Thursday, August 28, 2014

Outdoor Kitchens & Entertaining Spaces

I'm sure now that Summer is almost over, you've had time to reflect over what you WISH you had built in your backyard. Yeah, me too!

On my recent trip to the Northwest, I had the opportunity to visit some home shows and look at the newest and greatest trends in housing design.  

What I really had my eye on was the outdoor kitchens and entertaining spaces!  I thought I'd share them with you. (I apologize for the picture quality, these were taken with my cellphone!)

I liked this whole covered area along with the fireplace and the overhead fan.  Great for warmer Summer nights and cooler Fall nights!   

This next house had a nana door that opened up to a large covered area.  In the picture below, this was the grill and food prep area.

...which then if you turned around from the grill you were facing this seating area with a fire place and tv.  You can see on the right the big open wall which can be enclosed with the nana door.  The ceiling had ceiling fans which help keep the flies away!

Another house had this pizza oven.  Love it!  

What I liked about this next house below is the outdoor brick fireplace.  You don't see brick fireplaces too frequently nowadays, so I'm kind of hoping it may make a comeback.  The area was also enclosed and had overhead heaters behind the seating area.

Okay, so this next picture isn't an outdoor kitchen OR an entertaining space, but it was just too cute not to include!  How cute is this garden? Love the raised flowerbeds, hanging flower baskets on the gate, and the fence to keep pests away.

Another variation of an outdoor kitchen. Fireplace is natural gas.  This covered outdoor area actually had skylights so it felt more outdoorsy then just sitting outside with a roof over your head!

Onto our next house... it had a large covered outdoor area.  One wall had a chain-link curtain to keep bugs away.  It was really nice and large.

Now, if you turned left you would see this pass-through from the kitchen with a bar.  I would've moved the chairs and made it a buffet area.

This is looking in the other direction.  A nice fireplace with a cough.  you can see the chain link curtain still.

The next house had this built-in dining area... but what's cool about it is the firepit right in the middle of the table! Perfect for those chilly nights!!  I thought of roasting marshmallow's over it... but then thought of the mess I'd make trying to clean melted marshmallow off those glass beads!

This last house had a covered kitchen/entertaining area between their garage and house.  What was interesting about this area was this sliding barn-type door that you could slide in front of the grill, refridgerator, and prep area and lock up!  Great if you are storing things you don't want to get stolen!  

Touring these homes certainly gave me ideas for my dream outdoor kitchen/entertaining area.  What did you wish you had outside this Summer?
What did you like?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pupusa recipe with marinated slaw

A few years ago I was first introduced to a pupusa.  My husband was just introduced a month ago.  We both fell in love with them. Since he's the chef, he decided we should make some!

First things first, a poo-poo-wha?  Poo-POO-sah.  Pu-PU-sa. See, it's even fun to say! Now say it fast: pupusa

What is a pupusa?  It is a traditional food from El Salvador made from a thick, handmade corn tortilla that is filled with meats, beans, and cheese.  It's kind of like a quesadilla.

Let's take a look...
Pupusa recipe 
 Doesn't it look GOOD?

pupusa recipe
Time for the recipe.  Make the slaw first, then the filling, then the masa dough.  This whole process took me TWO hours.  This pupusa recipe is adapted from Go Vegan Meow

First, make the slaw.

Marinated cabbage slaw (aka curtido) 
  • 1/2 a green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 a red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  1. The easiest way to shred the cabbage is to use a large food processor with the shredding blade.  Then I'd try a mandoline.  Slice cabbage in half, remove the core, then shred away! Now place in a separate bowl.
  2. Shred the carrots. Add to the cabbage
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients and toss well.
  4. Place the slaw into a large reasalable plastic bag (the gallon size should work). Press out all of the air and tightly seal the bag.
  5. Store in the fridge with heavy items on top.  Let cool for approx 1 hour before serving.  If you wanted to prepare this the day ahead you could.
Black bean, cheese, and potato filling

