While visiting family in New England this past Independence Day weekend, we took a day trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, and explore the city. Though we had both been there when we were younger, our experiences until now were very limited. This trip was our first opportunity to check off many Boston locations from our list, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with all that the city had to offer.
Since we typically fly into Boston when visiting the northeast, we usually only view the city from an airport terminal, but on this trip we finally got a view from the middle of Boston Common.
The gleaming gold dome of the Massachusetts State House sits just on the edge of the Common.
Not far from the current State House is the Old State House. This building housed the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and was referred to by John Adams as the spot where Independence was born.
Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are two of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston.
The imposing brutalism of Boston City Hall is very much out of place in the heart of the city, but the raw concrete and adjacent brick desert create a fascinating interplay of shapes that has influenced James while developing science fiction projects.
The City Hall that was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is certainly a much more pleasing structure.
If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see a parade of ducklings while visiting the beautiful Public Garden.
Strolling the Federal style rowhouses of Beacon Hill is a great way to get out of the sun on a summer day, and it’s charming paths made this my favorite neighborhood in the city.
All the vibrancy of an immigrant community can be found in the narrow streets of the North End, a primarily Italian neighborhood.
Once we finished walking the entirety of the Freedom Trail we decided to continue exploring the city. Newbury Street is a wonderful place to shop, dine, or simply walk. I loved that the shops are housed in a variety of 19th century buildings, making it unique from other shopping centers I had ever visited.
While most of the historic sites are Georgian Colonial, the Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church stands out as perhaps the most beautiful. This church was not even on our list of locations to visit, but we were thrilled to run into it on our way to the library.
We have yet to see a game at Fenway, but we were able to take part in the atmosphere of Yawkey Way after a Red Sox win. This trip was one of many that we will take to Boston, and we look forward to having new experiences in the city, as well as revisiting our favorites.
We recently acquired a few recipe cards from James’ late grandmother’s collection, and it has inspired me to get better about writing out recipes on cards myself. To continue expanding my small collection, I decided to design my own, rather than purchase existing cards.
The cards we received from family contained some variety, so when deciding on my own pattern, I knew I wanted to make something unique with a floral motif for my own recipes.
The cards were first created digitally, incorporating an antique wallpaper pattern, and then printed. I then embossed a teapot and teacups using a set of stamps, and used a gold ink with clear embossing powder, following the same process as when we made our wedding invitations.
Once the design was printed and cut, it took just a few minutes to stamp and emboss a whole set of cards. I love the finished product, and am very excited to collect all of my recipes in one place.
Of all the great ways to prepare mushrooms, portobello fries is at the top of my list. The crispy outsides with the warm earthy inside make these ultra indulgent, and paired with a rich basil dip it can be a substitute for regular fries, or an appetizer for a dinner party.
Portobello Fries: 6 large portobello mushroom caps, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp salt (I used pink salt here since it has a bit of a subdued taste compared to table salt), 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 qt canola oil.
Add oil to a sturdy pot, and heat on high. Clean the mushroom caps, remove stems, and gently slice into strips. Mix eggs with milk and whisk in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt, and mix with a fork. In batches, add mushrooms to egg mixture and thoroughly coat, then transfer to flour mixture and coat, then add mushrooms to hot oil. You will know the oil is hot enough if you sprinkle a tiny bit of flour into the oil and it starts to sizzle. Fry the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, until crisp and starting to brown. Remove from oil and place on a plate to cool.
The dip follows a similar method used when making homemade mayonnaise, but with a few additions.
Basil dip: 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 3 garlic cloves, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 cup extra light tasting olive oil, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp zest, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp lemon juice.
Add the egg, basil, garlic, mustard powder, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of oil to a blender. Blend for about 1 minute, then very slowly pour in the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil. Once you have poured in all of the oil, add the zest and lemon juice, and blend for an additional 10 seconds.
I have never enjoyed what I’ve always known to be ‘maraschino cherries’ – the bright red, sickeningly sweet cherries that tend to adorn perfectly good milkshakes and sundaes. However, when I started ordering cocktails as an adult and received these new dark red cherries, I decided to give them a try, and have looked forward to getting them in cocktails ever since. These are the real maraschino cherries, and there is quite a difference. They’re easy to make at home, and are the ideal compliment to cocktails such as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, and a delicious boozy treat on their own.
