Happy first day of Spring! When we were in Copenhagen last week I was seeing pansies and spring plants everywhere. I was a little concerned that I might not find any pansies today, but I didn’t have to go far. Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk had me covered. The sun is shining and I need pansies for my planters.
We have tulips on our table and pansies on the porch. I don’t buy tulips all that often because I would only buy them in the Spring and they just don’t last that long. But when I saw these I knew I had to bring them home for my new Canyon Crock from Studio McGee.
Spring always makes me think of Spring Cleaning! There’s still ice and snow everywhere, but a little Spring cleaning was in order for the porch today. It’s amazing what a good broom and a bucket of hot soapy water will do for a porch. What this porch really needs is a power washing and some touch up paint, but that will have to wait a few more weeks. I even left the black runner because I’m not convinced we are done with winter here in Connecticut.
You know that quote from You’ve Got Mail where Joe Fox says, “Fall, it makes me want to buy school supplies.” Well that’s the way it is for me in the Spring–except, Spring always makes me want to buy cool new cleaning supplies like I have been pinning to my “Clean” Pinterest Board.
Easy Weeknight Soup is our answer to dinner in 5 minutes on a busy night. I love to cook on the weekends when we have a little extra time and then savor the benefit of a delicious bowl of soup after a long day. And no cooking involved other than re-heating. We sometimes serve with a little crusty fresh bread or on those nights when we don’t have fresh bread, I’ll take a few slices from the freezer and put them on the panini press for a couple of minutes. A little fresh grated Parmesan cheese and basil makes it seem like you’re not even eating leftovers.
All together there are 14 ingredients plus spices and vegetable broth. Seems like a lot, but at least half is stuff you probably already have in your pantry like beans, lentils and tomatoes.
What I love about this soup is that it’s healthy, but satisfying at the same time. I sometimes use MyPlate on Livestrong to track calories. Here’s another reason to love this soup. One serving is 329 calories! This soup has so many vegetables that I can even skip making a salad. We’ve served it with a scoop of Trader Joe’s brown rice which is another variation and still keeping it simple, but a little heartier with the rice.
adapted over the years from Giada DeLaurentis who calls this soup Spicy Bean Soup– I don’t like that name. In fact I would have never even made it the first time based on the name alone, but my husband did and we loved it. There are so many things other than beans that are fresh and colorful and healthy, so why call it Spicy Bean Soup? I mean, even chili doesn’t have bean in its title. We call it weeknight soup because we can make it and have it all week long served different ways.
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 Cloves Garlic, Chopped Small
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
12 ounces tomato juice
one Parmesan rind
8 cups vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans Cannellinni beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried French green lentils
3 cups broccoli florets
2 zucchini cut crosswise and cut into 1/2″ rounds
2 yellow crookneck squash cut crosswise into 1/2″ rounds
Freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh Basil chiffonade
To make: Heat the olive oil in a large pot like a Le Creuset and add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and red pepper and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until onions become translucent. Then add the chopped garlic and sauté for an additional two minutes. Add the chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano and crushed red pepper and stir together and cook for two minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, tomato juice and paste and the Parmesan cheese rind. Add the broth, beans, lentils and the rest of the vegetables and bring to a simmer on high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Pour into five 26-ounce containers and refrigerate or freeze.
Note: The original recipe calls for two teaspoon of salt– that seems like a lot. I leave out the salt, use low-sodium vegetable broth and no salt added diced tomatoes and we still feel like it is very flavorful.
We have had our chalkboard wall since we’ve owned this house. I’ve loved the idea even before having one. However, over the last few years I’ve sort of tired of the whole chalkboard thing. That was until I saw Amanda’s on Perfectly Imperfect Living. I had seen the checkerboard calendar idea on Martha Stewart for an office, but I never really thought about making our current wall into a checkerboard chalk wall. A few Saturdays ago I mentioned it to Brent without much reaction. Then a few hours later over lunch I showed him Amanda’s. Well, that was it. We went to our local paint store and chose four shades of Benjamin Moore black and gray from the paint chips. You can actually make any color you want in chalkboard paint now, but you probably already knew that! Of course I stuck with shades of gray and black because basically our entire house is black and white.
