Dining Tables, Junk and Table Runners

When we married, Engineer’s family from out of town graciously offered to give us money for a dining table in lieu of wedding gifts. I thought that sounded fine, and expected we would buy one in the near future, once we were out of student housing. We used a hand-me-down table in our student apartment, and then when we left, we accepted a small hand-me-down from a cousin for an apartment out in Los Angeles. We didn’t yet have a place lined up, but we knew it would be small. Just about everything we could think about affording in LA would be small. The dining table fund languished and sat, being absorbed into our general savings. Never used, mind you, but it lost its distinction. Years past. We moved from one apartment to another, before relocating back to Utah. This time, we packed up for the last time: we moved into our home. We brought our hand-me-down table back, knowing it would be temporary. We could have left it; but we did need something until we found a table suitable for our space. Our little dining table fund had sat for 3 years. After moving in, we began looking for a suitable replacement for our hand-me-down table, which took much longer than I expected. But, my expectations had grown. I wanted something stylish (not distressed–I did not understand buying new furniture meant to look old), but in addition to being stylish, it had to be sturdy. In addition to those very basic needs, it also had to speak to me. I had come to expect that dining table to be a gathering place. As we began to plan to start a family, I envisioned children gathering at the table doing homework while I prepared dinner. I saw our family eating dinner together, laughing and enjoying being together (that’s how you know it’s a dream–when do children ever love dinner time all at the same time? Someone’s always crying about what’s for dinner) The dining table came to represent home and family, all the things I dreamed would be. Now, the dining table didn’t just need to be stylish and sturdy. It needed to be perfect.

table runnerAbout a year and a half after we moved in, we found our table. It’s bar height, has two leaves, and with one leaf in, is a square pub-style table with seating for 8. The top is a dark espresso finish while the legs and chairs are painted black. It has a simple bevel edge and is lovely. When we bought it, I was still working full-time and we didn’t have children. The table, instead of being a gathering place for conversation and laughter, became a landing pad for junk mail, books, and anything else we didn’t want to put away. It became a giant catch-all. Continue reading

Frog nog {Spinach Smoothie Recipe}

I think I am officially the last person to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon. I had such a hard time getting past the color for some reason…I suppose it doesn’t help that my friend calls it frog nog with her girls…it’s a clever sounding name, I’ll grant you, but it sure doesn’t sound appetizing to an adult.

But, I was desperate. After a week of birthday celebrations for Engineer, we just hadn’t eaten in enough to get through all the greens from our CSA. We still had a bagful of kale, and I needed to use it, pronto. I remembered seeing some green smoothie recipes in my Real Simple magazine from a few months back, and pulled it out. I made some minor adjustments based on what I had, and I threw caution to the wind. Or the blender, as it were.

ImageWhen it had come together, I tasted it. I could taste the bitter kale, and worried that Sous Chef would turn her nose up at it even though it wasn’t very strong. I added a frozen banana to try to mask the flavor. I’m not a big banana fan, so that was a real gamble for me. I poured myself and Sous Chef a glass, and she devoured it.

Absolutely devoured it.

And then asked for more! She drank two (kid-sized) cups full of kale smoothie, and I knew we had found a winner. I used the rest of the kale in smoothies throughout the week until Sous Chef complained of a sore mouth (the main fruit was pineapple…) and I ran out of kale. She begged for more, so I tried a variation on a different smoothie recipe from the Real Simple magazine and found a real winner. The kale smoothie had been easy enough to get down, but this spinach smoothie…now it was a treat! Continue reading

Going for Gluten Free {Chocolate Pavlova Recipe}

I find it so exciting when I stumble across gluten free recipes that are naturally just gluten free. I’ve mentioned before (and sure I will again…) that my mother has Celiac’s Disease and follows the gluten free diet. But, I’m sure most people know people who either have Celiac’s Disease or another disease that benefits from the gluten free diet. I’m so glad that there’s more awareness now because it makes it easier to find good recipes to cook and bake for my mom.

But, since she’s been diagnosed, I’ve noticed something. The more real you cook, the fewer problems you have with gluten. By real, I mean cooking with whole ingredients instead of highly processed ingredients. However real you cook, though, baking is a whole different ball game. So many desserts we rely on are carb-heavy: cakes, pies, cookies, oh my! So, when I find a delicious looking dessert that doesn’t have any gluten in it, I jump for joy! When we have family parties, I like to have dessert that everyone can enjoy, including my mom. chocolate pavlovaLast month, we planned a Mother’s Day dinner for the Saturday before, and I planned to make a gluten free chocolate cake roll I got from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made it before, and we’ve all loved it. It’s simple, light, and airy. A few days before, however, I found this recipe for chocolate pavlova on Brown Eyed Baker. I mentioned it in passing to my mom, and she was really excited. “Let’s have that!” she exclaimed. Continue reading


I’ve been floating.

