July 23, 2014
Do you have a favorite type of jewelry to wear? Earrings? Necklaces? Bracelets? Rings? If I could only choose one style of jewelry to wear for the rest of my life, a statement necklace would be it…hands down. I generally wear only stud earrings…very rarely wear bracelets…and the only rings I wear are my engagement ring and wedding band. The thing is: I’ve accumulated quite a few statement necklaces over the years, and I need a statement necklace display for them.
statement necklace display
Years ago, my parents bought me a wonderful, tall jewelry box for all of my baubles. However, it matched the decor from my previous set of furniture, and with our bedroom makeover in progress, it isn’t going to stick around. Besides, the big statement necklace pieces I have very rarely are able to fit inside properly…go figure.
statement necklace display
The thing I love about statement necklaces is that they look very pretty when they are on display. Therefore, I’m hoping to eventually solve the conundrum I currently have by adding some trays to the top of the dresser to keep them looking organized and pretty. I’ve been searching high and low for clear lucite trays, as I think they would add the organization factor without distracting from the jewelry. Of course, because that is what I’m looking for I am having the hardest time finding them.
statement necklace display
In the meantime, I’m simply attempting to lay my statement necklace display out as if I DID have the trays already. The power of positive thinking…right? Perhaps I can will the lucite trays into my life somehow.
statement necklace display
On a side note: the majority of these necklaces are from T.J. Maxx – it probably doesn’t come as any surprise if you know me! If you haven’t perused their jewelry department, I definitely recommend you do so the next time you stop in. I have been able to score some darn awesome baubles for seriously affordable prices. These large statement necklaces normally run at prices over $100 (some have had original price tags at over $200), and I’ve never spent more than $50 on a piece. Score.

So – how do you store your statement jewelry pieces?

July 22, 2014

Oh summer…the time of the year for fresh, light, and bright food items. There is so much produce in season, and it truly a time when I get creative in the kitchen. Or in this case: on the grill! Summer grilling: it’s a must! Today, I’m sharing a recipe for an easy to make grilled corn salsa. It’s full of color and flavor and is oh so versatile for your summer meals!

Grilled Corn Salsa

I have to be honest: I LOVE corn on the cob…but I hate eating it ON the cob. I always end up with corn kernels stuck between my teeth and it will bother me for hours on end. I was the girl who always had her mom cut the corn off of the cob for her as a child. And I still do it to this day. It can kind of be a process as well – running the knife down the side of the cob, the corn kernels cascading off and falling everywhere – some on the plate, some on the counter, some on the floor. I am notorious for making a mess when it comes to stripping corn. However, OXO’s corn stripper tool is a godsend! Not only does it run through the corn easily, it has a compartment to catch all of the kernels as they are stripped from the cob – all you have to do is dump the container into a bowl. My life just got a whole lot easier.

And can we talk about the amazingness of grilled corn? It is my all time favorite way to prepare it; the char from the grill adds such awesome flavor (and great color too). You can use any color you desire – I am personally partial to the bi-color variety. A quick brush of olive oil with OXO’s silicone basting brush, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a few turns with your OXO 16″ grill tongs once they hit the grill, and you’re on your way to grilled corn salsa goodness!

Grilled Corn Salsa

I decided to create a large batch of salsa this time around – it yielded about 3 cups in the end. Why, you ask? Because I have oh so many plans for this salsa. Today, I’m dipping into it with corn tortilla chips (classic – yum!). Later this week,  I’m going to share another recipe for a healthy and delicious Sunday Supper. Annnnd I even have a third easy weekday supper recipe in the works after that. So – stay tuned…you’ll be seeing much more of this salsa in the future!

This salsa is super easy to customize to your personal tastes as well. If you aren’t a fan of spice, leave out the jalapeno (you could even replace with bell pepper). Or, take it up a notch with even spicier peppers. If you plan on eating the salsa all in one sitting, some diced avocado mixed in would be delectable! Oh, the possibilities!

Have you made your own salsa? What do you add to yours?