Once we decided on the size of the squares we wanted, Brent used a regular pencil and a yardstick to draw the lines. We then went back and numbered from one to four assigning each of our paints a number. Then he started taping. As soon as he was done with one color he removed the tape and waited until it was completely dry before taping the next set. The entire project from start to finish took about four hours. We used Benjamin Moore Chalkboard Paint, a new Purdy brush and green Frogtape. All together we spent just under $100. I think it is visually so much more interesting than just a plain black wall. Plus it’s fun to add things to the calendar. Of course we all use digital calendars, but there’s something about a calendar that’s right there in front of you.
Paint colors by Benjamin Moore: Raccoon Fur, Gray, Steel Wool, Black Beauty.
Sources & Supplies
Kitchen Island from Williams Sonoma – Ours is no longer available, but this one is similar.
Here is a simple project for diy Valentine art using lucite frames. I love these Lucite frames from Crate & Barrel. For the large piece I cut the watercolor paper to the right size (6 x 8) and then painted stripes. I usually paint and then cut the paper, but I wanted it to look like it was for this specific piece. For the small frame, I used a heart punch and cut out hearts creating tiny abstract hearts as you move around the paper. I’ve saved “love notes” from my kids over the years. These of course were from when they were tiny—and they make me so happy. So why not preserve them and frame them? Together they create a little Valentine art.
Paint stripes or an abstract on paper cut to fit the frame.
With the leftover scraps, cut out hearts using the punch. As you cut one row, cut the paper and start again moving and rotating the punch in different directions to create unique painted hearts like these.
These Lucite Frames come in several sizes and it takes about 2 seconds to frame a piece of art, notes, cards or photos. It’s easy to change them out and mix things up.
When Madeline was home over the holidays she was baking and cooking up a storm–and using things I typically don’t have on hand. Nothing fancy, but not stuff I generally use–almond butter was one of those items. I’m always reading labels and trying to use less processed foods. So when we first started using Almond butter we bought it. It’s expensive and processed, so I thought, why not make it? Have you tried making it? It’s super easy, but takes a lot of waiting time. I looked at quite a few recipes and then decided to trust this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. She soaks hers overnight and then gives them a quick rinse. She then instructs you to bake them overnight at a really low temperature. Once you have your dried out almonds, you’re all set to make almond butter. Everyone says you don’t have to use a food processor–yes, you do. I’ve never had a blender that could do this job. When you first pulse the almonds, it will give you a fright, it’s so loud! It takes several minutes and a few times scraping down the sides with a spatula, but then it starts to come together and before you know it, you have a ball of almond butter. See below.
To make 12 Healthy Cookies:
1 cup of almond butter
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 ripe bananas mashed with a fork
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the blueberries. Once everything is mixed, fold in the blueberries. Use a large ice cream scoop with a release to make 12 same size cookies. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They do not spread out so they can be fairly close together. You may want to press down with the bottom of a glass to flatten slightly. Bake at 275º for at least 15-18 minutes. It seems long, but they need extra time at a lower temperature so they do not burn. They are pretty dense. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack. When completely cool, wrap individually and store in refrigerator. They are so good with a little scoop of vanilla yogurt.
Almond Butter: We used a large bag of Almonds from Costco. We soaked them overnight and then in the morning we rinsed them and baked them at 150º for at least 8 hours. Once you have soaked, rinsed and baked, you’re all set to make almond butter.
I grew up where every holiday meant a Hallmark greeting card. There is nothing wrong with a store bought card, but why not make them? This year I saw that Dunkin Donuts has new premium teas and one called Hibiscus Kiss. I purchased a box and then got out my watercolor paints.
Once the paper was dry I went back and in some blank spaces added the Happy Valentine’s Day message. I used this pen in a very narrow tip kind of like I did here.
I use a fiskar’s paper cutter to trim the card and a heart punch to make watercolor hearts. Each one is unique. You can move the heart punch around the paper to create your little abstract painted heart.
