Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Feeling Nostalgic Over Rome - Some Pesto Recipes

Hello Everyone!
It has been a very rainy season this summer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Now, to be sure, Louisiana is very often rainy during the summer, but this year I have only had to water my herbs and vegetables about three times this summer - because it has rained almost every day -- and my poor rosemary!  I couldn't bring it in out of the rain, so it got too wet, root rotted, and died. Boo! So once it starts to get drier, I will have to get some more.  But my basil has been loving it.  This has been one of the best basil seasons I have ever had.
So much so, that I decided that I would make a pesto spread and try to recreate the dinner that my husband and I had almost nightly when we were visiting Rome.  And just getting the basil ready for the meal has made me nostalgic for Rome and traveling in Europe.

I loved Rome!  And the hotel where we were staying was so beautiful, but it was one of the more expensive hotels in Rome- it was the Waldorf Astoria.  So, even though our friends had gotten us a very good deal on the room, we could not afford most of the restaurants in or around the hotel.
What was a couple on a budget to do?!?!?  Especially around Christmas time when it's not exactly tourist season?
Our solution was just down the hill from the hotel.  There was a little "village" neighborhood that had a cafe, a patisserie, a wine shop and little local deli type store that had wine, bread, and the best pesto I have ever eaten in my life.  We would get some spreadable cheese, a loaf of crunchy bread, salami, a bottle of wine, some fruit - like grapes or an apple and some of the pesto.  We would also get some flavored yogurt and we would take it to the hotel.  Since it was December/January, and our hotel had a marble balcony, we would keep our yummy goodies in a plastic bag on the balcony underneath the ledge so it was out of the sun.  And every evening, after running all over the city doing the tourist thing, we would come home and eat our simple dinner.

We would spread the food out on the coffee table, open the sliding glass doors, cause most evenings it was a little too cold to eat out on the balcony and enjoy the sounds of Rome. 

I never got tired of it.

And I loved to look at the lions that decorated the yard that you could see from the balcony.

My inner child loved to fantasize about the lions coming to life.  (Haven't you ever wondered about statues coming to life?  No.  Its just me?............ Okay then.)

And in the mornings we would eat the yogurt and some more fruit and be ready to start another day.  (Well, I would be ready to start the day, my husband would have to stop at the cafe to get an espresso.)

I'm not ashamed to admit, I love doing the tourist thing and looking at all the old landmarks.  Here are my husband and I doing the Roman Holiday gag.  My only regret is that I wasn't wearing a dress.  But look at the shoes!!!  I got those in Rome.  I still have them and I adore them!
During the day, we would find a local sandwich shop and eat lunch.  This may sound boring, but Romans have turned sandwiches into an art form.

There are little shops like this all over the place, and they all show off their food and, in a place of honor were their sandwiches.  
 Can you believe how beautiful, and big, these are?
Look at that!!!!  That is one sandwich!  And it would only cost you about the same amount as a Big Mac Meal and yes, that includes the drink.
My husband and I would split one and we would be good for the rest of the after noon.  With maybe a snack of fruit thrown in somewhere during the day.


Yes, I definitely need to start saving so that I can go back.

But, until then, I can try to recreate the simple dinner that I had nightly to bring back memories.


Basil, from my garden!  It doesn't matter how often I grow things, it still makes me happy to see it.

There are several different pesto recipes out on the internet.  And most of them vary very little, but I did want to include one that I saw on Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way show the other day.  This recipe can be found online on his site, so I don't feel guilty for including it here.

Minute Recipe: Basil and Cheese Dip

Put about 3 cups (lightly packed) washed basil leaves in a plastic bag or glass bowl with a cover. Microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump the hot basil from the bag into a blender. Add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup cool water, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Process until finely pureed. (As a variation, you can add about 1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) Gruyère cheese and stir well.) Serve with bagel chips, Melba Toast, or potato chips. The dip stays brilliant green and keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup

As you can see, if you have ever made pesto, this recipe is very close to a regular pesto but it is missing the garlic and the pine nuts.  I have often thought about preparing my basil in the same way when I make my pesto, but I have yet to be brave enough to try it.  However, this dip is delicious and addictive just the way it is.

However, if you are looking for a good, more traditional pesto, here is another link.

