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egg-actly that time of year

February 20, 2018

succulent eggs in natural elements

Yes, you guessed it, I have begun dyeing eggs!  With the start of Lent and an early Easter this year, I couldn’t resist starting some egg decorating!  We had a few inches of snow this past weekend, so I prepared by stopping at the grocery store and buying a dozen white eggs.  Then, while it was snowing, I watched the British Baking Show and emptied out the inside of 12 eggs to prepare them for decorating!

egg dyeing collage

How do I empty them?  I use a needle to gently place a hole in both sides of the egg – one hole a little larger than the other.  Then, I blow into the smaller of the holes to empty the contents of the egg.  The most important part of this procedure is to puncture the yolk of the egg!  Otherwise, the inside of the egg just will not come out!  How is this accomplished?  Using a needle or any long, thin object, to push it into the larger hole several times.  Piercing the yolk is what helps the contents to flow out when you start blowing!

cactus easter egg in a basket

I am careful not to get any of the raw egg in my mouth and I wash the outside of the eggs with soapy warm water and rinse thoroughly.  I stand them back into the egg carton overnight to drain any water still left inside.  Once decorated, with no insides to go bad, the eggs will last forever!

For the maiden voyage of egg decorating, I decided to paint a few with succulents.  I know, succulents are so 2001, but I have been working on a terrarium community service project and I have succulents on the brain!  I decided to use 3 eggs.  I dyed them a taupe color using paste food coloring.  For my dye, I use ½ cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, and some food coloring.  This color will serve as the backdrop for my succulents.

stages of painting easter eggs

I added very simplistic painted designs – since I applied the designs with cottons swabs and toothpicks – with acrylic paint.  It is hard to get too detailed without a proper paint brush!   I used the same few colors on all 3 eggs to give them a continuity.  My first decorated eggs of the year are complete – a trio of succulents!

succulent on taupe easter egg

So, the egg games have begun!  I hope I have inspired you to think about your egg designs this year!

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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have a heart

February 13, 2018

heart cookie cutter salad

It’s easy to get into the Galentine’s or Valentine’s Day spirit simply by using a heart shaped cookie cutter on something edible!  Transform something ordinary into something extraordinary with a simple cut!

watermelon and mozzarella salad valentine

You have seen me use a cookie cutter on Valentine’s Day before…remember the Valentine stuffed French toast The lavender shortbreads?  Or, even the bird seed for the bird feeder?

Well, today I am taking my Fancy Watermelon Salad (click here for original recipe) and transforming it for Valentine’s Day, simply by cutting the watermelon rounds into hearts!  Easy, right?

watermelon salad trio

I hope I have inspired you to use a heart cookie cutter this Valentine’s Day!  What will you use it on?

Enjoy!

tasty watermelon valentine

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, xo Jackie

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going nuts

February 6, 2018

making rosemary spiced nuts

I try to incorporate nuts into my diet as much as I can.  I always add them to my salad and try to snack on them as a substitute for something less nutritious.  Over the years, I have made many variations of seasoned nuts to serve as an appetizer or as part of a cheese tray.

I had no snacks for last Sunday’s epic television viewing night – the Justin Timberlake concert and then the This is Us episode, so I decided to jazz up some walnuts to snack on.tv collage from Superbowl nightI came up with this recipe for rosemary walnuts using ingredients I had on hand.  I love rosemary.  Using dried rosemary on my walnuts made it possible to add the rosemary flavor without running to the store for fresh herbs.  (The one little sprig of fresh rosemary I had that you see in the photos was saved to use in the recipe I made next!)  This snack was prepared in 20 minutes and tasted (and smelled) wonderful when eaten warm.  I don’t ever eat much salt, but most people do – that’s the reason I put the range of salt!  I also tried not to use more butter than I needed – starting with less and adding just enough to cover the nuts!

rosemary nut spices

Rosemary Walnutsrosemary nuts as a snack

  • 4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups walnut halves

Melt butter in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and add seasonings.  Add walnuts and toss gently, coating well.  Place on a large shallow baking tray n a single layer.  (I lined the tray with parchment paper for easy clean up.)  Bake at 325 degrees until richly brown – about 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

I know; eliminating the butter would make this recipe totally guilt-free!  But, I decided to get a little decadent for the big concert.  I may try substituting something a little more healthful for the butter next time – maybe sunflower oil.

rosemary nuts in a bowl

The point of this recipe is to show you that it is easy to create some seasoned nuts using dried herbs you have on hand.  I may have recipes for herbed nuts that I like more than this one, but this one did the trick when I wanted something quick without going to the store!