Put a packet of Dunkin Donuts Hibiscus Kiss Tea, a watercolor note and some hearts in an envelope and send to your Valentine. I used envelopes that I already had and so each “card” was less than a dollar. Way less than a store bought card and you really put your heart into making them! Add an address label from tinyprints and a love stamp and pop them in the mail.
Honeycrisp Hasselback apples. Need I say more? Hasselback potaotes were my favorite, but now it’s Hasselback apples. We used Honeycrisp apples because we LOVE them. Granny Smith apples would be good too. We made individual ones in these cute Anchor Hockingmini pie dishes because everything is better when it’s in its own dish, right? Super easy to make and not so much of a recipe as much as a combination of ingredients. The amount of course depends on how many apples and how healthy you want them to be. So we took a less is more approach with the syrup, brown sugar and butter.
Place apples flat side down and carefully slice from side to side but not all the way through. You want the apples to stay intact. Your slices should not be too thin. You just want them to fan out a bit.
Place each in a dish flat side down. If using individual dishes, place dishes on a cookie sheet.
Prepare the glaze by combining 2-3 tablespoons of Maple syrup, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Whisk together and brush over each apple with a pastry brush. (Save any remaining to drizzle on after). Bake at 400º for 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the streusel topping by combining 3 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces. Add in 3 tablespoons of oats and about the same of dark brown sugar. Combine using a fork and sprinkle over each apple. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a little vanilla yogurt and a drizzle of the syrup mixture. They are really just baked apples, but on a snow day to have your house smelling like baked apples–pretty nice!
National Shortbread Day? Who knew that was a thing? I only know because I saw it on World Market’s Social Media this morning. We were hoping for a snow day or at least a delay, but no luck. Not enough snow.
Shortbread cookies are the easiest thing to make with just a few ingredients. Butter (obviously), sugar, flour, vanilla and a tiny bit of salt. I call these Lorna’s Shortbread cookies because my friend Lorna would always make the dough and shape it into long rectangles and carefully wrap in plastic wrap and then leave them in our freezer. Whenever someone came over I could take one out and slice and bake. They are perfect with a cup of tea. I think I’ll make these for my friends at Valentine’s Day, but instead of baking them I’ll give them just like Lorna left them in our freezer. That way they can make them whenever they feel like having a treat. They save for months if placed in a freezer bag. Here’s an old post that you can find here. You can also find the recipe here.
Make a DIY pomegranate bird feeder in just a few minutes. Madeline and I made ours with a few bruised pomegranates we had left over from the holidays. We see quite a few cardinals in our yard and I thought a bird feeder might make them stick around a little while longer. Now I realize we are probably feeding more squirrels than birds—but we are going to give it a try.
Slice the pomegranate in half and scoop out the flesh leaving a thick edge to support the cord or twine. Then pierce four holes about 1/2″ from the top with a sharp object. (we used the tip of a meat thermometer). String the cord through one hole to another and tie at the top. Repeat with the second two holes. Fill with bird seed, hang from a branch and wait for the birds to discover it. This post inspired by the Orange Bird Feeder my friend Sheri Silver made a few years ago. Thanks Sheri, you always inspire me!
If you’ve come over from our Serena & Lily Giveaway on Instagram–welcome! Here’s how I use my new South Seas Side Cart and keep reading to see how Brooke and Cait use theirs! Around the holidays I love to have people stop by–day or evening I can easily prepare a coffee or drink station with my new bar cart from Serena & Lily. Having a designated piece of furniture that can be moved from one room to another and not have to worry about clearing something off, makes it easy to quickly assemble for a gathering. I set up a coffee and tea bar using my nespresso for the coffee and a large S’well bottle holds hot water for tea. A few homemade goodies or even store bought treats from Trader Joe’s makes it festive. In a small house it’s easier to have drinks set up in one room and food on the kitchen island.
When I have bloggers over I use my custom stamps from Casey Rubber Stamps for a latte to go. It’s the little things.