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January 22, 2018

Family Dinner Goals : This Week's Menu & Forcing Spring Bulbs Inside

Happy Monday : )  It feels like a Monday - in the best way.  It is slightly warmer than usual outside (but getting colder by the minute), grey and misting.  The warm, wet weather over the weekend made it feel like Spring should be just around the corner, but I know it isn't.  In the meantime, I am bringing some spring inside.  I finally got all of my paper whites cleaned out over the weekend - they were definitely on their last leg.  I replaced them with some spring bulbs.  I so enjoy growing something inside during the holidays months (paper whites and amaryllis), that I like to keep it going until spring.

These, on our dining table, are muscari.  On our baking counter I have a large urn planter filled with daffodils and a small terra-cotta planter with tulips.   I have a couple of more terra-cotta pots on my office bench with more tulips.

Emma and I also cleaned out my dead boxwoods in the windowboxes (DIY link) over the weekend (insert eyeroll).  I did it again.  I did not water properly through the fall and did not plant them in the ground before winter and now they are dead.  Again!  Two years in a row.  Twelve small boxwoods, gone.  Ugh!  I'm going to install a watering system to the boxes as soon as it thaws this spring.

Instead of boxwoods this year, we filled our window box planters with tulip and daffodil bulbs.  All of these bulbs, that we're forcing inside and in the windowboxes, have been chilling in our garage for the last two months.  As in, I bought them to plant in the yard this fall, never got around to it, so they've been in the garage - cold and dark.  Bulbs require 6 weeks of dark, cold space before they'll be ready to bloom.  

And on a fun note, and completely uncharacteristic of me, Emma and I picked a crazy assortment of every different type of tulip and daffodil bulbs.  So, we'll be surprised when they bloom - she's excited to see what they are!  We should have lots of different colors, shapes and varieties.   Normally, I would have picked a mass of the same, but I got a wild hair this year, I guess.   I'll transplant them into the ground after they bloom this spring, so I'm sure I'll sort them out when they go in their permanent places.

So, our family dinners will be around these bulbs for the next month or so.  I think they'll be a fun centerpiece and conversation piece each night as we watch them grow... and I think they'll be easy to keep moist, since we'll be staring at them at least once a day.  I'm going to guess that they will be watered by Emma's leftover water each night at dinner.

I like having seasonal, low-maintanance centerpieces on our dinner table.  It makes our family dinners feel like more of an occasion, without them feeling fancy or stuffy.  I love a casual, comfy table.  Here are some other easy centerpiece ideas :

Potted Herbs

Potted Violet (super low-maintanance)

Bowl of Oranges, Lemons or Cuties

Taper Candles (these are 6")

Forcing Bulbs Tips :

Chilled Bulbs : Buy chilled bulbs, or chill them yourself in a paper bag in a cold, dark spot.

Pea Gravel : I put a plastic container in the base of the pot (you want it to be able to hold water), then fill it with pea gravel.  Place the bottoms (where the roots are) of the bulbs in the gravel, then cover with moss.

Water : Add enough water to be just below the bottoms of the bulbs.  You don't want them to sit in water or they will rot.  You want to keep the water accessible for the roots to grow down and reach it.  The moist moss helps wake up the bulbs.

Sun : Place them in a sunny window and keep the water level just until the base of the bowl.  Really watering once a week or so it usually fine.

Alleluia, Mike is home all week!  For the last two months, he's been traveling a lot for work, usually 2-3 nights a week.  It feels like such a treat for him to be here for the entire week... which means I need to step up my dinner menu.  

Tonight, we're having pasta.  At least one night a week, I need a big bowl of pasta.  It is a rainy day, so today is the day.  This Penne All Vodka (plus shrimp) is a house favorite.  Lick your plate good and quick and easy.
I don't know why, but every January this comes into rotation.  It makes a ton, it reheats for easy lunches and dinners and is the perfect thing to make early in the week for busy nights.

Beef Drip Sandwiches
I can't get enough citrus lately.  I'm going to make this tomorrow during the day and have it ready to go after Emma's busy after school activities tomorrow night.  Yum, those roasted lemons....