I hope you are inspired to try this recipe or to create your own variation.

close up of herbed rosemary nuts

Thanks for stopping by!

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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valentine candy craft diy

January 26, 2018

making candy pops for Valentines Day

In the same way gingerbread houses are decorated for Christmas, or eggs for Easter, why not create candy skewers for Valentine’s Day?  In my last post, I showed you some elegant Valentine’s Day skewers I created as gifts.  Today, for Friday field trip, I am using the same idea as a fun children’s activity!

cookie skewers

candy pinwheel on a stick

Just assemble a table full of Valentine’s themed candy and/or cookies, and add the children!

candy snake sticks

Just be cautious when using skewers with children – safety first!  Consider the age of the children you are with, and be sure to supervise appropriately!  (You can even cut off the sharp ends of the skewers if necessary.)

valentine candy fun

You may just find that the finished skewers never make it to a recipient!  But, the children will have a blast creating (and eating) them!

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a fabulous weekend!

read my lips valentine

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie 

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valentine, read my lips

January 23, 2018

gummy mouth pops

Doesn’t everything taste better on a stick?  Think about cake pops – a bunch of cake crumbs instantly become chic when placed on a stick!  Why not do the same thing for Valentine’s Day…elevating candy or cookies to a new level by simply adding a stick!

making candy hearts on a stick

Using Reese’s peanut butter hearts to make these pretty skewers.

It is easy to transform treats into chic Valentine’s Day candy skewers to gift to loved ones.

heart on a skewer

One skewer can be a perfectly elegant gift (and very affordable!)

Valentine Cookie pop

Or, create a whole bouquet of skewers!

lip pops for Valentines

I hope you are inspired to create your own Valentine’s Day skewers!  If you want, package your creation in cellophane and add a Valentine’s Day note with a witty pun.  For my lip bouquet, I added a note that said “Valentine, read my lips.”  Leftover pieces of ribbons from holiday packages are perfect to tie to your finished skewers.

Reeses candy heart on a stick

Thanks for stopping by!

heart shaped cookies

Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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‘unbeetable’ hummus

January 16, 2018

Beet Hummus appetizer at Flora in CT

When I was a kid, I hated beets!  They were a staple on my grandmother’s Sunday table, but I would not go anywhere near them!  But, as an adult, I have developed a fondness for these root vegetables.

My most recent beet discovery came when I visited Flora – a restaurant with a plant based menu located in the Blue Back Square section of West Hartford, Connecticut.  It was the first time I had tried beet hummus and it was absolutely yummy!  This snack motivated me to research every beet hummus recipe I could find to try and recreate Flora’s delicious appetizer the best I could.

Flora in West Hartford, CT

Many of the recipes I found used chickpeas, but I chose to eliminate the chickpeas and make the beets the star of the dish!  If beets appeal to you at all, I would definitely urge you to try beet hummus!  Here is what I did to make beet hummus, as inspired by the one I enjoyed at Flora!

Beet Hummus Recipe

  • ½ lb. fresh beets (4-5 medium), prepared
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (2 lemons) plus 1 Tbsp. zest (1 lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil as needed

To prepare the beets (cleaning them prior to cooking), I covered them with water in a saucepan and simmered them until tender and they felt soft when pricked with a fork.  It took about 35 minutes.  After they cooled down, I peeled them and cut them into cubes.

I put all the ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor and processed until smooth.  When serving, I drizzled the hummus with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Beet Hummus at Flora

Pita chips, as well as fresh carrot and cucumber curls, go great with this hummus!

beet soup

Even though I wouldn’t eat them as a kid, I really enjoy beets as an adult! One of my favorite beet dishes – the beet soup at The River Tavern in Chester, Connecticut.

I think the pretty color of beet hummus makes it ‘unbeetable’ to serve as a Valentine’s Day appetizer!  I hope you are inspired to try it!

Thanks for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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homemade chai spice

January 9, 2018

scooping homemade chai spice

I really enjoy the flavor of chai.  At least, what we here in the U.S. call chai.

In India, chai is tea.  Although there are some variations, the basic components are the same – usually a black tea base, whole milk, spices, and a sweetener of white sugar.  Cardamom is the most common ingredient used as a spice, but every family has a blend to suit its tastes.  In the same way, here in the U.S., spices can be adjusted in a homemade chai spice to suit individual tastes.

Home Made Chai Spice Recipe

That is what I decided to do.  It took me quick a bit of experimentation on a recent snow day to come up with my own favorite combination of spices.  I used Penzeys brand spices to make my mix because they are so very flavorful, but you can use whatever you have in your cabinet.

