Berry Shortcake Muffins

Ah, the joy of summer and the gift of a moment with nothing to do. It’s been an unusually rainy summer. When storm clouds had my six-year-old beginning a familiar refrain of “I’m bored” I suggested we find a way to bake up a little fun. We had some fresh berries in the fridge so I turned on the oven and set out to teach her to make something new. I pulled out an old copy of the Silver Palate cookbook and when I couldn’t exactly what I wanted we improvised and created our own berry shortcake muffins. A cross between a muffin and a biscuit that had us all smiling as we watched them bake and took a taste.

Berry Shortcake Muffins -makes 1 dozen

  • 2 cups summer berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or blackberries)
  • 2 cups cake flour plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Decorating sugar, for sprinkling on top of muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First wash and dry your berries well. You can create a mix of your favorite berries. If using strawberries cut them into small pieces. Then in a medium sized bowl mix the berries with 1 tablespoon of flour to coat them.

Next in a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients- flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Mix until well incorporated, being careful not to over mix it. Then gently fold in the lemon zest and berries.

Evenly spoon or scoop the batter into 12 standard sized muffin tins with cupcake liners. Then sprinkle the tops with decorating sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 23 minutes until the muffins are golden brown on top.

Mixed Berry Muffins

Berry shortcake muffins an easy mix and bake recipe. The perfect thing to make when you just want to get in the kitchen and bake something together. A sweet treat to brighten any rainy day.

Greek Salmon Burgers

Homemade Salmon Burger

I have been away from writing a little longer than I had planned as we took an unexpected road trip to back home to Texas. But I am back with a new summer garden inspired recipe for Greek salmon burgers. I always look forward to summer flowers and our small vegetable garden.

Lately, I must confess that have begun to sympathize with Mr. MacGregor. The original grumpy gardener in Beatrix Potter’s Tales of Peter Rabbit. My Sir Crunch a Lot cucumbers seedings have been under attack by a pack of cheeky little chipmunks. Cute as they may be I am growing tired of devising new ways to keep them out my raised vegetable beds. I have now had to resort to window screen netting and chili peppers. The chipmunks may have won round one, but my culinary knowledge of chilis runs deep. I am now on to them and determined to create the ultimate spicy defense system. One that hopefully has them feeling the heat and packing up for good.

Last year before the aforementioned chipmunks took up residence in my garden, we were overwhelmed by the bounty of cucumbers. By August I was giving them away to neighbors and adding them to every dish I could think of.

One of our favorite recipes was these Greek salmon burgers. Homemade salmon burgers are surprisingly simple to make and so delicious!  These salmon burgers are great on the grill and they make getting a healthy dinner on the table easy. I like to serve mine with a cucumber, tomato and feta cheese salad.

Greek Salmon Burgers -Serves 4

  • 1½ salmon fillet, skinned
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil,
  • 4 bakery burger buns
  • 4 Boston or romaine lettuce leaves
  • Tzatziki sauce (see recipe below)

First, preheat your grilled for direct medium high heat grilling.

Next, make the salmon burgers. Prepare your salmon remove the skin with a sharp knife. Then cut the salmon into smaller chunks or pieces. Place the salmon in a food processor and grind it till it is in small pieces, like you would see if making a tuna salad.

Then in a medium sized bowl mix together the ground salmon, bread crumbs, cucumber, shallot, parsley and salt.

Divide the salmon mixture into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a burger patty. Then brush or rub a little olive oil on each side of the patties to keep them from sticking to the grill. Refrigerate the burgers until ready to grill.

Grill the burgers. Cook each salmon burger for 4 minutes on the first side and 3 ½ minutes on the second side until just cooked through.

Greek Salmon Burgers

Serve the salmon burgers on a toasted bun with lettuce and a generous dollop or two of tzatziki sauce. The sauce is amazing!  It really makes these burgers memorable.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonaise
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tsp fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup  cucumber, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste (about 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper)

In a small mixing bowl mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cucumbers and all of the herbs and seasonings. Keep refrigerated until serving. This sauce is also wonderful as a dip with pita chips.

