Just Before the Raindrops ~ Tablescape Thursday

Happy Tablescape Thursday Friends!

I don't know how the weather has been in your area, but we've been experiencing an unusually chillier and wetter May than normal where I live.

Today started out sunny and clear, so I took a chance and set the table on the raised, sand stone terrace in the sunniest garden on my property.

The timing worked out well, because just after I snapped the pictures the skies clouded up and the rain came pouring down!

The clematis are in full bloom in the garden, and this is one of my favorites.
As much as I like color, I adore white flowers.

This was a strictly "last minute" table setting ~ for the centerpiece I simply stuck the clematis blooms in a vintage enamelware tea kettle and set it upon a fat mercury glass candle stick.

Little did I know when I got these plates that I would soon have real chickens!
Dishes are from Home Goods (last year), from a dear friend.

The flatware is my everyday stainless (Hotel by Neiman Marcus).
Tablecloth and napkins (April Cornell) Place mats (Ross)

Here is the clematis I featured today, "Toki" ~ the blooms are astonishingly huge,
larger than saucer size! If you have never grown clematis I urge you to look into them, they are easy care and make a wonderful accompaniment to climbing roses.
Here I paired it, one on each side of the metal arch with the thornless old rose Zephirine Drouhin. Bred in 1868, it is gorgeous with high-centered, cerise-pink flowers that fill the air with a delightful Bourbon fragrance, shade tolerant and extremely prolific. If you've had trouble growing roses... try this one!

And the grape vines are going wild this year, ours are now three years old ~ and the happy news is that we'll have our first grapes this year. I'm sure I'll have to blog about that when they ripen. :D
Thank you for stopping by for Tablescape Thursday ~ and a big thank you to our lovely host Susan at "Between Naps on the Porch".
Please click the logo below to visit Susan's beautiful blog.

Spicy Chicken Skewers ~ Thighs

If you or members of your family are not huge fans of boneless, skinless chicken thighs this might be the recipe that will change minds. :D

Often the boneless/skinless thighs will go on sale around here for well less than $2.00 per pound. I don't mind dark meat at all, but the boneless/skinless thighs left me cold. Other than stir-frying I didn't really care for them until I found this recipe, adapted from Donna Hay.

After a 30 minute marinade, the thighs are skewered and grilled either on an outdoor grill, or indoors on a stove top grill pan.
The aroma as they are cooking is irresistible, and I have proof...

Our neighbor was over visiting as I was preparing these and was he was absolutely raving about the aroma ~ it would have been absolutely
cruel not to offer him a sample.
We all gave them a big THUMBS up!

Reading over the ingredients of the marinade ~Olive oil, paprika, dried chili flakes, crushed garlic and Worchestershire Sauce~ it is difficult to imagine how flavorful it makes the grilled chicken taste, but Donna has come up with another winner.
And the good news is that you can reduce (or increase) the amount of chili flakes depending upon how spicy you like your food. I add only 1 teaspoon, rather than the 2 teaspoons in the recipe, which made mine only slightly spicy.

After grilling the chicken is sprinkled with fresh mint leaves. If you don't have access to fresh mint I would suggest using almost any fresh herb; oregano leaves, marjoram, thyme, cilantro, or flat leaf parsley. Be sure to serve with plenty of fresh lemon wedges so each person can add as much as they like ~ the squeeze of lemon juice is the perfect finishing touch.
Incidentally, we liked the chicken thighs prepared this way so much I'm going to serve them again, prepared the same way on this holiday weekend.
If you try this method, I hope you like it too~
For a printable copy of the recipe you'll find it on my recipe blog ~ click HERE.

Thank you for stopping by today, I always welcome your comments!
xo ~m.


Into the Heart of Italy ~ Winner is Announced!

Photo: Bertolli website

We have a WINNER for Bertolli's

Congratulations to KAIT of ...Cooking with Kait..!!

Kait, please email me your mailing address so we can get your gifts off to you right away. I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you everyone for entering~
And a big thank you to the folks at Bertolli for hosting this give away.


Into the Heart of Italy ~ Give Away & A Chance to Win a Culinary Vacation in Italy!

Exciting News!

Recently I was approached by representatives for Bertolli to participate in a give away in conjunction with segment 5 of their 6 part series "Into the Heart of Italy" discovering "Secrets of the Cantina". The adventure features Rocco DiSpirito, Marisa Tomei and Dan Cortese. (Video link below)

The folks at Bertolli have allowed me to host the most generous give-away to date on my blog, and when you click the link above you can also enter to win a chance to win a culinary vacation in Italy!


Bertolli sent me a VERY generous gift box filled with wonderful gifts, and requested that I host a food and wine paring party (featuring Bertolli Frozen meals for two) matched with complementary wines then blog about it. I was delighted to participate!

It was so much fun, and the GOOD news is that the lucky winner of "Into the Heart of Italy" Give-Away will receive identical gifts as those that I received, valued at $175.00!:

Here is what the winner will receive:

VIP coupons for four Bertolli Frozen Meals for two that will transport you to Italy in just 10 minutes. [Those equals 8 FREE servings of Bertolli's delicious and easy to prepare entrees!]
PLUS the following:

Two, CB2 (Crate & Barrel 2) "Verona" Pasta Serving Bowls
Four, Crate & Barrel "Rotate" Plates
Crate & Barrel Marble Wine Chiller
Crate & Barrel Wine Decanter
Bertolli Wine Pairing Guide
$50 of gift cards; you can use them to purchase wines complimentary to your meals if you wish.

