Saturday, February 28, 2015



I am taking the day off, catch you all later!

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Time To Spruce up The House - Spring Redo's

I am well rested from re-decorating my daughters bedroom and bath, I am on a roll again, so now it's on to other rooms in the house.  I am painting and redecorating the boys bath and the guest room in our home. It has been quite an undertaking as I wanted to purchase things on sale and clearance, as always.  It's not that hard, you just have to wait for the sales to pick up things you need as you go along.  And I did  pick up alot of things over the last 2 days for the guest bedroom, and I think I saved myself alot of money.  I was undecided as to what theme/colors I was going to redo the room in, but once I had the inspiration it was decided and I just went with it.  Now, I do have to pick up a few more things for the walls and the room, but I already have ideas in mind.  When the warmer weather hits the furniture in the guest room will be painted white, so stayed tuned for the pics when both rooms are completed!

The color pallette in the guest room now is a soft green on the walls, red and cream decor and the furniture is black. This room has access to the full bath on the first floor via a door of it's own.  In the past this room has housed many people, an exchange student for 2 years, my daughter before she made settlement on her home, my mother-in-law and numerous overnight guests.  It is the fifth bedroom in our home, and I am happy to have it even though it now only sees an occasional guest.

The three stores I visited were IKEA,  TJMaxx and Kohl's
IKEA - floral pillow, $14.99 and yellow and white striped duvet set $29.99
TJMaxx - yellow, grey and white patterned 95" long draperies, $29.99 per pair, 72" fringed scarf runner for
 bureau, $7.99
Kohl's - canvas art, $9.99
I am leaning towards painting the room a dove grey color.
Now on to the boys bath. They share a Jack and Jill bath, cabinets and fixtures are white, a great clean slate to work with. Tub and toilet are in a closed door area (water closet), while the double sinks are in a large galley type area with doors leading into both of their rooms.  The color pallette in there now is gold, red, brown, and some olive green.  I decided to use a light grey in this room too.  White and grey with an accent of maybe red or blue.  I like a lot of color, they don't.  I was going to accent the bath with color using towels and other decor. I have a problem with their towels because my boys are messy (imagine that, boys being messy?).  I was constantly buying new towels because they bleach them out when they wash them, they look ugly and usually have to be thrown out.  SO, my son said just buy white towels, I said are you crazy, I will never get them clean with you guys!  But then my light bulb went off, great idea, you CAN bleach them and they won't get ugly.

 The stores I used for this redo are IKEA, Ross, Costco and Gabriel's
IKEA - Striped rug for bath area, $9.99, big grey and white 5 x 7 rug for sink area, $19.99
Ross - Big grey and white patterned bath sheets, $7.99 each, 6 pk of washcloths, $4.99
Gabriel's -  Grey and white striped shower curtain, $3.99
Costco - 6 white bath towels, $5.99 each and 4 white hand towels, $3.99 each

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Simple Salmon

Browsing the aisles of Costco, I love that store.  You never know what you'll find, and EVERYTHING is always good.  I buy my salmon there and nowhere else, it's the best.   The fillets are huge, so when I get it home I cut it into equal size pieces and bag them separately.  My long fillet of salmon was about $16.00 but I got 2 meals for 4 people out of it, not bad.  If we went to a restaurant for this meal the cost would have been much more.  I made this simple salmon meal for my family the other night and it was delightful! Recipe below.
To print recipe, click, highlight and print.

Beautiful slices of salmon, butter, lemon, salt, pepper and a little fresh parsley for color, that was all it took. 
I started the veggies in the oven first.  Roasted fresh broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, yellow peppers and fennel with olive oil, salt and pepper as a side dish along with....
 Lemon Orzo - to make the Orzo follow directions on the box for the amount you will need.  Bring salted water to a boil, orzo is pasta so cook it how you like, soft or al dente.  Ingredients for making the Lemon Orzo - juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley.
 Toss all in the pan after you drain it.
So, everything is ready for my meal to be served.  This is my Simple Salmon....
The Roasted Veggies and Lemon Orzo.
And for dessert, Apple Walnut Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce.   A scrumptious, healthy meal (oh, except for this dessert, it was over the top!) on the table in less than an hour.

