Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lobster Linens...now what?

I will not be serving lobster for Father's Day.  This scenario is the creation of the clever decorating staff at Pottery Barn, but you know you want to dine here.
I fall in love very easily...with linens, tableware, decorative accessories, books, food...and men, but for today I need help with my new purchase of the wonderfully fun lobster linens at Pottery Barn to which I recently treated myself.

June is a month I refer to as "The Trifecta of Horror" because every Sunday involves a gift-giving holiday and people who have absolutely everything.  The 12th is my parents' anniversary (seriously after 63 years what more does a couple need?), the 19th is Father's Day (again, if he doesn't buy it, he makes it, has it, or doesn't need it), and the 26th is dad's birthday (see above comments).
So, every year I try to make the meal and table very special (even if the gifts are practical and routine).  This year, because I am absolutely aching to go to the shore, when I spotted these linens in the Pottery Barn catalog, I pounced.  So clever, fun, and unique, I just had to have them.  Then, as luck would have it, I found a set of napkin rings that work perfectly with this set.  The only problem I now have is what on earth to do with the center of the table.  So consider this blog post as a plea for advice.  Here are the pictures of what I have (photos from the Pottery Barn and Pine Hill websites), now give me your wildest ideas.
Here is a closer view.  I did not opt for the monogramming.
These napkin rings (and this photo) are from Pine Hill.  The rings should go perfectly with the linens from PB.
This is a view of the runner (that I did not get).  I include it as it offers yet another view of this fabulous fabric.
Okay, Tablescapers, start your engines!  What would you use as a centerpiece?  I'm looking for clever, fabulous, crazy, unique, and, oh, budget-minded (as I sort of blew my budget on this set and, of course, I will have to actually buy and serve some food!  When you invite people for dinner, they expect it.)

This is linked to

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

I'm not cooking today, I'm going out, but wanted to wish all of our veterans a Happy Memorial Day, with the greatest of appreciation and thanks.  Here is a picture of my dad during WWII in front of the Monument to the Big Three in Berlin.  He is still going strong and will be 87 next month.

Have a great day, everyone!

This is linked to Seasonal Sundays

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Orange-Poppy Scones

It is always a good day when the new issue of Everyday Food arrives.  I thumb through it carefully, jotting notes and dog-earing pages, planning for the week ahead.  There are so many things in this issue that I want to try, but considering it's a Sunday and Sunday mornings call for something special, I chose to make the Orange-Poppy Scones.  (Yes, my obsession with scones continues).
These are delicious!  They are easy to make, bake up light and fluffy, and are full of orange-tasting goodness. 

One caveat, however: in the recipe in the magazine (above) you are instructed to "Form the dough into a 7-inch square" and "cut into 9 squares."  I would advise against this, if you can even manage, with your sharpest of knives, to cut the dough into such tiny pieces.  Doing this, and then cutting them into diagonals will yield a very small scone.  Instead, do what I did, make one slice across the middle horizontally, and then two vertical slices yielding 6 squares, and cut those into diagonals.  You'll have a perfectly sized scone, and a delicious one too.  
Just look at all of the delicious bits of orange zest spread evenly throughout the scone.

Happy Sunday!

Everyday Food (1-year auto-renewal)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie

The first time I saw the movie "Waitress" I spent most of my time staring at Nathan Fillion, but still came away craving pie.  Well, pie and Nathan Fillion.  The second time I saw the movie -- a couple of weeks ago -- I looked at it from an entirely new perspective.  Sure, I still like Fillion, but with my weekly fix of "Castle" always a certainly, this time I studied those pies.  As a food blogger I'm always looking for something new and different to prepare.  These pies intrigued me.  The names alone are delightfully attention-grabbing, the combination of ingredients unique.

