It’s snowing outside – again. But, after all, it IS mid-February and the calendar assures me it’s still officially winter. Much of the nation is weary from wave after wave of mega snow and ice storms. In the Colorado mountains, we expect and embrace this kind of weather and are generally less-than-happy when the snow machine takes a hiatus, as it did during the past several weeks. While I enjoyed being outdoors without freezing my you-know-what off, each snowfall is vital for the moisture it brings to our forests, streams, and rivers, and the overall economic health of our mountain community. Plus, the sight of every surface outside my window, covered in new-fallen fluffy snow, is exceedingly beautiful.
Nevertheless, I feel a yearning for spring starting to develop. My eye is drawn to springtime colors, whether browsing in my favorite clothing shops or selecting flowers and blooming plants in the floral department of my grocery store. So, when I had the opportunity to create a table setting this week in conjunction with a newspaper interview, I decided to set the table for a springtime gathering.
Bright yellow placemats and a mint green table runner, fashioned from a 3-yard length of fabric, anchor the table and set the theme for my spring décor. Decorative gold chargers, gold-rimmed white china plates given to me recently by my mother, my favorite green and white, scalloped-edge bunny salad plates, and inexpensive stem-less wine glasses filled with simple arrangements of yellow and pink cut flowers, add another layer of seasonal color and visual interest.
Cut-work linen napkins are gathered into painted, wooden napkin rings that resemble flower pots – each sporting a single tulip in a variety of springtime colors. When I purchased them over 25 years ago in a decorators warehouse, I certainly never dreamed I’d still be using them years later, but it just goes to show that a bit of unexpected whimsy in an otherwise somewhat formal setting, can lend the ideal finishing touch to carry out the theme and prevent a table from appearing stuffy.
Springtime colors can be just the remedy for late-winter blues, so lift your spirits, surprise your family or guests, and create a little magic with a fast-forward to another season for your next gathering around the table.
It’s almost national Election Day, and I’ve just returned from early voting at my Dallas, Texas precinct. It’s a gorgeous, cool, sunny morning, and the voter turnout was steady as folks took advantage of beautiful weather and shorter waiting lines in order to cast ballots. Now comes the wait until the ballots are counted and results begin to stream in Tuesday evening November 4.
Today’s voting got me thinking about the concept of favorites – favorite books and music, favorite color, and favorite recipes. At this time of year when the days and nights are cooler, my favorite recipes are hot and fragrant from the oven. Roasted chicken, 4-layer lasagna, roasted glazed root vegetables, pumpkin ‘n’ spice bread, butternut squash pie….
So, I thought in honor of Election Day 2014, I would share two of my favorite autumn recipes and let YOU vote for your favorite on my Facebook Fan page. Or share one of your own favorites! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christy-Rost/194284390585965
From Celebrating Home: A Handbook For Gracious Living by Christy Rost (Bright Sky Press, 2012)
|1||tablespoon olive oil|
|1/3||cup sweet onion, finely chopped|
|3||large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped|
|1||28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes|
|1||tablespoon tomato paste|
|1/2||teaspoon dried sweet basil|
|Freshly ground black pepper|
|2||tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped|
|2||tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano|
|2||ounces cream Havarti cheese, shredded|
|6||ounces fresh Mozzarella|
|3/4||cup part-skim Ricotta|
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the manicotti shells according to package directions just until they are al dente. Drain and cool slightly. Fill each shell with Havarti, mozzarella, and ricotta. Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish, arrange the filled manicotti on top of the sauce, and pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover and bake 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the filling is hot. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano just before serving.
Yield: 4 servings
SWEET POTATO and APPLE GRATIN
From Celebrating Home: A Handbook For Gracious Living by Christy Rost (Bright Sky Press, 2012)
|4||large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thickness|
|2||Granny Smith or other firm apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced|
|1||cup heavy cream|
|1/2||cup chicken broth|
|1/2||teaspoon coarse salt|
|1/2||teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg|
|1/4||teaspoon white pepper|
|1/2||cup grated Parmesan cheese|
|3/4||cup Panko crumbs|
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a single layer of sweet potatoes in a large baking dish, overlapping the slices. Add a layer of sliced apple and top with the remaining sweet potatoes.
In a small bowl, stir together the heavy cream, chicken broth, salt, nutmeg, and white pepper. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with Panko crumbs, and bake 15 minutes more, or until the sweet potatoes and apples are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
We could not have planned this trip better. My husband and I are in Barcelona, Spain in time for Columbus Day, which is tomorrow, October 13, 2014. As we disembarked from Oceania’s “Riviera” cruise ship after hosting a 10-day culinary cruise, and our taxi drove out of the city’s port area, we passed a tall, impressive statue of Christopher Columbus, standing in the center of a busy traffic circle at Mirador de Colom.
As Randy and I walked through the city today, exploring major thoroughfares and ancient, narrow streets, there was an air of celebration everywhere – in town squares crowded with busy outdoor cafes, in front of Barcelona’s 13th century gothic Cathedral, and from residents’ balconies, many of which were draped with flags.
I spent a lot of time peeking through café, restaurant, and shop windows as we walked, many of which featured pizzas, gorgeous sandwiches with thin slices of locally produced ham, and freezer cases heaped with a colorful array of frozen gelato. For lunch, Randy and I decided to skip the oh-so-appealing cafes in favor of a shop that featured racks of Iberian cured hams. The proprietor was slicing paper-thin pieces of meat from the bone as we walked in, and the aroma of freshly-baked bread filled the air. We chose one of the few remaining empty tables, glanced through the menu, trying to decipher the descriptions when neither of us speaks Spanish, and ordered ham sandwiches with brie and Havarti cheese. They arrived warm and toasty from the oven – a little slice of culinary heaven in Barcelona.