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless skinless salmon fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices lemon, cut the slices then use the same lemon for the juice
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat the area of a baking sheet, where you will place the salmon, with the olive oil.  Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, and place on the sheet.  Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper, divide the butter between the two, squeeze the lemon over the fillets, top with sliced lemon and chopped parsley.  Bake for 15 -20 minutes, depending on your oven.  To check to see if it is done, flake at the thickest part to make sure it is cooked. Makes 2 servings. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Tale Of The Purple Vegetable - Eggplant Parmesan

Ahhh, eggplant I can't say enough about it.  They have plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant fighting nutrients, so the bottom line is -  it's good for you!  Leave that beautiful deep purple skin on when you cook it and it's even better for you.  True fact - eggplants were first grown in China around the 5th century B.C., before I was born, so they are pretty darn old!

Choose your eggplants carefully when buying.  Their appearance should be firm, they should be heavy for their size, the skin should be smooth and shiny, no scars or bruises, and the stem should be green, not dried out and brown.  Don't cut your eggplant until you are ready to use it, they brown quickly and it will not look very appetizing. You can salt the eggplant before you use it, to rid it of some of the bitter taste and make it more tender. This is called "sweating" the eggplant (see note). You can cook eggplant in many ways, I think the most common is Eggplant Parmesan.  You can use it as an appetizer in caponata, bread it and fry it, stir -fry it, use it in ratatouille, make a sandwich with roasted peppers and provolone.  Grill it or roast it, no matter how you make it, it's all good.  I made Eggplant Parmesan with my eggplant, recipe below.
  To print - click, highlight and print.

 I took a U-turn and made it easy on myself, it was Sunday and I was being a little lazy, so I used some pre-packaged stuff instead of the "totally" fresh that I usually do.  Everything came out the same, so no probs there.
 I peeled my eggplant, because there are those in my family that don't like the skin, they're a little whiny sometimes.
 Two eggs, salt and pepper, beat it, just beat it!
I use paper plates so I don't have to wash dishes, I told you it was lazy Sunday!  Eggs in the bowl, Italian breadcrumbs on one plate and then a clean plate for the breaded eggplant slices.
Bathe the eggplant slices on both sides in the egg, then let them roll around in the breadcrumbs.
Stack them up on that empty plate....
Then start frying those babies up in canola oil.
 While they are cooking, start mixing up your cheese. Ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese, Mozzarella cheese, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, and fresh chopped parsley.
Eggplant is nice and golden brown, drain on paper towels.
Pour some of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.
Layer eggplant, cheese, sauce....
And last layer of sauce on the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 - 45 minutes.
 In the last 10 minutes sprinkle with more Mozzarella cheese, then it's all done and ready to eat with more fresh grated cheese sprinkled on top.
Eggplant Parmesan

Cooking Spray
Canola Oil for frying
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
1 medium to large eggplant - see note
1 - 15 oz container of part skim Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups of shredded Mozzarella cheese, reserve 1/2 cup to garnish
1/4 cup Pecorino - Romano cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
1 jar your favorite pasta sauce, or use homemade

Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a deep frying pan add about 1 1/2 cups of canola oil for frying. Beat the first 2 eggs with the salt and pepper, pour the breadcrumbs onto a plate to bread the eggplant, and use another plate for the breaded eggplant slices.  Heat the oil on medium high, add slices and cook until golden brown on both sides, you may have to turn the heat down if your stove gets too hot and they start to burn.  Drain cooked slices on paper towels.

