The Mason Jar Trend

I love mason jars..they’re so homey.  I also love all the different and various ways people are using them.  They’re not just for canning, kids!  Anyway, after looking at the salad jars a FB friend pictured, it inspired me to give it a whirl.  I pretty much pack and eat a salad for lunch at work every day and this seemed a bright, cheery way to lift me out of the proverbial rut.  So…. here goes…

salad in a jar

The Line up

Start with your favorite salad fixin’s.  Mine are tomatoes, olives, radishes, celery, roasted red peppers and baby romaine lettuce.  Chop and dice accordingly.

vinaigrette

Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Make some salad dressing:

This is a lemon vinaigrette. For 1 mason jar: 1 tbs Olive oil, 1/2 of a Lemon, a tsp of chopped shallots, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, generous pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Add more lemon to taste if you want.   Shake vigorously to combine.  Or just take 2 Tbs of your favorite bottled dressing.

 

 

Now, get your mason jar.  This one is a medium-large one that came from Michael’s Crafts.

salad in a jar

mason jar

Start by pouring your dressing into the jar, then add your layers.  I added the lettuce first, but when I make this again I would probably add the radishes first to keep the lettuce above the dressing.  The radishes don’t absorb the dressing as much.  Be sure to alternate the green and red veggies for a nice and colorful effect.

 

 

 

Here’s the finished masterpiece.

salad in a jarTo serve, just shake the jar and pout onto a plate or bowl.  Voila!

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The Project Manager

I’m running out of time for my summer projects.

By this time, I meant to have been half-way through a stack of quilt squares, mastered the art of playing all the sharps and flats on my soprano recorder without looking at the charts (sounds odd, I know but this is so I can be proficient when I perform in the Renaissance Faire next winter), designed and finished at least 5 complete websites and last not least, lost at the very minimum- another 10 lbs. Hah!

My status thus far: zero quilt squares, a day or two of recorder practice, maybe 2 websites- one complete and the other a work in progress and finally, no weight loss despite taking dozens of Zumba classes at LA Fitness. Well, that last one is due to the fact that I love to cook and fancy myself somewhat of a gourmet chef. In fact, that’s the only thing I’ve really spent any earnest time on- and that’s why my weight loss is at a standstill. Actually, I can proudly boast that I’ve mastered the art of maintaining my 20 lb. weight loss (even though I thought I was dieting- who knew?).

So, what now? In all truth, I don’t really feel like making quilt squares when it’s 90+ degrees, even though I am so very inspired by the work of others. As far as the recorder goes…well, I do have until January– right? Plenty of time. And I am still plugging away at the website design because I work on it when I’m in class. But what I really need to do and want to do most is to get back on my weight loss plan, and sadly this will mean no more messing around in the kitchen. I want to really concentrate on doing that and encouraging those around me to do the same.

Tomorrow’s another day. Let’s start fresh together, shall we?

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When the Event Planner’s daughter decided to Elope…

This past year and a half has been quite a challenge for my husband Mark and myself. After 5 years of trying to find decent  employment, my husband had hit rock bottom. So together we made a brave decision to believe we could change our lives by taking a chance and relocating my husband to North Carolina. He had an opportunity to join a very talented and successful team of Realtors in Asheville, keeping his Florida Real Estate license, and adding a North Carolina license so he could work with these amazing people. The only problem being that I would be staying here in Florida to finish school while continuing to work and supporting him until he built a successful future for us.
After going back and forth over many months the decision was made and it was time to take that step into the future. Of course, this also meant it was time for our engaged daughter to find her own home with her fiance.We all moved out and went our separate ways- Mark to Asheville, me to my Mom’s house and my daughter with her fiance.

Except he wasn’t her fiance.

Unbeknownst to me, they had decided several months before at the onset of all this change to make a trip to the court house and elope.  She had finally worked up enough courage to tell me this major event in her life had occurred without us.

Now, what can you say to your daughter when asked why on earth she would do such a thing and she tells you that she didn’t want to live together with her fiance unless she was married.

(Deep Breath) OK. Well shut my mouth.

After thinking long and hard about this…and feeling sorry for myself (and her) because I wouldn’t be able to throw the beautiful wedding I had dreamed of for her… heck not even being present when she said her vows- I realized something.

It wasn’t about me.

This was about their choice and about my daughter who wanted to do the right thing because she was no longer living in our home and had made her promise to God and to the young man she loved.

And I asked myself,  wasn’t this the kind of kid I wanted to raise? One who loved God, one with MORALS?? – Quite an amazing thing in this day and age.

So last weekend we had a beautiful little ceremony, a blessing and renewal of vows at her Grandmother’s home, in front of family and those who love her best.  My husband performed this special ceremony, asking for God to smile upon their life together.

Maybe it wasn’t the big, grand, fancy wedding I had envisioned, but it was beautiful and special.  And I watched my daughter with love, knowing I raised a young woman I can be proud of.

