There are certain things about living in an old apartment that you simply can’t avoid like dreaded “popcorn” ceiling or a ceiling fan straight out of the 1970’s. Unfortunately, I speak from personal experience. There are other things however that you can personalize even if the architectural details are slim to none, like a good coat of paint or an accent wall. So, I’m partnering with Valspar to paint an accent wall in my dining room using their new premium Valspar® Reserve™ paint.
In a room that gets a lot of traffic, and the occasional cocktail or food splatter, it’s a good idea to use a paint that is washable and stain + scrub resistant, don’t you agree? Plus I am all for a paint that goes on in one coat with no need for primer. Shouldn’t all paint be paint + primer in one? Just saying.
Now back to the room! After moving into our small apartment almost one year ago, I quickly painted the entire living room/dining room area bright white. It was an immediate update to the space and elevated our little apartment from its original outdated apartment-cream color to a clean and dare-I-say almost new appearance. But let’s face it, while white is bright and beautiful it can also feel cold, bare, and a little unfinished.
So with fall on its way, I’m ready to add a bit more color and warmth to our dining room space. Valspar has such a huge selection of colors, over 3,000 to be exact (I asked), but I decided on a bold “Greek” blue called Azure Jazz.
As Elle Décor calls the color “The blue of the Mediterranean, and the tops of the churches in Santorini,” yes, I can live with that! The combination of crisp white and rich Mediterranean blue feels modern yet inviting and who knows, it might just inspire a bit more wine drinking and Mediterranean style dining around here.
So with the color picked, I asked my friend Alisa to come help me paint. Next week I’m unveiling the finished room and a fun little video of our painting process. And yes, we certainly celebrated our hard work with a glass of wine. So stay tuned for that! Until then, what do you think of Mediterranean blue? Have you ever painted a bold, bold color in your home?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Valspar. All opinions expressed here are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to continue creating new and colorful content for Freutcake! With Valspar® Reserve™, now the colors you love stay the colors you love. Available exclusively at Lowe’s, find a retailer here.
Is it just me or has this week flown by? Tomorrow we leave for Hong Kong, a trip that quite honestly I am feeling completely unprepared for. Let’s just say, I haven’t even packed! (Oy vey.) But in other news, I finished a couple of exciting new projects this week, painting my dining room (more on that later), and managed to make a fun cocktail that I’m sharing over on Style Me Pretty Living today, so I don’t feel like a complete failure.
Yes, this Asian Pear & Ginger Sparkler is my ode to China and all of the amazing food I plan to eat this next week. If you haven’t tried Asian Pear you simply must! It’s crisp and sweet with a subtle pear flavor and best eaten ice cold. Sort of the like a crisp green apple and a pear were combined to make one perfect fruit. Of course you could always substitute a nice ripe Bosc pear in it’s place if you can’t find Asian Pears in your grocery store or Asian market.
Have a great weekend, friends! The next time I post it will be from China. Cheer, Leah
photos by Leah Bergman for Style Me Pretty Living
- 4 oz. Vodka or Pear flavored vodka
- 1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
- 1 Asian Pear, chopped and cored plus slices for garnish
- Ginger ale, to top
- Ginger Syrup (recipe follows)
- mint for garnish
- ¼ cup sliced, peeled ginger
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- In a small sauce pan combine sliced ginger, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain out ginger and discard, reserving syrup in an airtight container until you are ready to use.
- Divide 1/2 chopped pear between two glasses and add the rest to a cocktail shaker. Muddle well with vodka, lemon juice and ginger syrup allowing pear to release it's flavors.
- Fill with ice and shake until well chilled.
- Strain into prepared glasses, top with Ginger ale and garnish with a slice of pear and a sprig of mint. Serve.
Reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh for this month’s Freutcake Book Club has me obsessed over the meaning of every little plant, herb, and bloom I see. I find myself searching for the symbolism of flowers while in the past I would simply pick the prettiest bunch. I’m always happy when one of my favorite flowers turns out to have a happy meaning like Ranunculus (you are radiant with charms) and sad when they don’t, Peonies (anger). Not that I am ever angry when my house is filled with Peonies! But the language or meaning behind flowers does give pause to the way I think about them. In the book, the main character Victoria uses flowers in an almost magical way to convey messages personally and for her clients. There is so much that can be said with a meaningful bouquet whether the recipient is a friend or loved one.
If you are hosting a book club with this month’s read, try setting the table with a variety of vases filled with different cut flowers. Allow book club members to create their own meaningful bouquets to take home. Just be sure you look up the definitions before choosing your blooms. You wouldn’t want to set the table with Sunflower (false riches) or Anemone (Forsaken)!
Gratitude: Green and white with bits of purple, this is a lovely bouquet. This combination would be perfect for someone who needs a bit of luck in his or her life, a friend who has invited you to dinner, or a family member who has recently helped you in some way. This would also make a fabulous house warming bouquet! Who wouldn’t want a little comfort, prosperity, and luck in their home?
Recipe for Gratitude:
Clover – ease, comfort and prosperity
Bells of Ireland – good luck
Romantic Love: Not to be confused with the love you have for a friend or relative, this bouquet is on fire with romance! Give this bouquet of affection to someone you are passionate about and your love will not be soon to fade.
Recipe for Romantic Love:
Amaranthus- unwilting, not soon to fade
Celosia- burning, on fire, affection
Friendship: This bouquet is radiant with the cheerful-lightness of a good friendship with just a hint of friendly love. This bouquet would bright the day of any good friend old or new.
Styling by Amy Dempsey / Photography by Leah Bergman
While Amy and I had fun interpretating our own recipes for Love, Friendship and Gratitude, the language of flowers is definitely open to interpretation! So, make it your own. Fill your house with Juniper (protection) and send someone you love a nosgay of Jonqui (desire) letting the flowers speak for you.
And if your book club decides to make meaningful bouquets at their next meeting, be sure to share your pictures on Instagram #freutcakebookclub! Amy and I would love to see the “recipes” you come up with.
While most of the United States is breaking out the light weight sweaters and enjoying the crispness that comes with the approach of Fall, us Southern Californians are cranking up the AC and making popsicles. Yes, after a week of 103 degree days, my brain can barely cope with anything that’s not ice cold and preferably frozen.
Mother Nature is either playing a mean, mean trick on us or having her last blazing hot summer hurrah! Either way, I’ve decided to go on heat wave strike and make Banana Split Popsicles. Those of you who are also on the West Coast…you are welcome.
I’m sort of ashamed to call this a “recipe” but considering it takes assembly and freezing time, I’ll take the liberties. Stay cool friends and enjoy a popsicle or two! I promise, these babies will go faster than you can say “ice cream sundae.”
photos by Leah Bergman
- 2 cups vanilla ice cream, melted
- chocolate fudge
- 10-maraschino cherries
- 1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped
- 2 bananas, cut into 2" slices
- 10 popsicle sticks
- Maraschino Cherry, one per popsicle.
- vanilla ice cream
- thin layer of fudge (too much and popsicles will be difficult to remove)
- chopped nuts
- slice of banana
- Insert a popsicle stick through the banana and freeze until firm.
- Run under cool water before removing from mold. Serve immediately.
It’s easy to get stuck in a chicken rut. This month, while the weather’s still delightful and there’s still lots of fresh summer produce, give this super-simple recipe a try. Chicken Milanese is just a fancy way of saying breaded and pan-fried chicken cutlets serves with a squeeze of lemon juice. Every culture has a version: German schnitzel, chicken parm subs in NYC, even chicken katsu from Japan—and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a chicken cutlet?
For this recipe, I love to make use of the thin-cut or thin-sliced cutlets from the grocery store. They’re prepped for you! And bonus: They cook really fast. If your grocery store doesn’t sell ‘em, just get regular cutlets, put them between two sheets parchment paper and gently flatten them using the bottom of a heavy kitchen skillet. Problem solved.
