Charming Chic

Creating an incredible atmosphere on a budget

 Add a little charming chic to any budget. Here are some tips for creating an incredibly cozy atmosphere for you and your guests for less.  I don’t know about you, but aesthetics mean something to me.  The space has to say “home” no matter where I am.  If I travel, I bring a piece of “home” with me; soft throw, candles, room spray and pillows.  The art of using what you have to make an impact or even adding chic thrift store or flea market finds is so much fun!  It’s the only way to decorate these days.  We are currently living in a rental home where we can’t paint.  Talk about a challenge for a girl who loves color!!! I’ve had to get creative and it wasn’t easy.  However, a little piece of “you” added to the mix anywhere can make any space cozy enough for you to love your home.  Add a few mini light strands in trees and greenery, candles, glass bottles, pretty lamps, and beautiful colorful pillows.  Paint one wall a bold color to tie it all in and throw in a few surprises.  Pull furniture away from the walls and place in comfy groupings.  Use everyday ordinary plates, christmas ornaments, or landscape pots to add interest.  Try moving furniture you already own to different places in the house and changing out art work.  Enjoy pics below with captions for ideas…Wow your guests with a few simple changes that add charming impact to any space.  Hope you will be inspired…keep it simple and add some sparkle!

Painted chandelier; added leopard print shades…very chic!

Hands down this is my favorite chair…thrift store find for $15.00 recovered in leopard print. I added a pop of color with this blue pillow from Target for $20.00.

Bird Cage bought at “Consignment Gallery.” Gold Christmas Ornaments added from my attic.

Awesome Print! Found this chair at TJ Maxx for under $150.00 five years ago! This one will never leave me. Added a fluffy white pillow for $10.00 from Target.

Lovely light sheer curtain panels in the dining room; add interesting chandelier and lights in trees…not to mention the cute cafe lamp on the table!

A beautiful curtain to grace the archway leading into dining room finished off with a silk fall arrangement to cover rod.

Two chairs are thrift store finds totaling $40.00. Table purchased at an antique store cost more than the chairs, however, its unique pattern and inlay adds interest and pairs nicely with the chairs. Throw in a couple of leopard print pillows and you have created an instant cozy conversation corner.

Cozy Kitchen Corner…Vintage chairs were given to me by a friend, table was purchased at a second-hand shop for $45.00 and lamp was something I had on hand.

This chair needs some work; but it’s look and structure is awesome! I bought it at a thrift store for $10.00. I will clean it up and possibly recover very soon. It’s one of my favorites.

My chocolate lab Nelson is definitely charming chic!

Comfy Cozy White Chicken Chili

Valley Head, Alabama

Judy with Ranger

The rich color of fall leaves and crisp air hung all around us.  Daylight was beginning to turn to dusk and I put on a strong pot of coffee.  A wonderful aroma from this hearty soup began to fill the house, in this beautiful place my mother in law calls home, Valley Head, Alabama.

Judy left her life as a nurse in Florida and followed her compassionate heart to Valley Head.  It was here where she selflessy cared for my brother-in-law John, who was terminally ill with ALS.   On this particular Fall day, coming in from tending horses and property, Judy was hungry, and I was happy to oblige with a beautiful bowl of this very simple White Chicken Chili.

Two ingredients that make this soup taste extra delicious are Cumin and Coriander, as they give the soup a rich hearty and distinct flavor.  Coriander has a lemony sage flavor while Cumin has a warm smoky flavor and the combination of the two spices together create a wonderful taste for this soup.

When creating this fantastic dish, think about pairing it with a warm biscuit and delightful salad.

Although I like to save this one for cool fall nights, it is actually good any time of the year!

