Sunday, August 6, 2017

A SImple, Greek-inspired Supper

We visited Trader Joe's after church today, and I spied these canned stuffed grape leaves, which gave me an idea for a simple, Greek-inspired supper. One that would help use up many of the cherry tomatoes I've been harvesting daily -- our one little tomato plant has been providing us with a plethora of little gems! Every day I pick a dozen or more. 

I'd never had Trader Joe's dolmas before, and they are excellent! Well priced, too! I combined them with a Mediterranean-style chickpea, tomato and feta salad (recipe here), and some cucumber spears. Delicious, simple and healthy!

I hope you're enjoying the summer. It's not over yet -- not until mid-September! I see some lake swimming in our future, and perhaps another trip to the beach. Are you one of those people who can't stand to see summer come to an end, or are you someone who can't wait for fall?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Black Bean-Mushroom-Tortilla Casserole

Here is a simple, quick meal you can prepare on a weeknight after work. The nice thing about this dish is that it provides leftovers for the next evening (it's just me and my husband so we get two meals out of it). If you are vegan, you can make it using non-dairy cheese. It's also vegetarian and gluten-free. The mushrooms make it "meaty" and substantial while the beans offer protein. Enjoy!

Black Bean-Mushroom-Tortilla Casserole
Serves 4

Olive or avocado oil
1 lb. button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
8 corn tortillas, halved
1-1/2 cups salsa
4 oz. Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat a few teaspoons olive or avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. Add the black beans and stir to combine. Cook until beans are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
2) In a 2-quart baking dish, arrange 5 tortilla halves, overlapping slightly. Top with half the mushroom-bean mixture and 1/2 cup salsa, then sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Repeat with another layer of tortilla halves, bean mixture, salsa and cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, salsa and cheese (add more cheese if you like it cheesier). Cover with foil and bake until center is hot, about 10 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5 to 8 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Indoor/Outdoor Rugs

Indoor/outdoor rugs are a wonderful invention. They are especially good to have indoors when you have pets, as they can be taken outside, scrubbed and hosed off when needed (and when you have dogs, it will be needed!).

This 5' x 8' rug -- the Damen synthetic kilim rug by Pottery Barn -- is a new addition to our porch. I really like how the colors coordinate with the paint color of our house and the existing accessories on the porch. It has a nice softness to it -- doesn't feel synthetic at all.

The dogs like it too. Before we put it on the porch, we had it in the studio over another synthetic rug. We liked the look of it indoors too, and almost didn't put it on the porch, but I'm glad we did. It's the perfect finishing touch for this outdoor room.

The other synthetic rugs we have in our house are meant to look like sisal. We have them in each of the three bedrooms and the mudroom for practicality because of the dogs. They are durable, washable and feel nice underfoot. They are inexpensive and easy to replace if needed. Do you use indoor/outdoor rugs in your home decorating?


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Honey & Maple Syrup

There's a new store in town that sells supplies for beekeeping, chicken raising and hydroponics/gardening. They also sell a wide assortment of honey and some locally made foods and soaps, books, baskets and other items. It's a charming little store!

All the honey they sell on tap is available for sampling, as are most of the bottled varieties. We tried every single one that's on tap, from African to bourbon-infused. One of our favorites was the Tupelo honey. I also liked the coffee-infused; it didn't taste like coffee, but was interesting and different. The African is very dark and similar in taste to molasses. There were so many varieties, and I liked all but maybe one of them.

My husband loves honeycomb, so he chose a large box from Cloister Honey out of Charlotte, NC. I don't care for chewing or eating the wax, so I just enjoy the honey and discard the rest. Paul likes to eat the whole thing. Some say the comb has health benefits.

When I tasted Trees Knees Cinnamon Maple syrup by Bushwick Kitchen, below, I fell in love. I am a huge fan of maple syrup, and this stuff is amazing. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Bushwick Kitchen also has an assortment of honeys, from plain to salted to spicy. And they have a spicy maple syrup and sriracha sauce, too.

I couldn't wait to make pancakes on Sunday morning so I could enjoy our new cinnamon maple syrup! These pancakes are made from Trader Joe's gluten-free buttermilk pancake mix.

Are you a fan of honey or maple syrup -- or both? How do you use these sweeteners in your cooking and beverages? Share your ideas! I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

7 Perfect Cocktails for Summer

Summertime is cocktail season. When we were at the beach in early June, we enjoyed gin and tonics and Tom Collins cocktails nearly every day (you know you're on vacation when 3 in the afternoon rolls around and you start fixing gin and tonics!). I thought I'd share some new cocktail recipes with you (that feature a sparkling red wine called Rosa Regale) as well as some favorites I've featured on the blog before.


