Category Archives: Catering

Spinach and Orecchiette Salad

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  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 3-4 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 6 ounces of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of Greek seasoning (you can substitute Italian seasoning if you like)
  • Juice from about 2-3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Healthy pinch of kosher salt

Cook the pasta according to directions on package.  While pasta is cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, Greek seasoning, and salt in the bottom of a large salad bowl.  Place the spinach, tomatoes, and onions on top of the dressing.  After the pasta is done cooking, drain it and immediately place it on top of all the ingredients.  Let it sit for a few minutes and then toss all the ingredients with the cheese.  Serve at room temperature and refrigerate any leftovers.

 

Summer Project: Wildflower Bedroom

 

dscn0510My husband and I promised our youngest daughter that she could have a new bedroom for her birthday this year, so of course we made big plans…. and revised… and revised… and then set to work.  This is the creation of our collaboration and the dreams of our girl.

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Solid walnut with spalted maple slats

My part in this room was the mural.  It took about 60 hours and is worth every second of that!

The first stage was to draw it out in chalk and choose paint colors. My E wanted a certain shade of purple, so I got color samples from the swatch and then chose about 6 other shades of purple that would compliment her choices.  I also mixed some of the colors to lighten/darken the shades and used a black artist paint to fill in certain details. The base color of the wall is a light lavender.

The second stage was to evaluate what flower I wanted to paint first, based on its size and relative location in the mural.  The first flower I chose was a large one that has other flowers  overlapped on top.  I chose my daughter’s favorite color for these flowers since they are so big and take up a large amount of the wall space.

The last stage was to fill in the empty spaces with small accent flowers that are not as detailed, but serve to give the mural fullness and interest.  Again, I chose to use my daughter’s favorite color for these.

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The loft gives her so much floor space, a commodity in a small room like hers

 

Here are the images of the progression:

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bran Muffins

IMG_20160313_171812211_HDRI’m always looking for a quick and healthy breakfast for the kids, and this recipe is just that!  It is packed with protein and a fair amount of fat, which will keep them full and give them energy to last until lunchtime.  In order to keep these muffins nutrient-dense, I add wheat germ and whole wheat flour, with a little bit of chocolate chips and a struesel topping to ensure smiles first thing in the morning!  These are great to make ahead for the week and will save you plenty of time in the morning.  I like to give them to my kids with a mug of steamed milk and a small side of fresh fruit.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BRAN MUFFINS                                                                                       (10 large muffins)                                                                                          

* 1/2 cup softened butter  *1/2 cup packed brown sugar  *3 ripe bananas, mashed  * 1/4 cup skim milk  * 1 teaspoon vanilla  * 2 eggs  *3/4 cup all-purpose flour  *3/4 cup whole wheat flour  *1/2 cup wheat germ  *1 teaspoon cinnamon  *1 teaspoon baking powder  *1 teaspoon baking soda  *1/4 teaspoon kosher salt  *1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the streusel top:  *6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened  *1/3 cup flour  *1/4 cup brown sugar  *1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats  *1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a jumbo muffin tin with paper liners. Mix the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, milk, banana, and vanilla and mix until combined.  Sift the dry ingredients together and then add to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour in the muffin tins and top with the struesel topping.

Make the streusel topping by mixing all ingredients together with a fork until combined.  With your hands, crumble the mixture evenly over each muffin.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.  Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

Valentine’s Day

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Here’s How You Do It: Wrap yarn around wooden letters (can get them at any craft, art, or fabric store) and stack letters anywhere!

 

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Paper hearts and red and natural-striped burlap ribbon make a simple (and inexpensive) banner

 

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Here’s How You Do It: Cut out 6″x6″ paper squares (I used craft cool) and 5″x5″ red card stock squares.  Make a heart template and cut out all hearts. Then punch holes in the top of each heart, string the ribbon through each heart, and hang in a place that makes you happy.  Easiest and cutest Valentine’s craft!