Comfy Cozy White Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili Gift Basket for a Friend

2 tbl. Olive Oil

1 tsp.Coriander (more if you need it)

2 lb. chicken cut into pieces

2 tsp. Cumin (more if you need it)

2 chopped small yellow onions

Garlic

Pepper

Salt

1 tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder or 1 Cayenne Pepper (optional if you like it hot)

2 Bay Leaves

1 qt. Chicken Broth

2 cans Cannellini Beans

White Cheese to top

Green Onion to top

In a dutch oven or soup pot add 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high.  Cut chicken into pieces and add to the oil.  Gently add cumin, coriander, yellow onion, garlic, chipotle chili powder, pepper and salt to the chicken pieces.  Coat well, toss and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes; stirring constantly.  Let chicken mixture stand for about 10 minutes on low with a lid.  This allows for flavors to absorb. 

Turn heat back up to medium and add chicken broth, bay leaves and cannellini beans, bring to a boil and then turn heat to low and allow the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Serve soup in beautiful soup bowls while overlaying 1 piece of white cheddar cheese over the top of the soup and few sprinkles of green onion on top for garnish.  The soup thickens after one or two days and is even more delicious!  Buttermilk biscuits are the perfect combination for this warm, comforting soup.  Enjoy!

Pop’s Uovo’s

My grandparents, Marge and Dom, loved family.  It’s rare to find two great cooks in a family, but they both loved to cook.  In their house there was a large brown table in the middle of their kitchen, it was the heart of the home.  It was so big you could barely get around it, but that is where the most interesting of conversations took place. We didn’t care if we could barely fit between the wall and the table, especially if Pop was cooking.   Their door was always open and you could count on a plethora of great tasting food, friends and family coming to visit nonstop.  My grandmother’s specialty was a simple sandwich piled high with the best cold cuts, a cup of coffee, and a good laugh. She grew up in a little place called “Butternut Center” off of Route 8 in Upstate New York.   How cute is that?   She was the “country girl” in the family and where I guess I get my love for country music.  When she married my Italian grandfather, he brought her to Utica, New York, where she would one day own Marge’s Diner.   She never lost her love for simple delicious short order dishes. One of my grandmother’s favorite things to say was “That’s a hot one”, out of the corner of her mouth, meaning she either couldn’t believe what someone was saying or she couldn’t find something.  I’ve coined the phrase, but she said it best!  One of their quick specialties was a very simple egg dish I like to call “Pop’s Uovo’s” (Italian for Eggs.)  This is my version of Pop’s dish.  Hope I make him proud.

Pops Uovo’s

Olive Oil

½ pound of Potatoes

1 sweet onion

5 Stalks celery

2 or 3 Sweet Green and Red Peppers

4 Eggs

1/4 cup of non fat milk

Sea Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

2 or 3 sprigs of Fresh Basil

Sprinkle of Paprika

Heat ½ cup of olive oil on low heat in a large frying pan.

Dice potatoes, onions, celery and peppers and add to frying pan.  Salt and pepper well and turn heat up to medium.  Fry until potatoes, celery,  peppers and onions are soft.

Crack 4 eggs in a bowl and whip eggs and milk until frothy.  Pour the egg mixture over the soft potatoes, peppers and onions until egg cooks well into the batch. Let the egg settle into the mix by turning heat to low.  Top with a few sprigs of basil and some papricka for garnish!

Bed and Breakfast

Raspberry French Toast 

French Toast is just one of those breakfast foods  everyone seems to love!

Growing up, some children go to the park, while others may go for bike rides.  My daughter and I used to share coffee and muffins at a quaint café or enjoy fancy “Bed and Breakfast” treats.  I know that may sound unusual, but it was a great way to connect.  There was one especially cute café we loved to frequent in the hip downtown area.  We would visit after school about once a week to play checkers, cards, and enjoy the unique food offered.   Another pastime, was sitting down to a beautiful breakfast after a night of girly sleepovers with a friend.  I would set a beautiful dining room table, while the smell of sweet raspberry French Toast or Chocolate Chip Pancakes would permeate the air.  It was an unexpected delight!   It was a pleasure to serve the girls in this simple, yet endearing way, and I will miss those days as she goes off to college this year.  I hope they will remain in her heart as something special to remember.

Raspberry Sauce

1 package of fresh Red Raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons raspberry jam

In medium saucepan, combine fresh raspberries, sugar and jam on low heat.  Cook raspberry mixture until warm until thick and chunky.   Remove from heat and add more sugar to taste if needed.

