Saturday, March 21, 2009

On The Second Day Of Spring.

Happy Spring! If the bulbs coming up in my own garden weren't enough of a sign... 

it's official- yesterday was the first day of spring. And Today, in anticipation of my own flowers coming up, I went to the Spring Bulb Show at The Botanic Garden on the Smith College Campus.

The conservatory the show was in.

Wow, was it gorgeous! And the smell was amazing- I wish I had some way to capture it and share it with you, like the equivalent of a picture but for a scents.

Is this an amazing tulip or what?

These sweet daffodils were very small and all clustered on one stem I think.

These pink ones were my favorite- don't you just love the shape of the petals!

I bet with all this color that it would feel bright even on the grayest days...but the clear blue sky and sun shining through the glass seemed perfect.

Wow is really all you can say about this yellow-orange one.

They also had a little gallery exhibition called TulipMania  it told some of the history surrounding the phenomenal popularity of the tulip in the Netherlands during the 1600's. Did you know- a single bulb of a fancy style flower could have sold for as much as $500,000 (in today's dollars).  I love tulips- but I'm glad they don't cost as much as a really nice house. Because they were so expensive and so sought after- tulips started showing up in arts and crafts. It was actually cheaper to commission a painting of tulips than to buy a bulb. The Tulip also became a motif in items like furniture, needle work, and pottery.

Throughout the show they had these wonderful signs. One at the entrance said they were from Flora's Feast: A Masque Of Flowers Penned and pictured by Walter Crane 1889.

A few more flowers- I really did take a ton of pictures (this isn't the half of it). I think I might make note and greeting cards with some of the shots.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Celebrate with Cupcake Cards

I've been making some cards lately and I am loving this cupcake punch (it's from Martha's craft line).

I found mixing different scrap book papers for the top "frosting flavor" and bottom "paper liners" was more fun than using the punch as one solid color.

This pink one is my favorite- with a little bit of glitter sprinkles and the polka dot bottom. It looks so yummy!

I like how the frame around just one cupcake makes a focal point out of what might normally look like a little accent.

Also made a tiny envelope for this one out of coordinating paper.

I added some thin ribbon on the sides to finish the edge (this one still actually needs the paper trimmed bit on one edge- my ribbon gluing wasn't totally straight)

I'm totally smitten with this cupcake punch- I think you'll be seeing it again!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seafood Quiche- the recipe you'll want to change a little

For Sunday brunch I decided to try and re-create and amazing quiche I recently had for lunch at a local restaurant. It came out tasting really good, but next time I make it I would make a few changes so initially I didn't post the recipe. I posted a Lemon Blackberry cake instead. Lolly left a comment on my last post (cake recipe is here) asking for the quiche recipe. So here it is, but before you use it, you should remember 2 things:
  • This was my first ever quiche- I may be doing something that you never do to a quiche (I thought I could wing it- it seemed like scrambled egg pie with filling...)
  • That I want to try this again and make some changes. The egg was a little too dense. I think I'd add half and half to the egg and whisk it together longer to lighten it up a little. (It was yummy though.)

When I was in the grocery store I bought what I thought would be enough. Turns out what I bought would make enough for two quiches. make two or do like we did and save he extra seafood for a killer pasta dish the next night!

You'll need:
  • Store bought refrigerated pie crust
  • 1/4 lb. of small bay scallops
  • 1/4 lb. Small shrimp (the 50 to 60 tails per lb. size or even smaller if you can them) do not shell
  • 4-6 oz cooked lobster meat
  • 4-6 oz cooked crab meat.
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tbs butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley (optional)
  • heavy cream or half and half (This is the the variable I would play with)
  • Swiss Cheese- grated, 1/4 cup or less I used less.
  • Large carton of Egg substitute (I used all egg whites that are colored to look like whole eggs).
Using the egg in a carton could also account for the "dense" texture of the egg. so I might play with this next time too and try using actual eggs or a mix of both).

Prep time 30-45 minutes
Cook time about 35 min.

