April 29, 2012

Dinner Made Easy


Easy Southern Chicken and Dumplings
1 (32-oz.) container low-sodium chicken broth
 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 lb.)
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
 1 (10.2-oz.) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits
2 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; return to a low boil. Place biscuits on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat each biscuit to 1/8-inch thickness; cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Drop strips, 1 at a time, into boiling broth mixture. Add carrots and celery. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking!

I have made this recipe several, several times. If you are in a hurry and time is of the essence, then this simple and delicious chicken and dumplings will be a perfect weeknight dinner for your family. Darling and I are going to be knee deep unpacking boxes and setting up our new household, so with a quick trip to the grocery for a Rotisserie chicken, this southern comfort food will be just what we need at the end of a long day!

Just as we were leaving the first night, we spotted sweet Peter Rabbit in the front yard.

April 28, 2012

A One-Pot RecipeThat's Bursting with Taste!

We're movin' on our new home!

View toward the pool and gardens from the back door

The Kitchen is really, really pretty!

Love the entry

Our Darling Realtor on the day of closing! Oh Happy Day!

Darling's request....."Hey! Can you make some of your good Italian food our first weekend in the new house?" You got it Handsome!

 Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Cannelloni
1 5-oz pkg fresh baby spinach (about 6 cups)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 lbs campari tomatoes, chopped
½ cup torn fresh basil leaves, divided
1 cup grated mozzarella or Friulano cheese
2 cups firm ricotta cheese
1 can whole artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 t. finely chopped lemon zest
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
½ t. sea salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
6 fresh lasagna sheets
½ cup crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 400°F. On the stovetop, heat a heavy-duty metal lasagna pan over medium heat.
Add the spinach and keep turning it over with tongs until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach from the pan and set aside to cool; squeeze out excess water and chop finely. In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant but not brown, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over a gentle heat for about 25 minutes, until the tomatoes break apart and become saucy. Remove the pan from the heat, add half of the basil leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Scoop out ½ cup of sauce and reserve. Spread the remaining sauce evenly over the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, stir together the mozzarella, ricotta, artichokes, ½ cup Parmesan, spinach, zest, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining basil. Cut the lasagna sheets in half so that you have 12 pieces, each 5" x 6". Put about 3 tablespoons of filling along the bottom of the lasagna sheet and roll up to make a 1½" log. Place the cannelloni, seam side down, in the pan on top of the tomato sauce. Repeat with remaining lasagna sheets and filling, placing them close together in the pan. Mix the crème fraîche with 2 tablespoons of water to loosen it; pour over the cannelloni, being sure to cover all the pasta. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Spoon the reserved tomato sauce over the cannelloni. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is bubbling.

April 27, 2012

Wedding Blessings...Elements of Style

Well, one wedding down and one more wedding to go! The ranch wedding was simply the best! I can't wait until the pictures are unveiled. All of their hard work, planning, crying, organizing, building, traveling and taste testing produced the wedding night they dreamed of and we could not be happier for the lovely couple! They danced under a starlit sky, in a soft spotlight with fireworks bursting was simply magical!

The next wedding will take place on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola, Florida! We are going to be gathering ideas for florals and these stunning photos should help to give us all some insight on particular flowers, color shades and designs!

Your dream wedding includes several traditional elements updated with your own sense of style. A simple bouquet can be classic or modern, embellished with a few accent flowers, or clean and minimal. The intrinsic beauty of flowers shines in simple-style bouquets. Picture a posy of barely open roses, an armful of calla lilies, a handful of creamy-white tulips dotted with a few sprigs of chartreuse lady's-mantle, or a single orchid.

Simple is the perfect word for summing up the centerpieces that you love. Often monochromatic, your favorite centerpieces are arranged in geometric, unadorned containers. Their clean lines and refined color palette make a dramatic statement. Top your tables with a glass cube packed with pink roses or a simple cylinder brimming with white calla lilies or stems of delicate pastel orchids.

