The Start of Something New

It is a joy to be back and I am so glad you are here. The last year has been a whirlwind — from relocating to New Orleans and experiencing an all natural home birth to redefining who I am and what I want to share with you. In between there have been a few Saints football games, a steak or two, a fun day at the zoo, warm meals at beautiful places with friends, my first Mardi Gras, and visits from loved ones that have meant the world.

There is a new addition to the McLean family and he is already 11 weeks old. I can not believe how quickly this sweet boy is changing and developing. Baby Grayer and I recently had an outing at the Crescent City Farmers Market. This was our first time to market in New Orleans and it was definitely not our last. The beauty that surrounded us filled me with an urge to replenish and renew; get back to the things I love that have been put on the back-burner.

A few special treats for the belly and home follow — wild fresh cut flowers to dress up the table, in-season produce to satisfy the palate, homemade candies to dream about and more. This is just the beginning of something fresh and interesting I hope to bring to you.

crescent city flowers

Flowers from White Oaks Farm in Metairie LA

crescent city farmers market

Baby Grayer at the White Oaks flower stand

pink fuzzy flowers

bunch of colorful flowers

wild flowers

cartons of fruit

Hundreds of Peaches

shrimp on ice

Raw Shrimp

lollipops of all shapes

Baby Grayer and the sweets

scallion cucumber and green peppers

Lots of Green

veggie and seasoning

Yellow Squash and Thai Basil

farm tomatoes

Tomatoes

spicy veggie

Jalapeno

life is a peach

Peaches

colorful floral display

Wild Flower Bunch

I aspire to bring you a new perspective in refreshing, fun feel-positive topics. If there is something you would like to see more about, please drop a comment or send an email to cate.a.mclean@gmail.com. So nice to see you again!

Baking Frosted Sugar Cookies for Christmas with Tracey Rapisardi

As the year closes, Tracey Rapisardi of Tracey Rapisardi Style and I fit in one last collaboration for you. We hope you enjoy it!

It was a sweet treat to work with such a talent in styling and photography (not to mention Interior Design). The real gift was to sit and spend time with Tracey, warm up with a steaming cup of sweetened green tea, and to create this fanciful gathering which we would then come to share with you.

cookies and ingredients

Another special gift this season came to me in my very own kitchen. I have actually, finally, figured out how to mix Royal Icing – the kind that hardens – from scratch. You know…the kind you see on snowmen cookies at Starbucks or at the cash wrap in Whole Foods around holiday time. If you know me, you probably know I have been experimenting with this tasty confection for some time (remember my Failure Happens post?)

Icing Decorates Cookies

Once I figured out the recipe, I admittedly went a little overboard. I bought a junk drawer load of pastry bag tips, used for decorating and writing with icing, and a few extra sets of couplers, which are used to secure the tip of choice to a pastry bag. Using all the tools I picked up, I created white, pink, green and blue shades in both outlining and flooding consistencies. Then I set up a Decor Station, which included icing, sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, pearls, candy snowflakes and more, each in their own ramekin.

Icing on Sugar Cookies

Lots of fun work and experimentation led to a strong sense of accomplishment. (My newfound success was inspired by a video tutorial, Royal Icing Wet on Wet Technique, by Simply Sweets by Honeybee. Her steady hand and the quick, easy strokes she takes with the icing is a true art.)

Green Sugar Decoration

While the icing was still wet, sanding sugars in different colors and sizes are sprinkled over top. Immediately shake off any excess and place your decorated cookie on a flat surface to dry.

Letters Gift Tags and Star Sugar Cookies

Trick: Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper before using sanding sugars or embellishments. Place a cooling rack on top and sprinkle away. You can then funnel that special fallen sugar back into the jar for later use. Happy baker, padded wallet for more ingredients.

Delicate Cookies with Royal Icing

I had a blast creating different patterns and textures on tag cookies, letters, stars and snowflakes. The possibilities are endless!

