Fuchsia trees are really the perfect stunning center for summer shade containers. Complimented by a variety of ferns, coleus, and begonias you have a wonderful summer shade pot.
I’m a bit late, but I wanted to thank my family for a wonderful Mother’s day, I didn’t lift a finger. All the cooking was done by my son and husband. My other son did the initial clean-up and organization for a great breakfast. Cinnamon French toast made with homemade bread from Aunt Tammy… delicious! Scrambled eggs with fresh herbs couldn’t have been better. In addition, peppered bacon, maple cured sausage, fresh fruit, bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes, capers, cucumbers, onions, and fresh squeezed orange juice was on the menu. My gifts were perfect. One of my favorites was my husband’s flowers that have lasted all week and keep getting more beautiful! I’m sharing those pictures of the most amazing peonies… love them!
Thanks to my guys for making my day so very special.
My Mom turned “80″ this month and last weekend we spent time celebrating her Birthday. At 80 you don’t want to plan too many events, so we kept it at one major activity a day and then we just decided to be in the moment.
We started on Thursday evening, my family flying into Chicago from Charlotte and an easy rib dinner at Miller’s Pub. Dear Elizabeth, my adopted “Niece”, organized this.
Friday morning, a beautiful day for a wonderful breakfast at Wildberry on Randolph. The breakfast was delicious. We ordered amazing pancakes, omelettes and the best coffee, Intelligentsia. It was a perfect start to our birthday celebration weekend.
We drove back to the burbs to cook and chill. My sister Tammy made the best oatmeal Oatmeal Cinnamon Bread. We still have a loaf in the freezer! She also started on her Chocolate Ganache Cake. I was busy roasting the chicken for the Chicken Salad Veronique and cutting all the veggies for the Chopped Salad. I cooked corn, boiled eggs, chopped up Persian cucumbers, red onions, and tomatoes, and made crispy bacon. I chopped up roasted chicken breasts, grapes, tarragon, fennel, and celery, and soaked my currants for a delicious chicken salad. I made a wonderful, but simple French vinaigrette for our chopped salad. All the prep work was for Saturday’s luncheon honoring Mom’s Birthday. We had a garden cake made at “Three Tarts Bakery” in Northfield. My niece mixed up a special iced tea, adding peach nectar, frozen peach slices, oranges, and lemons. Shaynah was in charge of tea and the popovers, another hot scrumptious bread.
I had cut spring flowers and used whatever pink and green linens and dishes I had to complete a festive table. The vintage dollies were fun to scatter around the table.
Mom sat and watched “Argo” while we entertained ourselves in the kitchen. It is so much fun to cook with my sister and niece. We all seemed to just have a good synergy. It was easy, fluid, and fun… a great team in the kitchen!
The luncheon was lovely and filled with old friends, which made the day so very special for Mom. I cannot stress enough that no matter what food we served it wasn’t as important as the people that gathered around the table. My Mom was happy, excited, thrilled, and thankful! We never get too old for a special Birthday celebration!
After lunch we hung out in the backyard, relaxing on the hammock, and enjoying the Charlotte weather my family brought to Chicago. Baby Aiden (Shaynah’s adorable son) found a new love for the hammock that Uncle Garry introduced her to.
Another trip back to Chicago to hang with the girls. We had leftover luncheon food for dinner and it was good night for Mom and Aiden. But now time for the rest of us to go out to celebrate and toast. We started at “Pops” with a wonderful pink champagne. Our next shop was “The Pump Room” redesigned and stunning filled with beautiful looking people and great drinks!
Sunday was another gorgeous day. We slept late, made breakfast, and walked and shopped down Michigan Ave. Mom was in her wheelchair for ease and speed… Aiden was in his stroller. It was a great workout for all. We were prepping ourselves for dinner at “Girl & the Goat”.
One of my favorite places to dine… I love the small plate concept. First order of business was fresh bread and I’m sorry but I can’t even remember which breads we chose, they were delicious and eaten in record time! Next we ordered the green beans with cashews and a fish sauce that has changed my taste for green beans. I have never enjoyed this vegetable until eating them at Girl & the Goat.
We were all salivating and devouring the beans. The chickpea fritters with trumpet mushrooms, okra, mushroom aioli, and prairie fruits chèvre is another one of my favorite vegetable options. It was a hit! I will not bore you with everything we ordered but the diver scallops in a brown butter kimchi with hazelnuts and avocado was another wonderful choice. We ordered beef cheeks, pork belly and more. I have to mention the “Wood-Fired Walter’s Chicken” with ramp goddess dressing… I can only say amazing!
This group loves sweets so we ordered three different ones. Our variety of sweets included a “Milk chocolate sponge cake” with rhubarb and passion fruit, “Sticky Date Cake”, and the best of all “Miso-Butterscotch Budino”, with bacon toffee (I could live on that!), glazed pineapple and candied cashews. This dessert needs to be revisited and hopefully I can try to recreate something with these elements. We were all completely full, happy, and glad we had chosen this as our celebration dinner. It was the perfect ending to our birthday celebration for mom.