Fresh is best when it comes to flowers in your book. In the perfect world, you would gather all the blossoms for your bouquet from a friend's garden, but your practical side knows that it is best to leave the arranging to your trusted floral designer. Natural style has a "just picked" look that can take on a prairie feel or an English garden sensation depending on the blossoms you choose. For a prairie-inspired bouquet, think grasses, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, echinops, and various berries and seedpods. For a petal-rich spin on natural style, call on sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, larkspurs, delphiniums, peonies, tulips, and herbs.

Your favorite centerpieces have a laid-back look. Found containers, such as galvanized buckets, wooden boxes, or a collection of old flowerpots, are perfect supports for your unstructured arrangements. A natural-style centerpiece might be a handful of peonies plunked in a blue canning jar adorned with a ribbon, or a collection of fresh-cut herbs in a moss-covered wire basket. Take inspiration from your reception site when designing natural-style centerpieces.

April 26, 2012

Stew of Provence and The Garden of Summer Past

The Maine House in Summer

I find it bittersweet to bid farewell to The Maine House. The contracts are signed and everyone is moving forward. It was such a dream of ours, or rather mine, to live in New England. I almost cannot believe it really happened..although our time was shorter that we had expected it to be.

I confess my gardening skills are limited, so when I do manage to create a colorful little space, I celebrate the accomplishment. It brings happiness and peace...just sitting quietly and watching the wildlife scamper about their little safe haven we created for them.

This bunny travels with us and finds a place of honor among the blooms. Wonder where he shall end up in the Texas garden?

Aren't these shades of green a glorious color?

I took this after one of those delicious summer soft rainshowers

Yellow and soft purple look beautiful paired together

One of the peonies I had planted for Mother

We loved this home and the gardens. I hope the new owners feed our squirrels, especially Mae Mo's Mr. Jimmy. Mr.Jimmy likes pumpkins, apples and granola. We named him Mr. Jimmy after Jimmy Carter, because he was nutty, like a big ole' peanut! Of course, it all began when we left raw peanuts on the deck for Mr. Jimmy.....Mae thought of this all on her own!

Take care of our little darlings (the deer) and be sure to leave the apples for them in the Woodlands during winter months. You will be seeing Chip and Dale this month. Then plan on a visit from the turkeys and the mallards....please keep the feeders full...we left them in the Woodlands for you!

Estelle's Summer Ratatouille
2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 pieces
5 t. salt, divided
2 1/2 lbs plum tomatoes
2 T. Olive Oil
2 cups chopped red onion
2 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 lb yellow squash
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 T. fresh thyme
1/8 t. red pepper

Sprinkle eggplant with 3 t. salt and toss lightly. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain any liquid. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Using a paring knife, cut a small x on the bottom of each tomato. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 20-30 seconds, remove and place in a bowl of cold water. Peel tomatoes, discarding the skins and then chop. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often for about 8-10 minutes. Stir in zucchini, yellow squash, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, red pepper and remaining 2 t. of salt. Simmer stirring occasionally for 20 minutes until veggies are tender.

April 25, 2012

Pashmina's and Pearls

When shopping in Kennebunkport, be sure to put
 "The Best of Everything"
 on your to-do list!

Miss Judy and I most likely spent two hours in this divine little shop in the village of Kennebunkport. They carry everything from jewelry, to sunglasses, wine glasses, purses, pashminas and home decor. We loaded up on fashion jewelry in every color of the rainbow, $5.00 fashion sunglasses, and $10 pashminas!

I fell in love with this colorful gal....she was suspended from the ceiling, draped in vibrant jewel tone beads and seaglass colored feather boas! I wish I had the imagination to create something so fun!

These colorful crabs were ginormous and would be a beautiful addition to a beach house!

Now how fabulous is she? Love her rich girl red lips....a girl after my own heart!

Soft Pastel Boats which I thought would be perfect for a little boy's nursery!

This was one of my purchases...I loved the colorful stones and beads..
Perfect for the beach and a little sundress....$12.00...Love, Love, Love!

After a full day of shopping in the village, Estelle's had prepared a simply delicious shrimp dish. It was the perfect ending to a day spent with sister girl....lunch, shopping and snapping pictures of the neighborhoods! What a great memory we have of this day!

