Welcome! I'm Jen. It's great to meet you! A bit about me and this website: For a number of years, I've been the brand spokesperson for Tree Classics; a fantastic experience which introduced me to the blogging world (I was a complete newbie when I started). In fact, when I first began working for Tree Classics, I couldn't imagine that anyone had enough time in the day to follow other peoples' lives and projects. Soon after, however, I found myself immersed in a world where real people share their expertise in various parts of life. And I actually found helpful tips on home renovations, cooking, entertaining, and even what books I should read next. So here I am, five years later, gathering enough courage to share some of my favorite things... recipes, tips on entertaining, approachable home decor ideas, our house renovation journey, and all things holiday, of course.
Creating beautiful spaces and sharing my love for holidays has been a natural fit because nothing brings me greater joy than gathering and nourishing people. Some of my favorite conversations and deepest relationships have unfolded around our dining table. My approach to feeding people is—keep the kitchen stocked with good food & your doors open. If you feed them, they will come. : ) Sometimes it’s fancy feasting, but most of the time it’s simply an open invitation to come and sit, have a cup of coffee, a biscotti (or whatever I can pull together), and chat about life.
On these pages you will see some of my more aspirational tablescapes and menus, but know that this is not how our life always looks. True reality: my husband, Brock, and I have four children, age 9-12, and as I'm writing this, I'm staring down a box of cheerios, yellow nerf gun pellets are strewn across the living room (which means someone broke the house rule that all balls and nerf guns stay downstairs or outside!), and we have three rooms torn apart due to much needed house renovations. : ) At the end of the day, beyond photo perfect styling, my biggest priority is that people will feel loved and welcomed in our home.
My hope with this website is to demystify entertaining and provide helpful (not stressful!) advice. For example, pictured above is a brunch that I recently hosted for a dear friend's birthday. I made a wild mushroom, sausage and swiss chard strata from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook (Great baking/dessert cookbook! In particular, an amazing, over the top triple coconut cream pie recipe that I make at Easter), and my go to cranberry nut biscotti. But the best part was that friends brought food to share. That's one of my favorite ways to host--opening my home and inviting others to take part by bringing food or drink to share. Too often we fear hosting because the house never seems perfect enough, or it's overwhelming to think about planning and preparing every dish. So in general, when people ask if they can help or bring something, I let them!
Wild Mushroom, Sausage and Swiss Chard Strata, (recipe adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook)
I loaf of rustic bread, about 1.5 pounds, thick crusts removed (instructions say 6 cups of loosely packed bread).
1 pound of bulk Italian sausage (I have also used breakfast sausage and mixed traditional and savory for a bit of a kick)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons if your sausage is lean
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
1 medium onion, chopped
12 ounces mushrooms (I've used button and shiitake)
1 pound swiss chard (I've also used kale), washed and stems removed
2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh chives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (I like thyme in small doses so I use 1 teaspoon and have even omitted)
12 ounces (about 3 cups) white or yellow cheddar cheese, grated (one of my favorite sharp cheddars is Cabot, white sharp, but I've also used plain old, yellow Kroger brand)
5 large eggs
2.5 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
What you'll need: A buttered 9x13 casserole dish. Cube bread, make sure you don't have too much bread or the recipe will be too firm and not creamy. Cook the sausage and drain the fat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium high heat, and add the onion, stirring until it's soft. Remove the onions. Add the rest of the butter and mushrooms and cook, stirring as needed until mushrooms are tender and juices have evaporated, and add to the bowl of cooked onions.
The Dahlia recipe recommends blanching the chard (about 2 minutes) and then draining, plunging it into ice cold water and draining again. You really want to squeeze out the extra water. Roughly chop the chard and add it to the bowl with the mushrooms and onions. I have also used kale for this recipe and in that case, I simply add washed, de-stemmed and chopped kale into the sautéed mushrooms until wilted and a little crisp. Mix with the bread crumbs, chives & thyme and 2 and 1/4 cup of cheese. Reserve 3/4 cup of cheese to sprinkle on top of strata for baking. Add the mixture to the baking pan.
Whisk eggs in a separate bowl and add the cream, add salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Then pour the egg mixture into the baking dish taking care press down the bread into the custard mixture. You want to make sure that every piece is covered in egg mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. I like to make this recipe the night before so my day of party prep is less stressful.
When it's time to bake the strata, remove plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered until golden and puffed and the egg mixture is set. Insert a knife to make sure that it's firm.. Bake for about 55-60 minutes, and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
So welcome to my table! In the words of my Italian family, Mangia tutti (Everyone Eat)!