hot colors in the summer

June 28th, 2016 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Outdoor - (0 Comments)

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I love hot colors in the summer and this year I planted a few.  The purple passion flower is stunning, a brilliant climber that surprises you with its blooms.  The Echinacea or Hybrid cone flower is such a beautiful melon color I had to add it to the garden.  Foxgloves are one of my favorite flowers, so were my gorgeous large hot pink Digitalis, but they don’t last in the summer heat.  So I added a new variety that blooms all season and has a hint of yellow with the hotter pink.  In the back there is also purple salvia and I planted a few annual star flowers to the mix.  Every year I continue to find a few more plants that make me smile.

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How wonderful to enjoy a summer window box of simple and sweet flowers that just keep getting better as the season progresses.  In this box I used white geraniums, Wedgewood Angelonia, a variegated potato vine, mini petunias, star flowers, and Alyssum.

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Shade containers never get boring.  Here is the front of a house I did using a large supported Fuchsia bush as the center and surrounding it with coleus, begonias, ivy, and more fuchsia.  It has a great deal of color for a shade container and will last well into the fall.

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This is a shade container set back in a secret garden and I decided to use these amazing begonia leaves, with caladeums to sneak in a bit of color.  A very simple container making a big statement.  I really love shade plants!

 

 

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recipe: celebration cake

June 10th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Desserts | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

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This may be my new favorite cake!  It’s an old classic recipe from the 1950’s when cake was the dessert of choice.  It’s called a champagne cake and the recipe was revamped in “Baked from Scratch”.  I also revamped their recipe and I think it should be called “Celebration Cake”!  Whatever the name… it’s delicious!

I have two different frostings. The first is a butter cream and the second is the corrected fluffy strawberry frosting that was referenced in the original recipe incorrectly. I doubled the recipe below to make 4 cakes, so you have a four layer cake.  I made the first batch and then the second.

The cake was tall, impressive, and so delicious!  I am always a fan of a great butter cream frosting but again you can also use the fluffy whipping cream frosting and what’s ever bad with whipping cream!

 

 

CAKE INGREDIENTS: (Makes 2, repeat for a 4 layer)
• 1 cup butter softened
• 2 cups of sugar
• 2 teaspoons of vanilla
• 2-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, “King Arthur’s Flour”
• 2-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt
• 1 cup of pink champagne or sparkling wine, room temperature
• 5 large egg whites, room temperature

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STRAWBERRY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
• 2 cups of unsalted butter softened
• 1 2lb bag of confectioners sugar
• 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
• 1/3 cup of finely chopped strawberries

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WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
• 1-1/2 cups of chopped strawberries
• 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
• 1 cup of confectioners sugar
• 1/4 cup champagne

 

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:
• Garnish fresh strawberries

 

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two or four 9″ round cake pans, then dust with flour. Line bottoms with parchment paper and repeat the butter and flour dusting.

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• Mix butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy always stop to scrape down sides of bowl then beat in vanilla.IMG_0375

• In a separate bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternating with the champagne and ending with the flour beating until combined.IMG950385

• In another bowl beat the egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form then gently fold into the batter on third at a time. Divide batter between pans smooth the tops.IMG_0377

• Bake until wooden tooth pick comes out dry, about 22 minutes.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

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• Butter cream frosting: Beat butter at medium speed until creamy 5-6 min then add in sugar gradually with cream and salt beating until smooth. Then add in berries and frost your cake!

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• The Whipped cream frosting requires you to puree the strawberries set aside and whip the whipped cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Add in the champagne gradually and the berries.  Note: I have not made this frosting so I am sharing the “Baked from Scratch” information.

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• When the cake is cool remove the parchment and frost each layer, then put a light crumb frosting the outside of the cake, and finally spread the frosting on top and sides.  Refrigerate 1 hour before serving and garnish with berries.

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This is a beautiful cake that tastes wonderful and is a show stopper on a beautiful cake plate!!

Enjoy!!!

