The Gallery Wall

A little over a year ago when I was decorating our main floor, I really became enamoured with the idea of a gallery wall. It’s meant to be a collection of cherished pieces that may or may not include pictures… and that’s what I loved about it. I’m not a fan of hanging family photos everywhere, but I do enjoy thoughtful vignettes as art within my home.

With the space over the couch earmarked as my gallery, I set out collecting some visually interesting pieces that would add texture to the room.

I started with existing pieces, including my ‘rustic clock’ – a steal I discovered at Homesense about 10 years ago that has followed me to countless homes over the years.

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I love the weathered wood and metal accents, which play well next to the decorative iron piece I found at a thrift shop for $2 a few years later.

My main floor has a fairly neutral colour scheme of grey, beige and blue, so I wanted to introduce a pop of colour. Orange has always been a favourite of mine, and it fit well with my existing colours. While perusing the gift section at Chapters one day, I stumbled upon some darling greeting cards that really spoke to me. One even had a picture of a dachshund (ahem!) wearing an orange sweater… it was love at first sight! Using some basic frames I had around the house, I cut the cards to size and created some fun artwork.

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You’ll notice the cute sconce in the picture above. It was a delightful $10 find at the annual Christie Antique Sale in Dundas (if you haven’t been, you must check it out!). It was originally white, but I found the orange I wanted on a paint chip at Home Depot and had a ‘sample’ pot mixed for a mere $4.50.

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With the leftover paint, I tackled an existing metal piece from my guest room – the heart in the middle was red, but a quick paint job and it fit with the gallery perfectly!

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The ‘A’ print was the only real, ‘new’ piece I added. It was a fun & frugal ($9.99) acquisition from Target (oh how I miss their decor department!) and a fitting nod to our last name (Armstrong).

The final gallery wall result looks pretty spiffy and never fails to illicit comments from guests.

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And I have to say, it makes me happy whenever I look at it – with nary a family photo in sight!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread – because veggies are good for you!

A few weeks ago, my colleague Alex shared some of her garden’s zucchini harvest with me. She had a few different varieties and found that they all grew quite well in her garden – all the better for me, I say! Just take a look at these beauties:

Alex's garden has been good to her this year!

Alex’s garden has been good to her this year!

After a little research, I discovered that this versatile veggie actually freezes quite well and is an excellent addition to baked goods. You can’t really taste it, but it adds moisture and texture much like bananas or applesauce might. So I set off to use my handy food processor and shredded the entire line-up! I ended up with 12 cups of it, which I separated into 2-cup Ziplocks to freeze for future use.

Whaaattt? Yes, you can freeze zucchini!

Whaaattt? Yes, you can freeze zucchini!

With my freezer loaded up, I’m all set to bake some veggie goodness throughout the colder months. And today I started with a fantastic Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It’s tasty, moist, and not too sweet. And for those of you who liked my Banana Nut Muffins, you’ll notice some similarities. It also makes use of olive oil and applesauce! This time around, I tried using some disposable tin bread pans in preparation for the holiday gift-giving season. I wanted to try them out to see if they bake nicely (spoiler alert: they do!) so I can make some as hostess or thank you gifts around Christmas. And bonus – they are petite enough to yield two loaves from a single loaf recipe! Here’s the one I used:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C white sugar
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C applesauce
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 C shredded zucchini (go ahead and let you frozen bag thaw, then drain in a colander before use)
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet Chipets)
  • Cooking spray to oil your pans (I really like Pam’s Baking version)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix first 3 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Stir in applesauce, then add dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips and mix until incorporated.
Batter up!

Batter up!

  • Pour into oiled pan (or two pans, if you’re using tin ones) and bake for 1 hour.
  • Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then remove to cooling rack (or your belly, whichever you prefer).

I have to be honest and say this was surprisingly good! I wasn’t fond of the smell of the batter (or of zucchini in general!) but once baked, these loaves turned out to be swoon-worthy.

Yep, that's right... I totally tried a piece before it took this pic . #TooGoodToWait

Yep, that’s right… I totally tried a piece before it took this pic . #TooGoodToWait

I hope this post inspires you to pick up some late-season zucchini at your local market and get shredding! Happy baking :).

Banana Nut Birthday Muffins

My hubby celebrated a birthday last weekend, and I started his day off right with his annual birthday breakfast request – Banana Nut Muffins. He’s a stickler for this particular recipe, both because it doesn’t have chocolate chips in it (but hey, add ’em in if you want!) and because it’s not too sweet or dry. I chalk up those last points to using apple sauce – a great alternative to keep sugar down and moisture in.

Mixing the muffins - yum!

Mixing the muffins – yum!

I’m also a bit of a stickler when it comes to making muffins. I insist on using my Pampered Chef muffin stone for the best results. Nothing is better than a muffin that’s slightly crisp on the outside and delightfully moist on the inside! And, honestly, there’s no better stoneware on the market, in my opinion, than tried-and-true Pampered Chef.

So, without further adieu, here’s the recipe. It generally yields 12 big muffins or 24 little ones:

Ingredients:

4-5 ripe bananas

4 tbsps. olive oil

1 C white sugar

1 1/2 C flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 egg

1/2 C apple sauce

3/4 C walnut pieces

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix bananas, sugar, oil and apple sauce. Mash well.

Add flour, baking soda, egg and nuts. Mix well.

Bake @ 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 35 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before removing to cooling rack (or taste-testing – you know, as a quality assurance thing).

Happy baking!

The finished product - delicious success!

The finished product – a delicious success!