Tessa's Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup

This is one of those comforting dinners that has a lighter, more springy feel.  The rosemary broth is out of this world.   More of a Sunday night supper recipe... on our docket for the weekend.

Rosemary Braised Pork

January 19, 2018

A Box of Brownies | Easy Valentines Treats

Of course giving a box of chocolates is classic Valentine's Day.  Have you ever heard the Barefoot Contessa talk about how she used to send Jeffery boxes of brownies when they were dating?  I would much rather receive a box of brownies than a box of chocolates.  I would also much rather give a box of brownies than a box of chocolates.

This idea is a Hi/Lo spin on the classic box of chocolates.  It is a beautiful pink gift box embossed with gold filled with good, old fashioned brownies.  I am obsessed with these boxes.  I had them custom made this year for my Valentines Collection.  They are a high quality, rigid 2-piece gift box.  I looked everywhere for the perfect color of pink.  

The measure 5" tall x 7" wide x 1.25" high - perfect for cookies, brownies or a small gift like jewelry, or a gift card.  I cut my brownies into heart shapes using these Heart Cookie Cutters.  Pink Gold Embossed Boxes >

The boxes are beautiful, but these brownies are the true star of the show.  They are just as decadent as homemade fudge - with the same consistency.  They don't have the chewy consistency of a boxed brownie, but more of a dense fudge.  They stir together (no mixer required) in just a few minutes and are made from really simple ingredients.

TIP : The main trick to getting the brownies to come nicely out of the pan is using a Parchment Paper  sheet on the pan.  This recipe is perfect for one of my Small Sheet Pan, $7  but you can double the recipe and use a Large Sheet Pan, $8   For both sizes, I use my Parchment sheets, but either fold or cut it in half for the Small Sheet Pan.

TIP : Another good idea is to place the brownie pan on a large sheet pan (also lined with Parchment) while baking.  This batter can tend to bubble over the edge slightly.

Parchment Paper, 100 for $10

Small Sheet Pan, $7

Large Sheet Pan, $8

When the come out of the oven, let them cool.  I recommend refrigerating them or about an hour to make them firm and easy to work with.  Run a knife around the edge and lift the entire sheet of brownies with the parchment paper out of the pan, using a spatula to help you.

Once they are out, you can cut them into squares or shapes with cutters.

Heart Cookie Cutters, Set of 5 for $6 >

The Best Brownies
This recipe is based on the Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies, but I've simplified it for our taste (without nuts and extra chocolates). 

2 sticks of butter
2 cups of chocolate chips
1 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
3 eggs

In a large microwave safe bowl, place chocolate chips, then top with butter. Microwave for 1-2 minutes, until butter melts and covers the chips. Stir to melt.

Add the flower, baking powder and salt to the mixture.  Stir just until almost combined.  Beat eggs lightly, then stir in until mixed completely.   Do not over mix.  Just until combined. 

Pour into a Parchment lined Small Sheet Pan (9x13) and bake for 20-24 minutes at 350 degrees.

Let cool completely before cutting.  I like to refrigerate for an hour.  I lift the entire sheet out of the pan using the Parchment paper to make cutting easy.

I love that you don't even need to get out the mixer for these.  Just stir together.

I cut a strip of Parchment Paper to line the box, with enough to fold over the sides to cover the brownies when closed.

I think this is such a lovely gift and can't wait to make boxes full of brownies for all of our teachers, neighbors and friends.
Did I mention this is so much easier than decorating sugar cookies?!

Products Used :

Pink Gold Embossed Boxes, 2 for $10

Parchment Paper, 100 for $10

Small Sheet Pan, $7

Large Sheet Pan, $8

Heart Cookie Cutters, Set of 5 for $6

Shop the entire Valentines Collection, here >

January 18, 2018

The Valentine's Collection | Pretty Pink Boxes, Ribbons, Floral Cakes, Velvet Pillows, Tags, Gifts

The Valentines Collection

Each year, after the rush of the Holiday season, slow, cold January settles in.  I was so ready for slow.  Now, as a quiet blanket white covers our town and in the midst of bleak winter months come big bunches of the palest pink roses, tiny hearts on pink packages tied with ribbons, cozy dinners by candlelight, and homemade chocolate treats adorned with flowers made by tiny hands.