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Homemade heart crayons-perfect use for all of those little pieces that get left at the bottom of the pencil box! We keep a little bucket in the kids’ study so they can throw their crayon scraps somewhere. We use the scraps to make new crayons in fun shapes and sizes

Here’s how you do it:

Get an oven-safe silicone mold (it has to be silicone because the flexibility of the mold will allow for easy removal of the crayon). Score the crayons lengthwise with a razor blade, making sure to cut all the way through the paper. Obviously this is an adult-only task! Find some children who will willingly undress the crayons and then break them into pieces (no need to regulate this-chaos is best in this case and lets them feel like they are really getting away with some destruction). Have your little Picasso(s) place the pieces of the crayons in the mold (again, the more random the better if you are going for the tie-dyed look).  If you want solid-colored crayons, then place only one color in each mold.  I LOVE the idea of mixing some tie-dyed shapes with solid colors,like tie-dyed hearts with solid stars-very cute indeed! Put the silicone mold on a cookie sheet for stability and bake in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until the crayons are liquefied. Remove from the oven and wait for them to set up. Pop them out of the mold, package them in something cute, and give them to some lucky kids!   I have given these cuties individually, as part of a set in a little box or fabric pouch, or tied to a fabric-covered notebook. Any way they are presented, they are sure to be a big hit (and sugar-free!)

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Zippered pouch, heart crayons, and fabric-covered notebook make the perfect little gift. The pouch is a carrying case for the crayons, so it’s perfectly practical, too!

Packaging ideas:   * Put them in a small metal pail and attach a handmade coloring book -if you have a piece of cardstock/construction paper, some printer paper, and a stapler, then you can definitely make this!   *Get a small candy box and line them up in neat little rows and make a cute label for the front of the box   * Put them in a clear cellophane bag tied with a ribbon and a card   *Put the crayons in a zippered pouch and attach to an artist smock and sketch pad for the budding artist. heart.crayons.1

Perfectly Easy Roasted Pork and Pork Lo Mein

lomein.vegI am a huge fan of dinners that I can make one night and turn into something completely different another night.  And living in North Carolina, it is only natural that some of our favorite “transition dinners” come from pork!  One of my all-time favorite leftover transitions is roasted pork tenderloin turned into pork lo mein. The trick to this recipe is that by roasting both tenderloins the first night, I can save valuable time needed to cut all of the vegetables for the lo mein on the second night. An added benefit is that both recipes have completely different flavor profiles, which is wonderful because not only do we get variety in our weekday menu, but I can also rest assured that my family will remain clueless about eating leftovers!

HOW TO ROAST THE TENDERLOINS

The trick to a perfectly roasted pork tenderloin is a simple process and very easy to accomplish. First, generously season the tenderloins with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat for a couple minutes and then drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the pan, or enough to lightly coat the bottom.  Add the tenderloins and leave them until you are ready to turn them, which is about 3-4 minutes or until they have a nice golden crust.  When all sides are browned, transfer the tenderloins to a foil-lined sheet pan and put them in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting into medallions.  The pork will be slightly pink at this temperature, so if you do not like it cooked to medium, then you can increase the temperature to 160 for a well-done loin.  If you do this, however, remove the 1 loin you are using later for lo mein when it reaches 145 degrees (you will be reheating the pork in the lo mein recipe and it will be too dry if you let it reach well-done the first time you cook it).

If you would like to add some additional flavors to the pork (I have tried these and they do not interfere with the flavor of the lo mein), you can try the following ideas:

  • Use sliced yellow onions (about 2 large), diced dried apricots (1/2 cup), and  diced bacon (about 6 slices) as a bed for the tenderloins and drizzle them with barbeque sauce before cooking.
  • Place the tenderloins in a shallow baking dish with sliced carrots and red potatoes, a couple cloves of crushed garlic, and fresh thyme and drizzle vegetables with olive oil and kosher salt
  • Use sliced yellow onions, sliced carrots, and shredded green cabbage as a bed for tenderloins and drizzle vegetables with kosher salt and olive oil and the pork with a  hoisin barbeque sauce

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PORK LO MEIN

  • 1 pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4″ medallions and then 1″ strips
  • 1 head of Napa cabbage, sliced into 1/2′ strips
  • 4 large carrots, sliced into 1/4′ disks
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced (if you do not have shiitake mushrooms you can substitute crimini or white mushrooms, making sure to slice them thinly and increase the cooking time a bit)
  • 2 bunches of green onions.  Thinly slice the white parts and cut the green stems into 1″ slices
  • 1 pound of spaghetti, or other long noodle
  • 3  tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice powder
  • Dry sherry
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock or broth
  • Canola oil
  • Chili garlic sauce or Sriracha sauce

***Note: This recipe has many ingredients and steps so it may seem overwhelming at first but the result is way worth your time and the leftover lo mein heats well and is as delicious as the day you made it.  The more you use this recipe, the easier it gets, so stick with it!

