A Garden Tour Of Chicago’s Tulips

The days of snow and frost are gone and everything around me is blooming. The trees once bear just weeks ago are now fully dressed in their bright green leaves. There is nothing that makes you appreciate spring more than a cold and snowy winter. There are some beautiful benefits to all those chilly Chicago days and I am reminded of that most  when the tulips begin to bloom. Tulips bulbs require freezing temperatures before they flower, so I only planted tulips once when I lived in Texas because they had to take up precious real estate in my refrigerator for several months before they were ready to plant.

Tulips are one of my favorite flowers, so after seeing so many beautiful tulips in our neighborhood last year I decided to plant some in our yard this fall. Although popular in Europe and most closely associated with the Netherlands, tulips actually originated in Persia and Turkey. The Europeans gave the flower the name “tulip” because the flower was often worn in Turkish turbans as a decoration and the word tulip was derived from the Persian word for turban. Tulips are a beloved flower that is said to symbolize true love. Taking in all the beautiful tulips around me, it’s clear why gardeners everywhere love these flowers. 

The red tulips that filled the garden beds around this Tudor style home in my neighborhood made me feel like I was visiting an English Garden.

I love to contrast of vibrant red tulips against the purple flowers and the red bud tree.

Here is another view of the gorgeous side yard.

Tulips’ sculptural silhouette also make them a stunning flower in a more modern garden and home. I love bright mix of colors used as a boarder around these flower beds and the pink tulips in the planters are perfection.

The pink tulips make a pretty spring statement in small bunches around the front walk of this home.

A classic colonial all decked out with blue muscari border in front of a dazzling array of tulips in red, yellow, white and orange.

Just a small bunch of red tulips gives this yard a pop of color and it creates a welcoming entrance to this modern farmhouse.

Finally, I thought I would share a few pictures of our spring garden. Our magnolia tree in bloom and white tulips in the flower beds. A close up of our crab apple tree with its pink blossoms and the pink and white tulips that surround it.

However, my favorite part of our yard is our back patio. My girls and I planted over 200 bulbs this fall. The tulips and blue muscari have made our back yard feel like a special garden getaway.

We have loved spending as much time as possible soaking in the warmer weather and taking in the beauty of these gorgeous flowers. Trying to enjoy the tulips for as long as possible I planted two different varieties.

The white emperor tulip is an early bloomer so it was the first to flower.

Followed later by the pink striped salvo tulips which are in full bloom now as the white tulips have begun to fade.

I added some early spring color before the tulips bloomed with some purple violas and pansies.

The blue mascari gives some color to a more shady spot in the yard, as the hostas begin to fill in for the summer. Spring has been glorious here, so I hope you enjoyed a small tour of the beautiful tulip season here in Chicago.

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Strawberry Scones

A few years ago when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) were married a couple of my coworkers celebrated in the wee hours of the morning as they watched all the live television coverage of the wedding. In keeping with the royal wedding fun they decided to have scones and tea. All of that 3 a.m. royal wedding watching can leave a girl hungry. So in honor of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan this weekend I thought I would share my recipe for scones. The British love their scones and for good reason these flakey butter pastries are delicious and fairly simple to make. Many British recipes for scones tend to be more understated because they serve their scones with clotted cream and jam or lemon curd. More traditional flavors tend to include currants or dried fruit.

So after I spent sometime researching classic recipes and I decided to create my own scones. Remembering some delicious strawberry scones I had years ago on a trip to San Francisco, I decided to use strawberries instead of the usual currents or dried fruit.

Strawberries can be tricky to use in muffins and baked goods because they have a high water content and they tend to turn everything pink if you over mix them. So instead of using dried fruit, I decided to use freeze-dried strawberries. These dried strawberries are sweet and they become soft when you bake them. They also preclude some of the moisture issues that can come when you bake fresh strawberries. These freeze-dried strawberries are usually found in the dried fruit aisle, but in one grocery store I found them on the baking aisle. These scones are buttery and flakey on the outside with a tender and sweet crumb on the inside. They easy to make. If you have ever made homemade pie dough or biscuits the technique is similar.

