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Since immersing myself in cooking this past year, food has transformed from merely something tasty to sustain my activity to more of an art form for me. Walking along the shelves and racks, I see the beauty of its natural state more than ever.Take these tomatoes and the contrasting colors, the way they play off one another, then deeper into the marbled tones of the larger. Maybe it is because I frequent the farmers markets more, where food is only hours away from its origin rather than days before I select it, stopping to notice vibrant colors, plump leaves and strong fragrances.   Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

These healthy physical aspects may be partly responsible for my shift, but I think just as much is the appreciation I have for the food itself is heightened. I find myself taking greater care when washing and slicing in a way I never did. Really, before it was all about getting it cooked and eaten, any way I could. Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

Photographing each stage of the preparation has also made me stop and think about it’s beauty. The way the light touches each seed or vein, how oils glisten and bead, or how each piece falls geometrically on the pan.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

It is likely a combination of all the above, and enjoying the thought the outcome comes from my own hand.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes In the past, I turned the burner or oven on high, then off to finish another task I can fit it during the cooking, all the while hoping for the best. Now, my mind’s timer goes off automatically without the help of the electronic one on the microwave to check on the progress no matter what other project I’m involved in. The shift to savoring what I’ve made, sitting at the table with a cloth napkin, rather than gulping mindlessly in front of the tv, has made me better for the whole experience.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes
I prefer mine on the chewier side, so three hours or so worked well in my oven.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

Preserve them for a week or so in olive oil, stored in the fridge.

Original recipe Food 52

 ingredients

Makes about 8 ounces.

16 ounces mini heirloom tomatoes
A few pinches coarse salt
Olive oil spritzer (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil (optional if storing)
parchment paper

preparation

Preheat oven to 200°F. Place parchment paper on baking sheet. Cut each tomato in half lengthwise and lay
1-1/2″ apart. Add a spritz of olive oil over tomatoes or dab a dot on each with a pastry brush. Sprinkle salt on the cut sides of the tomatoes to your taste!

Bake in oven for about 3-4 hours depending on whether you want them drier or chewier. Chewier is closer to 3 hours, drier closer to 4 hours. Watch them carefully as time marches to the third hour in the oven.

Use in your favorite  recipe or toss into pasta with garlic and a little more olive oil.

Cooks Note: Dried tomatoes can be stored in olive oil in the fridge for a week.

Peace & Love,
~connie

 

I can get carried away with details when decorating, but I do think they can make a difference in the way a place makes you feel. Adding a bauble to the head of a nail, or wrapping silk around a wooden hanger to display a vintage dress is just like adding jewelry to an outfit to me. So you can understand why I spent the better part of Dancing with the Stars last week wrapping twine around this lamp’s bare electric cord and a few others. It stuck out like a sore thumb dragging along the wall and floor in a jumbled mess along with other equally ugly cords.

Twine Lamp Cord Cover

All you need is a glue gun, scissors and twine from the hardware or dollar store.
Twine Lamp Cord Cover Cut a three yard piece of twine as it twirls around the cord much easier than in the ball. Start by adding a bead of glue along a 3 in strip of cord where it meets the lamp.

Twine Lamp Cord Cover

To hide the twine end, press three inches of the end of the twine onto the glue with the tail leading away from the lamp. Remember the glue is very hot! Begin wrapping the twine from the point the cord and the lamp meet, making certain there are not gaps  between each wrap, adding six inch beads of glue each time. Anything longer than that will dry before you get it wrapped around. You will have to cut three or four lengths of twine to cover the entire cord. As you come to each end of twine, carefully add a dab of glue and press lightly. Hot again! Continue as before pressing the three inch tail into glue and wrapping where the last piece left off. You should even be able to cover the end of the last end you tacked.

Lamp Cord Cover

Lamp Cord Cover

 

I have never been star struck, dreaming of a chance meeting with a certain celebrity except maybe Robert Redford. But then I heard from a flight attendant friend of mine that he wasn’t exactly a nice guy. Trusting in her assessment of his behavior during a cross country trip, I’ve crossed him off the list. But the Beekman 1802 Boys have been on my radar since the first time I watched their reality show on the Planet Green network in 2010. I am here to tell you they are even more adorable in person, and they couldn’t be nicer! We chatted, we hugged, and now I have a signed copy of the most wonderful cookbook.

