Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year to All

I would like to thank all of my visitors to my blog a very special HAPPY NEW YEAR. I look forward to getting to know all of you better in the coming year and I continue to learn from so many of you from your photography skills, cooking skills, decorating, gardening and so much more. And of course, I couldn't forget those tablescape inspirations. So many of you have been such an inspiration to me and you make me a better person.

Have a safe and HAPPY NEW YEAR 


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lentil and Chickpea Soup

I have shared this recipe before but it is such a good recipe that I thought it should be repeated. This is a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Bottega Favorita by Frank Stitt. Frank Stitt is the chef and owner of Highlands Bar and Grill, Cafe' Bottega and Chez Fonfon restaurants, all located in Birmingham, Alabama. His first cookbook was Southern Tables which I highly recommend as well. I have never had the pleasure of dining at any of his restaurants but if his cookbooks are any indidcation of the wonderful food he serves than I feel quite certain that it is worth the effort if one is in that area of our country.

The recipe is easy and I always assemble my ingredients before beginning.

Lentil and Chickpea Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored,and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups de Puy lentils or brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained (not rinsed)
2 cups drained canned diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock

Leftover braised meat such as lamb or veal (optional)

Chopped mint, flat-leaf parsley, or chives or extra virgin Olive Oil for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown. 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions and saute' until they are tender but have not begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the parsley and coriander and stir for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the diced fennel, carrots, celery, and bell pepper and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, combine the lentils in a medium saucepan with water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a rolling boil. Drain lentils and set aside. (The cooking liquid can be reserved for another recipe or discarded; we don't use it here because it would muddy the soup. The lentils can be cooked in advance.)

Add the lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and stock or water to the vegetables. Add the meat, if using, and bring to a simmer. Simmer partially covered, over low heat for 45 minutes to 50 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Check the level of the liquid from time to time, replenishing it as necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with the fresh herbs or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and maybe a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

 Pared with some crusty bread and a good glass of red wine and you have the makings of a wonderful winter soup.

I generally top mine with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a little Truffle Oil to put it over the top.

I am joining Michael Lees West for her Foodie Friday blog party. To enjoy other recipes of participants click here.

The Queen of the Southern Garden

In many parts of the United States it is very cold and even here in North Florida it has dipped down into the teens. This time of year though we enjoy one of the most beautiful of blooms, the Camellia. There are so many different varieties that bloom at different times. Some are early bloomers, some mid and some late but in any case they are always enjoyed especially when it's cold when there is nothing else blooming.

This particular Camellia is one I just discovered last year and planted a plant as soon as I had seen it in a friends garden.

The name of this gorgeous Camellia is Frank Houser. I believe it is a fairly new hybrid and probably named after the hybridizer.

The size of it is just amazing and the color is a cherry red which goes well in my house anytime. It is almost the size of a salad plate.

I love placing these gorgeous blooms on my kitchen window sill because they make me smile every time I look at it.

Camellia's are semitropical evergreen trees or shrubs related to the tea plant. It is native to China and Japan. Many varieties of this plant are grown as ornamentals in the South and the Pacific Coast regions of the United States. The state of Alabama has adopted the Camellia as it's state flower and they will bloom from Winter into Spring. Our area is truly blessed to be able to grow this gorgeous plant and I have many in my Southern garden
 Today Susan at a Southern Daydreamer is hosting her blog party, Outdoor Wednesday and I haven't participated in this fun party in a long time. I thought today would be a good time to share one of our most prized ornamental plants, The Queen of the Southern Garden. To see other participants of Outdoor Wednesday you can click here. Thank you for visiting my blog and please do come again.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Most wonderful Christmas gift ever

My Christmas present that was the absolute best I could possibly receive was given to me by my daughter and her husband.

My daughter is thirty one years old, was married two years ago this March but she was feeling like she needed to have a baby ASAP if she was going to at all. Welllllllllllll, this Christmas morning they came over for breakfast and to open presents. We had finished opening presents and were just about to go in to breakfast when my daughter gave me another package. She told me, "Mom, I want you to open this but it is for both you and Dad." Now she had already told me that we would have the BEST Christmas ever from the two of them. So I opened the little package and it it was this.

