Tag Archives: tablescapes

Happy Valentine’s Day! Dinner, Dessert and a Delightful Tablescape…..


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……more Valentine’s Day celebrations! While we do make an effort to show our love and appreciation for one other most days, St. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to give it a little something special. Although Nick’s not with us this year, a care package is waiting for him in his mailbox (whether or not he makes his way to the Hub to pick it up, we may never know).

My favorite way to set the tone for a delectable meal is to set a beautiful table, whether it’s simple or over the top. Here I chose a to start with a lovely runner; pink, green, brown, cream and yellow paisley. It has depth and personality. As a centerpiece, I combined cedar globe topiaries, simply slid into stone urns and covered with a little moss, cream candle-sticks holding hot pink pillar candles and a charming birdbath holding a host of rose petals.

Pretty in pink, I chose hot pink placemats for each place-setting, along with silver leaf chargers, my Lenox white scalloped edge dinner plates and mauve glass dessert plates. The finishing details were hot pink napkins run through pink beaded napkin rings and crystal water and wine glasses. Sparkly and colorful!

 

For dinner, I decided make Filet Mignon, Potato “Risotto” and our favorite veggie; broccoli. Normally we don’t make dessert, but, come on, this is our Valentine’s Day dinner, so Amanda and I made Chocolate Soufflés!

 

The Potato “Risotto” is so rich and creamy you will think you’ve died and gone to Heaven! The prep is a bit of work, but completely worth it.

 

Potato “Risotto”

Serves 3; you’ll definitely want to double or triple this recipe!

3 Tbsp butter

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes

Generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Generous sprinkle of salt

1 ½ cups chicken broth

½ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup grated Parmesan

2 Tbsp chopped chives

 

Before you even get started, you’ll want to prep the potatoes. Once you’re finished, you can place them in a cold bowl of water and leave them in the fridge overnight. That will be a huge time saver when you are ready to get this dinner started.

 

Peel the potatoes. Cut them into 1/8” slices, then 1/8” cubes. They’ll look a little bit like Arborio rice.

 

When it’s time for dinner, melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat

Add;

Chopped onion

Cover and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes or so

Add;

Potato cubes

Sprinkle generously with cayenne and salt

Stir together

Add;

Chicken broth

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer

Stir until the liquid is largely absorbed, approximately 8 minutes

Add;

Cream

Simmer and stir until the liquid is reduced and creamy

Add;

Cheese

Chives

Stir until well combined

 

Filet Mignon:

While we like the grill, our favorite way to prepare steak is in the oven

Pre-heat oven to 400°

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil

Season both sides of meat with cracked black pepper and course sea salt, or my favorite steak seasoning; McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning

Sear steak in the skillet on each side for approximately 3 minutes

Place skillet in the oven

Cook steaks until desired doneness, for medium-rare, leave in the oven for 12-15 minutes (oven cooking times may vary)

Serve steak with a hearty helping of Risotto Potatoes and your favorite veggie

Chocolate Soufflés:

This is a very special dessert. While there may be a lot of prep, it can all be done in advance. When it’s time for dessert, just pop them in the oven.

 

Serves 6

 

Pre-heat oven to 400°

Butter 6 ramekins and coat with sugar. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use

Ingredients;

6 Tbsp sugar; 3 Tbsp in one bowl, 3 Tbsp in another

1 cup milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed

3 large egg yolks

2 Tbsp flour

½ tsp kosher salt

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

6 egg whites

Powdered sugar

Heavy whipping cream

Vanilla extract

Sugar

In a small sauce pan, heat;

Milk

Vanilla bean seeds

Vanilla bean

 

Bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow milk to steep (flavors blend)

Remove bean and discard

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat;

Yolks

3 Tbsp sugar

 

Continue to beat until a pale yellow color and slightly thickened

Beat in;

Flour

Salt

 

Slowly, beat in half of the vanilla milk mixture

In the sauce pan, combine the milk mixture with the egg and milk mixture

 

Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thickened, approximately 2-3 minutes

Transfer to a large mixing bowl

In a small glass bowl, combine;

Bittersweet chocolate

Cocoa powder

 

Bring water in a small sauce pan to a boil

Place glass bowl on top and allow chocolate to melt

Pour chocolate into large mixing bowl

Mix together thoroughly and set aside

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat egg whites until frothy

Add 3 Tbsp sugar, one Tbsp at a time

Beat until stiff peaks form, approximately 6-7 minutes

Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture until well combined

 

Remove ramekins from the refrigerator and fill ¾ of the way

Either refrigerate until ready bake or place in the oven

Cook soufflés for approximately 15 minutes, until tops crack slightly

Remove and flip over onto a dessert plate

Top with powdered sugar a whipped cream

 

We LOVE our home-made whipped cream. It’s simple; pour the desired amount of heavy whipping cream into a bowl, add some sugar and vanilla extract and beat until thick and creamy.

