Monday, May 28, 2012

What I'm Reading

I'm reading Slow Love . . . How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness by Dominique Browning.  If you were a fan of House & Garden magazine you might recognize her name as the editor in chief. The publication folded in 2007 and she lost her job. This is the story of how she dealt with that blow and changed her way of living.

Today - more than half way through the book - I came upon an couple her thoughts on designers. She states,"I have never met a designer who was willing to fold into their egg-white omelets the yolks of a past life." On the next page she goes on to say, "A designer may sincerely want to make room for a few of the client's old pieces, but it never seems to work that way; when push comes to shove, out they go."

I guess she is talking about the high-society designer types she worked with at the magazine.  Re-designer's who specialize in "using what is in the home" as a start to any design project most likely didn't cross the threshold to her office.

But, I did love that magazine and miss it. And, I will finish the book - forgiving her for not knowing that an entire breed of designer is out there who would love to work with her treasured belongings.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Shower - Part Two - Decorations & Other Stuff

The Theme was Sugar & Spice . . . 

The Colors and Textures were black & white with burlap & lace . . . and touches of lime and turquoise.

Most of the food was stuffed. The flowers included the Calla Lily, Baby's Breath, and lots of fresh cut herbs. For party favors we made lavender sachets, representing the "spice" and tins of sugar & cinnamon, representing the "sugar." 

Games were all created for guests to play on their own time - so there was no need to stop conversation to play along. Our party "activity" was to dress a paper doll and sign the back for the nursery.

Handcrafted parties of any kind take time if you plan on making things yourself - so I was happy to have months to prepare. I began by collecting items to craft with.
Collections included lace doilies, baby baskets,
burlap and old clothespins
I tea stained some of the doilies that were too
white in a strong brew for several hours
The "statement" piece was a clothes line hung high above the table with baby clothes. Most of theses clothes were thrifted or purchased at resale shops. After washing, the grandma-to-be and I embellished the pieces that needed some excitement with lace, crocheted flowers, and buttons. And yes, the guest-of-honor keeps all of these darling clothes!
Embellished baby clothing for our statement piece

The clothes lines (Paz Kinnaman Photography)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Memories of Mom

It is Mother's Day Weekend and I would like to acknowledge all the wonderful Moms in my life now, and to those who are gone, with love and admiration. 

As I was driving on the freeway yesterday, the local PBS station was dialed-in on the radio. They were reading messages from listeners and discussing food memories we have from mom and our youth. I got so emotional tears began falling down my cheeks as I fondly remembered my mother and what a great cook she was and how much time she spent feeding her family nutritious meals.

My mom was one of five sisters - all good cooks. The younger four sisters learned from their oldest sister how to prepare the special dishes their Italian mother made from scratch - with no recipes - you just had to learn the ways. Eventually most of them were written down and many of those recipes ended up in Rossipes. Here's to the Six Original Rossi Women (Grandmother included) who are gone, but not forgotten. And, here's to my cousin Maria, the first-born female grandchild (and mother of four) who shared countless recipes and stories for the book. Maria still cooks and just made her Linguine with White Clam Sauce for me and my cousin Joanne a few weeks ago. It was delicious (and in Rossipes!)

The Rossi Gals: Aunt Gloria, Aunt Eve, Grandma Grace, Aunt Connie, Aunt Mollie, and my mom, Eleanor
To my daughter Tracy, and daughter-in-law Paz, who are both mom's of toddlers. I love you both so much . . . Olive and Lulu have brought so much joy into my life. I am very happy and excited to be their "Granmakin" and I look forward to the day I can teach them the family recipes.

We have two new arrivals coming soon to the family . . . Here's to the mother's-to-be, Lindsey and Jolynn. Cannot wait to meet the newest additions.

When I finish up with this post I am heading into the kitchen to make a stuffed artichoke to take to a family function tonight (the one on the cover of Rossipes.) Tomorrow I will make our famous Fallbrook Guacamole and a cake to bring to my mother-in-law's house for dinner. Love you Nana!! I cannot think of a better way to spend this weekend - cooking and sharing with the one's I love.

Me, Cousin Maria, Cousin Joanne (Maria's daughter)
taking a break from cooking for a baby shower
One last thought, as I go back to the PBS radio show - I can't help but wonder what my kids will remember from my kitchen? What dish will bring back the days of their youth? I honestly can't say and think maybe I do more cooking now then when they were younger . . .  maybe those memories are still forming - OH GREAT, here come the tears again . . .

