The flu is raging with a vengeance. Dave the Builder has informed me seven of his coworkers are currently out with the flu, and the office air is thick with the scent of Lysol. We believe in doing everything you can to prevent catching the flu. My one and only time to have the flu was an ugly, ugly experience. I was out of commission for 6+ weeks with flu that turned to pneumonia quicker than I could say I don’t feel good. Remembering that experience like it was yesterday, the Places In The Home household is in take charge mode to ward off the flu, including, but not limited to, brimming bowls of homemade potato soup. Dave the Builder’s mom spoke of the healing powers of homemade potato soup, and who am I to argue with the wisdom of my mother-in-law?
I developed this rather uncomplicated to prepare and quite tasty recipe for homemade potato soup years ago when our son was in elementary school. Sports, scouts and study schedules tend to dominate after school time, and the dinnertime hour gets pushed later and later more nights than not. The kid, husband and mother-in-law loved it, instantly making it a classic family recipe. Both cream of chicken soup and chicken broth hit the flavor notes with a little help from seasoning friends salt, pepper, onion powder and fresh parsley. I have been known on occasion to add a heaping tablespoon of heavy cream to each bowl, and the crowd goes yum.
Homemade Potato Soup
6 medium to large russet potatoes
1 family size can cream of chicken soup
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup chicken broth
5 cups 2% milk
Fresh parsley, chopped
Heavy cream (optional)
Bake the potatoes at 400°F for 1 hour OR microwave potatoes on full power until tender. Microwave cooking times will vary according to size and heating variance. Let baked potatoes stand until cool. Using a fork, press each potato in center, splitting potato in half. Mash out the pulp and discard potato skins.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stir together the cream of chicken soup, potato pulp, salt, pepper, and onion powder.
Stir in the chicken broth and milk, stirring to incorporate flavors. Bring to a gentle boil.
Lower heat to simmer, add chopped parsley, and simmer uncovered until soup is creamy thick, about 10-15 minutes.
This Dutch oven is 65 years old – a wedding gift from my aunt to my parents.
If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more milk until desired consistency is reached.
Sharing is a big part of Places In The Home. The concept of sharing useful tidbits of interior decorating information and striking images of all things house that make a home interest to social media platforms is genius. The knowledge gained, friends made, inspiration gleaned makes the experience so worthwhile. During a recent ringing the dinner bell pinning session, it occurred to me a blog post of select recipes from Pinterest as featured on my A Taste Odyssey Pinterest board may pique your Pinterest interest, and make for an inspiring and appetizing show and tell.
Rather you call the evening meal dinner or supper, you’ll call these pin to table main dish recipes from Pinterest favorites. I’m including the original link to each recipe so you can check it out.
The newlywed couple called home last night from IKEA to share their latest wedding gift purchase. The subject of IKEA, meatballs and the concept of a furniture store-restaurant pairing got me to thinking and craving meatballs. This recipe for Salisbury Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes from Maya Kitchenette is comfort food fantastic. Salisbury Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes
Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches
The first three words in this recipe for Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches from Fox Valley Foodie qualify it as a must try. Factor in the ooh la la licious tastes brought forth by combining French onion soup, beef consomme and Guinness beer together with beef roastrump roast and you’ve got a crowd pleasing easy dinner option. Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches
The culinary concept of the one-pot meal is brilliant. Easy and quick from prep to finish are two of my favorite ingredients, and this easy and quick recipe for Great Northern Bean and Chicken soup hits a hearty high note. For a weeknight dinner big on taste and easy peasy prep appeal, give this recipe a try. Simple serves a satisfying dish.
Melt the butter in dutch oven (or just toss the butter in with the veggies like I do). Add the sliced carrots, chopped celery and chopped onion. Sauté until onions become translucent.
Add shredded chicken, beans, bay leaf, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate all the flavor goodness together. Add water, bouillon cube and chicken broth bringing to a boil.
Once a good bubbling boil is reached, reduce heat to low and allow soup to simmer for 45-60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve with crackers or cornbread.
I discovered Nabisco Triscuit Brown Rice & Wheat Sea Salt & Black Pepper last Christmas and let me tell you, these have become a delicious snack cracker obsession at Places In The Home. The zing of the black pepper and the savory balance of the sea salt kick up the taste of this soup to a tasty c’est si bon level.
Food, cooking, and the gathering together of family and friends is an essential source of sustenance and life beyond the kitchen and dining table. Consider the role food plays in our all things house that make a home life. Over the prepping, preparing, plating and partaking of a meal we connect with family and friends, build and strengthen personal and business relationships, indulge in the art of expression and discovery, and create delicious and lasting memories. Food for thought.