Little heart shaped strawberries for the special occasion.

Strawberry Scones- Makes 8

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks of cold butter,cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries broken into small pieces
  • 1 egg mixed with a tablespoon of water for an egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons of white sanding sugar, optional

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

In the bowl of your food processor mix together your flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. If you don’t have a food processor then you can use a large bowl and then cut your butter in using a pastry blender or your fingers, but the food processor make it much quicker.

Cut your butter into small pieces. Then on a high-speed pulse your food processor until the butter is cut into tiny crumbs. It took me less than 30 seconds. You don’t want to over do it because you want to have little bits of butter evenly distributed in your dough.

Next add your orange zest by evenly coating it in your butter and flour mixture. The flour will keep the zest from sticking together in one big clump.

Then lightly whisk together your egg and cream and slowly pour them through the chute of your food processor while you mix it into the flour. Be careful not to over mix. As soon as your dough comes together stop mixing.

As you can see my dough is just slightly sticky. Mary Berry says that slightly sticky dough makes great scones.

Next if you want extra flakey scones then take your pastry dough and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes. I just take the bowl of my food processor and stick it in my fridge.

Then after your dough has slightly chilled you are ready to add in your strawberries. On a lightly floured surface, carefully knead in your strawberries. Then roll your dough out into an even log and cut it into four equal portions.

Next using your hands or a rolling pin shape each portion of dough into a 4 inch square. Then use a serrated knife to cut each square diagonally into even triangles.

Finally in a small bowl whisk together one egg and one tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Then brush the tops and sides of your scones so they get a pretty golden finish when they bake. If you are feeling fancy, you could also add some decorative white sugar sprinkles.

Then because I have a convection oven that runs a little hot I turned my oven down to 375 degrees and baked my scones on a hot baking stone for 15 minutes. If you don’t have a baking stone you could just line a baking pan with parchment paper to keep your scones from sticking when they bake. Keep an eye on your scones you want them to turn a golden brown color on top. Depending on your oven if could take 15 to 20 minutes to bake.

So pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy watching all the festivities, fascinators and fashion statements at the royal wedding. These strawberry scones are a delicious way to celebrate any morning.

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Mother Daughter Decorating

“When you are brought up in a home where beautiful things are appreciated it encourages your own life long pursuit.”

Charlotte Moss

My love for decorating and creating beautiful things is something that was nurtured and learned from my mother. I grew up watching her arrange flowers and creating new holiday decorations and I loved the joy and difference it added to our house. However, one of my favorite projects was my high school bedroom. My mom helped me redecorate my room in my own style. An earlier lover of all things blue and white and Ralph Lauren I decided I wanted a country styled room with an iron bed and painted furniture. My mom and I picked out an unfinished dresser and nightstand and she helped me paint it in a shabby chic blue crackle finish with a blue floral stencil. It has been years ago since we took on that project, but it instilled in me a love of painting and decorating. I was inspired as I saw the things I imagined come together to create a beautiful room. I had a place that was mine and I could see and feel the difference it made to live in a room you loved. That bedroom was my first decorating project and I still have the furniture we painted together. I still love the dressers and nightstand we painted and those pieces are in my daughters’ rooms now.

This is the night stand my mom and I painted years ago.

This past week my mom came to visit and to help me with another special project. This time we were painting an old bed and decorating my oldest daughter’s “big girl” room. We had fun chalk painting the bed frame in the backyard (I will have to write another post about chalk paint later) and creating a garden inspired bedroom filled with all the pretty pink and white details that my daughter loves. We rearranged the furniture and art. We also made room for the new art board I created to showcase my daughter’s love of drawing.

The old picture frame I found in the trash now has a new use as a pin board to showcase my daughters artwork.

We shopped at Target and Home Goods for the new bedding and accessories that would add just the right shabby chic touch. The finished room is now filled with special memories of our fun together.

