Need a little spring inspiration?

26 Mar
March 26, 2015

Spring is here! The season has finally arrived (even though there’s snow visible from every Connecticut Country House window) as well as our Spring 2015 Nora Murphy Country House Style e-magazine.

Creating this spring issue was truly a labor of love…each and every image kept me hopeful (quite honestly pining away) for spring’s arrival, and all that comes with it. Here’s a short list of what I can’t wait for:

  1. Fresh non-frigid air (so I can open all my windows and air out the whole house!)
  2. My gardens (all of them have so much winter damage, I can’t wait to get at ‘em!)
  3. Strawberries (nothing like freshly picked and really ripe!)
  4. An empty coat closet (I can’t wait to bag up all the winter gear until year!)
  5. A green backyard (I know for a fact, that Fiona and Martha feel the same exact way!)

So until everything is crossed off this list, please enjoy the newest issue of NoraMurphyCountryHouse.com.

Happy spring!

Love, Nora

 

Retracing steps

24 Mar
March 24, 2015

I hadn’t been back to my alma mater, FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC) in over 30 years. From time to time, I had visited their beautiful galleries to take in a most thoughtful and beautifully curated historical fashion exhibit, but I don’t know if that counts! I experienced a most welcoming homecoming, over a week ago (March 12), when I had the honor (and great pleasure) of sharing my professional journey on a panel of women alumnae entrepreneurs held at FIT’s Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

We ranged from graduating class of ’69 to ’10. From Apparel Design to Interior Design to Cosmetics and Fragrance – each speaker generously shared their stories that I found to be so inspirational. I thought you might like to hear for yourself the personal stories (the inside scoop) from these incredibly accomplished women.

I’d love to introduce you to my colleagues and fellow speakers:

Nadine Cino – CEO, Co-Inventor, Tyga-Box (Apparel Design ’69)

Alexandria Oliveri – Founder, Antoinette (Fashion Merchandising management ’00)

Nikki Robinson – Founder, Gloss and Glam (Cosmetics and Fragrance ’07)

Christina Ottaviano – Founder, Christina Ottaviano (Fashion Design ’10)

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

Top o’ the mornin’!

17 Mar
March 17, 2015

Setting a table for St. Patrick’s Day is the best way to kick off spring (or at least puts me in the right state of mind!). For the NoraMurphyCountryHouse.com spring issue (due out on-line early next week), we’ve been buzzing around in overdrive.

For photography, I set two distinct tables for spring entertaining – one, a brunch for ten, and the other as a more intimate gathering for four. The cozy gathering feels like St. Patrick’s Day to me. There’s nothing gimmicky about it. It’s all about honest parts, including Irish daffodils, and of course, a touch of green!

Here are some tips in creating your own springtime table:

  • Forgo the usual table linens. If you’ve got a wood table – show it off by using woven grass mats. There’s something very earthy about using these as your place setting’s foundation. I can never resist a stack of dishcloths that look like vintage cotton or linen towels! And when I find them with fringe or tassels – it’s a slam-dunk. I’ll keep digging until I’ve bought up all I can find!
  • Layer white dishes and bowls – varying sizes and forms. My larger plates (dinner and salad) are new finds from Home Goods, and the little ironstone cabbage bowls (perfect for a big ladle of soup) are estate sale treasures. Love them together!
  • Mix up the flatware. Here too, it’s all about mixing new with old. The wooden handled knives are French steak knives from Forge de Laguiole. The wooden handled forks are mid-late nineteenth century flea market finds (love the metal inlay).
  • Enhance each place setting by varying the glassware. French stemmed water glasses are by La Rochere, and the green-rimmed bubbled glasses are hand-blown in India.
  • Arrange and pot-up daffodils. By showcasing this simple flower in two distinct ways adds more interest to the table, as well as a springtime garden vibe. Small tin buckets from the dollar store are perfect for cut stems as well as a small plant.
  • Garnish the simple. Elevate a batch of scones on a footed cake plate and simply decorate with a long sprig of rosemary. Any herb will do!

Make a feast for the eyes an integral part of a special gathering…and enjoy!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: A snowy day pot roast

06 Mar
March 6, 2015

Driving home on snowy roads. Trudging through the slushy snow walkway to the back door. Juggling multiple bags and keys at the door. Noticing that the door is warping from the dripping icicles. Pushing my way inside to find out with one whiff that Murph’s done it again. Dropping my heavy coat, I’m smiling all the way to the kitchen.

What a wonderful way to say welcome home.