Rossipes cover and the artichoke I am making today

My mother's handwritten recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie
One of my fondest food memories was the lemon meringue pie my mom made:

Lemon Meringue Pie

9 inch Crust:
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup COLD butter
3 tablespoons cold water
4 large egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup corn starch
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 stick butter, cut into small pieces
Meringue Top:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons sugar

Crust instructions:  Stir together flour and salt.  Add butter in small pieces and cut into flour with a pastry blender until well-mixed and fine crumbs form.  Sprinkle cold water over the mixture while tossing to blend well.  Press dough firmly into ball.  Flour board and rolling pin, roll dough out to shape of pie plate.  Poke crust (bottoms and sides) with fork and bake @ 450˚ for 15 minutes. Cool crust.

Filling instructions:  Beat egg yolks until light and frothy. Set aside.  Combine cold water with cornstarch and mix until smooth, and then combine with hot water, sugar and lemon juice in top of a double boiler, over gently simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly with whisk, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened: DO NOT BOIL. 

Remove from heat and begin adding yolks, drop by drop at first, to avoid curdling, beating constantly until well blended.  Place pan over gently simmering water again and gradually add butter, beating constantly with whisk until smooth.
Add lemon zest and continue cooking over low heat stirring constantly, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and cool completely.

Meringue instructions:  Beat egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and salt, continue beating until soft peaks form.  gradually add sugar, beating constantly until stiff peaks form. 

Preheat oven to 325˚.  Pour cooled filling mixture into piecrust.  Spoon meringue evenly over top and spread to edges.  Bake 15 – 20 minutes until slightly brown.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baby Shower Recipes

 Recipes from Lindsey's Baby Shower

Egg Salad is something that everyone makes a bit different. I like to mix the chopped eggs with mayo, a bit of chopped celery, salt, pepper, and mayo. Maybe a touch of mustard, but not much. After I stuffed them into the baby tomatoes I felt they needed a bit of color, so I sprinkled chopped Italian parsley over them. Dill would be a nice herb to use instead of parsley, but would flavor the eggs more.

I've been making these Stuffed Mushrooms for years and years. This recipe easily doubles or triples as needed. They are from an old cookbook called: Cookery for 1or 2 (from 1978) 

8-10 med-small fresh mushroom, 1 Tbl butter, 1 Tbl minced shallots, 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup soft breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup  shredded sharp cheddar cheese, salt & pepper, a bit of water for baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Clean mushrooms and let dry. Pull stems from mushrooms and finely chop along with the shallot. Melt butter in skillet and add chopped mushroom stems and shallot - saute until tender and translucent. Stir in Worcestershire, breadcrumbs, cheese, and salt & pepper.

Salt inside of mushroom caps and fill with mixture, mounding over top.  Place in a shallow baking dish and add a bit of water to the dish for baking. They need a good 30 minutes. You can make them ahead of time, refrigerate and then add the water and bake when ready. Stuffed Mushrooms are not the prettiest food when they come out of the oven, so I like to sprinkle (always handy) chopped parsley over them and onto the plate. Improves their appearance by leaps and bounds.

The recipe for our Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl is a classic one from Knorr. 
For Chicken Salad, use your favorite cooking method (I like to just use breasts) and add mayo, toasted almond slivers, chopped celery, and if you feel like adding dried cranberries it adds a colorful touch and nice texture. Salt and pepper to taste. My secret ingredient is to use a dash or two of poultry seasoning.  Mix, chill and enjoy. 

On the plate we tossed mixed greens with Newman's Own Balsamic vinaigrette, before adding the 1/2 peeled avocado topped with the salads. Red grapes and a mini croissant filled the place nicely.

I used the recipe on the package for the Tabbouleh from Bob's Red Mill brand. It was good! I like to seed the tomatoes before chopping and I added peeled, chopped, and seeded cucumbers to the salad instead of on the side. It was a great meal stuffed in an avocado for any guest who didn't want chicken salad, and many wanted both.

Stuffed Strawberries
1-2 pints of fresh strawberries, 
1-  8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Mix softened cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a bowl until fluffy.
Put filling mixture into a pastry bag fit with a star tip. Cut the top/stem off of the strawberries and set them on the flat end, pointing up. Slice an X through the strawberry pointed end. Put the tip of the pastry bag into the strawberry and pipe the filling in. Chill. So, so yummy!

"Hostess" Style Cream-Filled Cupcakes

1 package (18-1/4 ounces) devil's food cake mix
Added an "L" for baby Lily
2 teaspoons hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla 

Prepare and bake cake batter according to package directions for cupcakes. Cool completely.

For filling, in a small bowl, combine water and salt until salt is dissolved. Cool. In a small bowl, beat the marshmallow creme, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy then add the salt mixture.

Cut a little part out of the top of cupcake with a serrated knife. Save this piece. With a tip and pastry bag fill each cupcake with a bit of the filling and replace the top.


1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature or until ganache reaches a dipping consistency.