This is a pretty standard pesto recipe, but I like that it includes the possibility of substituting fresh spinach.  This does two things, it helps if you don't have enough basil to make a fresh pesto, but you still want to make a pesto.  Or, it helps you make the pesto less strong so that you can have a pesto "lite" as it were.  This site does a great job of giving clear directions and has wonderful pictures!
But, in case the link doesn't work:


I know this has nothing to do with pesto.  But it's Italian, and I'm a little obsessed with the vintage pink fiat.  I wonder if it comes in aqua?..........


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can sub half the basil leaves with baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1.  Put your pine nuts, cheese and garlic into a blender or food processor and pulse a few times.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.
2.  Add the basil.  (You do not have to cut up the basil before you process it, but you will want to clean it.    Make certain that your basil is completely dry before you add it to the blender as the water will effect the consistency of your pesto.)
3.  Pulse a few times.  Scrape the side of the bowl.
4.  Start running your processor/blender.  As the processor/blender is running, slowly and carefully add your olive oil.   You want to do this in a slow stream so that the ingredients will emulsify.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
5.  Put in a serving bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

One of my favorite ways to eat this is the same way I did in Italy.  Get some crusty "cracker" type bread or some melba toast.  Put some cream cheese on the toast and then add the pesto.   Yummy!
Make sure to have some salami and fruit and you've got yourself dinner. 

Squee!!!!  It does come in aqua.  
Well, that is all for this post, thank you for joining me on my trip down memory lane.  I'll be back soon with more crafts and recipes!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tiki Bar Mantle Celebration!

Hello Everyone!
For those of you who follow my blog, you may have noticed that I like to decorate my house for the seasons.  I especially focus on my fireplace mantle in the living room.  I missed on blogging my Spring mantle, so that will be a post for next year, but I am done with my summer mantle and I want to share it with you!
The picture below is a hint on the theme:

I'm going to learn to play the ukulele one day.  Its on my bucket list.
I actually had alot of trouble trying to figure out what I wanted my decor to be for the summer.  At first, I thought about doing a pool theme and making a wreath out of a small inner tube - but I couldn't find one in the size that I wanted.  I could have gone with the rustic Americana style that is so prominent for the Fourth of July in craft stores, but that isn't really my style.  I could do the beach thing, but I don't care for that when I am at the beach let alone in home not anywhere near the beach, so that wasn't an option.  Then I remembered the old mermaids that used to decorate my bathroom when I was growing up and my grandmother's  tiki bar themed barware - and a plan formed in my head.

I actually have a set of these that I am planning on putting up in my bathroom - although mine aren't as fancy as these.  I set of these were hanging above in the window in the bathroom when I was growing up and I just loved them.  I am going to carry on the tradition by putting them up above my bathroom window.
I want all of these in my life!  But I will wait until I have a pool.  My grandmother had some that were very similar to the brown ones on the second row.  I wish I knew where they were now, I would give puppy dog eyes to get them from other family members.

I would do a tiki mermaid band on the mantle!

As you may have already guessed, I love vintage decor and fashions and their are few things more vintage than a kitschy tiki bar.  So, inspired by my childhood, and the fact that I had two small tiki statues from my friends when they went to Hawaii,  I went on the internet to see if there was some art or vintage tiki paraphernalia that I could buy.  This is when I found out that vintage tiki items and mermaid pinup stuff is not cheap!  So it was up to me to come up with something a little more cost effective.
First, I decided that nothing says tiki like leis and driftwood.  So, channeling my inner Gidget, I designed a wreath made of leis.

Tiki Lei Wreath

I just love how happy and bright this turned out!  And you can see my pineapple napkins rings that I made in front of it.  I am going to show you how to make these a little further along in this post.

This wreath cost about $12 in total and is one my most favorite wreaths that I have made.  It's just so summer-y and it makes me smile just to look at it.  I got my supplies at Michael's and on e-bay, but you can get these items very inexpensively at party supply stores and Oriental Trader.

Items Needed
1 styrafoam wreath form (Mine was about 12 inches)
12 leis  (I actually only ended up using 10 for my project and I even did a double layer, but the amount of your leis needed will change depending on the size of your wreath
1 package of paper unbrellas
1 mini wood sign (or cardboard cut out to look like a broken wood sign)
Paint  (I used a dark brown, like dark chocolate, white and black to make my colors)
Twine or String
1 box greening pins

1.  Choose what you would like the top of your wreath to be and pin one of the leis to the back of the wreath using a greening pin.

