Friday, November 29, 2013

Foodie Friday------Matzo Ball Soup for Hanukkah

Hanukkah began on the eve of November 27th this year. Many families celebrated "thanksgivukkah," as Thanksgiving is celebrated the day after the first Hanukkah calendars are lit on Wednesday.  The merging of these two holidays will not happen again for another 77,798 years.

In honor of Hanukkah I decided for Foodie Friday to feature a delicious recipe for Matzo Ball Soup. I found this recipe on the Food Network website and decided to make it for my brother-in-law. He gave me rave reviews so I thought I would share this recipe with all of you. The combination of fresh herbs and vegetables resulted in an absolutely delicious broth that could be used as a base for other soups as well. My photo reflects a more tomato broth  look because I added extra tomatoes. Usually the soup will look more like a chicken broth. (

Wishing you wonderful weekend and a Happy Hanukkah--Lance and Patty!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #4 DIY---Christmas Ornaments

I can't believe this is Week #4 of my Countdown to Christmas DIY projects. This week I am featuring some Martha Stewart Adhesive Stencils that we used to decorate clear ornaments. Along with the purchase of the stencils, I also bought several colors of stencil paint, and small spouncers for paint application. Tiny items like jingle bells, gingerbread men, and snowflakes were added for a little added interest to the inside of each ornament. A pretty red ribbon, tied in a bow was added with a loop at the top for hanging on the tree.

The photo below features a "Merry Christmas" ornament that my 18 year old niece created during our evening crafting. She did a lovely job laying out the stencil and applying the paint with a spouncer. She also crafted two other ornaments, one for herself and a matching one for her boyfriend for a Christmas gift.  She monogrammed one side with each of their initials and then stenciled a Christmas design on the other side. They turned out so beautiful. I am sure he will love her very special gift from the heart!

This is such a fun and easy craft for children and adults gathered around the family table. It is an inexpensive gift that may be personalized for that special someone on your Christmas gift list or just make one for your own tree.

Happy painting!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks For Family and Friends!

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we are in full preparation mode. My husband and I arrived in WNY safely. We drove through just a few bouts of snow flurries and ice in the usual areas, the Southern Tier, Syracuse and Rochester. Nothing like the snow we witnessed as kids growing up in WNY. Sure hope those days are behind us when the snow is up to the my Mom's clothesline!

My mother has much of the preparation under control. Her lists were made a long time ago and everything is purchased except those last minute food items with a short shelf life. I think she has been baking for her grandchildren and children for months making everything we all LOVE for the holidays.

The flights bringing all of the grandchildren home start today and continue into Thanksgiving morning. A full house by noon on Thanksgiving more quiet moments, just laughter, great food and wonderful new memories to be created.

I am thankful for our families and the fact we will be able to see most of  my husband's family and my entire family. We will be together for our celebrations of Thanksmas-----one Thanksgiving dinner and two Christmas dinners all in one weekend..........whew! We may have to jog back to New Jersey after consuming all of the goodies!

As we approach Thanksgiving, we would like to wish all of you a safe and blessed holiday!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Foodie Friday---Delicious and Beautiful Taste of Christmas Trifle--sure to WOW your guests!

I am a big fan of trifles. They are easy and the ingredients seem to meld together nicely for combinations that suit all seasons. They are a simple and beautiful if you are looking for that extra WOW for any dessert. I came across this recipe that was so pretty and festive I just had to make it.

It is called the "Taste of Christmas Trifle" and I found this in a 2011 Southern Lady Holidays magazine.

Gingerbread Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick baking spray with
flour. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, and spray again; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, and molasses Add egg and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom allspice, and salt. Add flour mixture to oil mixture, whisking until combined.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil; remove from heat, and add baking soda. Add hot water mixture to batter; whisk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.