  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 potato (russet or yukon gold)
  • shredded Mexican cheese mix or mozzarella cheese
  1. Clean the potato and cook in the microwave until done.
  2. Add the garlic and oil into a skillet and fry over medium heat until fragrant. 
  3. Add the jalapeno, black beans, cumin, water, and oregano.  Bring to a simmer.
  4. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.  The beans should still be moist.
  5. Once the potato is slightly cooled, cut into very small fine chunks (like o'brien potato size) and add to the beans. 
Masa Dough

  • 2 cups instant Mexican style masa harina (found it at walmart neighborhood market here)
  • 1 3/4 cups or more of warm water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the masa harina, warm water, and salt.  The dough should be moist and firm, not too sticky.  If it is too sticky, sprinkle with 1 tbsp masa harina at a time until you reach the right consistency.  If too dry, add more water. The dough is done with it doesn't stick to the bowl.
  2. Grab a chunk of dough and roll it into a ball.  (picture 1)
  3. With the ball of dough in your palm, use your fingers in your other hand to form a little bowl.  (Picture 2)
  4. Now add 1.5-2 tbsp of filling to the indentation.
  5. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling (picture 3)
  6. Fold over the sides of the bowl like a taco. (picture 4)
  7. To shape into a flat disc, perform gentle but firm patting motions in a circular pattern.  
  8. If your pupusa cracks or some of the filling pokes out, you can smear a little more dough over the crack.  Honestly though, the filling tastes good when it fries on the pan so it's not a big deal.  The pupusa should be about 1/4 of an inch thick. (picture 5)
  9. Prepare all of your pupusas (this recipe makes approx 8 of them)
  10. Heat a large skillet coated with some olive oil on medium-high heat.
  11. Grill a few at a time, taking about 5 minutes on each side to finish cooking.  They are done when browned with a few darker (yes even burned spots!) are on them.
  12. If you are serving them all at once, warm in some foil in the oven while the rest cook.
  13. Serve with the slaw on top!
steps for making the pupusa
finished pupusa!
Black bean, cheese and potato pupusas with marinated slaw (curtido) on the side

Delicious!  Bring on pupusa jokes!

Linking up with these fabulous link parties: The Scoop!,  Metamorphosis Monday'sInspire Me Tuesday,Do Tell Tuesday Wow us Wednesdays! What's it Wednesdays,  Creative Ways, Home Sweet Home Feathered Nest Fridays,G'day Saturdays,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Easy DIY Pineapple Vase

In this post - Easy DIY Pineapple Vase
This post may contain affiliate links. 

YOU GUYS. I have got the COOLEST tool maybe.... ever.
It did this:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Courtly Check black and white tablescape

Last week I showed you my DIY MK placemats.  Now it's time to show you my table setting which I totally love!
Courtly check tablescape
 My napkin rings I made from another DIY project.  Check out how to make your own HERE. (Ironically I made those napkin rings a year ago!)  This platter we bought to use outside for the BBQ.  But I stole it for my centerpiece!

I love how the Juliska Country Estate plates go with the MK Courtly Check!

I had been wanting these candlesticks for a long time too.  When I made my napkin rings. I had leftover ribbon.  Since I didn't have the candlesticks, I just tied bows around the faux-candles to get the look.  But this past Christmas DH surprised me with these candlesticks!
Love my candlesticks!
What's been on your MK wishlist?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Vegetable Pizza Recipe

I love all of the fresh fruits and vegetables of Summer.  I also love pizza.  One way to eat up that plethora of squash is to bake it in a pizza.

