Sunday, April 27, 2014

Marcia's House

Marcia's living room.

My friend Marcia should have been an interior decorator----well actually she is when it comes to her own house.  She has such an eye for color and for interesting artwork (her daughter is an artist and much of the artwork is that of her daughter.) And there's absolutely no clutter--a place for everything and everything in its place.

I was over there the other day when we were planning a morning out and while she finished getting ready I asked her if I could take photos and do a blog on their house.  Here's the result.

The living room is open and full of natural light.  The focal point is a lovely fireplace with a mantle anchoring the antique mirror from her grandmother.  The mantle is adorned with Marcia's ram (She graduated from UNC.) spray painted gold by Marcia and decorated by daughter Vanessa. 
Lovely fireplace. 
Marcia's grandmother's mirror.

Marcia's Ram with decorations by daughter Vanessa.
I love the bold blues and reds in the color scheme of the living room.  Notice how the accent pieces display these colors, from the blues in the glassware to the red cushions and red and blue throw.
A pop of color from the pretty blue glassware.
Accent pillows and throw.
Gold bowl (a Christmas gift from Vanessa) on the coffee table.

This pretty gold bowl (A Christmas gift this year from Vanessa) on the coffee table complements the colors in the area carpet. 
Marcia enjoying her living room.

Perhaps my favorite room though is the dining room.  I especially like the bright blue walls that provide a perfect background for the sofa and for the dining room table.  The sofa is from her grandmother, and she covered it and the dining room chair seats in a lovely multi-colored pattern with a pale yellow background.
This beautiful dining room sofa  is my favorite piece of Marcia's..  Notice too how the drapes blend in with the sofa fabric. 
The painting by Vanessa at the end of the dining table provides a colorful contrast with the walls. 
Finally in the warm and welcoming breakfast nook and kitchen there are lots of yellows. And on the fridge among the requisite family photos is a picture of daughter Vanessa and granddaughter Chloe.
Cabinet in the breakfast nook.
Open storage in the kitchen.  I especially like the little row of yellow bowls.  What a nice accent.
Photo of daughter Vanessa and granddaughter Chloe among the photos on the fridge. 

Doesn't Marcia's house look like something out of House Beautiful? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Southern Style Pimento Cheese

Southern Pimento Cheese

Actually I suppose all pimento cheese is Southern.  Here's a simple recipe of pimento cheese that is good for serving on crackers, topping a homemade pizza,  or for making a grilled pimento cheese sandwich.  I'm going to a "livermush party"  next week, and I'll take some pimento cheese that will be good to add to a livermush sandwich.

Here's the recipe for Southern Pimento Cheese:

Southern Pimento Cheese

2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimento, drained or 4 ounces grilled sweet pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the Cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayo, cayenne pepper, and pimento in the large bowl of a mixer.  Beat at medium speed with paddle until thoroughly combined.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.


Use a good extra sharp Cheddar.

Duke's mayo is a must for this.

I used half of this jar of grilled peppers.
Mix all ingredients together in large bowl of mixer until blended.

Ready to enjoy.

If you've only tried the commercial pimento cheese, I suggest making your own.  It's less expensive and it is ever so much better. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Our Rehab Experience at Rex Rehab

Rex Rehab. 
Dan and I both have been lucky to have had access to the Rex Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation in Raleigh.  The staff is marvelous, and the therapists are so well-trained and so encouraging.
Brian, my physical therapist. 

In January I had a complete knee replacement, and I followed up with outpatient rehab at Rex.  It went so smoothly for me and my therapist, Brian, kept pushing me and I have made a very quick and complete recovery.  My new knee is GREAT!  Thank you, thank you Brian.

Dan was recently diagnosed with Parkinsonism---very early stage of Parkinson's Disease.  One of his symptoms was that his usual booming voice had become quite weak.  He first went through an intensive voice therapy program that has improved the volume of his voice. 
Dan with Nancy his occupational therapist.

To improve his handwriting he worked with an occupational therapist at Rex, so that his writing is now legible once more.

During this month of April he has been enrolled in the LSVT Big program that consists of a series of exercises that he performs twice daily.  Four days each week he is at Rex PT and the other days he does these exercises at home.  This program allows the patient to improve mobility, flexibility, balance, and range of motion.  When started at the time of early diagnosis, the program can prevent the body rigidity that often accompanies PD. 
Dan with Martha his LSVT therapist.

The folks at the front desk are also welcoming.

Friendly ladies at the front desk.
 Yes, we are fortunate to have this facility available and only fifteen minutes from home.  And we are fortunate that Dan's Parkinsonism was caught in the very early stages.  We are very hopeful!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lamb Meatballs: Recipe from the NY Times

We are very fond of lamb at our house, and I'm always eager to try a new recipe I run across.  The other day there was this recipe in the New York Times.  Today I made the lamb meatballs, and I can say they are delicious with the spiced tomato sauce.  I followed the recipe exactly except I had no fresh mint leaves so I used chopped parsley instead to garnish.

Meatballs ready to go under broiler to brown.
Browned meatballs resting in tomato sauce and ready for the oven.
The mildly spiced tomato sauce makes a nice bed for baking the meatballs.
While the meatballs are baking, cook pasta, couscous or bulgur wheat to serve with the meatballs.
Out of the oven.
I chose to serve the meatballs over bulgur wheat. Bulgur is wheat that’s been parboiled, dried, and cracked into tiny bits. It cooks very quickly.  A full cup of cooked bulgur has only 150 calories,  8 grams of fiber, and nearly 6 grams of protein.  It is a tasty and nutritious food.
Fully cooked bulgur wheat.
I served the meatballs with the sauce on the bulgur and added some crumbled Feta cheese and finely chopped parsley for garnish.
Lamb meatballs ready to eat. 
This was yummy!!!!

