Summer Table — Sunshine Yellow

The staples of summer—sunshine, gardens, birds, the seashore—can be the inspiration for your tables. Whether eating indoors or out, let summer’s bounty grace your tabletops to welcome your family or guests.

Digress from the typical matching set of dishes and a centerpiece. Find one inspiration piece to drive your scheme – a plate, napkin, candle, flower, plant, seashell, and go from there. Be bold when it comes to mixing patterns and contrasting colors. Yellow is a happy color like the sunshine, use a lot of it. 

Look to the outdoors and what you can borrow.  Fresh herbs, flowers, ferns and even tree branches can add green to your table’s palette. Cut or buy a bouquet of summer flowers – sunflowers, zenias, snapdragons, gerberas, daisies – and cut their stems down to put in low clay or glass pots for the table. Accent the flower pots with fresh mint.

Throw some whimsy out there and see what happens. Set a table (indoors or out) that says “We’re glad you came!”

This tablescape was featured in Celebrate Home Magazine, summer issue.

Elements used: Reversible picnic quilt (Williams-Sonoma); hemstitched white napkins (Pottery Barn); wine glasses (Ikea); fiddlehead flatware (Pottery Barn); metal flower napkin rings (Pier 1 Imports); blue plates by Gibson Dinnerware (Garden Ridge Pottery)

Photo by Cindy Dyer.

It’s All in the Pan, Margaret

Stump du NoelI sent a photo of my Stump de Noël to my friend Margaret and her response was, “Beautiful. I never had the nerve to make one. Wow!”

For the “stump cake” (which I began to fondly call it), it’s all in the pan — specifically a good Nordic Ware® pan made in Minnesota. This particular pan was made by the company specially for Williams-Sonoma. The label on the pan said, “Bake a classic holiday cake in an enchanting woodland shape.”

The stump cake is a takeoff of the legendary Bûche de Noël. The French version is a sponge cake baked in a jelly roll pan and filled with butter cream. The cake and cream is then rolled into a “log” and decorated to look like it is hanging out in the forest (except it’s on your table).

The recipe for this cake came with the pan, so I won’t share it because it is particular to this pan and I’m not sure it will translate into another type of pan. However, if you feel you have the nerve, there are many Bûche de Noël recipes on the Internet like this one from the Food Network. There is also a YouTube video that makes yule-log making look like child’s play. The woman who gives the lesson (we never see her face, only her chocolate-covered hands), acts like she whips these logs up at the drop of a hat.

I made the stump cake for the office holiday party. I have to admit, I had a lot of fun making it, especially the decorating part. When it came out of the oven, my son, looking mesmerized, commented, “It really does look like a stump!”I baked the meringue mushrooms (which people fought over), garnished it with rosemary sprigs and cranberries (click here for the how-to on garnish), cut fresh holly and magnolia leaves from my yard, and used moss as a backdrop. One person thought the woodland scene was a centerpiece and was shocked when I cut into it. The accolades made it all worth it.

So, Margaret, get up the nerve, it’s not that complicated to make a Bûche de Noël, especially after you watch the YouTube lady do it.

I dusted my meringue mushrooms with cocoa.

I dusted my meringue mushrooms with cocoa.

Joyeux Noel!

What Kitchen Implement Can’t You Live Without?

Me First

My sister always said, “Never take off your wedding ring, except to make meatloaf.”

I say, “Never take off your wedding ring even when you make meat loaf.”

My favorite kitchen implement is a pair of matching hands. Maybe they technically don’t count, but they have served me well all these years in all my kitchens.

Yes, these are my hands, mixing ground beef to make my Bleu Burgers (recipe later).

You’re Next

We all have one (or two) things – pan, knives, lemon reamer, martini shaker – whatever – that we could not imagine our kitchen being without. I want to know what yours is. Be one of the first three people to respond and you will receive something from me from Williams-Sonoma – my all-time, favorite place in the world to get all-things kitchen. You will also get the latest issue of Kelley Hospitality Magazine.

Respond in the comment section so you share your answer with all of us. Tell us what and why. Then e-mail me your address and I will send you the prizes. E-mail me at

I look forward to your answers.

Babs’ Bleu Burgers

My favorite combination of beef and cheese. You can substitute mozzarella, feta or Boursin, but then they wouldn’t be Babs’ Bleu Burgers now would they?

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I use lean)
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound crumbled bleu cheese

Using your hands, mix all ingredients except for the cheese and shape into four patties. They will be thick.

Using your hands, make a little indentation in the center of each patty and fill with cheese. Cover the hole with meat.

Grill, broil, or cook in a pan to your liking. Serve in buns.

Using your hands, pick up and eat.

Hint: Try Maytag Dairy Farm Blue Cheese! I buy it fresh from their farm in Iowa.

Sneeze Guard Heiress Meets Iron Chef Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay and Barbara Kelley (a.k.a. the sneeze guard heiress) Photo by Cindy Dyer.

Some days are just great and this was right up there with the best of them! I got to meet my idol, Iron Chef Bobby Flay, at the Williams-Sonoma in Annapolis, Maryland. His new book Bar Americain is a real winner. While standing in line to meet Mr. Flay and have him sign our books, we were treated to samples of his recipes:

  • Pumpkin Soup with Cranberry-Maple Creme Fraiche with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Chives
  • Apple Chopped Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
  • Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Sauce
  • Red Velvet Cupcakes

All delish and all on my “to cook” list (starting this weekend)!  I can’t put this beautiful book book down. Really, I’m just too excited to blog, so for the “rest of the story” from my big day, go to Cindy Dyer’s blog — my friend, photographer, artist, and designer extraordinaire!

And why am I the sneeze guard heiress? It’s all tongue-in-cheek to provoke a grin and pique some interest; however, my dad, Johnny Garneau really did invent the sneeze guard.