Many of us have been given the gift of a long weekend, a day off from work. But as we celebrate Martin Luther King Day we should pause for a moment and remember his crusade about social injustice and inequality. A man of many words and quoted often, his words continue to move and inspire so many of us. No matter what you're striving to reach - whether personally or professionally, career or fitness - we've got to keep moving forward, whether we fly, run, walk or crawl. Keep your eye on that prize!
Baked, not fried! These warm, buttery, cinnamon sugar donut mini muffins don't pretend to be healthy, but kids (and grownups) love them and they're the perfect antidote to a cold, wintry morning. These delicious little treats are super easy to make and bake up in practically no time. Leftovers also make a great after-school snack. Expecting guests for the weekend? Set a plate or bowl of these delicious little bites by the coffee maker for them to help themselves to.
FOR THE MUFFINS:
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract (I always eyeball and add a tad more than suggested)
1 Large Egg
1/2 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup Butter, melted and slightly cooled
FOR THE COATING:
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar*
2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon*
5 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
* Again I eyeball these measurements as well - I prefer to use a little more cinnamon.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin and set aside.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl beat the egg, then whisk together the milk, vanilla extract, and melted butter.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until well blended.
5. Spoon batter into muffin cups about 1/2 - 3/4 of the way full.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes for mini muffins and 25 -27 minutes for regular sized muffins.
Let muffins cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan or they'll fall apart.
For the topping:
In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar.
Melt butter in a saucepan and remove from heat. Dip the muffins into the butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on your serving dish of choice.
Whether you're making resolutions or not this year, I want you to promise to be kinder to yourself. We, especially women, are our worst critics. We tend to focus on our faults rather than our assets. We tend to be fixated with our weaknesses rather than our strengths. We tend to hone in on our mistakes and failures rather than our successes.
Let's all vow, this year - in 2018 - to turn that all around.
Let's find and focus on those strengths, successes and all the good things that we have to offer.
Let's not worry about perfection, but strive each day to be the best that we can be.
Let's stop comparing ourselves to others - comparison really is the thief of joy.
Do the best that you can do.
Be the best that you can be.
Some days you'll be better, stronger, faster than others... and that's ok.
Some days you'll give it your all and feel as though you've come short.
And some days you'll struggle just to get out of bed, to put pen to paper, to pedal at all let alone with strength and speed... but you made the effort, and effort is more important than success.
Some days you'll succeed.
Some days you won't.
And that's OK.
So this year make yourself a promise to be kinder and gentler to yourself.
We're almost a week into the New Year. Many of us have set up goals, and no doubt many of us may have slipped some already. And that's OK. We are tough. We are strong. We haven't failed. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on that treadmill, stationary bike, yoga mat... So you had a slice of bread, a piece of chocolate... So what?! Tomorrow's a new day, and there happen to be 358 more of them!
I wanted to make my kids something special for Christmas breakfast but I didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen that morning or the night before. I wanted something that was fun, informal and yet festive. The idea of monkey bread came to mind suddenly and we hadn't had it in years. In the past I've made it with raisins, but this year I decided to make it a bit more festive with almonds and cranberries.
Our result was a delicious success! We had made so much in fact, that there was plenty enough leftover for our New Year's Morning breakfast. (I Simply transferred the remainders to a glass pie dish in which I will quickly re-bake and serve them. This recipe is simple enough to feed the family and yet special enough to serve guests at a Sunday brunch.
While one could make the dough from scratch if one was so inclined, I have great success using Pillsbury™ Grands!™ - and this recipe has been adapted from the Pillsbury site.
Prep 15 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans (16.3 oz each) of Pillsbury™ Grands!™ Flaky Layers refrigerated Original biscuits
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 large plastic Zip-Lock type bag
Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 12-cup tube pan. In large plastic Zip-Lock type bag, add the granulated sugar and cinnamon and shake well in the bag, then add the almonds and the cranberries.
Separate the 16 biscuits from both cans, cutting each into about 6 pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball, then and add them to the sugar mixture in the bag. When each ball has been added, seal the bag tightly and shake well ensuring that each piece is well covered.
In small saucepan add the brown sugar, butter and almond extract. Stir well as the butter begins to melt, incorporating the sugar into the mixture. When the butter and sugar have blended together, removed from heat and set aside.
Pour out the dough, sugar, nuts and cranberries into the tube pan, arranging so that the pan is evenly covered, then pour the warm butter mixture over the dough balls, as evenly as possible.
Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and none of the balls seem doughy in the center. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Turn over, upside, down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm. (As you'll notice above mine doesn't have the hole in the middle from the tube pan. It was still pretty warm when I tried to flip it over onto the plate and the center collapsed! I still think it looked pretty and it tasted delicious!
