Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Moving on up

Hello, all! I have started a new blog, The How-To Hostess, and will no longer be posting here at Modern Renaissance. I hope you will come visit the shiny new blog for lots of party-riffic ideas, crafts, and recipes, though!

Hugs - Stephanie

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fri-DIY Pickling


Something a little different for this Fri-DIY... how do you feel about pickles? Me - I love them. I have yet to meet a pickle that I did not enjoy, and that includes eggs and pigs feet. I am a self-professed vinegar junkie so pickling is right up my alley.


When you add the magic of preserving in a boiling-water bath, the reward of shelf-stable homemade pickles all year entices me to make a batch nearly every weekend all summer long. I am a self-taught pickler, I alas did not have the guidance of a mom or grandma to raise me in the pickling tradition. However, the process is not difficult and can be mastered easily as long as you can chop some vegetables and follow instructions.

pickling guide_Page_1

I taught a class a few weeks ago about how to make simple vegetable pickles and wrote out an instruction pamphlet for everyone. I've posted the pages up on Flickr so you can download them and get to pickling, too! There are 2 recipes, one for sweet refrigerator pickles and one for sour shelf-stable pickles. If you try one out and get stuck, just drop me an email and I'll be glad to help you out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I like you - Tomatoes

tomatoes squaredcircle, originally uploaded by Muffet.

It's summer and the living is easy. Especially if you are a tomato lover. That sounds like a strange title, but I am a born and raised tomato lover and I am not ashamed. I am also a tomato snob. I won't eat one unless I can look in the eyes of the person who grew it. For me, that's my 'Mater Man' (that's his name, it's legit, he has a hat with it cross-stitched!) at my local farmer's market, my grandfather, and my friend Megan. That means I only eat them when they are in season, but I certainly make the most of that short time. My two most all-time favorite ways to eat tomatoes are fresh slices of perfectly ride tomato on wheat toast with Duke's mayo or green tomatoes dusted with cornmeal and fried in bacon fat. Summertime food heaven!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fri-DIY - Tissue Paper Flowers

Tissue Paper Flowers

I am in the midst of planning an engagement party for some very dear friends. As such, I have been happily sequestered in my craft room for many hours working on decorations, invitations, and plans in general. These are some flowers I created that will be gracing the entry walls en masse the evening of the party.

The flowers are super quick to make, about 5 minutes per flower, and don't require any special crafting tools. What you do need is:

Tissue paper in the color of your choice
Hot glue gun

Tissue Paper Flowers

Cut out 6 inch circles from the tissue, scalloping the edges slightly as you cut. You will need 11 circles per flower.

Tissue Paper Flowers

Once you've got a nice stack, crumple them all up and gently smooth back out. This step is important so the flowers have some nice volume and texture and don't end up looking flat.

Tissue Paper Flowers

Heat up the hot glue gun. Lay one circle flat on your work space. Fold another circle in half, then in half again to make a wedge shape. Put a dab of hot glue at the point end of the wedge and glue to the flat circle. Repeat with 3 more circles to make the first layer.

Then do it again with 4 more circles but glue so they overlap the spaces between the wedges of the first layer.

Finally, take 2 more circles. Fold each in half, add a dab of glue at the middle of the fold and glue each to the flower. All done!

Tissue Paper Flowers

Along with party wall decorations, I have also used these to finish off a wrapped gift and as napkin holders for parties. I am sure you can come up with many more uses for them, too!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I like you - Sparklers

With the 4th of July right around the corner, I like most everything red, white, and blue. Sparklers hold a special place in my heart, though, pulling me back to the days of bare feet, and cool grass, and mosquito bites while running with a sparkly light through the front yard. I will be in a fire-works friendly state for the 4th this year, so I am looking forward to reliving part of my childhood via fiery lit sticks.

However, if you find yourself in an anti-sparkler state or town, consider trying one of the crafts below to get your sparkler fix. Best part is, no chance of burnt fingers!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Meatless Monday - Zucchini Caponata

Zucchini Caponata with poached eggs

There's something about summer that makes eating meat-free seem effortless. With so much gorgeous fresh produce available, I really don't even think about meat, until the husband starts to revolt. So get thee to your local farmer's market and worship at the altar of local fruits and vegetables.

I developed this recipe to use up some pretty zucchini I picked up at our farmer's market. A caponata is traditionally made with eggplant, but I think the other ingredients equally compliment fresh dark green zucchini. We topped a piece of toast with the caponata and then capped it all with a poached egg (also from the farmer's market). The caponata would also be delicious tossed with hot pasta or spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with some melted mozzarella.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large zucchini, cut into a 1/4" dice
1/2 sweet onion, cut into a 1/4" dice
2 Tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano and thyme
1 teaspoons chopped capers

Heat oil over medium high heat in a saute pan. Add onion and zucchini and saute until nicely browned, 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes and garlic, stir to combine. Lower heat to medium low and cook 1 minute. Add vinegar, stirring well, and cook 1 minute. Add herbs and capers, stir to incorporate and serve immediately.

