Saturday, January 28, 2012

the winter ball

The invitation was late, but the date was great, so why not go to the ball? We rushed downtown to find a dress, a wrap, and accessories.

"Oh no! What about the boutonnière !?" "I will make you one, my dear" I replied when I heard the scream during my royal nap.  "Okay, can you make one for Bella too?" "Oui" {my French lessons seem to be kicking in}.

Is there any flower more appropriate for a winter fête than the lovely Camilla? I always keep some florist tape on hand and a few fancy straight pins, just in case.

After wrapping the stems with florist tape and adding the pin, 

I slipped the boutonnières into cellophane bags and they were ready to go.

Do boys want ribbons on their cello bags? 

Probably not. Right??

Hope you are having an exciting weekend.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

the sandwich before the storm

All of Seattle was abuzz with the talk of the "big storm". Schools were cancelled, roads were salted and our limited fleet of snow clearing vehicles were ready and waiting. As the hours passed, many of us were skeptical, but the reports kept coming on strong. I had a dentist appointment, and as I drove downtown the roads were as clear as could be. Well, actually it was an orthodontist appointment. I thought I was well past the stages of considering braces, but now, I am an Invisalign girl, and I love it! Anyone else? Is this a post~worthy topic??

As I started home, the flakes had began to fall. I knew I would arrive home to my two little chicks, just stretching their wings and stepping away from their private little nests. Knowing I would be driving up Madison, I thought it would make sense to stop at George's {I'll use any excuse I can come up with}. Then, given the snow panic, I saw my favorite parking spot, just in front of the unassuming brown awning was, of course I had to stop.

Seattle readers, if you haven't been to George's Deli yet, you are in for a tremendous treat.

A tender turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich on rye from George's, Seattle.
Those of you who live out of town, worry not, when you come to visit, you too will be able to indulge. Because, really, the only place to stay in Seattle is the Sorrento Hotel, and right across from the Sorrento is George's. The Sorrento is a classic beauty atop First Hill, just blocks away from the center of town. The restaurants and bar offer many interesting events that bring in a great cross~section of the Seattle set on a regular basis.

The Sorrento Hotel, a Seattle gem

As you walk into this small shop, the smell of smoke may be a little overwhelming, because they cure and smoke all of their own meats. These photo's were taken with my I phone, so they are not the best of quality, but trust me, they meats are. I always pick up plenty of their ham, thinly sliced, for Christmas morning crepes.

But, let's get back to those sandwiches. In college, I used to visit a friend in Southern Oregon who's mother would make us the most marvelous sandwiches to take with us as we inner tubed down the Rouge River. When I spent time in the kitchen with her I learned that the reason her sandwiches were so tasty was because of the quality of each of the ingredients, and the complex mix of items she would put in each sandwich. Combined, they would make a sandwich you hoped would never end. Wonderful spreads, the best quality mayonnaise, mustard's, maybe a Thousand Island or aVinaigrette dressing, vegetables, cured meats, fresh meats and cheeses, packaged between two slices of the best quality bread made the most irresistible mid~day meal.

I think the key element that makes George's sandwiches better than the rest, grilled or not, are these thin slices of perky dill pickles, crunchy, yet delicate.

I think even Dagwood would weep!

Once I placed my order with a women with a very thick accent there was time to grab a shopping basket and bump around the vast array of unusual food products piled up around the shop. 

What perfect picnic fare!

Now, if I were roaming about Eastern Europe, without a map, and had just hopped out of my Trabant and stumbled into this place {and you do really feel you are in a different world here}, given the accents and the products, I would guess I was still in Poland, but very near the German border.

I'm sorry, dear blog, from which I lifted this image, I can't find you again to give you credit or share your charming story. Please contact me if you can!!
By the time I'd loaded up my shopping basket, including some of their marvelous egg noodles and this yummy poppyseed roll for dessert, my sandwiches were ready.