There is a small needlepoint picture stitched by my mom and button artwork and a ribbon flower wreath that I made. Small but personal touches made with love. One of the great decorating lessons I have learned from my mom is that thoughtfulness in the details is what often makes a room truly memorable and special.

The pink bedspread came from Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic line at Target. The two bed pillows were something custom I made from the remains of the extra duvet cover that I used to upholster the art board and the old crib sheet from my daughter’s toddler bed. My sewing skills are fairly basic, but I got creative to add a few dressmaker like details. I used a simple pillow case as my pattern. Then I used the ribbon tied edges from the duvet on the side opening of my pillow.

This gave me a pretty and professional looking edge without lots of extra work.

Then because the white crib sheet had less fabric to work with I decided to add a ruffled edge using an old summer dress my daughters had outgrown.

I carefully cut off the bottom ruffle and sewed it around the opening of my pillowcase.

This finishing detail gave the pillow just the right shabby chic look that I wanted.

My daughter who was worried about giving up her old toddler bed, now loves her new room. It’s filled with all the magical cottage garden details she likes and I can’t wait to see how she continues to personalize it by adding her own artwork and treasures.

It’s a great gift to have the opportunity to choose what your room looks like and to fill it with things you love. My mom’s love of beauty and creativity helped shaped who I am today and I hope that my daughter feels that same joy in her new room.

A favorite photo of my mom and daughter together.

Now stay tuned, I am going to have to gear up for my next project this summer, because watching this room transformation has caused my three-year old to declared herself “BIG.” My youngest daughter now has a vision of her very own “big girl” room with hot pink and purple. So the fun and the decorating continues.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Spring Is Here

The earth laughs in flowers- Ralph Waldo Emerson

After a cold April, May is here and the flowers in Chicago are all in bloom. My mom was in town this past week so I took some time away, but this week we made it out to one of my favorite places, the Chicago Botanical Gardens. The spring blooms were gorgeous so I had fun taking a few photos hoping to capture a bit of the beauty of spring.

This pink anemone with its feathery two toned purple center was one of my favorites.


The stately foxgloves towered over the flower beds welcoming bees and butterflies.

There are ranunculus in every color imaginable. Theses layers of fuchsia petals are a happy sign of spring.

A honey bee stopped long enough for a photograph.


Lilies taking in the warm spring sun.

Then there was a hillside of poppies in vibrant reds, yellows and oranges. The view was spectacular. Spring is here and everywhere you look there are breathtakingly beautiful flowers.

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Chocolate Cabernet Tart

What should I bring for dessert? I was looking for a recipe to share with friends last week and I thought it might be fun to make a tart. So as I was searching through my cookbooks trying to decide what to make, I found this recipe for a Chocolate Cabernet Tart from a well-loved French restaurant in Houston called Chez Nous. It comes from a wonderful cookbook my sister-in-law gave me a few years ago called Houston’s Classic Desserts. The book has a collection of dessert recipes from some of the best restaurants from my hometown of Houston.

This recipe just read like it would be good, so I decided to take a risk and try something new. The results were so delicious that I decided I would make it again and share it on the blog. It’s an elegant and pretty dessert, but it’s also surprisingly easy to make. The crust is made from almonds so this tart is also gluten free. I know I have some readers with nut allergies, so if I were going to make a crust without nuts then I would substitute a chocolate graham cracker crust instead.

Chez Nous’ Chocolate Cabernet Tart (Serves 8)

  • 1 2/3 cup almonds,blanched and slivered
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche (you can also use sour cream I have tested both but the creme fraiche adds a subtle tanginess that I like)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup Cabernet
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 10 ounces semi sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces (I used Ghirardelli but you could use another high quality chocolate)
  • 1 (6 ounce) container of raspberries
  • 1 small bunch of mint leaves (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the almonds, 3/4 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces in the food processor and blend them at high-speed for 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Then scrape down your sides of your food processor and do this about 3 times so your nuts are finely chopped and blended with your butter.