Make the marinade: Combine the soy sauce, hoisen, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and 5 Spice powder in a bowl and whisk until combined.  Take out 3 tablespoons of the marinade and toss with the sliced pork tenderloin.  Set this aside to marinate for about an hour.  In the meantime, mix the cornstarch and chicken stock together until dissolved and then add to the remaining marinade, whisking until combined.  Set aside.  Cut all of the vegetables and put them in separate bowls.  Mix the garlic and ginger with about 1 teaspoon of the canola oil until it looks like a paste.  Set this aside.  Get a large bowl and lid ready- you will be cooking the pork and each vegetable separately and then combining everything at the end so you need a place to keep everything warm until ready to combine.

At this time, I usually boil the water for the pasta and then turn it on low until I am ready to cook the noodles. ( I use spaghetti and usually drop the pasta in the water after I cook the pork. If the noodles are done before the vegetables, just drain and set aside until ready to toss together).  Make sure you are using a large stockpot for the noodles because you will be adding all of the vegetables to this pot at the end and you will need plenty of space to mix everything together.

When the pork has had plenty of time to marinate, heat a wok or non-stick skillet on high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil.  Add the pork and cook until you see a browned crust, about 2-3 minutes.  Deglaze with 2 tablespoons of sherry and then put in the large bowl and cover with the lid.  In the same pan, add another tablespoon of canola oil and add the carrots and cook over high heat for a few minutes.  Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the pan and cover with a lid- steam the carrots for about 2 minutes, or until tender.  Add the green onion to the carrots and stir for a minute.  Add the carrots and onions to the bowl with the pork and cover. Let the pan heat up again and add another tablespoon of oil.  Cook the mushrooms until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add them to the bowl.  Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the cabbage after the pan reaches high heat.  Let it sit for a minute and then stir until all pieces are cooked through-this will seem like a lot of cabbage at first, but once it gets hot it will wilt and cook down quickly.  At this time, your noodles should be done cooking so drain them and place them back into the large pot.

Make a little open space in the middle of the pan where the cabbage is cooking and add the ginger and garlic paste.  Cook for about a minute, until you can smell the garlic.  Toss the cabbage with the paste and then pour the remaining marinade over the mixture.  Cook for another minute, then pour onto the noodles along with the other ingredients in the bowl you had set aside.  Mix until everything is combined and serve with a bit of  chili garlic sauce or Sriracha sauce to add slight heat.

 

 

 

 

 

Grandmas’ Doughnuts

 

DSC_1231My husband and I are from very Slavic families and we get a kick out of reminiscing over some of our favorite childhood memories  and eating our grandmothers’ cooking.  Here are the recipes for those old-fashioned doughnuts that our grandmothers spoiled us with.  They melt in your mouth and taste great with a huge glass of chocolate milk or coffee-or in the case of my oldest daughter, a nice glass of “coffee milk”, which is exactly what it sounds like, a huge glass of milk flavored with hot coffee. DSC_1203

Any way you want to wash them down, these doughnuts are not only a trip down memory lane, but our girls are making them now and experiencing their own memories so our traditions carry on!


 

BUTTERMILK MINI CAKES WITH CINNAMON SUGAR AND VANILLA GLAZE

*2 cups of flour *1 teaspoon kosher salt  *1/2 teaspoon baking soda *2 teaspoons baking powder *2 tablespoons sugar *1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled *1 cup of cold buttermilk *Canola Oil

CINNAMON SUGAR AND VANILLA GLAZE

* 1 cup of sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons cinnamon in a paper bag

*1 cup powdered sugar * 2-3 tablespoons of milk * 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk.  Mix until fluffy and everything is incorporated.  Mix the melted butter with the cold buttermilk and stir until it gets lumpy-do not break up the lumps!  The lumps are what make the doughnuts airy and light. Mix the wet with the dry until just incorporated.

Form little batter balls with your hands and set aside on parchment paper.  Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.