 

Serve and enjoy….

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

 

To schedule an Interior Design or Life Style consultation, or for any questions or comments, please email me at moreismoremom@aol.com

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Ring in the New Year in Style!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……more ringing in the New Year! What better way to celebrate than with beloved family and friends? While a night out on the town is fun, there is nothing like entertaining guests in your home. Last month, I was the featured speaker at the Arlington Design Center where I shared my tips and inspirations for setting beautiful holiday tablescapes. One of my designs was a New Year’s Eve Cocktail Buffet; bold, graphic and sparkly!

 

After all of the traditional colors of Christmas, I decided to mix it up by developing a color scheme of black, white and silver. With such a simple palette, I decided to shake things up a bit by starting with a base layer with a large scale pattern. When I didn’t find any interesting table coverings, I headed straight to the bedding department at my favorite store, Target (I should be so lucky to be the Target Christmas lady!), and snagged a queen size zebra flat sheet. It was the perfect size to serve as the foundation (and washable too).

 

Texture is an important element in creating an interesting and dimensional design. I chose a soft, white, fluffy throw blanket as a secondary layer. It reminded me of snow. Now I was ready to really start building.

 

I love these tall, black iron lanterns. They are perfect flanking your front door or hearth, in your powder room or foyer, out on your deck or patio, or as an anchor to your tablescape. Here, I enhanced the pillar candles with silver sparkling ornaments. Since butterflies are kind of my signature thing, I included a few butterfly ornaments as well. Tying a great big bow on top would have been predictable. When I was a kid, we always watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers movies at midnight to celebrate the New Year. In homage to Fred, I topped each lantern with a sparkly black top hat.

 

An organic quality to the table adds an interesting juxtaposition. Instead of fresh flowers, I chose to incorporate these silver leaf branches. They add both height and style as a centerpiece. As a complement to the branches, I snagged two raffia balls from the craft store and spray painted them silver to match. Then, I wrapped battery operated LED twinkling lights around the balls to add a little illumination. I then placed each ball in a black urn at the end of each side of the table.

 

The focus of my table is, of course, the bar. Trays are a fabulous way to corral stemware. Here I chose one of my all-time favorite pieces; a mirrored tray. It’s so glamorous, yet versatile. I placed champagne flutes, a silver ice bucket and my small apothecary jars together as a vignette. I filled one jar with silver ornaments, another with clear crystals, and then threw in a teeny, tiny cream colored bird bath, which held a few more silver ornaments. The whole scene was absolutely precious!

 

Now it was time to include a few serving pieces to display our appetizers. Because of the symmetry of the rest of our display, I decided to use an identical arrangement on either side. One of the most important elements is elevation. It’s so much more interesting and appealing than dishes, sitting flat, on the table.

 

All that is left are a few finishing touches. I found these adorable silver leaf cherubs. They reminded me of Baby New Year. I placed one on each side of the mirrored tray. Lastly, I draped silver laurel leaf garland around the tablescape.

 

What better way to ring in the New Year than with style!

 

More sparkle, more graphic pattern, more beautiful tablescapes, more celebrations with family and friends…….

 

To schedule an Interior Design or Life Style consultation, or for any questions or comments, please email me at moreismoremom@aol.com

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Holiday Inspirations: Perfect Parties and Extraordinary Entertaining at the Arlington Design Center!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….more Holiday Inspirations! This is the best time of year; full of festivity and celebration. Halloween is really the kick off to the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas not far behind. While there are certainly plenty of opportunities to connect with family and friends throughout the year, the holidays are steeped with sentiment and tradition.

 

My Interior Design business takes me all around Chicago and the suburbs, but I must admit, I am always drawn to the Arlington Design Center to meet the needs of my design clients. Whether I’m looking for fabric, furniture, furnishings or flooring, they are really my one stop shop.

 

I love the ADC and am so excited to have been invited to be the speaker at their Holiday Inspirations event, open to the public, at 11 am, on Tuesday, November 15.