My favorite thing about this recipe is how the fresh, crunchy slaw pairs with the warm breaded cutlets. The meal is satisfying and light at the same time, which is a balance I’m always striving to perfect. If you want to make this into fall (when snap peas aren’t readily available), you can swap in snow peas and baby arugula from the boxed-lettuce section of the produce aisle.
photos by Erin Phraner
Ooh! One more thing. If you’re willing to splurge on one extra ingredient, this dinner is even better topped with a few generous shavings for good-quality Parmesan cheese. I mean, what isn’t better with a parm-garnish, right!? Hope you enjoy it! Definitely let us know what you think.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless thin-cut chicken cutlets
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 8 ounce snap peas
- 2 lemons
- PANTRY STAPLES: Kosher salt, freshly ground and extra-virgin olive oil
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat up some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Lightly beat the egg in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, sprinkle the breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken in the egg, then press in the breadcrumbs to coat, shaking off any excess. Transfer to pan and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- As the chicken cooks, thinly slice the snap peas on the bias; transfer to a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon; sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.
- Serve the chicken topped with the snap pea slaw. Top with fresh Parmesan cheese, if desired.
In less than a week, Jason and I are flying off to Hong Kong and Shanghai for business. Of course I’m excited and a bit nervous to fly 15.5 hours across the globe and spend eight days attending dinners and meetings for Jason’s company. That being said, the experience and adventure that awaits us more than makes up for the work! We will be spending most of our time in Hong Kong, a city known for it’s food, skyline, city life and shopping. But I am most excited about our two short days in Shanghai. I can’t wait to explore the French Concession, a neighborhood in Shanghai that boasts Paris vibes, tree lined streets, and small cafes. I plan to take a million pictures, like any good tourist, and eat my weight in Chinese food. Lucky for me Kate Spade has quite a few city guides and tips for Shanghai travel at the moment! Happy coincidence? So, have you ever traveled to Hong Kong or Shanghai? I would love some recommendations!
I’ve always found it strange that coffee cake doesn’t in fact contain coffee. When I was a little girl I naturally assumed I would care for the stuff, considering it’s name. Talk about judging a book, or cake, by it’s cover! Of course as an adult I will devour a piece of this Sour Cream Coffee Cake with a nice strong cup of coffee on the side any day of the week.
This recipe for Sour Cream Coffee cake is an old family classic straight from my Grandma “Shapop” as I call her, but with a bit of a twist of my own. It’s a classic coffee cake with a rich, buttery flavor imparted by the sour cream and filled with a cinnamon and pecan swirl center.
I finish my coffee cake with a sweet cinnamon glaze because everything, in my opinion, is better with a bit of frosting! Of course you could also substitute a vanilla glaze or even a fresh orange glaze with a bit more fresh zest on top. I happen to think that the cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla combination is reminisent of a gooey morning cinnamon roll, so I think I’ll keep it.
Once the glaze has dripped down the sides of your cake, it’s ready to transfer to a serving plate, slice and enjoy. This sour cream coffee cake is perfect served on it’s own or as the center of a brunch table! This is also a great make ahead dish when guests come to visit. Make the coffee cake the night before, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and allow to cool overnight. (This is the trick for moist cake every time.) In the morning all you’ll need is a few minutes to whip up the glaze and start the coffee pot. It doesn’t get much easier, or more delicious than that. Do you have a favorite family coffee cake recipe? I hope you will give my Grandma Shapop’s a try!
photos by Leah Bergman
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/4 cup sour cream (full fat)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 Tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 10" tube pan or bundt pan, set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Scrap down sides of the bowl and beat in eggs and vanilla extract until well combined.
- In a large bowl whisk together flour (sifted before measuring), baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture on slow speed until just combined. (Do not overmix)
- Add in the sour cream and beat just until combined.