Toast

4 tbl. butter

3 large eggs

6 slices of thick italian, or ciabatta bread cut in ½ inch slices

½ teas. Vanilla

¾ cup Light Whipping Cream

Topping

Sprinkle Cinnamon

Sprinkle Nutmeg

Raspberry Sauce

Whipped Cream

1 Mint Sprig (herb you can find at the grocery usually in produce)

Coat a Medium pan with no stick cooking spray

Turn the heat to low

Whisk eggs, 1 tablespoon of Margarine and ¼ cup of light whipping cream in a small bowl

Take six slices of Italian Bread and dip in egg mixture

Cook as many of the pieces as comfortable at once until slightly brown

Remove from pan and layer each piece over one another in a diagonal pattern on a pretty breakfast plate

Slather raspberry sauce over the top of the bread

Top with a drizzle of syrup and a dollop of whipped cream.

Garnish with cinnamon, nutmeg and mint sprig

Fresh Summer Mahi Mahi Fajita

Fresh Summer Mahi Mahi Fajita

Sunset in Siesta Key, Florida

Nothing reminds me of warm summer nights than being on the West Coast of Florida.   Traditionally, my husband and I like to spend a few days in Sarasota, enjoying  the white sandy beaches and tremendous sunsets.    We rent the cutest little villa on the coastal waterway enjoying the sights and sounds of a quaint little island resort.  One of our favorite things to do after a day on the beach is to settle in for the evening with a light, airy fish dinner and great conversation, all while sitting on the deck of our beautiful villa.  It was a great way for us to connect and share valuable time together.  While we both love the smooth light flavor of Mahi, one of our favorite things to do is to combine it with a burst of herbal flavors and red pepper sauce in a wonderful tasting fajita shell.  It’s the perfect combination to the ending of a relaxing day.

Mahi Mahi Fajita and Red Pepper Sauce

4 Fresh Mahi Mahi steaks

Villas Siesta Key, Florida

1 Tbls. Fresh Basil

1 Tbls. Fresh Rosemary

1 Tbls. Ground Thyme

2 Tbls. Olive Oil

3 bulbs fresh chopped garlic

1 tablespoon white wine

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Our Yellow Lab, Spencer, enjoying the beach in Siesta Key

1 whole green pepper

1 onion

Soft Fajita Shells

Cut and set aside for toppingsFresh Cherry or Grape Tomato cut in half

Fresh Arugula

Grated Cheddar Cheese

Serve in pretty summer time bowls with serving spoons

EASY Red Pepper Sauce:

1 8 ounce jar roasted red peppers

1/4 cup of Mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon Boars Head Red Pepper Sauce (depending how hot you like it)

1 bulb shredded Garlic

1 parsley sprig

Salt

Pepper

Saute the garlic, fresh basil, rosemary and thyme with a dash of salt and pepper in olive oil on medium heat until soft, add green pepper and onion to the mix and cook until tender.  Remove green pepper and onion to a bowl.  Add mahi steaks to the olive oil and herb mixture cooking on medium heat until mahi steaks are white, flaky and tender.  Let the steaks sauté in the juices on low for an extra five minutes with a slightly ajar pot lid to cover.  Once steaks have been saturated in flavor, remove steaks but take the heat up to a very high temperature and add to the pan a tablespoon of white wine and lemon juice.  The alcohol will cook out and mix into the oil and herb mixture so nicely for an incredible taste.  Take the heat back down to low, Add the steaks back into the pan and coat with liquid.

In the meantime, prepare easy red pepper sauce and tomatoes, cheese, lettuce.  Spoon Mahi mixture into fajita shell, top with tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and top it off with the red pepper sauce. Very easy and extremely delicious!

Everyday Gourmet

Create meals for your family and friends with panache! 

If you don’t have the time or the funds to prepare “expensive” “rare” or “sophisticated” food, nor is it a priority, I suggest you try becoming an “everyday” gourmet and make someone you love feel special by adding zest and pizzazz to the ordinary.