 

“Perfect Parties and Extraordinary Entertaining” is the essence of my presentation. I will be sharing my professional tips and inspirations for entertaining and creating whimsical tablescapes for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve.

 

Why not zip over to the Arlington Design Center and get in on the fun? It’s easy. To register, visit;

https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e4oy3n3u7e549f43&oseq=

 

In addition to traditional Interior Design services, I am also available for holiday decorating, creating memorable tablescapes and party and event planning.

 

Please feel free to contact me at moreismoremom@aol.com

 

 

More beautiful homes, more entertaining, more whimsical tablescapes, more connecting with family and friends….

If you would like to learn more about my Interior Design services, please visit my website:

http://vanessanunleydesigns.com

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Delicious Easter Recipes and a Beautiful Tablescape….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..more Easter celebrations! What better way to welcome Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail, than with a delicious luncheon? One of my family’s favorite Easter traditions is enjoying a beautiful rack of lamb. Who knew that my people, who can be super picky and particular, would grow to appreciate such a fine culinary experience?

Fresh Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with Vinaigrette

Creamy Do Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Veggie Casserole

Strawberry Spinach Salad

 

A fabulous meal deserves an over the top tablescape, and the centerpiece should absolutely set the tone. As a collector of all things interesting and beautiful, I decided that my bunny rabbit weathervane (vintage Target garden department) should take center stage. What I love about it is that it has height, character and dimension. To ground the weathervane, I found squares of artificial grass and I placed six of them together to create a bed. I have an affinity for rabbits, so to fill in some of the vertical space I dug out three moss covered bunnies from my collection of props. Because more of everything is always better, I scattered large colorful eggs amongst the bunnies and grass to create a beautiful and lively centerpiece.

 

To echo the garden theme, I chose a green square topper embellished with cabbage roses. The floral topper is another great source of inspiration. One possibility would be to fill individual bud vases at each place setting with a small mound of roses. That would actually be a beautiful party favor for your guests to take home. Another idea to draw from the floral topper would be to carry that theme into other parts of your home. A gorgeous bouquet would be lovely in your foyer, living room, kitchen or powder room. Such attention to detail is what makes our homes especially well appointed. Whether for your own home or a thoughtful gift, a beautiful source for flower delivery  at home is Serenata Flowers.

As we continue setting the table, my blue tablecloth highlights the blue flowers in the topper. Pink hydrangea placemats are topped with silver hobnail trim chargers. While a plain white dinner plate can be ho-hum boring, my Lenox scalloped edge plates, embossed with butterflies, vines and flowers are a total go to favorite. Polka dot salad plates dance with all of the colors in my topper and pink napkins with white Swiss dots compliment my tablescape. My favorite part of the place setting is the white bunny rabbit napkin rings. They are in fact the piece that started my creating a beautiful home obsession 21 years ago. I found six of them at Marshall Fields on State Street on extreme clearance for $.69 a piece…….

I find that entertaining is so much easier when you choose recipes that can largely be prepared ahead of time. With this menu, all I needed to do was pre-heat the ovens, pop in the potatoes and casserole, toss the salad and sear the lamb before it went in the oven for a mere 20 minutes. Super simple!

 

Fresh Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with Vinaigrette:

This recipe is good for 4 racks of lamb, or 32 ribs. I think it’s safe to estimate 3-4 per person, though the left-over’s are to die for.

For the lamb:

¼ cup fresh mint chopped

¼ cup fresh basil chopped

¼ cup green onions chopped

2 Tbsp fresh oregano chopped

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 racks of lamb

In a small bowl, combine;

Mint

Basil

Green onions

Oregano

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil

Generously rub mixture all over the lamb

Cover and chill overnight

Pre-heat oven to 375°

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil

In batches, sear lamb and place back in the baking dish

Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reaches 145°

Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board

Tent with foil

Slice and serve with vinaigrette

Vinaigrette:

I make the vinaigrette the night before, only I hold off on adding the tomatoes until the last minute.

1 ¼ cups olive oil

¾ cup fresh chopped mint

¾ cup fresh chopped basil

10 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 ½ Tbsp fresh chopped oregano

4 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cup chopped tomatoes (I wrap in a paper-towel and store overnight in a small Zip-loc baggie)

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Bring to room temperature before serving

Creamy Do Ahead Mashed Potatoes:

These are my very favorite holiday potatoes because they are creamy goodness minus the messy clean up after dinner.

