Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Space for Guys...All Dolled Up!

Ahhh...the simple things that make a house a home. No, I’m not saying in need alcohol to survive my home. I am referring to the flowers! I love fresh flowers and I believe most people would agree they make a space inviting. 

As most men do, my husband treats his living spaces differently than mine, so, the rules of decor change when dealing with his areas. First, one has to decipher a way of fitting a TV into room and building everything around it. Which when thinking about the lines and the layout of the room is ridiculous to chart the course of the whole room off of the one awkward wall where the builder put the TV jack. But this is really neither here nor there. It is really about what are the little thing we can do to make these spaces presentable to anyone other than a house full of guys. 

Well, we start with the things they leave behind (i.e. whiskey bottles, golf balls and tees, shotgun shells). I have come to realize they really do not mind tchotchkes as long as they are their tchotchkes. Leading me precisely to filling a used Jack Daniels bottle with daisies. Other than the investment he already made this little arrangement could be virtually free if you have some nice blooms in your garden.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swimsuit Season Chicken and Fruit Salad

Salads have never been my thing, but with each year I seem to find myself reminded that they need to become my thing. I think when I was finally able to build salads the way I like them it changed my opinion. (Thank you Coolgreens!) I am not much of a fan of thick dressings like ranch; which is good because the creamy dressings tend to be loaded with calories anyway. Since I have sometimes found myself making supper for just me lately I took the liberty of creating a nice girly salad that I rather enjoyed from seasonal fruit and items already in my refrigerator. 

You will need: 
  • Chicken - 2 or 3 large thighs or a breast 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • Non-stick cooking spray or oil 
  • 1 T spicy mustard 
  • 1 clove minced garlic 
  • 2 T orange marmalde 
  • 1 T raspberry jam 
  • Greens - I used the lettuce, cabbage, carrot mix 
  • 2 T fat-free raspberry vinaigrette 
  • 1 T chipotle mayo 
  • Granny Smith apple 
  • Orange 

I prefer dark meat so I typically choose to use thighs, but chicken breast or tenders work great too. Heat your skillet to medium, spray with cooking spray and add your garlic. Remove the skin from the chicken if it is not trimmed. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste. Rub evenly with the spicy mustard, marmalade and jam. Lay the chicken and any excess wet ingredients in the skillet with the garlic. Cover and continue cooking about five minutes on each side. When the chicken has cooked through remove it to a covered plate. Reduce heat and add the vinaigrette and mayo to the remaining liquid. Mix thoroughly. Slice the apple and oranges into small chunks. Additionally, slice or chunk the chicken. After cutting the chicken return it to the dressing liquid just to coat. Toss the other ingredients together and plate them. Place the chicken on the salad and drizzle the liquid over the top. 

Minus a couple ingredients this is a really healthy meal and pretty filling too. This should make two decent sized portions, especially if you are serving soup or some other side. Even if you choose to eat the whole thing by yourself you will not blow through all your calories in one meal, unlike many restaurant salads. 

I mentioned this being a girly salad above, but really it has a nice blend of sweet, tart and spicy. I did give my husband a piece of the chicken and he did rather like it so it is weeknight dinner for two friendly. But I would say this is ideal for a ladies summertime lunch. Double, triple, etc. the recipe, place it in a big decorative salad bowl and it is a self serve dish that can be made ahead. And, Voila! Everyone will think you ordered in.

And I would like to send very Happy Birthday wishes to my Mom today!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Shop Your Closet - A Restyle Event from Formal to Cocktail

This pretty red dress has resided unworn in my closet, literally, since high school. I had more formal events then and for whatever reason this one was never worn. I have come close to giving it to prom dress drives multiple times and probably should have, but every time I would try it on it was flattering in a simple way...just enough that I wanted to hold onto it a bit longer. Finally, I was at a point of either it needed to go or stay, but not stay in its current state because that was what was limiting me from wearing it. 

I specifically needed a red cocktail dress. I liked the princess seaming, the corseted top and the back detail on the dress, so I decided to leave that alone. 

The tulle had to be removed form the under skirt. I have another project I can use this for so I ripped the seam and left the tulle intact. 

Something else that had to be done was deciding on a length and then cutting some fabric from the bottom of the dress. 

I began changing the shape of the skirt by measuring myself in three places below my waist. With each measurement I would place a pin into the dress where the horizontal measurement was taken. I then placed a piece of paper containing my measurement on each of those pins. (This would be easier with help, but this method works pretty well if you are on your own.) Next I measured the dress width at each of those points. Considering the dress is a slight ball-gown I expected to need to take in the seams significantly in some areas. By subtracting my measurements from the dress measurements I was able to divide that number by the four seams I would be working with and take the same amount from each. 