Murph’s Snowy Day Pot Roast

4-6 lb. rump roast or bottom round roast

12 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium red onions, coarsely chop

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 large carrots, ½” slice

3 tablespoons Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons Ancho pepper powder (optional)

2 medium cans of crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Multiple shakes of Worcestershire sauce

3-4 drops liquid smoke (optional)

  •  Heat a large soup pot at medium/low; add olive oil, garlic, carrots, and onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
  •  Dry rub the entire roast with ample salt, pepper, and Ancho pepper powder.
  • Turn heat up to medium and sear each side of the roast for 2-3 minutes until completely seared.
  • Add cans of crushed tomatoes, mushroom soup, Worcestershire, and liquid smoke. When the pot just begins to come to a boil, set the temperature on low and cover. Turn roast every hour, cooking in total 4-6 hours (depending on the size of the roast and the temperature of your stove). Pot roast is done when it can be pulled apart with a fork easily. You may add some water or broth if the liquid level drops too low before the roast is done.
  • Serve hot over wide egg noodles or potatoes. Do not add any potatoes to the pot to store as leftovers, as they will absorb all the gravy.

Enjoy, and stay warm!

Love, Nora

A girl can dream…

24 Feb
February 24, 2015

It’s 13 below this morning here in the hollow at Connecticut Country House, and I’m catching myself daydreaming about spring, and about that certain smell and feel of fresh earth cupped in my hands. And when you find that perfect quote that truly sums what’s in your heart and head, you’ve just got to share it with your friends!

“The person going out to plant wears gloves on her hands. She lifts out the first shovelful of earth and empties it to one side. It is neither wet nor hard, merely moist, easily poured. It contains air and well-made air channels and is therefore light in a way good bread sponge is light. It’s fresh, earthy fragrance rises up, familiar and provocative; and suddenly the planter knows why she wore gloves. It was for the pleasure of shucking them off and taking a handful of the fresh earth up in her bare hands, to smell its satisfying perfume and feel it against her skin. Now is the moment for an intimate renewal of kinship with the earth.” ~ Rachel Peden

You’re welcome. 

Stay warm, spring is coming!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Allspice Crumb Muffins

20 Feb
February 20, 2015

One of my favorite bakers is Dorie Greenspan. About a year ago, I had discovered one of her videos on the New York Times online food section, and fell in love with her passion for baking.

So when I was digging for a autumnal/wintry-feeling muffin recipe, Dorie’s recipe for Allspice Crumb Muffins won over all my senses. The scent of these muffins baking fills the house. They look absolutely decadent, and the lightly spiced flavor makes me feel warm and cozy!

I think you’ll love them too.

Dorie’s Allspice Crumb Muffins

(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook: Baking – From my home to yours)

For the streusel:

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground allspice

5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

 

For the muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon salt ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs ¾ cup whole milk

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*Optional: Grated zest of 1 lemon (Even though I’m a nut for lemon, I opted to keep these muffins pure, and left it out.)

Center a rack in the oven, and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Fit regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups, or butter or spray molds.

To make the streusel:

Put the flour, brown sugar, and allspice in a small bowl and sift them through your fingers to blend. Add the bits of cold butter and toss to coat, then use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until you’ve got irregularly shaped crumbs. Set aside in the fridge. (You can make the crumb mixture up to 3 days ahead and keep them covered in the fridge.)

To make the muffins:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps.

In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. The batter will look lumpy. Now’s the time to stir in the lemon zest if you’re using it. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.I usually fill only 9 of the 12 cups, because I like big and plump muffins!

Sprinkle streusel over each muffin, them use your fingertips to gently press the crumbs into the batter. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Store in an air-tight container. To warm up a muffin, I pop into the microwave for 22 seconds, and it tastes like it’s fresh and hot from the oven!

Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa!

Love, Nora

 

Cozy up with your honey

13 Feb
February 13, 2015

For Valentine’s Day (or any time really), you just need a few ingredients (actually I came up with 10) to create a special little dinner for 2.

  1. Gather in a quiet place off the beaten path. My go-to quiet spot is our small, ancient parlor.
  2. Pull-up a couple of upholstered chairs instead of dining chairs. I love a pair of wing chairs for this intimate grouping.
  3. Set a small table (stationary or folding).
  4. Dig around in your linen closet and drawers for tablecloth options. I used a twin sized vintage coverlet for the base cloth, and layered it with a Royal Stewart tartan runner.
  5. Take out the good stuff: Silverware and crystal stemware.
  6. Mix up your old and new china. Floral vintage plates layer beautifully with new white plates. Footed compotes that are usually used for serving up fancy desserts, are re-purposed with simple healthy garden salads.
  7. Press cloth napkins and go one step further by using napkin rings…now’s the time to take them out!
  8. Add fresh flowers to the mix – but keep it simple. Try a small pot of primroses you can pick up at the market, and pop it into a decorative container.
  9. Make a fire if you have a fireplace and/or light candles.
  10. Turn on some favorite tunes.

