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La Petite Maison Verte

La Petite Maison Verte: May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weekend Getaway - Update!

I already knew I had the best husband in the world. A husband who will spend an hour massaging my sore legs after I overdo it at Power Hour. A husband who knows exactly how to calm my nerves when I'm stressed out or upset. A husband who lets me be myself and loves me for who I am. A husband who loves to surprise me.

His "best husband ever" status was confirmed on Wednesday when he told me we could go away this weekend :) In my last post, I was lamenting the fact that B said we couldn't go away for Memorial Day. Why the change of heart? Who knows, but I'm not one to complain! (Maybe he read my blog post?!!??) Once we decided on Charleston, SC and decided that Hudson would come with us, I had to try to find a hotel that had room for us AND our little dog. Since it was very late to be booking a hotel, especially for a holiday weekend, I immediately got to work calling up B&Bs, local inns and hotels. After at least 20 rejections, we finally were able to book a two-night stay at The Charleston Place Hotel (ranked among the Top hotels in North America by Conde Nast Traveler!!)

The location is perfect, downtown close to lots of shopping, restaurants and parks. B and I love to walk (and Hudson does too!) so we're looking forward to exploring Charleston by foot.

After we get back, I'll be able to give recommendations for dining, shopping and sightseeing. But here's what we're looking forward to:

a Sweet & Salty Brownie at Baked

a stroll along the battery

shopping at the Old City Market

afternoon tea at the Thoroughbred Club

...stay tuned for photos!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Hydration = Happiness

With the dog days of summer upon us, I think it important to use my blog as a soap-box to share with you this public service announcement: Drink More Water.

I don't know about you, but my body has been telling me that it needs more water, I'm thirsty more frequently and wake up with a headache if I haven't had plenty to drink the day before. I know I don't drink nearly enough every day but I'm on my way to getting the required daily intake with my water bottle: Thermos Intak BPA Free Hydration Bottle. I love it because it has a little dial on the top which keeps track of how many bottles of water you've had to drink each day and serves as a constant reminder to get plenty of fluids. It's BPA free and has a clear plastic cover to keep the pour spout sanitary, plus it was only $9.99 at Target! Yesterday I had three bottles of I'm going to shoot for four.

P.S. Your body won't care if you sneak some crystal light lemonade into your water bottle :)

P.P.S. I should mention that it was my sister Colleen who first introduced me to this fabulous bottle! When we visited her in Hawai'i she let me borrow one of hers and I fell in LOVE with it!

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Weekend Getaway

The other day as we were taking Hudson on our evening walk, I said to B "I need a vacation!" After letting out an exasperated sigh and rolling his eyes (B is known for his exaggerated responses to my random declarations) he asked me why I could possibly need a vacation, after all I don't have a job and we only just got back from a 2-week trip to Hawai'i a few months ago. After explaining how mentally-draining it is for me to be so far away from my usual sources of inspiration (designer shops, art museums, old city architecture, art museums, good restaurants and the occasional artisan bakery), I think B started to come around to the idea of a long weekend away.

While the idea of a Memorial Day weekend getaway is pretty much out of the question, and we already have plans for the July 4th weekend, Labor day is a few months away and we're starting to look at our options now. Locally (well, within a 6 hour drive), we both want to visit the Biltmore Estate and nearby Asheville, as well as Charleston, SC. A little farther away there's Key West, Florida or somewhere in New England, Maine maybe....

Wherever we decide to go, I'd love to have a cute Weekender Bag to tote my belongings:

...maybe I'd go with something funky or whimsical....

$190 from eBags

$75 from eBags

...or perhaps chic and sophisticated....