Grilled Corn Salsa

Grilled Corn Salsa

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill to medium/medium-high heat. Clean the ears of corn and brush lightly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place ears of corn on the grill and cook on all sides for about 6-8 minutes, using grill tongs to turn the ears occasionally. Remove corn from the grill and place on a platter to cool.
  2. When the corn has cooled, use a corn stripping tool (or knife) to strip the kernels from the corn. Add to a large bowl along with the red onion, jalapeno, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a lime over the top of the mixture, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly to incorporate all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve!
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July 17, 2014

Are there some treats from your childhood that always bring back amazing memories? For me, there are some “pre-packaged” cookies that I indulged in years ago and still think of fondly as an adult. Oatmeal creme pies…those chocolate cupcakes with the swirl on top and white cream filling inside…and Fig Newtons. Creating homemade Fig Newtons has been an item on my “foodie bucket list” for a while now, so I needed to make it happen.

Homemade Fig Newtons

Here’s the funny thing: I enjoyed Fig Newtons as a child, but if you put a real fig in front of me there is no way I would ever have eaten one. No way, Jose. And I do have to admit: I still don’t eat them whole as an adult. I love them when they are a component of a dish, but not by themselves. A flatbread with figs, arugula, and goat cheese? Yes please. Figs dipped in chocolate on a tart? I’ll take a slice gladly.

Homemade Fig Newtons

But oh, if I could recreate a homemade Fig Newton at home, that would be grand. As luck would have it, Justin’s parents happen to have a fig tree in their backyard. Convenient, eh? The bounty of fresh figs definitely varies year to year; last year was a bit meager…but this year the tree is exploding with fruit. Of course, the birds also happen to adore figs so there is a constant fight to see who gets to them first. Those stinking birds have a tendency to peck a hole in a fig and then leave it to move on to the next one. What a waste. We were lucky enough to yield a nice bunch of figs the last time we visited my in-laws’ house, so I knew the time had finally come for my homemade Fig Newton dream to become a reality.

Homemade Fig Newtons

I scoured the Internet for recipe inspiration and tips. I have to say: there are a ton of different recipes out there, so it became a bit of a task to sift through and see where elements differed or were the same. Some simply cooked down the figs in water to make the filling. Some included an exorbitant amount of sugar in the filling. The list goes on. In the end, I created my own recipe and crossed my fingers my instincts were right with the proportions. Go figure. I live dangerously.

Homemade Fig Newtons

The result? Oh my goodness. I used the oh so genius tip on Food52 to slice the warm cookies and place them in a zippered bag to steam in order to give them that soft baked quality everyone loves. Best idea ever. The cookies are soft and chewy. The cookie itself is not super sweet, but the fig filling adds that touch of sweetness. The fig seeds add extra texture as well. I am lucky to have had any cookies left to take pictures to share – Justin and my family ended up devouring the entire batch in record speed. They have already requested a second batch. Ok. I’ll take that as a positive review!

14 Hands Riesling 2013

Although I enjoy noshing on these treats throughout the day, they do make a nice end to the day as a dessert. I paired my plate of homemade Fig Newtons with a fresh Riesling from 14 Hands Vineyards. I found the light yet sweet flavors to be a delicious complement to the figs…and it’s great for the summer season as well!

Have you tried to recreate a childhood treat? What did you make?

 

Homemade Fig Newtons

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh figs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the fig filling. Slice the stems off of each fig and cut them into quarters (or small pieces). Add to a pot with sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon over medium heat. Simmer for 40 min, stirring occasionally until fig mixture cooks down to a dark hued color with a paste consistency. I turned my heat down to medium-low after 20 minutes to avoid burning my mixture; at that point it had darkened and thickened quite a bit. Just make sure to keep an eye on it as it cooks!
  2. When the mixture is finished cooking, use an immersion blender or food processor to pulse until consistency is smooth throughout. Allow mixture to cool fully. If the filling is still a bit too runny to spread, stir in a tablespoon of flour at a time until it reaches the consistency you desire. Refrigerate until you are ready to make the cookies.
  3. For the cookies, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix together and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar with a blender. Then, add the egg, vanilla, and orange juice. When those ingredients are incorporated, begin adding the bowl of dry ingredients until a cookie dough forms.
  5. Remove dough from the bowl and place it on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Press dough into a flat disc shape, then cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours+).
  6. When the dough has been fully chilled, preheat the oven to 325° F, then remove the dough from the refrigerator. Slice the dough into four equal pieces. Place one piece onto a heavily floured sheet of parchment paper and the three remaining pieces should be returned to the refrigerator. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4" thick, 4 inches wide, and 12 inches long, making sure the dough is floured liberally and can be released from the parchment. It will become sticky very quickly, so you have to work somewhat fast!
  7. Spoon the fig filling into a zippered sandwich bag. Snip the tip off of one corner, then pipe 1/4 of the filling down the center of the dough strip. Fold up the sides of the dough to close over the top of the filling, and press the ends together to close them up. Carefully roll the log of dough to be seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet, then place the sheet in the refrigerator.
  8. Repeat the rolling and filling process with the remaining three pieces of dough, then bake the filled dough for 30 minutes, until the dough turns golden brown and is not tacky to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 3-5 minutes.
  9. Before the cookies cool fully, slice the cookie dough logs into rectangular slices, then place the cookies into a gallon sized zippered bag and close it. This allows the cookies to steam and attain the soft baked texture.
  10. Enjoy!
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July 16, 2014

