Can you believe it?  We are nearly half way through the summer.  We still haven’t hit 90 degrees yet, though I’m pretty sure our friends and family on the east coast would trade us weather forecasts in a New York minute.  The one thing I have noticed with all the recent heat is the number of bugs that have found their way into our house.  These little critters are just looking for a place to build a home and a break from the heat.  Still it is good to see who you are sharing your house with…  Chef David thinks he has some termites moving in.  Because he caught them early he is pretty sure that there is no damage.  Take some time and check out the little crawly things in your home and you could help avoid a long term problem.

Ste. Maine Tablescapes

The summer entertaining season is here and with it comes weddings, showers, bar-b-ques and picnics.  With all that entertaining you may be strained, looking for a way to dress things up (or down) depending on the occasion.  To get some ideas for ‘tablescaping’ we stopped by and chatted with our friends at Ste. Maine (503-232-1880) in Westmoreland.  Elizabeth first showed us a bridal shower table setting.  This one was pretty formal but simple.  She recommended that you ‘color theme’ a table when setting it for an event.  The white of the table cloth was matched by the white of the flower arrangements. There was also a light blue/sea foam color scheme that complimented the white of the rest of the table.  This allowed even more creativity in putting the table together.  Elizabeth was able to use these colors to pair napkins with seat covers (which just happened to be the same napkins pinned onto the seat cushions).  Lovely name tags tied to the chairs were a nice finishing touch and were simple to make by just printing them with a computer printer.

The next setting was a little bit different!  This one had a rustic, country feel to it.  This table started with the centerpieces.  These small topiary trees were a striking feature to this table.  They are not only decorative, if taken care of, they can last a long time and can even be transplanted into the garden.  The place card holders for this table were simply apples that had the cards pinned to them.  The table settings were simple in their design and consisted of plates, napkins and silverware in earth tones.  The menu was placed on the plates and the glasses were all numbered.  There is no way of losing your drink at this party!  The ideas were simple and when you put them together they made for a great display.  If you are throwing a party (or two) this summer and are looking for some ideas to liven it up, stop and see the ladies at Saint Maine for some great suggestions!    

Picking a Color

Picking the right color for a room can be a daunting task.  The right color can be the key to a successful room design.  Amy Troute from Amy Troute Interior Design (503-805-0811) walked Robin through some of the rules for picking colors at the Sherwin Williams (503-222-1200) in the Pearl, and some common mistakes.  Mistake #1 in choosing a color is not taking the whole room into consideration during the process.  There are a number of elements in a room that go into creating a ‘look’ and you need to look at all of them.  That leads into mistake #2, don’t use small paint samples. Small paint chips can never give you the right impression of the final color.  Paint a large piece of cardboard to give yourself a good visual of the color and how it will look.  Mistake #3, don’t get frustrated and give up.  Amy called this the ‘give up and go beige’ syndrome.  But even choosing a neutral color like beige still can create a huge number of choices.  Instead of getting frustrated at the paint store, you should look a full range of colors and then pick out colors that you are drawn to.  This means that you will start out with a group of colors that you already like.   One other design tip… look at possibly using more than one color in a room.  Paint different colors on different walls to make a statement.  If even this seems tough you can always give Amy a call to walk you through it!

Simple Strata

Chef David decided a few weeks ago that he wanted to share a simple recipe that you can put together in an hour one evening so you can simply put it in the oven for a quick and easy breakfast the next morning.  The recipe he came up with was this wonderful strata.  We met at the NW Natural Appliance Center in SE Portland to use their wonderful demo kitchen. For those that don’t know, strata means ‘layers’ so you can probably guess that we will be layering in ingredients.  It is mainly eggs and cream and bread.  You can add other stuff to it to make it to your taste.  First you layer in the pieces of bread in a glass pan.  The glass pan works well for a couple of reasons; the best one is so you can keep an eye on the strata through the sides to see when it is done!  After the bread, add the cooked and dried sausage and some cheese.  More bread for a second layer, then the cooked peppers and more cheese.  Finally you ladle in the cream and egg mixture.  Let it sit overnight and bake it the next day.  It is an incredibly tasty breakfast or brunch treat for those lazy mornings.  For the complete recipe click here.

Iorio Cooking Class

One of the best restaurants in the Portland area is Iorio (503-445-4716).  This restaurant is Italian at heart with a commitment to all things local!  One of the best things they offer are cooking classes with Chef Chris Thompson.  Not only does he tell you about his philosophy of cooking, you get to do a little hands-on as well.  The evening we joined his class we were not just there to observe, he had us helping to prepare the meal.  For this class he talked about keeping your menu simple and not trying to mix too many things.  If you have a recipe that is using more than 4-5 ingredients, it is too much to balance.  ‘Less’ can be ‘more’ when you are in the kitchen.   He also talked about layering flavors.  They should compliment each other and not fight for attention.  For this class Chef Chris made a tomato soup which became more of a sauce.  Next he did an Italian twist on a grilled cheese sandwich, which had a mozzarella cheese and basil layered between bread.  The main course was a pork dish that had figs, fennel and onions covered with an orange flavored sauce.   This class is only one of many that Chef Chris hosts through out the year.  He has themed classes and even ones that deal with Glutten Free products.  Chef Chris emphasizes technique and that will help you with all your recipes in the kitchen.  All the dishes we had were fantastic and there is no way to describe the tastes, you just have to schedule your own evening class and let Chef Chris and his wife Hillary show you how to make something magnificent!

Uses for Salt

Salt is the number one seasoning in the kitchen, but there are other uses for this all-purpose seasoning.  By adding a half teaspoon to your boiled eggs it can help prevent them from cracking.  Salt can also help you clean.  If your iron has some goop on it you can clean it by sprinkling salt on a paper bag and sliding your hot iron over it.  Salt will help you clean your drains as well.  A hot salt water solution will clean out simple clogs in your sinks.  If you spill wine on a piece of clothing you can just sprinkle some salt on the stain and then pour boiling water over that to remove the stain.   Salt is also good to use with ice.  Everyone knows that you can spread salt to melt ice in your drive during the winter, but you can also use salt and ice to chill your wine very fast.  Just mix layers of ice and salt around your wine in a container.  In just a few minutes you will have a chilled bottle of wine.  It is just like making homemade ice cream.  So the next time you have a clog or a stain, or any other tough chore around the kitchen, check out your salt before you buy an expensive product.  You might have the answer to your problems in your cupboard!


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This page last modified
August 05, 2011.