30 January 2012

Empty Bowls

Is your bowl full?

I am always so grateful that my bowl is usually full...or at least never empty.

An "Empty Bowls" event was held today in our community of Tecumseh, Michigan.  Empty Bowls is an International grassroots movement to fight hunger.  Many artists, students and craftspeople created bowls (mainly pottery) and donated them to be sold for $10, $20 or $30 each.  Our local fine dining establishment, and bakery donated soup to fill these bowls once you have purchased said bowls and also donated use of their facility and staff.

You end up going home with a bowl (or 3) a lovely lunch under your belt, a sense of amazement and pride at all of the community that has participated in this event and a warmth that your community raised over $3500 to fight hunger.  What more could you possibly want out of a Monday?  

Since John and I didn't get there until nearly 2pm, I kept my soup until suppertime, washed my new bowl and Taa-daa!  Beautiful!


If you'd like more info about the "Empty Bowls" movement or to start your own event, you can find it here:

25 January 2012

Here we go AGAIN!

In the Midwest, it's customary to host a high school graduation party for your children.  Most are done in an open house fashion and the June Saturdays are usually fully booked!  We are not an exception, and it's a really nice time to get to see family and friends!

Our "baby" is graduating this year and the plans are already in motion.  The date is set, tent is booked, the menu tentatively a go and invitations will be ordered shortly.

Each previous "Graduation Party" has been a learning experience.  Lessons in order of importance;
1) Start painting the house earlier than April
2) Do not leave vacuuming until the last minute as the power might go out
3)30 lbs. of pulled pork is just enough for 250 people at an open house.  37 lbs. is too much.
4)Glittery table confetti takes a minimum of 2 years to clean up out of your driveway/yard
5)Do not get black frosting on your cake even if it's the school colors-it makes people's teeth scary; ditto on the edible photo transfer...no one wants to eat your kid's eye, so you have to.  Creepy.

John didn't blink an eye when I started discussing changing my kitchen cabinet hardware, painting the hallway, having a few minor drywall repairs done, installing a couple new light fixtures, changing the living room curtains and more.  In fact, he even went through the house and made a few suggestions of areas that need to be freshened up, helped me drill new holes for the cabinet hardware and choose paint for the hallway.  (Can you read my shock and awe?) 

The project list is long, but do-able.  My goal is to have the majority of the interior work accomplished before March when we will begin on the exterior/yard/gardens/shed...

 Fun new lampshade for "project room" to hang above work table!

I purchased Behr paint in "Tea Cookie" for the hallway, a very light and creamy yellow.  (Why I can't find a photo online is beyond me)  I needed a neutral since all of our bedrooms, baths and laundry room open to the hallway.  You've already seen my project room with it's brown paint, my bedroom in plum, another bedroom is painted a peacock blue and Jamie is working on "Couture"  paint;

It looks muted/darker than the picture (thank goodness) and I think we may do a silvery grey glaze over it to tone it down a bit.  We have some funky galvanized metal shelving and baskets along with white trim, sheers and blinds and a soft black paint on the furniture.  Cross your fingers! 

The girls bath needs a bit of drywall repair and a paint job, which I may use the "Tea Cookie" in here as well.  I also picked up some great towels in Jade:

Looks exhausting when I see it all in print.....

22 January 2012

Fabulous Bar of Soap

I have been a Nesti Dante soap girl for at least 5 years.  I NEVER thought I'd change bar soaps....until I received a bar of Michel Design Works soap for Christmas.

An incredibly beautiful wrapper of stiff, elaborately designed paper, with a small silver medallion on the front leads the way to "Hyacinth Iris" scented shea butter soap, that is made in England.  This bar is made of palm oil and enriched with shea butter, so it never dries out my skin, which is lovely for a Michigan winters.  While it's a floral scent, it's not overwhelming or cloying and the scent stays with me for hours!

I'm looking forward to sampling a new scent, yet these bars are HUGE, so I think it will be spring before I'll be purchasing again!  After looking at the company's website, I'm thinking some of their entertaining items might be PERFECT to carry at The Market!  It's always fun shopping for the store!

21 January 2012

Cheesy Quinoa Cakes

I don't love quinoa.  There, I've said it and it's public.  I guess there isn't much to like or dislike about in my opinion.  It's just so blah and a bit funky in texture and not my thing.  I've tried the red and black varieties as well...same thoughts. 

