A Sweet Valentine’s Brunch 1 comment

Coconut Cream Filled Strawberries

February 7, 2017– posted by Gina – Recently, I had the opportunity to treat a few of my close friends to a simple Valentine’s brunch. I set everything up buffet style for this cozy, casual gathering.

Valentine Brunch

I purchased these Gerbera daisies at the grocery store on one of my many recent trips. When I snapped them up I did not have this spread in mind but they worked well with this grouping. I placed them in a rustic galvanized vase with green patina which blended in perfectly with the serving dishes. It was a very simple detail but often it’s the little touches that can have the biggest impact. What is Valentine’s Day without a little candy? I can never pass up the grocery aisle with the seasonal goodies. As I was strolling through the selection of endless sweets, these oversized M&M’s caught my eye and somehow a few bags ended up in my cart.

Gerbera Daisies and M&M's

I set the coffee up right across from the food. Having seen antique tart pans used as decorative items in kitchens lately, I figured I might as well use my current one for something other than baking. It held the white coffee mugs. What is Valentine’s without these little Sweethearts? I sprinkled a few in the bottom of the mason jar and used it as a silver caddy.

Valentine Brunch Coffee Station

It’s great when you can pull things you already have together to create a theme. I didn’t have to run out to buy anything for this set up since I already had the hugs and kisses plaque, the carafes and the  plaid napkins on hand. When you start to think of different ways to use what’s on hand, you’ll find you have an infinite variety of possibilities.

Valentine Brunch Buffet

I served banana bread, chicken salad and coconut cream filled strawberries. For the strawberries and the banana bread I used recipes I had been wanting to try. Both were delicious and easy to make so if you’d like to see the recipes visit our Recipe Page.

Valentine Brunch Banana Bread, Strawberries and Chicken Salad

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Cookbook Club Halloween Luncheon


October 6, 2016, posted by Gina – For our October Cookbook Club luncheon our hostess went all out with a Halloween theme. Her decorations were so fun and her place setting certainly set the mood.

We began outside where we were greeted with this cute candy corn floral arrangement filled with mums, roses dianthus and seeded eucalyptus.  candy-corn-flowers

Next to this was this wonderful drink table complete with Spanish moss, glasses with spiders on them and fun decorations. The large punch bowl held several nice bottles of wine after I snapped this shot. Close to this great setup was a table filled with individual bottles of “Witches Brew”.  As you can see from the label there is a warning on it as well it should have been.  It looked innocent but packed a punch!


This large pumpkin with beautiful flowers coming out of the mouth was on the kitchen table. I think we all know what that symbolized but we won’t mention that in this post! The place settings on the kitchen table were complete with a colorful leaf charger topped with black and white skeleton plates and a pumpkin bowl on top.



Moving into the dining room, we found the table complete with a lighted centerpiece and place settings that began with beautiful linen placemats, Annie Glass chargers and dessert bowls and black and white cob web plates.  The centerpiece was filled with not only flowers but also skeleton hands, an orange boa and skull head.


Along with all of these fabulous decorations that really put us in the Halloween spirit, we enjoyed a delicious lunch. Our hostess even asked us to dress up as you can see from this photo of a few of the members of our group.


We are currently cooking out of the cookbooks Southern Sideboards and Come on In both from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi.  Here was our menu:


Zucchini Cheese Spread from Come On In
Hot Chipped Beef Dip from Southern Sideboards

Cream of Carrot Soup from Come On In

Marinated Vegetable Salad from Southern Sideboards

Main Course

Chicken with Mushroom Madeira Sauce from Come On In
Brussels Sprouts with Hot Bacon Dressing from Southern Sideboards

Hot Milk Cake with Caramel Icing from Come On In
Devil’s Food Cake from Southern Sideboards

I would like to share my favorite recipe of the day with you which was the cream of carrot soup.

First, I do not like cooked carrots. I love them raw but something changes for me once they are cooked. So it was very surprising to me that I loved the carrot soup as much as I did. It has a wonderful creamy texture and a savory taste. Many times you find sugar added with carrots and that is not the case with this recipe which is why I think I liked it so much. I am sorry I don’t have a photo to share of this but, as you know, I get to talking and don’t photograph everything. This soup is a beautiful bright orange color and would be fabulous for any fall meal you are preparing.