Now just kick-back and enjoy!

Happy St. Valentine’s Day dear friends!

Love, Nora

 

Foodie Friday: Murph’s Potato Leek Soup

06 Feb
February 6, 2015

It’s 5 below in Newtown this morning, and I’m chilled to the bone! This kind of frigid weather calls out for one thing (other than summer!) – a bowl of piping-hot soup. Mmm.

Here’s one of my favorites…

Murph’s Potato Leek Soup

3 pounds red potatoes

2 bunches leeks

2 32-ounce chicken broth

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

2 tablespoons powdered Ancho pepper

Half-dozen shakes of Worcestershire sauce

3 teaspoons brown sugar

¼ teaspoon liquid smoke (I do believe this is the secret to Murph’s soups!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Scrub potatoes well under running water, cut out any eyes, otherwise leave skin on and cube.
  • Take a large cookie sheet, cover with aluminum foil and spray with oil.
  • Place cut potatoes on sheet – be sure to spread them out. Sprinkle with Old Bay, Ancho, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Lightly spray oil potatoes on top and place in preheated oven.
  • Cook until browned well and fork tender, approximately 40 minutes.
  • As potatoes roast, cut off the bottom ¼-inch of leeks, along with the top half of the green portion. Cut these leeks into 2-inch pieces, and then cut lengthwise.
  • Place cut leeks in the sink, pull apart leeks with you fingers, and methodically wash the sand from each piece. (Be careful and don’t rush, as any sand can ruin this soup.)
  • Heat large soup pot on the stove, and add butter and olive oil. Add the cleaned leeks. Keeping the heat at a low/medium to medium, stir leeks from the bottom. In time the leeks will begin to brown and caramelize.
  • After 20-30 minutes the leeks should be caramelized nicely. Add 1 1/2 containers of chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. Bring to a simmer.
  • When the potatoes are done, place them into the broth leek soup. Simmer altogether for about 20 minutes to meld the flavors.
  • Finally, ladle mixture into a blender until about ½ full. Blend each batch very well; you are aiming for a creamy mouth feel. You may need to add a bit of the reserved chicken broth to loosen up the mixture as you blend. Place the blended batches into a large pot. When all blended, return to original pot. You may add chicken broth, milk or cream to the soup if it is too thick. Adjust salt and pepper.

Serve with Garlic and Herbes de Provence-sprinkled homemade croutons.

Hope this helps to warm you up!

Love, Nora

Surviving a blizzard Country House style

26 Jan
January 26, 2015

What happens when a crazy busy schedule meets “The Blizzard of 2015”? I feel it’s nature’s way of saying “time-out”! (Sadly, I need a blizzard to make me stop and just be.)

So, if we’re in the same boat and need to “just be”, don’t you think it’s a matter of style? Here’s my checklist:

I’m ready to re-boot my reserves for Wednesday, when I’ll need all my strength and endurance to help dig us out of Connecticut Country House!

Be safe and stay warm!

Love, Nora

Morning muffins

18 Jan
January 18, 2015

I realize that today is not Friday (or more specifically Foodie Friday), but I found a new Blueberry Muffin recipe that I’ve been wanting to try from an old Hay Day Cookbook I bought at a library book sale this past summer. So, the other morning I whipped up a batch of these blueberry muffins (or I should say these killer blueberry muffins!).

As I pulled them out of the oven, they were just so dramatic looking, like a cross between a muffin and a scone. I quickly grabbed my camera, documented them, and posted my favorite pic onto facebook. It wasn’t long until friends realized, that they too, were smitten with these beauties.

I’m all for satisfying a hankering now and again, so here’s the recipe to whip them up as soon as you can!

Oh, and by the way, they taste good too…

Hay Day’s Blueberry Muffins (Adapted from The Hay Day Cookbook, 1986)

1 egg, beaten

¾ cup milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 2/3 cups flour

¼ cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup fresh blueberries, washed, stemmed, and tossed with flour to coat

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Combine egg, milk, and butter. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the egg mixture, stirring just until moistened. Gently fold in blueberries.
  • Fill paper cupped, or buttered, muffin pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and golden.

They will keep for a few days in an airtight container. After a few days, I freshen up a muffin in my microwave for 22 seconds on high. Beautifully moist and steaming hot!

Enjoy.

Love, Nora