Friday, June 25, 2010

FriDIY - Home Spruce Ups

This week's FriDIY features a few projects to spruce up things around the house. Like the cool lampshade above. Most home improvement stores sell hanging lamp kits (Ikea, too) and the rest of the materials are readily available and inexpensive. I'd love to see a bunch of these in coordinating colors hung from a portico for an outdoor party.

I love the curly ribbon wreath above. The directions are super easy to follow and I especially enjoy the summer-ready colors she chose. If I saw a wreath like this on a front door, I would just know I was going to have a good time in that house!

Finally, this project is one that would make the husband roll his eyes at me. He wouldn't be able to understand putting time and effort into making perfectly sized boxes. But I do, and luckily Sharilyn at lovelydesign does, too!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Like You - Brightly Colored Heels

I'm starting a new weekly feature called 'I like you -' and anything I like is fair game. It could be Prince William, or mixed tapes, or pixie hair cuts, or limeade. I like a lot of very random things and I am looking forward to sharing them!

This week, I like brightly colored heels. What's not to like, really? They make blah neutral outfits go HIYA! LOOK I HAVE STYLE, SEE MY SHOES! In the land of nude pumps, the hot pink stiletto is queen.

1. Poetic License Dazzling 2. Stuart Weitzman Lovechains Pump 3. Nina Electra 4. Basic Platform Pump 5. Mossimo Isabella Satin Platform Pump

Monday, June 21, 2010

Meatless Monday - Pasta with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes

Getting back on the horse here with the blog. I'm in the midst of a 30 day course in which I have to set goals (yikes) and then actually follow through (double yikes!). Blogging regularly falls neatly in to the measurable goal category.

So I'm back with a very tasty meatless recipe to kick things off. This one came about because of poor planning. I had been too busy over the weekend to get to the grocery, so come Monday evening, very little fit to eat remained. Luckily, I had some delicious pantry staples on hand and whipped this easy recipe up in no time.

1/2 lb farfalle pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 can artichoke hearts, quartered
2 Tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta. Cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute just until onion softens a bit, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

Add artichokes and sun dried tomatoes to the pan, mixing well. Cook 1 minute.

Add wine and stir. Let cook about 2 minutes more.

Add cream cheese and stir constantly while it melts to mix well with other ingredients. Add cooked pasta to pan and toss with sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Post

Yes, I know I said I was taking a break, but I couldn't resist posting this pic and letting you know how much I want a few chickens. Yes, my dog will try to eat them and my city says they can't live in my yard, but I REALLY want some feathered friends and their early morning calls and delicious fresh unborn baby eggs (Ok I might have pushed it with that last one). I would name them all old fashioned names like Irma, Ethel, and Maude and we will live a happy human and chicken existence!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Oh, how I love How About Orange's paper medallion tutorial. They are adorable and as usual, her instructions are clear and easy to follow. I think these would be fun used as name tags at a bridal or baby shower, too.

Today's Fri-DIY will be the last post for awhile. I've been in a creative slump, as my lack of posts probably conveys. So, I'm going to take some time to gear back up before I get back to posting, probably starting up again in summer. Have a happy spring!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meatless Monday - Assorted Links

I'm in a between seasons cooking rut. It's too spring-like to cook my winter favorites, but it's not quite spring enough to get my hands on any fabulous produce yet. So, here's a few meatless recipes from my epicurious recipe box that I have been meaning to try.

Beet and Pear Napoleons with Ginger Juice Vinaigrette
(it just looks so pretty!)

Mini Provolone Popovers

Zucchini, Lemon, and Ricotta Galettes

Orzo, Green Bean, and Fennel Salad w/ Dill Pesto

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fri-DIY Wallpapered Table

Spring has finally hit the South. It makes me want to open every window and change everything in the house. So, I can't help but love this DIY makeover from guest poster Abby Matthews over at Craftynest.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Meatless Monday - Tortellini w/ Carmelized Onion & Tomato

Sometimes convenience and tastiness meet happily in the middle. Those little refrigerated packages of fresh pasta are a perfect example for me The fillings range in flavor from fancy lobster and truffle to plain three cheese. The fancy ones are delicious on their own, but the plainer flavors make a great base for a quick topping.

This recipe was made up on-the-fly. I had a different plan for the cheese tortellini that involved broccoli and lemon, but someone (pointed look in the husband's direction) ate all the broccoli. Oh well, at least he likes vegetables.

