Hazelnut Coffee Bean Pot De Crème


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I’m not a big fan of all desserts, but I have always loved the richness and pudding like consistency of pot de crème. I recently made a batch of this decadent treat and decided to add both hazelnuts and ground coffee to give it an even richer flavor. Suffice to say that we each had more than one serving even after a full dinner.

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Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cup heavy cream, 6 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon ground coffee, 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Instructions: add milk, 1 cup heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar, and ground coffee to a saucepan. Beat with a whisk and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, continuing to whisk every couple of minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and sticks to whisk. Add the chocolate, hazelnuts, and hot milk mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into individual ramekins and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until mixture is set.  To make whipped cream add the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream and powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 6-8 minutes.

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Top the pot de crème with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate and hazelnut shavings.


Handmade Lavender Sachets

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There’s a reason sachets are so popular: they’re simple to make, have many uses, and make excellent gifts. I love making these little sachets to put inside drawers, as a decorative piece on the bed, or even to throw into the dryer in lieu of dryer sheets.

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To make these little bags I first traced 6 4″ x 5 1/2″ rectangles onto a piece of fabric. I then embroidered little images of lavender onto three of the rectangles using two shades of purple and one shade of green.

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Next, I cutout the six rectangles and paired each plain one with an embroidered one, then hemmed all of the tops of the rectangles so that the fabric wouldn’t fray. The embroidered pieces were flipped to face in, and each set of two was sewn along the edges on the bottoms and long sides of the rectangles.

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After that, I flipped the bags so that the lavender embroidery would be facing out. Lastly, each bag was filled with about 1/3 cup dry lavender and the tops were tied with twine. The dry lavender smell will last for months, and the pouches can be refilled whenever necessary.


Garnachas

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Garnachas are a traditional Guatemalan small plate dish that I have been eating for as long as I can remember. The fact that they’re easy to make and require only a few ingredients makes these a great option for easy dinners, or as a unique appetizer for dinner parties.

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The key to excellent garnachas isn’t just in the meat, but in the tortillas. The tortillas are traditionally thick and small, and lightly fried to give them just a hint of a crunch.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups corn flour, 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 lb ground pork, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 large yellow onion, 3 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, 1/4 red cabbage, 1/4 white cabbage, 2 green onions, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lime juice.

Instructions: to make the tortillas, combine the corn flour and water in a bowl and mix until the dough is soft (add more water one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry). Shape the tortillas into small thick circles, then place on hot griddle. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a pan. Cook the tortillas on the griddle for only one minute per side, you want them to be firm but not cooked through. As the tortillas finish on the griddle add them to the hot oil pan and lightly fry, about 2 minutes per side.

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Place ground pork meat in a large bowl. Roughly cut the bell pepper and onion and add to a blender along with garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon thyme, and 1/3 cup of water. Liquefy the vegetables until smooth and add to bowl with pork. Using a spoon thoroughly combine the pork and vegetables mix. Add the pork to a large pan and cook until most of the liquid is gone and the pork is cooked through (about 25 minutes).

To make the cabbage slaw chop the cabbage, green onions, and cilantro. Add vegetables to a bowl with mayonnaise, lime juice, and a dash of salt a pepper to taste. Mix the salad with a large spoon until well combined. Add the meat to the fried tortillas and top with slaw.

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Striped Picnic Blanket

James and I love going on picnics, but finding a pretty picnic blanket that we don’t mind getting dirty at an affordable price has proven to be a challenge.  So, I decided to make a simple one myself using fabric I already had at home and fabric paint in two colors.

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To get started I cut out a large square of fabric and hemmed each side with a sewing machine. I drew out the pattern on a piece of paper beforehand, and used a ruler and masking tape to tape off the sections that would be painted. I then painted in the stripes and let the paint dry completely (at least 4 hours).

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The final product is pretty, comfortable, and affordable. I’m excited to take this new blanket to many picnics and beach days this summer.

 


Seafood Chowder

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Growing up in New England meant constant availability of fantastic seafood at just about any time of the year. Now that I live in Southern California, I can find great sushi, but finding a good seafood chowder can be a bit more of a challenge. So when the craving for a rich chowder strikes, it’s always best to make a big batch at home.

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For this seafood chowder recipe I like to make the stock myself. This gives it an enhanced flavor that is well worth the extra effort. As an alternative to oyster crackers, I like to make croutons at home to give this soup a slight crunch with every bite.

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For the stock:  1 large white onion, 4 carrots, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 garlic clove (minced), shells from 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, 5 sprigs dried thyme, 1 small can tomato paste, 1 bay leaf,  1.5 quarts of water, 3/4 cup clam juice, 1 cup white wine, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper.

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Dice onions and carrots and add to pot. Stir and let cook for about 3 minutes then add garlic and shrimp shells. Cook for an additional minute and add all of the remaining ingredients. Bring stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow to cook for 1 hour. Once stock is done pass through a fine sifter, you should have about 4 cups of stock.

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For the chowder: 2 large potatoes, 3 carrots, 1 white onion, 1 stick butter, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 cups baby clams, 1 cup squid (I like to leave the tentacle pieces intact and cut the rest into rings), 1 cup crab meat, 1 1/2 pounds shrimp (peeled and cut into small cubes), 4 cups seafood stock.