There are two things I have a weakness for, design books and dogs. And so when I received an advance copy of At Home with Dogs and their Designers, Sharing a Stylish Life, from Rizzoli, it was akin to getting an early Christmas gift. It's the time of year I start to take note of those gifts worth giving, and books are always at the top of my list of favorite items to give. As soon as I pulled this gorgeous book out of the bubble-wrap-lined manila envelope, I knew immediately who must have copies of these stunning pages filled with fun photographs, with snapshots into the lives of these vivacious dogs and their designers, with tips for dogs on living stylishly, and tips for humans on living with their 4-legged friends. As whimsical as it is stunning, this is a must for those designing dog-lovers in your life.
I remember, about 4 years ago, when fellow blogger Stacey Bewkes and designer Susanna Salk got together to create a series of short videos bearing the same name. Stacey was the talent behind the scenes while Susannah was in front of the camera conducting the interviews. Perhaps Stephen Gambrel summed it up best when he said "I thought that houses were all about dinner parties and decorating but then I realized that you have to have a dog to really make it come to life."
Inside the glossy pages 22 A-list designers offer us glimpses into the lives with their pets who tend to (more often than not) rule the roost. In these homes no room is off-limits, no piece of furniture banned. Here clothing is optional and accessories are as chic as their surroundings. And as such as dogs will be dogs, accidents do happen - sometimes on vintage rugs, and antiques can sometimes be mistaken for chew toys.
Each dog and his (or her) human has his own chapter and we are invited along to watch as they frolic around their stunning homes and gardens. At Home with Dogs and their Designers is as much an inspirational design book as it is a resource. Featured are such renowned decorators as: Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Nathan Turner and Eric Hughes, Jeffrey Alan Marks, Mary McDonald, Betsy Burnham, Kelly Wearstler, Schuyler Samperton, Brooke Giannetti, Hutton Wilkinson, Windsor Smith, Mark D. Sikes, Jonathan Adler, Steven Gambrel, Katie Ridder, Alex Papachristidis, Robert Couturier, Charlotte Moss, Bunny Williams, Carolyne Roehm, Brian J. McCarthy and Michelle Nussbaumer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lifestyle author Susanna Salk has written many books, including Room for Children, Decorate Fearlessly, and Be Your Own Decorator, all published by Rizzoli. She also hosts (and co-produces) the At Home With video series featuring visits with leading tastemakers. Interior designer and architect Robert Couturier is the author of Designing Paradises, also published by Rizzoli, and an ASPCA supporter.
AT HOME WITH DOGS AND THEIR DESIGNERS: Sharing a Stylish Life By Susanna Salk Principal Photography by Stacey Bewkes, Foreword by Robert Couturier
Hardcover / 7¼" x 9⅛" / 176 pages/ 235 color photographs $35.00 US
ISBN: 978-0-8478-6090-6/ Rizzoli New York
October 2017 www.rizzoliusa.com
About a week or so ago I had the privilege of joining a group of 8 led by Jeff Northrop Senior and Junior for a newly created Oyster Farm Tour on the family-owned Hummock Island in Westport, Connecticut. An oyster lover myself, I couldn't pass up this opportunity. I've only recently come to truly appreciate just how delicious those are in our own backyard.
We gathered in front of Elvira's, a small deli, where we met Jeff Sr. who took us over to the island. The adventure began when we climbed into the boat. The ride itself, less than 10 minutes, set the tone for the rest of the evening to come. It was one that was both informative and yet casual and relaxing.
As we motored across Sherwood Mill Pond we learned a little bit about the surrounding waters. We saw the oyster cages all lined up and learned that each cage houses roughly 1000 oysters. These farmed bivalves feed off of the algae which occurs naturally in the pond waters. Oysters get the nutrients from the algae by filtering the water through their gills. Because of this, and because there are so many oysters in the Mill Pond, the water is significantly cleaner than even the Long Island Sound. For more on what oysters eat hop on over to In a Half Shell, a wonderful website dedicated entirely to oysters.
Once we got to Hummock Island guests settled into Adirondack chairs on the porch while Jeff Senior told us of the history of oystering in Connecticut and how the company came to be. It all began 1741 when the pond was awarded as a grant from the British King and a hundred or so years later a house was erected on the tiny island which would serve as a residence for the “oyster guard” who kept watch over the surrounding waters. The farm is still family run by Jeff Northrop Sr. and was most recently joined by son Jeff Jr. who left a career in finance to help his father with the business.
Westport-based Hummock Island Oyster Company has long been known for their outstanding oysters and their clients are indeed impressive ones with distribution in New York, Boston and Pennsylvania. Upscale local restaurants such as The Whelk and Pearl at Longshore get their oysters from Hummock Island. The highly acclaimed Blue Hill Farm relies on Hummock Island exclusively.
