Monday, April 27, 2009

Glorious Gardenias

I read in Martha Stewart Magazine about a study at Rutgers University in which the act of receiving flowers lessens stress and promotes more positive moods. It sounded like a no-brainer - I mean, who isn't elated to receive flowers?! - so I looked up the study (here:, and found that it is more researched than I thought. Flowers, through their beauty, colors, and smells, can elevate your moods for many days just by having them around.

After a long and stressful week, my wonderful husband came home with a surprise that definitely cheered me up - a bunch of freshly cut, beautiful and aromatic gardenias. One of my favorite flowers, simply for their succulent smell alone. I also love their pure white petals and bright green leaves.... simplicity at its best.

I cut the stems short and placed them in a clear square vase, filled with black rocks and water. Be sure to submerge the stems, but not the petals, as they will quickly turn brown in water. They lasted about 5 days, and my mood definitely dropped when I had to throw them out. Rutgers didn't need a study.... my husband already knew how important it was to bring me another fresh bunch!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Always An Appetizer

My staple appetizer is a classic and easy one, as long as you have a few simple ingredients*:

Plum Tomatoes
Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Basil
Garlic Salt
Balsamic Glaze

Slice the tomatoes crosswise. Place on a nice dish and sprinkle the tomato slices with a dash of garlic salt (this is my special touch!). You don't want to over salt, but just enough to bring out the fresh flavor of the tomatoes. Next, add half a leaf of fresh basil. I picked mine fresh out of my herb garden, but you can buy them in the produce section of your local grocery store. Then slice a piece of fresh mozzarella into small cubes or slices, enough to cover most of the basil. Finally, drizzle a balsamic glaze on top to finish and enjoy!

*All of these items can be found at your local grocery store or Italian market. If you do not have access to fresh basil or balsamic glaze, you can improvise with a little balsamic vinegar (don't over saturate!) and dried basil sprinkled on top. I have used these when in a pinch! It is not as pretty or delicious, but still makes for a great and easy appetizer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


In the process of designing my blog, I looked over hundreds of background colors and designs. While there are some fabulous options, the one that worked best for me is also an entertaining staple.... BLACK.

What is most interesting about BLACK is that it is anything but BASIC. Black is classic, elegant, stylish, and sexy. Black is legendary... just think of what a little black dress did for Audrey Hepburn, or how any formal event begins with "black tie" or a black tuxedo. Black is also profitable and powerful, as a positive bottom line on a balance sheet is written in black ink, and who can forget Black Friday. Even the word itself is a statement (say it out loud - BLACK!).

Black is also significant when discussing food. Some people prefer their tea or coffee "black". Fresh Black Grouper is one of my favorite fish to prepare, and chicken breasts are delicious when blackened. A little black pepper is the best addition to any meal.

For party purposes, black is a staple. The color black can be combined with ivory or white to make things exquisite and polished, red to make things dramatic and sexy, or colors such as pink and yellow to make things trendy. You can add any color to a black dress to make a new look.... do the same with black napkins or a black tablecloth.

Don't be afraid to use black when dressing, cooking, or planning any event. My entire wedding was black and ivory, from my flowers, to my dress and accessories, and on down to my reception design. The cake was even black and ivory. It was classic and retro, stylish and elegant, all rolled into one.

The point is, BLACK can be anything you want it to be.

(pictures courtesy of Lauren Pauline Photography)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Luxuriant Lilies

I love Spring.... FRESH is the word that always comes to mind. Fresh air, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and fresh blooms of flowers. Around Easter, you can't turn the corner at the local market or grocery store without another display of flowers staring you in the face. One of my favorite blooms this time of year are Lilies. Available in an array of spring colors, and less than $10 a bunch, they are a simple flower that can become extraordinary as they open to their fullest. A single stem carries multiple blooms, so you can use one for a simple display, or several for a dramatic effect.

I was taken aback by the rich orange of this bunch, and as they open, they remind me of the sun coming up over the horizon on a beautiful spring morning. The bright green buds give a nice contrast to the open flowers, mimicking the organic green of leaves.

With lilies, I prefer to keep the drama on top, so I always use a clear vase filled with water. Change the water every day to keep the blooms for a week or more. A simple centerpiece that makes a dramatic statement!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Heart Salmon

Last night I hosted a honeymoon themed bridal shower for a good friend of mine. Since the bride is headed to Hawaii, I wanted to make really fruitful and delicious meal. Although this recipe is more Pan-Asian than Hawaiian, I saw it a few weeks ago on the Barefoot Contessa, and just had to try it, despite the fact that I don't really like salmon. Not only was the meal a hit, but the Contessa has changed my mind about salmon.
Here's the recipe:
2-3 pounds of center cut salmon fillet
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of dark sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs -find them in the ethnic section at the grocery)

My special touch: Garnish with sliced oranges, fresh chives, and a sprinkle of parsley

Place salmon in large baking pan. In a mixing cup, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, lemon juice, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, garlic, and ginger. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over the salmon fillet. Sprinkle the panko evenly on the fillet. Carefully pour the remaining mixture over the panko to soak the panko. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Roast the salmon for 20-30 minutes. The internal temperature will be 120 degrees F when it is done.

Courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa at Home. Enjoy!

Simple Chic with Orchids

One of my favorite centerpieces is to take a tall vase, some rocks, and a single stem of orchids to make a simple, chic statement. They are beautiful, modern, and best of all, cost under $10!

You can buy any size clear vase and bag of rocks at your local dollar store. Local florists can provide orchid stems in a variety of colors - we have a local orchid shop where I love to get mine for $2 a stem. Place the stem in the vase, and anchor the bottom with rocks. Trim off any buds that may go past the top of the vase. Slowly fill the vase with water to the rim, place on your table, and Voila! A simple, chic centerpiece!

You can experiment with different colored orchids and rocks. As an added touch, you can use a stem of orchids and cut individual flowers off, placing loose ones around the table for a more decorative effect.