Bella Rosa (pictured above)
Mix 1 oz. raspberry vodka and 1 oz. pineapple juice in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Top with 2 oz. chilled Rosa Regale wine. Garnish with pineapple spear.

I haven't tried the next one, and would have to buy more wine in order to make it, but it sounds really good.

Rosa Mimosa
Mix 2 oz. chilled orange juice and 1 oz. triple sec (orange flavored liqueur). Pour into flute glass and top with 2 oz. chilled Rosa Regale. Garnish with a strawberry

Find more Rosa Regale recipes here.

One of  my favorite summer cocktails is the Tom Collins (gin is my favorite liquor).

These blueberry margaritas are pretty yummy, too.

This cocktail has Pimm's, gin and St. Germaine elderflower liqueur. It is one of my very favorites. Go here to see the recipe, which was given to me by a bartender at the restaurant that invented it -- very generous of her!

This next drink, thyme lemonade, can be served nonalcoholic or spiked with gin. I forgot about this one -- I need to make it again. It's delicious!!!

And summer wouldn't be complete without watermelon margaritas. This recipe is unique and delicious (though, as I mentioned in the post, a bit labor intensive).

What is your drink of choice -- alcoholic or not -- during the sweltering months of summer? Leave a comment here and share your favorites! Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Simple Summer Entertaining

Summer entertaining is all about keeping it simple. For me, that means reducing cooking time (not having to turn on the oven) and choosing foods that are light, fresh and healthy.

Last night we had friends over for dinner and I chose a simple, French salade Niçoise as the main course. For an appetizer, I served black peppercorn pâté, a delicious dill goat cheese, organic red grapes and black Mission figs with mini wheat crackers and gluten-free almond crackers.

For the salad, the only foods that required cooking were the eggs, green beans and potatoes -- all cooked on the stovetop. The platter, from top left, featured: boiled yellow potatoes, peppadew peppers and pitted Niçoise olives, cornichons (in white bowl), capers (in small glass bowl), tuna, steamed green beans, hard boiled eggs and sliced farm-fresh tomatoes. Super simple, super healthy. On the side was a bowl of organic balsamic vinaigrette from Whole Foods. Not shown here was a bowl of fresh mozzarella ciliegine.  

For dessert, I served organic vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate toffee sauce by Stonewall Kitchen -- delicious!

I set the table with a natural fiber runner that I bought years ago at Pottery Barn. Surprisingly, they still sell it (it's called the nubby table runner). A vase of white hydrangea,  black plates and black cloth napkins rounded out the table. Candles in black and gold votive holders were lit during dinner.

What are you plans for the July 4th holiday? I have to work on Monday but will enjoy having Tuesday off. We may attend church service in the morning, and in the evening we'll take in a fireworks show that a nearby country club puts on every year. It's less than a 10 minute drive from our home. Fingers crossed, the weather will be good! 

I hope that whatever you do to celebrate this Independence Day holiday, you stay safe and enjoy a wonderful day. Thanks for visiting MLB!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Reading List

While on vacation at the beach, I read two books and started a third. One of the books I read is called The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy. From the publisher: "The Illusion of Separateness intertwines the stories of unique and compelling characters who—through seemingly random acts of selflessness—discover the vital parts they have played in each other’s lives." 

I found it to be a very unique book, written in an almost poetic style. It's not a long book, and is an easy read (I finished it in two days, and I'm a slow reader) yet it is complex. There came a point in the story when I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I wasn't expecting it. I very much enjoyed this novel and recommend adding it to your reading list.

The book I'm currently reading is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I may get some criticism for saying this, but I really do not like this book. I'm going to finish it mainly because is it a classic, but the style and subject matter are not for me. I loved The Old Man and the Sea when I read it in high school (but I also had a fantastic English teacher who brought it to life; perhaps without her I wouldn't have cared so much for it). However, The Sun Also Rises is pure drudgery! Are there any fans of Hemingway who would like to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this novel?

Another book I have on loan from the library is called On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. It is the story of a woman's move to Paris to attend cooking school, eventually settling in a small town in Normandy. It combines two interests: food and France. I look forward to reading it next, as soon as I finish Hemingway!

As always, I'd love to hear what you're reading or some of your favorite books. Leave a comment and let me know. I'm always adding books to my list. Thanks for visiting MLB!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

In Full Bloom

I might say this every year, but I truly believe the dahlia garden has never looked prettier than it does this year. Now that the garden is fuller, the plants are supporting one another a little more -- but they still need plenty of bamboo stakes for stability. Some of the plants are very tall and leggy. Does anyone know a trick to make them more compact? 