2 (10.oz.) packages frozen cranberries, thawed
3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 (12 oz.) can pear nectar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine cranberries, pears, nectar, sugars and vanilla. Cook over medium-
high heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat;
cool to room temperature. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved

In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar, zest, and reserved vanilla bean seeds at medium-speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Gingerbread Cake, cut into 1 inch cubes, divided
2 (12.25 oz.) jars caramel topping, divided
Cranberry-Pear Compote, divided
Orange Crème, divided
Garnish: sugared cranberries, sugared rosemary

In a large trifle dish, layer half of the cake cubes,  jar of caramel topping, half of the Cranberry-Pear
compote, and half of the Orange Crème. Repeat layers, garnish with sugared cranberries and sugared
rosemary, if desired. (I used only the cranberries, but dipping the rosemary and cranberries in sugar prior to decorating gives a snowlike shimmer.) Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful and delicious trifle. It is sure to WOW your family and guests during this holiday season!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #3 DIY---Holiday Gifts

I love giving unexpected gifts at Christmas time. There are so many people that make our lives easier through the year we try to remember most of them with some token that lets them know how much we appreciate what they do for us. For instance, we have a new mailman this year who has been awesome, our trash and recycle people I feel are forgotten. They pick up our trash at 6:30 a.m. whether it is raining or snowing, they are here. Our little neighbor girl, is just a life saver when it comes to watering our plants while we are away on vacation. Our priests who are some of the
busiest, kindest men. And the list goes on.

This year Santa's helper stopped by to help me with my gift making. Our youngest daughter was in town and she loves Christmas anything! We decided to make a delicious recipe from Martha Stewart for the Hot Cocoa Mix.  and to make up our own concoction for beautiful little Candy Cane Marshmallows for dipping.

The homemade hot chocolate mix yields 5 3/4 cups of cocoa. We were able to find some adorable small lidded jars for the cocoa and cute mugs in the Dollar General. I should be able to make about 6 gifts from this mix.

For the marshmallows we melted 1 bar of Ghirardelli's dark chocolate, crushed up some candy canes, stuck the end of the candy cane in a marshmallow and then dipped them in the chocolate. We cooled them on parchment paper. So easy!

I also thought a nice Chai tea mix would be delightful for winter days and nights, and maybe a bit more mature for some of the people on our gift list.

Whatever you decide to do for those on your list.....whether you prefer to buy a little something, make it yourself or write a simple note of "thanks" on a beautiful card. The idea of showing your appreciation to those people that make our lives a little easier during the year is a wonderful act of kindness.........that comes from the heart!

I hope you have enjoyed this quick and easy idea for those on your list. Happy gifting!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Foodie Friday----Delicious Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprout Gratin--Great side dish for Thanksgiving!

Do you cook Thanksgiving dinner every year or is it your turn to bring a side dish? My mother cooks our family Thanksgiving dinner. My sister usually brings a side dish to contribute. I am in charge of the tablescape. The entire family loves Mom's menu the way it is, so according to the kids, no changes are allowed.

It is a different story at our house. The girls are all home for Christmas and prefer a turkey dinner then also. There are certain things the girls don't want changed, but the vegetable at our house is not one of them, so I can experiment........which they know I love to do! At holiday time I tend to make more decadent dishes, hence this has a good amount of heavy cream in it!! Remember, everything in moderation.

I came across this recipe that uses Brussels Sprout in a gratin and it sounded delish. Is it Brussel or Brussels???????........

WIKI says The Brussels sprout is a cultivar in the Gemmifera group of cabbages, grown for its edible buds. The leafy green vegetables are typically 2.5–4 cm in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated there.

Now that we have that cleared up........this dish is a creamy, almost sweet tasting twist on plain old Brussels Sprout.  It is quick, easy and really quite delicious. I think I will be making it for our Christmas dinner this year. The nice thing about this dish is that the preparation is pretty simple and can be used for a casual dinner or a more formal dinner party as well.