$380 from Bloomingdales

$495 from Bloomingdales

...but no matter what, these are the two things I won't leave behind:

Are you planning any weekend getaways? Have any recommendations for us? Leave a comment!!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I just love this time of the year







I love strawberries for dessert. It feels so decadent and romantic when you dip them in something are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them after dinner:

1. Dipped in melted dark chocolate

2. Dipped in melted nutella

3. On top of a dollop of fresh homemade lightly sweetened whipped cream, then drizzled with melted chocolate

4. Dipped in sour cream and sprinkled with brown sugar

5. Sliced, on top of sugar-free instant pudding with light cool whip (when I'm watching calories)

How do you like to enjoy your strawberries?


Chicken...doesn't have to be boring!

B and I like to eat as healthy as we can, adding lots of layers of flavor to our food without adding a lot of extra fat and calories. Since chicken breast is a lean source of protein, I often find myself looking for new and delicious chicken recipes to add to my repertoire. This recipe looked easy (and it was) and I already had all the ingredients on hand so I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, it is cooked on the grill so that means B gets to do the hard work!! I made some vegetable skewers to serve this with - I just sliced up some red onion, zucchinni, yellow squash and red bell pepper, drizzled them with a little EVOO and a dash of salt and black pepper and had B put them on the grill along with the chicken. They were delicious! For a healthy carbohydrate side-dish, I made a few servings of quick-cooking brown rice. I hadn't eaten rice in a long time but it really hit the mark with these flavorful chicken and vegetable kabobs. I'll be making this meal again!

P.S. This chicken would probably be really good served in pita bread with some tzaziki sauce as a chicken gyro! I think we'll try that soon!

Garlic Lemon Chicken Kabobs
Adapted from Annie's Eats ,recipe originally posted here

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.

Prepare a medium fire in a grill. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak skewers in water for 20 minutes before adding chicken) and discard the excess marinade.

Lightly oil the grill grates. Place the kabobs on the grill, cover, and cook until the chicken is opaque throughout, about 8-12 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Mother's Day was this past Sunday and even though I don't have any actual children, I do have a dog and I pretty much feel like he's my baby. My husband (who has read all of Cesar Millan's books and watches The Dog Whisperer every chance he gets) thinks this is bad for Hudson since dogs need to be treated like the canine animals they are. Well, I just can't help myself because Hudson is just so stinkin' cute. Plus, he likes me better so what does B know? hehe ;)

If this was your furry little baby, wouldn't you spoil him??!


The other white meat...

I'm a huge fan of pork tenderloin. When prepared right its so moist, flavorful and tender, not to mention inexpensive and easy to find at any grocery store. Being out here in eastern NC, you can't take quality ingredients for granted and you can't always hope to find unusual ingredients or obscure cuts of meat either. That being said, I have noticed that when I go to the grocery store there are usually at least 4 or 5 different varieties of marinated pork tenderloin and you can only find a plain, unseasoned one if you're lucky. I have never tried a pre-marinated pork tenderloin so I can't say anything good or bad about them, but I like to season my food myself so I know exactly what is going into it and I don't add any preservatives or chemicals...I like my food to be all-natural.

Well, recently I came across this recipe for Balsamic Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin and since I already had all of the ingredients except the pork tenderloin itself, I bookmarked the page and planned to make it last week. Can I just tell you I am SO GLAD I made this!! The marinade came together quickly and easily and the flavor was phenominal. I wouldn't change a single thing. I marinated the pork for about 24 hours so on the day I planned to cook and serve it, my job was simple: sear it and roast it. According to the recipe, you could also grill the pork (and that was my initial plan, but B decided he didn't feel like grilling after he got home from a very long day at work) but the oven directions are spot-on. I will say that I didn't read the recipe very carefully so I didn't notice that the original recipe makes enough marinade for two pork tenderloins. Since I was only preparing one (as its just B and myself) I would ordinarily have halved the recipe for the marinade but luckily it didn't matter in the least. It worked out fine for one tenderloin but I'm sure there would have been plenty for two. Anyhow, I do hope you give this recipe a try, I'm sure you will love it as much as we did. And as B says when he REALLY likes something, "You should add this one to the recipe box!"

I served the pork tenderloin with steamed asparagus, oven roasted curry cauliflower and a loaf of homemade bread. You could serve it with anything or nothing and it would still be amazing.