As I mosied up to the counter, forcing myself not to even look at all of the other unusual treasure that were tempting my peripheral vision, I saw these cups of Landjäger on the counter, regular and hot. I chose hot, I mean, one must be prepared when there is a snow storm brewing, right?

And then there was this amazing array of sweets to take away.

I'm sorry, this isn't the type of image I really like to display, but this dessert was amazing! It's a prune, soaked in madeira, and then sort of pureed. the prune/madeira layer in on a layer of marzipan and the whole things is dipped in a wonderful, sharp dark chocolate. You could just put these on a tray for dessert and be done, everyone would think your exotic grandmother made them for you.

If you wanted to offer a selection, please include the marvelous dark chocolates filled with a warming Kirsch, they are dreamy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

rude rain

The rains came today to wash away all of our beautiful, downy snow. Before it got too far, I just had to get out and capture a few parting shots..

a lost lunch

what hardy roses
my citrus crop is in serious trouble

On the first day of the storm my girlfriends and I ski toured through the Washington Park Arboretum.

 It was so nice to silently glide along these trails usually filled with pedestrians.

 The Broadmoor golf course looked ethereal submerged in white.

We finished the with a little apres ski drink at Starbucks. Definitely the first time I've worn ski boots there.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kale smoothie...

Ah, New Year's resolutions, to be healthier, happier, slimmer, etc.. oy! Frankly, I don't really feel like making any big, firm, ceremonious resolutions this year. Instead, I've come up with general areas in which I'd like to improve, new paths I'd like to pursue and a few scary, uncomfortable things I am going to force myself to dig into.

There are many things I took away from my stay at The Ranch that I will use to help me to achieve some of my steps towards improvement this year, in particular, ways to eat a healthier diet, in hopes of, amongst other things, maintaining the leaner figure I cam home with {I lost about 8 pounds overall}.

Our diet was vegetarian, and all of the food was so wonderful, I really didn't miss having meat for a week. But out here on my own, I do eat meat, and I find that the pure protein it provides keeps me feeling full and fueled for much longer that other protein options. But, what I've discovered is that I can eat less meat, coupled with more vegetables and still get that fortified affect. One tip that I learned that's helped me in this effort is to always make sure that the meal on your plate is more than 1/2 vegetables.

Of all of the vegetables we discussed, KALE was touted as the superfood of all superfoods, loaded with an abundance of vitamins, minerals and anti-cancer agents, yet very low in in calories.  I've always loved kale as a side dish, sauteed in olive oil, with a little garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon. But, I learned a tasty new way add more kale into my diet....kale smoothies for breakfast. Now they may look weird, but I promise you, they are positively delicious. Also, as I'm sure you know, the beauty of a smoothie is that it is very easy to alter the recipe to suit your personal tastes.

Below is a smoothie recipe made with kale from The Ranch. The cuisine there was also dairy free, so they often offered almond milk, which is used in this recipe. You can buy almond milk in stores, but honestly, I tried a few and found them to have a strong bitter quality. So, in addition to the smoothie recipe, you'll find a recipe for making almond milk {SO easy}. Finally, I'm including my current favorite version of the Splendid Kale Smoothie, including my little lazy lady way of making almond milk, on an as needed basis.

The Splendid Kale Smoothie

Avocado Smoothie,
from The Ranch, Malibu

Serving size: 1

3 oz. Avocado
4 oz. Asian pear
2 oz. Kale
Minced fresh ginger to taste
8 oz. almond milk
4 oz. pineapple juice
1 cup ice
sea salt to taste

Here is my current favorite concoction. This smoothie tastes great, is extremely satisfying and keeps me feeling full and energized all morning long. I LOVE the addition of ginger, it makes me feel so warm and cozy.

A Splendid Smoothie
Serving size: 1

10 almonds
1 cup water
2 satsuma oranges, washed and whole
a pinch of salt
10 sprigs of parsley
1/2 an apple
6~8 small leaves of kale, chopped
3 slices of fresh pineapple
about 2 inches of fresh ginger root

Drop almonds, water and satsuma into a vitamix or blender {this is the almond milk}

Blend until liquefied.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. 