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Heat canola oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven until it reaches about 3 inches from the bottom and until the temperature reaches 350 degrees.  Remove dough from refrigerator and fry in small batches (don’t crowd the oil) and flip them over halfway through the frying time.  Cook until golden-brown (1-3 minutes depending on how large you make your cakes)  and remove them and place on paper towel to drain for a couple minutes.

For cinnamon and sugar doughnuts, shake the mini cakes in a brown bag filled with the sugar mixture.  Remove and place on a plate, pop in your mouth, or set aside for a brunch buffet.

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For the vanilla glaze, mix all ingredients, thinning with milk if needed.  Set up a paper towel under a cooling rack and dip mini cakes in the glaze, setting them on the rack to harden.  These are irresistible little snacks and probably won’t last until lunchtime!  The mini cakes are enjoyed best when they are right out of the fryer.  They absolutely melt in your mouth!

 
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KRUELLER’S WITH VANILLA GLAZE

*1 cup of water * 1/2 cup of unsalted butter *1 cup of flour * 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt *2 tablespoons of sugar * 4 eggs at room temperature * Canola Oil *Vanilla Glaze

Bring water and butter to a slow rolling boil.  Remove from heat and mix in salt, sugar, and flour.  One at a time, add eggs, making sure to whisk rigorously so all ingredients are glossy and smooth.  Put batter in piping bag with a large star tip and pipe circles onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Freeze circles for at least 30 minutes, or package frozen circles to make on demand in the future. Heat oil in large Dutch oven until it reaches about 3 inches from the bottom and until the temperature reaches 350 degrees.  Add the doughnuts in small batches, flipping them over half way through the frying.  Remove from the oil when golden and then dip the top half in glaze and place on a cooling rack to let the icing drip off and harden.  These little delights are best after they cool and sit for a while.  Their crepe-like texture make them perfect for afternoon tea or midnight snacking!

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Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal


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This little bowl of happiness came out of my desire to have something sweet, healthy, and filling by using what little ingredients I had in my kitchen at the time.  It all happened one day when we were snowed in and my baking supplies were annihilated by our previous day’s kitchen adventures. You must know that when we are snowed in, we bake!

DSC_0480So what were we going to do about our craving for something warm, delicious, and sweet?  And more important,  would it go well with the hot chocolate we had simmering on the stovetop?

This is the wonderful creation I came up with-with the eager assistance of my girls, who love anything with chocolate chips!  Careful when you try this for the first time, you will think you are eating dessert…. but what’s wrong with that?!

*This is an individual portion

  • 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of dried, flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate chips

Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl and heat in the microwave for 90 seconds.  Remove and stir and then return to the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until the oatmeal becomes thick and creamy.  Stir in the raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, and pecans and enjoy this decadent, yet healthy snack!

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Crock Pot “Soup”er Stars

I love fall!  There’s something about the colors and the cool temperatures that make me so happy….. and so hungry!   Some of my favorite fall meals are hearty soups-the kind that you can enjoy with a nice piece of crusty bready and a glass of wine while dining on your patio!

I am a soup fanatic-I can eat it all year long and have a system for how I make all of my soup bases.  I even have a special pot that I like to make my soups in!  However, I have found that there are a few exceptions to making a great soup the standard way and they come out just as delicious, as if Julia Child herself had made them! My secret to these gems of the bowl is the “c word,” otherwise know as the crock pot.

I know I am going against the grain by saying this, but I am not a huge fan of the crock pot, mainly because I love to cook and the crock pot doesn’t really allow me to tinker as much in the kitchen. But it really is nice to leave the house for hours and return to a warm and comforting meal! And I’ll let you in on my little secret-both of these soups have very similar bases, all you have to do is adjust the seasonings and a few key ingredients to create a whole new flavor profile!  So once you master one of them it is very easy to do others, creating something delicious of your own!

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CHICKEN LENTIL SOUP

1 1/2 cups of dried green lentils

1 large yellow onion, diced

6-8 chicken thighs ( I use the thighs that have skin and bones because this gives the soup a richer flavor)

6 cups of chicken stock, either homemade or low-sodium packaged stock

1 rounded teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 large bunch of Swiss chard, stems removed and roughly chopped

Feta and bread for serving

Combine all ingredients -except for the Swiss chard- in a crock pot and cook on low heat for 4-5 hours.  With 30 minutes left in the cooking time, add the chard and stir to combine.  When ready to serve, remove chicken thighs and take off skin and cut off the bone into large pieces. Add back into soup and mix. Top your bowl of soup with a generous amount of feta cheese and some bread (Naan is my absolute favorite with this dish)!