If the thought of cucumber in your salmon burger has you raising an eyebrow, then have faith. They really make these burgers outstanding. They keep the salmon moist and perfectly done when grilled. Greek salmon burgers are a summertime garden inspired favorite.

The Tulip Party

Pink Impression Tulips

Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s party!’

Robin Williams

Every fall I dream, plan and plant for this moment. I wait with anticipation as the winter snow and ice arrive and then as if by magic a warms breeze blows in and suddenly spring arrives. The sunshine and longer light filled days usher in a blossom filled garden party.

One Chicago spring blossom party was all it took. Suddenly I was smitten with tulips. I had to find a way to create my own spectacular tulip garden.

These are the bulbs flower pots that I wrote about this fall. I burried nursery pots of bulbs in a side flowerbed and then as they began to grow I dug them up and planted them in collection of flowers pots.

When I began four years ago I planted 150 bulbs, mostly muscari and tulips. However, what I found was 150 bulbs was simply not enough. The tulips were so gorgeous that I began gardening. I wanted to create more beautiful moments and places. The only problem with becoming a gardener is the temptation to grow more and more every year. I love the thrill of creating something beautiful.

I filled the base of my flower pots with violas, pansies, candytuff and creeping Jenny.

Each year I choose a different pallet and mix of colors. It makes spring exciting  because I wait in wonder as the buds begin to open and the blooms unfold.

This year in order to keep the tulip party going I planted a greater mix of early and late season tulips. My front flowerbed above had pink tulips and Ma Bell daffodils and as the pink flowers and daffodils began to fade the white clearwater tulips began to shine.

pink impression tulips
Colorblends best pink tulips

My favorite place to spend time each spring is my back patio. It’s my secret garden of sorts. The place that few people see. I plant it because it gives me such joy. This time of year we spend as much time as we can out here.

I planted more pink impression tulips here as well, but I mixed them with an equal number of a late blooming French Rose tulip mix.

Colorblends best pink tulips

As I was making a cup tea this weekend I looked out the window and saw an iridescent humming bird flit about. It was so tiny that it seems to disappear as it danced from to flower to flower.

The muscari I planted have thrived under the trees. Their bright blue blossoms are one of my favorites. The bees have come to visit too. I love to sit and listen to the sounds of spring. The wind rustling the leaves and the birds chirping and singing a happy song.

Another flowerbed in my backyard has a mix of early and late season tulips. First came the pink and white tulips and next a colorful blend of apricot, orange and rose.

The pink tulips have been cut back now, but the spring blooms continue with this second layer of late spring color.

Gardening this time of year feels like painting with a touch of the divine. The colors and blossoms have me loving every moment of this spring tulip party.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Quiche

Vidalia Onion Quiche

Caramelized onions have a savory sweetness to them that adds a certain magic to many classic French dishes. I happen to love them in quiche. My favorite quiche to share is a caramelized onion and bacon quiche. This recipe is something that I have been making for years, so I thought it might be a good spring recipe.

Quiche is often thought of as being a brunch or breakfast dish, but in our house it is usually something that I make for dinner. I like to serve it with a small Caesar salad. or if I am feeling fancy a mandarine orange salad. I assemble everything and get it in the oven. I let it bake while I help my daughters with their homework. It’s an easy and delicious dinner.

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Quiche

  • 1 unbaked 10 inch pie crust, store bought or my favorite pie crust recipe
  • 1 cup sweet yellow onion (1/2 of a large onion), sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (finely chopped ham could also be used)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Colby-jack cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or chives (optional garnish)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

First, prepare your pie crust. Make sure that you press the fluted top of the crust to the sides of the pie plate to keep it from sliding down when it bakes.

Next, caramelized the onions. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized skillet. Cook the onions over medium to medium low heat until golden brown.

