December 2012 archive

Colorful Studio Accessories

Pantone Metal Storage Tin2

I’ve never been a fan of winter with its stark landscapes and gray skies. I prefer sunny days and the bright colors of spring and summer. Perhaps that’s why I was so drawn to these Pantone metal storage boxes. They come in nine colors–I chose turquoise, mimosa, and macaw green. I plan on using them to organize my art supplies since my collection is growing rapidly.

Ottlite Slimline Task Light

I also treated myself to two Ottlite Slimline task lights in white–one for me and one for my daughter. The Ottlite is compact, adjustable, folds for easy storage, casts a pure white light on my paintings, and eliminates shadows so I can paint late into the night. At $35.99, it’s also affordable.

Guerrilla Watercolor Board

In addition to the storage tins and task lights, I also purchased two Guerrilla Painter watercolor boards. They also serve as paper stretchers to keep my watercolor paper flat while I paint. They just arrived yesterday; I can’t wait to give them a try.

Colorful Kitchen Accessories

Pantone Coffee Mugs and Kenwood KMIX Mixer

Remember the Kenwood KMIX mixer in Firecracker Red that I purchased a few weeks ago? I’ve been searching for additional kitchen accessories to match the stripes on the mixer and found these fun Pantone coffee mugs at You can purchase the mugs as a set, like I did here, or choose any color you like from the full array of Pantone colors. How awesome is that? These mugs would make great gifts for artists, designers, or color lovers. They would look great on a studio desk holding paint brushes, colored pencils, pens, or your favorite beverage.

Pantone Coffee Mugs

The mugs arrived with Pantone color chips tied to the handles so you can tuck them conveniently in your purse or wallet to use as a guide when selecting additional accessories for your kitchen or home.

Pantone Color Chips

Or you can use the color chips as inspiration for a bigger project. I plan on using this color scheme on my front porch this spring and summer. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can get started.

Holiday Side Dish–Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Twice Baked Potatoes1

This year my mother hosted Christmas dinner. Since I come from a large family my mother cooked the main course and asked each of her children to bring a side dish. I brought this twice baked potato casserole; it’s always a hit, travels well, and heats up fine in the microwave (oven space is at a premium on holidays). I got the recipe from a coworker years ago but made some changes over the years. This dish is somewhat time consuming to assemble since you must bake the potatoes then peel them and fry and crumble the bacon, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make twice baked potato casserole:

Twice Baked Potatoes Ingredients1


8-10 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, baked and peeled (about 5 lbs.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I used minced garlic in water)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (don’t substitute dried chives)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lb. bacon, fried and crumbled
4 green onions, sliced

Microwave the potatoes until they pierce easily with a fork. Cool slightly, then peel with a knife (I find this faster than peeling raw potatoes). Cut the potatoes into chunks and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the stick of butter on top of the hot potatoes and allow it to melt. Stir in two cups of cheese, the sour cream, garlic, chives, salt, and pepper. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9″ pan. Bake at 350 degrees or until thoroughly heated. Cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the top with alternating stripes (in a diagonal pattern) of crumbled bacon and cheese. Sprinkle green onions around the edges.

Serve this dish was baked ham or your favorite meat loaf and a green vegetable for a colorful presentation.

Twice Baked Potatoes2

Christmas Day Brunch–Eggs in Cream Sauce and Candied Bacon

Christmas Brunch Eggs and Candied Bacon

I’ve been preparing this super quick combination of Canadian bacon, eggs, and cheese in a rich cream sauce and candied bacon for Christmas brunch for several years now. Each dish takes less than five minutes to assemble, and the results are so impressive that it’s no wonder this breakfast combination has become a Christmas tradition in my house. If you can crack an egg and open a package of bacon, you can pull off an impressive breakfast that your family and friends will remember long after the holidays are over.

I found the recipe for Sunday Brunch eggs in one of my volumes of Taste of Home Annual Recipes, but I’ve substituted cheddar cheese for the Swiss cheese and added parsley flakes as a garnish. You can view the original recipe plus many other delicious offerings at

I found the recipe for Special Oven Bacon in Cooking with Heart and Hand by Suzanne Winningham Worsham. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make Sunday brunch eggs:

Christmas Brunch Eggs Ingredients

Ingredients for Sunday Brunch Eggs:

12 slices Canadian bacon
12 slices cheddar cheese
12 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Parsley flakes for garnish (optional)
12 slices buttered toast

Place the Canadian bacon in a greased 13 x 9-in. baking dish; top with cheddar cheese. Carefully break an egg over each piece of cheese. Pour cream over eggs and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the sauce is lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut between each egg; sprinkle with minced parsley and serve on buttered toast.

The completed dish:

Christmas Brunch Eggs

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make candied bacon:

Candied Bacon Ingredients

Ingredients for Candied Bacon:

1 lb. thick-cut bacon
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Lay the bacon side by side on a broiler pan with a bottom (to catch the grease). Mix flour and brown sugar. Sprinkle on top of the bacon. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The completed dish:

Candied Bacon1

Goodness, this was good! Give it a try when you need a quick holiday breakfast or have guests in town.

Christmas Brunch Eggs and Candied Bacon

Happy Howl-i-days from the Pups

Dogs Holiday Photo

Even the dogs are getting into the holiday spirit. Pictured from the left, Luna the Labrador mix, Marty the Corgi mix, and Steve the Yorkshire Terrier–from big to small and good to bad (Steve is quite a little stinker, but oh-so-cute). There will be plenty of toys and treats for them under the tree tomorrow morning. Keeping Marty from finding the toys has been quite challenging. He kept trying to sneak into my closet to root through the bags.

