Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gwyneth Paltrow's Sweet Potato + Five Spice Muffins

By now you have heard, bought or seen Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook, It's All Good. I sat in Barnes & Noble Friday afternoon flipping through the pages while sipping a latte before finally caving in and purchasing the book. The recipes in this book use no sugar, white flour or dairy with the exception of yogurt, kefir and goat's milk. A challenge unto itself, but Gwyneth and her co-author, Julia Turshen manage to create tasty whole food recipes that have the added bonus of being good for you!

It's All Good is a great cookbook for anyone with food sensitivities and allergies.

Since I love any kind of muffin for their cakey texture and grab-and-go portability, especially during the morning rush, this recipe appealed to me. If you've never used Chinese five-spice powder, this is a great recipe to start with. As soon as I started mixing the batter I could smell the familiar smell of liquorice in the anise and it was heavenly!

The flavor of these muffin's can't be beat! Incredibly moist with just the right amount of sweetness followed by a hint of spice. Perfect with a steaming mug of tea! I will be making these again for sure!

On to the recipe!

I have adapted the recipe from the book by using organic canned sweet potato puree in place of a baked sweet potato and enriched unbleached flour in place of gluten free flour.

Printable Recipe


Makes a dozen muffins

1 large sweet potato or 1 can puree
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup maple syrup plus 2 extra tablespoons for brushing the muffins
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups enriched unbleached flour (if using gluten free flour that doesn't contain xanthan gum, add 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

If using a baked sweet potato, peel, discard the skin and mash the flesh in a mixing bowl with a fork. I used 1 can of organic sweet potato puree for this recipe.
Whisk the olive oil, almond milk, maple syrup and vanilla into the sweet potato. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, five-spice powder and salt. Fold dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and evenly distribute the muffin batter among the cups.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tooth pick comes out clean, brushing the tops with the extra maple syrup during the last 5 minutes of baking. Let the muffins cool before serving.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pinterest, Chocolate Chip Cookies and My Expanding Waistline

Can you guess where I'm going with this post? It's gotten to the point that I consult Pinterest daily to find what I'll be making for dinner! So when I needed to bring something to my youngest manchild's post game tailgate, I thought of chocolate chip cookies...from Pinterest of course!

Specifically, these chocolate chip cookies...

Thanks to Pinterest I pinned the recipe onto my Pinterest board Sweet Treats. Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. Best of both worlds. Mmmmm.....

Pins like this are why Pinterest is making me fat! Can you blame me?

They were voted by The New York Times as "The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie"! I have total respect for The New York Times, especially their crossword puzzle, so it seemed reason enough to try them. That and the fact the original recipe is from Jacques Torres, a master pastry chef also known as "Mr. Chocolate". 'Nuff said.

Without further adieu I give you Jacques Torres' Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe as printed in The New York Times, July 9, 2008.

Printable Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.
Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Trust me. You won't be disappointed! I doubled the recipe and made 85 of them. They were the go-to cookie at the tailgate...gone in 5 minutes! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

{THRESHOLD} My Latest Crush at Target

I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the THRESHOLD line at Target. There are so many great items! For instance, I LOVE this weathered and worn frame. It spoke to me when I saw it on the shelf.  But like I do so often, I left it sitting on the shelf instead of putting it in my cart, thinking to myself, "I could do that." Isn't that what they call Inspiration

This is not the best picture, but I love all the colors...gold, green, a dark antique wash on top.  I am partial to gold over silver in most things around my home, so I think that is why I was so drawn to it. I'll have to go through my stash of frames to see if there are any I can get creative with!

This frame also has great texture and color. although a little different than the first one, it has a driftwood, beachy appearance to me with the silver, gray and brown. Both frames made me take notice.

Any Swedish Gustavian fans out there? This bedskirt definitely reminded me of some of the sweet Swedish textiles. The warm gray was perfect. In addition to a bedskirt, this same check also came in a quilt and shams. I wish Target would carry shams in a euro size!

I did purchase it to see how it would look in my bedroom, but, the gray was just not looking great with my brown, cream and blue rug. To me the small check looked a little juvenile in my traditional bedroom.  I was dying to use it somewhere, but I don't have a room where it would work.

 A close up of the gray check. Which was very similar to the gray check I saw at Ikea.

