Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Gnocchi from Trader Joe's

I stopped by Trader Joe's to get ingredients for another recipe yesterday, but they were sold out of the frozen shrimp that I needed. While looking around, I spotted these Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a butter and sage sauce and knew I had to try them. They did not disappoint! I microwaved them according to the package directions and layered them in 2 of my "little bite" white bowls. Prosciutto , fresh sage and cherry tomatoes from the garden finished this small, but divine dish. They melted in your mouth and the salty prosciutto added the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the gnocchi. I highly recommend this dish- an entire package serves 2 as a side dish, but I recommend an entire package for one as an entree. It was delicious, firm and very flavorful.

I love serving in these little white bowls, because they make everything look special and appealing. We carry them at Romancing the Home, and they are perfect for small appetizer servings of pasta, a crab cocktail salad, and cup of soup. Their wide rims are beautiful to garnish with chopped herbs or just a drizzle of a special olive oil.

If you have other favorite foods from Trader Joe's, please share them in the comments. I would love to try them! We are joining for Foodie Friday. Check out some other yummy food ideas.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Romancing the Range - Montana Country

Grandchildren trying to fly fish on the Madison River.

Vintage horn knives with silver bands - a great antique find in Bozeman.

Absolutely amazing chocolates made in Bozeman.

Gorgeous Box

Fresh apricot torte from the Livingston Farmers Market

Freshly made loaf of sourdough Cranberry walnut bread from the Livingston Farmers Market.

Early morning crazy Montana sky.

Cattle grazing just outside the entrance to Chico Springs Lodge.

The original lodge at Chico Hot Springs.

The Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley - just outside of Livingston.

Fantastic dive just outside of Livingston -gourmet delights such as a Wine Lover's quesadilla - stuffed with Pecans, dried cherries, sliced apple, basil, feta and cheddar cheese. To Die for!

Live music there on the weekends in the summer !

Imagine our surprise seeing this in the road coming toward us! But the cowboys just waved us on!

Closer they come!

Closer - Closer - will they hit the car?

Surrounding the car on all four sides!

Almost done!

Paradise Valley- just south of Livingston. Such a romantic scene.

Mountain Ash tree - native to the area.

Some folks go to Montana for the fly fishing - I go for the romance of the land. It's a glorious state with a huge sky - thus the name Big Sky! My son and his family live in a quaint town, Livingston, Mt. about 3o minutes outside of Bozeman. Completely a family atmosphere, the houses and stores were mostly built in the early 30's to the 50's. Not one modern building here! The town creates a communal spirit around it's rodeos, farmers markets, and Art Walks. The farmers market on Wednesday nights is unbelievable - baked goods and many varieties of vegetables. I purchased an apricot tart from a woman that raised her own dairy cows, churned the butter, and then made the incredible tart. Fresh breads are made from local grains, fruits and nuts. An amazing chocolate company,"La Chatelaine", is located in Bozeman and has the most amazing chocolates I have ever tasted. Fleur de Sel Caramels, blood orange infused truffles, blackberry zinfindel are just some of the delectable flavors. They are packaged in a fantastic orange box. You can purchase them at Friday night we went on an Art Walk in the many galleries in downtown Livingston. Afterwards, we had dinner in Bistro 225, an award winning bistro in town. I tried Pork Rilette for the first time and it was amazing. I found several recipes for this divine concoction and will try it at home.

The landscape is breathtaking- Large rivers, crazy clouds in the sky, and large parcels of land. One of my favorite trees was the mountain ash - filled with clumps of large red and orange berries. On our way to Chico Hot Springs to take the grand kids swimming, we found our selves in the middle of a cattle drive. The cowboy just waved us thru and told us to go slow and sure enough the cows just slowly went around the car! After that experience we stopped at Paradise Cafe to enjoy a Saturday breakfast - love the quesadillas here. They also have great fried trout tacos and these lobster quesadillas with lobster, roasted garlic, cheddar, crumbled bacon, green onions and capers. Awesome place with live music on the weekends outside the restaurant in a field by a babbling trout stream! After breakfast, we took the kids to Chico Hot Springs to swim in the warm water of the ancient pools. In its heyday, people traveled to the Lodge to enjoy the healing powers of the warm pools, but today its a great vacation spot and hosts many weddings each year. It has a great restaurant, horse back riding, dog sledding in the winter, and a day spa for relaxing!