J. Kenji López-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, debunks five common Southern cooking myths over on the Garden & Gun blog Daily Shot. I was surprised to learn… Click on the link below for details.
Hey summer, what’s for dinner? The Places In The Home gang knows the answer to that question. Most evenings our summer appetites lean toward lighter fare, and a what’s on hand chilled summer salad is what’s on the menu.
The temps of those hot summer mornings, afternoons and nights have a way of slowing down the pace as well as the need for heavy dishes.
Who needs or wants to be in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove when there’s a lot of patio sitting, summer sippin’ and outdoor living to do. I defer to Bertand Russell and his brilliant words that fit so well with summer.
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
My sentiments exactly, Mr. Russell.
To the cupboard and fridge we go for ingredients to make a what’s on hand chilled summer salad.
Baby field greens topped with tuna serve as the flavor foundation. Left over crispy fried bacon from breakfast makes the cut. I spotted a cucumber in the crisper to go with the garden tomatoes and red onion slices. A slice, chop, salt and pepper later it was time to whip up a generous portion of avocado spread. Take a nice avocado, peel, scoop out the meat into a bowl and mash it with a fork. Add a heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise and a generous squeeze of fresh lemon.
The lemon wakes up the flavors with a c’est si bon all its own. Feta cheese crumbles bring more flavor into the mix. Fresh sliced strawberries and fresh chopped Louisiana peaches drizzled with honey round out the melange. I purposely positioned the Feta, fruit and red onion slices on the sides of the salad plates so the diners can incorporate the flavors as desired. Now for what I consider the ultimate dressing discovery of the summer 2015 salad season. There is buttermilk ranch dressing and then there is basil buttermilk ranch dressing. This dressed up take on Hidden Valley buttermilk ranch dressing is the new house dressing at Places In The Home. The the fresh basil and lemon juice produce a bright flavor pairing- a combination perfect for summer. Tangy (that’s buttermilk!) meets fresh meets zing meets damn, that’s good!
Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
¾ cup mayonnaise (I used Duke’s in this recipe)
½ cup buttermilk
1 packet Original Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Recipe
¼ teaspoon fine black pepper
2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before using, allowing flavors to marry.
Hey summer, what’s for dinner? Think summer salads.
The welcome mat at Places In The Home is working overtime. Several of our family members are taking to the spring holiday road, and our house is do drop in central. Good visits begin with good hosting and good hosting begins with a stress free host or hostess. Entertaining is supposed to be a fun for guests and hosts alike, isn’t it? I know I have a much better entertaining experience if I access and assign a theme, go with the entertaining with ease flow and keep the focus on comfortable surroundings, inviting touches and relaxing times.
Texas times and family memories will be a hot topic of conversation. Our company’s travels begin in Texas Bluebonnet country, and with Texas being the common denominator of our family tree, I played it up in theme and setting. Farmhouse chic makes an effortless foundation to build your theme upon.
A simple arrangement of carnations mixed with greenery and placed beside an even simpler arrangement of apples and bananas in a milk glass center bowl provides a nice centerpiece in a farmhouse chic kind of way.
Fresh flowers from the floral department of the local grocery store are my weakness, and when the word clearance enters into the picture my shopping cart runneth over. You really get your money’s worth with carnations. Carnations can last for weeks with an every other day water change and a quick stem trim. I use tepid water, scale back leaves from the stems to prevent contact with the water, and place a couple of drops of food coloring in the water.
From recipes to table setting decor, I like to source from within meaning I like to use what I have on hand. A great home decor clearance sale and dollar store items purchased in bulk can provide all the entertaining with ease elements needed for a well designed themed tablescape.
art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.
Into each case of design and decorating a little if kitchen kitsch is wrong, I don’t want to be right will fall. The method to my madness lies deeply rooted in the from which I came from principle. I picked up several sets of rooster dish towels at the local dollar store back during the holidays knowing full well they would come in handy. Paired with copper napkin rings I found on clearance at Dillard’s a couple of years ago, the dish towels made great dinner napkins.
The Places In The Home gang comes from a long line of hen on nest dish collectors. The women of our family felt no respectable kitchen and/or breakfast room decor complete without the addition of at least one hen on nest dish.
On the menu front I aim to please. Round our dinner table, quality rules over quantity which lines up perfectly with easy menu planning. As long as the iced tea is sweet and I keep the serving sizes in just a bite territory it is all good and tasty. The culinary rule of KISS (keep it salad simple) always applies.