This evening seeking something savory over sweet, I chose to make the quiche-type pie redolent of smoked ham and Brie cheese.  Rich, creamy, and delicious I found this to be a real winner.  To be fair, I will add that while Jim liked it well enough, he dubbed it "not one of his favorites" for reasons he couldn't quite explain.  I suspect it may have been too much Brie.  He likes Brie as much as I do, but generally the savory pies I bake contain Gruyere. I think the Brie substitution just didn't quite sit right with his expectations of what a quiche should be.  Try this for yourself (cut small slices, it is very rich) and let me know what you think.  Enjoy yours while watching "Waitress," and stay tuned for more pies from the movie coming soon!
Waitress (Widescreen Edition)
I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie a.k.a. Bad Baby Pie
1 pie crust
4 Tbs. butter
3 slices ham
8 green onions
1 cup Brie cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover pie crust with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more. Remove crust and reduce heat to 325 degrees. Julienne ham. Chop green onions. In skillet, saute ham until edges brown. Remove and set aside. Saute onion until tender. Remove with slotted spoon and combine with ham. 

Spread sauteed ham and onion on the bottom of the baked pie crust. 
Spread Brie over ham mixture.
Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Combine eggs, cream and nutmeg; pour over cheeses. Bake 30 minutes or until set. 
Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I've set the counter in the kitchen for Sunday brunch.  No, I'm not going to leave it like this until Sunday, but I wanted to show you just how royally I plan on treating my husband come Sunday as he is the one who provided the placemats and napkins for this table setting.  After our joint trip to the dentist on Tuesday (no cavities!) we popped into Tuesday Morning to give it our monthly once over and replenish our supply of Sarabeth Preserves.  While he was wandering in the gourmet food aisle he spotted this set and scooped it up for me.  I loved it!  The placemats are nice and thick and reverse to a wonderful, casual burgundy and cream checked pattern.  I like them so much that I'm considering sending him back for another set of four of each (the price was amazingly low) so we can use them when we host a larger crowd.
 I had fun putting this table setting together.  The color on the placemats goes with so many things that I have.  The Fiestaware, in turn, goes with many things as well.  I've paired it with Incaware restaurant ware cups and saucers.  The crimson band around the cups and saucers match the plates perfectly.
 The "napkin rings" are remnants of the greenery and flowers I had left from the tablesetting here which just goes to show that you should never throw any floral pieces or greenery away, you can always find a use for them.
Even the little antique sugar and creamer set work well here with the cranberry-colored raised cherry design (not to mention our port wine countertop!).
The water glasses are actually wine glasses (again the color is perfect).  I love these so much that I like to use them for beverages other than just wine.
I like the pale green accent plate.  I think it works well with the napkin greenery and softens the solid color of the Fiestaware plate.
The juice glasses are very special, but I know nothing about the maker or design.  They belonged to my mother's best childhood friend who later gave them to my her, who in turn, gave them to me.  What a treasure!

Placemats and napkins by Waverly - Tuesday Morning
Plates and flatware - Fiestaware
Green wavy plates - Metlox Lotus
Cups and saucers - Shenango Incaware
Fruit Bowls - World Market/Cost Plus
Crimson stem glasses - Crate & Barrel
Sugar & Creamer - from an antique shop in Oxford
Juice glasses - gift

This post is linked to:

Cookies for the Cranky

Yes, I am cranky.  It's not my usual state, nor something I'm generally free to admit, but these days with our lives so full of chaos, a person can get to be downright disagreeable. Yesterday my husband was readying to go to the store to pick up something for dinner and asked what we needed.  "Ummm, chicken," I said, "and...M&Ms."

He raised an eyebrow, "M&Ms?"

"You heard me!" I barked, a little more viciously than I'd intended.  I can understand his surprise, I doubt in our 16 years of marriage that I've ever asked him to buy M&Ms.  I generally buy my own candy, I'm funny that way, but I wanted a cookie, a HOMEMADE cookie, and I wanted M&Ms, ergo, the M&M cookie.