There’s something exciting to me about starting with a blank slate when decorating a room. When the room contains nothing more than windows, the floor, and four white walls, the possibilities are endless. I can choose a contemporary, traditional, country, Victorian, mountain-casual, or any other style, and together with colors and textures, create a room that reflects my personality and makes family and guests feel welcome.
In this case, the room in question is Swan’s Nest’s upstairs south bedroom. It’s my final large-scale interior project in the years-long restoration of our 1898 historic home. The room required extensive ceiling repair during our initial restoration, and since we had to remove all the upstairs lathe and plaster walls, which had considerable damage, to install updated wiring, heating, plumbing, and insulation, the guest room was sheetrocked.
The remaining guest rooms were mudded, textured with a beautiful, free-handed swirl, and painted a soft buttercream, but from the start, I envisioned that this particular guest room would be wallpapered. The walls feature a lovely cove, a small nook with a window overlooking the mountain peaks, and a window seat I designed to take advantage of the gorgeous view. While the room would have been perfectly lovely with painted walls, I knew papering them would be in keeping with the Victorian era of our home, and it would accentuate the room’s architectural design.
So, come along with me during these next weeks as I transform this blank slate into a light and airy, but cozy guest room. I’ll begin by lightly sanding any rough spots on the sheetrock, carefully wiping down the dust, and then applying a thin layer of wallpaper primer to the walls. Once it dries, I’ll be able to apply the wallpaper. Then the really fun part begins – adding my decorative touches and personal style to this very special room. I’ll photograph the process and share highlights with you in my blog as I make progress. Let’s get started!
I’ve been back and forth between Dallas, Breckenridge, and Freeport, Illinois so far this summer. My allergies can hardly keep up with my whereabouts, much less my family. For now, Randy and I have traded in the pleasant temperatures and pine pollen (aa- choo!) of the mountains for the Texas heat so we can celebrate his mother’s 90th Birthday. A casual take-out pizza dinner with her Wednesday night after our flight, and a strictly spontaneous get-together for coffee, cake, and an hour of “girl talk” yesterday morning are but a small prelude to the weekend family festivities and next week’s all-important Birthday Dinner in our home.
During the past several weeks, I’ve assisted my own Mother in preparing for a major move from Illinois to Texas (she’s now all moved into her “cottage” in The Woodlands); hosted a luncheon and spirits tasting at Swan’s Nest for female whiskey distiller Troy Ball (Troy & Sons, Asheville, NC); created summertime tablescapes for a Vail HOME Magazine photo shoot and article, transformed our 1898 cabin into an autumn dining destination for an interview with Log Home Living magazine (look for the story in their November 2014 issue); cooked on Aspen television’s “The Lift” on Aspen 82; participated as a celebrity chef in the 5th annual Snowmass Culinary Festival (www.gosnowmass.com); interviewed with The Summit Daily News about cool summer salads; attended to final details for my upcoming October 2 – 12, 2014 Mediterranean Culinary Cruise in partnership with Oceania Cruises and Cruising with the Chefs (www.cruisingwiththechefs.com); and spent every spare moment in my Swan’s Nest gardens planting flowers and trying to keep up with the weeds. And in the midst of all this, my computer crashed, so my apologies to those of you who’ve not heard from me recently.
Each year around this time, I fondly recall summer days spent on Cape Cod when I was growing up, and I guess I had visions of those idyllic, lazy days when Randy and I purchased Swans’ Nest seven years ago, but the reality is that summer days are now as busy as the remainder of the year, with one exception. In the evenings, as the sun begins to lower toward the mountain tops, Randy and I share dinner on Swan’s Nest’s veranda – a relaxing, quiet ritual when time slows down and we celebrate our day over a simple, fresh meal. We open a bottle of wine, watch the hummingbirds as they flit from hanging basket to basket filled with bright pink and purple petunias, enjoy the cool evening breezes, and marvel at nature’s colorful light show when puffy white clouds change into pale orange and pink puffs of cotton candy as the sun dips behind the mountain peaks. We linger over dinner and savor the peace of it all until we get chilled and rush inside to get warm. Even then, we sometimes just grab jackets and head back onto the porch – reluctant to allow those peaceful moments to slip away.
This is why I love uncomplicated summer meals that are quick and easy to assemble, feature fresh, seasonal flavors, and have a “picnic feel” to them. Summer is for sitting on the porch, not standing in the kitchen. For that reason, I’m happy to share one of my summer salad recipes with you. I hope you’ll enjoy it on the porch with your family and friends!
White Beans, Arugula and Dill with Tarragon Dressing
|2||(15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained|
|3||sprigs fresh dill, chopped|
|1||small bunch fresh arugula, stemmed and chopped|
|1/2||cup onion, diced|
|2||tablespoons tarragon vinegar|
|2 to 3||drops white wine Worcestershire sauce|
|1||large clove garlic, peeled|
|1/2||teaspoon Dijon mustard|
|Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste|
|1/4||cup olive oil|
In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the beans, dill, arugula, and onion. Set aside.
In the bowl of a mini-food processor, combine the tarragon vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the olive oil and process until the dressing is creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Pour the dressing over the beans. Toss well, transfer the salad to a serving bowl, and serve. If desired, cover and chill 2 hours until cold.
Yield: 6 servings