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto
8 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb fresh asparagus spears, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ lbs large shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 oz butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

SIMMER chicken broth in a large pot on low heat until needed. HEAT oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in rice and cook for 1 minute, then add white wine. Add ½ cup of broth and stir until completely absorbed. Repeat until half of broth has been added. Stir the risotto frequently to prevent sticking. ADD asparagus and shrimp to the remaining broth and cook for about 2 minutes, or until shrimp are pink. Remove asparagus and shrimp from broth and add them to the risotto mixture. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time until desired creaminess is reached (there may be broth left over). Once the broth is absorbed, add butter, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped tomatoes and parsley.

It was a fun day in October...Kennebunkport...forever in my heart!

April 24, 2012

Sweet Dreams Baby

Do you want to live longer and healthier?  Of course...don't we all? But, I go through periods where I CANNOT SLEEP!!!

As the day turns into night,...keep your worries out of sight,
No matter how hard the world may seem....
You still deserve the sweetest dream!!!

I need advice on developing a strategy to get enough sleep. Insomnia -- or even just getting less than 6 hours of good sleep a night -- increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and viral infections, but snoozing 6½ to 7½ hours can actually make your heart and mind younger.

 Fortunately, food may hold the solution to getting the ZZZs you need. A couple of hours before bedtime, curl up with one of the following sleepy-time snacks that get your brain to release sleep-friendly chemicals.

Almonds: A handful contains muscle-relaxing magnesium and sleep-inducing tryptophan, which increases the brain's level of feel-good serotonin.

Bananas: Beneath the peel is a trifecta of soothers: serotonin, magnesium, and melatonin, your body's natural sleep regular. I usually slice a banana in thin slices and top with a little sugar and milk..just like Mother did!

Skim milk: Mom was right -- a warm glassful will help you sleep better. The milk's tryptophan has a sedating effect. Plus, it's calcium that helps your brain use that tryptophan. This is a very relaxing little night cap and just lovely with a few drops of vanilla extract and nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled on top.

Oatmeal: Oats are rich in sleep-regulating melatonin. If you drizzle just a little honey on top, it tells your brain to turn off orexin, a neuropeptide linked to alertness.

Whole-wheat bread: A slice of toast dotted with banana slices releases insulin, which helps tryptophan get to your brain. There it changes into serotonin and whispers, "Sweet dreams."

Walnuts, like almonds, contain sleepy-time tryptophan.

Miss Rita makes the most scrumptious apple oatmeal!

Apple-Banana Oatmeal Recipe
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup chopped unpeeled tart apple
1/4 cup sliced firm banana
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 to 1/3 cup oat bran
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Brown sugar

In a saucepan, combine milk, orange juice concentrate, apple, banana, raisins, salt if desired and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Stir in oats and oat bran. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with brown sugar and toasted walnuts.

Oatmeal Bread
1 cup boiling water
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Melted butter
Additional oats

In a large bowl, combine boiling water and oats; let stand until warm (110°-115°). In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water; add to oat mixture. Add honey, butter, salt and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down. Shape into a loaf; place in a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with oats. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown. This makes one loaf.

Mr. Sandman....Bring Me a Dream.......

April 23, 2012

Meatloaf...I Feel the Love!

When I was sick as a child, my mother always put me in their bed. I would spend the morning watching Captain Kangaroo, with Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Green Jeans and Grandfather Clock. She would bring me breakfast in bed, homemade oatmeal with sugar, a sliced banana in milk or an egg on toast. I also would be served cold ginger ale which I thought was an adult cocktail, like a hot toddy my grandmother would drink when she had “ailments, like the rheumatoid!” In the afternoon, she would take my temperature and bring me a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup just in time for afternoon cartoons. By evening, I had been comforted by her loving touches and attention and was feeling somewhat better. Daddy would come home just in time to tuck me into bed. This was my sick day.

When I became a mother, I brought my children who were under the weather in our bed, continuing what Mother and Daddy had started. It seemed to be natural. It seemed to provide comfort and magical healing powers. Those foods represent comfort to me.