Between my trip to Ikea a few weeks ago and now this, I think the tide may be changing around here and I may be ready for a change in my decor. Hmmm...I think I need a direction and a plan! Where to start?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spraying New Life into Old Patio Furniture

I know many of you have done beautiful transformations on old tired furniture with paint. I know. I have seen these works of art all over blogland!

My patio furniture was in great shape and I couldn't justify replacing it with something new. Truth be told,  I couldn't see spending money on new furniture if I could update what I already had with a fresh coat of paint and a new color!

So after a lot of inspiration, I headed to the store for a few cans of spray paint and got to work.

Here is the before

 I purchased this set in 1998. I know, the color gives it away. Verdigris green! But I loved it THEN and it has served us well over the years. It was in great shape, except for the straps on the seats that were starting to break. Things tend to do that when they get old :)

I found a place online where I could purchase new straps for a reasonable price. After carefully measuring the seat dimensions with the instructions provided on the website, and picking the color I wanted, I placed my order, keeping my fingers crossed it would turn out right.
 I scrubbed the furniture of all grime and mildew (important step) and it was ready for its first coat of paint.

I used this in Dark Bronze

After applying 3 coats this was the result

As you can see, this was before I re-strapped the seats. I also purchased a new umbrella with the same ORB finish.

I was very happy with the color. I wanted an ORB  finish and this has just the right hint of metallic without being too shiny.

I couldn't be more pleased with the how the seats turned out. The color is perfect and although it took a bit of elbow grease, they were easy to do.

I was able to do all the painting in an afternoon and adding the new straps took about an hour. I saved that for a different day to make sure the paint was really dry.

Time well spent if I do say so myself!

You can find me out back.

.... I'll have some lemon in my tea, please?

Favorite Vignettes

As I was looking at some recent pictures in my files, I saw some of my favorite vignettes around the house and I thought I would share them with you.

This is my Spring mantel right now. I've learned that if you don't mind moving things around the house, you'll have a million ways to create vignettes right at your fingertips!

Small boxes are great for elevating items and breathing new life into a vignette. This one is a jewelry box I picked up at Tuesday Morning

I showed you this beautiful vase of roses in this post. The vase is Waterford that I inherited from my mother.
This little Tillandsia or airplant, was just the thing for this stack of books. I love the dusty blue-green color.

This little vignette in the foyer greets you when you walk in the front door.

 Same foyer table sporting a Fall look.

 I had so much fun putting this together for Holloween. 
You can see the rest of my Holloween mantel post here.

This vignette I featured in my Nature Inspired Decor post last year. Sometimes simple is ...well...simple!

What are some of your favorite vignettes that make you smile?

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The Scoop
Tweak It Tuesday

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Trip to Ikea and a Confession

Happy Friday friends!

I have a small confession to make. When I woke up this morning I was convinced it was Wednesday! Wednesday!!?? I could see maybe thinking it was Thursday, but Wednesday? I was a whole two days off and I have the trash to thank.

You see, when I looked out the window this morning, I saw all my neighbors had dutifully placed their trash and recycling buckets at the end of their driveways...and mine was empty.

Another confession ... I thought maybe they knew something I didn't. Like they had received a special note that the trash was coming two days early this week ... and my note must've blown away. Surely I didn't miss a holiday last week, because sometimes during a holiday week like Christmas or New Year's the trash pick-up is off by a day. Easter was recently, but since that always falls on a Sunday, trash pick-up isn't affected because our trash always comes on FRIDAY!

So there you have it! My mixed up, early morning brain fog in action!

Want to know another confession?

Last night I had a fleeting moment where I thought, " the trash goes out tonight". You know, so I wouldn't forget!! UGH!

Do you do that? Think yes and then no and then realize you were right to begin with? Do you? Because if you do, it would make me feel so much better ...about forgetting.

But what I didn't forget, was my recent trip to Ikea.

It had been quite a while since I had been there. There were so many things that caught my eye that I would love to share with you ... and so many things I wanted to bring home with me. As usual, I got overwhelmed thinking about where I could use this or that. I mean really ... I would've needed a truck to haul every item home I thought was cute and might have a purpose in my home. But alas, the only thing that made it home was some coffee, plants and two pillow covers I found in the clearance bin. (The coffee wasn't in the clearance bin ...just the pillow covers).

This buffalo check in taupe had my mind going in a million different direction! Ways I would use it? Beautiful lined drapes for the master bedroom or family room, bedskirt, euro pillows or upholstery on an accent chair or dining room chairs.