There are times when you need to take things up a notch. Today I want to share a bit of a project I worked on recently to take my photos up to the next level. My DIY photo board has very quickly become my favorite photography prop in my collection. And it was easy to create too!

DIY Photo Board

Sometimes I find it humorous to track my photo progression over time. Back when I first started photographing food, I didn’t know much of anything technique-wise. I was taking photos of food when it was still in the pan…steam rising from the food and blurring the image. I didn’t know to use small plates and bowls for photos. I didn’t know how to set up a shot. Then things began to click, I got more serious, and my photos began looking much prettier. I’m not ashamed of the past photos; it is fun to look back and see how far I’ve come.

Anyway, I’d been a bit frustrated with my photo setup for a while. I had a few cloths and boards I rotated, but they just weren’t perfect. I wasn’t getting the texture of a wood table that I wanted. Of course, I have an awesome dining room table that would make the most beautiful photos, but the lighting situation in that room isn’t ideal. So…off to create a DIY photo board to mimic a table instead!

There are a ton of different DIY photo board tutorials out there, and I drew inspiration from a few of them (Love & Olive Oil’s was definitely the most helpful). First – it was off to collect my materials!

DIY photo board wood planks

I picked up 1/4″ thick wood craft boards as my main photo board material. I used 6: 5.5″ x 2ft boards and 4: 3.5″ x 2ft boards in order to create a two sided square board. I’ve seen a lot of tutorials with boards not as wide, but I was drawn to the 5.5″ boards for myself since I thought they looked like the slats of a picnic table.

DIY photo board materials

I also purchased wood glue and paint to complete the project. For my base color, I selected Valspar’s English Tea Party. It happened to be out on the shelf with the pre-made paint samples, so it worked perfectly. I thought the smoky brown color would look great…and I was lucky enough to be right. Whew!

Once the materials were purchased, it was time to lay the boards out! I set them on a few layers of newspaper to work. I laid three of the 5.5″ boards in the center, with a 3.5″ board on each side.

DIY photo board layout

The other set of boards was set in the same configuration, but perpendicular to the bottom layer. To glue, I started with the outer two slats to make sure the edges and corners lined up properly. I squiggled a generous amount of wood glue to the edge area, then placed the perpendicular board on top.

DIY photo board glue

I weighed it down with a few heavy books and let it sit for about 30 minutes (I wanted to make sure the ends were secure first). Then, I moved on to glue the center three boards, placing more books on top and allowing them to dry for a few hours.

DIY photo board painting

Once the boards were dry, it was time to paint! I diluted the English Tea Party paint in half with water (50% water, 50% paint….roughly), then used a brush to paint it across the slats. Then, I used a damp paper towel to wipe down the boards. This process created more of a “stained” look than painted. I allowed the first side to dry, then repeated on the back. I have some colored paint for the next version of the board (two sides, two different treatments/looks), but to be honest, I haven’t had a spare moment to finish it yet! As soon as the “stained” look was complete, I started using the board straight away…I need to take it out of commission for a day so I can finish painting the other side!

DIY photo board stained

I actually repeated the same process with a 2′ x 2′ flat board I’d purchased – it is only about 1/8″ thick, and only a few dollars. I also like how it turned out on that board! It’s a more affordable option if you don’t want to spend the money on the wood slats (which were a couple dollars a piece: the entire photo board cost a little under $40 to create). You lose some of the texture, but you still achieve a similar look! Plus, it’s a lot lighter. Options.

DIY photo board example

As for my photos? I don’t know about you, but I think they look so much better with this new backdrop! As soon as I finish painting the back side, I will definitely have to show it off!

Have you created your own photo props?