I originally happened upon a recipe on Pinterest for Cheesy Quinoa Cakes.  After making a few batches, we decided we have fallen in love with fried quinoa!  Does this reduce the health benefits?  I used olive oil for frying, so my personal thought is "NO WAY!"  I did do some major adjusting to the recipe to fit my family's preferences and also make the cakes easier to fry and the aioli a bit tastier!  I hope this makes YOU fall in love with quinoa or suffer it gladly!  


1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 large egg
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Cotswold cheese or Raclette cheese
3 Tablespoons sliced scallions, white and green parts
1/2 teaspoon each salt & freshly ground pepper

(NOTE; if using the Cotswold cheese, you may want too omit the scallions, since the cheese is flavored with chives and onions)

Gently mix quinoa and flour until combined, add egg and stir until totally combined.  Stir in cheese, seasonings and scallions if using.

In a saute pan over medium high heat, pour in about 4 tablespoons olive oil.  When hot, use a small ice cream scoop and drop scoops of quinoa mixture carefully into hot oil.  Flatten gently with a spatula until desired thinness.  Brown on each side and serve immediately!

1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Sriacha Sauce (feel free to add more if you like it spicy!)

Stir until combined and allow to sit about 15 minutes for flavors to meld well!

20 January 2012

Brioche; Step 2

Sorry for a bit of delay in the Brioche Saga.  I was very busy eating Brioche! 

( I also shared the recipe and samples with my cooking class on Wednesday, but I baked their loaves in the commercial convection oven at The Market and it really browned up way too quickly!  I didn't adjust the timing enough!  SO irritating!)

My final step was to rise and bake and it went beautifully!  I used the entire batch of dough in this loaf.  Hope you've had time to bake along with me!  I will be posting this incredible cake recipe that uses stale brioche in it in just a couple days!  I think it's really interesting and delicious!    

16 January 2012

Accent lighting

If you've seen my blog through the months, you'll remember ceramic tiling the backsplash in the kitchen.  I still love it!  Last week I happened upon some really nifty lights I think you might like too!

Since our house is from the 50's, the kitchen cabinets were all custom made, but not how it sounds.  They are all wood, but not that great.  When I wanted some accent lighting under the cabinets, John just looked at, as if my request did not even deserve a response.

Last week I had to run to the local hardware for something or other and found some sweet LED lights that are battery operated and push button! YAY!  Accent lighting coming right up!  $5.99 for 3 lights and $11 for a jillion triple A batteries.  A slightly cheap sticky backing, but whatever, they are not visible unless you are Pierre's height...1 foot 3 inches tall.

Decent accent lighting for $2.  Really great wine too (Slightly more than $2)! 

15 January 2012

Brioche; Step 1

I mixed up my Brioche dough according to directions and her is my dough in action:

The dough is now wrapped snug in the refrigerator in it's buttered bowl with a tight wrap of plastic!  looking forward to letting it rise in the morning and baking!  Looking forward to seeing your brioche too!  

14 January 2012

Attempting Brioche....wanna join me?

Each French cookbook I purchase, every French or French inspired bakery I visit, I am thinking about Brioche.  I had one EVERY morning in France (occasionally I bought a couple extra for a midnight snack too) and have never found a very tasty one in America.

It's snowing, I NEED to have some fabulous carbs to get me through January.  I have the pans (always had the intention) and now I'm going for it!  Here is my first attempt at Brioche via "The Art Of French Baking" by  Ginette Mathiot.  Since Brioche takes at least an overnight rest, this post will span a couple days.

Want to bake along with me?  I would love to see your comments and photos, please include a link!  Here is the recipe I'm using and I'll see you tomorrow with crumbs on my chin!

recipe courtesy of Ginette Mathiot

1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons milk, lukewarm
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened + extra for greasing pans
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup superfine sugar (NOT POWDERED)

( note; the intro to this chapter specifically states dough must rest overnight and ingredients should be very cold, yet the recipe directions contradict this.  So I am going to proof my yeast in the warm milk, use cold eggs and mix the dough to glossy.  Then I will let the dough rest overnight in the fridge and finish according to directions)

Dissolve the yeast in milk.  Grease an 8 inch Brioche mold, deep cake pan or muffin pans with butter.  Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, 3 eggs, salt, butter and sugar.  Mix by hand for 10 minutes or by machine set on slow speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is glossy and elastic.  (I'm going to use the kitchen aid mixer with dough hook.  Then I will place in buttered bowl and let rest in fridge overnight)

Place dough in greased pans, cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for 3-4 hours.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Beat the remaining egg and brush gently over the brioche to glaze, then bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and the pan sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

GOOD LUCK! Can't wait to see yours too!