Spread the caramelized onions, cheese and bacon evenly over the bottom of the pie crust.

Whisk together the egg mixture. In a medium sized bowl whisk six eggs and 3/4 cup of cream, add salt and pepper. Pour the eggs in the pie crust. Cover the quiche in aluminum foil that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray. The foil will keep the pie crust protected while the filling cooks.

Bake the quiche covered in foil for 55 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes. You will know the quiche is cooked when the center is firm and the edges are beginning to turn a golden brown. Finally, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley or chives on top.

This caramelized onion and bacon quiche has a buttery pie crust with a delicious savory sweet onion filling. It’s a great dish for Mother’s Day or any spring meal. Sweet onion season begins in April so look for all those delicious Vidalia or Texas 1015 onions and cook up a simply delicious quiche.

When Life Gives You Lemons Make Lemon Cake

Marshmallow Frosting

Maison McCauley is celebrating four years and what a last year it has been. What I didn’t fully appreciate as I began this adventure is how much I would love the storytelling that comes with each recipe and project. My blog has become the best sort of writer’s notebook that I am constantly drawing from as I write for other publications. So thank you for reading and inspiring me along the way.

This past year as a cook I have desperately missed cooking for others. I can’t wait to till I can safely host a dinner party again and feel like I can share food with neighbors and friends. However, I remain especially grateful to still be able to share recipes on my blog. I have loved hearing how you have tried something new like French bread or chocolate cream or key lime pie. Cooking is such a comfort to me. It has seen me through so many hard times.

Last March when the pandemic hit and everyone found themselves in the kitchen my little website began to get thousands of visitors each month who have come and stayed, which has certainly been the sweet upside to a year filled with so many lemons. The top recipes of this past year have been some of my favorite comfort foods: Chips and El Tiempo Green Sauce, Caprese Prosciutto Sandwiches, Seafood Gumbo, Chicken Tacos, Key Lime Ice Cream PiePeach Cobbler, Biscuits, Gingerbread and Carrot Cake Cupcakes.

So to celebrate four years, 265 posts and my 130th recipe, I have a sweetly nostalgic lemon cake. This cake was inspired cake by my grandmother’s signature marshmallow frosting. A pretty, but simple cake that is perfect for celebrating the everyday. The cake is a light egg white based cake that is sometimes called a silver cake. The light texture of the cake pairs well with the marshmallow frosting. My mom says that as a kid this frosting was always a birthday cake favorite.

A favorite photo of my mom and grandmother at the beach.

I love the combination of the light white cake and lemon curd. It’s like a lemon meringue cake. However, the marshmallow frosting is also really delicious with chocolate cake .

Lemon Cake – makes 2 ten inch cake rounds

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3½ cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 8 egg whites, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line the bottom of two ten inch cake rounds with parchment paper.

To make the cake beat the egg whites with a balloon whisk attachment at high speed until stiff. Then place them aside in a separate bowl.

The egg whites should be stiff enough to hold their shape.

Next, cream or beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy.

In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt. Then mix the flour mixture into the butter and sugar alternating with the milk. Now, mix in the vanilla extract and the lemon zest.

Finally, gently scoop and fold the egg whites into the cake batter a little at a time to keep the egg whites from deflating.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes before turning them out of the pans.

Marshmallow Frosting

  • 2 extra large egg whites or 3 regular sized egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon curd (for decorating the cake)
  • 1 lemon sliced into thin twists
My grandmother’s handwritten recipe and some variations that she added.

Add the egg white and salt to the large bowl of stand mixer. Beat with a balloon whisk at high speed until fluffy and bubbly.

Then gradually add the sugar and beat over high speed until shiny and smooth.

Finally, slowly stream in the corn syrup while continuing to mix the egg whites at high speed until the frosting is glossy and stiff. Once you blend in all the syrup scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to beat the egg whites. Then blend in the vanilla. You want to beat the frosting until it is firm and can hold its shape.