Voila! Though pinned, in this picture, you can clearly see the transformation. 

If you are trying this on your own and not thoroughly comfortable sewing you may try to do some of it yourself or mentally build an idea and take it to a seamstress for advice and help on restyling your garment. 

My intent was never to stop at a simple sheath. I had a design in mind I just wanted to avoid the time consuming efforts of constructing a corseted top with boning. So here is where I stopped with this dress, but again it is really up to you as to what direction you want to take your restyling event. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sometimes You Must Improvise With Last Minute Decorations

Last week I was co-chairing the decorations, on a very limited, non-profit budget, for a Red Cross event. A local florist, Tony Foss, was kind enough to donated two sizes and styles of floral arrangements. Our original intent was that certain arrangements were to be placed on certain tables, but once it was set up we knew the layout must change. It just did not look good that way. So the improvising began. The large arrangements were already lifted high into the air by large glass vases appearing as pedestals, which then made the small arrangements drown into the center of the table overshadowed by glasses and plates. One of the other ladies mentioned that she had some small glass vases so that we could raise the arrangements. The Skivin events staff and I began rummaging through the hurricanes and vases in their back room. We raised center pieces to various heights and they all looked lovely. However, as we were finishing we faced a new challenge. Three tables had two small centerpieces placed closely together to appear as one larger arrangement. Each piece included the flowers and a styrofoam floral block secured to a salad-sized plate. Because of the plate there was no getting around placing them on separate pedestals. In that case three is better than two, right? We placed three small cylinder vases side-by-side and set the plates on the outside vases. I then took a large ribbon and tied a pretty bow encompassing the vases, as you can see above. This allowed the vases to read as one oblong glass vase. It was a quick fix that looked beautifully with the other varieties of arrangements visible below.   

Placing flowers individually into each vase may work better for trying this idea at home. Try to fill the vases with large blooms like hydrangeas for a look that reads as one large arrangement or single stems will also look nice in sets of threes. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lemon Savannah Smiles Cheesecake

Lemon Chalet Cheesecake Act II 

I posted basically this same recipe last year, but then the Girl Scouts threw me for a loop by changing their long running cookie the Lemon Chalets to non-creme-filled Savannah Smiles. Who would have ever guessed the Lemon Chalets were due for an update? I remember selling them 20 years ago. So, when girls scouts sale you lemon cookies make lemon cheesecakes, right, even if it takes a few tweets to the recipe.   

This is the perfect summertime cheesecake. It is not heavy and melts in your mouth…Really, it does. I have served this at brunch; although, I think it would be very versatile for spring and summer from dinner parties to bridal brunches even cut into small square and served at informal get-togethers. 

What you will need: 

Crust Ingredients: 
  • 1 box coarsely ground Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies  
  • 3 Tbs. melted butter 
  • Dash of cinnamon sugar 

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients: 
  • 3 (8oz.) bricks Philadelphia fat free cream cheese 
  • 1 (8oz.) Philadelphia Indulgence white chocolate cream cheese 
  • 1 c. sugar 
  • ¼ c. lemon Jello pudding powder mix 
  • ½ c. sour cream 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 2 tsp. lemon squeeze 
  • 3/4 tsp. almond extract 
  • ½ of 1 zested lemon 
  • 1 lemon squeezed 

Place a sheet cake pan on the middle rack of the oven and preheat oven to 475 F. 

Wrap exterior of spring form pan with foil. Combine coarsely ground Savannah Smiles Girl Scout Cookies and butter. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of 9” round spring form pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. 

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon pudding powder and sour cream. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs one at a time while stirring slowly. Stir in lemon squeeze and almond extract. Reserve 1/2 cup of batter, and pour the rest of the batter into the prepared crust. 

Return the 1/2 cup of batter to the mixing bowl and add lemon zest and juice from one lemon. Mix until well blended. Pour layer over batter in spring form pan. Swirl down into batter. 

Carefully add water to sheet cake pan. Fill about ¾ of the way full. You want to create a water bath to help prevent your cheesecake from cracking. This creates a smooth texture by keeping in the moisture. 

Place spring form pan in water bath. Bake 12 minutes at 475 F, then turn down to 350 F and cook for about 50 minutes. Time will vary depending on oven. Remove. Cool. Chill in refrigerator over night. 

Garnish with a fresh lemon slice if desired. 

Serves: 12