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook: Heirloom fruits and vegetables, and more than 100 heritage recipes to inspire every generation

Over brunch this summer, I told my friends Del and John that I have had the date for the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival marked on my calendar since last year. The Boys, Josh and Brent, conceived the festival five years ago to celebrate the harvest of local farmers and a day to bring the community together. John volunteered to drive, and the upstate NY road trip was born over pancakes and bacon.

I can see why the B Boys were attracted to the Village of Sharon Springs in the first place. It is the most charming of towns, making its way back from a downturn, in part, with the help of the new celebrities. You can see the farm here. Although we stayed in nearby Cherry Valley because we were so late in organizing the trek, we found ourselves at the beautifully renovated American Hotel in Sharon Springs on Friday evening, owned by Doug and Garth, also featured on the show. It turns out Doug is the mayor of the village, as he explained to us while table hopping to chat with guests gathered on the patio at twilight. He was in full Scottish regalia for the cocktail hour, including the kilt. We had to laugh when he told us, “[As an actor] all I wanted was a television show, and we had to leave New York to get one.” The hotel is beautifully appointed, as is the dining room. I had a creamy mushroom sherry soup that was out of this world.

On the way to becoming the enchanting village it once was, it has made a resurgence in the last 15 years. Sharon Springs has a warm and cordial spirit all its own. Quaint shops are springing up, alongside homes being refurbished back to their former glory. If you’ve never been upstate, the landscape is breathtaking. As a photographer, I could have asked to stop the car about every 50 feet to capture the beauty, but I knew that would become irritating very quickly. I’ve already got the 2014 date reserved. Who’s in?

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

The Fabulous Beekman Boys Craft and food vendors scattered all over town, and these little guys.

 Peace & Love,
~connie

This was my lunch today! Crispy, crunchy romaine, creamy, tangy dressing. Caesar salad is one of my all-time favorites, but getting a good one out is difficult. Nothing ruins a salad faster than disappointing lettuce. You know what I mean when the majority of the plate has those white rib centers arranged around a few pieces of green leafs.

I make a mean unhealthy version which I’ll share with you sometime. In the meantime, this one from Jamie Oliver is so satisfying even for a die-hard Caesarite! Swapping out the majority of the olive oil and the standard raw eggs with yogurt cuts way back on the calories, but not the taste.

Healthy Caesar Salad

Homemade croutons with three-grain bread left over from the weekend. Toss with a little olive oil and garlic. Healthy Caesar Salad Arrange on a baking sheet and pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Watch it carefully because it can go from lightly toasted to black quickly.

Healthy Caesar Salad I make no secret of my love for the taste of anchovies. Chop them finely.
Healthy Caesar Salad Whisk away until smooth and creamy. Healthy Caesar Salad Tear romaine into bite size pieces, toss with dressing and top off with a few slivers of parmesan-reggiano. Seriously good!
Healthy Caesar Salad

Original from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

ingredients

1/3 cup low-fat or nonfat Greek-style yogurt
2 anchovy fillets, chopped tiny
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large head of romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

preparation

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk in the oil and half of the cheese and season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, toss the romaine with half the dressing and the remaining cheese. Serve the remaining dressing at the table, or use for dipping bread.

Cooks notes: Turn it into a meal with broiled, flaked salmon or grilled chicken breast.

Peace & Love,
Connie

 

If you are looking for an easy, impressive meal, this is it! Sautéed lemon and rosemary chicken is aromatic, moist, tender and finished in less than 30 minutes from beginning to end. 

It’s great for weekday meals when everyone is famished after work, since there is very little prep work. I’m all about saving time. Cook a few extra pieces to heat up or eat cold at lunch or dinner the next day. I try making many of the recipes I share and cook regularly for myself healthy, watching the amount of olive oil and butter. This one has about half the olive oil of other recipes I’ve seen, and only a smidge of butter for taste. It works well when you turn the heat to very low after browning and keep the lid on for about ten minutes.