vegetable pizza

Our Basic Pizza Crust Recipe

  • 2 cups of regular flour (but if you want the best, use the 00 flour)
  • 1 cup of fine corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey, optional
  1. Heat the water to lukewarm. Then add the olive oil. (for really yummy dough, add the 2 tbsp honey here)
  2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  3. Using your bread kneader mixing option on your mixer (we use the option on the kitchenaid), pour the yeast solution into the mixer and mix for 5 minutes.
  4. Now, add all of the dry ingredients to the mixer. Mix on low until it forms a ball.  If it does not form a ball, you need to add more flour or cornmeal.
  5. Once it has formed a ball, knead on low speed for 20 minutes.  I know this seems unnecessary, but it is the most critical part!
  6. After, cover and let the dough sit in a warm, dry place for 1 hour. This allows the dough to rise.  If you want to make your dough ahead of time, place the dough in the fridge overnight and take it out 1 hour before cooking time.
  7. Spread the dough into desired shape. This dough makes enough for two 10" pizzas, so we separate the dough into two. This makes the shaping of the circular pizza dough a little easier!
Now choose your toppings!
  • zucchini, thinly sliced
  • yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • tomatoes, sliced (my tomatoes weren't ripe yet)
  • fresh basil
  • Whatever other vegetable you want to put on... olives, onions, peppers. Or if you want to be less healthy... add some pepperoni or sausage.
  • Pizza sauce (I like Trader Joe's)
  • Mozzarella cheese, pre-shredded is easier to use.
  1. Preheat oven to 500F, best cooked with a pizza stone.
  2. Spread the pizza sauce over the pizza
  3. Sprinkle mozzarella (as much as desired)
  4. Place all your ingredients on the pizza, except the basil.
  5. If you use a pizza peel (as I do), sprinkle coarse cornmeal on the bottom so the pizza will easily slide off the peel onto your stone.  This is a nice trick.
  6. Place in oven and cook for 8-12 minutes, until it looks done. 
  7. Immediately after you take the pizza out of the oven, sprinkle the basil on top. 
  8. Enjoy! 
homemade vegetable pizza


Written at

Linking up with these fabulous link parties:G'day Saturdays,

Monday, August 11, 2014

DIY Mackenzie-Childs Courtly Check placemats!

I have long wanted some Mackenzie Child's Courtly Check placemats.  But their cheapest cork back ones run at $68 for a set of four.  Whereas their fabric ones are $56 a piece! Boo!  So I had to come up with my own solution!  I'll make my own!

Easy DIY Mackenzie Childs Courtly Check placemats!

Materials Needed
Courtly Check tissue paper (you can get this either from a previous MK purchase OR you can search eBay and purchase some).

  1. Cut out the tissue paper in the placemat size desired. Use a previous placemat as a guide.
  2. Go to kinkos and have the paper laminated. The tissue paper is too soft for the laminator, so using a regular piece of paper to back it is a good idea.  I used the biggest piece of paper that could fit in their laminator at my local kinkos. Size will vary depending on local kinkos.
  3. And there is no number three. You are already DONE!
Total project cost for making 8 placemats: $52. 

Are they as nice as the real MK placemats? NO. But now whenever I spill my salsa drips on these ones, it's no big deal!
Easy DIY Mackenzie-childs placemats
A view from the side:

A view from the back...

Love this idea because it gives me the look for literally the price of 1 placemat!  

Now check back next week because I'll unveil my tablescape with these wonderful placemats!

Written at

Linking up with these fabulous link parties: The Scoop!,  Metamorphosis Monday'sInspire Me Tuesday,Wow us Wednesdays! What's it Wednesdays,  Treasure Hunt ThursdayHome Sweet Home Feathered Nest Fridays,G'day Saturdays,

Friday, August 8, 2014

San Francisco Gingerbread Houses

This Spring I was visiting San Francisco and took a few pictures of some of the wonderful houses.

I thought I would share them with you today.

Now this house under construction below was pretty.  I initially thought the window trim was bright blue which I thought was a neat idea... but then I realized it was painter's tape.  I still think bright blue would be a great idea!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mexican-style Corn with Serrano Crema

I ate at Rick Bayless' Red O Mexican restaurant and LOVED it.  My favorite dish they served there was something called "deconstructed Mexican street corn".  I don't care what it's called, it's absolutely delicious.  My husband and I sat there and studied the flavors.  We think we came up with a recipe that closely resembles it.