Like last season's Holiday Collection, I focused on finding tools for you to be able to create heartfelt moments for your loves.  There are pretty boxes to fill, easy pastry projects the make, luscious ribbons, pretty linens for your table, charming tags and the softest pillows.  All for you to create a little lovely magic for your family and friends.

Shop the entire Valentine's Day Collection, here >

5 wide x 7 long x 1.25" tall, Set of 2, $10

Beautiful boxes have always been an obsession of mine.  I'm always on the hunt for rigid, high quality, pretty boxes.  This season, I designed my own.  This is a first for me - and something I hope to continue each season.  I LOVE them.  Here, I've filled them with heart shaped brownies (I made by cutting them with heart cutters found below), but they would also be nice filled with homemade chocolates, cookies or candies.  Can you imagine it filled with Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies or decorated Sugar Cookies? Of course, you could also put a little gift inside - maybe some jewelry or a handmade card.  I plan to use them for teaches, neighbors and friends.

See how lovely the gold embossing is?  I lined this one with Parchment Paper.

And filled it with Brownies : )

I will share the recipe soon.  They are the most decadent brownies ever!  Almost like straight fudge.

I used these Heart Cutters to cut them out of the pan.  Make sure you have lined the pan with Parchment before baking so they don't stick to the bottom.

Such a great gift.  I would love to hear what you plan to put in yours.

I amassed a large collection of ribbon this year for the collection.  So much ribbon.  It was all so pretty, I couldn't resist.

I've always carried this Medium size pink box (right), but this year I added a Large pink box to accommodate an 8" cake (that beautiful heart fits perfectly).

I wanted really simple, charming tags this year - a little Bike with two heart balloons, and a simple Light Pink Heart.

These are all of the new colors available in Grosgrain & Satin Ribbons.  They are all favorites.  Shop all ribbon, here >

Shop all ribbon, here >

This project is one of my favorite - ever.  Emma and I transformed my "Dripping Chocolate Cake" into a flower covered heart.  I can't tell you how easy it was.

The first essential is a set of these Flower Tips.

With just one squeeze, an entire flower comes out.  So much easier than forming a rose with a floral tip. There are 5 different designs that each make a slightly different flower.  They look so great mixed and matched, nestled in together.  

The second important tip is to make the flowers on a parchment lined baking sheet, then chill them so they are hard (only takes 10 minutes) so you can place them on the cake.  This allows you to have some mess-ups and only pick the flowers you want.

Here are the products you'll need : 

I packaged it in a Large Pink Bakery Box and tied it with a big satin bow.

Large Pink Bakery Box

Rose Satin Ribbon

Heart Tag

 What I love about this gift is that it is beautiful.  Really beautiful.  All of the tools and ingredients add up to a very small amount of money and effort, but the gift is outrageous.  So great for Valentine's Day or a birthday.

I used these flowers for inspiration for the collection.  These roses are some of the most beautiful I've seen, called Shimmer.  Did you know you can order roses by name from your florist?  Have them order an entire bunch for you and tell them you'll take them unprocessed.  This will save you a lot of money, and you get the fun of arranging.

I love how they pair with the soft, bluish grey privet berries.

I made two lush arrangements + a small one in my creamer pitcher from the 22 roses.

This is a new Scarlet & Coral Print I discovered.  It comes in a Tablecloth and Napkins.  It think it is so lovely - even more so in person.  The colors are very soft, but not too sweet.


Napkins, set of 4 for $34 >

Velvet Coral Pillows >


Cashew & Peachy Velvet Pillows >

Velvet Coral Pillows >

You are getting a small glimpse into some changes in our living room.  The old end tables are out and we have two lovely wood antiques in their place.  A new sofa is next on the wish list.  

The coral also goes great with the Army Velvet Pillows.

Don't forget, pillows aren't just for sofas.  These small velvets can cozy up any space - a bench, a chair or the bed.

 Shop the entire Valentine's Day Collection, here >

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