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Archive for April, 2010

My husband and I just returned from a fun weekend in Los Angeles.  We drove up to attend Jeff’s company party — a 70s theme celebration with a great band, delicious food in a cool LA loft.  Everyone dressed in costume and boogied to great 70s tunes.  All the men wore platform shoes (I’m sure their feet were aching today) and one gal arrived in roller skates (and spent most of the night cruising and dancing around in her skates). Of course, I was still hobbling around in my knee brace (staying clear of skater girl).  Those opportunities “to dance the night away” don’t happen that often these days.  I told Jeff he owes me a night of dancing — when my knee is completely rehabbed.

Can you believe we left our camera at home?  I’ll post some pictures later when we get them from the party photographer.  There were some very creative costumes!

I had forgotten how fun the disco music was from the 70s.  It was great inspiration.   I can see a 70s disco party at our home coming soon … maybe even a 70s block party this summer.

We stayed the night at the new JW Marriott at LA Live (across from the Nokia Theater and Staples Center).  The hotel is beautiful and so convenient to many of the popular places in LA.  The Mixing Room (pictured below) is “cocktail central” and has an incredible wall of colored glass behind the bar.

The guest rooms were nicely appointed.  It’s so nice to stay in a brand new hotel!  I could have easily stayed for a week.























We walked over to The Farm of Beverly Hills (next to the Nokia Theater) for breakfast.  The LA Live restaurant is The Farm’s 3rd location.  It’s a great American style restaurant with fresh, organic foods.  Great breakfast!

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May Day (celebrated on May 1st) is right around the corner.  The earliest celebrations of May Day took place before the birth of Christ, with the festival of Flora.  Today, we think of maypoles and hanging baskets on doorknobs — traditions from Old Europe.

My girlfriend Chris keeps the May Day tradition alive.  Whether she lives in the neighboring city or many states away — she always delivers adorable May Day baskets (by person or mail).  The blue & green basket and the tin cup with ribbon (both pictured above) are from Chris in previous years.  (No pressure Chris … you know we’re all waiting to see your adorable creations this year).

It’s fun to keep the May Day tradition alive — delivering May Day baskets to neighbors and friends.  If you have children, it’s a fun family project to make May Day baskets to give to neighbors.  When I was a child, we would make May Day baskets from the old green, plastic strawberry containers and fill them with flowers (from our yard or the neighbors).  We would place the basket on our neighbors doorstep, ring the doorbell, then RUN away, laughing the entire time.

Making May Day baskets can be as simple or detailed as you want.  Here’s how to get started …

1.  The first step is to select your container.  You can use baskets, tin buckets, take out boxes, silver cups, vases, paper doilies or make your own.  You probably have items around your house that would be perfect.  Be creative.  I always look in the Target $1 Bins.  All containers below (with the exception of the handmade blue & green basket) were from Target.

2.  The second step is the fun part … deciding on the filler for the baskets. Popular choices are flowers and candy, but think outside the box.  My girlfriend Chris finds unique, old fashioned candies.  One year she sent Zotz (remember those?)  For your bird lover and gardener friends, you may want to include bird seed or a potted herb. For your tea drinking friends, add a few tea bags.

I usually find candy and flowers.  My candy of choice this season is Trader Joe’s new Salt Water Taffy ($1.99 a bag).  The flavors are great:  Strawberry Banana, Cherry, Sour Apple, Watermelon and Red Licorice.  And, even better — the colors are perfect for spring!  Several shades of pink, white, and pale yellow.  I also found some adorable flower lollipops at Michaels.

3.  The third step is filling and decorating the baskets. Again, here’s where it’s fun to get creative with ribbons, flowers, candy, handmade notes, etc.  In one of the baskets below, I tucked in a couple of Forte tea bags (for my girlfriend that loves tea).  I cut several flowers from our yard and wrapped them with some pink floral tissue and a white doilie tied off with ribbon.

4.  Last but not least, have fun delivering your baskets!

Happy May Day!

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Green Beans are another family favorite … even our “picky eater” will eat these.  This is a modified recipe of Barefoot Contessa.

Green Beans with Shallots

1 pound French Green Beans (also known as haricots verts)

2 Tbs. Olive Oil     (The BC’s recipe calls for 2 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs Olive Oil)

2-3 Large Shallots, diced

Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Blanch the green beans in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain the beans immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.  Once the beans are cold, drain the beans.  Lay out the beans on clean dishtowels to absorb water.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan (12-inch).  Saute the shallots on medium heat until lightly browned (tossing occasionally for 5 – 10 minutes).

3.  Add the dried beans to the shallots.  Toss with salt and pepper.  Heat only until the beans are hot, tossing often to make sure beans don’t burn.

Note:  If you can’t find French beans, you may use regular string beans.  Blanch the beans for 3 minutes instead of 2.

