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Lord & Taylor just opened a new home department in their flagship store in Manhattan (39th and 5th).  I stopped in at their grand opening this week and snapped a few shots.  Furniture and furnishings are by Ralph Lauren.

Blue-and-white dinnerware complement a plaid-patterned tablecloth and chairs. Designer: Philip Gorrivan

A trio of wolves stalk a well-laden table under a canopy of green. Designer: Brad Ford.

Fall colors dominant with leafy branches,tall branchy candle stands and fringed table cloth with window-pane check. Designer: Garrow Kedigian.

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Hard to believe, but this Norman-Rockwell style Christmas village is a display on my sister-in-law’s dining room buffet table. I coudn’t resist snapping a few photos this year.

Connie collected each of the village buildings over the years, enough to fill the entire length of her buffet cabinet. The skating rink with skaters on the far right (below) can be switched on to rotate and play Christmas carols!

She uses a white table cloth to simulate the snow (it really works!). Set against the dark taupe wall  in her dining room, it’s quite dramatic.

Enjoy a few more photos!

   

Saw these Christmas windows displays at Berdorff Goodman in Manhattan this week.  Apparently foxes eat well. Check out their Christmas dinner dishes!

I love looking around the house for everyday items to use in new ways.

For the Christmas centerpiece shown here, I hauled a winter scarf out of the closet for the table runner. Winter scarves make a great Christmas table runner because they’re wam-looking, long, narrow and can be washed easily.  Just make sure  they’re fairly flat (the one shown here is chenille) and wide enough to hold your centerpiece.  I especially like a plaid pattern for Christmas, but whatever coordinates with your dishes will work, even a solid color. 

For the centerpiece, I used a shallow, narrow wood tray. I added three small glass candle votives, pine branches and layered a few Christmas ornaments in colors that matched the scarf.

A great look!

For more ideas, click on the christmas table settings tab (under tags) on the left-hand column.

For home decorating ideas, visist www.roomplanners.com.

Here’s a fun holiday decorating idea that’s quick and inexpensive… use christmas gift wrap bows for a centerpiece on your Christmas table.

Look for really nice bows (cheap bows won’t look very good). I really like Christmas bows layered with patterened ribbon, like the ones shown in the photo to the left.  Or bows that use a textured or unusual ribbon. For a dressier Christmas table, use large gold and silver bows. 

Just place a collection of these Christmas-themed or sparkly bows into a shallow glass bowl or a glass bowl on a pedestal. Turn the back of the bows inside so they don’t show. You could also scatter a few bows outside the bowl for fun.

For more ideas, click on the Christmas table settings tab (under tags) on the left column.

For home decorating ideas, visit www.roomplanners.com.

Eggs in a Nest

This “recipe” for Egg in a Nest Muffins has been around for awhile. Perhaps you can tell by the dated look of the picture. I scanned it from a photograph found in the archives of the Egg Farmers of Ontario; it was probably taken about 20 years ago. But the idea is still a good one and a fun festive way to say “Happy Easter” at breakfast tomorrow.

With this easy multi-tasking recipe, you hard-cook eggs and bake muffins at the same time. If you want to make things super-easy, use a muffin mix instead of your favourite muffin recipe.

Fruit, yogurt and juice would complement these protein-packed muffins nicely and make for a simple but delicious breakfast that will allow plenty of time to hunt for treats left by the Easter Bunny.

Egg in a Nest Muffins

Ingredients for your favourite muffins
Medium or large eggs, in their shells (1 per muffin)

Prepare muffin batter. Rub eggs lightly with vegetable oil. Fill lightly greased or paper-lined muffin cups with batter. Gently place one uncooked egg, in its shell, partially into each “muffin”.

Bake in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving as eggs will be hot.

To eat, remove the egg from the muffin, peel off the shell and enjoy with the muffin.

Tips:
* For a pretty Easter look, use paper liners with an Easter design and coloured eggs. A little of the color may bleed into the muffins, but it won’t affect the taste.
* Serve warm or cold but refrigerate if not eaten within a couple hours.

istock_000005210471xsmall-jpg-4-leaf-cloverAs a faithful Survivor fan, in nearly every episode of every season I have a recurring thought as close-up shots of slithering snakes fill my television screen. The Survivors could probably use Ireland’s patron saint! Said to have rid the country of snakes, St. Patrick is commemorated annually on March 17, the date of his death in 460 A. D.

How St. Paddy is single-handedly supposed to have created a snake-free Ireland is the stuff of legends. One explanation is that he made a box and invited the leader of the snakes to enter. But the snake took one look at the box, deemed it too small and a heated discussion ensued. Then to prove he was right about the box being too small, the snake crawled into it. The quick-thinking St. P slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea.

To this day, Ireland is apparently snake-free. Some people insist the rough waters of the Irish Sea are caused by the boisterous attempts of the snake to free himself from the box.

On March 17, whether you wish to celebrate a snake-free Ireland or perhaps just the pleasure of swilling green beer, take the opportunity to also indulge in some hearty Irish cuisine. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and rutabagas figure prominently in Irish cooking, as do lamb stews, and braised meat and corned beef dishes. Whatever your main dish of choice, accompany it with an Irish soda bread or potato bread, then finish the meal with apple cake or a sweetened custard, and an Irish coffee.