2.  Wrap the lei around the wreath.  You can either wrap it tightly together, or you can leave two inch spaces in between.  It really doesn't matter, you just want to cover your wreath and use as many leis as you need to not have any blank spots. When you can no longer wrap the lei around the wreath, use a greening pin to pin the end in place.  Continue this step all around the wreath until you are happy with how it looks.

3.  Add the paper umbrellas.  You can put these anywhere on the wreath that you would like.  I like putting things on the bottom right of my wreaths, so that is where I put mine, but you can put them where-ever you think that they look pleasing.  This is the most delicate part of making the wreath and you probably will break/tear at least one umbrella, so make certain you have extras.
To add the umbrellas, push the umbrella up so that it is spread out, then poke it into the wreath.  This can be very hard and you may want to use a pair of pliers to do this to help prevent tearing.
I did not use any glue, but you probably could use hot glue if you are concerned about the umbrellas coming out.

4.  Paint the mini sign to make it look like driftwood.  I was, originally, going to make my sign from a piece of cardboard.  But when I was in Michael's, I saw a mini sign that was just about perfect for  my wreath and it was only $0.99, so I went with that.

You can see the colors that I used to create the sign in the picture above.  I basically blended the Rich Espresso and the cream to create the base color.  Then, using a dry paint brush and as little paint as possible to try to keep the brush dry, I did the distressing marks on the wood.  I used lines and blots and I smeared them with my finger.
I paid extra special attention to the edges because I figured they would have been darker because they would have remained wetter with the sea water longer.
To know the look I wanted, I just pulled up some signs made from driftwood and tried to emulate the look.

I looked for signs like this that fit the look asthesetic I was going for.

You could leave the sign as is and paint Tiki Bar on it and it would look just as cute in my opinion.
Once the sign was dry, I painted tiki bar on it in white paint.

The sign already came with string, so I didn't have to worry about adding that and I simply had to attach it to my wreath using greening pins.

5.  So that I could hang the wreath, I cut off a small piece of twine and knotted it on each end.  I then pushed a greening pen through the knots and into the wreath creating a loop so that I could hang it.  As this wreath is very light, I did not have to reinforce my greening pins in any way.

And then you just hang it wherever you want it.

As I was working on my wreath, I had some accessories that I had thought about adding that I decided not to use.  I hate wasting anything and when I saw the accessories together with the twine, I got the brainstorm to make napkins rings.  Since I have a semi open floor plan between the living room and the kitchen, I thought that it would be a great way to tie the two rooms together.

Tiki Pineapple Napkin Rings

I love how cute these turned out and they literally took less than fifteen minutes to make.  You can get the copper couplings from your local hardware store for about $0.99 and the clothes pins from Michael's.  I got my clothes pins at half off, so they cost me $2.00.  I already had the twine and have had it for years, so I have no idea how much it cost me.
Truthfully, the couplings were left over from my Thanksgiving Napkin ring holders, I had purchased a couple extras and they were just waiting to become another project.  So this whole project cost me $2.00 this time around.

Items Needed
2 copper couplings
Mini Clothes pin with Pineapple
Hot Glue

1. Place the clothes pin on the top of your copper coupling as far as it will go.  You can hot glue it in place.  I chose not to because then I can mix and match them as my little heart desires.
2. Starting under the bottom of your clothes pin, hot glue the end of the twine in place and start wrapping the twine around the copper coupling.

3.  Do a double layer on the bottom third of the coupling.  (Meaning the bottoms should have another layer of three rows to give it some texture.)  Glue the twine in the back with the glue gun and voila!

When I put them on counter top, I combined them with my bamboo place mats and my slightly nautical napkins.  I was very pleased with how they turned out.

My Tiki Band Mermaids

Those were the easier crafty things, but then I had to work on my tiki mermaids.  I looked at the retro mermaids by Fluff.  And, although I thought they were cute, they looked a little too much like a tattoo for me.
Not gonna lie.  I want this hair do.