Step by step pictures of what the frosting looks like. Since this frosting uses raw egg whites use care and make sure your eggs are very fresh. If serving this frosting to a health sensitive person you can use pasteurized eggs, but you will need to add 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar after the first step where you beat the eggs and salt until bubbly. Without the addition of the cream of tartar the pasteurized egg whites will not whip properly.

Decorate the cake by using a large star tip and a pastry bag. Create an even layer of icing stars on top of the first layer of cake. Alternatively, you could spread an even layer with a rubber spatula. Then drizzle the lemon curd on top.

Place the second layer on top and spread a thin layer of marshmallow frosting on top. Pipe some decorative swirls on top and add five lemon twists, some edible flowers like pansies or violas or some fresh berries. Make the icing the day you plan to serve it. The sponge cake can be made ahead. The frosted cake needs to be refrigerated.

This lemon cake is light and delicious. The icing is miraculously fluffy and smooth. It has beautiful shine to it and it’s easy to spread. The drizzle of lemon curd adds a nice balance to the sweet frosting. It would make a great spring cake or just something fun to get in the kitchen and bake.

I am truly grateful for everyone who keeps reading and cooking along with me.   Thank you for being such a sweet part of my year.

The Potted Garden

So many European landscapes feature beautiful potted gardens. The picture above is from a trip I took to Ireland years ago. All those potted boxwoods in gorgeous antique flower pots made a lasting impression on me.

Early March has me eagerly awaiting all those spring flowers. As the snow melts, I am already planning new projects for my garden including creating a larger potted kitchen garden inspired by some of my favorite European container plantings.

Last spring I created three large raised garden beds for herbs and vegetables. The flowerbed that they are in can have drainage issues. So I need the raised flowerbeds protected my plants and allowed me to reclaim this formerly washed out garden space.

My small kitchen garden produced an amazing amount of herbs and vegetables, but it could definitely use a garden style upgrade.

Inspired by British designer David Hicks’ book My Kind of Garden, I want to expand my vegetable and herb garden with other pots that add height and interest. My Kind of Garden was Hicks’ last book and in it he shares pictures of his favorite landscapes that he designed and others that inspired him. I love his book because it gives you a glimpse of so many interesting gardens from around the world. This gorgeous potted garden below is one that Hicks designed for his own home in England.

I like how he used lots of different styles of pots all in a similar shade of green. So while looking for new containers from my own potted garden project, I thought I would share a few of the beautiful gardens and planters that have inspired me.

Formal English Garden Styled Planters


The Nantucket Planter from Grandin Road comes in several colors and heights the price is  reasonable.

This second pot called the Versailles Planter. It comes with a fairly royal price tag, but it has a wonderful formal garden feeling and it comes some beautiful colors including this deep green as well as a pretty British blue.

Ballard Designs also has a lovely collection of stately planter boxes including this collection of Beauclaire Planters.

Another one of my favorite gardens is in Denmark. It’s one that I follow on Instagram. Have you seen Gina’s lovely garden at GNC Garden? It’s certainly a memorable one and I am looking forward to seeing more pictures this spring.  Gina’s garden features a beautiful collection of woven basket planters and darker pots,  which makes a real statement  in her mostly green and white garden.

Danish GNC Garden Inspired Woven Flower Pots:

These All Weather Wicker Pots are from Cost Plus World Market. They have a wonderful basket like texture that would look beautiful in any potted garden.

Another flower pot that I loved for this look is called the Foxcroft Planter from White Flower Farm. I particularly like the weathered gray finish.

White Flower Farm also has these smaller Urban Accent Black flower pots that would look great on a table or in mixed in with all the woven basket planters like GNC Garden.

Finally, a very colorful potted garden from Danish gardener, writer and photographer Claus Dalby. His gardens and Instagram account always make me smile. I particularly love this spring collection of pots in front of his garden gate. It changes over the seasons, but it is always beautiful. Following his Instagram account is such a joy.

