Monthly Archives: April 2016

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

April 19, 2016, posted by Gina – There are many recipes for tomato basil soup out there but what makes this one better is roasted fresh tomatoes.  This recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  If you prepare this read all the directions first.  I tried preparing this quickly and I managed it but would have enjoyed not being in a rush. In her directions, she instructs you to use a food mill.  I used my food processor but really think an immersion blender would be the best way to go.

Get the recipe HERE. Hope you enjoy it!

Tomato Basil Soup

BBQ Shrimp & Grits 2 comments

April 12, 2016, posted by Gina – Do you find it challenging to think of what to prepare for a weeknight dinner?  I certainly do.  I have my standby meals that I am pretty sure my family has had a few too many times.  Today for some reason I was determined to cook something a little different. I decided on BBQ Shrimp and Grits and I know my family loved it as there were no leftovers.

This is an easy dish to prepare but the flavor tastes like you worked all day.  You could purchase the pre-cooked shrimp to save time.  I know there are shrimp gods having a stroke over this and I get it.  I have driven to New Orleans to purchase shrimp fresh off the boats and I do realize that they have a much better flavor and texture but sometimes time is of the essence.  So whichever shrimp you use or however you cook it, this recipe is still delicious.

shrimp and grits


2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cooked with tails remaining
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup hot sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken broth

Melt 7 tablespoons butter in a large skillet.  Add Cajun seasoning, minced shallots and garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Add Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice and chicken broth.  Whisk until all ingredients are combined.  Add remaining 5 tablespoons of butter and stir until the sauce is emulsified.  Right before serving, add shrimp.


4 cups chicken broth
1 cup quick cooking grits

Bring 4 cups chicken broth to a boil.  Gradually add 1 cup quick cooking grits.  Stir until combined.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes.

To serve, spoon grits in a large bowl and top with shrimp and plenty of the liquid.  Make sure to have some French bread ready for extra dipping.

Garden Tour

April 12, 2016, posted by Gina – My love of flowers doesn’t stop at making arrangements but extends to the garden. When we moved to our new home 3 years ago there were only a few shrubs in the backyard.  We found a wonderful landscape architect who transformed our yard into a pretty oasis.

I think my love of gardening and flowers began with my great grandmother.  When I was a little girl, we would work in the yard together.  I can remember planting cannas, autumn sedum, tulips, boxwoods, nandinas and mint.  Even though this was nearly 50 years ago, it seems like yesterday.

Let’s go on a little tour of my newly planted garden and see how things are doing.

In this photo, you can see how the azaleas line the walkway:


The first bloom of many more to come in a grouping of more than 10 drift rose bushes:

rosesThis is sure to be a colorful site for much of the summer.

In the photo below are my chaste lilac, just beginning to sprout a few buds, knockout roses and light pink azaleas.  The colors in this area are so pretty once everything fully comes to life.  The purple blooms of the chaste lilacs combined with the hot pink roses are so pretty.


The agapanthus below is just beginning to make its way out of hibernation.  These have the most beautiful purple star shaped blooms that are gorgeous.


Ahh, the light pink azaleas.  While these blooms look so pretty, fertilizer is in store for them as they are very thin.  They were planted last year and a survived super hot, dry summer.

light pink

Here is the view of the path with all of the plants.  I love how the boxwoods line the beds.


This Japanese Yew’s green color combined with it’s unique texture make this such a pretty evergreen for my garden.


And finally, these hot pink azaleas were here when we purchased the house and are a bit more mature.  Is there anything that ushers in spring better than a row of beautiful azaleas?

hot pink

Do you like gardening? Are spring bushes and plants starting to come to life where you are? We’d like to hear your comments and thoughts. To leave a comment, click on the title of this post and the comment form will appear at the bottom of the page.

Before and After: Console

April 10, 2016, posted by Gina – This past week, Son 1 moved into a new apartment and he called me to help him decorate.  I, of course, was thrilled to help him with this task.  He is still pretty young and has a roommate so I guess you would call this apartment a bachelor pad.  With this in mind, I was very cautious about the budget and began searching for items that were more utilitarian rather than high design.

I found a solid wood console table in great shape for $30.  I thought he would have been fine with as it was but he asked if I could paint it or “something”. This was his nice way of telling me he hated it. He is his mama’s son!!

Console before

So, I painted it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and lightly distressed it.  I sent him a photo and he was very happy with the outcome.  I don’t work for Annie Sloan but I’ve mentioned before that the chalk paint is easy to use, requires no priming, is quick drying in between coats and there’s a great selection of colors.  For this piece I used two coats and a layer of clear wax.  I used steel wool to rub in some distressed areas.  It was that easy!  My husband and I are helping him this weekend set up a few things in his new space and I plan on painting a couple of other pieces for him.

console after final

How do you like the result? Have you painted an older piece to give it new life? We’d like to hear your thoughts or about your own DYI projects. To leave us your comments click on the title of this post and the comment form will open at the bottom of the page.

Cookbook Club Spring Luncheon

April 10, 2016, posted by Gina – This past Tuesday I attended my cookbook club’s incredibly beautiful and delicious Spring Luncheon and I’d like to share it with you. It was as much a feast for the eyes as for the stomach so I took lots of photos of the décor as well as the food.

The hostess had hung a wreath filled with fresh spring flowers on the front door which made for a cheerful welcome. The weather was warm and sunny so we took advantage of it by spending a little time outdoors. Her large and inviting front porch, where we enjoyed our appetizers, is filled with antique wicker furniture and surrounded by blooming wisteria. All of this set such a pretty backdrop for a lovely lunch.

front porch

The avocado mousse appetizer was decorated with chives and fresh flowers making it almost too pretty to eat. We sipped on Honey Bubble Champagne Cocktails that were served in beautiful blue glasses.  (1oz. Honeysuckle Vodka and champagne)

avocado mousse and blue glasses

We were all excited to see the hostess’s recently remodeled kitchen as it has been under construction for several months. An exterior wall was pushed out 8 feet creating a larger space that could accommodate a butler’s pantry.  Her impressive collection of Majolica was grouped together on her breakfast nook wall.

kitchen redmod

The hostess set two tables with the most beautiful china and linens.  In the dining room, Annie Glass platters served as chargers beneath the Mottahedah Tobacco china and rabbit-topped cabbage bowls were showstoppers at each place setting.  The coordinating napkins were hand embroidered.  An assortment of hydrangea, roses and tulips made a beautiful low centerpiece.  On the sideboards, white camellia blooms from her garden filled white vases.


In the kitchen, McCarty pottery served as the charger for the blue and white Juliska Country Estate.  Blue hydrangeas and pink tulips in the centerpiece complimented the place settings nicely and little poodle figurines added a whimsical touch.


Now moving on to the food…as you may know, all of the recipes are from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook.  We started with a tuna niçoise and a spinach pie made with phyllo and feta cheese which was a perfect pairing.

nicoise and spinach pie

As if that was not feast enough, we were treated to desserts that were as pretty as they were tasty: Fresh fruit tarts, pots de crème and coconut macroons.


I couldn’t help myself… before leaving I had to snap a photo of the arbor draped with lush wisteria in the hostess’s backyard: