Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Crostini

So many of my recipes are inspired by other recipes I've seen or made or food I've had to eat out somewhere.  The fettucine with mushrooms, goat cheese, and pine nuts I made over the summer was inspired by a pizza recipe I'd seen.  The fettucine version was so creamy and delicious and I loved the combination of flavors remixed as a pasta.

When I needed to bring an appetizer to a potluck party recently I found myself thinking about the ingredients in that pasta dish and decided to reinterpret it this time as an appetizer.  And what's a great way to morph a pasta dish into an appetizer?  Use bread instead!

I sliced a fresh baguette into rounds, spread creamy, tangy goat cheese mixed with a touch of milk on top, and piled each round high with sauteed mushrooms and thyme.  A sprinkling of pine nuts and fresh parsley on top added the perfect bit of crunch and dot of color. 

The crostini were easy to eat in a few bites and went beautifully with a glass of wine...two of the most important attributes of a great appetizer!

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Crostini
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
fresh baguette, cut into rounds
4 oz. goat cheese
2 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are browned and tender, about 15 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, whisk the milk and goat cheese until it's a smooth, spreadable consistency.  Add more milk if needed.

Spread each baguette slice with several tablespoons of the goat cheese.  Top with a spoonful of the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with a few pine nuts.

Arrange the crostini on a platter and sprinkle chopped parsley over everything.

Serve at room temperature.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Linking this recipe to The Winthrop Chronicles, Home Stories A to Z, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Simply Designing, The Shabby Nest, Craftberry Bush, Design, Dining, and Diapers, Simple Home Life, Happy Hour Projects

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Hi all,

I have a few posts in the works but Sandy has thrown me for a bit of a loop.  We spent seven hours yesterday without power, but seeing the devastation in the mid-Atlantic coastal towns has me feeling tremendously lucky.  Our house is not underwater and as of this morning, our power is up and running.

But...we had a large pine tree fall on our power lines yesterday and it's currently pinning them to the ground.  They're running electricity into the house but we will have to shut things down at some point in order to remove the tree, then hire an electrician to reattach the whole shebang to the house, and finally, have the electric company come and deal with their wires.

I hope I'll be able to keep up with posting the rest of this week but I don't really know what we're in for.  It will probably be expensive and it will certainly be a pain in the neck, but I'm thankful that all I'm dealing with is inconvenience and not the complete loss of my home.

I do hope you're all faring well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

{DIY} Turn Pole Pocket Drapes Into Grommeted Drapes

For whatever reason, I'm not crazy about a straight-up pole pocket drape.  Something about the way it bunches and tends to hang sort of skinny on top and full on the bottom.  I like when drapes hang about the same width at the top as at the bottom and have some graceful curves.  And the two hanging solutions that tend to give you this look are drapes with tabbed backs for drapery hooks or drapes with grommets.

I only recently discovered how easy it is to convert a plain pole-pocket drape into a grommeted drape.  You can buy grommets in a variety of finishes at most fabric and craft stores (I've seen them at JoAnn and Michaels). 

In my friend's sons' bedroom, I wanted to keep the existing blackout drapes but convert them to grommeted drapes.  I bought a couple packages of the grommets, pulled the drapes down, and took out the template that comes with the grommets.

I marked even intervals where the grommets would go across the top of the drape panel, right on top of the pole pocket, then used the template to trace a circle at each location.  I used sharp scissors to cut out the circles.

To apply the grommets, you place one side of the grommet underneath the panel, centered on the hole, and the other side of the grommet on the other side of the fabric centered on the hole and snap them together.  Sometimes this takes a little muscle...I found the easiest way was to squeeze one point together and then kind of step on the grommet on the other side to snap them together.  Very technical.

Don't the newly grommeted drapes have such nice, clean lines?



And an added bonus, especially for a bedroom where the drapes are going to be opened and closed a good bit, is that they slide so much more easily across the curtain rod this way.  Win-win!

We are housebound today, watching the trees surrounding our house sway perilously under the hurricane winds.  I'm simultaneously holding my breath and crossing my fingers that anything big falls away from us.  Hope all you fellow east-coasters are faring well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What I've Been Working On...

**A note to my Facebook followers**
Turns out if you're following me on Facebook and relying on updates there to know when I've posted something new, you are almost cetainly not seeing all of my updates and new post links.  FB has started requiring payment if we want to reach all who have "liked" our pages.  Bummer, huh?  Instead, they only send my updates to about a third of those who have "liked" The Chronicles of Home.  If you'd like to stay better updated on my new posts you can scroll down on the right sidebar until you see "Follow by E-Mail" and you'll get an e-mail letting you know when I've posted something new.  You can also scroll a bit farther down and click "Join This Site" to have my updates sent to you via Yahoo, Google, or Blogger.  I couldn't wrap my head around Twitter when I tried it before but maybe I'll have to give it another shot.  I'm pretty bummed that Facebook is turning mercenary.
Enough housekeeping...onto my latest projects!
Some weeks I spend all of my "work time" (naptime and after kiddie bedtimes) on a single project.  My niece's chair was one of those - I spent every free minute for three weeks on that baby!  This week I've started on a whole bunch of projects but haven't finished any, so thought I'd show you a sneak peek of the lot.
I've had this thrifted cane chair in my garage for a couple months now and am finally getting around to its makeover. Wait until you see the "before" pictures. Pretty atrocious. So far it's coming out exactly as I'd envisioned and I am in love. The frame has been painted in a black semi-gloss and it's now waiting for a gorgeous new upholstered seat.

I found exactly the mirror I wanted for our entryway but didn't love the color, so am working on an antique gold finish.

I have the base of a thrifted table painted black and will be upholstering the top to make a little bench seat.

I finished one of the four new drape panels for our kitchen.  This stenciling business yields lovely results, but it is not a quick fix!

Finally, the last of my DIY projects for my friend's sons' bedroom is underway.  I'm doing a paint treatment on a couple of wood-block mirrors for over the boys' beds.

Can't wait to show you the finished projects in the coming weeks.  Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wild Mushroom Soup

I'm in full-on soup mode over here and this rich and creamy wild mushroom soup is one of my top favorites.  It's one of those soups I make year after year and consoles me just a bit as I watch the sun go down earlier each evening, the leaves start to carpet our yard, and my anxiety over how much snow I'll be battling this year begins scratching at the door.

This mushroom soup is rich but it's the perfect soup to have in a cup so toss your worries about the cream content out the window.  It is so worth it.  We ate it for dinner recently with an apple, marcona almond, manchego, and arugula salad and it was the perfect blend of something light and fresh (the salad) and something earthy and comforting (the soup).  The leftovers were fantastic for lunch with grilled robusto cheese sandwiches dipped in our soup mugs.

This soup all started with the Barefoot Contessa's recipe from her Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.  I've made a few changes but, really, the woman is an icon for a reason.  She makes downright delicious food.  The main changes I made were eliminating the butter (an entire stick, for goodness sake), using chicken broth instead of a homemade mushroom broth, and almost pureeing the mushrooms and leeks in a food processor instead of slicing them.

The smell of onions sauteeing in olive oil mingled with the woodsy aroma of wild mushrooms is almost enough to make me happy it's getting cold outside.  Almost.

Wild Mushroom Soup
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 c. leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into large chunks 
10 oz. cremini mushrooms
4 oz. mixed wild mushrooms (I used oyster and skiitake)
1/4 c. flour
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 c. white wine
1 c. half and half
1 c. heavy cream

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Put the leeks into a food processor and alternate pulsing and scraping down the sides until they're finely chopped.  Spoon into the pot and cook until starting to brown, 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the mushrooms in the food processor until they're finely chopped.  Add to the browned leeks and cook another 5-7 minutes, until they're tender and browned.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute.  Pour the wine into the pot and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom.

Add the chicken stock, thyme, 1 tsp. salt, and cracked pepper to taste and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes.  Add the half and half and cream and cook until heated through.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

{Tutorial} How to Reupholster a Bench With Rounded Corners

I know just yesterday I told you I hoped to have a room reveal of my friend's sons' bedroom this Friday...but, well, you know the saying - the best laid plans go awry!  After spending the morning there yesterday, I now know I'll need at least another work day next week to finish it up. 