Claus Dalby Inspired Pottery Garden

Dalby’s collected pots have a pretty washed out gray color to them that remind me of the flower pots made by Ben Wolff Pottery. I like the lettuce leaf edge on these pots, but Wolff has lots of other designs as well.

Next for a more traditional terra cotta collection look that these beautiful flowerpots that were made for the British Horticultural Society by Whichford Pottery their RHS Flowerpot would make a lovely statement surrounded by other smaller pots.

Lastly, for an Italian inspired potted garden check out the Alto Pot from Seibert Rice. Their potted gardens are breathtakingly beautiful. Here is a link to a project they completed at the New York Botanical Gardens.

So as spring draws near, looking at all these potted gardens has me inspired and ready to plant my own.

Reading and Eating: Alex Guarnaschelli’s Steak Diane

Alex Guarnaschelli's Rib Eye Diane

My love of cookbooks has shaped me as a cook and a writer. I have spent countless hours reading and pursuing my library’s large collection of cookbooks.  I love exploring new types of cuisine and I am always looking for a new culinary adventure or a great new recipe. However, every once in a while I come across a cookbook that is transformative. A book whose recipes and ideas about food becomes a small part of who I am as a cook. I have been cooking my way through iron chef Alex Guarnaschelli new cookbook Cook with Me for the last few weeks and it has truly inspired me.

I have loved it because it tells the story of Guarnaschelli’s journey to find a sense of home. As she describes it, “This book is who I am now as a home cook- the dishes are a roadmap to who I am today as a cook, parent, and daughter.” This French trained chef and food television star takes you into her home kitchen. She shares stories of cooking with her daughter and family recipes. Her mother Maria Guarnaschelli was a noted cookbook editor, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that this is not your ordinary celebrity chef’s cookbook. Her recipes and ingredient lists are surprisingly approachable and her techniques will have you thinking differently about how to get the most flavor out of any ingredient.

I have especially loved her approach to vegetables and salads. Her spicy roasted Brussel sprouts were amazingly delicious, as was her carrot salad with miso dressing and I loved her new take on the classic Waldorf salad. However, when I asked my family what their favorite dish was they all agreed-Steak Diane. I made it for our Valentine’s Day dinner and it was mouth-wateringly delicious.

This French inspired recipe derives its name “Diane” from the Roman goddess of the hunt. The seared steaks are simple but flavorful and the sauce is indeed divinely good. I served mine with her apple Waldorf salad and my husband’s favorite twice baked potatoes.

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Steak Diane -serves 4

  • 4 New York strips steaks or rib-eye steaks
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium sized shallots, minced
  • 1/4 cup Brandy (I like cooking with a French brandy, cognac)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup beek stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • leaves from 6 springs of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, coarsely chopped

First, season the steaks generously with kosher salt and pepper on each side. Heat your pan at medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter. After the butter’s bubbling has stopped add the steaks. If you have a smaller skillet you could cook all the steaks at once using two skillets.

Next, sear the first side of the steak for 6 to 8 minutes resisting to temptation to move or flip it too soon. Once the steaks are browned on the first side, turn them over and brown the second side for another 5 to 7 minutes. Cook the steaks to your desired doneness. If you are using a meat thermometer then rare is 125 degrees F to 130 and medium is 135 degrees F to 140 degrees. Take the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest while you make the sauce.

Finally, make the pan sauce. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan then add the chopped shallots and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes until they are translucent. Next, pour the brandy in the pan to deglaze it. Allow the brandy to reduce by half scraping up all the brown bits from the pan as it cooks. Whisk in the mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire and beef stock. Allow the sauce to reduce and become thick enough to coat the meat about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, parsley, lemon zest and chives. Taste for seasoning. Place the steaks on plates for serving and generously spoon the sauce of the top of each steak.