Since I try my best not to eat processed foods (especially with the beginning of a new year), my motivation was to come up with a chai spice to use as a change up for my almond milk.  I will use this in warm almond milk, adding a small amount of honey as a sweetener –  if I am in a really decadent mood!  For a mug of heated milk, I use ½ teaspoon of my homemade spice.

spices for chai spice

This spice can be used to flavor tea, quick breads, smoothies, etc.

I hope I have inspired you to come up with your own chai spice mix.  You can try my combination and adjust the ingredients to your own taste!

Thanks for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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ice, ice baby

December 22, 2017

homemade Irish Cream with home made coffee ice

Making homemade Irish Cream for the holidays is a tradition in my family.  My mom and sister always put it in their Christmas morning coffee.  I prefer to drink it cold.  A great addition to the cold version is coffee ice!  Making ice cubes in advance from leftover coffee makes this special holiday beverage perfect!  But then, a hint of coffee flavor makes many things perfect…think chocolate!

Making special ice cubes is a festive way to enjoy your favorite beverage on Christmas.  Depending on your drink of choice, you can choose to add fruit or herbs to your ice as an alternative to making coffee ice.  For the children’s beverages, try adding mini gummy bears or crushed candy canes to the ice!  What child wouldn’t like to see some gummy bears…or worms!…floating in their juice!

making coffee ice cubes for Irish Cream

Adding extra fun little details at the holidays is a great way to make the day special!

Using decorative ice cube trays is another festive idea.  Ikea usually has some cute ones!  Make little ice cube trees, angels, or other unusual shapes.  There are also trays available that make ice shot glasses if shots are more your thing!

frozen coffee shot glass

If you want our family recipe for homemade Irish Cream, click here.

I hope I have inspired you to make some special ice cubes for the holiday…a cute and easy detail to add to your holiday!

Thanks for stopping by and remember to take pleasure in simple things!

Wishing you and your family much joy this holiday season, Jackie xo

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wrapping it up!

December 19, 2017

black and white xmas wrap

I am always excited to find a great recipe using saffron.  I have a nice big container of it that was a gift from a friend.  I treat it like gold – quite literally – since it is almost as expensive!  (Saffron is the world’s most costly spice by weight.)

pistachio saffron biscotti

Don’t saffron pistachio biscotti sound perfect to enjoy with a hot beverage by a fire?  I thought so!  I made up a batch from a recipe I found in my favorite holiday cookbook (currently)  – Holiday Cookies by Elisabeth de Nederlandens.

black white and trees wrapping

Now that holiday preparations are getting down to the wire, I am ‘wrapping up’ on all counts!  The biscotti is getting packaged on platters or in individual servings as gifts.  Other presents are also getting wrapped and placed under the tree!

biscotti on a plate

It is so hard for me to ‘wrap’ my head (pun intended) around the fact that we are in the last week before Christmas!  This week there will be a major focus on baking, wrapping, and holiday card mailing!  Stop back on Friday to share one last time before Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope your holiday planning is going well and I hope you are inspired to get your baking and wrapping in check!

wrapping in black and white

Remember to take pleasure in simple things – especially during the holiday season, Jackie xo

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green tea holiday bark

December 8, 2017

close up candy bark

I mentioned in a previous post that I found a great recipe book for trying some new food gifts this year.  Today, on Friday field trip, I am taking you into my kitchen to check out the first one I chose to make.  The recipe I tried is candy bark from the new recipe book Holiday Cookies:  Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season by Elisabet der Nederlanden.  (For more on this book, click here.)

I couldn’t wait to make this!  I have friends that love green tea and I was sure the bark would look festive with green from the tea and red from freeze dried berries.

piece of candy bark

As it turned out, the recipe did not disappoint!  It looks super festive and tastes great.  I do have a few tips if you decide to make this for giving.

First, green tea powder can be super expensive – shop wisely!  I found some at HomeGoods in the food section for a great price!  You can also probably find it as a teabag.  Just be sure to check the label on whatever you purchase and be sure green tea is the only ingredient.  I found the freeze dried berries at a great price at Target in the section where trail mix and nuts are sold.

collage making candy bark

As far as preparation – do not let the dark chocolate layer get too cold before layering the green tea mixture on top!  What I found out is that the green tea layer does not adhere to the chocolate if it is too cold – as soon as the chocolate is firm, spread the green tea layer on top.  Also, work quickly to add the ingredients to the green tea layer because it sets up quickly!

christmas candy bark

This candy was so easy to put together and so quick to make!  Now, it just needs a cute package for gifting!

gift package of candy bark

Thanks for stopping by today!  I hope you are inspired to make a food gift of your own.  I have a couple more new recipes I want to try before Christmas!

last of candy bark

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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