Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A Kitchen Conundrum

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Having a love for cooking can test all our limits if we don’t have space to chop away.  One of my readers asked what could be done with her small London kitchen.   I have a few ideas so hopefully it will come to life one day.


The biggest problem in all smallish kitchens comes down to storage.  In this example, the valuable work space is being over-taken by ingredients required to prepare a great meal.  Additionally, the wall to the left is angled, preventing the easy install of some store bought shelves.  Here are some recommendations that will work in this kitchen and so many others.


  • Add shelving as sketched in the photo.  Although you’d never find shelves to fit this space, it would be worth every penny to have a couple custom shelves made to fit perfectly in the niche.  They could be free floating and slide on and off the bracket if the need ever arises to access the instant hot water unit on the right.
  • Decide what you want to showcase visually.  In this case, I’d move the glass jars that are too big for the shelves on the right to the new lower shelf on the back wall.  I would add smaller jars (replacing all the little bags under the right cabinet), following the angled wall.  Opening up the existing shelves on the right will allow for less visually appealing storage such as canned goods, etc that are better hidden.
  • Cookbooks work nicely in corners when you position the spine in the corner versus the face of the book against the wall.  If you have too many, just showcase your favorites and find a new home for the less used ones.  If you have any large appliances, they usually tuck nicely in corners too!
  • Cereal boxes could go on the top shelf on the back wall and continue to fill the smaller, angled space with either more jars or serving dishes.
  • On the counter, leaving a fruit bowl and a serving piece or two would work under the new shelves.


Other suggestions:

  • If you need to free up a drawer for cabinet, consider installing a peg board that you can hang pots, pans or utensils from.  
  • Add some very shallow shelves (with a lip) to an open wall to showcase your serving pieces.  The one below is very well done but it doesn’t need to be this ornate or built-in.


If you have any other clever ideas that you’ve created over the years, let us know.  We love hearing about your smart solutions.  Happy kitchen organizing!

Celebrate Independence Day with Style

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Here are some fun, classy ideas that I found online while looking for 4th of July ideas.


This is from Twig & Thistle blog.  They’ve done a great job keeping it elegant and simple by using a common motif and color.  Click on the link to see more ideas from this creative team.


A 4th of July picnic or Bar-B-Que is all about mobility and easy to eat foods.  Organize & Decorate Everything takes you step-by-step on how to make these simple food cones.


Another do it yourself project from Women’s Day.  I like this because you could add your own motif to it and reuse it every year.  Use it for silverware, condiments, etc.


I’m all about using items found around the house.  Try this cute idea reusing tin cans that have been pierced and painted.


And we can’t forget food!  I’m not sure what the drink is but you could easily make this with champagne and blueberries.

A nicely done Rice Crispy bar!


One of my favorite summer drinks is a watermelon slushy.  It’s super easy so thought I’d share it with you.  Just cut up large chunks of watermelon and throw in a blender; blend until smooth.  Add ice and fresh mint and enjoy a refreshing drink.  You can also add sparkling water or alcohol of your choice.  Cheers to a safe holiday!







Gift Ideas for the Man of the House

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I don’t know about you but shopping for my father is one of the biggest challenges I have.  He doesn’t golf like so many Hallmark cards think Dad’s do, he doesn’t have a time sucking hobby (although he does like several) nor does he need any grilling gadgetry (either you know how to make a mean steak or you don’t; tools won’t help).  Often times I try to get inspiration from doing a search online which always leaves me cringing because the ideas are often so cheesy.  So I compiled a few gifts that I think my Dad, along with others,  would enjoy.

  • Create a basket of local goodies or unique spices.  Add in a special utensil or gadget that will get lots of use.
  • A classic shave from a local barber.
  • A fly-fishing lesson or deep sea fishing trip.
  • A photo or piece of art that you’ve created.
  • A watches or new wallet seem to be necessary every so often.
  • Fine wine or whiskey.
  • A hammock for a lazy day in the yard.
  • A nice dinner out; because time together is often more important than gifts.

Hope you all have a wonderful day with your Dad’s.



A Visit to the Sunshine State

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Last week my husband and I headed to Miami, Florida for a little sun and relaxation.  I had planned to do some design hunting and architectural photography after researching about the Art Deco district in Miami but that quickly changed when we  learned of a music festival going on.  Not just any music festival, but a loud techno music festival…jazz would have been a wonderful surprise, techno was not.  The outdoor party life that defined Miami last weekend reconfigured our plans – quickly.   We ditched Miami for the Keys so I could sleep (Giang could sleep through a jackhammer in the room).  The vacation turned into a road trip searching for great food and outdoor activities and all was found.