Dip cupcake tops into frosting or spoon over top. Chill for 20 minutes or until set. Store in the refrigerator. I have to admit, it was not easy to get the frosting smooth on top of the cupcakes - but they tasted awesome!!
Photo from
This site shows how to cut the cupcakes for the filling (I didn't use the recipes, I just followed the pictures for cutting out a top.)

Making the Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Shells was worth the effort, but we almost didn't do it - a bit of fear set in - and we are so happy we overcame our fear and went for it in the end. An amazing and refreshing treat. We have lemon trees in our yards so we had plenty to work with for finding the best ones to use as cups. I tripled this recipe for about 25 lemon cups of sorbet.

lots of lemons . . . you need juice, zest and good little shells.
1/3 cup lemon zest 
1 cup strained fresh-squeezed lemon juice 
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Before juicing lemons, cut off a little bit of each end with a knife - just a bit so they will sit-up. With a juicer, juice the lemons, getting the shells really cleaned-out. Select the shells you will use for holding the sorbet and freeze them on a cookie sheet.*

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, stir well. Remove from heat, cool, and strain. 

Pour into shallow metal container (I used four medium sized disposable aluminum baking dishes) and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. Scoop with ice cream scoop into frozen lemon shells and add a sprig of mint. Serve immediately or keep in freezer.

*Freeze the shells at least one hour or overnight. Then fill with sorbet and freeze again on cookie sheet. Sorbet will keep several days in the freezer. 
We thought we might not have enough sorbet so we didn't overfill the cups -
if you have enough I would fill them a bit more


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baby Shower - Part One - The Menu

The baby shower for Lindsey (and Lily) was titled "Sugar & Spice" and I will share in another post how I used the title for fun games and other details. And, all of the decorating details will be coming soon too. Today I wanted to start with the food - yummy! I came up with an idea to have almost everything be "stuffed" - a fun take on being pregnant.

The Menu

Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Baby Tomatoes with Egg Salad, Bread Bowl Stuffed with Dip

1/2 Avocado stuffed with Chicken Salad, Tabbouleh (or both) on a bed of Mixed Spring Greens 
lightly dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette,  Red Grapes,  Croissant with Herb Butter

 "Hostess" style Cream-Filled Cupcakes, Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups, 
Strawberries stuffed with a Cheesecake Filling.

Lemon-Lime-Ade, Iced Tea with Simple Syrup, 
Mocha Fraps, Coffee

My husband hand-selected the nicest avocados from our trees for the luncheon and I babied them for the time it took to ripen them to perfection. We opened about 15 avocados and each was beautiful inside!

We made all the food from scratch except for the croissants, bread bowl, and balsamic dressing. 
I will gather the recipes and add to the post soon.

Appetizer table with baby basket stuffed with fresh herbs for a centerpiece
I like using some of my basket collection for serving food and I always line the basket with plastic wrap before adding lettuce leaves.

Now, I will share with you how to rescue something when it goes wrong . . . originally the hard-boiled eggs were to be stuffed, but the shells would not come off nicely and left rather unattractive eggs. No problem, we turned them into egg salad and stuffed the little tomatoes that originally were going to hold Taboulleh. They looked and tasted amazing!
Stuffed Baby Tomatoes with Egg Salad

Stuffed Mushrooms have been in my rotation for years and years and are always popular

Lunch Plate - there is an avocado under those salads!
Used bamboo plates and flatware with vintage linens for a nice mix of old and new
"Hostess" style Cream-Filled Cupcakes with an L on top for Lily (Paz Kinnaman Photography)

Lemon Sorbet in Lemon Cups with Mint Sprig (Paz Kinnaman Photography)
Cream-Cheese (Cheesecake Style) Filled Strawberries (Paz Kinnaman Photography)

Three Desserts on Plate

We emptied and washed Starbucks Mocha Frap bottles to use for drinks
and later served the Mochas in punch cups with dessert. (Paz Kinnaman Photography)
Dessert and Drink Bars (Paz Kinnaman Photograpy)

Punch Cups for Mocha Fraps with Dessert
Dessert Bar

Monday, May 7, 2012

20th Anniversary of my Design Business

This month marks a 20th anniversary for me. It was the month I finished design school, completed a course in "visual coordination"(which I decided to change to "interior redesigns") and began my design business redesigning rooms.

Over the next few months I will share some of my experiences of the last twenty years. I was lucky to have worked in some very beautiful homes across the country . . . from mobile homes to mansions. A big highlight of my career (so far) was the ten years I spent working with HGTV's Decorating Cents.

These (not so clear) photos are from the 1st newspaper article about my new business (what was that hairdo?) Many more articles would follow this one, along with magazine stories, and TV news segments in San Diego and Phoenix. I was very fortunate for all of the coverage I received from the press.

One funny story from about nine years ago was how hard it was for me to transition from interior designer to shopkeeper.