Mom and Bride

Mom and Bride

Making the bouquet

Making the bouquet

Lacey getting ready

Lacey getting ready

lots of cupcakesteacup2

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple

Posted in Life and Times | 8 Comments

Viva La Company!

What fun, a French themed dinner party!  Really, a great excuse for celebrating a trio of consecutive birthdays with a little ‘Joie de vivre’.  An intimate party, consisting of my mother, sister and my mother’s dear friend, Amy, escorted by her beau, Brad.  Not too many and not too little- just right for what we wanted to do.vive la companie

Coral roses to match the voile tablecloth

Coral roses to match the voile tablecloth

Beautiful French Bistro Dishes

Beautiful French Bistro Dishes

 

I shopped for Roses to match the toile table cloth and was able to find some beautiful organic blooms at Whole Foods.  I searched among Mom’s glass bottles and jars and found a few that would do the trick, so I could arrange the blooms simply along the table.  Sometimes a few glass bottles with a flower or two looks best.

The bistro plates were the perfect choice, so pretty and elegant- perfect really.

The table awaits it's guests

The table awaits it’s guests

Appetizers consisted of a trio of Tartines- toasted rounds of sliced Bread topped with different yummy things:  mashed fava beans mixed with mint and served over a spread of goat cheese, tapanade topped with chopped tomatoes, basic & olive oil, and mushrooms sauteed with chopped garlic, creme fraiche and butter. Quite wonderful, all of them. We sipped a light, bubbly Prosecco as we tried each of them.appertifThe Soup Course was next:  Pea puree swirled with creme fraiche and mint, topped with fresh chives and croutons.  My mother proudly served the soup she had made to everyone.  Delicious!mamanminted pea soup bowl

We served French Lemonade to cleanse our palettes.

French Lemonade

French Lemonade

Next came the Entree:  Lobster Vol au Vent with orange cognac sauce- devine!  Crunchy little bowls of puff pastry stuffed with lobster, shitake mushrooms and a cream sauce boasting orange and cognac. Melted in our mouths!  The sauce was creamy, but light and the lobster spilled over the little cups.  For the garnish I served roasted green beans with herbs de Provence and slivered almonds.

Lobster Vol au Vent with Orange Cognac Sauce

Lobster Vol au Vent with Orange Cognac Sauce

Of course, we had to have wine and Amy brought 2 beautiful bottles of French wine for the guests to sample.  Conversation flowed along with the wine, and we enjoyed each other’s company as well as the food.

Mom likes this one best

Mom likes this one best

I loved this one best.

I loved this one best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clean plate club

Clean plate club

And then Dessert !  Lemon Scented Madelienes topped with Vanilla bean Gelato, Dark Chocolate sauce and Orange scented homemade whipped cream.

madelienes with gelato, dark chocolate sauce and whipped cream

madelienes with gelato, dark chocolate sauce and whipped cream

 

Jill, Mom and me

Jill, Mom and me

Good food, good friends and a good time!  A bientot- lets do it again soon!

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Happy Fall Spiced Oatmeal Breakfast

Even though I’m living in Florida, the never-ending-summer state, there IS a slight change in the weather this time of year.  Normally here in the tropics, from about May up until November, the temperature averages between 85 and 95, mostly hovering at around 92.  Once “Fall” hits in October, the temperature oh-so-slowly drops into the high 80’s and then around mid-November the relief begins…low 80’s finally!  Anyway, from November into the winter months when most of America starts freezing, our weather becomes absolutely beautiful.  Of course, we do have a couple of “cold” days, usually around mid-January where the temps drop into the low 60’s.  But those cold spells only last a day or 2, and then it’s back up into the seventies.

Our growing season is exactly opposite as well.  We start planting right around now for our winter harvest.  Crazy!  Summer here is when it’s too hot for anything to grow but palm trees and jungle plants.

I wanted to capture a little of the Halloween-Fallish spirit this morning so I made myself a little bowl of happiness.

fall oatmeal

Fall Spiced Oatmeal

Take a cup of some good, old-fashioned organic oats, a cup of water, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (click link for my homemade version) and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.  Boil the water and pinch of salt, add the oatmeal and pumpkin pie spice and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.  In the last minute, add the brown sugar. Splash in a little milk, stir and enjoy!  Tastes just like Fall.

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Cream of Many Mushrooms Soup

Cream of Many Mushrooms Soup

This is a creamy, wonderful recipe- great for the holidays or even those chilly evenings when you want something cozy to eat.  My daughter Lacey, who is an avid mushroom hater, used to devour this soup every Christmas.  When she used to ask me what kind of soup it was, I would tell her “chicken”….all kinds of chickens- Shitoke chicken, Bella chicken, Button chicken…you get the drift.  Not really a total lie, because the base is chicken broth.  She cleaned her bowl every time without fail.  Maybe your mushroom hater would like this soup too!
cream of mushroom soup

Ingredients:

4 tbs Butter, 1 large leek, 1/4 cup flour, 1 large carton of chicken stock (1 cup which is hot), 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup cream or half and half, 1 quart of fresh mushrooms, 1/2 tsp tarragon, salt and pepper to taste.

