Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mocha Russian

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did, enjoying time with family, lots of good food and, after the clean up was done, a round of Scattergories. Have you played it? I'm a fan of word games, and this one always provides lots of laughs. My dear friend in Seattle has a nice family tradition going. Every evening after supper they play a different board game. What a great way to spend time together. I enjoyed a game of Battleship one evening with her 7-year-old son, and another night the four of us played a competitive game of Sorry!

Today, I wanted to share a recipe from the December issue of Martha Stewart Living, which I just had to try. A spin on the white Russian cocktail, it uses espresso powder instead of coffee liqueur, and adds cocoa powder for a little chocolate flavor. This beverage is served hot, so it's perfect for a cold evening by the fire, perhaps while playing your favorite board game. Enjoy!

Mocha Russian 

The following recipe makes two drinks.

1) In a saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons espresso powder or instant coffee granules (regular or decaf) and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder.

2) Whisk in 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup vodka. Heat until almost boiling. Serve with whipped cream and a dash of espresso powder, if desired.

Notes: I used instant espresso granules; next time, I'll use decaf instant coffee because I'm sensitive to caffeine (needless to say, the espresso had quite an effect on me!). I also used skim milk and light cream. I added the vodka at the end so as not to burn off all the alcohol. I didn't have whipped cream, but a dollop would be wonderful on top.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How To Fold a Napkin Pocket

As I was setting the Thanksgiving table today, I wanted to do something different with my new linen napkins, so I looked on the Internet for some ideas. You can make a napkin pocket with a 20" square napkin in just eight easy steps. Here's how: 

1) With the right side of the napkin facing up, fold the bottom edge up to the middle.

2) Fold the bottom edge up to the middle again.

3) Turn the napkin over and fold the left side in to the middle.

4) Fold the right side in to the middle.

5) Repeat by folding the left side in to the middle again ...

6) And then the right side.

7) Turn the napkin over so the folds are on the bottom and the pocket is on top.

8) Insert silverware.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just days away. I love this holiday, the meaning behind it, and all the preparation that goes into planning the meal and decorating the dining table. Taking time to count my blessings and thank God for all the good things in life is something I try to do on a daily basis. This year I'm especially thankful for my husband, my health, and my employment.

During the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I begin to think about the dinner menu and how to set the table. This year I'll be using some new linen napkins, below, that I bought at Williams-Sonoma a few months ago (on a major sale). I love their rusty color, which is very similar to the color of our dining room walls (Pennywise by Sherwin Williams). I think they'll look pretty with our mix of mossy green and black dinner plates.

I'll be polishing the silver for our holiday dinner. Our simple Danish silverware belonged to my parents, the majority of the pieces given to them on their wedding day by my mother's mother. I've always loved this silver, and using it brings back such happy memories. I also have my mom's vintage set of white Dutch ovens that are nice to use at the holidays. They're not Danish, but have that simple and stylish Scandinavian look. I even like my parents' 1960s-era hot plates that we pull out of the attic each Thanksgiving and use to keep our side dishes warm. All these items have great sentimental value to me, and make me feel close to my parents, though they've been gone many years now.

For this year's menu, I'll be making my favorite Ina Garten cranberry conserve recipe (find the recipe here) and two pies -- pumpkin and pecan -- using commercially prepared gluten-free crusts (thank you, Whole Foods!). My husband will handle cooking the turkey and making gravy (thank you, Paul!) and I'll take care of the rest. I'm still trying to decide what kind of potatoes to make: basic mashed potatoes, bourbon-spiked sweet potatoes or potatoes Anna (similar to scalloped potatoes but without the cream/milk). Other sides will include steamed French green beans, stuffing and a wild rice dressing (this one or something similar).

What are your Thanksgiving day plans? Are you staying home and hosting a big meal, eating out, or heading out of town to enjoy dinner at someone else's home? If you're cooking, what's on the menu? Whatever your plans, I hope you have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. And many thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. I am grateful for all of you who read and follow my blog.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In the Christmas Spirit, a New Pie Recipe and Veggie Soup

The Christmas spirit is hitting me hard --and early -- this year. The weather has gotten quite cold, which always helps put me in the holiday mood. I bought Christmas cards at the end of the season last year and am going to get an early jump on addressing them so they can go in the mail soon after Thanksgiving. I have already purchased these Christmas stamps.

And I ordered return address labels from Tiny Prints in the two designs below. The neutral colors coordinate well with the stamps (yes, I am that detail oriented). Tiny Prints offers such a large selection, it's hard to choose just one or two! I received my order quickly and am very pleased with the quality. (Please note this is not a sponsored post.)

The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas also inspire me to try new recipes, which is what I did this weekend when I made the chocolate pecan pie below. I brought it to a gathering on Saturday at the home of our friends' parents. It was an outdoor party that began at 6:30. The weather was very cold -- in the 30s, dipping down into the upper 20s by the time we left -- but there was a roaring bonfire to keep everyone warm, plus heaters in various locations where the food was set up, and a fire in the tepee (yes, they actually built a tepee on their property!). The hosts made two kinds of soups to keep us warm: chicken noodle and a vegetarian pumpkin soup with curry, which I loved (I must get the recipe).