Here is what my almond mixture looked like before I place it in my tart pan. Then lightly spray the sides of a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray and press your almond mixture evenly on the sides and bottom of your pan. I like to start with my sides first because I find that it is easier to get my sides even if I start there and then press the remaining crumbs evenly on the bottom. Next, to keep your tart from unevenly puffing up as it bakes, I like to use a fork to lightly prick some holes in just a few places to allow the steam to escape as it bakes.

Here is my tart crust before I placed it in my oven to bake. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until your crust turns golden brown.

Then let your crust cool while you make the chocolate filling. First get you chocolate broken or chopped into small pieces in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Then in a medium sauce pan mix together your creme fraiche, sugar, cream and Cabernet and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk your creme fraiche mixture so the sugar dissolves evenly. Then when it comes to a simmer take your pan off the heat and pour it over your chocolate. Then whisk together the chocolate and creme fraiche mixture. Until it is smooth and all the chocolate has melted.

Then pour your chocolate filling in your almond tart shell. If you get a few air bubbles that rise to the top then use a toothpick or the tip of a knife to pop the tiny bubbles so you have a smooth glossy top.

Then place your tart in the fridge to cool and set for a least 3 hours before serving. Once your chocolate tart is set you are ready to remove the ring from your tart pan and decorate the top with raspberries. I made one where I covered the whole top with raspberries and then I made this second one that I liked even better, where I made a wreath of berries around my tart with some mint leaves. Decorating or garnishing the top is always my favorite part. I used a clusters of three berries with one mint leaf placed at a slight angle and I repeated that pattern all the way around my tart.

One bite of the crunchy almonds, silky smooth chocolate and the sweet raspberries makes it’s worth the effort. This tart is particularly good because the richness of the chocolate is balanced with the subtle flavor of the Cabernet.  Chocolate, wine and French pastry all in one dessert, am I dreaming? It’s just amazing. So if you are looking for some baking fun then you need to try this raspberry chocolate tart. It’s as delicious as it looks.

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Another Girl’s Treasure

I was driving down 7th street when I saw it leaned up against a big blue trash can. My heart skipped a beat as my mind swirled with the possibilities, but before I could stop to pick it up I had to drop my girls off at school. I quickly made my way back to see if it was still there, the large old picture had perhaps seen better days. The 1950’s landscape photograph was peeling off, but the large solid frame was a find. So I decided it was coming home with me, the only trouble was how it was going to fit in the back of my car. I carefully began to slide the five foot long frame into my car. I questioned my own judment as I struggled to load the frame, because it was almost as tall as me, but I was determined. I said a little prayer that the tailgate would close and when it did I was grateful I didn’t have far to go.

What was left of the lake scene after I got it loaded out of the car.

I have been working on a small bedroom remix for my five year old’s new “big girl room” and I thought this frame would make a great custom pin board. My young budding artist loves to paint and draw. We enjoy her paintings, but recently the amount of artwork as become a bit overwhelming. So I though a new large cork board would be a great new piece to add over her bookshelf. This way she can create her own gallery of pictures to personalize her room.

I headed out to the craft store to get some supplies to transform this vintage lake house picture into something a bit more shabby chic. I found some cork tiles that I could cut down to fit my board, some heavy duty adhesive tape and white chalk paint. Then while I was getting all the supplies, I found these pretty metal flowers that I thought would add just the right vintage touch to the edges. Then I headed home to begin putting it all together.

A little white chalk paint helped give this frame a completely new look.

A solid roll of cork that was big enough to cover my board was going to cost over $60, so I decided to use less expensive cork tiles. I used a craft knife to cut them to fit. Then I found some clear heavy duty adhesive tape made by Gorilla Glue that is designed to hold up to 15 pounds. The heavy duty tape worked well to hold up the small cork squares.

I used a T-square which helped me cut straight lines on the edge pieces that needed trimming.

Admittedly the patchwork of cork tiles is not the best look on it’s own, so I took some extra fabric I had and I used it to upholster my pin board.