Watercolor Tulips in a Rainbow of Colors

Jill's Rainbow Tulips

Remember the lovely orange and turquoise tulips that my daughter painted a couple of weeks ago? She thought it might be fun to show two different interpretations of the same painting using a similar color scheme. And while we painted side by side and used the same sketch, the results are quite different. In the painting above, I chose more vivid colors and added a soft blue sky plus a bit of sunlight. In the painting below, my daughter chose softer colors and omitted the background altogether. It was a fun experiment and we were both pleased with the results. I always enjoy our mother-daughter painting sessions.

Greta's Rainbow Tulips

Quick Holiday Meals–Chicken in Peanut Sauce

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

My daughter loves Asian food so I’ve served her a variety of Asian-inspired meals over the years. But this recipe for quick chicken in peanut sauce (it’s ready in just 30 minutes) is hands-down her favorite meal. She would eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if she could–and, in fact, she has! You can prepare this recipe the night before, take it to a work or holiday function, and warm it in the microwave. It’s just as delicious the next day and always receives rave reviews. I clipped the original recipe from a magazine (I believe it was Better Homes and Gardens) but made a few changes along the way. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make chicken in peanut sauce.

Chicken in Peanut Sauce Ingredients


1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat and cubed
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3-4 drops of sesame oil (use sparingly–a little goes a long way)
1 package Chineese noodles (I used Tyling)
1 bottle (11.5 oz) peanut sauce (I used House of Tsang)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 package frozen Asian vegetables (I used Birds Eye Steam Fresh)
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained
Salted peanuts and sliced green onions for garnish

In a large pot boil water for the noodles. Meanwhile, trim the fat from the chicken, dice it, and place it in a skillet with a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and a few drops of sesame oil. Cook the chicken over medium heat until it’s lightly browned and no longer pink in the middle. While the chicken is cooking, combine the peanut sauce, honey, and lime juice in a small bowl then microwave the frozen Asian vegetables according to package directions. When the water is boiling, add the Chinese noodles and cook for 3 minutes (or until tender). Drain. In a large pot combine the cooked chicken, water chestnuts, noodles, vegetables, and peanut sauce. Stir to combine. Garnish with salted peanuts (the more the merrier) and sliced green onions.

I made this dish last night after a long painting session (new paintings coming up next), so I took the easy way out and purchased the egg rolls at a nearby Chinese restaurant. This dish is so colorful and delicious.

Chicken in Peanut Sauce Close Up

Holiday Appetizer–Maple-Mustard Barbequed Meatballs and Sausages

Maple-Mustard BBQ Meatballs & Sausages

As you can see from all my recent cooking posts, I’ve had to prepare a variety of food and appetizers to share with family, friends, and coworkers this holiday season. It took me a while to find holiday recipes that were fool-proof, quick, and delicious, so I thought I’d share the goodness with my readers. I found this recipe for maple-mustard barbequed meatballs and sausages in the book, “Betty Crocker’s More Slow Cooker Recipes.” The original recipe calls for frozen meatballs and is prepared in a slow cooker and then simmered for 2 hours. But I made homemade meatballs–which are far superior in flavor than frozen meatballs–and simmered the dish in a saucepan on top of the stove and it was ready to serve about 30 minutes. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make maple-mustard barbequed meatballs and sausages.

Maple-Mustard  BBQ Meatballs & Sausages Ingredients


1 pound of ground beef
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 cup minced onions
1 egg, beaten
1 package (16 oz.) cocktail sausages (I used Hillshire Farm Lil’ Smokies)
1 bottle (18 oz.) barbeque sauce (I used Jack Daniel’s)
1 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, milk, garlic salt, onions, and egg. Stir to combine. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (to make clean-up easy); bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the barbecue sauce, maple syrup, and mustard in a large saucepan. Add the cooked meatballs and sausages. Stir to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the meat is well coated and sauce is warm.

Maple-Mustard BBQ Meatballs & Sausages

Quick Holiday Meals–Caesar Salad with Homemade Garlic Croutons

Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

My sister found this Caesar salad recipe in the New York Times years ago and has been serving it on Christmas eve paired with homemade tomato bisque soup and marinated mini ham and cheese sandwiches (recipes provided below) ever since. I love the crisp romaine lettuce paired with the classic Caesar salad dressing and generous sprinkling of crisp, garlic croutons. Be sure to make plenty of croutons because they’re seriously delicious. The original recipe was called “Simple Scrumptious Caesar Salad with Quick Garlic Croutons,” but my sister has made a few changes to the original recipe over the years to speed preparation without sacrificing flavor. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this Caesar salad:

Caesar Salad Ingredients


2 cups of tightly packed bread cubes (use day-old French bread or a baguette)
4 cloves of garlic, minced (I used minced garlic in a jar)
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
3 heads of romaine lettuce hearts, chopped (I used two bags of chopped romaine)
Olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used bottled lemon juice but fresh is better)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

To make the croutons, combine the garlic, oil, and salt in a blender and pulse until creamy. Pour over bread crumbs and toss thoroughly. Brown the breadcrumbs in a skillet over low heat, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. Set aside. Place the romaine lettuce in a large bowl, spray generously with olive oil cooking spray. Add the croutons plus all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet (this is the best part) and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce; blend with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour on top of salad. Toss thoroughly. This salad is crispy, crunchy, and garlicky. Give it a try this holiday season.

Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons

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