Gather a variety of mushrooms, about a quart of various types such as shitoke, bella, white and button.  Set aside.  Rough chop the white part of a leek and add to the food processor.  Process and set aside.leeks

Next rough chop your mushrooms and add to food processor.  Save a mushroom or 2 to slice and use for garnish.cream of mushroom soup

Set your saucepan over moderately low heat, add the butter.  When melted, stir in the leeks.

leeks and butter

Cover and cook slowly 7 to 8 minutes or until leeks are translucent and tender.  Add 1/4 cup of flour, blending it in.  Stir slowly for 3 minutes, cooking the flour without letting it color.  Meanwhile, heat up a cup of the chicken stock in the microwave until hot.roux

Remove saucepan from heat, wait a few seconds for bubbling to stop and pour in the cup of hot chicken stock all at once, whisking to blend smoothly.

flour rouxmushroom soup

Whisk in the remaining chicken stock and white wine. Bring to simmer, stirring.

cream of mushroom soup

Fold in the mushrooms and tarragon, add salt and pepper, simmer 10 minutes stirring frequently.

cream of mushroom soup

Add in the cream and simmer a moment more. Taste and adjust seasonings.  Ladle into bowls garnished with a couple of mushroom slices.

cream of mushroom soupYUM

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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Fall is just about here, and it’s time to take a walk through the spice jars and see what needs replacing for the upcoming season.  So… the first thing I notice is my empty Pumpkin Pie Spice jar.  Time to replace!  But wait, I don’t want to spend good money on a small jar of the spice, especially when I have all the ingredients to make my own.  No brainer, really.

Gather the ingredients:  Cinnamon, Ginger, Ground Cloves and Nutmeg.  Easy ingredients just waiting to be made into pumpkin pie spice.homemade pumpkin pie spice

So here’s what you need:  4 teaspoons of Cinnamon.  2 teaspoons of  Ginger.  1 teaspoon of Ground Cloves.  1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Mix them all together in a jar and voila!

grated nutmeg

Pumpkin Pie Spice.  Now, wasn’t that easy?  Bring on the Fall, I’m ready 🙂homemade pumpkin pie spicehomemade pumpkin pie spice

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Turbot Piccata Baked in Parchment

Turbot Piccata Baked in Parchment  (fish filet in butter lemon-caper sauce)

turbot fish piccata

There are hundreds of ways to cook a fish filet.  This is easy, tasty and sure to impress your company.  Turbot Piccata (fish filet in butter lemon-caper sauce) is my favorite “fancy fish” presentation.

Gather your ingredients:

For 2 servings you will need:fish piccata ingredients

2 Turbot filet, salt & pepper, 1 shallot, 2 cloves of garlic, handful of mushrooms, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup of white wine, 2 tablespoons of capers, olive oil, 2 generous pats of butter and parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Start by mincing the garlic and shallot.  They should be a small dice, and you can mix them together and finish the dice even finer.  Add the mix to a small bowl.chopped garlic and shallots

Rub the filet with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat on both sides of fish.  If you don’t have any turbot, you can use any flaky white fish.  Tilapia, catfish, cod, trout, orange roughy, snapper, sea bass – just about any white fish will do.

turbot

Slice your mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices.  Don’t dice them too much- you want to be able to recognize them as mushrooms.  If you have mushroom haters at home, you can leave them out. sliced mushrooms

Because the packets are made individually, you can make them to order for fussy eaters.  You can even make them with just a pat of butter & dash of white wine for your most picky eater.

In a small bowl combine shallot, garlic, mushrooms, capers, lemon juice, wine and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper. Toss lightly and add another teaspoon or two of olive oil.

Turbot4

Cut the parchment paper into 2 10 x 10 inch squares.  Fold in half and lay the edge of the fish filet along the fold, centered vertically.  Pile half of the mixture on top of the filet and add the pat of butter on top.

Turbot7

Roll up the edges of the parchment and place the packet on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 -20 minutes.  Makes 2 servings.

parchment packetparchment packet

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Working from Home

working from homePretty desk, pretty things upon my desk, no office politics, just a step away from my kitchen…and my husband. I pretty much love working from home.

I have gone back to school to become proficient at Software Development and Applications, and also to be a Certified Internet Webmaster.  These skills will help us to launch our new business, Hitting The Mark US.

You’re never too old to learn new things!

working from home

working from home

Posted in Life and Times, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My Celebrations in Cakes and Cupcakes

patriotic cupcakes

Apple & Blueberry “Pie” cupcakes

guitar cake

Guitar Cake for my Brother Bruce’s Birthday

wedding cake

Bruce and Kim’s Black and White themed wedding cake

cake

Labor Day Cake

Wedding Cake

Simple Blue and Purple themed wedding cake for my Sister Jill and Adam

nautical cupcakes

sand and seaglass

cupcakes

Independence Day Cupcakes

Fairy cupcakes

Lacey’s Birthday Pixie Cupcakes

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