For a crunchy topping sprinkle on some Splendid Granola.

As I've been reorganizing my kitchen {part of working towards my never~ending goal of having a more efficiently organized home}, I was able to move my Vitamix from outer kitchen Siberia, to a drawer in my center island, just below the counter where I like to use it. As a result, I've found I'm much more inclined to use this fabulous food machine. The cookbook that came with the machine has a plethora of healthy recipes, here is their recipe for making Almond or Cashew milk.

Almond Milk, recipe from the Vitamix recipe book

Almond or Cashew Milk recipe from the Vitamix cookbook

3 cups water
1 cup raw almonds or cashews
sugar or sweetener to taste {optional}

1. Place all ingredients into the Vita-mix container in the order listed and secure lid.

2. Select Variable 1.

3. Turn machine on and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High,

4. Blend for 2 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.

Preparation: 5 minutes, processing: 2 minutes, yield 3.5 cups

What about you? Any resolutions? 

Monday, January 16, 2012

bonne neige!

Hello Splendid Readers, I hope all is well with you. We have had a fantastic little snow storm here in Seattle and many of us are loving every single flake.

I didn't get out much today, in fact I've been somewhat homebound lately, "encouraging" the completion of college applications, helping the little academics to prepare for their final exams, and then, I have been on a MAJOR organizing binge.

It's amazing what three new drawers can do for a kitchen. These plain white drawers, with brushed nickel bin handles, replaced a bank of shelves and an irritating beverage refrigerator. The two deep bottom drawers became the home for all of my appliances, centralizing these items to a space where they are most frequently used. When I open the top drawer, there is a beautiful, slightly tilted, display of each and every jar of herbs or spices I own, organized alphabetically... oh, how I swoon over this sudden ease of accessibility to these exotic, flavorful ingredients. 

Moving these things to their new home, of course, opened up other spaces. I've spent the past couple of weeks focused on how to make my kitchen storage space as functional as possible.

Then there was the furnace issue...more on that later, maybe.

Today, I did take a baby step towards addressing a resolution I've made for to myself for many years. Before she spent time with my daughter, I spent an hour with a fabulous french tutor. I must admit, it was an exhausting struggle trying to extract those words from the catacombs in my brain, then trying to put them together in an attempt to converse with this lovely Parisian. Though the attempt may have seemed pathetic to her, to me, it felt great and I plan to continue down this path.

On the local news tonight they are "concerned" that there are more storm fronts moving in, visibly distressed by the unfortunate weather pattern which has come our way. 

Personally, I love this winter wonderland, and all of the uncertainty and inconvenience it offers. 

Want to bundle up and join me out here for brandy later?

 I say, let it snow!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Red Lentil Soup

Who doesn't want a warm bowl of soup this time if year? 

I love this red lentil soup, because it is warm and hearty and the color of a blazing fire. Not only is it flavorful and delicious, but also quick to prepare, and extremely healthy....could you ask for anything more??

Red Lentil Soup
yield: 10 cups

¼ cup cooking oil
¾ tablespoon whole cumin seed
¾ tablespoon ground coriander
¾ tablespoon turmeric

1large onion cut into ¼ inch pieces
3 cloves garlic finely chopped {save ½ of the garlic to add to the soup at the end}
2 carrots cut into ¼ inch pieces
1 stalk celery cut into ¼ inch pieces
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 quarts water, or vegetable broth or chicken broth {and maybe more for the texture you prefer}
2 cups red Lentils, washed 
{they are a pretty coral pink when dried}

1 cup crushed tomatoes in puree
¼ cup tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
7 sprigs cilantro, washed and tied together
¼ cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons washed, dried and finely chopped cilantro  

In a large saucepan, combine oil, cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric. 

Over low heat, cook mixture until seeds darken. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute over medium heat until onions are translucent. 

Add broth or water, lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and cilantro sprigs. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 to 30 minutes until lentils are very soft, stirring occasionally. Remove soup from heat,take out cilantro sprigs, and stir soup well, breaking up any chunks of lentils.