I set up a salad buffet for first course serve yourself ease. Individual Mason jar salads layered with shredded iceberg lettuce, fresh tomato, chopped ham, green onion, Feta cheese crumbles, homemade buttermilk dressing and a dash of kosher salt and fine black pepper were a hit with the just a bite crowd.
All good things and great vacations come to an end. Tripping Down Memory Lane Spring Break Trip Report Part III winds down our 2008 spring break trip to Las Vegas in getting back to Vegas basics style.
Filling In The Vegas Days and Nights: Hotels, Casinos & Restaurants
Spending the afternoon at Venetian surrounded by copies of and renditions of famous Italian works and decor was the plan for our Thursday afternoon. The machines, bonus rounds and green felt covered tables will take a backseat to sightseeing and lunch at Grand Lux Cafe at Venetian.
People often comment negatively in regards to Grand Lux as a dining choice while in Las Vegas. “It’s a chain. Why in the world are you eating at a chain restaurant?”
How do we love Grand Lux Cafe? Let us deliciously count the ways:
The food is always excellent. See images above.
The menu offers a wide variety of delicious something for everyone dishes.
The dining room design and decor is lovely.
The price is right.
If it ain’t broke…
I did not break with my dining at Grand Lux tradition ordering the seafood salad and a shared order of double-stuffed potato spring rolls. Dave ordered the fish and chips and gave it 4 forks out of a possible 5 review. The casino at Venetian was packed. I played $1 Top Dollar slots with no big wins. Dave didn’t fare too well at the tables so he was in hot pursuit of a $1 Double Top Dollar slot machine to play. We both love Top Dollar and Pinball. I did not receive an ounce of respect, love or pay from the numerous Top Dollar or Pinball machines I played during this session. I now fondly refer to them as “sucker machines” and Dave now fondly refers to me as a sore loser. If it was in the cards for me to be a loser, at least the rocking band playing at La Scena (casino floor lounge that sadly is no more) was churning out some fantastic music. Win, lose or draw I like to get my boogie on. We have boogied to really fantastic lounge acts playing the casino lounges. That part of old Vegas is slowly going away too. My parents tell of the now famous singers they saw years ago in Las Vegas when the entertainers were up and coming lounge acts.
I got it together earlier than usual so we could be on our way to lunch at the Paris Le Village buffet.
I knew I would want to play before lunch and also figured the line to be seated could be rather long on a Friday afternoon. I could not squeak out a win, but left the casino floor for the buffet line even. That’s always a win in my book! The lunch at Le Village was good, but this is a buffet that shines at breakfast. Dave pointed out the French onion soup and I informed him I had worked the French onion soup enough for a while. However, the crepe station did call out to me and I answered apple with raspberries, blueberries and crème fraîche, se il vous plaît. 5 forks out of 5 very French c’est si bon forks.
I packed the room up with a cup of in-room brewed strong Louisiana coffee in hand. Traveling with a coffee pot isn’t for everyone, but we do it for two reasons. In extremely short order after my eyes pop open in the morning and my feet hit the floor or carpet I need coffee- hot, fresh and Louisiana strong. I also like to have a cup or two in the afternoons or early evening when we are relaxing in the room before dinner or a show or just regrouping. The other reason is pure economics I swear we would go broke by the third day in town feeding our coffee fix. A fellow Vegas travel nut cued me in on a coffee pot travel tip.
There are several Walgreens and CVS locations up and down the Las Vegas Strip. Pop in a pick up a coffee maker and supplies and ignore the initial sticker shock investment. It will pay for itself within the first day. If you don’t want to contend with packing it up and carting it home, simply leave it in the room. Easy peasy. It is ridiculous what hotels charge for coffee ordered from room service or in the coffee shops, and speaking of coffee shops- coffee shops are quickly becoming an extinct dining option on the Strip. I am not the biggest fan of the buffet, but for breakfast dining the beverage selection and cost included reasons this to be a reasonable option. Dave went down to visit with the host with positive results. We checked out over the television and said goodbye to Treasure Island.
Our host at the Rio met us at VIP-Diamond check in and assigned us a room in the Ipanema Tower. The room reminded me of the suites at the Stardust we loved. These rooms impress me more in terms of size and layout vs decor. Various tell-tale signs give the age of the property away, but nothing we can’t live with for five nights. We got our gambling on for about an hour, and finally I declared victory with a $$$ win on a five-line .25 3X 4X 5X machine in front of the performing stage. Cocktail service at Rio was fast and frequent. My server took my Coke order. “Is Pepsi okay?” My “not in this lifetime” answer produced a chuckle on his part. I changed my order to a Shirley Temple (I was on the hard stuff this afternoon) and returned to my play. In a flash he returns with his own version of comedy with a “You had the ice-cold Pepsi?” I spun my seat around to find him standing there holding my ST with the biggest grin on his face. We both laughed and he became my cheering section for a big win. The time clock was ticking for me to be back to the room to get ready for Cher. Time clocks can be a good thing or a very bad thing when gambling. It was a good thing this go round and the $$$ win money made it to the room.