- In a small bowl mix together sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. Set aside.
- Spoon half of the batter into the bottom of greased pan. Top with all of the cinnamon-pecan swirl mixture and finally top with the remainder of the batter, smoothing the top with a spoon or spatula.
- Bake 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Start checking at 40 minutes. Allow to cool partially before inverting out of the pan to a cooling rack. Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight before glazing and serving. This will insure a moist cake.
- In a small bowl mix together confectioners sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and 1 Tbsp milk. Mix to combine. You may want to add up to 1 Tbsp more milk if the glaze is too thick to drizzle. It should be the consistency of white glue.
- Drizzle glaze over the top of your cooled coffee cake. Slice and serve with coffee!
- 1. Make sure to sift flour before measuring to insure a light cake.
- 2. Wrapping the cake in plastic overnight will help hold in moisture but if you do not have time for this step feel free to cool completely, glaze, and serve same day.
Let me start by saying that I do not own a cocktail muddler…I use a wooden spoon. I guess you could say that I’m old school like that! But seriously, remind me to pick up a muddler the next time I’m at Williams-Sonoma. Ok, I have a case of the Friday’s…moving onto the cocktail!
Yesterday I had lunch with my sweet friend Amy, the leader of our Freutcake Book Club. After weeks of failed attempts to get together we finally found a day that worked for both of our schedules. (However I have to admit, I was the difficult one schedule wise.) We chatted about balance, about scheduling our days, the sort of organizers and planners we prefer, about the pens we carry, and about how girl time really should be a mandatory monthly occurrence. Men reading this post, this also applies to you!
After lunch we parted ways, hugging and promising to be better about scheduling meet-ups. I promised a girls night of cheese filled appetizers and cocktails very soon and Amy heartily agreed. I will probably make a large pitcher of these Blackberry Sage Cocktails. They just so happen to be the ultimate in delicious foodie-friendly cocktails…my girlfriends will love em’. Happy weekend friends! I hope you schedule in a little bit of fun.
photos by Leah Bergman
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 8 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 pint fresh blackberries, muddled and strained (juices reserved)
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 8 oz St. Germain Liqueur
- 16 oz vodka
- seltzer water
- Place water and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add sage leaves, and cover, allowing the mixture to steep for about 2 hours. Strain.
- Combine fresh blackberry juice, lemon juice, sage simple syrup, St. Germain and vodka in cocktail pitcher. Mix and refrigerate covered until well chilled.
- Serve in cocktail glasses filled with ice and garnish with fresh sage leaves and top with a splash of seltzer water.
This easy 5-ingredient recipe is the natural next-level recipe for hummus lovers: Creamy, spreadable and loaded with flavor. It’s a classic Greek treat. I had it for the first time while visiting my family on Ikaria and I’ve been absolutely hooked ever since. It’s thick like a puree but creamy and soft and beautiful—almost like mashed potatoes. They key ingredient: Garlic, and lots of it (if you’re from my camp)!
There’s two different ways to make this garlic dip, or skordalia if you’d like to be official and fancy. The first: Potatoes. Boil ‘em, puree ‘em and they give you the bulk for your dip. The second (and my preference): Stale bread. If you soak it in milk and whizz it up in the food processor with garlic, almonds, vinegar and olive oil—it’s pure heaven. Only problem is, I’m too much of a bug-a-phobe to let bread sit out and get stale in my Brooklyn apartment. I’m much more cavalier in a giant Greek island kitchen, I guess. So I’ll show you how to fake stale bread. You probably know how already, though, right? Just toast it and make it hard. Problem solved.
I like to use red wine vinegar in my skordalia. I think it’s a little softer and sweeter than lemon juice. Bonus: You don’t have to squeeze any lemons—that takes time, man! If you’d like to, though, you can make this recipe with lemon juice in place of vinegar. I won’t think any less of you. And by all means, please let me know what you think!