 Stir in remaining garlic, lemon juice and chopped cilantro. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or water. Taste for seasoning {may need additional salt}.

I like to drizzle a little olive oil on this soup, it adds  a wonderful layer of flavor and a luxurious mouth feel {see image above}.

It’s also delicious topped with more chopped cilantro and crumbled feta, fried medallions of goat cheese would be enticing as well.

Oh! Do be sure to serve this with your favorite array hot sauces.

This Recipe is adapted from one in the Pasta & Co. Cookbook.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Want to go shopping in Chamonix, France??

After nearly a month of merriment, the transition back to "normal" life isn't coming easily for me. The kids have gone back to school and I am faced with the tedious tasks of decluttering, returning the less~loved gifts and collecting up all of the holiday decor to be tucked away for another three~hundred~and~fifty~some~odd days. Our gorgeous tree will absolutely stay upright at least through the advent this year, it is still SO fragrant!

I have managed to stock the larder {well, I placed my Amazonfresh order anyway}.  So, I think it's okay if I procrastinate just a little, don't you?

Want to come with me to this great little shop I visited in Chamonix awhile back? I don't have the name handy, but it is located just outside of town, down the street from the Hotel Albert Premier and across the street from the marketplace... you'll be able to find it, but write me if you need more details. 

This little hut was loaded with so many alpine-chic, naturally beautiful elements that could transform any space into a lovely, luxurious lodge. The rustic charm was evident from the street front, the entrance was flanked with a pair of cafe chairs, draped with soft, furry hides and behind each of the chairs were ancient, weathered sleds.

What an inviting place to take a seat after a day at the market.

Once inside, shoppers are surrounded by natural wooden walls with a rich patina and plenty of gorgeous decor. I loved this kind trophy, a carved wooden head topped with shedded horns. I hope you can you see that handsome moose horn sconce to the right as well.

These half circles of bark are fitted with lights and emit a nice halo of warm, gentle light.

More trophies, a little less animal friendly, but don't you love how they added textural layers by mounting them on the gray weathered wood planks?

This wall, upholstered with a quilt of squares of hide is definitely not animal friendly, but what a stunning, cozy affect. The ceiling was covered with some sort of burlap, trimmed with decorative wood trim.

A few more wonderful pieces.. look at these rustic wood footstools and barstools topped with hide, I love the rough wood trunks used for the legs.

How gorgeous is this furry trunk? I think that is wildebeest hide, love that soft gray color.

I wish I could cozy up under this soft mohair blanket with feathered fringe {I hope it's backed with cashmere though}.

More inspired seating...look at these lovely little stools, made of hearty horns and black fur.

These petrified wood stools, were so interesting and tactile in real life.

The sides are irregular, rough, yet smooth, and the tops were polished to an intense high gloss. You can't really tell from the photos, but most of the floors in the shop are covered with a layer of pebbles or stones, each room had a different color and size.  Another layer of outdoor beauty brought in.

Someone has a great, creative sense, don't you love this comforting heart composed of driftwood?

They had many home accessories, including these bulbous stoneware lamp bases.

Look at these beautiful ash gray tapers, aren't they just gorgeous? Does anyone have a source for these?

From Chamonix I skied across the Alps to Zermatt, Switzerland, just me and my turquoise backpack {along with a flock of friends, and a gorgeous guide... we stayed in high mountain huts along the way}.  So, of course, none of these treasure could fit in my backpack, but it was nice to dream about them.

Do you need a little more time to make sense of that pesky to-do list, the resolutions, the returns, and general adjustment to reality? 

Want to fall in love with all that winter has to offer in a cool climate? Come on a tour of The Alps with me...just click on any of these titles to get started... Au revoir Chamonix, The Haute Route, day 1 {the rest of the days should pop up under "You Might Also Like"}, We Made It!, Elegant food in a Rustic setting, Simplon Cheese, and Chez Vrony.

Oh, I am feeling much better now, thank you for coming along.