried thyme, salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the sauce over the beef and stir gently. The sauce should almost, but not quite, cover the meat. Add more wine or beef stock if needed.

Bring to a boil, cover with lid and place in lower third of oven. Let cook, regulating oven temperature so the meat simmers slowly, for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Gently stir in the onions and mushrooms, cover with lid and return to oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.  

Before serving, remove the bouquet garni. Taste and season as necessary with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and serve with egg noodles (mashed potatoes would also be an excellent choice).

White Wine Vinaigrette

In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon minced shallot and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Wishing you and your family a very happy and healthy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Risalamande (Danish Rice Pudding with Cherry Sauce)

I hope you're having a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We had my husband's mother, sister and her husband to our house for Christmas dinner. My husband's father's side of the family is from Denmark, so when I discovered this traditional Danish Christmas dessert (that is also gluten free!), I knew it was going to be the perfect ending to our holiday dinner. Risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) is served cold and topped with a warm cherry sauce. The pudding itself has no sugar in it, but the whipped cream that gets folded into and the cherry topping are both sweetened. Overall, this is not a very sweet dessert.

The Danish tradition is to add a whole almond to the risalamande. Whoever gets the whole almond in their serving wins a prize. Since Paul and I were hosting, I served our bowls first to make sure we didn't get the almond. Then I buried it in one of the three remaining desserts. I had my husband, who wasn't in the kitchen when I did this, serve the dessert to our guests. My brother-in-law was the lucky winner of the prize -- a jar of Maine wild blueberry Champagne jam (little did I know, blueberry is one of his favorites!).

I just love traditions! I would be happy to have risalamande every year for Christmas dessert, and the game of finding the whole almond and winning a little gift is quite fun. 

Here is the recipe for those of you who would like to make this dessert next Christmas, whether you are of Danish lineage or not. You can always make risalamande at other times of the year as well. In fact, I think it would make a nice New Year's dessert.


1 cup short-grained white rice (I used arborio rice)
1/2 cup water

4-1/4 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans, scored lengthwise and seeds scraped
Pinch of salt
5 ounces almonds, blanched and coarsely chopped (set aside one whole almond)
2 cups whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar

1) In a saucepan, combine the rice and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.

2) Add the milk to the rice and bring to a boil, stirring. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pods (the pods will add flavor and will be removed later) and salt. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight lid and let cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

3) Remove pan from heat. Remove the vanilla bean pods and discard. Transfer the pudding to a large bowl and let cool. Stir in the chopped, blanched almonds. The pudding up to this point can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated.

Note: If you bought almonds already blanched, consider yourself lucky. I had to blanch mine and it was quite a chore. According to directions I found online, you are to put the almonds in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit a minute or two, then drain. Supposedly the skins should come right off when rubbed between your fingers or a paper towel. Well, mine didn't. I stood there for I don't know how long peeling skins from the almonds. Sometimes I would get lucky and a large section would peel off (see below). Eventually my hands starting cramping so I gave up. I am estimating I used about 4.5 to 5 ounces of almonds. 

If you have a method for easy almond blanching, please share!!! Just click on "comments" at the bottom of this post.

4) Before serving, beat the cream with 3 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cherry Sauce

The sauce can be made ahead and reheated in a saucepan just before serving.

1.5 lbs. frozen dark sweet cherries (buying them already pitted will save you lots of time)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or the scraped seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
3 tablespoons pure cornstarch (I use Argo brand)

1) In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, water and vanilla over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch with a enough water to make a thin paste. Slowly add it to the cherry sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Serve warm over the risalamande.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

Hello there. Sorry, I have been remiss about posting to the blog as of late. This is a busy time of year, as you know. I had hoped to share some tasty cookie recipes (like the yummy flourless chocolate cookies I made) and show some scenes of the bungalow decorated for Christmas, but I just didn't have the opportunity until now.

Check out this adorable mini milk bottle vase holder that my manager gave me for Christmas. My husband brought home some fresh greenery that he clipped this morning while walking the dogs. I needed to refresh the Advent wreath on the dining table (photo below). I thought some branches would look pretty in these cute vases. They add a nice Christmas touch to the mudroom.

Here is this year's Advent wreath with fresh evergreens and holly berries. This will be the centerpiece for Christmas dinner. When all the candles are lit, they really put off a lot of light. I also bought three bunches of grocery store white mums and daisies for a few vases that I'll put around the house.


Last but not least, the Nativity scene with some texture added this year -- fake "snow" that I purchased at Pottery Barn years ago. My husband noted that snow wasn't realistic, so I replied, "Pretend it's straw." This Nativity scene (by Willow Tree) is one of my favorite things about Christmas. It's grounding and reminds me every day of what the season is about.

Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and happy holiday.

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