Sautéed Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

Sautéed Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

Sautéed Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

Sautéed Lemon and Rosemary Chicken

ingredients

4 skinless chicken breasts, washed and trimmed
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 Tbsps dried rosemary
1-1/2 tsp of thyme
2 large lemons (zested and juiced), about 2 tablespoons zest
1 small pat of butter for taste
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 lemon thinly sliced (optional)

preparation

In a hot skillet with a lid, add olive oil and brown chicken about 3 minutes on each side on a medium heat. Add butter, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and sprinkle lemon over chicken. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer chicken 5-6 minutes on each side until no pink shows in the center. Before turning chicken, add 2 tablespoons of water and a dash of olive oil and cover again. Serve with thinly sliced lemon garnish.

Peace & Love,
Connie

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2013

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DIY Ikea Furniture Project

On 12, Mar 2013 | No Comments | In Decor, DIY, Furniture, Inside | By admin

I know I’m not the only one who bought a piece of furniture, and a month later wondered why it appealed to me in the first place? Rather than getting rid of this nightstand, I turned it into a DIY furniture project that suited the bedroom much better. I think of my grandkids and how waste will affect their world every time I take something to dumpster, so I didn’t want to toss this mistake onto the heap. There was a couple of things wrong with the IKEA nightstand: 1) it was very plain, 2) it was too low for my bed, and 3) sitting flat on the floor made the corner seem cramped.

For some reason, there were four extra legs in the drawer of the high boy dresser I got from West Elm a few years ago, and I stashed them away for that ‘someday’ project. I had some leftover grass cloth from the wallpapering job in the hall, leaving only a few extra items to purchase to complete the job. Here’s the complete list of items I used for this makeover:

Screwdriver
Drill/or large nail to start hole
4 small nails
Staple gun/staples
Scissors
Legs
Screws for legs
Spray adhesive
Ruler
Grasscloth or whatever type of paper or fabric for drawer front
Fabric to cover plywood (mine was 4″ x 72″)
1/2″ plywood the same size as the bottom of furniture (not needed if the piece you are transforming has solid wood to screw legs into)

DIY Furniture Project  This is the before….very plain.

DIY Furniture Project

IKEA Hackers furniture has open undersides as you can see in this view. Cut a 1/2″ thick piece of plywood the size of the opening to give a solid wood area to attach legs. Home Depot and Lowes will make the cuts for you. Particle board or MDF will also work, although you have to check the widths they come in. I used plywood because I wanted the suede to be visible. MDF was not wide enough to show the fabric well. There are plenty more ideas for ways to modify Ikea furniture on the IKEA Hackers blog.  DIY Furniture Project I cut a 4″ wide strip of fabric long enough to staple around the outside of the plywood board.  DIY Furniture Project I used faux suede for this project. Staple about 1-3/4″ from the edge of the board on one side, easing around the corners. Leave corners standing up for now. Make sure the fabric lies smooth taking care to have the ends meet at the back to avoid showing. DIY Furniture Project Tuck fabric to one side and fold over, staple. Flip the board and do the same thing on the opposite side, pulling it taught over the edge. You can use this method for reupholstering simple chair seats, as well.

DIY Furniture Project Line up the edges of the furniture and board.

DIY Furniture Project Hammer one nail (this is a finishing nail) on all four sides to secure. Be certain you are going to hit the center of the furniture so the nail doesn’t break through and damage the piece. Believe me, it can happen.

DIY Furniture Project Align the legs, mark the hole and either drill a hole with a drill bit smaller than the screw or start the hole with a nail larger than the screw. It is difficult to get a screw going without making a hole first, unless the wood is very soft (like pine.) I already had the legs, but no screws. Take the legs with you when you head to the hardware store to be sure to get screw heads large enough (slightly larger than the leg hole) to hold the legs securely.

DIY Furniture Project Now, cut the grasscloth or fabric to cover the drawers, spray cloth and drawer with adhesive, stick and smooth. Painting the fronts of drawers will work too, but I wanted the texture.

DIY Furniture Project More texture here on the base.

DIY Furniture Makeover_social Finished project. What do you think? What is your next DIY furniture project?

Thanks for stopping by. ~connie

Photos by Connie

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