These portions serve 2 heartily, but could be stretched to 4 servings.

1 package refrigerated cheese tortellini, I like Buitoni brand or Trader Joe's
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, halved and finely sliced
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese to top

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and salt. Saute until onion softens and browns, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic to onion mixture and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute longer.

Lower heat to medium. Add tomatoes and cook until they soften and begin to burst, about 7-10 minutes.

Add balsamic vinegar and cook 1-2 minutes until the vinegar as become syrupy.

Serve immediately over the tortellini and top with fresh Parmesan cheese.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fri-DIY - Gifts to Make (Happy Birthday to me!)

I realized today that I never posted a Meatless Monday this week. However, today I turn the big 3-0, so I am going to cut myself some slack.

In honor of myself (hey, it's my blog, I can do that!) here are some great tutorials I would like to make and give to myself as birthday presents.

Pretty pretty leaf cuff from maya*made
. My leather scraps and vintage buttons are demanding to be made in to several of these!

A lovely set of spring-time napkins from Purl Bee. This tutorial has a fantastic explanation for how to do ric-rac trim. I've never tried trim before because I was afraid a lot of cursing would ensue. However, now I think I should be able to master it!

A twirly patch-work skirt courtesy of Moda Bake Shop
. Yes, this is for a child, but I could adapt for a grown up. I love love the colors used for the tutorial!

Happy crafting!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fri-DIY Vintage Flower Stamens

I love love love this tutorial from scissor variations. I am a bad crafter and usually just throw out my teeny tiny fabric scraps. No more, though!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guinness Shadow

Guinness Shadow, originally uploaded by Steffe.

Awesome photo and Happy St. Patty's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meatless Monday - Hot Onion Dip

Book Club Party, originally uploaded by s_ripperton.

This week's recipe isn't a main dish or even a side dish (though I have been known to eat leftovers of it for dinner). It's a very tasty, thoroughly meat-free dip that is perfect for bringing to a party. It's also stupidly easy to make. So if you have any March Madness parties to attend, consider whipping this up instead of chicken wings or meatballs. No one will miss them, I promise.

The following will make 3 cups of dip.

1 cup finely chopped sweet onion (Vidalia or the like)
1 cup mayo
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, fresh is best, but the kind from the can is good, too
Paprika for garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, except paprika. Spoon into a ceramic or glass pie plate and smooth to level the surface.

Put in oven and bake 35-40 minutes until hot and bubbling. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with crackers, tortilla chips or crudites.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fri-DIY - Phrenology Pin Cushion

How fantastic is this tutorial from The Graphics Fairy? Just the right blend of macabre cuteness and functionality.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meatless Monday - Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Onion

Mmm, cauliflower. I don't believe there is a winter vegetable I enjoy quite as much. As winter draws to a close here in the south (finally!) I have found myself trying to cram as much cauliflower goodness in before my attention turns to spring greens and white cucumbers.

Roasting cauliflower is my go-to technique for everday cauliflower consumption. It's relatively quick and extremely easy. Cauliflower also takes well to lots of flavors, which makes it versatile, too. Feel free to experiment at will.

1 head cauliflower will serve 4 people as a side dish.

1 head cauliflower, washed and cut into 1 inch florets
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon drained capers

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except capers. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the sheet.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until cauliflower is nicely browned. Top with capers and serve warm.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fri-DIY Pleated Flower Wall from RUCHE

We already know I love Ruche, so how awesome is it that they post some stunning DIY projects on their blog? The wall of flowers is incredibly awesome, relatively cheap, slightly labor intensive, but not in an off-putting way. More in a 'cannot wait to host another bridal shower and make these en masse' way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Meatless Monday - Gazpacho

Gazpacho and Cheese Quesadillas

Mmm, gazpacho. Eating it always reminds me of summer. However, a tasty version can be made even in the dead of winter thanks to high-quality canned plum tomatoes. Considering our southern winter seems never-ending (calling for snow tomorrow, in MARCH) we needed a dish like this to remind us that summer isn't too far away.