The most recent project in their room was the reupholstery of a piano bench.  The legs themselves are a bit dinged up but I left the wood completely alone so it would match the wood of the piano.  The top, however, had to go.

I had chosen an indoor/outdoor fabric for durability and stain resistance.  And I just plain loved the pattern too (Waverly Parterre in Indigo).

If you are a beginner reupholsterer, this kind of project would be a great starting place.  The step-by-step instructions would apply to any bench with a thin top cushion and rounded corners.

I started by separating the top of the piano bench from the legs and removed all of the fabric and staples.  I took my new fabric and laid it upside down on the floor, then centered the bench top on the fabric.  I trimmed the fabric so there was enough extra on each side for me to wrap and staple the fabric around the top and onto the underside of the bench.  I snugly pulled the fabric on one side and used a staple gun to put several staples in to hold the fabric in place.  I repeated with the other side but left the corners open.

Starting with one corner, I pulled the fabric taut near the top of the rounded corner, and tucked and folded the fabric so it was flat across the corner.

Holding the first fold down, I grabbed more of the corner fabric and made a second tuck and fold close to the center of the corner.

Finally, I did a third tuck and fold near the bottom of the rounded corner to pull all the remaining fabric at the corner tight across.  The fabric should be pretty flat along both sides adjacent to the corner at this point.

I placed a staple to hold the folds in place (see arrows pointing to the three corner folds), then trimmed excess fabric to cut down on unwanted bulk.

I finished pulling and stapling any loose parts of the fabric until everything was held firmly in place.

Then I reattached the top to the legs and admired the newly upholstered bench back at home under the piano in the boys' bedroom.


Notice how little of the folds are visible when you see the bench top from the outside.  They don't need to be invisible but shouldn't be bulky and super obvious either.  The most important things are that they are neat and fairly uniform.

Hope this helps those of you thinking about giving reupholstery a try!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Easy Industrial Update to an Accent Table + My First Time Making Chalk Paint

I expect to use the rest of this week to show you the remaining bits and pieces I've been working on for my friend's sons' bedroom, and I'm hoping to have the big reveal of the finished space on Friday.  Hoping.

The latest addition to the bedroom was a revamped bedside table.  This table was already in the boys' room but looked like this before I got my hands on it.

A bit worn but it has beautiful carved wood legs and I definitely felt that it was worth salvaging.  It had a pretty slippery finish and I was worried about traditional paint sticking so decided to try the chalk paint that is rapidly taking the DIY world by storm.  For those of you who have not heard of this magical product, it's not chalkboard paint, just chalk paint.  Annie Sloane makes the gold standard version and it can be painted directly onto any wood surface without sanding or primering.  It has a matte finish and is often sanded at the edges for a slightly distressed look and then given a coat of furniture wax.

I was trying to kick this table out fast and was too impatient to order and wait for the real thing so decided to make my own chalk paint - the recipe for which also seems to be all over the place lately.  But in case you haven't seen it, here's how you mix your own chalk paint.

2 c. latex paint
4 tbsp. plaster of paris
2 tbsp. water

Mix the plaster of paris and water in a container until smooth.  Add the paint (I eyeballed 2 cups) and stir until smooth.  That's it!  It's a bit thicker than regular latex paint, so don't worry if you try it and notice the different consistency.

I applied two coats of my homemade chalk paint to the bedside table (brush on the legs, foam roller on the top and shelf) and let dry overnight before applying furniture wax.  After the wax dried I buffed the table with a dry, soft cloth.

Big improvement already, but I still wanted to add another little detail to the table to make it look a bit more masculine.  I bought 4 brass corner brackets from my local Ace hardware store, spray painted them oil rubbed bronze, and attached them to the four corners of the table top.  It was exactly the look I was going for - interesting and sort of industrial but still simple.

I put the table in place next to one of the beds, added a couple toy baskets underneath and a lamp and nightlight on top and called this piece of the bedroom project finished!