I used a staple gun to pull the fabric tight across my board. Then to cover the edges and staples I glued on some grosgrain ribbon trim.

Some fabric glues can leave a stain on ribbon even after it dries so I like to use hot glue, which dries clear.

Then for the final shabby chic touch I added some metal flowers to the corners.

These metal flowers were on sale at Michaels this week for $1.60 which made them an especially great find.

The flowers looked a bit too uniform for me so I took some pliers and bent the centers so they looked like roses. Then I spray painted the flowers since the back sides of the petals were not painted so they would be completely white. 

I love the finished look of the flowers and I think they are my daughter’s favorite part of the whole project.

Here is the finished pin board that is ready to be hung on the wall. Now it’s my daughter’s turn to start personalizing it by adding her favorite pieces of art.

This old picture may have been a little lonely sitting out on that curb, but I am glad I rescued it. I spent $55 in supplies which included the chalk paint, cork and gorilla glue, but to get just a large cork board alone would have been at least twice as much. So it was definitely worth the little bit of time it took to transform this old picture into something new.

This project had a very girly feel to it since it was going in my young daughter’s room, but a different fabric choice would give it a completely different feel and make this work in an office as well. It also could have been painted to become a chalkboard for a kitchen or covered in magnetic paper and then wallpapered for a message or photo board. The possibilities are endless.

Have you ever taken a chance on something you found?

Here are a few things I have learned when picking up roadside treasures:

  • It needs to spark some joy for you. Sometimes you can find something great but if you don’t have a place for it then it may be meant for someone else.
  • Make sure you give it a good cleaning and let it sit in garage quarantine just to make sure there aren’t and bugs or unexpected issues with your find.
  • Never underestimate the power of paint or things like silver or gold leafing. They can completely transform something that has good lines.
  • Be especially careful with upholstered pieces. They need to pass the smell test and stay away from it if it’s wet. However, slipcovers or new upholstery can do amazing things.
  • If you get home and change your mind then the worst thing that could happen is it goes right back out to the curb
  • Finally, I find there is a little extra design freedom when you get something for free so take a chance because you have a great opportunity to create something custom and one of a kind.

 

 

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The Substantial Sandwich: An Italian Caprese and Prosciutto Sandwich

When we traveled to Italy last summer it was clear that not only did the Italians love their food, but they really cared about whether you the diner were enjoying what they made. What I love about Italian cooking is that it tends to be less fussy, because the food is so flavorful that there is beauty in that simplicity. While we were there we had these amazing mozzarella, prosciutto and tomato sandwiches. The flavor of the slightly salty prosciutto with the creamy mozzarella, and the bright tomatoes and basil made even a simple sandwich wonderful. So this week I decided to share a recipe for these brilliantly simple and delicious sandwiches.

Caprese and Prosciutto Sandwiches -Serves 4

  • 1 French baguette (the better the bread the better the sandwich so go for the best and crispest baguette you can find)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 package (4oz) of thinly sliced prosciutto
  •  2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1  package (8oz) of fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh basil pesto (I happen to love the Giovanni Rana brand)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves

First slice your baguette into four even pieces then cut each section in half horizontally. Next you want to spread a little olive oil on each side of your bread. Then toast your bread in a toaster oven or put your bread on a sheet pan and place it under your oven broiler, but keep a close eye on it. Just a minute or two under the broiler will be enough. You want to lightly toast your bread so it is warm and is just beginning to get golden brown edges.

Next get your tomatoes sliced. I find it’s easier to slice my tomatoes with a serrated bread knife. Cut your tomatoes into thin round slices and then cut those slices in half. Then you want to season your tomatoes by sprinkling them with salt and pepper and drizzling just a touch of balsamic vinegar on top.

Now you are ready to assemble your sandwich. Layer on your prosciutto slices then top them with your sliced fresh mozzarella. Then top your cheese with your tomato slices and a drizzle of fresh basil pesto. Add a few fresh basil leaves on top and there you have it.