1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 large shallots, halved
(Use a food processor fitted with a cling blade, slice the Brussels sprouts and shallots.)
4 tbs. unsalted butter
Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 1/4 oz. (1 1/4 cups) finely grated Gruyere
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3/4 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I used a quiche dish for a prettier presentation.)
Serves 6-8

In a 12 inch skillet melt the butter. Continue to cook the butter until it begins to brown and smell
nutty. Set aside 1 Tbs. of the browned butter in a medium bowl.
Add the Brussels sprouts, shallots, 2 tsp. slat, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the pan and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts and shallots begin to soften and brown in spots, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, Gruyere, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Heat until the cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Do not boil.
Add the sauce to the Brussels sprouts, stirring to combine and pour into your baking dish.

Add the panko, Parmigiano, rosemary and a pinch of salt to the reserved butter and mix
thoroughly. Top the sprout mixture with the panko mixture.

Bake until the crumbs are browned and the Brussels sprouts are tender 10-15 minutes.
**Recipe from Fine Cooking

Please let me know if you make the recipe and what you think. I would love to hear from you!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #2---DIY Duster Wreath

Welcome to the second posting for Countdown to Christmas- Everything DIY.  For the next six Wednesdays I will be posting some quick and easy ideas to encourage your inner foodie, decorator, and "gift giver." Today I am posting something that my youngest daughter and I made over the weekend.
When I saw the idea, I said to my daughter, "I thought of you because you are my vintage girl. What do you think?" She really liked it, hence today's project.

Welcome to Week #2- Duster Wreath


1.  6 boxes of dusters at Dollar General
2.  1- pipe cleaner is needed to hang the wreath--I had a white one on hand.
3.  1-coat hanger
4.  Ribbon of choice for bow


Step 1-Unfold the hanger making a round circle open ended.
Step 2-Slide open the end of  a duster and slide onto the wire until the complete circle is filled.
Step 3-Wind the 2 open ends together.
Step 4-Locate top of wreath and form a loop with the pipe cleaner, attaching it to the coat hanger frame--this will enable you to hang the wreath
Step 5-Make bow in ribbon of your choice color and attach.


*$5.00 for dusters
*$2.00 for ribbon

I hope you have enjoyed this DIY segment. Sometimes the simplest materials have the most beautiful
See you on Foodie Friday!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Festival Fun!

 A few weeks ago when my husband and I toured the Cranberry Bogs in Chatsworth, NJ, we also attended the 30th Annual Cranberry Festival.  Local artists and craftsmen were on hand to sell their delicious foods and beautiful handiwork. We had no idea the festival was so large!

Since we were at the "Cranberry" festival we took full advantage of sampling everything cranberry! We had Cranberry Chili, Cranberry wine and Cranberry ice cream. They were all surprisingly delicious! 
The Whitehorse Cafe  was a roped off area filled with crowds of vendors, people and music. Everything from crab cakes to sausage and peppers......they had it all.

If you love a good festival, full of craftsmen, food and may want to add the Cranberry Festival to your 2014 calender. It is worth the trip!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Foodie Friday--YUMMY Apple Crostata

This week we had friends in visiting from out of town for lunch at our house. I haven't held a luncheon in quite some time. My lunch skills were a bit rusty so I starting browsing for ideas. Since it is Fall, my first thoughts gravitated to a nice warm soup, something hearty. Our friends were headed to a soccer game after they left our house, so they needed something to hold them over because they would most likely be having a late dinner.

I came across a recipe that my husband and I both love for soup; Ellie Krieger's Beef & Mushroom Barley. (see link below) At first, I thought a nice warm sandwich would be a good accompaniment to the soup, however, the idea was to visit and catch up with our friends, not stand at the stove top. I had to keep things easy. I quickly changed my mind and searched for a tasty side salad. I came across an easy Ina Garten recipe for Orzo with Roasted Vegetables that I could make ahead. I added a sliced Ciabatta baquette and dessert. Again, using Ina Garten and her Apple Crostata recipe for dessert completed the meal. (see link below)

 Ellie Krieger-(The Food You Crave fromCookbook --,

Ina Garten-Barefoot Contessa Parties Cookbook (

I have never made a Crostata before. I have made pies for years, but not a Crostata.  A Crostata is an Italian baked tart in the form of a pie. It is actually quite easy. I have included a set of visual steps below for you. I was a bit rusty with my pie crust skills. Next time I would like my disk shape to be more perfect.......without the little tears in it. Darn tears!

