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Journal
Flowers add Color

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Flowers are an easy, inexpensive and impactful way to add color to a room.   Just look at your favorite photos of interiors.  Nine out of ten have flowers or some sort of greenery.  Why… because with them, suddenly your room has energy and life.

If you want to get more sophisticated you can match the color of your flowers to something in the room you would like to highlight, say a favorite art piece.  Suddenly your eye is drawn right to that piece.

I’ve gathered some arrangements below that will take five minutes.  Besides, I’m drawn to their un-fussiness.

 

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I can easily adjust these arrangements for whatever flowers are in season on my weekly trip to the farmer’s market or grocery store.

(Clockwise from top left.)  The first arrangement uses the same flower throughout.   Here they've added interest by graduating the color, starting with the lightest blossoms in the center and working out to the deepest hues.  The stems need to stay a little taller for the center of the arrangement and gradually taper as you get to the rim of your vase.  Aren't these Lilacs so romantic?  If your going for a more elegant or formal look, try it with roses.

For the next arrangement you will need some supplies: floral frogs (round little metal spiky things) and clay to secure them in the bowls.  Other than having those things on hand, it is a snap to put together.  Just secure the frogs in the bottom of your container with the clay, push one or two stems into the spikes and add water .

Lastly, just one beautiful bud in an interesting container can have an amazing amount of impact.  Be creative with your containers, here it's just an ornate mug.   Or do a grouping of single buds, each in their own vase like below.  Still incredibly easy.

 


 

Cantal Cheese Tart

Via Bon Appetit/Source

Ever since moving to Seattle, I can't get enough of two things... cheese and chocolate.  It has something to do with the cold rainy weather that has me craving these comforts.  This recipe comes from Le Temps Des Vendages, a city in Southern France via Bon Appetit's May 2010 issue.  Although it is perfect paired with a salad, clearly, the cream, butter, and cheese in this recipe do not qualify it as a particularly healthy choice.  Unless maybe you consider cheese to add something to your happiness.  Mental health is important, right?

The Cantal cheese can be substituted with an English farmhouse cheddar or a sharp white cheddar, I'm using Beechar's Flagship, a cheese made locally here in Seattle.  Making the crust is a little challenging, but the filling is a breeze.

Ingredients:

Crust
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced
3 tbsp. (or more) ice water

Filling
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 cups coarsely grated rindless Cantal cheese (or substitute)

Directions:

1. Blend flour and salt in processor for 5 seconds.  Add butter and cut in, pulsing on/off turns, until a course meal forms.  Add 3 tablespoons of ice water.  Blend until moist clumps form, adding more water if dough is dry.  Gather dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 12" - 13" round.  Transfer to a 9" tart pan with removable bottom.  Create a 1/2" overhang by cutting off any excess dough.  Fold overhang in and press sides so that the sides of the dough rise 1/4" to 1/3" above the rim of the pan.  Freeze the crust 15 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the crust with foil and fill with beans or pie weights.  Bake about 25 minutes until sides are set.  Remove beans and foil and bake until crust is golden about 20 minutes.  (Peirce with a fork if the crust bubbles.)  Cool crust.  Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

4. Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet.  Add shallots.  Season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft about 4 minutes.  Meanwhile whisk cream, eggs, pepper, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.  Mix in cheese.  Spread shallots in crust. Pour cream mixture into crust.  Bake until filling is set in the center, 35 to 38 minutes.  Cool for 15 - 30 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Martini Bar

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We love the pairing of clear glass and tarnished silver for this Martini Bar from Sunday Suppers.  Clear glass lets the beauty of the ingredients shine.  While the tarnished silver reminds us that the old and warn has a beauty all its own.  How fun to pull out your grandmother's old pieces and pair them with a simple modern arrangement.  Or to scout some vintage finds at the Goodwill or consignment shops.

 

Did you know that linen uses less water, insecticide, and pesticide than cotton?  Even organically grown, cotton needs to be heavily irrigated.  Bamboo is a good choice only if it is eco certified, otherwise it is often manufactured into cloth using harsh chemical solvents.  Hemp on the other hand, needs no pesticides or insecticides and actually improves the soil where it is grown.  Wool is great too because it is renewable, has lower carbon emissions than man-made fibers, and, as with linen and hemp, is biodegradable.

Mix in some aged pieces like the tarnished silver above.  It's a great excuse to go rummaging through all those forgotten treasures you've stored away.  Or call a friend to scour the local consignment shops and estate sales.  It's a ton more fun to hunt for a "find" with a past than to pick something off the shelf at Pottery Barn.

So this is the big one for me!  Occasionally, we all need to purchase something.  What if our purchases were so well designed that they didn't have any negative effect on the environment in their manufacture, their use, or their end of use?  What if instead of taking advantage of the people who made them, our products celebrated and honored craftspeople.  Make a purchase that moves us in this direction.  Purchase a piece that uses recycled materials, gives to a charity, or supports an artisan in a transparent way.  And above all make it quality, so it becomes the vintage piece your son or daughter uses.

I know, I know sometimes the price difference makes it so hard.  But if you buy organic you are greatly reducing toxic water pollution caused by the runoff of pesticides and herbicides into streams and lakes (among other environmental benefits).  Not to mention that to buy otherwise means you are ingesting those nasty chemicals.

Local spirits are a growing trend, at least here on the west coast.  Here in Seattle there are 40 licensed distilleries!  That's a lot of tasting.  I'm looking forward to trying Ebb and Flow and Single Silo Vodka, which seem to have quite a following around here.

 

Hope this helps as we move into party season.  Cheers!

Black Bean Soup with Avocado, Orange and Cucumber

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This is one of my favorite soups of all time because it hits the 3 points that some nights call for: it's fast, it's healthy, and it's affordable.Oh and I forgot, it is also vegetarian and its delicious!  Because of its simplicity I was skeptical, but it really is the bomb.

I'm not going to detail it all out because you can find it all here .Also, if you have trouble finding Cotija, I have substituted feta and it works well.

Kale Chips

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The winter holidays are over now and what’s left, but to cozy up for the long dark nights of winter.  As I write this here in Seattle the snow is coming down for the third day in a row, the roads are icy, but our fireplace is going and I’m looking forward to wrapping up in a blanket with some wine and a good movie.

What is needed is a little comfort snack food that won’t break my New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve got a good one to share with you – kale chips.  Trust me, I know you may be skeptical, but they are so good.  And they are so fast to make and kale is currently in season in most states.

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Ingredients:

bunch of kale
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt to taste

Optional
Garlic salt
Thyme
Garlic salt and shredded parmesan
Smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Wash kale and dry in spinner.  It is important that the kale be dry.  Remove the stems from the kale and tear into large pieces
  3. Add olive oil and sea salt to a large bowl.  Add kale and toss to coat with olive oil mixture.
  4. Line a cooking tray with parchment paper and spread the kale in a thin layer.  Bake for 10-20 minutes.  Be sure to check at the 10 minute mark.  Kale should remain a nice deep green

I’ve included a list of optional ingredients that you can use to add a little extra zing to your batch, but really, use your imagination, almost anything goes.

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Here’s the low down on kale so that you can feel extra proud of yourself.  Kale is actually a form of cabbage and is loaded with fiber.  One cup of kale gives you twice your daily vitamin A, a ton of vitamin C, and 1,000 times your RDA for vitamin K.

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