I shared this weekend with you all because it reflects the purpose of my blog… bringing family and friends together with food is the best!
• 1-1/2 cups boiling water
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 3/4 cup molasses or honey
• 3 tablespoons soft butter
• 1 tablespoon dry active yeast
• 2 cups lukewarm water
• 8 cups flour, half whole wheat and half unbleached white
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons cinnamon
• Pour boiling water over oats and let stand 30 minutes.
• Add molasses and butter.
• Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add to oat mixture.
• Beat and work in enough of the flour to make a medium-soft dough.
• Turn onto floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.
• Place dough in a clean buttered bowl, turn to butter the top.
• Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
• Turn onto a board and knead again.
• Mix together the cinnamon and sugar.
• Divide the dough into 3 pieces, roll each into a rectangle.
• Spread the cinnamon sugar mixture onto each.
• Roll each rectangle tightly like a jelly roll (cinnamon sugar mixture side in) and seal all the edges.
• Place into oiled loaf pans.
• Cover and let rise till doubled, about 45 mins.
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Bake the loaves 5 minutes; lower heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 minutes longer or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom.
• Brush top with butter.
I make a salad almost every day and my recipe always changes depending on what’s in season and what I have in my vegetable drawer, fridge, and pantry. I wanted this luncheon salad to be more like a chopped salad a bit of everything chopped so there was something special for everyone.
• 2 large heads of butter lettuce, chopped
• 1 head of romaine, chopped
• 2 cups of arugula, stems removed
• 4-5 ears of corn cooked (Fresh corn kernels used for salad.)
• 8 pieces of thick bacon, cooked and cut into 1 inch pieces
• 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced
• 4 Persian cucumbers, chopped
• 1 cup of red peppers, chopped
• 1 red onion, chopped (Can be served on the side.)
• 1-½ cup chopped nuts (sliced almonds, pine nuts, sunflowers seeds, walnuts, whatever you prefer)
• 1-½ cups of peas (I used frozen but kept them crisp not overcooked.)
• 1-½ cups of cheese (I served gorgonzola and feta on the side.)
• 2 sliced avocados (This is the last item to cut and add. Use lime juice on slices to keep fresh.)
I serve the salad in a large shallow bowl. Starting with the lettuce and then strips of ingredients cover the top, surrounded on the lip of the bowl by avocado slices. I served the onion and cheese on the side in small bowls surrounding the main salad bowl. Be creative and use your own favorites… there are so many wonderful choices.
CHOPPED SALAD VINAIGRETTE DRESSING RECIPE:
This recipe serves 4-6 so I doubled this for the above salad as I was serving a group of 12.
• 3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
• 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp of mayonnaise
• ½ tsp fresh garlic
• Dash of salt & pepper
• ½ good olive oil
Mix with an emersion blender… delicious! I always keep this dressing in my fridge. Again be creative you can add more garlic, fresh herbs; use white wine or red wine vinegar. Enjoy!
(Initial recipe from Ina Garten with my own twist)
• 6 whole (12 split) Chicken Breasts, roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil (Roasted for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cut into 1 inch pieces after cooled.)
• 2 cups of celery, chopped
• 2 cups of fennel, chopped
• ½ cup of currants (put into a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes, then drain)
• 5 tablespoons of chopped tarragon
• 1-1/3 cup of mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s)
• 2 cups of grapes, sliced in half
• Salt & pepper to taste
• Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
• You can make one day ahead and put in the fridge.
• ¼ pound unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
• 16 oz can Hersey’s chocolate syrup
• 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
• Raspberries or edible flowers for decoration (optional)
• Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
• Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
• Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
• Add eggs one at a time.
• Mix in the syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cake will be tough.
• Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the pan.
• For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
• Place the cake upside down on a wire rack and pour the glaze evenly over the top, making sure to cover the entire cake and sides. You can tilt the rack to smooth the glaze. Decorate with candied violets, if desired, or gently crumble the gold leaf and place it on the center of the cake. Do not refrigerate.
This is Ree Drummond’s recipe but I make it with two cakes, so I double the cake recipe (recipe doubled below). My family loves this cake!
• 2 Sticks + 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
• 3 cups Granulated Sugar
• 6 whole Large Eggs
• 1 cup Sour Cream, Room Temperature
• 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
• 3 cups All-Purpose Flour
• 6 Tablespoons Cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon Salt
• 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
• 2 pounds Strawberries, Hulled & Halved
• 6 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
• 12oz of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (1 1/2 packages), Room Temperature
• 3 sticks Unsalted Butter
• 2-1/4 lbs Powdered Sugar, Sifted
• 1-1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
• 1/4 teaspoon Salt
IMPORTANT: Be sure to use a cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep! Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
• Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.
• Cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.
• Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
• Stem strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.
• Make icing: combine cream cheese, butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.
• Spread strawberries evenly over each cake, pouring on all the juices. Place cakes into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.
• Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining icing around the sides.
• Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.
IMPORTANT: Cake is best when served slightly cool. The butter content in the icing will cause it to soften at room temperature. For best results, store in the fridge!