While "dad" took on the role of historian, "son" was shucking away on the other end of the porch, halving the oysters for us to taste. Jeff Jr. Showed us how to properly shuck an oyster and walked us through the tasting. There were no accoutrements - no lemon, mignonette or cocktail sauce - to top them off with and so what one tastes is the natural salinity of the water in which they live and the briny, sweetness of the meats themselves.
The experience is family friendly and exciting for adults and children of all ages. In fact, children are encouraged to attend, and those under 12 are free with a paying adult.
Nutritional Benefits of Raw Oysters
I wondered after eating what seemed to be an endless amount, whether one could eat too many of these delicious bivalves. And then I decided that the answer was no! In fact, the nutritional benefits are many. A single serving has about 5 grams of protein and about 2 grams of carbohydrates. They're also high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B-12, as well as zinc and iron.
Oyster cages and tumblers help to sort oysters, separating them by size, eliminating those too small and helping to distribute nutrients. This ensures that the best possible products are being delivered to restaurants and distributors. Thanks to modern technology, their farming process is smarter and more sustainable, something which is of great importance to the Northrop family.
Unlike many other oyster farms, no additives are added to Hummock Island oyster cages. Their tidal gates allow for over 2.5 million cubic meters of fresh, nutrient-rich water to enter the pond where shallow waters create the perfect environment for cultivating firm white meats, beautiful shell formation, and an intimate merroir.
While we were there 2 blue crabs and several small fish found themselves among the oysters in a cage and Jeff Jr released them back into the pond. It was amusing to watch them scamper off the deck sideways directly towards the water. They needed no help with directions!
I recently spoke with Jeff Jr. and asked about the inspiration behind these newly-created tours. "We wanted to be able to offer the community something completely different; to provide an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experience that's engaging, informative and fun. We also want to be able to share this indescribably special place that's right in everyone's backyard."
Having had the incredible opportunity to visit Hummock Island myself I can attest to the fact that the experience truly is one that is magical and unforgettable.
Artists and photographers take note! The setting on Hummock Island, especially at sunset is pure magic. We caught the most spectacular lighting as light and shadows shifted over the course of the evening. In addition to delicious oysters, you'll be inspired to paint or take pictures! See below.
Hummock Island Oyster Farm Tour Takeaways and Tips
Tour Schedule (Approx an hour and a half):
- Our time was leisurely and unrushed as we toured the small island, learned the lores of the oyster business and the house on the island. The tour was informative and entertaining.
- Parking is indeed a challenge.
Those from Westport can find limited on-street parking (with proof of residency) and those from surrounding areas and out of town can temporarily park at the site of the former Positano Restaurant. You'll meet at Elvira's, a small deli. There you can load up on water and snacks and use the bathrooms as there are none on the island. You'll walk across the street to Tide Gates at Old Mill where you'll hop on a boat which will take you over to Sherwood Mill Pond to Hummock Island. During the busy summer months consider using Uber or having someone drop you off.
- Arrive a few minutes early.
Because parking is a challenge and because you don't want to keep everyone waiting.
- In case of inclement weather a rain date will be offered.
- Dress comfortably and sensibly and for the weather.
In the spring and fall evenings can get chilly. Wear sweaters and bring jackets. Sunglasses are a good idea.
- Wear boots or shoes that can get wet.
- Bring your own snacks to enjoy with the oysters.
Crackers and cheese, wine and champagne are popular choices.
- Make sure your phones are fully charge.
You WILL want to take pictures
- Photographers, bring your cameras and any additional lenses you may want.
- Artists, brings your sketchbooks, pens and pencils
For more information and to book your own tour visit their website here, http://www.hummockisland.com/
Thank you Northrops, for an absolutely wonderful and unforgettable experience!
It seems my piece the other day, on camouflage has hit a nerve with some, eliciting the same sort of response one gets when asking people what they think of cilantro; they either love it or hate it. Alas such was what people thought of camouflage when worn as a fashion statement. Most agreed it would never be a "classic" per sé, and while I don't disagree with that at all, it certainly stimulated some fun and colorful conversation. Military style jackets and coats (sans camouflage) seem also to be very much in favor, worn by celebrities, fashionistas and those with a keen eye for style. The term military jacket is generally quite broad and can include the more casual khaki-colored pieces, or those more tailored - formal attire once associated with generals and other high ranking officials, in black and navy, even in red, trimmed in gold and adorned with buttons down the front. From casual to elegant, long to short, paired with denim or dressed up, this gentleman's garment is proving to have a softer, more feminine side.