The best part about this recipe is that you can make it in less than ten minutes.  How easy and delicious is that? Want to serve it the Italian way then get some Pellegrino sparkling water.  Then add a side of some gourmet veggie chips or some fruit and you have a simple but flavorful Italian meal. Sometimes sandwiches get overlooked when it comes to dinner, but a substantial sandwich like this one makes a great quick and easy weeknight meal.

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A Garden Styled Little Girl’s Room

Spring like weather is finally here, well at least for now. It’s Chicago so you never know it could snow again, but the promise of warmer weather means I can finally get outdoors to tackle some painting projects. I have plans to paint a “big girl bed” for my oldest daughter’s room, but before I start making few changes to her room I thought I might be fun to share a few before and after photos.

Here is the room when we first moved in.  It was painted in two tones of yellow, so the first thing I did while we were waiting on the moving truck was to paint her room a soft pink from Benjamin Moore called Pink Cadillac. True to the name the color looks like Mary Kay Cadillac pink. I used the color at 75 percent strength so it would be just a bit softer.

The before: this was the room when we first moved in our home.

My oldest daughter loves flowers and being outdoors. She is the kid who from a very early age would beg for flowers from the grocery store. Forget the candy at the checkout lane, the floral department seems to be calling my daughter’s name every time I take her to the grocery store. It’s her favorite part of the store and there have been many a tear over some lovely flowers that we just couldn’t purchase.

Gabby loves to be outdoors in the garden. Here she is helping me plant tulip and muscari bulbs in our yard this fall. It was a cold day, but that didn’t stop her from spending hours helping me. When I met with her teacher for parent teacher conferences she shared with me that it was clear Gabby just loved anything to do with gardens and being outdoors. Here is an assignment she had at school where each child was asked what rule they would create if they were president. No surprise, Gabby drew a picture of herself in the garden.

So this love of flowers inspired her room. I wanted her to have a room that she loved that was filled with things that made her happy.  Before we moved from Houston I began making plans for her new room. Pottery Barn Kids had a Savannah floral pattern that reminded me of an English cottage garden. The pattern was being discontinuing so I decided to go ahead and get toddler sized bedding along with a twin sized duvet that I could use later as the starting point for the room.

Here my garden loving girl in her bedroom.  I used a twin bed sized dust ruffle that I had from college and pinned it so it fit her toddler bed and then layered in some more floral patterns from Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby chic line at target. The picture of the pink peony is from Wisteria and it’s my favorite part of her room. When I added that photo to her room she said “mom how did you know I needed a magical flower?” Needless to say she loved it and I think it adds a more sophisticated floral touch.

Every garden needs a little summer home, shed or tepee so I found this grey chevron tepee at Hobby Lobby. Both of my girls love hiding away in there with their blankets and pillows.

Tulips for my flower loving girl.

Art doesn’t have to be expensive. The “So Loved” picture was from Hobby Lobby and the button hearts are something I made to add something special to her room. Then to dress up a plain white lampshade I added some pink ribbon around it.

A view of the side of the room with a dresser that my mom and I had painted years ago with stenciled flowers. Then a sweet little slipper chair perfect for reading. Even the chair got a makeover for this room see the before picture below.

The chair it used to be the end piece of an old sectional couch, but I had a slip cover made for it to transform it into a more feminine ruffled slipper chair.

It’s amazing what a new slipcover can do. I found some white draperies that had a similar ruffle detail for the windows. Then in the corner I added a second peony photograph above her bookcase.

A garden styled bedroom perfect for my little flower loving daughter. A few more shabby chic changes are coming but before they do I wanted to remember the sweetness of this little girl’s room.

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The Substantial Sandwich: Banh Mi Meatball Sandwich

What in the world am I going to make for dinner tonight? Dinner is so daily, that it’s easy to fall into a pattern and get bored with the same old rotation of dishes. So what do you make on those days when you need something quick, but more exciting to eat? My answer: the substantial sandwich. Filled with flavor, but perfect for a weeknight dinner, substantial sandwiches are some of the best-loved meals in our house.