She was right, it was the most wonderful Christmas gift I could possibly imagine. I have four beautiful grandchildren, two little girls of one sons and twin boys of my oldest sons and I feel so blessed but I truly am looking forward to this precious bundle of joy.

 When I opened that little box I cried, tears of joy as did son-in- laws Mom and Dad. They told them Christmas Eve in the same exact way. Both sets of parents are so very thrilled.

Today I am joining Marty at a Stroll Throught Life for her Table Top Tuesday-Anything Goes.   

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our first Family Christmas gathering

This past Monday evening we had our first family Christmas celebration. The whole family gathered since one of my sons and his family would not be here for Christmas. We exchanged Christmas presents among the grown ups and of course the two little grand daughters opened their presents from us. It was a happy time but also sad that they wouldn't be here for Christmas. A mixed bag of emotions.

The grown kidlets sat in the dining room. I use my Spode Christmas china from Thanksgiving day to Christmas.

My daughter put together our centerpiece for the table. Fresh greenery with a few red carnations and a few Christmas tree balls. Simple but yet I think elegant in a silver container.

I also mix in some of my silver birds into the center piece display.

I also set a children's table but GiGi and Grand Dad sat with the grandchildren.

The children's dinner ware came from Pottery Barn. I wanted to give them their special place settings.

Later we gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents.

Today I am joining Susan's blog party, Tablescape Thursday, at Between Naps on the Porch. To see other inspiring participants click here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Casual Dinner for two

We often dine at our Breakfast Room table in the evening and often it is fireside. Especially now since our temperatures have dropped to the 20's at night. We are having a chilly Christmas here in North Florida.

We didn't have a fire in the fireplace this partiuclar evening but do very often. This room adjoins our kitchen and I call it the Morning Room. We begin our days here reading the paper and often end our evenings here with a casual dinner.

I pull my Christmas china the day after Thanksgiving if not Thanksgiving night and we use it the whole month of December. I have always loved the Spode Christmas Tree pattern since it is the oldest Christmas pattern and I do have some unusual pieces.

The handled cream soups with their own little saucer are one of those hard to find pieces. I only have eight but would love to have twelve.

I love the old-fashioned look of this tree on the dinner plates. The place mats were a find at a local linen shop and are by April Cornel.

The plaid napkins are also by April Cornel. I particularly like the casualness of the holly print with the plaid. The gold tree napkin rings were a find from many years ago and the hotel silver is my everyday pattern.

Fitz & Floyd salt and pepper.

Just a note, You can click on to any of my photos to enlarge.

Today I am joining Susan's blog party, Tablescape Thursday at Between Naps on the Porch. To view other participants of this blog party you can click here. Thank you for visiting my blog and please do come again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weekend at St. George Island, FL

This past weekend my monthly dinner club for girlfriends decided to include spouses for a weekend at St. George Island, FL. It was cold but we had a perfect venue for dinner parties on Friday and Saturday evenings. There were ten couples and three of the couples had homes on the island so there was plenty of room for everyone. Needless to say it was a fun weekend spent with great food and fellowship.

This view of the bay on the island was shot from this gorgeous screened room below.

Isn't this the most amazing porch and notice the bed at the end of the porch. I would never leave this space it was so beautiful.

On Friday night  one of the other house hosts hosted the dinner party at this house where I stayed. This area of the home was below the screened porch I showed you above and it  was the most amazing outdoor kitchen I have ever seen. Also a wonderful area to do an outdoor dinner party.

A close up of the table centerpiece. The silver fish were so pretty and they just used some fresh greenery from around the outdoor landscape. It was lovely.

On Saturday night I was one of the co-hostesses and was asked to do appetizers and desserts. I brought a Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salsa and a Sun Fix Cheese Ball which is a recipe given to me by a friend. Of course, being so close to Christmas I used some of my Christmas bowls and platters.

I helped our hostess set up the table decor. She used black tablecloths with lots of different shells and her gorgeous candle holders.

I certainly cannot forget her gorgeous china, a Mottahedah pattern with shells all over it.

A close up of the centerpiece using black net underneath. On the longer table we made it very elongated.

Such a gorgeous home and a fun time to jump start the Christmas season with good friends.

Today I am joining Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for her Outdoor Wednesday blog party. Enjoy your day today and thank you so much for visiting my blog. Please do come again.