In a large bowl, place;

1 package of cream cheese

1 stick of butter

½ cup of chopped green onions or chives

Peel 5 lbs of potatoes

Chop into 1-2” cubes

Boil until fork tender

Drain and pour into bowl with cream cheese, butter and green onions

Using a hand mixer, beat until nice and creamy

Butter a 13×9 baking dish

Pour in the potato mixture

Refrigerate overnight

Pre-heat oven to 350°

Cook for approximately 1- 1 ½ hours, until just golden

Allow to set for about 15 minutes and serve

 

Visit me on Wednesday, April 20th, for the recipe for the Veggie Casserole and the Spinach and Strawberry Salad.

More Easter celebrations, more beautiful tablescapes, more delicious meals, more time together…..

To inquire about an interior design consultation, please shoot me an email at moreismoremom@aol.com

Fresh Herb Marinated Rack Of Lamb With Vinaigrette

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Spring Has Sprung at Target!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…….more beautiful and inspiring weather! Finally, after a long and dreary winter, it seems that the last of the snow has melted. In fact, it may nearly be time to pack away the Ugg’s in favor of cute and sassy flats, so get your tootsies ready!

Wrigley and I were just in our backyard, admiring the bunnies (you would think that nature would be cautious, maybe even intimidated, by a 92lb animal, but they’re really not terribly concerned. He loves his fellow animal…bunnies, chipmunks, birdies, even foxes. All are welcome and my nibbled to the nub Hosta’s can prove it!), checking out which plants seem to be coming back. I was so tempted to take the covers off of my patio furniture, but I thought, why tempt fate? I certainly don’t need to be the reason Chicago gets more snow!   

Tuesday afternoon, I was at one of my all time favorite stores; Target. Now that many Target stores host full blown grocery stores, I don’t have to ask the question; Target fun or feed my family? These days, I can do both! I can pick up meals and movies, produce and pop music, cooking supplies an clothes. Yay!

While I was cruising the aisles (you know I hate to miss out on anything), I came upon an entire display of outdoor party-ware; dishes, tumblers, serving pieces, lighting. I know that the weather is just starting to break, but I was so excited and hopeful for all of the opportunities to come; family dinners, lunch with friends, cocktails on the deck….the possibilities are absolutely endless! I couldn’t help myself. I snagged a few of my favorite pieces…..

 

The colors and patterns were great, but for me, the most inspiring thing about this collection was the patterns. I was particularly taken with the dessert plates with the bold, wavy stripes in apple green, turquoise blue, bold red, deep intense yellow and citrus orange. This kind of bold color palette offers a huge variety of options for entertaining this spring and summer, be it in our house or on our patio.

There is always an element that serves as inspiration, and for me, it was that wavy stripe. What I like about it is the variety of color and the size of the pattern; it completely lends itself to complimenting a huge number of other patterns and colors. I was actually immediately struck by how amazing the striped plates would play against my bright orange, Harlequin inspired, medallion pattern runner from Pottery Barn (clearance, several years ago). It was a bold burst of happy color!

 

While at Target, I picked up turquoise round placemats and topped those with red square, rounded corner, acrylic dinner plates. On top of that I placed my striped plates and a green apple at each setting. As a rule, I’m in favor of cloth napkins, but when dinner is messy or extremely casual, I can live with a sassy paper napkin. These orange napkins with the white lattice pattern embellishment were a great tie in to my orange runner. Cobalt blue plastic tumblers did their part to compliment the bright, energized tone.

 

A coordinating tray is one of my favorite vehicles for corralling smaller items while making a statement. In this case, the blue pitcher would be filled with delicious fresh squeezed lemonade. Also on the tray is a red flatware caddy; perfect for containing all of your silverware on a buffet, on the patio or at a picnic.

 

I fell in love with these charming decoupage bunnies; orange with Swiss dots, apple green gingham and turquoise blue pattern. I placed the orange Peter Rabbit on the tray with a grouping of tangerines (love, love, love the organic quality of fresh fruits and vegetables as decoration), while the green and blue bunnies found a home next to the white, solar powered, lanterns. Wavy striped salad servers coupled with a fashion forward Lucite bowl screams modern sensibility!

With inspiration, like at Target, everywhere, now’s the time to hunt and gather. If we can just hold out a little longer, I know we’ll be outdoors spending time with family and friends in no time!  

More warm weather, more outdoor living, more time with family……

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