One of my favorite substantial sandwiches is the Vietnamese Banh Mi. A crispy french baguette filled with sweet but tangy pickled carrot and cucumber with just a touch of heat from the honey lime sriracha sauce. I took a grilling course from Steven Raichlen a couple of years ago, where I made these absolutely delicious grilled lamb Banh Mi sandwiches. However, the problem was that although they were wonderful I absolutely don’t have the time to roast lamb on my grill for four hours to achieve the perfect sandwich, so I began thinking about how to create a flavorful version of my own. One that you could make in thirty minutes so I could enjoy it more often. My solution a ground pork meatballs that are every bit as flavorful, but easy to make while you assemble your veggies and sriracha sauce. One crunchy, crispy, juicy bite and you’ll see why I just love this sandwich.

Banh Mi Meatball Sandwiches

  • 4 demi baguette or one large french baguette, toasted (You want to use a good quality french baguette. I like the La Brea brand that I can find at most grocery stores in my area.)

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly

Pickled Carrot and Cucumber Slaw

  • 1/2 cup carrots julienned in thin strips or you could use pre-cut matchstick carrots
  • 1/2 cup cucumber julienned in thin strips or thinly sliced into rounds
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cilantro leaves

Honey Lime Sriracha Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Then in a medium sized bowl mix together your ground pork, soy sauce, worcestershire, garlic and green onions. Then scoop out evenly sized meat balls. I used a 2 tablespoon sized cookie scoop which made the job easy.

Then place your meat balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper will keep your meatballs from sticking to your pan and it makes clean up much easier.

Then bake your meatballs for 30 minutes till they are golden brown.

While your meatballs are cooking make your pickled carrots and cucumbers. I have a julienne peeler that makes prepping my veggies simple.You just run the peeler down your vegetable and it will cut thin julienned slices. I got my peeler from a Texas grocery store called Central Market, but I found the same peeler available on Amazon. I love this little kitchen gadget, but if you don’t have one then don’t let that stop you from enjoying this sandwich. You could use store bought matchstick carrots and just slice you cucumber into very thin rounds.

Then in a small bowl mix together your rice wine vinegar,sugar and salt. Add in your cucumber, carrot and cilantro and let your veggies sit and pickle in the vinegar while you make the sriracha sauce.

Then make your honey lime sriracha sauce. In a small bowl mix together your mayonnaise, sriracha, honey, lime zest, and soy sauce.

Now you are ready to assemble your sandwiches. You want to slice your baguette into a V-shaped sandwich (think hot dog bun) where you don’t cut all the way trough the bread on one side. This makes a perfect pocket to hold your meatballs.  Then toast your bread and spread on your sriracha sauce in each side. Add on your meatballs and top it off with your pickled carrots and cucumbers and that’s it.

So if you are wondering what should I make for dinner tonight? Then try something different the substantial sandwich. Serve it with sweet potato chips, crispy oven fries or sliced vegetables and dip and you have a wonderful weeknight meal that is sure to bust any “what should we have for dinner?” rut.

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A Happy Mess

I was looking at a magazine that featured the home of model and actress Molly Sims and a piece of artwork in the back of her living room caught my eye. On a large white canvas in a diagonal cursive script were the words “Happy Mess.” Sims designed her living room to have a contemporary styled back room that was set up as a play area for her young children. Sims had some black lacquered pocket doors designed to close off the area if she didn’t want to share the happy mess with others. As you would expect Sims’ home was styled and magazine page ready so it had me thinking what sorts of messes and fun might her house might hold on the average day. Take a tour of Sims’ home at this link to Better Homes and Gardens.

So what is a happy mess? Surely it helps if it’s filled with things you love, but even happy messes need to go somewhere. So to me a happy mess is one that has a home when all the fun is done. My former home was small and it had a very open floor plan so I was always looking for clever ways to store everything from office supplies, to craft paper, dishes, linens and toys. Closet space was limited so I found that having stylish baskets and bins was key. I have found that using smaller baskets and bins make organization easier, because even if you do have large closets things can still get lost. So I thought it might be fun to round up a few bins and baskets that can make any of life’s messes just a little happier.