 

 

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trip to Istanbul

April 8th, 2016 | Posted by admin in UPDATES - (0 Comments)

I received an amazing gift from my youngest son Josh.  He took me on a trip to Istanbul Turkey last month. The gift of time was something I will cherish as I know how rare it is to get an entire week alone with one of your children.  We had the opportunity to share conversations on our struggles, fears, happiness, politics, food, friends, family, life and how to experience joy, and of course love.  These conversations were shared in the backdrop of an incredible historic city.  I started this blog with the intention of understanding how sharing a meal, serving family and friends is central to my happiness and expressing love.  How wonderful that my son is carrying on that tradition and love.

We are living in difficult times and we were very fortunate to travel when we did to Istanbul.  The history, the sights, the food, the bazaar, the Bosphorous and the people were unforgettable.  I will never be able to describe the pure wonder of what we saw and I hope that tourists will not be afraid to venture out to this beautiful cosmopolitan city.

I am going to share a few pictures of the sights and also share with you the food we loved!  We picked this area of the world primarily because of the food.  I grew up on Armenian recipes, and yes I am an Armenian traveling to Turkey but this is part of our history.

The food that mirrors what I grew up with was closest to the Anatolian cuisine, as it is close to where my ancestors were from.  I can’t explain how excited I was to taste the flavors so much like my grandmother’s.

The sumptuous pomegranates are the fruit of choice… the seeds are in the salads, the juice is served at most meals and the salad dressings are mixed with this juice.  We fell in love with this fruit.  The next spice used in most of the meals was sumac.  We became fans of this spice on meat, in eggs, and on salads.  It was used in many ways making everything it touched was delicious!

I grew up eating lamb.  Since my father loved lamb, the Armenian heritage we learned to love lamb and this city is all about lamb.  We had lamb kouftas, lamb kebabs, lamb chops, lamb on lahmajoon (Armenian meat pie)… it was all lamb lamb lamb!  Meat is always served with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and a flat bread to wrap up your meat and veggies in.  Yalanchi and Dolma grape leaves wrapped around a meat or rice filling served hot and cold was another of my favorites and familiar to my Armenian recipes.  The salads made with rocket lettuce, parsley, sumac and pomegranate seeds with a dressing I am trying to duplicate.  And I have not even touched on dessert!

The Turkish delight with flavor combinations of walnuts, honey, pomegranate and pecans dusted with sugar and cut from logs appearing in bakeries up and down the busy streets.  I am now salivating thinking of the buttery, flaky Baklava.  It is layered and cut out of large sheets pans, it is rolled to look like cigars and dusted with nuts, and it was unlike any I have had here except my grandmother’s.  We felt like we were in dessert heaven and we weren’t even missing chocolate!   Quince is another fruit that I hadn’t had here in the states very often.  It was served cooked with a whipped milky cheese froth on top drizzled with honey and pistachios, another wonderful dessert.

Oh I think I forgot to mention the bread.  I have a recipe for choereg an Armenian buttery bread we had at breakfast and it was served for breakfast at a quaint cafe, the first time I have ever tasted anything close to my grandmother’s. They also served their version of Boereg, a similar bread to Choereg but layered with cheese and herbs.   We had rice and bulgur pilaf, a staple in my home.  I was in a carb/bread coma!

I could go on and on about the cheeses, the spices and the coffee.  I do have to share how special the tea was.  A perfect afternoon was sipping Turkish tea at the Topkapi Palace overlooking the Bosphorous and munching on baklava after a lunch of lamb kofta.  I love the tea served in glass vessels small and perfect… a special way to end an afternoon.

My heart is full and the memories are filling me up in such a special way.  This city is beautiful and the people are friendly.  I hope I will be able to go back someday.  Josh, this was a gift that I will cherish forever and the best part was spending the time with you.

 

 

 

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recipe: window cookies

January 29th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Desserts | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

We call these “Window Cookies” and they are my younger son’s favorite cookie.  I make them at Christmas and Valentine’s day.  The center shape will change with the holiday but the cookie stays the same… so you can be creative.  This dough can be made with powdered sugar instead of regular and then altered some, but I think the crispness of the sugar cookie recipe makes this cookie taste the best and holds the jam better.  Have fun with this recipe as you can use all different flavors and colors of jam and you can cut out all different shapes.

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 sticks salted butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1 tablespoon buttermilk or cream
• 3 cups of flour
• ¾ tsp of baking powder
• dash of salt
• One jar seedless jam, raspberry, strawberry, pear, peach, or whatever flavor you prefer.
• 1½ cups powdered sugar, placed in a powdered sugar container.

