Friday, May 30, 2014

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Last week I took Friday off from work and enjoyed a wonderful, long Memorial Day weekend. I got several chores done, ran many errands and did a little clothes shopping. My husband and I bought some new plants: coral bells with dark leaves for the shady front garden and two hibiscus plants (red and yellow) plus a few vegetable plants (tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and basil) for the sunny back yard. 

On Saturday morning, we picked strawberries under the best of conditions: sunny and cool with low humidity and a steady breeze. It was heavenly. We picked three gallons and purchased a fourth of pre-picked. After hulling four gallons of berries, my thumb sure was sore! 

On Memorial Day, we had our next-door neighbors over for hors d'oeuvres and wine and a lively jam session (both my husband and our neighbor play the guitar). As a snack, I made this fresh, delicious tomatillo salsa to have with chips. Before this weekend, I had never cooked with tomatillos. They are covered with a papery husk and have a sticky residue on them that should be washed off before using. Choose tomatillos that are bright green and firm with their husks still on. 

This salsa is tangy and slightly spicy -- perfect to have with margaritas. Give it a try for your next gathering and let me know what you think. If you're having a big group, I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

In a food processor, combine:

  • 1 pound tomatillos (husks removed, washed and quartered)
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chile (ribs and seeds removed for less heat)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Pulse until finely chopped. Season with coarse salt. Serve with tortilla chips.

from Everyday Food

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Decorating with Shells

As I was tidying up the other day, I came across two bags full of shells in a drawer. Some are shells I've collected from trips to the beach. Others, like the brown and white cone-shaped ones below, were given to me by a former neighbor who is an interior designer. I believe he acquired them at the High Point furniture market many years ago. 

A lightbulb went off when I saw these. It's been years since I've used them in decorating, and I thought they would add a light, summery feel to the house. Since it will likely be fall before we make it to the beach for our vacation, I wanted to bring that beachy feel to our home now, and thought these shells would do the trick. 

Does anyone know what kind of shells these are? I think they are from the Philippines. 

The shells below are from our past trips to the beach. I put them in one of my favorite pottery bowls and set them on the coffee table. While they are not as exotic as the shells above, I think they are even more beautiful -- maybe because they were found by us and bring back pleasant memories of walks on the beach.

Even the bathroom shelf is now home to these two ivory-colored shells (again, from our former designer neighbor). I have a few more of this type of shell. I think they would look pretty in a bowl or wide cylindrical vase.

Do you like to use natural elements such as shells around your house? How do they make their way into your home decorating?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Simple White Tulips

I picked up this small, simple bouquet of white tulips at the grocery store the other day. Just $4.00 for the bunch, yet they bring so much joy to my day and brighten up the living room so beautifully. Tulips are one of my favorite flowers. What flowers bring you like to display in your home?

P.S. For those of you who don't blog and aren't sure how to reply to this post, just scroll down to the small text at the end of this post. Between "Labels" and "Posted by" is the word "comment" with a number in front of it. Just click there and you will go to a form where you can type your reply. I'm not sure how other bloggers are able to customize their message, such as "Leave a comment." I've not been able to figure that out, nor can I move the location of my comment link. Any tips, fellow bloggers?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Highlights from an Historic Home & Garden Tour

One of my favorite things to do is to go on home tours, especially of older homes. This past weekend there was a tour in a nearby city that I had learned about Saturday night as I was knitting and watching the local news. I was thrilled to hear the tour was taking place on Sunday, too! And yesterday was the perfect day for a home tour, with temperatures in the mid-60s.

The tour featured eight historic period homes and their gardens. As is true of most home tours, no photography was allowed inside the homes, which I can totally understand. While I would love to share with you the interiors of a couple of the homes in particular, I was respectful of the rules and did not sneak any photos. The outside of the homes, though, was another matter. Here are some of my favorites from the tour.

This adorable English-style stone cottage is as cute inside as it is out. The decorating was eclectic, traditional with a nice mix of antiques and modern touches. The bathroom upstairs is especially unique, as is the kitchen. Both have a rustic, almost European feel. The bathroom features a large, dark wood dresser-turned-vanity with a brightly patterned sink reminiscent of something from Portugal or Spain. Just off the small living room is a little library (to the far left of the house as seen in the photo below) that's full of charm and so very cozy.

I fell in love with the light fixture by the front door, which the owner had had professionally restored and rewired. According to a tour volunteer, it took a long time to source the white glass to replace some original pieces that had been broken or cracked. And those house number tiles are cute, don't you think? 

The window below is the only photo I took from the inside (after asking permission). I just loved the shape of it, how the light was coming in and the pop of red from the geraniums in the window box.

The next house is a 1920s airplane bungalow, a style that is more common on the west coast than in the Southeast. Airplane bungalow style is characterized by a small second story that pops up in the middle of the house, resembling an airplane cockpit. The upstairs rooms also tend to have lots of windows. On the back side of this house, a bedroom had windows on all sides with lovely views.

The next home was the first one we visited on the tour. The outside of this 1928 home in the minimal traditional style is cute, but the inside is amazing! I loved the decorating -- a perfect mix of modern and traditional with some antiques. This home is also full of wonderful artwork throughout. The room on the left side with all the windows is a sun room that features an elegant writing desk, upholstered chair, modern chandelier with white fringe, and a turquoise surf board propped in a corner to add a touch of whimsy. I loved the interior of this house as well as the wonderful deck and landscaped yard, complete with stream and koi pond, below. 