Go HERE for the recipe. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Surprised!!! We Love Black Bean Spaghetti

The other day when I was reorganizing my pantry I discovered a bag of black bean spaghetti that must have been an impulse purchase of mine at Whole Foods.  I finally decided to try it, and to our surprise we really, really like it.  I cooked the whole batch al dente.  It's thin and flat a little more like fettucini than spaghetti.  Our first serving was spaghetti mixed with pesto and topped with a tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Served warm.
Black Bean Spaghetti.

The beauty of this spaghetti is that it is high in protein, high in fiber and has no sodium.  On top of that it tastes as good or better than ordinary semolina spaghetti.  Having no wheat, it is gluten free.  Dan suggested we make some regular spaghetti sauce and top the spaghetti with that.  I made the sauce with onions, mushrooms, tomato sauce, and ground beef.
Black bean spaghetti.  I like the contrast of color.

Add homemade spaghetti sauce.
Freshly grate some Parmesan cheese.
Ready to eat. 

We also tried the leftover spaghetti as a cold salad.  I mixed in a bit of pesto with the spaghetti and mixed in chopped fresh tomatoes.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top.  Tasty!!!!
Black bean pasta with pesto, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.  Serve at room temperature. 

Try it, I think you will like it.  Available at Whole Foods and online at Amazon.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Minimizing my Pantry: Snacks and Nuts

In downsizing our pantry, I am trying to cut back on snacks---especially sweet snacks.  I try to keep fruits and vegetables on hand in the fridge for snacking, but there are certain snacks that I won't eliminate.

I seem to be out of one of my favorite snacks, Cashew Clusters with almonds and pumpkin seeds from Costco.  They contain 50% cashews and are a good source of protein and fiber, and they are not too sweet but sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I need to replenish our supply of these.
Cashew Clusters from Costco.

I tried the dark chocolate covered soybeans from Trader Joe's, but I didn't really like them so I won't be getting any more of those even though they are healthful. 
Chocolate covered soy beans.
I always try to have popcorn on hand.  Popcorn is a low calorie and very filling snack.  We like to have some if we are watching a Netflix movie.  We try to get the low sodium or no sodium brands. 
Popcorn is a low calorie snack.

But perhaps our favorite snack is nuts of all kinds. And nuts are such a good source of proteins particularly if you don't eat a lot of meat.   We usually have mixed nuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds and sometimes pine nuts, sunflower seeds (not really nuts I guess) and pistachios.  Costco carries a nice offering of unsalted nuts which we prefer since we try to reduce our sodium intake.  And buying in the large bulk sizes in much cheaper.
Our current nut collection in the pantry. 
Unsalted mixed nuts from Costco. 

Of course, sometimes we snack on chocolate, but chocolate will be covered in a separate blog.

Writing this blog has made me hungry, I think I'll go have a handful of nuts. 

Maple Walnut Upside-Down Cake

Maple-Walnut Upside-Down Cake.

I'm sharing Amy Traverso's Blog today.  It looked so appealing and her photos were so nice. 

Today’s weather is such an improvement over the past, oh, five months, that I want to fire up the grill and eat corn on the cob. But rather than get ahead of myself, I’m opting to share a terrific maple-pecan cake recipe that I discovered in a 1975 cookbook called Treasured Recipes from Early New England Kitchens.

Maple-pecan upside-down cake
Maple-pecan upside-down cake
The book was written by Marjorie Page Blanchard and published as a joint venture between Garden Way Publishing and Harrington’s, the longstanding purveyor of Vermont hams, Cheddar, maple syrup, and the like.
IMG_5720The recipe itself is simple: Pour maple syrup into a cake pan and sprinkle with nuts (the original calls for walnuts; I used pecans). Make a batter using the conventional creaming method, pour into the pan, spread carefully and bake. I made a few tweaks (increasing the nuts, decreasing the sugar and baking powder) and found the recipe to be a real charmer, perfect for an early spring dessert.
Maple-Nut Upside-Down Cake
The charm of this cake lies in its tender, buttery crumb and rich maple-nut flavor. Because it’s so similar to pineapple upside-down cake, we wondered if we’d miss the addition of the tart fruit, but it’s perfectly delicious on its own.
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes; hands-on time: 20 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Garnish: whipped cream, maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 350° and set a rack to the middle position. Generously butter a 9-inch cake pan. Pour the maple syrup into the pan and sprinkle all over with the nuts.
Maple syrup and nuts in bottom of pan.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or, if using hand-held beaters, in a large bowl), beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, and mixing after each.
Using a large spoon, add the batter to the prepared cake pan in large dollops.
Add dollops of batter to the prepared pan.

Use a spatula (preferably an offset spatula) to carefully spread the batter around the pan and over the syrup and nuts. It helps to dip the spatula in warm water so the batter doesn’t stick to it.
Spread batter over maple syrup and nuts.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cake stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn the cake out onto a serving plate. Serve topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy's book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American.  Photos by Amy Traverso.

I made the cake today.  I used walnuts instead of pecans. It was delicious as a coffee cake for breakfast, but it would be equally good as a dessert.

Here's my cake:
Maple Walnut-Upside Down Cake.