I covered the Cher experience in a previous installment. We hit The Cheesecake Factory in The Forum Shops for our post show dinner of a shared pepperoni pizza, strawberry shortcake and two glasses of Riesling. Very tasty.
Happy Birthday, Dave! Shopping for birthday gifts and perhaps something new for both of us to wear to the birthday celebration dinner this evening is the plan, and Vegas knows shopping. Dave was a sport and kept me company while I spent the afternoon shopping at the Fashion Show Mall. Starbucks supplied our very light lunch break of shared pastry and coffees- just a quick bite of something to keep a headache at bay. Our plan for the birthday celebration evening was for a quiet and relaxing dinner at the Range Steakhouse at Harrah’s (presently Ruth’s Chris). We enjoyed dinner at The Range so much on our last trip. We were seated by the window and with James as our waiter (requested). His personality and professionalism adds to the evening. Dave started with the lobster bisque and I selected the blue cheese and fresh apple salad. For our entrees we both ordered the 12 oz. center cut pork chop and shared Yukon gold mashed potatoes. The manager knew we were celebrating Dave’s birthday and sent over the most fantastic chocolate cake with strawberries and coffee for two. The food presentation and preparation was done very well. The service and the wait staff could not have been more professional or friendly, and it all equaled a memorable birthday meal in Vegas.
We were dressed and waiting in the Rio valet at 8:15 AM Wednesday. Trust me, I am not the up and dressed and ready to greet the day while on vacation kind of girl. By the time of day and level of enthusiasm, Dave realized I was serious about this slot tournament. I grabbed the keys, gave the valet a good morning hello and it was touchdown Flamingo events area.
The tournament was open to all Total Rewards card holders so Dave put down a few $20’s and we were registered for 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, and finally 2:00 PM. Wow! That’s a lot of hope and fun packed into a late morning and early afternoon at the dirty bird, and you would think we had a snowball’s chance in the desert of winning. Goodness knows as many times as we entered we sure thought we did! We didn’t even come close to placing, but we had an absolute ball trying.
The last day in Vegas gives me a pit in my stomach no words can describe. Staying busy cures it. Gambling for this trip was officially over. I had not been able to win enough to make it accumulate over what I started with, and the wins were too far apart from each other to save me. I find it is easier to swallow if I quit without too much damage to the initial bankroll. The suggestion of In-N-Out Burger for lunch and a business mixed with pleasure venture was met with no complaints. We headed out to dine in style and visit a few design and antiques shops.
We saw parts of Vegas new to us, and I lucked up on a few items I could easily pack. We grabbed a couple of coffees, parked and watched the airplanes landing and taking off from McCarran International. I must admit after nine full days and nights in Vegas this was a nice change. We caught a couple of afternoon fountain shows at Bellagio and it was Monte Carlo time.
Dave and I discovered the Wizard of Oz penny slots complete with flying monkeys, the yellow brick road and the wizard himself. The graphics and sound effects are amazing, and Oz turned out to be a magical place. I put in a $5 voucher and cashed out with $$$ for a nice win. The beautiful Glenda appeared to me in bonus round goodness resulting in the big hit. I could become addicted to these machines with no problem. There’s no place like home and Vegas on a sunny winning afternoon.
The Friday going home wake up call came at 5:30 AM with coffee shortly after. We checked out of Rio and at the car rental return by 9:15 AM. We were through security and to Continental gate D 20 with fifty minutes to spare. I took in the final sights of the Strip from my window seat on the airplane. I settled in for the three-hour flight with good tunes, better memories and big plans for our next trip. Getting home to a full house of family and friends on Hurricane Gustav alert and all he dumped on Central Louisiana naturally put priorities where they should be. Normalcy is back in our reach and has allowed me to share with you my trip report. The overall casual tone was the right way to go for us this Vegas trip. It was easy on the schedule, expectations and the wallet. I wasted no time bringing to Dave’s attention with all the money saved this trip it would be stupid not to book another trip out to our desert oasis within the next six months. My logic has him thinking about it. Then again, my logic always has me thinking about Vegas.