Notice that peek of the upholstered headboard in the left of the above photo?  That's right...I got them in place!  Turns out the bed frames were so heavy, there was no need to bolt the headboards to the wall. You can head over to my original post about making the headboards here to see a few updated photos of the headboards in their new home.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Butternut Squash and Lobster Brown Rice Risotto

On Friday I had my second food contributor post over on Megan's health and fitness blog, Honey We're Healthy.  I shared this risotto recipe, which is healthier than a typical risotto because it's made with short grain brown rice instead of white arborio rice and contains no butter or cream.  It's also packed with everything great about butternut squash - phytonutrients, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, carotenoids (shown to protect against heart disease), beta-carotene, vitamin C, low in fat, and high in fiber.  Phew!  Quite a resumé, huh?

I buy a vacuum-sealed package of pre-cooked lobster meat, which is certainly a bit of an indulgence, but if you love lobster, it's worth the splurge every now and again.  If you aren't a big lobster fan, shrimp would work well here too, but I would cut the shrimp into small pieces, and perhaps add a bit more of it than the 6 oz. of lobster to stretch the shrimp through the risotto.

The resulting risotto is creamy from both the short grain rice and the pureed squash (some is pureed, some left in chunks).  It's a gorgeous golden color, a touch sweet from the butternut, and has a lovely briny seafood flavor from the lobster.  In fact, a dish this delicious that's also good for you is pretty much a no-brainer.  Why wouldn't you make this for yourself?

The only real downside of this dish is that it's not a quickie.  You'll need to stay nearby during the second half of cooking and stir it occasionally but you can be doing other things in the kitchen simultaneously (making dessert, going through the mail, flipping through a magazine, sipping wine, doing a puzzle with your kids, you name it!).  And the rich, decadent taste wrapped up in a healthy little package makes it all worthwhile.

2 c. short grain brown rice
small butternut squash (about 2 cups), peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 tbsp. olive oil
medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
6 oz. cooked lobster meat, cut into small pieces
8 c. chicken broth, divided

Bring the rice and 4 c. chicken broth to boil in a medium saucepan.  Lower heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes to partially cook the rice.

Boil the butternut squash in salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and cool slightly then puree 2/3 of the squash in a food processor until smooth.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute. 

Pour the partially cooked rice and any liquid remaining in the saucepan into the pan with the onion and garlic.  Add the thyme and bay leaf and stir. 

Add the remaining 4 cups of broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally each time until the broth has been absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup.

Spoon the pureed squash into the risotto and stir to combine.  Add the diced squash and lobster and stir gently.  Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

{Sweet Friday} Fresh Cranberry and Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Pecan Topping

There seem to be a million and one apple crisp recipes out there this time of year, but with good reason.  I can't think of a dessert that screams "fall" more than apple crisp.

What's so special about this version?  I also include the other ubiquitous New England fall-harvest fruit, the cranberry.  The fresh cranberries in this crisp soften and almost melt into the apples, adding a lovely tart layer to the sweet apples.  The bright ruby color is just downright gorgeous peeking out from underneath the golden, craggy topping.

And let's talk about that topping.  It's like the butteriest of oatmeal cookies crumbled up on top of the jewel-toned filling.  Except somehow better.  I snitched a few bites before it even hit the oven and after it came out, what can I say?  A gal can only exercise so much will power.

Find yourself something vanilla to scoop on top - ice cream, gelato, vanilla whipped cream - and start your weekend off with a little fall dessert indulgence.

Fresh Cranberry and Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Pecan Topping
16 oz. package fresh cranberries
1 1/4 lbs. apples (about 3), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" cubes
3/4 c. sugar 
2 tbsp. apple cider, apple juice, or water

1 c. dark brown sugar
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. pecans, chopped
3/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 375º.

Combine cranberries, apples, sugar, and cider in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, stirring often, until cranberries have started to burst and the juices have thickened slightly.  Transfer filling to a square glass baking dish.

While filling is boiling, mix brown sugar, oats, pecans, flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter cubes and use a pastry cutter or forks to break up the butter.  Using hands, squeeze the mixture together several times until it starts to stick together in clumps.  Sprinkle over the prepared filling.

Bake until the filling bubbles thickly and the topping is crisp and deep golden in color, about 40 minutes.  Let cool and serve.