Cooking as my eight year old daughter so wisely proclaimed this week is all about “community.” There is something special about cooking with others and sharing a meal with the ones you love. Guarnaschelli’s Cook with Me is all about community. Guarnaschelli weaves together a delicious collection of stories about her life and recipes for the dishes she loves. I enjoyed her cookbook so much that I am sure that I will be cooking things like her steak Diane for many years to come.

Chicken Saltimbocca

Prosciutto Chicken

What I love about Italian cooking is how it can take a small number of ingredients and celebrate or bringing out the best in each one. Italian cooking creates these seemingly simple but wonderfully flavorful dishes. Chicken Saltimbocca in Italian means “jump in the mouth” chicken. One bite and you will see why this chicken is so appropriately named. My version of this classic chicken dish makes a deliciously simple dinner. Everyone in my house loves this chicken. It comes together quickly which makes it a great weeknight meal. I love to serve it with fresh pasta or if I have a little more time, lemon risotto and an Italian salad.

Chicken Saltimbocca -Serves 4

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half to make 4 cutlets
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 8 slices prosciutto di parma
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • lemon wedges

First, make your chicken cutlets. Take two chicken breasts and if it has any rib meat on the bottom cut it off so you have an even chicken breast. Carefully place your hand on top of the chicken and cut or split the chicken breasts in half horizontally like you are butterflying them. Each chicken breast should be cut into two cutlets.

Cover the top of the cutlets with a sheet of plastic wrap and pound them to an even thickness.

Take the cutlets and place one sage leaf on top each piece of chicken. Then wrap each cutlet all the way around in two pieces of prosciutto.

Next, place the flour in a shallow bowl or large plate. Dredge the prosciutto covered chicken in the flour shaking off any excess.

Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat until the bubbling subsides. Then add a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the chicken for 5 to 6 minutes a side until the prosciutto is crispy and the chicken is cooked through.

Place the cooked chicken on a plate or platter. Then create your pan sauce. Pour the white wine in the pan and bring it to a boil. I have also used dry sherry if I don’t have white wine and it is also delicious. Whisk or stir the wine to pick up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Then whisk in 2 tablespoons of butter. Finally, once the butter is fully incorperated, add one tablespoon of lemon juice .

Return the cutlets to the pan to make sure they are warm. Then serve the chicken with the white wine sauce.

A delicious Italian dinner in 20 minutes. I think we all need a few more recipes like this one.

It has been a busy week around our house and winter it seems is getting the best of me. I know it’s been an especially tough week for our friends and family in Texas. So, as we all thaw out here is a great dinner to share with the ones you love.

The view from my front porch. I have never shoveled so much snow!  So hopefully we get a little break from all of this winter craziness. Stay warm my friends!

Color Me Happy

“Everyone wants to talk about the color that is hot right now, but for me color is never just another trend. It’s ebullient, endless boundless. When you walk into a colorful room you smile.”

Ruthie Sommers

It seems like all the color and fun has just suddenly vanished from home stores everywhere. I am working on some new projects around our house. So, last week I braved the cold and snow to go looking for a few new fabrics and pillows. I went to all of my favorite stores and I came away feeling very underwhelmed. Where has all the color gone?

Perhaps the pandemic has us all feeling drained. So this week I decided to dedicate a post to coloring your house happy. Fabric and pillow ideas that that could give any room in your house a vibrant boost.

First, up two vintage patterns by Schumacher called Citrus Garden and Exotic Butterfly. Both of these patterns were hand drawn by Viennese architect and furniture designer Josef Frank. Frank’s story is inspirational to me. He was of Jewish decent, so he had to flee his home in Vienna by emigrating to Sweden before World War II. In the late 1940s he created these colorful nature inspired drawings. While the world was unraveling, he was finding a new way to thrive by drawing these vibrant and hopeful new patterns. Which goes to show that color’s ability to lift us up and great design is timeless. When I was researching this pattern I found that his design company in Svenskt Tenn still carries many of his fabrics here.