I'm loving the newest varieties my husband planted this spring. Take a look!

The tried-and-true giant yellow dahias are doing well, too. In the photo below you can see our neighbor's kitchen window. She says she's enjoying the view of our dahlia garden, which is so nice to hear. I've been cutting flowers and giving them to several neighbors to enjoy. It's wonderful to have so many beautiful blooms to share!

Here are the first two cherry tomatoes from my container plant, which is coming along very nicely. It has crowded out the herbs (mental note: next year, put only a tomato plant in the container). The rosemary and lavender have been transplanted to other pots, but the celery herb, parsley and thyme remain in the container with the tomato plant.

The perennial coreopsis Zagreb, below, has come back nicely. Last year two of the three plants all but died. The foliage turned black, and we were just sick about it. The third plant hung on. We thought about removing the two, and now I'm so glad we didn't. Plants are strange things, aren't they? So temperamental. I found a good overview of coreopsis Zagreb here. Aside from being a nice perennial, it's also tolerant of both humidity and dry heat, is deer resistant and attracts butterflies. I really like how it has filled out and how it looks between the rock border and the fence. I'm so happy with how the garden is coming along. I owe it all to the hard work of my husband, who does all the planting. I love the planning, but not the planting!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beach House

I can't believe it's been a week since we've been to the beach, and already I'm itching to go back. It's always a great time at the beach, but staying at a really nice house makes it even better.

 Here's a look inside ...

When vacationing at the beach, we typically eat most dinners out, but this year we only ate dinner out twice. The kitchen was so nice that it was a pleasure to cook there. It's fully outfitted with everything needed to prepare a meal. I loved the Sub-Zero refrigerator and the extra wide range.

The seafood store is only a 3-minute walk from the house. Several days we took the dogs and walked there for a pound of gorgeous, large shrimp ($10/lb) and freshly caught flounder. Paul boiled the shrimp with Old Bay seasoning and grilled the flounder over charcoal. Delicious! Meals were enjoyed on the screened in porch overlooking the water.  

I loved the French doors in both the living area and the upstairs master bedroom. They provided wonderful views of the marsh. The downstairs porch is screened in, the upstairs balcony is open. 

The house has a private dock -- the perfect place for Paul to launch his canoe.

The open deck was the ideal spot for morning yoga! It was a wonderful way to start the day. The house faces north, so once the morning sun moved behind the house and the deck was shady, I'd roll out my yoga mat and practice some moves. Incredibly peaceful.

I call this next shot "Spiral stairs with palm."

The screened-in porch with the double ceiling fans was a great napping space for the dogs. It was nice that the porch is screened in (something I always look for in a beach house because of the bugs), but this year there were virtually no bugs to contend with! I only got two mosquito bites, and they happened during our walks to the beach. If you know the coastal southeast, you know that mosquitoes and no-see-ums can ruin a trip. Paul canoed well into the marsh where he fished for hours without any bug spray on, and there were no bugs. He did have bites of another kind, though. He was very pleased to have caught lots of speckled trout and one 30" red drum on his fly rod.

The sunrise and sunset views from the house were amazing -- except the nights and mornings we had rain. We had a pretty big thunderstorm Monday night, rain Tuesday night and pretty much all day Wednesday. But we didn't let that bother us! We visited a few gift shops that are usually closed when we visit in October. We also went to the Edisto Island Serpentarium, finally. We've passed it a hundred times on our trips to the island but had never been. It was awesome! We watched the educators feed the huge alligators their lunch of raw chicken, and we enjoyed an up-close and personal visit with two ball pythons. They are very "friendly" snakes, according to the young woman. The outdoor venomous and non-venomous snake exhibits were really awesome (nothing but a moat between us and the copperheads in the trees!). The turtle habitat was of particular interest to Paul, who is a big fan of them and will frequently stop the car to help one across the road. I forgot to bring my camera to the Serpentarium, so unfortunately no photos.


Thanks for coming along on this visual tour of our trip to the beach! What are your summer vacation plans?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Dahlias in the Garden

We returned from a week at the beach to find the dahlia garden in nearly full bloom. What a nice welcome home!

Earlier this spring, Paul planted some new dahlias and I'm loving their deep red colors. They are spectacular! I snipped some to create a little arrangement for the bathroom sink. They include a deep red flower (front and center below), a lighter red bloom that has some yellowish petals toward the back, and a magenta flower. Such pretty colors!

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