Let’s talk about serving. Ideally I like to eat this garlic dip with lots and lots of warm pita bread. Since I’m trying to be a little healthier than usually, I’m sticking to veggies. A classic dipping device is roasted beets. Sounds weird but it’s a delicious pairing, just a little messy. I say go with pita. If you want to get a little fancy, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika before serving. Everyone loves a little jazz on top of their dip!
Oh! One other things I should mention. Like most things in life, people have different opinions when it comes to their garlic dip. Two variables to keep in mind: Garlicky-ness and consistency. If you HATE garlic…well maybe this isn’t the recipe for you. Just kidding! It’s mild and not super garlicky. But if you DO like garlic, I say go for it. Add more! Sometimes I add eight, nine, plus cloves if I’m alone. Same goes for the milk. If you want a looser dip, add more milk. If you want something thick and spreadable, go for less. You can’t really mess that up. Isn’t that nice? If only all recipes were so forgiving. Now get dipping! xox
- 1 loaf Italian bread, torn into large pieces (crust removed)
- 2 cups whole milk, plus more for pulsing if needed
- 5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- PANTRY STAPLES: Extra-virgin olive oil and salt
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Toss the bread pieces, a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Transfer bread to a large bowl. Add the milk and toss until combined; let soak.
- Meanwhile, heat a splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 3 more minutes.
- Transfer the soaked bread to a food processor with a slotted spoon; reserve milk in the bottom of the bowl (you’ll need it to make the dip nice and smooth). To the processor, add the almond-garlic mixture, vinegar, a big pinch of salt and 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil. Pulse until combined, then puree until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Pulse in the reserved milk (or more, if needed) until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt to taste. Serve with veggies and/or pita bread.
Happy Wednesday friends! I have a fun DIY project for you to try this weekend inspired by my obsession with shopping for flatware! Pretty much every time I visit Crate & Barrel I make a beeline for the utensils. I like to pick up random forks, weighing them in my hand for balance, ooh and aah over their shiny perfection, and pick out my favorites patterns. What can I say? I have a thing for tabletop goodies.
But while having multiple sets of flatware is appealing, I think it’s even more fun to fancy up some regular mismatched or everyday flatware with a bit of paint. I found an inexpensive set at my local bargain store and went to town embellishing them with gold, black and white paint to match my collection of dishes. I don’t expect to use them everyday, but for a party, they sure will be fun! You could try painting them in fun bright colors to match any decor. Here’s how I did it:
Let’s get started:
1. Decide on your “pattern.” I chose to paint all of my salad forks and soup spoons white, my dinner forks and knives gold, and my tea spoons black. I actually love the way the black handles turned out! I might have to make an entire set.
2. Tape off the portion you wish to paint. I painted the entire handle of my flatware ending in a diagonal stripe. Note: Do not paint any portion of your flatware that will be come in contact with food. This paint is for show and not food safe.
3. Paint a thin (this is key) coat of paint up the handle.
4. Allow to dry almost completely before painting a second thin coat. Tip: I placed my flatware into votive holders filled with rice for easy drying.
5. While paint is almost dry but still a bit tacky, carefully remove tape. If you painted two thin coats the tape should pull of relatively easily. If it is sticking you may have to cut along the paint/tape line to prevent paint from peeling.
6. Once flatware is completely dry, cover all but the handle with plastic and spray on a light but even coat of clear acrylic coating.
7. Allow to dry completely (overnight) before storing or using.
8. Wash gently with warm soapy water and a soft sponge before using. Do not use in the dishwasher as the painted handle is delicate.
photos by Leah Bergman
While these are not sturdy enough for everyday wash and wear, painted flatware is perfect for setting a fun party tabletop or for special occasions. I could see these working perfectly for a bridal shower or engagement party, couldn’t you? I think a wine and cheese night with the ladies is in order if for no other reason than to break out my fancy-shmancy utensils. So, have you ever painted old or inexpensive flatware?