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Home decor

Best Chocolate Cake for Valentine's Day


Hello friends.  How are you all doing?  Please forgive my radio silence.  I just needed a little break from posting to re-group and refresh.

With Valentine’s just a few days away, I wanted to share this amazing chocolate cake recipe that will take your Valentine’s Day dessert to next level.  Because if you are anything like me, you prefer to stay in on Valentine’s day and whip up the ultimate romantic dinner at home.

These individual chocolate cakes are not only delicious and mouth-watering but  also stunning.   The actual cake recipe is from my favorite Food Network chef, Barefoot Contessa.  

I baked the cake on a regular Classic 9 x 13 Covered Cake Pan and used 2″ biscuit cutters to make individual cakes.  I always enjoy making individual desserts, especially for Valentine’s Day.  I just think it makes it makes the occasion extra special and fun.  

I then cut the cakes in half and filled them with a chocolate and raspberry cream cheese filling.  To make these little cakes the most decadent desserts possible, I topped them with a rich and silky chocolate ganache and decorated them with fresh fruit.  What an explosion of flavors!!!

I hope you enjoy this recipe.



CAKE RECIPE

(Barefoot Contessa Beatty’ Chocolate Cake)


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing the pan
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 8-inch round cake pans or regular 9 x 13 pan.  Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.  In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting.  Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Ganache


Ingredients

  • 1 cup chocolate 175g, semisweet or bittersweet (I like to mix both)
  • 1/2 cup cream 120mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5mL
  • 1 tsp. Creme De Cassis
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter

Instructions


  • Chop chocolate roughly. If using chocolate chips you can skip this step or give them a few swipes with the knife. Chopping chocolate into finer pieces adds surface area and lets the hot liquid melt it with less additional heat and chance of burning. Place in medium bowl and set aside.
  • Heat cream either on the stovetop or in the microwave until just about to boil.
  • Pour cream over chocolate, add butter and Creme De Cassis.  Cover bowl with a plate and set aside for a minute.
  • Mix chocolate until dissolved and glossy. If there are a few pieces of chocolate left unmelted microwave at 50% power for about 10 seconds and mix again.

Notes

  • Don’t burn your chocolate! If you need to microwave it use short 10 second bursts at 50% power.
  • If your ganache is too runny either let it cool down so it sets or add some more chopped chocolate in.
  • Ganache that is thicker than desired can be heated up or mixed with more warm cream/any liquid you’d like.



Cream Cheese Filling

Ingredients:

1/2 bar of cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
10 fresh raspberries (mashed)
1/4 cup melted chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Creme De Cassis

  • Instructions:
    Step 1. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, butter and powdered until      creamy.
    Step 2. On a separate bowl mash/crush the raspberries raspberries.
    Step 3. Add raspberries, vanilla and Creme De Cassis to cream cheese mixture.




  • Happy Valentine’s Day sweet friends.


Janet

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Home decor

Frozen Watermelon & Strawberry Margarita

Hello everyone.  If you are looking for Cinco De Mayo party food ideas, then I have you covered beginning with this refreshing and super easy Frozen Watermelon and Strawberry Margarita.  




Exactly what you need to get the Cinco de Mayo celebrations started.  The best part about this margarita is that all the ingredients are all thrown together in the blender and your drink is done is a matter of minutes…  How easy is that!! 
It’s been all about Cinco de Mayo prep in our home. Soft shrimp tacos with mango salsa, guacamole with chunks of fresh pineapple and chunky fresh salsa just for starters.  But today, it is all about this beautiful and delicious Frozen Watermelon & Strawberry Margarita.  Not a boring recipe in the bunch!!!  These are all fun and tasty party foods for sure that your guests will love and I am sharing them all this week.  It may be April, but Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner so I will keep those recipes coming.


I can definitely use one of these pretty frozen margaritas right now and would love for you to join me.  Have fun creating!!!