Follow the directions for baking the pie shell only but bake it for slightly less time than the directions indicate (since it will go back into the oven). For my brand of pie shell I let the dough come to room temp. Unroll it into a pie pan. Used a fork to dot the sides and bottom and baked it at 350 for 8-10 min. instead of the 10-15.

While the crust was cooking and cooling I finely chopped a shallot, and added it to a saute pan (med-low heat) with the butter. I let the shallot sweat until it was slightly translucent, then added the scallops I let them go a few minutes stirring occasionally until the scallops were almost totally cooked- but not quite (they were very close to being cooked- I just didn't want them to get rubbery since they were going to cook more in the oven). 

I removed the mix from the pan then added the shrimp to the pan- still in their shells so they them get a crust getting a crust or even burning a little in the pan. I also think this keeps them moist so they don't get rubbery in the oven later. I cooked them until they were white but not yet splaying apart.

Next I put the scallop and shallot mix into the bottom of the crust. I shelled the shrimp and lined those around the crust too. I put the crab in- break the meat up into small pieces (if it isn't already) you want a mix of textures, some big pieces of shell fish and small. And this way the crab pretty much runs all through the egg mixture instead of here and there like the other seafoods.

Then came the lobster. I left the small claw pieces whole and placed them around on the top of the other meats. Then used smaller pieces to fill in where I needed to.

Now for the egg. I used egg beaters. I would add at least 4 tbl of half and half but I've seen a 1/2 cup or more in other basic quiche recipes I've looked up since yesterday. If you've made a quiche before I would use that as your reference. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the crust.

Grade up the swiss cheese but reserve this until later I put it on the top after the quiche baked for a while.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and then sprinkle the swiss on the top. Bake for 5 more minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the edges of the crust start to get too brown at any point cover them with foil.

Next time I would also add a bit of fresh chopped parsley to the top for serving- I know it sounds passé but this is one of those things that really would look good with a bit of green on the top. 

If anyone makes this I would love to know any alterations you've made and how it came out. I know I will be experimenting with it again trying to get the texture right. It tasted great- even if it was a bit dense.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Brunch-and a Lemon Blackberry Cake

Today we had a family brunch at our house.  Although we've done meals at our house before and now tackle Thanksgiving every year, there is something about making a new meal with new recipes that's always a tiny bit stressful.

On the menu:

Seafood Quiche
Green Salad with Pear and Walnuts
Grilled Chicken
Lemon Blackberry Cake

Here is what the Quiche looked like.

It had shrimp, scallops, crab, and lobster. It was the first time I've ever made a quiche (maybe not the best idea when it was one of the main dishes). It turned out O.K.- the texture of the egg was a bit too dense and I actually cracked the pie crust a little so some egg ran out between the pie plate and the crust.  But it tasted good. (Anything with that much seafood in it was bound tot taste good I guess!) It's definitely one I'll make again and keep trying to perfect.

And the pretty salad my husband made.

The other new recipe was the Lemon Blackberry Cake.

I started with a boxed lemon cake mix. I made what should have been two tiers (in a round cake pan) into four thinner layers. The only other changes I made to the directions on the box was to substitute apple sauce instead of oil and add the zest from one lemon. I cooked it at the temperature specified on the box but for less time (about 14 minutes).

Once each layer was cooled I squeezed a little lemon juice on the bottom layer and spread blackberry jam over the top. I did the same lemon juice and jam for the next layer, and the layer after. 

Then I placed the fourth layer on top...

and frosted the entire thing with a lemon frosting (store bought, and a pretty yellow color). 

If I hadn't run out of time I would've decorated the top with a bit of lemon peel cut into a curl and a few fresh blackberries. It was yummy, even if it was sans decoration.

Here is what it looked like on the inside.

I was also really excited about spring-efying the napkins, with a little rubber stamping but that didn't make it to the table either. Best laid plans and all...but I got scatterbrained once I start running late.

These are just paper napkins stamped with fun spring motifs and waterproof ink so it doesn't run when if the napkin gets wet.

(By the way- these napkins are really teal- they look very green in these pictures.)
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