Which brings me to the thought of the day…comfort……and food…..what is comfort food to you? In the South, it’s what we call our food…..southern comfort food. The reason I am even discussing this is the result of a conversation Darling and I were having the other night. We talked about Maine, and how many of the restaurants prided themselves on Haute' Cuisine. We learned, we are not Haute' Cuisine people. Not that there is anything wrong with that, BUT, it’s just not for us.

We yearned for gulf seafood. Big spicy gulf shrimp and oysters, served with saltine crackers, hot sauce, horseradish and a cold beer! When you had oysters in Maine, they were small, served on a small white tray, three varieties, with no crackers or sauces. Hmmmmm….I am not feeling the hug here!

 Most of the dinner plates were odd shapes, cold, white, stark, square or rectangle. You know the shape is important, right? A round dinner plate is visually wrapping you in a hug….it’s true. A square or a rectangle is not wrapping you in comfort….it’s holding you at arm’s length as if it was making a statement, like, “don’t get to close, no touching, please! We are edgy!”

So, we both decided, “Hey! Now I get it! Wherever you go, in the south, comfort food is earthy, usually full of carbs and served on a round dinner plate!” Barbecued ribs, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, baked chicken smothered in gravy or fried chicken with fresh green beans and new potatoes, potato salad (passed down from your Grandmother), cheese grits, cobblers, pies, banana pudding and fresh coconut cake…all giving you a big ole hug….saying “I love you…I’ll take care of you…..I’ll protect you and give you warmth!” Yes, we are comfort food southern people and I would not have it any other way!

Mississippi Meatloaf
2 lbs.ground chuck
2 large eggs,slightly beaten
3/4 c.quick cook oatmeal
3 pieces of white bread
1/2 cup milk
1 envelope Lipton beefy onion soup mix
1/2 cup onion,finely chopped
1/2 t.dry mustard
1 T.Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c.water
1/3 cup ketchup
1 celery stalk,chopped fine
1/4 t. each of salt and pepper

3/4 cup ketchup
2 t. prepared mustard
1 T. brown sugar

Mix all together and form into a loaf.
Spread sauce over top and bake 45 minutes covered
Uncover and bake 30 minutes longer at 350 degrees F.

April 22, 2012

Accessorizing the Porch! Banana Bread Anyone?

"The only thing that separates us from the
animals is our ability to accessorize."
 ~Clairee Belcher

Front porches and back patios are our favorite spot to relax in the warmer months. Who could possibly live life without a porch...a front porch, a back porch, screened-in or perhaps covered with a jasmine laden pergola, an outdoor space to call our own is one of the neccessities of life! Maybe it's even a small space under a beautiful tree, with a soft breeze blowing the branches, it's your "serene green" time to relax your mind and calm your anxiety.

I love this Maine cottage's porch with an iron-and-brass daybed, sporting a vintage seersucker coverlet and a Moroccan rug. I adore everything about this look, from the different style end tables, to the opulent lilac arrangement, to the lavender throw pillows....oh yes, love the adorable pooches!

Cushions covered in an outdoor gingham fabric brighten up the vintage wrought-iron seating on the patio of this Rhode Island retreat. This is picture perfect for a cool spring morning.

Porches were added to the first and second stories of this Pennsylvania home. This one off the living room has chairs for reading and enjoying the view. I adore these accessories that marry so beautifully with wicker....the ornamental grass in the tin bucket, a vase of baby's breath in a creamy white pitcher and a soft blanket to warm your lap....a perfect spot to read a good book.

 Wicker chairs on this beach house's porch — nabbed at a rummage sale for $10 each — got a quick update from Kmart cushions. Just look at the difference colorful cushions can make!

This summer cabin, off Georgia's Lake Burton, boasts an enclosed porch with a large stone fireplace, perfect for gathering around on chilly early summer evenings. Oh yes, this is my favorite of all. Reminds me of our Smoky Mountain Camping days....with Mother and Daddy!