Cheers,

Janet

EASY FROZEN WATERMELON and strawberry MARGARITA RECIPE

SERVES 4
FROZEN WATERMELON MARGARITA
Inspired by adapted from thecookierookie.com
10 MINPREP TIME
5 MINCOOK TIME
15 MINTOTAL TIME
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 1/2 cups seedless watermelon (rind removed and cubed)
  • 1 cup of fresh strawberries (cleaned and cut into cubes)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup good quality Tequila (You can omit if you do not drink alcohol)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar – very important!! (simple syrup or sugar of choice)
  • 2 cups ice (or more as needed)
  • Lime wedges (For garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Freeze the watermelon chunks for at least 2 hours (optional but makes it even better)
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a high powered blender and pulse until fully combined and smooth. Add more ice if needed to get the consistency you like.
  3. Pour into salt or sugar rimmed glasses and garnish with a lime wedge.
  4. Decorate with Fiesta Umbrella Picks and watermelon wedges.
  5. Enjoy!

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Home decor

Blue And White Alfresco Tablescape

Hello friends.   I hope you are having a great week so far.  We all know how particularly enchanting and fun Al Fresco dining can be. As soon as the warm weather arrives, dining gets moved outdoors…  You just can’t beat summer evenings for dining Alfresco.  And if the we are lucky enough, we get an extended summer season.

Today I am excited to share with you photos of a table I styled last weekend for a brunch that I hosted on Sunday.  I knew I wanted my table to have a more traditional and sophisticated feel so of course I decided to go with the eternal classic blue and white color palette.  For me, the fun part about styling a table is in the planning and brain storming ideas about how best to set the most beautiful and inviting table.  It’s a creative process!!  Mixing and layering patterns and textures.  And do not be afraid of mixing patterns!  The secret is keeping a similar color palette.

Blue and white is a classic combo that will never go out of style,  It is always fresh, timeless and surprisingly works with a rainbow of colors.  Perfect example of that, is the magnificent floral arrangement that I made using fresh Forsythia from my garden in a blue and white ginger jar with striking bold patterns.  For an unexpected detail, I added individual mini arrangements in purple tones at each table setting.

So many elements inspired this elegant table.  Such as the gorgeous Aerin Lauder floral table in  shades of blue and green, the striking Bunny Williams plates and the ultimate tabletop luxury; hemstitch monogrammed napkins from Bella Lino Linens which added exceptional sophistication and style. This table couldn’t be more perfect!  Side note:  Bella Lino is currently offering 20% off Set of 12 Monogrammed Napkins!

Have you fallen in love with blue and white yet??  Even if you aren’t, you might be after looking at these photos.


Have a great week.




Janet

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Home decor

Mini Cream Cheese & Lemon Tart Recipe

Hello friends.  I know I’ve been a bit MIA from by blog lately but a lot of has happened in the last month.  There was a serious illness in the family which made me put the blog on hold and spending my spare time with family has became my priority so I hope you can all understand my absence.

Today, I am happy to share an easy recipe for creamy, no-bake lemon cheesecake layered over Pre-baked shortbread tart shells and topped with fresh blueberries.  These delectable lemon blueberry tarts are bite-size and require no turning on the oven!!!

The filling for the tarts is made with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator.  Cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemons.  The one item you may have to buy is the Pre-baked shortbread tart shells.  I like using the Clearbrook Farms shells which I normally find at my local grocery store but if you are unable to find these, you can use the Phyllo mini shells.  

Ingredients


  • 1/2 package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup whip cream
  • 1 box of pre-baked tart shells ( See below)
  • blueberries 

    
    Total Time 15 minutes
     Servings 10 tarts

Instructions


Filling

  1. In a bowl mix the softened cream cheese until creamy.
  2. Gradually add powdered sugar until it is completely combined.
  3. Stir in whip cream, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Pipe (I scrape the filling into a ziploc bag, snip off one of the corners, and squeeze the filling into each tart) or pour the filling into each tart.
  5. Top with blueberries.
  6. For shine, use apricot jelly — place in small microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave until it is liquid (about 10-20 seconds). Gently brush on top of blueberries with a pastry brush.
  7. Serve & enjoy!
  8. Keep uneaten tarts refrigerated in an airtight container.




I hope you like this easy recipe.  Your family and friends are definitely going to ask for more.  Besides, they are so pretty!!!


Have a great week,


Janet









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Home decor

Garden Tablescape

Happy Sunday friends.  I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing weekend.