Cream of Carrot Soup Come on In


½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (2 tbs. dried)
1 pound carrots, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 tbs. unsalted butter
1 tbs. all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
3 large egg yolks
½ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish


Sauté the chopped cilantro and vegetables in butter until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in chicken stock, cover, cook over medium heat until carrots are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain cooked vegetables and return stock pan. Process vegetable mixture, 2 cups at a time, until smooth. Add puree to stock, stirring until smooth. Process egg yolks and cream until blended. With processor running, gradually add 1 cup hot soup. Stir in egg yolk mixture gradually into remaining hot soup.  Stir in pepper and simmer until slightly thickened and hot – do not boil. Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped cilantro or parsley.

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Christmas Florals

December 14, 2015, posted by Gina – Earlier this month I worked on several floral arrangements for a Christmas/Engagement party held at a friend’s home.  I had a lot of fun working on these and I hope you will get some good ideas from them.
Christmas Florals Collage

The noble fir wreath was beautiful on its own but I added the red bow to coordinate with some of the red in the dining room where it hung.  The champagne bucket held a tall arrangement filled with roses, stock, snapdragons and larkspur. It was the dining room table centerpiece and was complimented by a couple of coordinating smaller arrangements.  A mercury vase held a stunning all white composition and a few other cheery arrangements were scattered about the house in McCarty vases.

McCarty Vases

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Noël: Decorations from the Heart* 2 comments

December 11, 2015, posted by Michelle – Bonjour! I am spreading a little cheer from across the pond and hope you like this Christmas tree collection. These trees are part of the annual *Les Décos du Cœur event in Lyon and they are sponsored by companies throughout the region. People can participate in a drawing this weekend to win various prizes and the trees will be auctioned off on Sunday. The proceeds go to a charity that helps the elderly in need. Christmas Tree Collage

A few of these trees were decorated with a distinct French flair: the red, white and blue tree, the Olympique Lyonnais soccer team tree and the tree with macarons in transparent ornaments – that one was also topped with a chef’s toque in lieu of the traditional star.

toque macaron

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Thanksgiving Dinner

November 24, 2015, posted by Gina – Sunday morning after church I got right on my grocery list and headed for Kroger. I needed frozen strawberries for my Strawberry Banana Salad. Take a look at this section in the grocery store. I could not help think that locusts or some other phenomenon came to this freezer and carried off everything:

ThanksgivingWhat this tells me is that “Maw Maw” salads are still alive and well on our Thanksgiving tables. You know how everyone rolls their eyes at the sound of a jello salad mixed with fruit and other goodies? If I tried not offering it on Thanksgiving Day, my boys would start a revolution. They eat it with their meal, for dessert and sometimes even breakfast! This was my mother-in-law’s recipe and is in her handwriting but I take credit for the food spills on the paper. She made this in a Pyrex dish and cut it into squares but I like making it in a trifle bowl since it is very pretty when complete.

Strawberry and Banana Salad:

Strawberry and Banana SaladBanana Strawberry 4


Crockpot Green Beans

So, you probably fall into one category or another on green beans; fresh and crunchy or canned and soft. I like them both ways, but my family likes them soft.

6 cans whole green beans

2 cups chicken broth

½ stick of butter

½ cup of vinegar

1 onion, chopped and sautéed until soft and translucent

Put green beans in a crockpot and gently stir in all other ingredients Cook the green beans on high for about 4 hours. The flavor is so delicious.

Thanksgiving 2

Sweet Potatoes
I will confess that sweet potatoes are not my favorite thing. I like the color and want to love them, but I just don’t. That does not stop my family from loving these and so I prepare them. It is a labor of love. I have never had a set recipe or even one that was handed down to me from any side of the family. A friend and frequent reader of petals and plates, shared a wonderful sweet potato recipe for me that her family prepares every year. They feed about 30 people so I changed this a bit for my 6.

Preheat oven to 400°
Scrub sweet potatoes and dry
Cover a baking pan with foil and place potatoes on top
Bake for 1 ½ hours
Take out of oven and let cool for about an hour.
Slice potatoes in half and scoop flesh out of skins and place in a large Dutch oven
Add 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup milk, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 stick of butter and mash until well combined.
Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with marshmallows. Bake until marshmallows are melted and slightly brown.

Thanksgiving 7

Classic Mashed Potatoes
When I first started preparing Thanksgiving dinner over 30 years ago, I was surprised that with all the starchy vegetables, my husband still wanted mashed potatoes. Another labor of love, I prepare them for him. I like mashed potatoes but it just seems that one more starch is not necessary but my husband told me that what Thanksgiving is all about.