 

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Beat butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and buttermilk together until smooth.

• Slowly add flour, baking powder, and salt to the wet mixture.

• Make two slabs of dough, slightly flatten and wrap with parchment then with saran wrap.

• Put in fridge for 2 hours or overnight.

• Roll out dough and use with either circle or square cookie cutters.

• For each cookie you will have a bottom that is not cut out and a top that you cut a shape out of.

• Place cookies on cookie sheet in a 350 degree preheated oven, until they are slightly browned on the edges. (10min approx).

• Let cookies cool.

• Once cool, powder the bottom side of the bottom cookie and spread jam on the top.

• Powder the top of the cookie (the one with the cut out) and place on top of the jam.

• Repeat until you are done with the dough.  I keep the second slab of dough in the fridge until I am done with the first slab.

This recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies.  They are delicious as well as a great looking cookie.  Who doesn’t like jam on a crisp butter cookie?  Enjoy!

 

 

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recipe: crack slaw

January 27th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Entrées | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

This recipe was given to me by a friend, and it works well if you are on a no carb/sugar diet.  My family loved this so the second time I made it I increased the recipe so I had plenty of leftovers!  I have changed the recipe a bit.  If you want to play with the flavors and texture you can always add water chestnuts for crunch and crushed peanuts or cashews.  I change a recipe most every time I make it depending on what I have in my pantry.

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 1½ lbs of ground beef (you can substitute turkey or chicken)
• 2 Tbsp of sesame oil
• 4 minced garlic cloves
• 6 diced green onions
• 16 oz coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage
• Salt & pepper to taste
• Boston Lettuce or smaller cups of lettuce

SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
• ½ tsp sweetener (Truvia)
• 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
• 1½ tsp white vinegar
• 3 Tbsp Tamari Sauce, a gluten free soy sauce
• ½ to 1 tsp of hot sauce (chili paste or Sriracha)

 

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Brown the ground beef in a large skillet, drain any fat, and set aside.

• Salt & pepper to taste.

• While the meat is browning, combine all the sauce ingredients.

• Heat up the sesame oil and add the garlic green onions and cabbage until cooked.

• Add the sauce and the ground beef mix well and serve hot with your lettuce cups.

This recipe is so easy and takes only a few minutes to put together so we have been making it quite a bit lately.

Enjoy!

 

 

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wedding arrangement ideas

September 15th, 2015 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Indoor - (0 Comments)

I love to work with flowers!  Anticipating my son’s wedding next fall I went to the flower mart to pick up flowers I think will work for beautiful arrangements.  Just the first of many ideas. I picked up Bittersweet, a Premium Rose, Alchemilla, Allium, Spider Mums, Joe Pye Weed, Artichokes, Butterfly Weed Asclepia, Trachelium, Ranunculus, Scabiosa, Mums, Buxifolia, and Wild Grasses.  I used a large round clear vase filled with stones from my many trips to the beach at Lake Michigan and a smaller rectangular vase also filled with Lake Michigan stones. These arrangements are the first of several I will try for next year’s special day.

 

 

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recipe: mixed berry chocolate slab pie

September 10th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Desserts | RECIPES - (0 Comments)

I made this pie for my Labor Day party and it was a hit!  This time of the year the berries at the market are in abundance and I love this recipe because it serves a crowd.  I picked up fresh eggs and butter for the dough, and I always use King Arthur’s Flour. I pulled this recipe from a wonderful cookbook “Bountiful” by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. With the sweetness of the berries I cut the sugar down to ½ cup, and I use salted butter and don’t add the kosher salt.  Also I mixed the chocolate chips into the fruit so it was not a layer of chocolate on the crust but rather immersed in the fruit! It’s easy and delicious and makes a statement due to its size! I also like an egg wash on the dough. Enjoy!

 

FILLING INGREDIENTS:
• 3 lbs mixed fresh berries, larger berries halved and quartered
• ½ cup sugar
• 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
• 1 ½ cups chocolate chips

DOUGH INGREDIENTS:
• 8 cups flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
• 3 eggs
• ½ cup cold water
• Heavy cream, for brushing the crust or egg wash
• Turbinado sugar, for dusting

 

Directions:
• Preheat oven to 400° F. Butter one 13-by-18-inch sheet pan.

