Tablescapes

Spooky Fun

HalloweenThe days around Halloween are my favorite when it comes to table tops.  There’s just so much fun stuff with which to work.

Halloween tablescapeWitches see the light of day

IMG_2371and spiders and bats come out to play.

DSC01659Black dishes never work better

DSC01656and long stemmed goblets are perfect for witches’ brew.

Napkins are folded just so to make  a pocket for flatware, too.

DSC01662Witches shoes are pointed and curled reminding if the shoe fits…….I don’t like the looks of this one so think I’ll wait for a prince to come along with a better choice.

Halloween tableAnd while I’m waiting for his arrival, I’ll munch on a kettle of corn!

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Tablescape Thursday

Food, Recipes, Tablescapes

Foodie Adventure Revisited

Several of our Maine gourmet group joined us in Cortona for the April Foodie Adventure, so when we met for our first summer meal it seemed right to recreate some of what we made.

IMG_1487Setting the table to inspire memories of Italy was easy.  The centerpiece was a $3 find from the local Goodwill.

IMG_1488Clusters of red grapes repeated the look of the clusters on the candelabra.  Talk about an easy creation!

IMG_1394Dishes, each with a different Italian landscape and wine, bought some years ago at TJ Maxx completed the theme.

IMG_1393It’s hard to imagine a table coming together more quickly than this one.  With the plates having so much color and energy, there was no need for more than a simple background.

Now for the meal.  We prepared so many good dinners that it was hard to pick favorite dishes, but I finally decided on mozzarella with prosciutto and tomato confit for an appetizer and seafood pasta for the main course.  The appetizer was a big hit, and you might want to give it a try at your next Italian themed dinner gathering.

IMG_1400PROSCIUTTO BAKED BUFFALO MOZZARELLAWITH GARLIC & TOMATOES

2 T. olive oil

6 thin slices prosciutto

Tomato & Garlic Confit

6 6 oz. balls mozzarella

2 T. basil, coarsely chopped 

Brush the insides of small ovenproof ramekins with olive oil.  Line them with prosciutto, allowing some of it to extend to the top of the dish so it will crisp when baked.

Add 2 T. of the confit and top will a ball of the mozzarella.  Top with another tablespoon of the confit and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Tope with basil and serve with crisp crostini.

Tomato & Garlic Confit

10 plum tomatoes

5 T. olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion

4 large garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 t. sweet paprika

1/2 t. sugar.

Core and halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with 2 T. of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Heat 3 T. olive oil in a medium pan and sweat the onions for  2 minutes over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook briefly.  Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika and sugar.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Place the mixture in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

Note:  I suggest using only 1/2 mozzarella ball or 3-4 little ones as this is quite filling.  Also, when you bake be sure to put the dishes on a cookie sheet to avoid trashing your oven with grease from the prosciutto.  I wouldn’t let the meat overlap  the sides of the dish.

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Tablescape Thursday

 

Tablescapes

Done Right!

The hubby and I so look forward to our gourmet group gatherings both in Houston and Maine.  The hosts do such a great job menu planning and presenting the evening’s gourmet delights. Our recent gathering was no exception.

It’s the season for Mardi Gras celebrations which provided inspiration for the table festooned with gold, purple and green.

Each place was set with baubles and masks creating a festive atmosphere that defined the evening.

Every detail right down to the colors of the tulips was done right.

The hostess not only made a king cake, but she dipped oreo cookies in white chocolate and embellished them with sprinkles of Mardi Gras colors.  Each one of us was lucky to take a few home.

The table was so perfect we hated to mess it up and almost opted for eating the delicious dinner featuring jambalaya in the kitchen.

As I was snapping away, one of the fellas said there should be a photo of a person admiring the table.  Do you think it possible he was hoping to be featured on a blog post?

While I was so busy taking pictures, the rest of the gang was in the kitchen scarfing down the muffuletta stuffed eggs!  By the time I got there, only one had been saved for me.  That had to be a good sign that they were very tasty.

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Tablescapes

Festive Holiday Tables

It’s a fun time of year to visit stores to see what’s new for festive holiday tables.  Of course, that always makes me wish for new things which I’ve sworn off of, but that doesn’t mean the displays aren’t full of good ideas.  There were plenty in the lovely tables set at Crate & Barrel.

  Wood chargers are popular choices these days and work with a variety of looks.

Here they are combined  with other natural elements, real or not.  And take a look at the knitted table runner, a real eye catcher that made the table appear even more warm and cozy.  How I wish I were a competent knitter, but that not being the case I’ll be keeping an eye on the after Christmas sale!

Touches of whimsey are such fun.  How simple to add something like this cute little critter and make a table oh so playful.

Putting a little take away happy at each place is a great idea, no matter the time of year, for when friends are coming to dinner.  

There are so many different ways to create a festive table.  A little sparkle and shine dresses up any table whether it be by adding a glimmery napkin

or glistening tableware and sparkling accessories.