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Glee

This is a bit “off topic”, but I have watched last week’s tv episode of Glee three times now!  It’s just so quirky and the music is so great! And Sue Sylvester’s “Vogue” video – an attribute to Madonna – is hilarious.

I would have to say that Glee is my favorite tv show this season.  Jeff even watches it with me — and he’s a 24, Fringe, FlashForward type of guy.

If you haven’t started watching Glee, I would encourage you to watch a few episodes.  You can always watch last season’s episodes (www.fox.com/glee/ or http://www.hulu.com) to get caught up on the story and the characters.

GLEE — Tuesdays at 9 pm on Fox

An American musical comedy-drama that highlights a high school glee club.  Fun watching!  And you can download the songs for your iPod!

I don’t mean to sound like a commercial!  🙂

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This is my family’s all-time favorite chicken recipe. It’s so easy and it’s a great way to use fresh rosemary and thyme from your garden.  It’s a recipe adapted from Fine Cooking.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

4 Chicken Breasts, with bone and skin

3 Tbs. unsalted Butter

6 medium Shallots, peeled and cut in quarters

12 Garlic cloves, peeled

10 sprigs of fresh Thyme, leaves stripped

8 sprigs of fresh Rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped

1 1/2 tsp. coarse Salt

Freshly ground Pepper

Directions

1.  Put the butter into a shallow 9 X 13 baking dish.  Heat the oven to 425.  Put the baking dish into the oven while it’s heating.  When the butter is melted (about 10 minutes), remove the baking dish and set it on a heatproof surface.  Add the shallots, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Swirl the pan to coat the ingredients in the butter.

2.  Dredge the chicken, skin side down, in the butter and herb mixture.  Arrange the chicken breasts skin side up in baking dish.  Sprinkle the chicken generously with the salt and pepper.

3.  Bake until chicken is browned and cooked through (50 to 60 minutes).  I usually baste the chicken with the juices at 40 minutes.

4.  Serve chicken with the shallots and garlic, along with a drizzle of the pan juices/drippings.

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There’s nothing better than using fresh herbs to enhance the flavor of your cooking.  And, now is the time to start planting and harvesting herbs.

I grow herbs in containers — right outside our kitchen door.  It doesn’t take much room — or work, for that matter.  I grow parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, cilantro and oregano. I have tried growing dill and tarragon several times, but I haven’t had much luck.

Rosemary (left) is very easy to grow.  It needs well-drained soil, not much water and plenty of sunlight.  Thyme (below) is also easy to grow and needs very little water.  It’s best to grow thyme by potted plant versus starting by seed.  Both herbs thrive in Southern California.

Basil (lower, left) needs good drainage and sun. It is very sensitive to cold, so you want to plant basil after the danger of frost has passed. Basil needs to be harvested often by pinching off branches right above where a pair of leaves are growing. You also want to remove the flowers (pinch off) for better flavor in the basil leaves.
Parsley (lower, right) can be grown by seed, but has a slow germination rate (3 weeks or more). Parsley needs full sun to partial shade. I grow both Italian (flat leaf) and curly parsley.

Cilantro (below) doesn’t like hot weather. When it reaches temperatures in the high 70s or 80s, cilantro tends to bolt and go to seed. It’s best to plant cilantro in areas where it gets early morning or late afternoon sun. Replant by seed or potted plant every 4 to 6 weeks to ensure you have a regular supply of cilantro.

Mint and Oregano are two additional herbs that are easy to grow. Mint (lower, left) is especially hardy and should be planted in it’s own container (or in an area that it won’t encroach on other plants), as it spreads readily. When you notice the stems getting longer and the leaves getting shorter, it’s best to cut back your mint by 1/3 to 1/2. This is usually at mid-season. Oregano (lower, right) likes well-drained soil and full sun. When the plant starts to flower, flowers should be pinched back.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post some of my fav recipes using fresh herbs…

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It’s looking like we’re going to have great weather for Easter … possibly nice enough for an outdoor Easter brunch.  I’ve included a few ideas and pictures of casual tablescapes for Spring and Easter.

When creating a tablescape, you want to select a theme.  By using linens, plates, glassware, flowers, candles and decorative items you can create a great tablescape for any season.

I recently purchased the green linen table runner and napkins from Pottery Barn (on sale, of course!)  This year I wanted to create a casual and more natural looking spring tablescape.

By adding ceramic white bunnies, the tablescape is an Easter setting.

I experimented with moss eggs decorated with purple ribbon.  And added my green carrot salad plates for a slightly different look.

Here are a few other modifications using a different table runner and changing out the flowers.

I collect items all year round for my tablescapes. I make a point of visiting Pottery Barn often near the end of season, as they have some GREAT deals and some interesting ideas. (I bought the green linen napkins for $1.29 each). I also visit places like HomeGoods, Marshalls, and other discount stores early in the season (e.g., December for Valentine’s Day decor). I love a bargain!

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