Apparently, tears weren't a problem----I passed the tasty test. Both my husband and our guests all seemed to enjoy the Crostata very much!

My Crostata is displayed on a beautiful platter that was a gift from my husband's nephew, and family from Brazil. It is simply gorgeous----I love the detail!

Since apples are so plentiful right now why not give the Apple Crostata a try? It is easy and so delicious warm!  Some say a bit of whip cream OR vanilla ice cream might complete the package!

I hope you enjoyed this Foodie Friday segment. Now go practice up on those pie skills to impress your family and friends. Please share a photo with us if you decide to make one yourself.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Countdown to Christmas-Everything DIY-Week #1

Welcome to the first posting for Countdown to Christmas- Everything DIY.  For the next seven Wednesdays I will be posting some quick and easy ideas to encourage your inner foodie, decorator, and "gift giver."
Welcome to Week #1-
Making jam is such an easy and rewarding process. It makes great holiday gifts for teachers, mail delivery people, the list is endless. Who doesn't like jam? It is a nice token of "just thinking of you" OR "thank you so much" OR just "Happy Holidays." Accompanied with a jam spoon tied to the side OR wrapped in a beautiful linen towel OR in a gift bag wrapped with a nice piece of Brie. What a  great gift at holiday time.

My oldest daughter happened to stop over when I was beginning to make the jam. I used to make jams and jellies when the girls were little. I guess I never taught them how to make it, because of the safety factor. Working with the boiling mixture and sterilizing jars, in my opinion, is not a good combination for a child. Labeling and wrapping is fun though!

We had a great time making our first jam together........another memory created!

The recipe for Christmas Jam is as follows:


3 cups cranberries
1 orange, peeled and seeded
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 (10 oz.) package frozen strawberries, slightly thawed
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 (3 oz.) packet liquid fruit pectin


  • Combine cranberries (WASH cranberries--PHOTO #1) and sections of seeded orange in a food processor. (PHOTO#2)
  • Pulse until coarsely chopped. 
  • Add strawberries, zest , cloves and cinnamon.
  • Continue processing until finely chopped, but not pureed. (PHOTO #3)
  • Stir together fruit mixture, sugar, and water in a large saucepan. (PHOTO#4)
  • Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.
  • Increase heat to high and bring mixture to a full rolling boil.
  • Stir in the pectin (PHOTO#5)
  • Stir constantly, bring to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. (PHOTO#6)
  • Remove from heat and skim off foam. (PHOTO #6-also)
  • Immediately pour into sterilized #11--4 oz. jam jars (PHOTO#7 & 8) or jar size of your choice leaving 1/4 inch space on top.
  • Carefully wipe clean rims of jars with a damp cloth. 
  • Place lids on jars and screw on bands just until snug.  (PHOTO#9)
  • Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
  • Carefully remove from water bath and cool away from drafts until jars seal. You will hear them pop when they are sealed.

I had some adhesive backed ribbon left-over from Christmas last year so I wrapped just the edge
of the lid with the ribbon. My daughter hand-wrote the labels for me.

I have used a pretty Christmas printed fabric cutting the edge with a pinking shears into a square. Place the fabric over top of the seal and then screw the ring on. I have also used computer
produced labels which can be made a bit fancier than what I chose. There are tons of ways to create pretty creative yourself and personalize your gift.

I hope you enjoyed the first segment of Countdown to Christmas- Everything DIY! Now get busy and make some jam for the special people in your life!