What every table had in common was multiple textures

and a centerpiece that allowed everyone to see and be seen.  As I studied each one and came away with some great ideas, it dawned on me that there are no rules for tablescaping. That’s what makes it such a wonderful opportunity to express one’s creative flair.

Have fun as you do your own festive table and don’t be shy about getting inspiration from other sources!

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Food, Tablescapes

Just the Two of Us

For the first time in several weeks, it’s just the hubby and me at home.  That means some relaxed moments on the porch enjoying the sunset over Rockport Harbor.  The days are getting shorter now, and the colors are deepening as summer begins to wane.

When it’s just the two of us, life is pretty simple.  Breakfast is a bowl of cereal or a smoothie or this time of year a blueberry muffin to go with coffee.  Lunch is whatever, maybe a sandwich, maybe hummus with crackers and cheese.  Nothing fancy for sure.

When it comes to dinner, it’s still simple, but a bit more effort goes into making it more than a stand up meal.  Always, there are flowers gathered from the garden or from the side of the road.

Whatever dishes are used are meant to complement the runner or placemats that are on the table.  This night they were from Dollar Tree which is a great place for picking up new pieces inexpensively.  No tears are shed when a plate gets broken!

It was a piece of cake to finish this table by adding accessories that repeated the colors in both the plates and the cloth.

As silly as my kids think it is, I always use cloth napkins.  Maybe it’s my contribution to saving trees and reducing what goes to the landfill!  Besides, it’s so easy to tuck them into a napkin ring which makes their presentation a bit more special.

So, that’s the table.  Now, what about dinner?  More often than not, we have seafood which is local and fresh. 

One of our favorites is scallops, likely to have been brought in from the sea that day.  They are at their best when seared quickly on each side to preserve their sweet goodness.  This night they were served over corn risotto with a simple green salad on the side.  It doesn’t get better than that!

So, there you have it, just the two of us enjoying a relaxed night at home with a few touches that make it seem a little special.

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Tablescapes, Travel

Some Things Aren’t Planned

ProvenceSome years ago, a daughter and I had one of those impulsive moments when we decided there was no better time to go to Provence than a couple of days later.  Excuse for such a whim was the need to exchange a pair of shoes which had been purchased months before.  Good enough, right?

As luck would have it, rather than the moderate winter weather we expected, it turned bitter cold and started snowing.  The result was like what happens in Houston when a few snowflakes fall. Traffic came to a screeching halt, 18 wheelers where slipping and sliding all over the road and what should have been a 45 minute drive was turning into an all day trip filled with tension.

As we inched along, I spied a sign reading FAIENCE with an arrow pointing to a nearby building.  That was all it took to get me off the road as at that point any diversion would be a welcome relief.

Of course, the shop was closed thanks to the inclement weather, but spying two desperate looking women parked in his driveway, the owner took pity and came out of his warm home to open his very cold workshop.

Oh, how the day did brighten as we wandered among his colorful and unique creations.

Whether out of gratitude or because I really liked his work I came away with four dinner plates and four salad plates no two of which were alike.  Not until we were underway again did I think about the challenge of getting them home without breakage.  So it is that every time the table is set with these dishes, each of which is undamaged, memories come flooding back of an impromptu adventure that had more than a few surprises.  

Oh, did we exchange the shoes? Let’s put it this way…..we tried!

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Food, Tablescapes

Mixing It Up

Until recently I never thought of using these vases on the table, but once they landed there they’ve inspired several settings.  The colors lend themselves to many options and it’s so easy to refresh the flowers.This time around a table runner with some of my favorite colors is the background.

With these pieces on the table, it was easy to add others for a simple at home dinner with friends. Perfect color matches are in these dishes from Target. 

Though I often mix and match, this time I’m sticking with the coordinating salad plates and adding a napkin that introduces a variation in pattern but is true to the color way.

That’s all there is to it.  In less than 10 minutes, the table is set made easy by what was already there.  That is why I rarely leave a table top bare, and it doesn’t bother me at all if the same pieces are used multiple times. It’s fun to see how many different looks can be created from the same elements.

This dinner was preceded by a busy day, and that’s when a slow cooker comes in real handy.  Not only does it provide the freedom needed to do other things, it fills the house with tantalizing aroma.  For sure that was the case with these Asian Style Short Ribs that you just might want to try.

Asian Style Short Ribs

6 lbs. short ribs

salt and ground pepper

3/4 t. 5 spice powder

1/4 c. each hoisin sauce and ketchup

2 T. rice vinegar

2 T. soy sauce

1 T. fish sauce

1 T. honey

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

1 T. minced fresh ginger

5 cloves mince garlic

Season the ribs with salt, pepper and 5 spice powder.  Brown on all sides in a multipurpose cooker or broil until nicely browned.

Mix together remaining ingredients and place all in the cooker being sure to coat the ribs well with the hoisin mix.  Cover and cook on the low setting for about 6 hours or until the meat is very tender.  If the ribs are boneless, cooking time will be less.

For serving, place the ribs in a bowl or on a plate and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.  Garnish with Italian parsley or cilantro and chopped roasted peanuts or cashews.

Serves 6

I can assure you there will be no leftovers!

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