When I started this blog, I got really excited about mastering food photography, and tried to take photos of my food almost every day. But, I struggle with exciting plating and props. And, I struggle to take photos of dinner, because I usually don’t start it early enough, and we’re all ready to eat by the time I’m done. And, let’s be real. It’s really hard to plate dinner beautifully! I have a new respect for those who can plate a humble dinner in a beautiful way.

And, I do have lots of hobbies.

No, this isn’t my goodbye, don’t worry.

It’s just a way of explaining that I have been away from my camera (though not away from the kitchen, to be sure!) and spending lots of time in my sewing room. I’ve been in my sewing room working on a couple of quilt projects.

And I’ve been sewing aprons.

Lots of aprons.

A few years ago, I made matching aprons for my sister-in-law and niece. She loves them! Since then, she’s had another daughter, and is expecting another one in September. She mentioned a while ago, hinting, really, that she would like another one for her youngest daughter (even before she found out she was pregnant…)

And help me, but when someone appreciates a gift I make, I can’t help but honor a request when they ask for an encore. I bought some cute fabric I found at Joanns, and while I was at the cutting table, reconsidered and asked for enough to make myself and Sous Chef one as well. I walked out with a lot of fabric, which is often overwhelming, honestly.

Months passed…we found out she was expecting again…then we found out she was expecting another girl…and I renewed my resolve to finish the aprons once and for all.

I finally did. It took hours; I thought making them all at the same time would streamline the process, but I don’t think it helped as much as I thought it would. But, that’s okay. I’m happy with how they turned out, and promptly boxed them up and shipped them off. apronWell. She loved them. I hope her girls like them. Because my Sous Chef does NOT like hers. Oh well. Three-year-olds are hard to please. Maybe someday she’ll embrace it, hopefully before she’s too big for it…

Remembering Paris {Chouquettes recipe}

Ever since I named this blog, I knew I had to make chouquettes. I’ve made pate a choux before, and turned them into cream puffs. Chouquettes, though, have never graced my kitchen. Chouquettes were something I enjoy in Paris, not something to make. Chouquettes are something you eat out of a crinkly paper bag on your way to the metro. Just thinking about chouquettes fills my nose with the scent of Paris. It never occurred to me to recreate my memories of chouquettes (though I certainly try to recreate my other favorites).

The major stumbling block, though, wasn’t the dough. I’d made it, and found it easier than expected. The stumbling block was the sugar.

If you aren’t familiar with chouquettes, they are covered with delightful pearl sugar that is perfectly sweet and crunchy. Pearl sugar is often used for decorating baked goods, particularly in Scandinavian baking. Since most of my baking is, well, ugly, I don’t have much use for decorative (however delicious) sugar, and didn’t have any in my pantry. It took me a while to get around to buying some, since my local grocer doesn’t carry it, and I had to venture to a baking supply store.chouquettes

The laughable part is that once I had the sugar, even though it was on the counter, I forgot to put it on the chouquettes until they had been in the oven for three minutes. With bated breath, I opened the oven door, slid the oven rack out of the oven and smashed, gently, the sugar onto the half-baked chouquettes, praying they wouldn’t fall because of it. And yet, they didn’t.

I was rewarded with eggy, slightly sugary (only because I didn’t add enough sugar…), light and airy chouquettes. And in hardly no time at all, which are really the best treats.


adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Gougeres from The Best International Recipe

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup pearl sugar

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Set aside. Beat the eggs and egg white together with a fork in a small liquid measuring cup. Keep 1/2 cup, discard the rest.

Bring the water, butter, milk, salt, and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir it occasionally until the butter is melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour until well combined and the mixture forms a dough that clears the sides of the plan, about a minute. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring until the mixture turns shiny and sandy and small beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process for about ten seconds with the feed tube open to cool the mixture slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the beaten egg in a steady strength. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for 30 seconds until the mixture forms a smooth, thick, sticky paste.

Fill the pastry bag with the mixture and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet, forming 2-inch mounds about 1 inch apart. Press the pearl sugar onto the mounds on all sides, covering the mounds as best you can. They’ll puff considerably in the oven, so don’t worry about putting too much on.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 without opening the oven door. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they are no longer soft and are instead firm and golden brown.

Remove the chouquettes from the oven and pierce each one on the side with a paring knife. Return them to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Let the pastry dry until the center is just moist (not wet) and the puffs are crisp, about 50 minutes.

Enjoy, and think of Paris.