I love the art of Stephanie Buscema, but I could only find two mermaids by her and I needed four.  Plus, I wanted them to be a part of a tiki band.  So I decided that I would have to create them.  I was most strongly influenced by Ms. Buscema when I started doing my drawing.  In fact, my first mermaid I did was almost exactly like hers as I got a feel for what I wanted to do.
As you can see from the inspiration photo, I didn't change her much at all.  Although I did change the features a little.  I wanted this to be a copy but not a direct rip off.

I started to branch off a little more with this one, but I had to do an homage to the original Barbie tiki mermaid.

This one I had to do the hair do.  Plus she had a tiki statue!!!

That's her version of Veronica from Betty and Veronica on the left.  I think that is so much fun.
So now that you have seen the inspiration, let me show them to you together.

It was just the look that I was going for!
So I framed them and put them on the mantle.
My only disappointment was that I couldn't afford to get frames that looked like driftwood.  I may still paint them to make them look that way.

And that is my tiki mantle!
I wanted to add a few more knick knacks here and there but my husband says that would be too much. So that is is it for now.
I still have plans to make pineapple shaped pillows for the living room chairs though. ;-)

Monday, July 3, 2017

An Easy Breakfast for the 4th of July and my recipe for a Summer Wine Slushie

Hello Everyone!
Its a holiday weekend and that means fun in the sun and more time to work on projects - be they crafts or things that you want to get done around the house.  I have a couple of craft projects that I want to work on tomorrow while my husband works in the kitchen and, if everything goes well, I will have a new cast iron kitchen sink to ring in my Fourth of July this year!

So if you read my blog you are probably wondering, where are the flower barrettes, where is the tiki mantle, and all of the other things that you said were coming?  They are still coming, but I had to do this post which was inspired by an unexpected visit from my nieces and their father.
I hadn't seen my nieces in about a decade so I was very excited to see them.  They were going to stay the night with me and then continue on their way to see New Orleans for the first time.
Living in Louisiana, I almost always have a huge amount of homemade gumbo in the freezer, so I had dinner solved, but I was a little concerned about Breakfast/Brunch.
I am a firm believer that a holiday weekend should have at least one day where you have a larger than necessary breakfast/brunch and I always try to do one whenever I have the chance.  The catch for me with this brunch was that I didn't want to spend all of my time in the kitchen on the day when they were leaving when I would rather spend time talking with them.  Fortunately for me, they both love French Toast and not eggs, so a French Toast Casserole was the perfect way to go.
 I first had a french toast casserole on the day of my wedding to my husband.  His aunt made a french toast casserole and some tiny quiches and I ate like.......  well I don't want to draw demeaning comparisons to anything, so lets just say that I ate ALOT.  I naturally had to get the recipe.

Wait!  Are there any more of those little baby quiches or maybe some of the French toast casserole?  I'm still hungry.  (This is a picture of me putting on makeup for my wedding, and I'm fairly certain I am asking for food here.  Even though I just ate!

I have changed this recipe a little from the one that she gave me, as I often do to suit my tastes or what I have in my cabinets and fridge, but the basic idea is still the same.
I thought that today would be the perfect day to post this as you can make it for the Fourth of July.  Just make it the night before, and pop it in the oven the next day. Bam!  Super easy breakfast and a great start to a day at the lake or whatever you plan on doing.

French Toast Casserole

I don't have pictures of this because I made it in a hurry so that I could go spend more time with my family.  Sorry!

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
8-9 inch round loaf country style bread (Or, if you can't find that, you can use french bread but it won't fill your baking dish as well)
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (can also use buttermilk or 2% milk that has been thickened to the constancy of heavy cream by adding sour cream.  I know that last bit sounds weird, but trust me, it works in this recipe and I am far more likely to have sour cream and 2% milk and hand than I am those other items.)
1 tsp. vanilla, over flowing (What do you mean over flowing.  Well, what I means is, pour the vanilla in a teaspoon above your bowl, when it starts to over flow the sided and go into the bowl, you have enough vanilla.)
1 tsp. Grand Marnier, overflowing
1 tsp. Cinnamon

1.  In a small heavy sauce pan, melt butter with brown sugar and maple syrup over moderate heat, whisking until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
2.  Pour the sugar/butter mixture into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish.
3.  Cut six, one inch thick slices from the center portion of the bread loaf. If you are using the french bread, keep the crusts on.  If you are using the round country bread you can leave the crusts on or off depending on your preferences.
4.  Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish over the sugar/butter mixture.  (With the round country loaf you may have to squeeze the bread slightly to have it fit in the dish, that is fine.)
5.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, salt and cinnamon until all of the ingredients are well combined.  Pour evenly over the bread in the baking dish.
6.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least eight hours or up to one day.
7.  When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bring bread mixture to room temperature.
8.  Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are golden, 35-40 minutes.