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WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

1 1/2 cups dried Navy beans

6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cups of chicken stock, either homemade or low-sodium packaged stock

5 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 small can of diced tomatoes, including sauce

4 cups of baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper

 

Combine all ingredients -except for the spinach- in a crock pot and cook on low heat for 4-5  hours. Right before serving,  remove chicken thighs and take off skin and cut off the bone into large pieces. Add back into soup with the spinach and mix. Serve with a variety of toppings-cheddar cheese, green onions, jalapeños, and tortilla chips are great condiments for this lovely soup.  I always like to make a quick batch of corn muffins to round out the meal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, my! Chicken Thighs

I credit Giada deLaurentis with spurring my infatuation with chicken thighs.  I used to watch Giada’s show in the afternoons when my oldest was a toddler.  I even went to a cookbook signing and met Giada!  Her recipe for Chicken Vesuvio ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/chicken-vesuvio-recipe.html) inspired me to start cooking with thighs and I have loved them ever since.

One of my all time favorite things to do with thighs is stick them in a Dutch oven with some aromatics and then enjoy the perfect chicken.  It comes out very tender and the infusion of herbs and garlic make this meal rustic and comforting.

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ROSEMARY AND GARLIC CHICKEN THIGHS WITH LEMON SAUCE

Ingredients:

*6 Chicken Thighs, bone-in and skin on

*2 heads of garlic, top of the head sliced open

*1 lemon, cut into 1/4″ slices

*2 lemons, juiced

*2 tbsp. Unsalted butter

*Chicken stock

*A few sprigs of rosemary

*1/2 cup white wine

*Olive oil

*Kosher salt/pepper

Directions:

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs and set aside to cook.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven and brown the chicken thighs.  Remove from heat and arrange the lemon slices, garlic,  and rosemary over the thighs and close the lid.  Deglaze with 1/2 cup of chicken stock and then put the pot in the oven on 250 for 2 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven and take out the aromatics and chicken.  Put the pot on the stovetop and heat the butter with the juices that are left from the chicken.  Deglaze with 1/2 cup of white wine and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.  Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

I make a delicious cranberry and green onion cous cous to serve aside this dish.  It is wonderful under a piece of chicken and drizzled with the bright lemon sauce!

 

 

 

 

Cupcakes!

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Dark and white chocolate wings with chocolate-covered almond centers make cute little butterflies

There’s nothing I enjoy more than making cupcakes!  I look for any special (or not) occasion to make and eat them. I think it is the pretty little package that they come in that is so appealing to all of my senses-they are just too cute and delicious! I have been baking cupcakes since I was a little girl, getting more adventurous with my flavors and decorations.  I have tried many recipes and styles and have come to this conclusion: When making cupcakes, it is essential to keep things simple!  What this means is having a clear flavor profile.  There’s nothing worse than biting into one of those cupcakes that have 7 ingredients in the title (like a spiced chocolate bourbon and brown butter cake with pecan fudge filling), only to find that while they sound absolutely delicious, they are lacking in a cohesion and most of the flavors end up getting lost.My philosophy is that if you use fresh ingredients and think about how a couple flavors pair together, you can create something magical!

Chocolate truffles rolled in cookies and cream sprinkles make the perfect spiders!

Decorations, on the other hand do not need to be simple!   As an artist and a baker, the cupcake is the perfect medium for me to work in because not only do I get to bake them, but I also get to make them look beautiful. The only requirement I have of how to decorate a cupcake is that it be something that looks beautiful and indicates what kind of flavors you are ready to enjoy.  Let your imagination go wild with the decorating and your recipes remain fresh and simple!

Double chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and milk chocolate flower

DECORATIG TOOLS I ALWAYS HAVE IN MY CABINETS: *Cupcake liners, usually white in all sizes-Jumbo, regular, mini *Sprinkles-all types and colors *White non-parials *Decorating tips and piping bags *Milk and dark chocolate and white chocolate melting disks (You can get these at any craft store and they melt better than chocolate chips because they do not have the stabilizers in them that chips often have) *Gel food coloring