Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Valentine's Dinner Party Staging

It is  minus 14 degrees here today- the coldest day I can remember in Chicago.  If my dogs don't want to go outside, I certainly don't either!   So it's a day to start re-staging a few areas in the house. I am having a dinner party  in a couple of weeks for a special group of friends, so I will start to get ready by creating the buffet details in the dining room.  It's going to be a "girly girl" evening- so I think Cinderella and her carriage might be my inspiration!

I gather vintage crowns and candelabra.  I even pull out my stash of old mirror plateaus that have been put away for several years.They will add sparkle when the candles are lit.

My friend Katha and I just found these beautiful antique  champagne coupes. I wash them and place them on a tall gold dessert server.  They will be perfect for the cranberry parfaits.  After the party, they will go to the shop to sell, but until then I will enjoy them with my friends!

A large gold carriage - probably an old advertising piece- is placed in the back of the display and a rectangular plateau is placed in front of it  with more glasses. The metal statues are feminine additions and will hold floral bouquets for the dinner party.

I love the detail on this carriage with it's old green painted curtains. 

                                               Ready for the food, candles  and fresh flowers!

Place one of my handmade tassels on the armoir handle.  Laurell comes tomorrow to start transforming this armoir into a deep grey color with old gold accents!  Can't wait for the change!

Beautifully dried peonies and roses from Christmas are still sitting on the dining table.  Time for a change.  I can't bear to throw the dried flowers out, so I create some smaller dried bouquets for the powder room.

One dried peony sits perfectly on this antique bronze vase!  Starting to look like Valentines Day!

Another Victorian planter is filled with more peonies and roses.

The little vintage cherub comes out of storage for the soap dish in the powder room.

Old French linen towels are laundered today, ironed with lavender water and re-hung on the vintage towel rack. Gosh, they smell good!
While this weather is certainly a character builder, it also is the perfect excuse to stay home and nest.
Light the fires, turn on the music and enjoy the quiet time at home! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Roasted Shrimp with Blood Oranges and Fennel

  It's fun to take advantage of snowy days, stay inside and try out some new dinner recipes.  I  picked up a bag of Costco's deveined tail-on raw shrimp last week and had them in the freezer.  They are perfect for Ina's Roasted Shrimp Cocktail recipe, but today I thought I would try to create a new version of her recipe. I wanted to make something pretty, so I went to our local Fresh Market and bought blood oranges and fresh fennel.
  I began by covering a sheet pan with aluminum foil and laying a bed of thinly sliced fennel and blood oranges on the bottom.  Then I placed the thawed shrimp evenly on the top and drizzled the entire layer with the following vinaigrette-

1/2 cup blood orange juice
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. kosher salt
3 T. olive oil

Measure, shake and blend the four ingredients. 

After drizzling with the vinaigrette, I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of melted butter on the shrimp, just to add a little richness to the sauce. 

Sprinkled  a lite coating of sea salt and freshly ground pepper over the top. 

Then into a 350 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes.

To plate them, a bed of the fennel and blood oranges was arranged  on the bottom of the bowl and  the shrimp placed  on top.  Then  drizzle some of the cooking liquid over the top and garnish with fennel fronds.

It was  good and  healthy too-- except for that little bit of good old butter! Next time, I might try caramelizing the fennel first before roasting it.  I think it might develop a bit  more flavor.
I had been saving Martha Stewart's  November issue of Living to try one of the appetizer recipes. 
It was so simple, a package of thawed puff pastry rolled out and cut into squares. Brush the top of the pastry with olive oil and layer on various toppings.  I used variations of what she suggested, based on what I had on hand. 

A purple majesty potato sliced very thin and topped with fresh thyme and a citrus rosemary sea salt.
                                    A little dollop of sour cream when out of the oven.
                                     ( Martha used a fingerling potato and fresh sage)

a.Fresh blood orange thinly sliced with sea salt, then drizzled with honey when out of the oven.
b.A mixture of Italian cheeses, prosciutto and diced mango.
c. the purple potato on the end
Into a 375 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes.

They were crispy and delicious.  Martha called for sliced the pastry into 4 inch squares, but I opted for 2 inch squares.  My husband particularly liked the potato ones- next time I will put 2 to 3 slices of potato on each one. 
With a small green salad, these were the perfect accompaniment to the shrimp. This is a simple recipe that is easy to adapt to what you have on hand.  Another "good thing" from Martha!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mother Nature's Snow Icing

Waking up to -14 degrees and a wind chill of -38 degrees is quite interesting.  The wind has been howling all night and big drifts of snow are constantly falling from our tall trees and hitting the roof. As soon as I fall asleep, another "boom" on the roof and I wonder if Santa has forgotten something from Christmas!   We left all the faucets on a slow drip all night in hopes that the pipes in this old 1880's house wouldn't freeze in this unbelievable cold.  But as the morning returned, - with sunshine and no snow for a change after 7 days-, I look through the windows to a surreal winter wonderland.  The wind has creatively drawn ice pictures on the windows. Fine lines of ice form mosaics on the windows.

Looking out the upstairs windows,  ice sickle's completely ice the edges of the roof' like dripping icing from the edge of a wedding cake. Some are over 30 inches long and are quite sharp on the pointy edges.

The old juniper vine arch is perfectly iced with snow

And it looks like Mother Nature left a perfectly shaped scone  on the top of the birdbath.

Each  of the solar powered lights that hang from the arch get a coating of icing too!

The garden angel gets the perfect coating of snow icing- even on both sides and perfectly level!
I couldn't even do that with an offset spatula!

Mounds of icing on the pines by the front door-

And just to top it all off- Mother Nature left a perfectly iced layer cake on the table on  the back terrace .  Perfectly iced, perfectly round, 18 inches tall!  Yes, Mother Nature is truly a glorious being- but who knew she could bake!!!!