Irish Stew
(Makes 8 servings)

If lamb shanks are not available, thick shoulder chops can be substituted.

8 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp each (5 mL) dried thyme and rosemary (or 1 tbsp/15 mL) chopped fresh each thyme and rosemary)
2 bottles (341 mL each) stout beer
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tbsp (45 mL) packed brown sugar
3 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Half rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

Sprinkle shanks lightly with salt and pepper; coat all over with flour. In a large ovenproof casserole or Dutch oven, heat half the oil over medium-high heat. In batches, brown shanks all over, adding more oil as needed and removing browned shanks to a plate.

Stir in any remaining flour, garlic, thyme and rosemary; cook over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring. Remove pan from heat and gradually stir in beer; return to heat and bring to boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan. Cover pan and boil mixture, stirring often, until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups (500 mL) stock. Return shanks and any juices to the pan. Bring to boil, then cover tightly.

Bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven until lamb is very tender, about 2-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, melt butter and sugar over medium heat; stir in onions, carrots, parsnips and rutabaga until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add remaining stock and bring to boil.

Bake, uncovered and stirring occasionally, at 350°F (180°C) until vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stir into cooked shanks. (Stew can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, remove any fat from top, bring to room temperature for 30 minutes and reheat slowly on stovetop, stirring often; or place in a 350°F (180°C) oven, covered, for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.)

Reheat if necessary, after you remove fat from top. Just before serving, sprinkle with parsley.

Potato Bread
(Makes 8 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) warm mashed cooked potatoes (about 3 potatoes)
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt, preferably Kosher or sea
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour

Place potatoes in a large bowl and mix in melted butter and salt; mix in enough flour to make pliable dough, lightly kneading in remaining. (The less flour you use, the lighter the bread.) Divide dough into 4 portions. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and roll into four 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick circles. Cut each into 4 triangles.

Bake on hot lightly greased griddle or skillet until lightly browned on both sides, about 5 minutes, turning once.

Curragh Custard
(Makes 6 servings)

8 egg yolks
3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweet sherry or Marsala

In top of a double boiler, place egg yolks. Add sugar. Beat with a whisk until light lemon-colored and well blended. Add sherry and whisk again until blended.

Cook egg yolk mixture over boiling water until it begins to thicken, whisking constantly. Do not allow to boil; remove from heat if mixture starts to bubble.

Cool, then cover and refrigerate.

Serve chilled in pretty sherbet or parfait glasses.

Irish Coffee
(Makes 6 servings)

2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar
6 tbsp (90 mL) Irish whiskey
Strong hot black coffee
Whipped cream

Into each of 6 tall warmed mugs, place 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sugar and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) Irish whiskey. Add coffee to almost fill mugs. Stir to dissolve sugar. Top with whipped cream.

chocolate-pancakes

 Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with an expensive dinner at a fancy restaurant, consider serving up a decadent breakfast or brunch for your special someone. Starting the day with Triple Chocolate Pancakes is sure to send out love vibes! After all, who doesn’t love chocolate? And chocolate for breakfast? On Valentine’s Day? But of course!

With cocoa powder and chocolate chips in the pancake batter, you may think you’re making a cake or brownies, but don’t be tempted to pour the batter into a cake pan and pop it in the oven. You really are making pancakes. Very chocolatey pancakes, mind you. Enjoy them with a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup.

If you want to take these pancakes over the top, serve them with slightly softened vanilla or chocolate ice cream. Sliced or frozen (thawed) strawberries would make a delicious and appropriately coloured garnish for a Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Now, prepare to taste the love…..

Triple Chocolate Pancakes
(Makes twelve 3-1/2 inch pancakes)

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Cooking oil, butter or margarine
Chocolate sauce or hot fudge sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add milk and oil; whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients; whisk just until combined. There should be some lumps in the batter.

Heat frying pan or griddle over medium heat, adding a small amount of oil or butter. Drop about 1/4 cup pancake batter per pancake onto pan, spreading batter slightly. Leave some room between pancakes; they will expand a little during cooking.

Pancakes are ready to flip when the edges appear set and the top is full of bubbles; this will take about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook second side until lightly browned, about 45 seconds to 1 minute.

As pancakes cook, serve them immediately or keep them warm in a 200F oven. Continue cooking remaining batter, adding additional oil or butter to the pan as necessary.

Serve pancakes with chocolate or hot fudge sauce.

Tips:
* This recipe is easily doubled, or more appropriately tripled, if you want to make a special Valentine’s Day brunch for lots of loved ones!
* Any leftover cooked pancakes will freeze well.

bigstockphoto_valentine_2486875

Whether you’re planning to eat out or stay in on Valentine’s Day, end the day with a private, indulgent treat that will guarantee sweet dreams.

All you need is a few pieces of your favorite chocolate. After that, it’s all in the presentation… and this red, gold and brown combination is about as rich and elegant as it gets.

Use a gold plate. You can usually find inexpensive ones at a discount store, or if you want to be resourceful, buy a small can of spray paint and spray a few old plates you don’t use much.  (Gold plates and chargers are great at Christmas parties too).

Stack a few pieces of your favorite chocolate on top of each other – they look great if they’re in random sizes broken off a large bar of chocolate. Lay a short stem fresh red rose on the plate, serve on a red placement or red satin cloth… and indulge with your favorite someone!