Balsamic Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from the recipe originally posted here

4-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds each) - I used one pork tenderloin (about 1.7 lbs)
2 tablespoons canola oil (if preparing in oven)

Stir together garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the paste all over pork. If you have the time, marinate overnight in a large ziploc plastic bag, or as long as you can even if its just a few hours.

Grill preparation:
Sear the tenderloins on all sides, then grill for about 20-30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Try to let it rest before slicing.

Oven preparation:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat canola oil in a large, heavy saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add pork, and brown all over, about 4 minutes per side.

Transfer pan to oven. Roast pork, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and try to let it rest 10 minutes before slicing, covered with a sheet of aluminum foil.

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Brooklyn's Second Birthday

So as I mentioned in my last post, I spent a good bit of time helping my friend Sharon plan her daughter's second birthday party. For Brooklyn's first birthday last year, Sharon went all-out and ordered a fancy tiered cake from a bakery. But this year, Sharon wanted to tackle the cake herself and asked me for my help. I was more than happy to help out and suggested the idea of cupcakes instead of a cake. Since the party was to be held outside in their backyard, Sharon settled on a garden-inspired theme and we decided to decorate the cupcakes like flowers and bugs. The cupcakes turned out adorable and no two were exactly the same. We made a cupcake stand to display the little cakes and it ended up awesome! Here's how the cupcakes turned out...

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My mom's banana bread

We had three sorry-looking bananas in the fruit bowl yesterday and they were calling to me. Well, not literally, but I've been wanting to make banana bread for a while and I had to wait until we had enough over-ripe bananas. So when I noticed that I had plenty of freckled beauties the other day, I decided the time was right.

I always use my mom's recipe for banana bread. It's delicious, always turns out moist and whenever B takes it into work its gone in no time. This time, I wanted to experiment with substituting some of the All Purpose flour for Whole Wheat Flour instead. I also had two ripe pineapples, an opened bag of sweetened flaked coconut and some chopped walnuts so I decided to make it a "Nutty Hawaiian" banana bread. And WOW, it turned out awesome! B ate 4 of the banana muffins for dessert, he just couldn't get enough. We ate it all before I could get any pictures and B took the large loaf to work today. I'm going to share my mom's original recipe and below it I'll describe the specific changes I made this time. Whether you make the banana bread as the recipe is written or modify it like I did, you'll love it. Make it in one large loaf pan or several small ones, or in a muffin pan (makes about 24 muffins). It's also really good with chocolate chips in it, I usually use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup and just toss it right into the batter before baking. While this time we ate the banana bread for dessert, it is AWESOME for breakfast: just add a dab of cream cheese and a cup of coffee...that's my idea of a perfect morning!

Mom's Banana Bread (The Original)
Makes 1 large loaf, 3-4 mini loaves, or about 24 muffins

3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce (optional, but I always add one of those little individual serving cups)
3/4 cups vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cups sugar
2 cups AP flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking soda
1/2 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Spray loaf pan(s) or muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix bananas, apple sauce (if using), oil, vanilla, beaten eggs and sugar until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just to incorporate, don't over-mix. The batter should be thick but not so thick that you can't pour it (my mom says "It shouldn't be thick like glue" hehe). If its too thick, add a splash of milk or a little extra apple sauce or oil. Now is when you add in your optional mix-ins - the nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or whatever else you feel like adding.

Bake at 325 until toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. For the muffins, it took me about 15 minutes and it took about 40 minutes for the large loaf pan, but check back often because you do NOT want to overcook it.

Once you remove the bread from the oven, allow it to sit in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool fully.