1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1" lengths
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
3 scallions, cut into 1" lengths
1 - 28 ounce can of high quality Italian style plum tomatoes
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and and process until the soup is mostly smooth but with a few chunky bits left. Pour soup into a bowl and chill for at least an hour. Garnish with a little more red wine vinegar and cilantro. To round out the this meatless meal, serve with cheese quesadillas.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fri-DIY - Paper Covered Lids

I am under the weather today, so just a quick DIY share from this lovely tutorial from Design Sponge. Anything that brightens up every day items with recycled materials is tops in my book.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meatless Monday - Tuna with Asian Dipping Sauce

Seared tuna w/ dipping sauce

A few months ago, I happened upon a show by this guy one lazy Sunday morning. He was doing a show about ponzu soy sauce (and bacon, but as it is Meatless Monday, no bacon talk today). I'd seen ponzu in the grocery stores right there next to all the soy sauces, and the obligatory bottle on each table at sushi restaurants, but I never found an occasion to try it. However, the episode had some really yummy sounding recipes that I frantically scribbled on the backs of some magazine subscription cards laying nearby. After I finally bought a bottle, I fell in love at first taste with ponzu. It's salty and tangy and all around delicious. It just tastes fresher and more interesting than regular soy sauce.

I created this recipe because it showcases how well ponzu works in a variety of ways. One, as a tangy compliment to meaty seared tuna, and two, as a bright dressing that works perfectly with crisp greens.

Portions below will serve 2

2 1-inch thick sashimi grade tuna steaks
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Dipping Sauce/Dressing:
1/3 cup ponzu soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger (fresh ginger would also be lovely)
1 scallion, very thinly sliced

4 cups mixed greens for salad

Let tuna come to room temperature, about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook. In a small bowl, combine fennel seeds, cumin, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mixture on each tuna steak, pressing gently to adhere.

Heat oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. When hot, add tuna steaks and cook to your preferred doneness. If you are like me, that's about 1 minute per side for rare.

Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of sauce over greens and toss to combine. Divide greens evenly between 2 plates and top each with a tuna steak. Serve with remaining sauce on the side for dipping the tuna.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fri-DIY - Inspiration

Let me share a little secret - I tag some of my bookmarks with 'ideas to try.' These are usually images that suggest an idea I could possibly expand on, versus straight-forward tutorials. I try not to think of it as stealing other people's ideas. No one operates inside a vacuum and inspiration is EVERYWHERE! Plus, I don't think I could ever 100% recreate someone else's project. One - it's not in my nature. Two - I remember vividly my course in intellectual rights and would never want to infringe on those of others.

That said, here are a few images that are inspiring me to DIY right now.

Fabric envelopes from the talented ladies at Bird and Banner

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

DIY - Spoonflower

Sometimes I wonder about myself. How could I have missed Spoonflower for so long?!?

Upload your own pattern and buy yardage! Or select from the thousands of awesome designs already uploaded by super talented designers.

Upload your own design and get 10% off any yardage you buy personally. Even better, when someone else buys your design, you get 10% commission! So many great possibilities, go check Spoonflower out right now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meatless Monday - Eggs Baked in Parchment with Spinach and Mushrooms

Eggs in Parchment

Full disclaimer this week - this recipe is inspired by one in a recent copy of Everyday Food. However, it has been amped up quite a bit with the dressing, as I thought the original recipe would be too bland. The following proportions will make 2 packages.

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Layout two sheets of parchment paper that have been cut into a long oval. Spread spinach and mushrooms in middle of one half of each parchment, leaving at least 2 inches of parchment to the edge. Make two shallow wells in each bed of mushroom and spinach and crack an egg into each well. Season with salt and pepper. Fold over other half of parchment and crimp edges to seal.

Place sealed packets an a baking sheet. Bake at 400 until eggs are set, but yolks are still runny, about 7-10 minutes.

While eggs are baking, combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl.

Remove packets from oven and tear or cut off the top layer of parchment from each. Divide dressing equally among the two packets and serve.

Cooking this dish in parchment isn't 100% necessary, but it is impressive to deliver to the table and rip open. If you want to skip the parchment, combine spinach and mushrooms with a little more olive oil and spread in the bottom of a shallow glass baking pan and top with the eggs. OR to serve four, lightly grease 4 small ramekins and divide spinach and mushrooms between them and top with 1 egg each.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fri- DIY Even more Valentine Ideas

Well, after my mini-rant last week regarding Valentine's Day, the irony that I found even more fabulous Valentine's projects is not lost on me. I'm officially giving in to Valentine's fever until Monday! Our plans are lobster tails and Champage for brunch and having the extended family over for a supper of braised short ribs and goat cheese potatoes au gratin. Maybe in between I could squeeze in one or two of today's featured projects. The sweet tooth flags from Twig and Thistle above might make the cut.

Or maybe I should make these cute heart croutons? I am not convinced salad is the best way to say 'I love you' on Valentine's day, though?

I want to make and give away a whole stack of these bookmarks to everyone I love. Too bad I didn't find these sooner because they would have made great favors at my book club party.

Finally, I love love love this rustic branch heart. Beautiful, easy, and cheap!

Here's hoping all you have a happy Valentine's Day!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dress Up - Ruche

Oh Ruche, where have you been my whole clothes-shopping life??