See this planter? I have this! It is my favorite outdoor accessory. Darling bought this for me in Texas when our neighbors built that monstrous above ground storm shelter! Remember, I mentioned this in a previous blog post? We positioned it on the fence we were required to build in order to block the view out the kitchen window of that horrible "thing!" It looked just like this filled with ivy and cottage mini roses!

At The Maine House, it looked like this!

There is a small little stone patio directly off the study of the new Texas house. Note to self.... This is going to be the perfect space to hang this beautiful planter and once again, fill it with beautiful florals. I simply cannot wait!

What could be  more perfect than a cup of morning coffee and a warm slice of banana bread slathered with orange cream cheese spread as you are sitting on your porch? Ya'll come join us....Good Morning America, How Are Ya'?

Estelle's Best Banana Bread
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup very ripe banana (3)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x3 inch loaf pan or 4 small ones. Cream the butter sugar until light and fluffy. add eggs, beat well. Stir in dry ingredients. Blend well. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla. Stir well. Fold in pecans. Pour into pans, bake 1 hr or until toothpick comes out clean.

Orange Cream Cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon orange juice

Mix together cream cheese, sugar, orange peel and orange juice in medium bowl until well blended.

April 21, 2012

The Reading Corner...Evidence of Fairies

"Aug 10th 1896.
I new ther was faereys behind the potting shed.
So I went and sat very still with my book open on my lap and
the faereys was curius and inkwizitf and
 they all came round to look at me and
one landed on my book and I went SNAP!
I banged the book shut and I cort the faerey
it is a reelly bewtiful one. I like it best." 

I fell instantly in love with this book, which is beautifully illustrated with a cute and whimsical story based on the Cottingley Fairies. This is the story a little girl named Angelica Cottington, who has the ability to see fairies, and loves nothing more then to spend her days, squashing them between the pages of her books. I thought this would be a perfect summer read for our Miss Abbigaile during her visits to Grandma and Papa's house!

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

"July 6th 1895.
Nanna wuldnt bleive me. Ettie wuldnt bleive me.
Auntie Mercy wuldn't bleive me. But I got one.
Now theyv got to blieve me."
What young Angelica Cottington "got" was...a fairy.
And, you are holding the evidence in your hands! "

It really happened--a hoax perpetrated by two girls who claimed to have photographed actual "fairies". This remarkable parody, written by a former member of the Monty Python troupe, takes a sly look at what happened in a fashion that's riotously witty, visually extraordinary, and wildly original. In every respect, this "handwritten diary" captures the look of the age--though the fairies, it is true, do sometimes have a more malevolent aspect than one might expect. It is a fresh and funny take on the true story that inspired two movies,  Fairy Tale, A True Story and Photographing Fairies.

 Frances with a winged fairy close by her nose.

The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, as a spiritualist, was enthusiastic about the photographs, and interpreted them as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena. Public reaction was mixed; some accepted the images as genuine, but others believed they had been faked.

Elsie with a winged gnome

Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually declined after 1921. Both girls grew up, married and lived abroad for a time. Frances died in 1986, and Elsie in 1988.

Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, June 1917

"Aug 11th 1899.....A great many faeries came bzzing round me todday. They seemed quite exciteed and kept glaring at me and flying right up my nose. But I still caught one. I am going to call her FLORIZAL. She is an young fairy who was a little bit more daring than the rest. I wonder what she did in Fairy Land, and how old she was? Perhaps she was ten years old — perhaps thirty — perhaps thirty thousand. It's hard to know what is old with fairies." 

About the Author

Terry Jones is perhaps best known as a scriptwriter and member of the Monty Python team. He is a highly successful performer, writer, and director for film, radio, and television with classics such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life to his name. He played the role of the irascible Toad in his most recent film, The Wind in the Willows, for which he wrote the screenplay and also directed. Terry Jones has also received widespread acclaim for his hilarious award-winning children's books.

Brian Froud is a popular and highly acclaimed artist whose imaginative portrayals of fantasy worlds and people in particular are recognized world wide. He worked on Jim Henson's fantasy films and illustrated the best-selling Fairies and Goblins of the Labyrinth. His most recent book is the acclaimed Good Fairies/Bad Fairies.