One of my favorite things to bring back to Romancing the Home is a great selection of antlers for the Thanksgiving season. Mr. Rth met me at the airport ( he had arrived several days earlier to fly fish ) and we drove to our source which had moved 40 minutes north of the town. We purchased an entire suitcase full to bring back to Chicago. Antiquing is great, especially if you like horn and Indian relics. Lot's of iron stone, old silver and bottles are prevalent, and there are some fantastic shops in Bozeman.

If you want a relaxed vacation in the States, I highly recommend this trip. Maybe, you might even want to learn to fly fish!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Vegetable Garden Table Design

I love French vegetable gardens - so artistic and lovely to see on a daily basis.

This year was my first try at growing a potager. Lots of cucumbers, even lemon cucumbers, lots of parsley, lots of sage, kohlrabi, kale, cabbages, lettuce, fennel, and just 2 acorn squash from 6 squash plants! We had lots of squash blossoms, but only 2 little squash. So this table celebrates my little garden - mostly of green vegetables. On a stone table on the back terrace, I used leather chargers with gold rimmed service plates and antique leaf majolica plates. Antique cauliflower cups and saucers are made by Wedgewood. I found them 25 years ago in Arkansas on a trip to the Table Rock lake area. Thick crystal glasses add a little sparkle to the table. Vintage check towels are used as napkins along with the French flatware to help give a "southern France" vibe to the setting. And of course, the vegetables from my little garden are the stars of the centerpiece. I've learned a lot by growing this little garden this summer - wish I had gotten more squash, but guess I'll try growing something different next year. Be sure to visit to view other inspirational tablescapes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Displaying Your Crystal.

New Buffet that sits in alcove that leads into dining room.

Old doors with aged mirror reflect the new buffet on the opposite wall.

New hardware that replaces the simple iron knobs on the buffet.

A stack of gold encrusted fruit bowls that sit on top the server. I just added a little more sparkle with the old rhinestone flower pin.

A new pair of french candelabras with soft lavender and peach crystals mixed with clear.

A French bronze lady mixed in with the vintage and new Venetian glass.

An antique coffee urn sits in the middle of the display.

Pink and gold dinner plates accent the pink and lavender candelabra.

Gold details on the champagne glasses look pretty with the silver sherbets on the shelves above.

A collection of Venetian crystal glasses - "Which one shall I drink my wine from today?"

A close-up of the shelf above.

Collecting beautiful crystal and china is a passion of mine, but storing it is a challenge. So I display as much as I can on open shelves so that I can enjoy it everyday. I just purchased a high buffet from Noir, a line that we carry at Romancing the Home. It arrived on Friday, and today I had time to "fill it up" and re-organize my dish pantry, so that I have easy access to all my treasures! Displayed on the top is a collection Venetian glasses on a silver gallery tray and special china. The new buffet sits under a mirrored shelf unit that holds a collection of venetian glasses and silver dessert sherbets. It's knobs were plain iron, so I removed them and replaced them with rhinestone and bronze knobs- so pretty.( I purchased these floral knobs at Studio 41 in Highland Park. They have an amazing selection of cabinet hardware.)

Crystal and china that has gold accents is very elegant, so we have been gathering many new dishes for the store for the holiday season similar to the ones shown. We will be mixing it with great new metallic chargers and animal print napkins to give it an updated look.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Roasted Beet and Peach Salad

My son Tyler came out for dinner on Sunday. He had given me an assortment of flavored balsamic vinegars and olive oils from Old Town Oils in Chicago. Having fresh beets, peaches and blackberries from the Lake Bluff Farmers Market, we decided to create a salad using all the ingredients. We measured a cup of the peach balsamic vinegar and poured it into a saucepan and brought it to a simmer. Watching it closely, we reduced the vinegar by a third and it turned into a delightful sweet and tart sauce by whisking in about a half cup of orange flavored olive oil. Over a bed of artisan lettuces from Costco, we tossed sliced roasted beets ( see our post on July 29th for an easy way to do this), peach slices, blackberries and bits of a delicious mild soft blue cheese. Then we drizzled the peach balsamic reduction over the beets and fruit and garnished with nasturtiums and violas from our herb garden. It was delicious! Be sure to visit for other delicious recipes.