The hosts live in a log home they built some 30 years ago. Their 5-acre property also has a barn where their two beautiful (and huge!) horses spend the night. Guests made several trips to the barn to visit the horses; they loved the attention. One couple brought their two small Chihuahua mixes who had quite the time barking at the much larger creatures. The taller of the two horses found that quite perplexing ... and we found it quite humorous. All in all, it was a lovely evening. 

The pie was a hit, so I'm sharing the recipe below. Since I avoid gluten, I bought a frozen gluten-free crust at Whole Foods. A couple of men at the party said the pie was delicious and had no idea the crust was gluten free. Now I know what to use for my Thanksgiving pie!

Chocolate Pecan Pie 

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pie crust dough, rolled and fitted into a 9" pan (or use a commercially made crust) 
1 cup pecan halves
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in lowest position in oven. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside. 

2) In a medium bowl, stir together (do not whisk) eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stirring constantly, gradually add melted chocolate. Place prepared crust on a rimmed baking sheet and pour filling into crust. Arrange pecan halves in one even layer over filling.

3) Bake until just set (filling should jiggle slightly when pie plate is tapped), 50 to 60 minutes, rotating pie halfway through cooking time. Let cool completely on wire rack, at least four hours or overnight, before serving. 

Another thing I enjoy doing when the weather turns cold is making a big pot of soup, and this vegetable soup is one of my favorites. It makes an extra large batch so you can freeze it to enjoy later. Mix up the veggies each time for a slightly different take on the basic recipe. Yesterday I used what I had on hand: fresh carrots, potatoes and green beans, frozen corn and peas, plus onion and canned tomatoes. I added garlic and omitted the celery since I didn't have any. Go here to find the recipe for this satisfying and healthy soup. Enjoy, and thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Cookbook Stand

I had been in the market for a new cookbook stand after my old acrylic one was dropped onto the tile floor in the kitchen and broke. It was still usable, and not being the type to get rid of things quickly, I continued to use it for several years. But the large crack and jagged chunk missing from the corner made it less than ideal. I had looked for just the right cookbook holder ever since, but could not find one that met all my criteria ... until two months ago when I was shopping at Crate & Barrel (I love that shop!).

Made of wood and acrylic, this cookbook stand folds up flat, is easy to store and is adjustable. It holds both large hardcover books as well as smaller softcover magazines like my beloved (but now defunct) Everyday Food. 

I'd say it was worth the wait. Yep, definitely worth the wait. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Historic Beaufort, SC

I should begin this post with some history. Whenever my husband and I spend a week at Edisto, we can never tear ourselves away from the beauty of the beach to explore the surrounding area. So it was quite unusual for us this year to spend a day away from the beach in order to drive an hour and a half south to explore Beaufort (pronounced "Byou-fert" with a long "u" rather than a long "o").

Beaufort is a lovely small town located on Port Royal Island, one of the largest sea islands along the southeastern Atlantic coast. According to the Beaufort visitors guide website, Beaufort is one of just a handful of U.S. towns that has had its entire downtown designated an historic district by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Below are shots of the pretty Beaufort waterfront. We had lunch at a waterfront restaurant before walking to the marina. The day was spectacular: warm and breezy.

At the marina are signs that tell visitors about the right whale and manatee, both of which frequent the waters of this area. The sign about manatees asks motorists to help protect the endangered mammals by not feeding or watering them, which lures the animals to areas where they are more likely to be struck by boats.

Beaufort has many beautiful historic homes, like the ones below with intricately carved railings and trim work, red roofs and other distinctive features. 

I like the details of the green siding on the house below, which is home to the Beaufort Female Benevolent Society. The patterns of the siding are different on the front and on the side, as seen in the close ups. 

What a gorgeous water view! This home sits at the corner of Bay and New Streets. 

Marble steps and a checkerboard walkway grace the entrance of another private residence built in 1852.

Double porches and porch ceilings painted light blue to ward off evil spirits are frequently seen on homes in the South.

Notice the trim on the house below. Isn't it cute? Spanish moss hanging from the trees is another common Low Country sight.

And then we met this very friendly cat, who kept rolling around on her back, wanting me to rub her belly. Such a sweetie.

After strolling the residential streets and photographing many wonderful old homes, we headed back to Bay Street and ducked into an ice cream shop for a delicious treat before doing some shopping. In Joli Home Accents, I purchased a small all-weather rug in a white and tan chevron pattern, which we'll use in our mudroom. This shop has many cute things for the home!


Further down Bay Street, at M Home & Garden, I splurged on a soy-based candle by Plat du Jour. It has the most wonderful scent of pine, balsam and fresh thyme. I could have one of these in every room of the house!  

As hard as it was to tear ourselves away from the beach for a day, I'm so glad we made the trip to Beaufort, a charming southern town with beautiful views, a great selection of restaurants and shops and loads of history. Of course, our time there was limited as we had to get back to our dogs. I'd love to stay a couple of nights in Beaufort some time so we can further explore the town and the neighboring islands, including Hunting Island State Park, which I've heard wonderful things about. 

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow!

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