Citrus Garden Lime and Blue

This lime tree pattern has so many beautiful colors to pull from. A happy lime green, a bold blue, and preppy pink. Just one pillow could inspire an entire room.

Schumacher Josef Frank Citrus Garden Lime Tree

Schumacher Zimba Lawn

Lacefield Designs Indigo Blue Ikat Sahara Ovals

Exotic Butterfly and Patterned Pink

Next, Exotic Butterfly is one of my favorite prints.  It comes is several color ways including an all blue and all green version. This particular pattern is called Spring. I especially love the juxtaposition of the red and pink. So, I had fun finding a few bright pink patterns that would make a smashing addition. I love the bright peony pink spots by British designer Anna French. I also liked this trellis like pattern by Quadrille. Nothing says happy like bright pink!

Schumacher Exotic Butterfly Spring Pillow

Thibaut Sarah Spot in Peony By Anna French

Quadrille Saya Gata in Magenta by Alan Campbell

Equestrian Orange and Brown

Then I found this happy French inspired orange fabric called Faubourg. It also comes in a very pretty celadon blue color as well as a brown. This shade of orange made me think of a bright Hermes orange. I paired it with two brown and white fabrics by Kelly Wearstler. These brown and taupe fabrics have a modern equestrian like feel to them.

Schumacher Faubourg Orange Horse

Groundworks Channels Taupe by Kelly Wearstler

Schumacher Imperial Trellis Java by Kelly Wearstler

Chinoiserie Red, White and Blue

Perhaps a little blue and white. I love this Thibaut pattern because it adds a pop of cheery lacquer box red. Picking up on the blue and navy colors in the flowers I found a couple different pillows that might pair nicely with this gorgeous fabric.

Thibaut Honshu Red and Blue Chinoiserie

Schumacher Octavia Navy Blue

Thibaut Nexus Navy Indigo

Coastal Aqua and Lilac

Finally, a sunny coastal inspired fabric. A pretty aqua and lilac ikat from Alan Campbell’s collection at Quadrille. Thibaut has a dotted print called Marathon that picks up on that pretty lilac color and this fabric pattern also comes in aqua as well. I could also see pairing this aqua ikat with a brush stroke print like Schumacher’s light dove colored Queen of Spain. Turquoise and white have a happy beach house feel that instantly lifts my spirits.

Quadrille Kazak in Aqua and Lilac

Thibaut Lilac Marathon

Schumacher Queen of Spain Dove

Never underestimate the power of color. Neutrals certainly have their place, but there is nothing like a gorgeous green, a brilliant blue, a pretty pink, or a radiant red  to inspire you. I believe that color in a way speaks to our soul. Clinton Smith, former editor of Veranda Magazine once said that “color is a declaration of intention: It sets the tone for how you want to live. It’s the embodiment of what you are and what you find beautiful.” In times like these, we could all use a little color in our lives. So add a colorful pillow or two to your home or just wear a little more color, because we all need more reasons to smile.

Let Them Eat Biscuits: Cake Flour Biscuits

Maison McCauley Biscuit Recipe

What makes the perfect biscuit?

There is lots of debate about this topic and so many recipes that claim to have the answer. Is there a secret to making a better biscuit? What about the type of flour you use? Do you have to have the much talked about White Lily Flour to make a good biscuit?

These are the questions I have been pondering since April when lo and behold the pandemic flour shortage caused my suburban Chicago grocery store to miraculously have a bag of White Lily Flour. Although the traditionally Southern White Lilly flour has been milled in the midwest since 2008, it is rare to see it up North. I was thrilled! I was so excited to be able to bake a batch of biscuits and taste the difference for myself.

That Sunday morning I pulled out my favorite recipe and made a batch. The biscuits were tender and I liked the taste. However, they didn’t have quite the height that I was hoping for. So, I began to read everything I could find about the science of making a great biscuit. It turns there is something special about White Lily flour. The protein content in White Lily Flour is much less than other all purpose flour brands. White Lily is made from a softer wheat which gives it a lower protein content. I have found that this lower protein flour does have a more tender taste. However less protein can mean less rise when it comes to bread, which is why most all purpose flours have a higher protein content.