Camouflage has been making its way into mainstream fashion over the past few years. Designer labels such as Valentino, Michael Kors, Burberry and Dries Van Noten have been incorporating this green and khaki-colored print into their ready-to-wear lines for a couple of years now. As it started to capture the attention of the general public, it has become more mainstream. With stylish and affordable takes on the pattern in such places as J.Crew, The Gap and Banana Republic. From skinny jeans to tailored pants, from jackets to dresses, we're seeing stylish, chic and modern takes on the battlefield uniform. From the front lines, to the runway to Fifth Avenue does Camouflage have what it takes to become a classic?
It's Thursday which means it's Farmer's Market day, which means I can load up on all my wonderful heirloom tomatoes and fresh peppers, cukes and all the other deliciousness that I can find there including meats, cheeses, breads, pastas, honeys, jams... Our farmer's markets are impressive and the more popular they become, the more impressive they get. If I could get nothing tomorrow but tomatoes, I would be a happy camper. I have been eating tomatoes every which way lately. The cherry and grape-sized varieties are my favorites these days for I can easily pop them into my mouth or simply halve them to start the base of a really good salad. And even though locally-grown lettuces are abundant, I have lately been opting to have my salads without, focusing almost exclusively on the tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh peppers that abound. Sometimes I'll toss in some fresh beets for a touch of sweetness and offset it with some goat cheese for softness, or some gorgonzola for a bit more of a bite. My variation of a Greek, or Mediterranean salad is pretty much my go-to. Add a slice of crusty bread and we have a fabulous lunch made in no time flat!
There's no right or wrong way to make this, and I usually just eyeball amounts depending on what I have. Here's a list of ingredients with estimated amounts. Feel free to alter as you wish - using more or less of those ingredients you prefer. Amounts below are for 1 individual serving. You can double, triple, quadruple as you wish!
6-8 small cherry, grape or other smaller sized tomatoes - I prefer to use a medley of red, yellow and green
1/2 small pickling cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 slices of jalapeño, chopped OR
1 tbs sliced green onion
1 small, or 1/4-1/2 sweet pepper, such as red, orange or multi-colored
6 Greek or Kalamata olives thinly sliced
Optional: 1/4 cup beets cut into bite sized pieces
1-2 tbs crumbled goat cheese
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A dash of dried oregano
Drizzle of olive oil
As you prep your veggies toss them into a bowl, add the cheese, olive oil and spices and toss well. May eat immediately or set aside until ready to serve.
I had my first blistered shishito pepper about five years ago. I was in the UK and they were presented to me alongside numerous other tapas. I had never had one before and passed for fear they might be too hot. I like heat and I seem to be adding jalapeños to lots of things these days, but in miniscule amounts. I mean, I would never dare to simply bite into one whole. I was assured that for the most part these were mild peppers, though every so often a rare spicy one emerges from the bunch, which seems to make eating these little green treats even more fun.
These little Japanese peppers, part of the Capsaicin family, are mild with a slight peppery flavor, not unlike a traditional green pepper although its long, slender shape isn't dissimilar to the jalapeño. They traditionally grow in the summer months and you'll find them in abundance at your local farmer's market.
Craving something salty and wanting to be relatively healthy (trying to keep away from the potato chips) I decided that I would try my hand at blistering them. I found a recipe from the New York Times and saw that all I needed in addition to the peppers was olive oil and salt. Since I didn't have three pounds I just decided to wing it on my own. After all, blistering a few peppers wasn't exactly brain science. I had purchased a quart but since I had given about half of them to a friend I wasn't sure just how many I had, my guess was roughly a pint.
Over a large cast iron skillet (my latest favorite cooking tool) I added about a tablespoon of olive oil and brought the temperature up. As the oil started to smoke slightly I added the peppers to the pan and turned the heat down slightly. They all fit in perfectly. I let them blister for about 10 minutes or so, turning them a couple of times so that all the sides would get a nice deep, char. When they were done I placed them onto a plate and sprinkled them generously with salt. I used a Sea Salt but think I would have prefered a Himalayan or a Maldon. Even a lemon salt for a zesty kick.
I popped on into my mouth and took a bite. It was divine - mild and peppery with a nice smokiness from the char. I took another bite, pulled off the stem, placed it on my plate and went in for another. I repeated these steps until there was not one pepper left!
1 pint - 1 quart of shishito peppers
1-2 Tbs of good olive oil
Coarse salt, as needed
A large (12 inch) skillet
Heat the oil in the pan until it gets hot - it might start to smoke.
Add the peppers into the pan, aligning them so that they all fit. (If they don't remove half)
Keep them in the pan for about 10 minutes or so until they start to char and blister, turning a couple of times.
Remove from pan when ready.
Arrange on a plate.
Add salt, coarse salt is best.