See you Foodie Friday!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Ralph Lauren Inspired Powder Room Renovation

Despite a Powder Room being a first floor basic necessity in a home, it also holds a great importance as far as first impressions to your guests. I feel the décor should be a step up from other parts of the home. I want my guests to feel a warm welcome that makes them feel special, and I always add a touch of something shiny for a little elegance. If there is any room that you can add a bit of elegance to, it is the Powder Room.....kind of like when you add that statement piece of jewelry to your favorite outfit!

The following are the photos of the Powder Room BEFORE we purchased our home:

The floor is a dark green marble, original with the house. Two tiered decorative crown moulding and  a 5inch baseboard gave us a nice start to our renovation. We removed the wall cabinet over the toilet, took down the chair moulding, mirror, light fixture and toilet paper and towel fixtures and started with a clean slate.

Powder Room AFTER

I love wallpaper in my Powder Rooms.  Shine, texture and a beautiful pattern set such a lovely tone. I always gravitate to the colors and textures that coordinate with the rest of our home of course. I found this beautiful "Ralph Lauren" inspired wallpaper and coordinated everything else based upon this selection.

The double crown moulding, all base trim and inside of the door was painted a dark brown to compliment the paper.  The ceiling was painted a beautiful lighter version of the background of the wallpaper so the layers of color all blended well in such a small area, adding a little drama to the room.

The marble floors were cleaned and honed. I added a new mirror, light fixture, and towel and toilet rings. I found the mirror at Home Depot. The frame was quite dark and plain. I added some gold paint by dry brushing it on the raised pattern. This gave the mirror a bit of a rustic look and also made the beautiful raised floral design more pronounced.

The original gold faucets were in good condition, coordinated well, and so I decided to keep them. They add a nice shiny touch and compliment my wallpaper choice. I kept the décor ie; wall placque and accessories simple carrying the "Ralph Lauren" theme throughout. I lastly added a beautiful monogramed towel from Horchow. A nice touch for guests.

I hope you have enjoyed this segment of our Powder Room Renovation. I would love to hear your ideas for Powder Rooms and if you have photos, please feel free to share those as well.

Wednesday starts my COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS DIY IDEAS. I will be sharing "7" weeks of DIY projects. I will focus on holiday décor, special holiday foods, and gift ideas. I hope you will join me for all of the fun!

See you Wednesday..........


Friday, November 1, 2013

Chilly Weather Soup!

It's a chilly day today, and the leaves are falling quickly. So far the splendor of the usual Fall color has been a subtle change. Not like last years burst of loveliness. The burning bush and the Maple trees are just now beginning to show their beautiful color. I am waiting for that explosion that lights up our yard........soon, very soon!

Nothing says FALL like a nice bowl of soup! It feels like a soup day today. My favorites are the meatless soups full of veggies. On the other hand, my husband would like a nice chili or beef stew.
Maybe I will make that next week for him.

Today I had a butternut squash staring at me in my veggie basket, so I decided to make our favorite Curried Butternut Squash Soup, from Ellie Krieger. As usual with Ellie's recipes, it's a nice light soup, not calorie laden but packed full of butternut flavor and lots of nutrients. And has the added bonus of being quick and simple!

I am going to add my version of a Grilled Cheese sandwich with this for dinner tonight. Ron and I  both are quesadilla fans so I always have some whole wheat tortillas in the freezer. We experiment with all kinds of ingredients to change up the flavor.  Since it is fresh apple time right now, I layer a thinly sliced apple of any kind, and 2 slices of cheddar cheese in between the tortillas. I grill it just enough to make the cheese gooey and soft. It is so delish and easy, and what a quick dinner. A little twist on the Soup & Sandwich days.

Click on this link for the soup recipe:

I hope you have enjoyed this quick Fall dinner idea. Our meals don't have to be complicated, costly or time consuming to eat healthy. Why not give this a try.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend.........and REMEMBER Daylight Savings Time Ends November 3rd and time falls back one an extra hour to do whatever makes you happy!