(PS I am going to start this on Sunday night and bake Monday...)

Beautiful Olives

How beautiful is this?  John, Jamie, Pierre and I had so much fun tasting some new-to-us varieties of olives!  A wonderful way to spend an hour with my family...


12 January 2012

Tomato Basil Appetizer Pizza

It was years ago when I last attended a "home" party for kitchenware.  I still have lots of their stoneware baking pans that I love!  At one such party, the hostess made an appetizer pizza that was fantastic!  I am not the sort to buy doughs in a tube (John DOES love Grands biscuits however...) so I adjusted the recipe to fit my kitchen and it's a winner!  I've included my favorite pizza crust recipe, but you could substitute any that you prefer (including one from a tube, I won't tell!).

While I namely make my own mayonnaise, for this recipe you will want a purchased variety, the homemade just doesn't have all the weird stabilizing ingredients the jar stuff has.  This recipe fits about a 13X15 baking pan, or maybe a bit larger.


1 cup hot water
1 Tablespoon instant yeast (if using dry active, proof yeast in water first)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2- 3 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour (I've successfully used 1/2 whole wheat 1/2 white flours, anymore than that and the crust was a bit too tough for our liking)

Throw everything into mixing bowl and use dough hook on low speed for about 4 minutes, add additional flour until a smooth, glossy dough is achieved.  Let rise about 15 minutes until nearly double.  Punch down dough and roll directly onto lightly greased baking sheet.

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
2/3 cups mayonnaise
1-2 cloves minced garlic
6 small or 4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
3-4 Tablespoons fresh basil, thinly slice the leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle the prepared, uncooked pizza crust with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Place tomato slices evenly over entire pizza on top of the mozzarella cheese. 

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic and basil and mix well.  Add remaining cup of mozzarella cheese and parm cheese.  Blend until combined (will be clumpy and thick).  Drop evenly on top of tomatoes and carefully spread to cover.  This will be a bit difficult, but looks won't matter once it's cooked.

Bake 15-20 minutes until top is lightly browned and cheese is bubbly!  Cut into small diamonds and enjoy! 

New Plum Bedroom Paint

Last year (seems odd to say that on only January 12) I decided I needed to repaint my bedroom.  I loved the green, but the color was a bit (more than a bit) out of date and I just needed something different to be quite honest.

John and I had our 1950's ranch home remodeled in 2001-2.  We changed the layout from a typical 3 bed 1 bath to a 4 bed 2 bath and 1st floor laundry.  We changed the layout and added about 800 square feet.  Our children were just 14,12 and 9, so the timing was perfect.  I chose to keep the same bedroom, but had a larger window installed and a small walk-in closet.  At that time, I also had the builder add crown molding to the ceiling, which is painted a glossy white to match all the trim throughout the house.

While I love looking at design magazines, an all white house just isn't for me.  I'm trying to like the grays that are popular now, but I just really prefer full blown saturated colors.  Our slice of SE Michigan tends to have more than it's fair share of cloudy days, so for me, the gray paints just echo that feeling of drab.  I'm not big on lots of "stuff", I tend to trip on rugs and hate open cabinets.  (I would have to dust everything before each use with open cabinets! UGH) 

I have been so happy with having wall sconces with a dimmer added in my bedroom to eliminate the need for lamps.  Because of our layout, I knew I wouldn't be moving the bedroom furniture until all the kids moved out and could always put the dresser between the sconces and it would still look decent.  It also keeps valuable floor space available as our bedroom only measures 12X15.

My bedroom dresser and side tables are cherry with brass fixtures.....had to work with that.  Many wall colors looked really putrid with the cherry.

I knew I wanted to do a shade of plum, yet that was harder to choose than I thought!  Most shades that appeared "plum" were garish purples and orchids once I got them home.
I finally went with a color called "Chocolate Raspberry"- how can that be "plum"?  It was exactly what I wanted!  A neutral/brown undertone, rich, deep color, yet restful and soothing.  I decided to go with black accents, curtain rods, picture frames etc. that sort of tone down the plum.

I had a bit of good luck when I stopped at the neighborhood hardware store and found these cool wall plaques that were a tarnished brass look actually designed as garden decor.  I scooped up 4 different styles and hung them on each side of the dresser mirror to tone down and echo the dresser handles.