I incorporated the surprise gifts into the food and wine paring we hosted for 4, and you can see them throughout pictures of our party table.
Following my pictures you'll find details of how to enter the give away.

The winner will receive an envelope like this one, containing the
Bertolli Wine Parings chart, as well as Fifty dollars in American Express Gift Cards.

Here is how I used my gifts:
It was a beautiful afternoon, which compelled me to set the table out on the lawn so we could enjoy the outdoors.

This was such an easy way to host a party, and I would have no hesitation serving the complete meals for two as party entrees again.
One of the Bertolli entrees I served was Chicken Florentine & Farfalle. (Bowtie shaped pasta and white chicken meat with spinach in a delicious Parmesan cheese sauce), and to my surprise all of this delicious flavor it is prepared in a skillet and ready in just 10 minutes.

To round out the meal I made a simple salad and served bread sticks to nibble on.

Using the wine pairing chart, I chose Pinot Grigio ; a crisp and clean tasting medium-bodied white. Perfect pairing for the chicken dish.

The other pasta dish I served was Italian Sausage Stuffed Shells (with four cheeses in the filling), served in a flavorful tomato-basil sauce. It is from Bertolli's Oven-Baked selection, and grated Parmesan cheese is included to sprinkle over the shells after they have baked. Just arrange the shells and sauce in an oven safe dish, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes (or 30 minutes in a convection oven), uncover and sprinkle the cheese over and allow it to melt.

The time-saving entrees allowed me more time to take photos, and visit with our guests!
I love the square plates and how they automatically arrange themselves in a spiral shape when stacked. (These are the "Rotate" plates from Crate & Barrel, four are included in the give-away.)

The beautiful marble wine chiller on the left is also one of the gifts.

I can also picture using this as a vase; imagine a big bouquet of white hydrangeas with deep green foliage as a centerpiece ~ striking!

I chose a classic Chianti to complement the flavorful Sausage-4 cheese Shells in Tomato-Basil Sauce. Chianti is Italy's famous Tuscan red wine, full flavored but just mildly acidic. Bella!

Wine pours beautifully from the elegant Crate & Barrel glass wine decanter, another of the gifts the winner will receive.
Serving from a decanter is also a very civilized way to serve (even inexpensive) wine!

I served our salad in the big serving bowls from CB2.

Our winner will receive 2 of these, they make great pasta serving bowls, too.

I served tomatoes and ciliegine (small fresh-mozzarella balls) on skewers atop the spring greens. This method makes for easy serving (and eating) at a casual buffet; each person can grab a skewer, then serve themselves the dressed greens.

I garnished the Sausage & Cheese Stuffed shells with a little fresh oregano, snipped from the herb garden. I also offered additional freshly grated Parmesan (but it wasn't necessary, because everything you need to serve comes in the Bertolli entree pouch.)

Store-bought Italian Grissini (very thin bread sticks). You could make your own, but this kind of party is designed to be easy on the cook!

I honestly couldn't believe how simple this little party was to throw together at the last minute. The food was delicious and I can't say I would have enjoyed the gathering more if I had spent a few hours in the kitchen. A big thank you is in order to the folks at Bertolli!

I believe there are at least 21 Bertolli entree choices; pasta and vegetables combined with meat, chicken, or shrimp ~ so there are plenty of choices to please everyone.

If you follow my blog, you know I'm very much dedicated to serving fresh, homemade, "from scratch" foods, but I must say that the Bertolli frozen entrees I tried have truly impressed me with their high, restaurant quality and ease of preparation.

The Bertolli entrees could easily pass for homemade.

I hope I've helped whet your appetite...
To enter the Give Away:
1.) Watch the following video.
2.) After watching the video leave a comment here describing your favorite part.

3.) If you are a Google-friend follower of my blog (side bar), mention it and your name will be entered twice.

"In this episode, celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and actors Marisa Tomei and Dan Cortese explore Italian wine cellars, learn how to taste wine, visit Montepulciano and prepare Chicken Marsala. But you don’t need to search a wine cellar to enjoy the authentic taste of a slow-simmered wine sauce in your Chicken Marsala. With Bertolli Frozen meals you’re just minutes away from a luscious Italian experience in the comfort of your own home."

All entries for the giveaway must be located in the US.

Entries will be accepted up until May 22nd, 9PM, Pacific time.
Winner will be chosen randomly and announced Sunday, May 23rd.

Good LUCK to all who enter!!


Announcing our Barefoot Contessa-Style Contest Winner!!

*Sigh* The only thing I regret about these Give Aways is that EVERYONE can't be chosen to receive a gift, but THANK YOU ALL for entering for the chance to win.

I'd like to send a big CONGRATULATIONS to our Barefoot Contessa-style Give Away winner:

Bellini Valli from "More Than Burnt Toast"

Val, if you'll email me with your name and delivery address and let me know which gift you'd like, we'll have the wonderful Counter Stool company forward your gift of choice sent off to you right away.

And GOOD NEWS everybody!

I hope you'll check back in the next couple of days~

I have another exciting give-away announcement coming up.

This time gifts worth approximately $175. will be
awarded to the lucky winner.

Stay tuned for details!

Think Italian.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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