The last house we visited was my husband's favorite, and my second favorite. It is a mid-century modern home built in 1969 with soaring ceilings, two great big fireplaces, exposed brick walls, multiple decks and a very unique kitchen with rustic wooden open shelving. I didn't take photos of the outside because it is a dark brown house literally surrounded by trees. Plus, the outside was not the interesting part (except for the saltwater pool, below). The inside was fantastic. The homeowner is an interior designer and her use of large, antique armoires combined with black and white photography and original artwork, industrial-style light fixtures and vintage accents was very unique and personal. A large dining table, tucked into the corner of the open living space, is surrounded on two sides by banquette seating with lots of pillows and cushions, and chairs along a third side. I could just envision a dinner party at that table, with the adjacent wall of sliding doors open wide to the large deck lit with strings of white lights. What a great home for entertaining! 

I hope you have enjoyed the highlights of the home tour I was able to capture and share with you. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Vegetarian "Baked" Beans

I hope those of you who are moms had a very special Mother's Day! We gathered at the home of our niece and her family over the weekend for a cookout and to celebrate the wonderful mothers in our family. As my husband and I made the 30-minute drive to the party, we encountered quite the rain storm. At times it came down in buckets -- so hard we couldn't see two feet in front of the car. It was kind of scary, but we (and the food and wine we brought) arrived safely.

I love it when I'm asked to bring food to a party. I enjoy paging through my cookbooks, looking for just the right dish to bring. My contributions this weekend were gluten-free brownies with pecans (a recipe I shared here) and these baked beans (I know, it looks like chili). I doubled the baked beans recipe to make enough to feed 13 adults. I've made these beans before and they've never turned out thick, even though I cut down on the amount of water and cook them longer than is called for. But they are tasty and have been a hit every time I've made them. You may want to give them a try the next time you have a cookout.

Vegetarian "Baked" Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons mustard powder
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) pinto beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper

1) In a 5-quart saucepan (or 8-quart stockpot, if you are doubling the recipe), heat olive oil over medium-high. Cook onion until translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, mustard powder, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes, brown sugar, beans and 2 to 2.5 cups water (the recipe calls for 3 cups). Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
2) Bring the mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes. Uncover and cook until thick, 20 to 30 minutes (the recipe says 10 minutes, but I find they're not thick enough). Stir in vinegar; season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Everyday Food

Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring in the Garden

I spent some time cleaning out the leaves from the front garden over the weekend. I am always happy to see the unfurling of new fern shoots. How funny they look when they are still tightly curled up, and what a transformation they make!

Above: Coral Bells, one of my favorite shade plants!
Hosta is in the background, a staple in the shade garden.

Our rhododendrons are blooming beautifully this year!

I also visited my favorite little garden shop and picked out five plants for our front porch container. In the foreground on the left is an asparagus fern, which I include every year, and on the right is fuchsia "Dollar Princess," which I so look forward to seeing in full bloom. I hope it will attract hummingbirds. We'll hang the hummingbird feeder just above this container, so it will be fun to see if the hummers visit the flowers too.

Above, left: Coleus "Trailing Plum." I had never seen this type of coleus before. Its foliage is so pretty and unique. 
Above, right: "Rockapulco Purple" Double Impatiens.

Above: close up of fuchsia "Dollar Princess"

"Sonic White" New Guinea Impatiens with lots of buds.
Thanks for visiting!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Potato-Onion Frittata

Frequently after church on Sunday mornings, my husband and I eat breakfast out afterward. There's a restaurant on the way home from church that makes the most fantastic banana-granola pancakes served with real whipped butter and maple syrup. They're my favorite. However, back in March I decided to remove gluten from my diet, which means that breakfast out is now limited to some sort of egg dish. Most of the time, I'm disappointed in the eggs I get at restaurants. They're either too brown or too runny and often bland.

Yesterday after early Mass, we stopped at the grocery for a couple of items so I could make this very delicious potato-onion frittata for brunch. It calls for five eggs plus five egg whites to reduce calories and fat. Instead of wasting five egg yolks, I bought a carton of egg whites, which is also more convenient than having to separate five eggs! 

Dried rosemary gives the frittata a wonderful flavor, and parsley adds beautiful color and is high in vitamins A and C. Give this frittata a try for brunch or a light supper served with a cup of soup or a salad.

Potato-Onion Frittata

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 baking potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
5 large eggs
5 large egg whites or 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons Egg Beaters 100% liquid egg whites
1/2 cup whole flat-leaf parsley leaves

1) In a 10" nonstick broiler-proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion, potato and rosemary; season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
2) Cover skillet and cook 10 minutes; uncover. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onion and potato are tender, about 5 minutes.
3) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, parsley leaves, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
4) Heat broiler with rack set 4 inches from heat. Add remaining tablespoon oil to vegetables in skillet. Pour egg mixture into skillet. Cook over low heat, lifting around edges with a thin spatula to let egg flow underneath. Continue cooking until almost set in center, about 10 minutes.
5) Place skillet under broiler and cook about 3 minutes, until set and top is lightly golden. Remove from oven and slide frittata onto a serving plate; cut into wedges.
from Everyday Food
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