Melt butter in a large heavy bottomed pot. Dice potatoes, carrots, and onions and add to pot with melted butter. Cook for about ten minutes, then add flour and mix well. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add heavy cream, clams, squid, crab meat, and shrimp to pot (add more water if needed). Cook for an additional 7 – 10 minutes until seafood is cooked through.

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For the croutons: 1 baguette, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Cut a baguette into small cubes and place bread pieces in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, tossing to coat the bread. Place bread onto a baking sheet and bake in over at 400°F for 10 minutes until pieces are slightly browned and crispy.

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Add croutons to hot bowl right before eating and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.


Industrial Providence

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Providence has an important industrial history that dates back to the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in America. Nineteenth century factories and warehouses can be seen all around where I grew up throughout the Blackstone River Valley. On each visit James and I make a point to photograph some of the architecture, for we never know how long each will be around. Centuries of exposure to the elements have made these structures into works of natural art, exhibiting rich textures that beckon you with generations of stories.

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The interplay of different materials such as brick, stone, wood, metal, and paint, combine to create such interesting forms

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Some of the factories incorporate Romanesque elements into their design, making for some very unique buildings.

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On a recent trip we wandered past a hauntingly beautiful demolition site.

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Many of the historic structures have been converted for other uses, such as these lofts. It’s wonderful to see them being given a new life instead of being destined for the wrecking ball.


Spring Cocktails

When I think of spring cocktails, floral notes and hints of sweetness come to mind. Here are three of my favorite springtime cocktails that are great for sipping on warm days outdoors while soaking in the new season.

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Lillet Blanc Cocktail: This cocktail is a rather recent discovery that has quickly become a staple in our home. Lillet Blanc combined with grapefruit make this drink soft and subtly sweet. Adding a flower to the drink not only gives it a pretty garnish, but the scent of the flower is present as you drink.

Ingredients: 2 oz Lillet Blanc, 2 oz fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice, 1 oz Hendrick’s gin, 2 dashes simple syrup. Add all ingredients to a chilled shaker, shake well then add to saucer with flower for garnish.

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French 75: We first tried this take on a French 75 on our trip to Austin a couple of years ago. The muddled strawberries give the drink an extra touch of sweetness and a punch of spring color. We enjoyed it so much that it has become one of our all time favorite cocktails, and was one of our two specialty cocktails on our wedding day.

Ingredients: 2 oz gin (I like to use Hendrick’s gin for the added rose petal flavor), 2 dashes simple syrup, 4 oz Brut champagne, 1 tbsp muddled strawberries, squirt of lemon juice. Add all ingredients (except champagne) to shaker, add to flute and top with champagne.

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St. Germain Sparkling Limeade: I associate limeade more with summertime rather than spring, but adding the St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur) makes this cocktail feel light and flowery, making it a perfectly crisp spring cocktail.

Ingredients: 2 oz Hendrick’s gin, 1 oz St. Germain, 6 oz  sparkling limeade, lemon & lime slices for garnish. Add gin, St. Germain, and lemon wedges to a glass filled with ice and top with sparkling limeade.


Los Feliz

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James’ first apartment in Los Angeles was in the neighborhood of Los Feliz, at the foot of Griffith Park. When we first started dating, he spent a lot of time showing me the area and exploring some of his favorite spots. We love going back to visit some of the restaurants there, or to stroll around nearby Barnsdall Park.

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When James first moved here, he was awe struck by the views of the Griffith Observatory.

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Many local businesses contribute to the area’s charm.

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There are quite a few delightful dingbats with names such as “Los Feliz Capri.”

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Here is James on the street where he first lived in Los Angeles.

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Some of the homes in the neighborhood are quite spectacular, such as this one designed by Lloyd Wright.

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At the foot of the hills is the beautiful Art Deco Los Feliz Manor.

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As you approach Hollywood, you can see another unexpected apartment building, the Trianon.

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John Marshall High School would look right at home on any Ivy League college campus.

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Hidden amongst winding roads, you can walk along the narrow Shakespeare Bridge.

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Even though James hasn’t lived there for years, walking through the hills of Los Feliz and admiring the views will always bring back fond memories and have a special place in our hearts.


Our Little Patio

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I have always loved spending time outdoors, and James and I are lucky to have our own little patio to lounge in when the weather is warmer. It’s a pleasant little escape for relaxing, dining, or gardening. It isn’t a very large patio, but has just enough space for a little table, wicker chairs, a grill, and a few plants.

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For decor we like to use rustic pieces that incorporate a good amount of detail and design. These clay pitchers were a gift from family that instantly felt at home in the little outdoor space.

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Because the patio is squeezed in between two buildings, it doesn’t get a tremendous amount of sunshine, but just enough to keep some small fresh herbs planted. The herbs give the space some extra greenery and are incredibly helpful for cooking fresh meals at home.

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We’ve allowed some of the natural vines in the area to spread around, trimming away the dead leaves when needed.

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During the spring and summer months we sometimes take our dinner outside and enjoy it under the soft lights. Even when I cook indoors, having the patio is a refreshing way to be outside in the cool air and talk away our evenings.  We couldn’t imagine not having this little outdoor private spot as part of our home.

 


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