The Great Biscuit Flour Debate

This flour protein table information comes from testing by Cooks Illustrated and Swans Down Cake Flour.

I then began to wonder how do I get the taste of the low protein flour without loosing the rise? Furthermore, how could I regularly recreate this recipe up North where White Lily Flour is scarcely seen? The answer came to me as I was reading Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook: cake flour. Cake flour has a low protein content, which with the right baking techniques makes an amazing biscuit.

After lots of batches and testing I created a delicious southern styled biscuit: light, fluffy and sweet. I added just enough buttermilk to give an added rise, but not so much that it overwhelms you with its tangy taste.

The Real Secret to Baking Biscuits

However, the most important part of baking a good biscuit is how you handle the dough. Grating the butter keeps it from getting overworked and folding the dough over itself adds the layers. These small details are the sometimes unspoken secrets of great biscuit bakers. No one wants to go to all the effort of making homemade biscuits only to have them turn out like hard little hockey pucks. So, here is my recipe for my light as air, melt in your mouth southern biscuits.

Rise and Shine Cake Flour Biscuits – makes 1 dozen

  • 3 cups cake flour (or White Lily Flour if you can find it), plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

In a large mixing bowl mix together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Next, using a box grater or the grating attachment on your food processor grate the butter. This will ensure that that dough is not overworked.

A food processor makes grating the butter quick and easy.

Add the butter to the flour mixture blending it in with your fingers or a fork.

Crumble the butter into the dough until it looks a little shaggy.

Next, add the milk and buttermilk and stir until dough begins to form.

Knead the biscuit dough lightly on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin roll out the dough out to about ½ inch thick rectangle. Then fold the dough over to make a double thickness. Roll the dough out until it is 1/2 inch thick. This double layered dough will allow you to get a taller biscuit. Cut the biscuits out using a 2½ inch circular cutter (you could also use a lightly floured drinking glass end if your don’t have a cutter). Push the cutter straight down, but do not twist it or it will pinch the rise of the dough. Make as many biscuits as you can out of each roll out of the dough. Then repeat the steps with the remaining dough until you have 12 biscuits.

If you look closely you can see the two layers. This technique is a little like laminating dough, without adding any extra butter. The layers and cutting at least 1/2 thick biscuits are the key to creating a taller biscuit with a lower protein content flour.

Now make an egg wash by whisking together the egg and water together in small bowl. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash right before baking them. This is what gives them a shiny golden top.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until light, fluffy and golden on top.

Cake flour makes all the difference when it comes to the tenderness. Look at that flakey buttery texture. I found that higher protein content flours just can’t compare when it comes to tenderness.

These biscuits are great with a little butter and jam. However, if you are looking for brunch or breakfast for dinner ideas then I have a couple of biscuit sandwiches that I love to make. In our house, I like to set up a biscuit sandwich bar so everyone can create theirs own perfect biscuit sandwich. Make a side of berry and yogurt parfaits or a fruit salad and you have a fun breakfast for dinner night that everyone will enjoy.

The Classic All American Egg and Cheese Biscuit Sandwich

Split your biscuit in half and fill it with scrambled eggs, grated cheese and bacon, Canadian bacon or ham.

The Biscuit Sandwich with A Chicago Twist

Want a delicious Chicago Italian style sandwich? Then try one of our favorite biscuit combinations: fig jam (I like the Divina brand,) prosciutto and Burrata cheese. So ridiculously good!

The famous Marie Antoinette quote may have been talking about cake or brioche, but cake flour has a way of making delicious biscuits too. So cake flour biscuits for everyone! Because no matter how you serve them, these rise and shine cake flour biscuits are everything a good biscuit should be: light, fluffy and melt in your mouth good.