Hard to get a good shot of the color, but this comes close. Think coffee with cream. Very pretty!

small check, gray

Hard to tell in the pic, but the floral paired so well with the small check. Both would be great in a bedroom using the floral on a duvet and the small check on a bedskirt and accent pillows.

I must have been on a check craze because this next one also had me at hello. It is an area rug in taupe. My mind immediately thought beach house!

Millinge 6X7 $79.99 (also comes in black)

I couldn't get over the price of these cowhides! They came in all different patterns and colors.

Loved this one too! Especially the price. A natural rug adds great texture to any room.
TARNBY RUG 6'7" X 9'10"  $149.00

I could decorate a whole house in one visit to Ikea! Good thing it's a two hour drive!

After all that snaking through the store following the arrows, all I came home with was a block of coffee, two  Spring plants, ( that I showed you in this post ) and these...
Zippered AND reversible!  $5.00 
I must have had Holloween on the brain! October will be here before I know it!

Do you have any favorite Ikea finds?

P.S. Today is Friday :)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

California Dreaming

Hello! Life has been busy lately with soccer and my sweet girl! We just returned from San Diego where we spent a beautiful four days. The best part was we had a special visit with my oldest sweet girl who made the drive down from LA to see us.

We arrived on Thursday and hit the ground running, squeezing in all that we could when we weren't at the soccer field!

We were starving when we landed, so our first stop was to Barra Barra Saloon in Old Town San Diego for lunch. We both had the Barra Barra Quesadilla filled with pepper jack cheese, ortega chiles and pico de gallo.  All of their corn and flour quesadilla's are handmade fresh everyday and they were delicious. Such a treat! An even bigger treat was sitting outside in the warm weather!

Barra Barra

After filling our bellies we strolled around stopping in at many of the shops.

Old Town San Diego is known as the "birthplace" of California and is the site of the first Spanish settlement in California. There is a small Mexican community of adobe buildings formed in 1835 and it is now a State Historic park. The Mexican influence is everywhere. It's like a small trip south of the border!

There were beautiful handmade clay pots I wished I could've brought home with me. They looked so pretty sitting in the sun.

 Let me explain this next picture! Sweet girl was looking for gum and while we never found gum I came upon small boxes of crickets in many different flavors! Sweet girl purchased the "Salt & Vinegar" variety for her friends to try! Yes! They are real crickets! Yuck!

This next shop was calling to me. Can you see why? I love everything about it! Look at that chandelier! A Beauty! Another thing I wanted to stuff in my suitcase!

Ha! I just noticed the little "No Camera" symbol! See it above the round table on the left? Oops!

Of course this beautiful gate stopped me in my tracks!

Next stop before heading to our hotel was Cabrillo National Monument in Pt. Loma. Pt. Loma sits on a hilly  peninsula with a 360 degree view of San Diego.  Beauty all around.

This is the Naval Sub Base in Pt. Loma. This is also where Mr. Decor and my story began many moons ago. We were very fortunate to be stationed here. This was the first time I had been back in over 25 years. So many memories!

After sweet girls soccer game on Friday, we headed to The Poseidon Restaurant in Del Mar. We sat on the patio and had a beautiful view of the beach. It was the most relaxing lunch ever! Of course their "Miracle Margarita" might have had something to do with that!

After lunch, I sat with one of the other soccer moms on the beach while the girls played a game of beach volleyball. They were a sight to see playing in their soccer uniforms!

On Saturday we headed to La Jolla and had lunch at the cute Brockton Villa. It looks like a beach house which sits in a hillside above La Jolla Cove. My oldest sweet girl mentioned that if she had a beach house it would be decorated like the interior of the restaurant. White beadboard, warm wood floors and soft blue and green accents in a scatter of pillows in the booth. I have trained her well!
The view was breathtaking!

Lots of kayaks in the water.

Sunday was our last day. We had an early morning soccer game that day which gave us enough time to squeeze in one more stop at Seaport Village where we enjoyed lunch at The Harbor House located on the San Diego harbor. Once again, we had the most gorgeous view from our table!
Lucky for us it was only a mile from the airport!

If you haven't been to San Diego, I hope I have inspired you to consider going. It is such a beautiful and vibrant city with so much to see and do...and you can't beat the weather!

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