Our backyard garden is a little wonderland.  It is what I consider my secret garden and place where I unwind.  I often set-up afternoon tea or dinner for two beneath the glorious emerald boughs of one of our trees in the garden. It is an area surrounded entirely by greenery, giving it a very peaceful and relaxing feel.

Taking inspiration from the blue hydrangeas I picked from our garden, I styled this table using soft hues of blues and white.  The pastel dinner plates from Lenox and monogrammed napkins from Bella Lino add a sense elegant and graciousness without too much effort.  It is easy to immerse yourself in this relaxing outdoor space to let time slip away…

I hope I have inspired you to enjoy the beauty around you, to take time to linger, reading a favorite book and savoring a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  

Wishing you a lovely week.


Janet
Source List

Place Mats:  Sur La Table
Dinner Plates:  Lenox – Pattern: Butterfly Meadow Blue Solid
Flatware:  Lenox – Pattern:  Eternal Gold
Stemware:  Lenox – Pattern:  French Perle
Napkins:  Balla Lino – Patttern:  Danielle


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Home decor

Patriotic Tablescape

Hello sweet friends and happy Sunday!  July 4th will be here in just a couple of days so it’s time to be outdoors and get the grilling started.  And with summertime, the entertaining should be easy.

Staying with the traditional and classic color palette of red, white, and blue never goes out of style for celebrating the 4th of July. Bright place settings with mixed china, flower arrangement, and fun accents come together in creating this bold and festive table. Begin your patriotic tablescape with dinnerware and napkins in shades of blue, red-and-white laid on top of a galvanized plate charger to give your table a casual feel.  Keep your color theme going by adding colored flatware and glassware, and complete the look with assorted mini lanterns and votives.  

Don’t be afraid to layer plates and linens, mixing colors and patterns to achieve combinations that are relaxed and add interest to the table. Use a plate with a fluted design in your plate stack. It will add visual impact interest to your place setting.  Don’t worry about being matchymatchy!!  This is when you get to have fun styling your table.

And don’t forget to add something special at the top of your plate stack.  A whimsical napkin or fun object that ties in with the theme of your table will definitely elevate your table setting    
Always think outside the box. Fresh flowers are our go to for creating a focal point, but why not add an element of the holiday to you floral arrangement.  It could be small American flags to celebrate the Fourth of July, or the bright, bold pop of red bandanas used as napkins.



Lastly, relax and remember there aren’t any rules other than to enjoy the occasion and the friends and family that are making your dinner party more  special. Your goal is to create a unique table that speaks to you, filled with pieces that speak to you, make you happy and bring a smile to your face.  

Have fun creating sweet friends and happy Fourth of July.



Janet





List of Sources:


Tablecloth:  Home Goods
Galvanized Plate Chargers:  Michael’s
Dinnerplate:  Lenox Federal Gold
Dinnerplate:  Lenox Pleated Colors (Red)
Accent Plate”  Lenox Pleated Colors (Red)
Flatware:  Hampton Forge (Red) from Bed Bath & Beyond
Blue Glassware:  Pottery Barn (discontinued)

American Flag Star Dinner Napkins:  Pottery Barn

Mason Jars:  Walmart
Mini Lanterns:  Dollar Tree
Flags:  Dollar Tree
Votives:  Pottery Barn
Galvanized Beverage Holder:  Home Goods
Pop Corn Canisters:  Dollar Tree


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Categories
Home decor

Coastal Tablescape

Summertime is about casual and relaxed entertaining and this year, much of our entertaining is happening outdoors.  There is something about summer that invites one to sit back and take things down a notch.  That also translates into how I dress and how I set my tables during the warmer months.  It’s about having fun and casual dining al fresco.  Whether it is a barbecue, clambake or elegant dinner for two.


This weekend, I pulled out all the stops and planned a quiet dinner for my hubby and I poolside. The sun was out and the temps were ideal for spending the day by the pool.  There was delicious seafood, cold ice tea, wine, and lots of fun in the sun.

Such a fresh and festive way to elevate the occasion.  Of course my tablescape was inspired by the blue hues in the pool. Linens in simple shades of blue and red enliven the table and just for fun; I used my playful Oceanside dinnerware  by Lenox that is decorated with starfish, sea horses, and sand dollars in vibrant red, white and blue which sets the tone for my coastal tablescape.  All come together to emit a relaxed feel as we kick back with a glass of favorite wine.