Beautiful colors and water that was common along the route through the Keys.

Time to stretch the legs and explore on our paddle boards in Islamorada.  We paddled for a couple hours through the mongroves.  My turning radius was vastly improved upon seeing two crocodiles right in front of me.  Luckily, no limbs were lost and I can still draw.

…and some time in a kayak.  We paddled out to Indian Key island that was once inhabited but burned down in the late 1800′s.

The view from our quiet hotel patio in Key West.  We headed into town for a little breakfast at Blue Heaven.  Their outdoor patio was great and adding to the atmosphere they have live roosters crowing from the roofs and wandering round.

A cute little pineapple topped fence in Key West.


Our last night we had to stay in Miami for an early flight so we hit the Art Deco district for dinner which made for some great people watching.  Our favorite restaurant was Joe’s Stone Crab for the great seafood and key lime pie.  Need some Key Lime Pie?  Here’s their recipe.




Where the Heart IS…

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

We posted earlier this week about the traditions of Valentine’s Day and how to bring the heart-happy color ‘red’ into your home in forms other than a heart shaped box of chocolates.  Today we are switching gears a bit and recognizing February for a lesser known event – Heart Month.  ”February is American Heart Month, and unfortunately, most of us know someone who has had heart disease or stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. These conditions are also leading causes of disability preventing people from working and enjoying family activities. Cardiovascular disease is also very expensive—together heart disease and stroke hospitalizations in 2010 cost the nation more than $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity” – CDC Website.

The CDC has what they call the ABC’s for your heart health:

-Ask your doctor if you should take an Aspirin every day.

-Find out if you have high Blood pressure or Cholesterol, and if you do, get effective treatment.

-If you Smoke, get help to quit.

Get up and get moving by being physically active for AT LEAST 30 minutes on most days of the week - I suggest trying a group exercise class at your gym, they come in all shapes and sizes so you can find something that suits your fitness level and needs.  They are also a great way to stay motivated.

Another important piece of your health and well-being is stretching.  Take 5 minutes when you wake up and before you go to bed to lengthen your muscles.  You will be amazed by how quickly you can gain flexibility!

Consider a new activity like yoga or after dinner walks with your family.  As a certified yoga instructor, I encourage you to give yoga a try as I whole heartedly believe in its benefits.  Here is a little Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, also know as Upward-Facing Dog for you!

Make your calories count by eating a heart-healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sodium and trans fat.

This means venturing into the produce department EVERY time you go to the grocery and avoiding the aisles with all of the pre-made, pre-packaged “stuff”. Try a new vegetable that is in season or test out that recipe you have been meaning to make.  Think about what you are putting into your body.  Food is your fuel, so if you are feeling tired or lethargic during the day take a look at your diet.  What are you eating and when?  A few simple changes may be the answer to preventing those late afternoon crashes…and help your heart!

Most importantly, find something active that you enjoy doing – walk, run, go to the gym, take a class, swim, bike, hike, and the list goes on!  Experiment and try something new.  Exercise is meant to challenge your body yet leave you feeling accomplished and happy.  Best of all, it is a great way to relieve stress. So what are you waiting for?

Resolve to Redesign

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

January is the month of resolutions and slogans like “A new year, a new you”.  Slogans that we tend to forget about by the time month two of the New Year actually rolls around.  In the past, my personal resolutions have been a lofty statement filled with vague ideas and good intentions, but no direction on how to get there.  So this year I decided to try making my resolutions on a smaller, more intimate scale.  For example, instead of saying that I am going to get organized, I focused on what I could do in my life to make that happen, and for me that meant finding simplicity – in my home, at work, and in my relationships. To me, simplicity means decluttering your life of the things that hold no personal value to you, get in the way of what really matters, and stop you from expressing who you genuinely are.  Try taking a fifteen minute inventory of all aspects of your life and what is most important to you in those areas.  Now come up with five improvements that if made would create positive, progressive changes in your life.

This week we are focusing on the home office space.  To be happy and productive at your desk, the environment it sits in needs to reflect who you are and how you like to work.  The goal is to strike a balance between form, function, comfort, and style.  You will notice how different all of these office spaces are – some feature very clean lines and little color, while others are highly stimulating with bold patterns and a plethora of eye candy.  Focus on what speaks to you and gets your creative juices flowing!

Tip 1: Have ample lighting and preferably some natural light in your work space.