Sugar Cookie Success

This snowflake is my favorite because of the warm and fuzzy, wintery feelings it evokes.

Royal Icing and Decorated Cookies

Glam Your Sugar Cookies

Don’t you just love Tracey’s use of colors and patterns? I bet those lollipops are as much of a delight to taste as they are to look at.

Area to Decorate Cookies

McLean Sugar Cookies

It is snowing in sunny Florida! Is it snowing where you live, too? 🙂

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The holiday tunes on the radio turned my afternoon with Tracey into a real party. Wait until you see what she did with the decorated cookies, and don’t forget to sign up for email updates on her blog!

Whether they arrive via visits with close friends, within personal achievements of any size, or under your tree, I hope you receive the gifts you have been wishing for this Christmas.

A Playlist for Entertaining: Cocktails and Cheer

Have a twinkling time decorating the Christmas tree, gathering with friends, or toasting the year’s accomplishments with Cocktails and Cheer, my latest playlist on Spotify.

 

You can download a free account here if you don’t already have one. Have fun!

Warm Rosemary Olives from Real Simple

An Especially Warm Welcome from one of my favorite magazines.

Melanie Acevedo via www.RealSimple.com

Melanie Acevedo via RealSimple.com

The warmest of welcomes comes straight from the heart, and hot from the oven. This fantastic, colorful and fragrant opener makes an appearance at all of my holiday gatherings. In Cozy Nook, the Lenox house, I’d fill an entire jelly roll pan with these little bursts of salt and herb. When warmed, the fresh rosemary fills the kitchen with the scents reminiscent of Christmas parties past, laughter, homestead, hearth and good cheer.

Click here for the Recipe for Warm Rosemary Olives, via www.RealSimple.com. To follow Real Simple on Facebook, click here.

Holiday Preparations: Time to Get Festive

Pie and Brownies

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, Apple with Almond Crumb Crust and Sinful Fudge Brownies

The holidays are a wonderful time of year.

Let’s kindle the festive spirit  so that the glow of wonder and magic lasts throughout the long winter. Here I am going to share my favorite seasonal tips, treats and topics over the next few posts. Please join me on this sleigh ride!

And, if you’re feeling the spark, share your fave thing about the holidays below.

Pink Chocolate Popcorn for Movie Night with Tracey Rapisardi

Snuggling up on the sofa with a crunchy snack and an entertaining movie is one of the best ways to spend a quiet Sunday evening. Along with my good friend, Tracey of Tracey Rapisardi Design, and we experimented with some popcorn, pretzels and chocolate to make a scrumptious spread for movie night.

Naked Popcorn

Popping pure white popcorn is the first step to snack time success.

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Melt a Ghirardelli White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add some red food coloring until you have achieved your desired shade of pink. (A touch of blue will tone down the pink.)

Insert amusement here, and have a ball pouring the warm chocolate over your popcorn. For best results, using a light hand, drizzle slowly and cover as evenly as possible.

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Using a rubber spatula, mix the popcorn and pink chocolate until you have achieved semi-evenly covered goodness.

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Transfer the popcorn to a large white ceramic bowl…make sure it’s roomy enough for you to fit your whole hand in!

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Drizzle with remaining non-tinted chocolate.

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If you are in the mood for toothache sweet, sprinkle with Classic White Chocolate Baking Chips and white non-pareils.

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If you have chocolate left over, why not dip some pretzels? Salty vs. Sweet. Who do you think will win the tastebud war?

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Don’t forget to put your pajamas on before you snuggle up on the couch! Now that you’ve got your snacks together, head on over to Tracey Rapisardi Style to see how she arranged our Sunday evening surroundings.

A special kudos to the talented Tracey for her wonderful styling and photography.

The Brilliant Life of a Pink Peony

The brilliant life of a pink peony. In China, it is known as the “flower of riches and honour.” It is even beautiful when it is browning and life has left its petals.