• Start the filling: Put the berries in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together pie filling sugar and cornstarch until well combined. Add sugar mixture to the berries and gently toss to coat berries. Add chocolate chips. Set aside.

• Make the crust: In a large bowl, whisk together dough flour, sugar, and salt. Pinching with your fingers or using a pastry blender, incorporated butter into mixture until no large pieces of butter remain and mixture has a crumbly texture.

• In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the cold water. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, then pour the egg mixture into the well. Working from the center out, combine egg and flour mixes together until the dough holds together. If necessary, adjust with a little additional flour or cold water if dough is too sticky or not holding together.

• Divide dough into two portions, one twice the size of the other.

• On a large floured surface, roll out the larger portion of dough to an 18-by-22-inch  rectangle (I’ll roll out slightly larger then trim edges straight to the dimensions), dusting the underside and top of dough with flour a few times while rolling out to keep dough from sticking.

• Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin, then unroll it over the first sheet pan. Adjust dough so it sits evenly in the sheet pan.

• Roll out the smaller dough portion to a rectangle just larger than 13 by 18 inches. Flip the second sheet pan upside down and gently press it into dough, then lift the pan off. Use impression to cut dough to size.

• Place in oven and bake 30-40 minutes or until top is golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Dust with Turbinado sugar, slice and serve.

 

 

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places to go: Klaud’s kitchen

June 24th, 2015 | Posted by admin in PLACES TO GO - (0 Comments)

We spent a fun weekend in Door County and had a delicious lunch at a great café, “Klaud’s Kitchen”.  The menu is short and perfect!  I was so excited to see liver sausage on pumpernickel with brown mustard and onions.  Does it get any better?  The bread was soft, fresh, and thick, but the liver sausage was thicker, a big slab smothered in a delicious mustard and what seemed like picked onions.  I was in heaven.  This sandwich brought me back to my Danish roots… one of my mom’s favorites.  The egg salad looked just as amazing and we all were disappointed we didn’t try the baked bologna!!  Then to add to the lunch, Klaud brought out fresh, hot biscotti!  It was again making us all cheat on any diet restrictions we had… crisp on the outside and a chocolate brownie like softness on the inside.  The most interesting part of our visit was both partners were from the Chicagoland area, each having a business in Long Grove and moving up to Door County to start this new place.  Ok I apologize for not having pictures of the food.  It was so good we ate before remembering to take pictures!  I may have to make another weekend trip sooner than later to enjoy this special lunch spot.

 

 

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summer containers

June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Outdoor - (0 Comments)

I’m hoping summer is here and still wishing for consistent sunshine.  This is a sun container filled with hot pinks and purples.  The main flowers are a hybrid dahlia with the darker leaves that make a great contrast to the licorice vine, mini petunias, scaveola, and allisum.  I added a pop of additional interest with the hot pink cosmos… my favorite.  It’s feeling like summer!

This is a sun shade container best put in morning sun and afternoon shade.  I put in a Eugenia topiary with endless summer hydrangeas, added some variegated ivy keeping it simple but always bountiful!  A very easy planter to assemble… just remember that hydrangeas need a good watering every day!

 

 

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I love the flavor of Cardamom so when I saw this recipe in “Bountiful”, a beautiful cookbook by Todd Porter and Diane Cu, I had to try it.  Sometimes you want something just a bit sweet, not too sweet, and not a large portion… maybe a little something with your afternoon tea.  This is that something!

 

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 cup flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp cardamom
• ½ teaspoon of aniseed
• Pinch of kosher salt
• ½ lb of grated zucchini
• 1 egg
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ tsp of grated lime
• ½ cup of unsalted butter, melted
• Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

 

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat oven to 325° and lightly oil the muffin tins.

• Whisk together the dry ingredients and set a side.

• Squeeze the grated zucchini dry to remove excess moisture.

• In a separate bowl whisk the egg, sugar, and lime zest. Whisk in the butter and stir in the zucchini, then fold in the flour until just combined.

• Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tins (you can also use individual tartlet molds).

• Bake for 20-25 minutes until cakes are light golden.  Allow then to cool and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy!

 

 

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