Tip 2: Organize and declutter!  Find a system for storing your stuff that works for you – it can be baskets, bins, drawers, jars, shelves, etc.  Get creative, it should be a reflection of how you function.






Tip 3: Make use of the space you have.  An office doesn’t require a room to itself.  It can be integrated seamlessly into your home, creatively disguised behind a curtain, or tucked neatly into the confines of a closet.








A Twist on the Thanksgiving Meal

Monday, November 7th, 2011


What you need:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4-1/2 cups peeled,cubed yams or sweet potatoes
  • generous tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a rim with foil.  Mist it with cooking spray.

Peel and chop yams into 2 inch cubes. Toss the potatoes with one tablespoon olive oil.  Spread on prepared pan.  Bake until tender, about 35 minutes.

Whisk remaining oil, honey, vinegar, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Pour over hot potatoes.  Serve warm or at room temp.



Make this a day ahead!  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Allow to come to room temp before serving.

This is great with roast turkey or ham.  I usually double or triple the recipe if your guests are adventuresome eaters!

What you need:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (this is spicy – don’t touch your face or eyes!)
  • 1 green onion (white and green portion) minced


Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir in cranberries.

Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes or until cranberries are softened, many will split and juice is thickened.  Remove from heat.

Stir in the jalapeno pepper and onion.  Cool to room temperature and serve.

Jalapeno Cranberry Sauce 500


Brussel Sprouts (serves 8)

A great recipe to convert anyone who thinks brussel sprouts are not tasty.   

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/4-inch lardons
  • 36 Brussels sprouts, trimmed, with outer 2 leaves removed, and halved
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 12 chestnuts (roasted and peeled, broken into chunks)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup New York grade-B maple syrup
  • 1/2 lemon


In a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, render the lardons over medium heat until they are a rich brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the lardons to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Toss the sprouts in the pan, season with sea salt, and cook in the bacon fat over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the chestnuts, and continue cooking for 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and thyme, and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the cream, and reduce by half. Season to taste. Add the bacon, pour in the maple syrup, and give a squeeze of lemon juice. Cook, stirring, for another couple of minutes, and serve.


Mighty Duck (serves 2-4)

If you are tired of turkey this is a wonderful alternative.  My only word of caution is that it only feeds 2-4 depending on the duck size so you may have to do more than one.  This recipe is definitely not your standard way of cooking a duck but it turns out super juicy!  From Alton Brown.



  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 pint pineapple orange juice
  • 15 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 (5 1/2 to 6 pound) frozen Long Island Duck, thawed
  • 2 handfuls shredded chard
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • Dash sherry or balsamic vinegar
  • Directions:

    Combine all brine ingredients in a plastic container with a lid. Place the lid on the container and shake to dissolve the salt.

    Remove the pop-up thermometer, liver, gizzards, and heart. Cut off the wings.

    Using kitchen shears, locate the spine at the base of the neck. Cut up the line of the backbone towards the neck cavity. Turn the duck and cut straight towards the rear cavity. Remove the backbone.

    Turn the duck over and cut straight down the middle of the breast bone, leaving 2 equal duck halves. To separate the legs from the breast, flip your halves over so the flesh side is facing up at you. Using a knife, make a crescent shape cut between the leg and the breast. Lay your knife flat against the skin and make 3 marks in one direction and then in the other, making an X. Make sure that you are cutting through the skin and not the meat.

    Line the inside of a plastic lexan or a pot with a zip-top bag. Place the duck quarters inside the bag, and pour the brine over the duck. Seal the bag, ensuring that all air is removed from the bag. Brine the duck for 2 to 2 1/2 hours in the refrigerator.

    Bring 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot. Place a colander into the pot and line the sides of the colander with the duck. Do not stack the duck quarters on each other. Cover and turn the heat to medium low. Steam the duck for 45 minutes. Set oven to 475 degrees F. Place a large cast iron skillet into the oven.

    Remove duck pieces from steamer and place legs, skin side down, into the hot skillet. Place the skillet into the hot oven immediately and cook the leg quarters for 10 minutes. Add the breasts, skin side down, and cook for 7 more minutes or until the duck takes on a deep mahogany color and the skin is very crisp.

    Remove the duck from the skillet and rest under foil. Add the chard and the shallots to the skillet. Toss the chard in the fat until it barely wilts. Season with the sherry or balsamic vinegar.

    Serve the duck with the chard.


    Bourbon Pecan Pie

    A great twist on a pecan pie from Paula Deen.  Bourbon gives the pie more flavor depth. 


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
  • 1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell, unbaked
  • Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans, and bourbon, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.