Here's what I did this time to make it a"Healthy Nutty Hawai'ian" Banana Bread:

  • I substituted 2/3 cup Whole Wheat flour for the same volume of AP flour
  • I substituted 1/4 cup of splenda for the same volume of sugar and decreased the sugar by a little less than 1/4 of a cup (so to be exact: for my bread I ended up using a little more than 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup splenda, I figured the added fruit would sweeten the bread enough to leave out some of the sugar... and I was right)
  • I added about 1/4 cup old fashioned oats that I had food processed into a very coarse flour (this was to add weight since I was using splenda)
  • I added about 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple to the wet ingredients
  • I added 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut to the batter before baking, and I sprinkled some additional coconut onto the tops of the muffins and the loaf of banana bread before baking
  • I used 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

The bread turned out so flavorful and delicious. I was a little worried that the coconut on top of the bread would get brown or burn but it came out perfectly, just a touch toasted. The bread was just as moist as it usually is and you'd never know that there was whole wheat flour in there! Next time I might even increase the whole wheat flour to 1 cup and I might try to substitute 1/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt for 1/4 cup of the oil - I've read that this is an acceptable substitution in a lot of recipes. I would probably add even more walnuts, pineapple and coconut because well, you really can't ever have too much of a good thing :)

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Italy in Jacksonville

So I'll admit this blogging thing takes a lot of work! I've been SUPER busy here the past few days with helping my friend Sharon plan her daughter's 2nd birthday party (Happy Birthday Brooklyn!) and getting ready for my friend Becky's bachelorette party. They are both taking place today and since I got *most* of the work done ahead of time (soooo not like me!!) I have the time to sit down (well, actually I'm standing up) and write a little blog post. Don't worry, I'll be posting more on my contributions to the parties later...get excited though because I MADE a 3-tiered cupcake stand and 40 cupcakes decorated like flowers and bugs for Brooklyn's birthday and concocted a batch of pesto pasta salad, AND I baked two loaves of bread and whipped up a batch of my fave white bean dip for Becky's shin-dig. So now you know why I haven't had the time to blog :)

The other night (I think it was Wednesday...or was it Thursday??) I made Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms (aka Chicken Cacciatore). It was a recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food website and it. was. delicious. But of was Martha. I made a few changes because I didn't have any fresh mushrooms (and besides, Brian doesn't really like them anyway). I used a small can of mushrooms that I had in the pantry. I also didn't have any stewed tomatoes so I used a can of diced tomatoes, the ones that are seasoned with oregano, basil and garlic. I thought some olives would be good with it (I was right) so I added those too, and topped it all off with some nice fresh Italian parsley before serving it. We'll definitely be making this again!

To go along with the chicken cacciatore, I baked a loaf of no-knead bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I don't own the book but I found an abbreviated version of the recipe for the boule here. I know, I know - French bread with Italian food! Well, it went fabulously well together so I guess we'll just call it European "fusion" cuisine :)I followed the bread recipe exactly but halved it in order to get 2 loaves. Now I wish I had made the full recipe because you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, just cutting off 1-lb sections as you want to bake them! I will be making this bread every week since I CANNOT find good bread here. I have to drive all the way to Wilmington (1 hour +) to get to a Whole Foods or Fresh Market which have the only acceptable bakeries I know of in the area. I haven't found any little boulangeries anywhere closer. Well anyways, it must be meant to be because I was ALWAYS intimidated of baking bread - you know, the kneading, the rising, etc. I wouldn't have even thought to try to make my own bread (B is the boulanger in the family) but this recipe just looked so SIMPLE...and it was! Try it. You will not regret it. And by the way- I am definitely buying the book.

Chicken with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

Adapted from Everyday Food

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 1 1/2 pounds
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed and quartered (I used one small can chopped shitake mushrooms, drained)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
handfull of whole, pitted kalamata olives
chopped fresh Italian parsley


Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large (5-quart) saucepan (I used my dutch oven) with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high heat; swirl to coat bottom of pan. Cook chicken, turning when it easily releases from the pan, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add mushrooms; cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, and oregano. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until tomatoes have broken down, 10 to 15 minutes.

Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan; add in olives; cover, and cook until chicken is opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chicken to coat with sauce, and serve topped with chopped parsley.

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