I had trouble with the bedding.  Most styles were too contemporary to go with the furniture, or too white to hold up to 2 cats, a dog and people that make chocolate at work!  I settled on this comforter "set" that I don't love, but works great until I find one that I love.  The plum is here for the long haul, so there is no rush!

I added a rattan cube that adds some storage for extra blankets and a great place to store things off the floor.  (Pierre uses it as a boost to jump on the bed too!)  I bought an ugly picture at the flea market in a great frame for $5 and swapped out a piece of a reproduction Van Gogh which adds a great splash of yellow to all the plum!  While my goal is always original art, this French scene over my bed is lovely to me.  I like it's darkish muted colors and dreamy focus.


I still haven't found curtain panels I want, so I've just left some white sheers until I do.  I also really liked these wrought iron curtain rod & ends.  It gives a bit of architectural interest in an otherwise boring location.    I'm thinking of have some big, floor length curtains made, similar to some in the apartment in Paris we stayed.  I would like a beige-y pin stripe fabric with pinch pleats on top and possibly wrought iron exposed hooks or circles.  A little sheen to the fabric might be great too. 

I'm shocked at the neutrality of the plum.  I love it with yellows, blues, greens and even orange, looks great as an accent color.

Now that the holidays are over, I will have a bit of time to visit some unusual spots for vintage finds and great decor items to bring the whole room together!  

09 January 2012

Shepards Pie, er, Cottage Pie, er, Hot Pie?

A few months ago, I saw the best looking tiny pies topped with sliced potatoes in Martha Stewart's magazine.  When I dug out the recipe, I realized the filling was not what I had in mind, so I got creative! 

I made a traditional "Shepards Pie" filling, which is apparently truly "Cottage Pie", since I used ground beef instead of lamb.  (Gina explained all of these things to me during our Sunday cooking conversations!)  Then I decided to do the fancy sliced potato top instead of mashed potatoes and was informed it's now a "Hot Pie"! 

So I would love for all of you English folks to chime in as to WHAT this recipe should be named!

1 small onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
4-5 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound ground beef
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 cups beef stock
1+ teaspoon flour to thicken sauce if necessary
1 russet or red potato per dish, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saute pan, bring butter and oil to medium heat and add onions.  Allow to caramelize about 15 minutes.  When browned stir in brown sugar, vinegar, rosemary and worchestershire sauce.  Add ground beef and break into small chunks.  Cook until meat is mostly browned then add carrots, wine and stock.  Turn heat to simmer and cook about 15 minutes until carrots are just barely fork tender.  (You could also add frozen peas at this point, but I was fresh out!)

I added about a teaspoon of flour to thicken up the sauce at this point, but you may not want or need to do that, based on your preference.

Fill each ramekin 3/4 of the way full and fan out the potato on top into a nice pattern.  Brush with a bit of olive oil.  Place in oven and bake about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool about 8 minutes.

I served this dish with a green salad and some lovely parker house rolls that I had in the freezer!  Perfect English supper...if a bit un-traditional! 

Sorry about the lack of photos during the process...we had company, John cleaning our cacao bean crusher "Crankenstein", our daughter, Gina, on the phone and Pierre dancing around the kitchen!


06 January 2012


It's only January 6 and already changes are rolling along in our household! Our Julia works and goes to the community college in Ann Arbor and just moved into her first official apartment!

Julia has held a prime piece of real estate in this household since the remodel of 2001-2.  It is going to turn into my "Project Room".  Note that I did not say "office" or "workspace", that is because I have no real intention of doing serious work in this room.  I intend to create a cookbook, frame pictures, paint watercolors (which I am terrible at), learn more about coffee roasting and do lots of daydreaming in my own little space with a south window overlooking my hollyhocks.  Hence;  projects.... fun projects.  

We painted her room last summer (the lime green was making me crazy) a lovely "coffee with cream" color, and kept the bamboo roman shades and white trim.  Now I'm looking at some fun accent colors!

http://www.design-seeds.com/   I'm loving this site, since it gives me color combination ideas that I wouldn't have thought about!  I'm loving the blues!  I also went to the design-seeds website and did a color search with their funky little "color value" bars.  This way I created the color I had already painted and it automatically took me to palettes that contained that color!  Genius!  I am so in love with this palette:

I LOVE all of the options here and can't wait to get started! 

I have a bit more cleaning to tackle before photographs, and some rearranging of furniture.  Hopefully I can share some "projects" with you soon!