Thanksgiving 5

4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled, cubed and cooked on low heat in just enough water to cover them for about 8 minutes or until tender
1 stick butter (yes I said the whole stick but this makes a lot of potatoes…sorry…we will eat healthy in January)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste.

Deviled Eggs

If I made a million of these, my boys would eat every one of them. These are really easy unless you can’t get the shell off the egg. As you can see from my photo, this happened on one of them that I prepared. Thanksgiving 6I boil my eggs with a bit of salt and about a tablespoon of white vinegar for 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let them sit for another 5 and then immerse in ice water for about 30 minutes. I am not sure about the science of all that but over the years different people have given me tips and now I incorporate all of them. It helps if your eggs are at least 1 – 2 weeks old.

18 eggs, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and yolks placed in another bowl

To yolks add:

½ cup mayo

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 small sweet pickles (I chop my own as they have a different texture than the pre-made relish)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.

Mix all ingredients until creamy. You may need to add more or less of the ingredients depending upon your preferences.

We’d love to hear about your Thanksgiving recipes and traditions. Please leave us your thoughts and comments Click on the title of this post and comment form will open up at the bottom of the page.

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Cornbread Dressing

November 19, 2015, posted by Gina – Today I started my week long process of cooking our Thanksgiving meal. We will be going to my parents house and I will be preparing all of the food except the turkey. My family enjoys all of the very traditional side items so without further ado, here is my menu:

Cornbread Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Macaroni & Cheese
Strawberry & Banana Salad
Deviled Eggs
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie


I use a cornmeal mix and follow the directions listed on the package except that I substitute buttermilk for milk because I love the flavor it provides. Now, don’t judge me on this recipe as there is a lot of butter in it. I have confessed and now can proceed.

1 recipe cornbread (this is for a 10 inch skillet or and 8 inch square baking dish)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing Mix
1 stick butter, melted
2 -32 ounce boxes chicken stock
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 eggs

Once the cornbread is baked and cooled, break it into small pieces. Sauté the onion, bell pepper and celery in the olive oil and then stir them to the cornbread. Add the herbed stuffing mix to the cornbread mixture and stir. Pour the melted butter, chicken stock, and soup over the cornbread mixture and combine all ingredients. Stir two eggs into mixture. Place in a 9 X 13 baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes on 350° or until warmed though.

Here’s the 411: if you want to prepare this in advance, as I have done today, omit 1 can of the soup, the second 32 oz. box of chicken stock and the eggs. Cover it very tightly and place in the freezer. A day or two before serving, place it in the refrigerator for thawing. Once thawed and when you are ready to bake it, add the soup and eggs and additional chicken stock if needed for moisture. I usually have mine swimming in chicken stock before baking and afterwards it is very moist and delicious. So there you have it! That’s how I make the dressing for our family.

There was a question/answer report on Thanksgiving dinner on the news this morning and one of the questions was how do to make dressing without it being gummy. Well, I think the key is lots of moisture and the extra chicken stock seems to do the trick.

Cornmeal Mix – I like the Aunt Jemima brand cornmeal mix. I prefer the yellow cornmeal but as luck would have it Kroger did not have a yellow cornmeal mix. What is up with that? They do know it is Thanksgiving right? Oh, I’ll reserve getting on my soapbox about Kroger for another post! You may not have a Kroger where you live, but I am sure your local grocery has some of the same issues. Later.

Cornbread Dressing

Cooked Cornbread and Veggies – Look at that beautiful cornbread! You must cook this in a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one….stop what you are doing and get one. Make sure you get a pretreated one that is ready to go. When I got mine you had to “cure” it yourself…it’s like giving it a patina in a day but nothing creates a good patina like time and use. The onions, celery and bell pepper were sauteed until soft and they really the dressing tasty.

I hope to be able to share some of my other recipes with you. Besides the Strawberry Banana Salad, all of these recipes are mine. I have tried to transmit this dressing recipe the best I can, but if something does not make sense leave a question in the comment box.

We would love to know what everyone else is cooking for Thanksgiving, so let us know in the comment section. Maybe you are getting my subtle hint about leaving comments? Click on the title of the post and the comment form will appear at the bottom of the page.