These cherries are made with fresh fruit, contain no HFCS, and are flavored with just a few simple ingredients. The most important is Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, from which they get their name.
Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds cherries, 1 cup Luxardo, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla extract, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 2 tbsp lemon juice.
Remove stems and pits from all of the cherries and set aside. In a saucepan combine water, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Bring mixture to a boil, then add cherries, and reduce to a simmer. Let cherries simmer for about 5 minutes, turn off heat, add Luxardo, and let cool. Add cherries to jars, and refrigerate.
When thinking of the decor for our dining room table, I knew that I would want to use table runners, as opposed to full tablecloths, to show off the oak wood. I also knew that I would create my own runners, since the selection at a fabric store is so much wider than what would be available prefabricated. Initially I went to the fabric store thinking that I would make one or two runners to switch out. However, once I started walking the aisles I wanted to grab a lot more options. Ultimately I settled on three unique fabrics to have a good variety, and to be used with different dishes and seasons.
Each runner followed the same general layout: a strip with pointed ends and tassels. I cut out rectangles in each piece of fabric, hemmed around the edges, and then folded the tips in to create the points. Then, I sewed on a decorative edge for a couple of them to give a bit of extra contrast, and created simple tassels for each using string and yarn.
For the first runner, I selected a light blue fabric with an off white pattern that I thought would work well with our main set of casual dishes.
For the second runner, I picked out a light green fabric with a beige leaf pattern. This one compliments our wedding china, which I love to take out for special events, or small gatherings with friends. I decided not to give this one an edge since the pattern has a lot of detail on its own.
For the final runner, I used a light linen fabric with a beautiful embroidered pattern. I gave this one a blue rope edge to give it a bit more color, and created gray tassels to compliment the colors of the stems in the pattern.
Although this one has a lot going on in the pattern, it is perhaps the most neutral of the three for our dining room table. With just a couple of center piece items, this runner makes our table feel complete without being too heavy and cluttered.
Although I may use table cloths in the future for some events, I am very happy to have these new runners to alternate with our decor. Each runner was very simple to make, and I’m so excited to have these options when entertaining.
I love mini desserts – not only are they cute, but you also don’t have to worry about cutting up pieces to serve like you would with an entire cake. For a recent gathering with friends, I volunteered to bring the dessert, and made these little blackberry tartlets. The filling was decadent and creamy, with the hint of acidity from orange zest and a splash of liqueur. The crust was buttery and sweet, and the fresh fruit and bright colors were perfect for springtime.
Ingredients: 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup sugar, 2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries (plus more for decorating), zest of 1 orange, 2 tsp Cointreau, 1 tsp cornstarch, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1 stick melted butter
Instructions: Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl, and gently mix with a fork. Make sure that all crumbs have incorporated the butter, and that the mixture isn’t too dry. If you see dry crumbs, add more butter as needed. This should make eight 3 inch tartlets.
Scoop the graham cracker mixture into tartlet pans, and push down on bottom and sides, packing in the graham crackers tightly. It helps to use a tart tamper to really press down and even out the mixture. Once all of the tartlet pans are filled, place them on a baking sheet and freeze for at least 2 hours, or refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
In a small sauce pan add the 2 1/2 cups of blackberries, 3/4 cup of sugar, orange zest, orange liqueur, cornstarch, and brown sugar. Heat over stovetop on medium-low, and let simmer until most of the blackberries have broken down and you have an almost syrup like consistency. Set aside to cool.
Add heavy cream to a mixing bowl, and beat on high for about 5 minutes, until peaks form in the cream. Set aside. Add cream cheese, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and vanilla extract to a mixing bowl, and beat for a couple of minutes until ingredients are incorporated and cream cheese is fluffy. Add cream cheese mixture, and cooled blackberry syrup to the bowl of whipped cream, and gently fold in to mix all ingredients together.
Remove tartlet pans from refrigerator, and remove crusts by gently tapping bottoms while holding upside down. Fill each tartlet with blackberry cream, and top with fresh blackberries. Place tartlets back in refrigerator, and chill for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve dust with powdered sugar, and garnish with small mint leaves.
Over the past few months we have been working on smaller home decor projects until we’re ready to tackle the bigger renovations. These small changes, such as stenciling a simple design over our door, redoing our chairs, and putting together a guest room have made a big difference in their respective spaces. We recently completed another small upgrade, this time in our master bedroom, with the addition of new end tables styled differently for each of us.
For James’ table we chose a wooden tray and an armillary sphere as the primary pieces. The sphere gives the setup a bit of height, and the tray grounds the items so they don’t look haphazardly laid on the table. We looked for pieces in shades of brown, bronze, and ivory that coordinate well with the entire room design.
For my table we selected an ivory and gold color palette. The tray is a vintage mirror that we found at a flea market, and the gold containers belonged to James’ grandmother.
We added decorative frames to both tables, each holding a photograph of us together, and a different crystal water carafe on each side. These changes, although small, help to give the room a feeling of warmth and coziness. We’re very eager to eventually see the entire room come together, and fully enjoy the space.
Potato salad has always been a favorite side dish of ours. Whenever it’s available on a restaurant menu, we tend to opt for that instead of french fries. This recipe includes all of the traditional ingredients in potato salad, as well as some additions that give the salad a boost of flavor, such as toasted almonds and spicy mustard. One of the key components is the homemade mayonnaise. Freshly made homemade mayonnaise is light and fluffy, and adds just the right amount of flavor to the potato salad, while also avoiding the sometimes unpleasant texture of store-bought mayonnaise.
Mayonnaise ingredients: 1 egg, 1 1/4 cup extra light tasting olive oil, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tbsp lemon juice. Note: all ingredients should be at room temperature.
Mayonnaise instructions: add the egg, 1/4 cup of oil, mustard powder, and salt to a glass stand mixer bowl. Start mixer at a medium speed and run for a few seconds, until ingredients are combined. Raise the speed of the mixer to high, and slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of oil. It’s important for the oil to be added very slowly for it to emulsify and create the right consistency. Once the oil is completely added turn off mixer and add lemon juice, mixing in with a spoon.
Potato salad ingredients: 10 medium red potatoes, 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 4 eggs, 2 tbsp chopped chives, 2 tbsp spicy brown mustard, 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste.
Potato salad instructions: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add potatoes and eggs. Cook the eggs for 10 minutes, remove from pot, and place in cold water. Once eggs are cooled peel and chop. Cook potatoes for about 15 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork, but still firm. Drain potatoes and set aside to cool.
Add almonds to a frying pan, and toast on stovetop for about three minutes, until almonds have started to brown. Grind almonds into small pieces and add to a large bowl. Chop potatoes into small chunks and add to bowl along with mustard, onions, chives, eggs, and mayonnaise. Thoroughly mix all ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.
This salad is a great side dish for any entrée, or as a stand-alone snack. The almonds give it a great crunch, and the homemade mayonnaise is well worth the effort.
Now that spring has arrived, I have devoted even more time to our garden and the herbs that we have been growing. To get as much use out of the produce growing on our property, as well as ingredients I tend to keep in my pantry, I infused olive oil using four different combinations. It’s a great way to make use of a variety of herbs, as well as other ingredients such as citrus, garlic, and peppers.
To infuse the oil, I simply heated it with the herbs and aromatics, let simmer gently for about five minutes, and bottled it once cooled. The amount of herbs completely depends on how potent you want the oil to be. I typically use about four sprigs of herbs per cup of oil, resulting in a delicate but still noticeable flavor. You can use any combination of ingredients, so long as they are appropriately infused. Soft herbs should be blended with the oil separately, whereas woody herbs and aromatics can be added directly to oil when heating. Aromatic ingredients, such as garlic and onion, can be lightly roasted in the oven to extract extra flavor before adding to oil for heating.
For the first combination, I used rosemary, mint, and orange rind, all from our very own garden.
For the second oil, I used roasted garlic, thyme, scallions, and ginger. I like to add the ingredients used to the bottle for presentation, and as a reminder of what’s inside.
The third infused oil included garlic, dry chiles, and basil. I love using this combination on meats, and to drizzle on pizza.
For the final oil, I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary from our garden. These oils add extra flavor and fragrance to all meals, making them great to have for multiple uses such as drizzling on meats, adding to salads, or just for dipping bread.