I like to add a little flair to my everyday spaghetti, by adding interesting flavor, texture and color. This quick simple light “sauce” will add just the right touch of “everyday” gourmet appeal with delicious spices, garlic and the star ingredient, cherry tomatoes.

Spaghetti with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes…Tomato variety provides interesting color, size and flavor

1lb. or 16 oz. Wheat or Organic Spaghetti

½ Pint Red Cherry Tomatoes halved

½ Pint Red Grape Tomatoes halved

3 cloves of garlic

Sea Salt

Pepper

Fresh Basil leaves

3 Tbls. Olive Oil

Fresh Romano or Parmesan Cheese

Lemon Juice

**For protein add cooked chicken

***Add more olive oil if you need it

Peel and slice 3 garlic cloves; chop basil leaves and tomatoes in half.  Place all three ingredients in a sauté pan with two tablespoons of olive oil on low to medium heat.  Gently toss adding salt and pepper until soft. While the garlic, basil and tomatoes are cooking, boil a pot of water for spaghetti.

When spaghetti is fully cooked, drain and incorporate about half of the spaghetti into the sauté pan along with the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Coat spaghetti with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and tomato mixture.  Cook on low for about 5 minutes.  Turn the heat to high and add lemon juice into the steaming pan, gently toss and turn the heat back to low.  Cover with pot lid and place on warm.  Let the covered pot soak up all of the delicious flavors, garnish with more basil, top with Romano or Parmesan cheese and serve while it’s hot in your prettiest dish.   A delicious treat just for you…the everyday gourmet!

Frittata Maria

The word “Frittata,” comes from the Italian verb “friggere,” or “to fry,”with egg.   Frittata is a cost effective delicious dish to make when you are running low in the fridge and need to fix a quick easy meal packed with protein.  The difference between a “frittata” and other egg dishes is that the frittata has a mix of many different ingredients combined all at once and cooked together. It is extremely easy to make, can be served at room temperature, and has a satisfying flavor.

Beautiful Frittata

Cooking frittata reminds me of one of my most cherished friends, Maria Chellimi.  Thursday mornings I had the privilege to teach bible study to 25-30 precious ladies and although, I could tell a story about each lady,  Maria just had a way all her own.  When I would share a meal with Maria, it was like I was in a different place and I could be myself, relax and really enjoy life.  This is a wonderful example of sharing hospitality with wonderful people God brings to the different seasons of our lives.

Maria and I

 Maria would always talk about her love for God and the people she met, and loved to share little tidbits like,  Smile when people hurt you”, “You gotta love, always!”  “We have life and love; what more could you want.”  Maria loved life and she would always say “The guest deserves the best of everything.”   I couldn’t agree more, Maria.  She is a special woman and although I have had the privilege of sharing many great meals at her home, one of my favorites is this very simple Frittata. Much like her, it’s simple but packed with lots of flavor and just makes you feel good!

Frittata Maria (a.k.a. Siciliana Frittata)

2 Eggs

1 teaspoon Parsley

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Pepper

1 tablespoon Romano Cheese

2 teaspoon Olive Oil

3 bulbs chopped Garlic

1 tablespoon chopped Onion

1 teaspoon Gorgonzola Cheese

Any vegetable you want to add; I like to add leek or tomato (sparingly) for color

One of the secrets here is NOT to use milk or too much liquid!

On the stovetop on medium heat in a small fry pan, sauté garlic, onion, olive oil and vegetable; add salt and pepper to taste. While cooking the garlic mixture, in a small bowl whisk together egg, Romano cheese, parsley, salt and pepper until smooth.  As garlic and vegetable mixture begins to soften, gently add the egg mixture to the pan.   Let it settle in the pan for about 5 minutes, watching it consistently.  It should have a lovely round shape and light brown color.  When the mixture is fully cooked and firm on one side, using a spatula, flip the frittata over to cook the other side.”  When finished, slide the frittata onto your favorite plate, top with some delicious gorgonzola cheese and a side of fruit.  Tasty…

Here’s to you, Maria!