Can serve it with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, but is wonderful just as it is coming out of the oven.

I do have some variations on the recipe, depending on the season and how I am feeling.
To make the dish slightly more citrus-y, add about 1 tsp. of orange zest to the half-and-half mixture.
During the fall, I like to add about 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, and 1/2 tsp. dried ginger to make it seem more fall-like.
You can mix and match the syrups that you use, so you don't have to use maple syrup.  The aunts recipe called just for regular corn syrup.  Or, if you are feeling adventurous you can try substituting a flavored syrup like blueberry syrup or strawberry syrup and garnish with summer berries for the summer time.

Also, this dish freezes very well after baking, just store in an air-tight container and it will last in the freezer for up to one month.

And what is a 4th of July celebration without a little frozen beverage goodness?

The next recipe is a perfect recipe for a hot Louisiana day.  It just hits all the right buttons and makes you feel fancy when you are lounging by the water.  (I don't know why, but I always picture having the 4th of July by a lake or pool.  Even though I haven't done that since moving to Louisiana.  I blame it on my childhood where we used to go to Shell Knob, MO and we would celebrate the holiday on Table Rock Lake.

Summer Wine Slushie

This is one of the pricier of the Frugal Femme food items, but it is delicious and wonderful and, if you would purchase this at a bar or restaurant, would cost you way more than it would to make at home.  So, if you think of it like that, it is still frugal.  I got all of my ingredients for this at Trader Joe's for about $20.00.  (No, Trader Joe's is not paying me to write this.  But they do have $7.00 limoncello and $3.00 wine so it makes this recipe a whole heck of alot cheaper than if I went somewhere else.  This recipe will make about 6 cups of frozen goodness, if you do the large cups like my friends and I do -  or about 10 glasses if you serve it in a champagne flute and make it pretty.  It is great for parties - which is one of the reasons that I thought it would be great for a 4th of July post.
This recipe is very similar to my other smoothie recipes, there really isn't a wrong way to make them, its just a matter of personal taste.  So, have a blast and experiment with it.

1 bottle of white wine  (I like a Pinot Grigio but my husband likes the chardonnay.  I say do whatever white wine you like the best.  Heck, I think a Riesling would go great in this recipe, although I haven't tried it.)
1 cup frozen mango
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/4 cup Limoncello*  (If you don't have limoncello, orange juice is good.  Or you can split the difference and do both!)

     *  A quick note here, you can use whatever kind of fruit that is frozen that you would like to put in this beverage, I also like to use pineapples.  For this recipe I was trying to stick with more of a summer theme, but if you wanted to go for a tropical theme, pineapple would be the way to go.

1.  Carefully put all of your ingredients into a blender and pulse until the mixture is smooth.  (If the drink is too thin, just add more of any of the fruit that you would like.  If the mixture is too thick, then add more of the orange juice or the limoncello.)
2.  Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Garnish it with whatever floats your boat.  Some ideas are:  fresh fruit, fresh basil, and fresh mint.

Just a quick note, this drink is sweet, but is not sweet like a smoothie or a daiquiri, so do not expect it to be.
This photo was taken by George Barris.  They are arguably some of my favorite photos of Marilyn Monroe and were taken on Santa Monica Beach.

I do think that these could be made individually if you would like.
I haven't done individual servings before, but here is how I think that it would break down.  Again, I haven't tried to do these single servings, so you may need to re-adjust the ingredients from what I have here.

1 small single serving white wine of choice
1/4 cup frozen mango (about two slices)
1/4 cup frozen peaches (about two slices)
1/4 cup strawberries
1-2 tbsp. limoncello or orange juice
This is the photo that makes me want to go to the Eastern seaboard and hang out on a cold beach.  It is one of my vacation destinations and I fully plan on taking photos that look like these.  Photo by George Barris.

Well, I hope that y'all can use both of these recipes for your Fourth of July and I will be back shortly with my tiki mantle and some how to's on how to create it for yourself!