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Thanksgiving Pumpkin Centerpieces 6 comments

November 19, 2015, posted by Gina – Last night I had the opportunity to present floral designs and tablescapes to a really fun group of ladies. A big thank you goes out to our lovely hostess who prepared some fabulous appetizers that were enjoyed by all, including me.  I presented how-tos for variety of different designs that would carry through the holiday season; a round centerpiece, a cornucopia, a long-lasting Christmas arrangement, two tablescapes (one with a pumpkin centerpiece and the other with a cornucopia centerpiece), a vertical arrangement and a cranberry filled vase.

Thanksgiving Arrangements and Tablescapes

A tip for the vertical arrangement is to start with a bit of tall greenery in the back and then step your flowers down. I added a lemon for a bit of fun. When working on a cranberry filled arrangement, first fill a vase with cranberries and then fill with water. You won’t need oasis or a tape grid as the cranberries secure the stems. How cool is that?

After my presentation, the ladies designed their own pumpkin arrangements and they did a fabulous job. When they first walked in and saw the pumpkins ready for them and thought they would be cutting and gutting the pumpkins. They were happily surprised to find that we would actually be using the stem to secure the foam instead of cutting the pumpkin. I must tell you that I had to use a saw to cut the stems in half on each pumpkin which was quite a site, but it got the job done. We all had a lot of fun and everyone was pleased with their pumpkin arrangements, which they took home with them. Voilà, the fruits of their labor…

Pumpkin Arrangements

Coming up….I plan on posting tutorials on how to make a cranberry filled arrangement and a long lasting Christmas arrangement in preparation for the holidays, so stay tuned and check our Tutorials Page in the coming days.

We like to hear from our readers, so if you’d like to leave comments or share your thoughts click on the title of this post and the comment form will appear at the bottom of the page.

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Setting the Scene for a Thanksgiving Luncheon

November 17, 2015, posted by Gina – A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful pleasure of attending my cookbook club’s monthly luncheon. The theme for the day was Thanksgiving and it was a true bounty of the season’s best.

I was asked to design the flower arrangements using cream, green, brown and neutral colors. It was challenging and refreshing for me to work with this color palette for a Thanksgiving feast since it’s a departure from the traditional oranges, reds, and golds.

Birch Planters Magnolia SunflowerI found some great looking birch bark planters and chose Little Gem magnolia leaves as the backdrop because of their wonderful brown back coating. Hydrangeas, roses, hypericum berries, and white mums were the stars of the arrangements. To add interest, I removed the yellow petals from the sunflowers to create a brown and green flower.

My friend set her tables with beautiful white table linens and tied wheat to the napkins. It was a great touch and really set the mood for the harvest feast that followed.

Tablescape Thanksgiving Luncheon

CLICK HERE to go to our Recipe Page and read about all the dishes that were served.

How do you decorate your table for Thanksgiving? Do you look for new twists on the standard Thanksgiving decoration or do you like the traditional look? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you. Just click on the title of this post to and the comment form appear at the bottom of the page.


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Flowers for Easter

April 7, 2015, posted by Gina – There is a flower committee of about 14 people at my church. During most of the year we usually operate independently and typically create two arrangements, a large one for the altar and a smaller one in front of a restored 14th century statue of Mary from Northern France. But for Easter and Christmas we work together to transform the church with beautiful flowers that are visual expressions of the importance of the day. As with most floral arrangements, when you see the finished product it looks like it was so easy to create but there was a whole lot of behind the scenes work on these special flowers.


These flowers actually came from a parishioners yard and one of our committee members worked her magic with them.

For years we have used forsythia on this cross.  I suggested we change it up a bit and use a little quince.  My wish was granted and the pink was a welcome change.

For years we have used forsythia on this cross. I suggested we change
it up a bit and use a little quince. My wish was granted and the pink was a welcome change.

Normally we don't these areas but we dress it up for Easter.  These ferns and lilies are at the entrance of the church and provide such a nice welcome.

Normally, we don’t these areas but we dress it up for Easter. These ferns and lilies are
at the entrance of the church and provide such a nice welcome.

A few years ago someone suggested we place a cross outside the church as well. This one is directly across from our doors so when you are leaving it reminds you of Easter joy.

So much work went into transforming our church for Easter. Somehow, when the whole flower committee comes together, it truly does not seem like work. We all love working with flowers and help each other with all the aspects of creating these arrangements.

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