Click here for a printable recipe.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

{Tutorial} How to Upholster a Bench

Back in August when I published the tutorial for building an X-leg bench I feel like I sort of breezed over the upholstery of the top.  I wasn't thrilled with how the original one I made came out for a couple of reasons.  I wished I had done folded corners instead of the cover I sewed, but my biggest mistake, and regret, was trying to be thrifty and reusing some old foam I had from an old, old furniture set.  The foam was so soft that when you were sitting on the bench you pretty noticeably felt the plywood underneath.  Not good.

Lesson learned here: use high-density foam when making furniture.  It's expensive, with 4" foam usually running $69.99 a yard, but JoAnn Fabrics is pretty much always offering a 50% off coupon and I've made a point to never buy foam without one!

So, as much as I was groaning inwardly at the thought of redoing the top, I wanted it to be done "right."  My point in making these wasn't to just have any old x-bench in my living room.  I wanted the benches to look professionally done and the way they looked and felt kept nagging at me.

So I removed the tops from the x-leg base, pulled out all the nailheads, removed the fabric, batting, and foam, and found myself back at a bare square of plywood.  The bonus for you is that I'm now able to offer you a much more detailed tutorial on how to upholster the bench tops than what I originally provided.

FREE PLANS - how to upholster a bench

Use an electric knife to cut high density foam exactly the same size as your plywood top.

Lay a square of batting on the floor cut it about 6" wider than the plywood on all sides.  You can eyeball the measurement by laying the foam on top and cutting.  It just needs to be big enough to wrap around the foam and plywood and staple to the underside of the plywood.  Lay your foam on top of the batting, centered in the middle, then place the plywood on top of the foam so they line up exactly.

Pull the batting in the center of one of the sides snugly up and over the foam and plywood and use a staple gun to staple it to the plywood.  Pull the batting snugly and staple on either side of the center staple, a few inches apart.  Repeat for an adjacent side.

For the corner, fold one side of the batting across the plywood corner and staple.

Cut excess batting away to reduce bulk and wrap corners like a present so the batting lies relatively flat.  Staple in place.

Repeat with the other sides of the batting until the whole top is neatly and snugly wrapped in the batting.

Next lay your fabric on the floor upside down and place the batting-wrapped top in the middle of the fabric, foam-side down.  The fabric should be cut 6"-7" wider than the top on all sides  If you're using a patterned fabric you'll want to pay special attention to keeping the pattern straight and centered.  As with the batting, pull the middle of one side of fabric up and over the top and staple it to the underside of the plywood.  Repeat with staples on either side of the center staple and again on an adjacent side.

For the corners, wrap one side across the corner like you did with batting and staple in place.

Play with folding the fabric until you get a straight smooth edge.  Note where the edges will be and trim excess fabric.  Be sure not to cut so much that you expose a raw edge, but take away a good bit of the extra so you aren't left with lumpy corners.

With excess fabric cut away, tuck the edge with the staple under and tuck and fold the other edge over top and pull tightly to the underside of the plywood and staple.  Staple any loose fabric flat on the bottom. 

Repeat with the remaining corners and end by stapling any fabric left still loose to the underside of the plywood.

*Remember to be watching your pattern as you're stapling to keep it as straight and even as possible!

Run a hot iron over the folded edges to make sure they are as flat as can be.  You can leave them as is from here, however, when someone sits on the bench the edge will bunch.

To solve this issue, I ran a line of fabric glue inside the fold and held it in place for a minute to set, then let fully dry.

I reattached my upholstered seat to the X-leg base using wood screws.

For the nailheads, I used a ruler to mark dots in a straight line every 1/2" and then hammered them in one at a time.  High quality nailheads are important because they're less likely to warp and go crooked.  I've had good luck with ones from Lowes and DIY Upholstery Supply.

And now, truly, I love my x-leg benches.  Sometimes it's best to cut your losses and start over to get what you really want.

FREE PLANS - how to upholster a bench

The two benches wound up being photographed for Better Homes and Gardens magazine with my sofa that I reupholstered - you can see the photo that was in the magazine HERE.  

And here are a couple easy-to-pin graphics if you want to earmark the tutorials for making this x-bench for later!

FREE PLANS - how to build your own X BENCH for around $50!FREE PLANS - how to upholster a bench

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