I always like to add an element of whimsy and interest.  For this table, I simply used a small metal bucket to tuck in a napkin, lemon and small bottle of wine.  I also used natural starfish to decorate each place setting.


Thank you for stopping by today sweet friends.  Always remember to take time to do something special.  Whether it’s buying yourself petty flowers or having a cup of tea in your garden.  Make everyday special.

Janet

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Home decor

Mini Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze – Easy Summer Appetizer

Happy Sunday everyone and welcome to my blog.

Summer is all about keeping things easy and light!  These Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Glaze are a quick and healthy appetizer that your guests will love. Easy to assemble, delicious and make a pretty presentation.

Mini square mozzarella cheese pieces are skewered with sweet basil leaves and juicy cherry tomatoes then drizzled with sweet balsamic glaze to create the perfect bite-size appetizer. Trust me when I tell you that these will be gone in  a matter of seconds.


To make these for your next gathering you’ll need grape or cherry tomatoesfresh basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella.  You can get mini cheese balls in most grocery stores these days. If not, just cut regular-sized fresh mozzarella into square bite-sized pieces and place on top of store bought mini square toasts like I did here.

Layer a fresh basil leaf or two on top of a mini toast, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze, fresh mozzarella cheese, drizzle again with balsamic glaze (if you want to), and lastly; add cherry tomato and place a toothpick to hold it all together.
  

Aren’t these adorable?  And so pretty to look at!  Make sure to make plenty of these because they won’t last very long.


Happy entertaining,


Janet




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Home decor

Grilled Peach Bruschetta with Creamy Goat Cheese And Honey

Hello friends.  I hope your week is going well.  Can you believe that July is almost over? Summer is going extremely fast and I feel like I haven’t done much this year.  Partly because the weather has been awful this summer.  The heat is unbearable and the extreme amounts of rainfall in the Northeast have put a damper on outdoor activities.  I am hoping that August brings back sunny days! 

Today, I am happy to share this tasty and pretty summery Grilled Peach Bruschetta with goat cheese, fresh basil and honey…a delicious and sweet appetizer that is perfect for summer entertaining and can be made in minutes!  



Grilled Peach Bruschetta with goat cheese, basil and  honey Recipe


  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 10 bruschetta

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette, sliced at a diagonal into ½ inch thick slices
  • Olive oil for brushing bruschetta
  • 5 oz goat cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
  • 3 ripe peaches- sliced into wedges
  • 10 basil leaves – cut into ribbons
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Teaspoon of honey 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F or grill.
  2. Slice baguette into ½ inch slices at a diagonal. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a sheet pan in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes, or until crisp. Or alternately, grill on a bbq. Set aside.
  3. Place goat cheese in a bowl and either warm in a microwave until just barley soft enough to combine easily with a fork.  Add salt, pepper, thyme and tsp. of honey.  Mix with a fork until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Assemble: Spread a little goat cheese mixture on each bruschetta and top with a peach wedge. Garnish with a few basil ribbons, then drizzle with honey.
  5. Serve on a white platter, or a rustic cutting board.

That’s it, pretty simple right?

You will love this Grilled Peach Bruschetta!

Happy grilling.


Janet

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Home decor

Afternoon Tea In The Garden

For me, being able to enjoy afternoon tea in the garden is the epitome of the summer season.  I like to look for a shaded spot in our garden amid the tranquil trees and I am in my happy place.  I always have a picture in mind when I set my tables.  Even if it’s only for a casual cup of tea in he garden.  I like to create a scene.  One that captures the heart and evokes a memory. 

My inspiration for this table, was the charming dinnerware.  It is adorned with flowers, bees and hummingbirds.  Ideal for this tea in the garden!!   The tea cup handles are shaped like butterfly wings.  How cute is that!!!  Hydrangeas and spray roses from my garden come together to add a touch of elegance and loveliness to the table.

There is something unique and special in the ritual of tea.  A simple indulgence that provides a certain level of comfort with a touch of luxury and old world charm all rolled into one. So take the time to savor a cup of tea sometime!  You will be glad you did.
Wishing you a lovely and productive week.

Happy tea!!!

Janet

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