Large Scale Open Storage

The texture and style of these baskets would definitely add texture and style to any room, but I love that they have the potential to store all kinds of things from large blankets, to books and magazines. I like the look of this dark walnut colored basket. I could see it next to an armchair or by the side of a sofa. Our old living room had to double as a play space for our girls so large baskets were a favorite of mine for storing stuffed animals and toys. It kept the things my children loved in the room without sacrificing the sophisticated look I wanted.

Halton Large Basket

The woven pattern and weathered grey colored basket make this a great option for stylish storage.

Auburn Square Basket

Finally, I liked the color of this indigo basket from Pier One and its price makes it a great deal for a large storage.

Pier 1 Indigo Blue Basket

 

Office and Media Storage

Paper work, magazines, mail and media can get overwhelming when they begin to stack up. So sorting them in baskets is one of my favorite ways to stay organized. This wicker basket would work well for sorting papers, holding mail or even storing things like DVDs or games in a cabinet or shelf.

 

Pier 1 Collin Gray Wicker Basket

I love these lidded textured Havana baskets from Pottery Barn. I have them in my media cabinet and in bookshelves. I have used them to store linens, table clothes, dishes, magazines, DVDs. The lids make them great for hiding those little things you need to store but don’t always want to have out on display.

Havana Lidded Basket

If this darker finish isn’t quite the right color for your space then check out these Aubrey baskets that come in a pretty light grey finish.

Aubrey Woven Lidded Basket

 

Bedrooms and Playrooms

These bold ruby striped storage boxes come in a whole array of colors and they are just the right size to use in a book shelf and they would be a great place to store small toys like Legos, blocks and all those little plastic ponies and dolls that always need a place to belong in our house. I have also found that open bins make it easier for younger children to use when cleaning up their own toys. I wish this type of easy storage would guarantee that it your little ones would pick up after themselves, but we are still working on that skill in our house.


Black and White Stripe Bin or try these Striped Bins at Crate and Barrel Kids

The 3 Sprouts company has a whole line of these quirky and fun canvas storage units. They have an alligator toy box and woodland creature storage bins and this whimsical purple owl which would be great for holding books, toys, diapers or blankets.

3 Sprouts Owl Caddy

H&M has these great small canvas storage bins that I could really see in a nursery. Babies come with so many little things that these little bins would working well near a changing table or on a dresser. They come in other pattens and colors, like a soft pink and a beige so you could easily customize your look. The other great thing is that the price on these fabric bins is so reasonable at just $3.99 they are very budget friendly.

H&M Storage Fabric Bin

 

Closed Storage for Closets, Laundry and Mud Rooms

My former master bedroom closet was the largest closet in our house so it worked overtime as storage for more than just our clothes. One of my favorite finds were these Reisenthel zip top fabric storage containers from the container store. These fabric containers come in several different styles. I  have a set with red polka dots that I love because they have built in label cards and they are sturdy and stack easily.

 

Reisenthel Multi Dot Fabric Storage Box

Need smaller scale storage then PB Teen has smaller canvas zip top bags that come in a wide variety of colors from black and white to kelly green and turquoise.

PB Teen Canvas Polka Dot Bin

Have something like laundry, winter gear or home supplies you need to store then check out these collapsible storage boxes by Scout. They have a great selection of graphic patterns and colors that would add a pop of color and pattern to any room. Making storage of even ordinary things stylish and fun.

Scout Lidded Storage Bin

Life is too short to be stressed about having a house that is perfectly clean all of the time. I believe your home should be a place where you can relax and have fun. So I loved the phrase a happy mess because there has to be a balance. Mail, papers, books, shoes, clothes and toys are all a part of life, but having place where all those little things belong definitely makes for a much happier mess.

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