While the slices are frying, in a medium bowl mix the Ricotta cheese with 1 cup of the Mozzarella cheese, the Pecorino - Romano and Parmesan cheeses, the other 2 eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.   Mix until combined, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour about 1/2 cup of pasta sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, you may need more if your dish is big. Layer the eggplant slices, overlap them if you need to so they fit in the pan. Drop some of the cheese mixture by spoonfuls over the eggplant, then top with some of the sauce.  Repeat until all the eggplant and cheese are used, top with remaining sauce.  Place the pan on a baking sheet, in case it bubbles over, and bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until cheese is melted and dish is bubbling.  In the last 10 minutes of baking, top with the 1/2 cup reserved Mozzarella cheese. Makes 8 servings.

NOTE:  To "sweat" the eggplant, line a baking sheet with paper towels, sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt, lay them out on the paper towels for 30 minutes, then rinse and pat the slices dry with clean paper towels.  Doing this makes it more tender and takes some of the bitterness out of the eggplant.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Roasted Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

Another frigid day here in the eastern part of the country, it's only 3 degrees, YIKES!  I think this is great homemade soup weather, no matter how you slice it.  Today I gave mushroom soup a try, took some basic ingredients and put a twist on them to make this delicious Roasted Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup.  Recipe below.
  To print recipe, click, highlight and print.

Some basics and a few things to turn up the volume of the soup a little bit!  It's the Sherry baby!
Melt the cup of butter, this makes the broth rich tasting.
Dice the onion, mince the garlic and cook them both in the butter.
Now I got a little crazy and decided to roast the mushrooms, portobellos are meaty so it's easy to do.  Cut up any really big mushrooms, season them with salt and pepper, drizzle on a little olive oil and toss together. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Onions and garlic are tender, throw in some thyme, bay leaf and a little nutmeg, yes that's right just a little.  I also made my roux to thicken the soup. I scooped 3/4 cup of flour into a bowl then ladled just enough of the butter from the pot into the flour, to mix it into a paste.  
Toss back into the pot and whisk it into the remaining butter mixture.
It will become creamy like this with no lumps.
Add the stock, sherry and cream, and using an immersion (stick) blender, or a blender (but be sure to run hot water in the blender before putting anything hot into it so it doesn't shatter!)  Blend all together, so the broth is smooth.
When the mushrooms are done I strain them in a colander so the juice doesn't thin the soup.  Toss about 2/3 of them in the pot and reserve the rest.
Take that immersion blender again and smooth out some of those mushrooms.  When you are done, toss the remaining mushrooms in and leave them whole. 
Delicious, flavorful, creamy and rich Portobello Mushroom Soup.

Roasted Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

2 sticks of butter
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
3 big cloves garlic, minced
5 sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup flour
3 lbs Sliced Baby Bella Portobello Mushrooms (3 - 16 oz containers)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 - 32 oz containers vegetable stock
1/3 cup dry sherry, leave it out if you don't like it
1 - 32 oz container of heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the two sticks of butter.  Add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves and nutmeg.  Cook until tender but not brown.

In the meantime, spread the mushrooms out on a large baking sheet and season with salt and pepper, toss with the olive oil.  Roast in oven for 20 - 25 minutes until browned. Remove from oven and drain in a colander to drain all the juices.

Add the flour to a medium bowl and ladle some of the butter mixture from the soup pot into the bowl.  Mix enough into the flour to make a roux.  Add back into the soup pot and whisk it into the remaining butter until there are no lumps and it becomes smooth.

Take out the bay leaves and discard.  Add  vegetable stock, sherry and cream to the pot and stir until all is combined.  With an immersion blender or blender, blend until the broth is smooth.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  You will have to continue stirring the soup so it does not stick. When the soup boils, reduce heat to a low simmer for 40-45 minutes, uncovered, stir it occasionally. 

Add 2/3 of the roasted mushrooms to the pot and with the immersion blender, chop them up. Toss in the remaining mushrooms, but leave them whole.  Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the soup thickens.
Makes about 12 servings.