I used the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from the king of baking cookbooks, aptly named Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito and Tina Rupp, making a few minor adjustments. Instead of using 16 ounces of chocolate chips as suggested in the book, I used 1 cup of M&Ms and 1 cup of roughly chopped pecans.  I just don't think a chocolate chip cookie tastes quite as good without pecans.  I was right.  They were wonderful, and I felt so much better after a couple of cookies (okay four, if you must know) and a cup of coffee. 

If you're unfamiliar with Baked, click on the link at the bottom of this post and investigate. It is wonderful!  It is what every cookbook should be: interesting, informative, loaded with pictures, and one great recipe after another.  This book even tells you how to make your own almond paste!  Can you imagine the savings that will be?  (That alone makes it worth buying, and me giddy with excitement.)  Now go and get yourself a cookie!
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Home Grown Home Made Salsa Verde

I took a major step today: I planted something.  To be precise, I planted red peppers, green peppers, poblano peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, cucumbers, bottle gourds, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, basil, parsley, and potatoes.  Clean up of the tornado damage begins this week and I'm encouraged by the very thought of this.  It will take months, I'm not going to try to convince myself otherwise, but it's a beginning.  Thanks to my son who has diligently helped us during this past month of chaos and disruption, the potager has been cleared, the soil turned, and the beds prepared, so I can begin to get back to what I consider a "bit of normal."

For those of you who enjoy a vegetable garden and also like a great salsa, let me encourage you to grow tomatillos this summer.  I don't think there is a plant any easier to cultivate.  In past years I've grown it in containers, damp areas, dry areas, partially shady areas, and have always gotten a bumper crop.  This means lots of salsa verde, and nothing is better tasting than fresh homemade salsa verde derived from your own home grown tomatillos.  How can one fail to feel such a soul filling satisfaction from that?

Here is the recipe that I use, but it can be tweaked to suit your own tastes.  If you like it hotter, leave the seeds in the jalapenos.  Add more onion or garlic if you like; add or reduce the amount of cilantro.

This is one of those condiments that you're going to find a lot of uses for other than just as a dip for tortilla chips.  I like it on top of a poached egg, as a potato topping, on tacos, on top of a grilled steak, stirred into a cream sauce and poured over fish or chicken.

Salsa Verde

2 large fresh poblano peppers
1/2 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, diced
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 scallions, chopped (include both white and green parts)
1 large jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves (or to taste, I used a bit more)
1 tablespoon whipping cream
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Char poblanos directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in bowl. Cover top of bowl with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and chop chilies.

Combine tomatillos, broth, scallions, jalapeno, and garlic in medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until mixture is reduced to 1 2/3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Transfer mixture to blender, food processor, or use immersion blender to blend ingredients thoroughly.  Add poblanos, cilantro, and cream. Puree a second time, until smooth. Season salsa with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add lime juice, if desired. Can be made a day ahead.  Serve warm or cold. 

This is linked to: 
and Mosaic Monday at Little Red House

Friday, May 20, 2011

Getting on my Last Nerve Chocolate Peanut Clusters

It's now been a month since our property was devastated by what is now known as the "Good Friday Tornado."  Since that time, nothing has changed.  The shutters are still in bits scattered about the yard, joined by the shingles.  Trees are still downed and/or uprooted, debris is everywhere, the roof is still damaged, the brick patio is still raised with an angled tree sticking out of it, the pool still supports a hundred-year-old tree.  Everything waits in wonder while the insurance company calculates and deliberates; various and sundry people come to measure, take pictures, and make estimates.  We are acting as our own general contractor and that is a lot of work.  We coordinate tree services, pool services, roofers, carpenters, brick layers, and one guy, a builder of custom wine cellars, who is stalking our downed walnut trees.  To add to our joy, this afternoon our hot water heater went out (Did I mention the dishwasher is on its last leg?). As you can imagine there is little time for anything else and, as a consequence, during this very bleak and desperate time...I ran out of chocolate!!  When life itself is getting on your last nerve, the last thing you need is a cocoa-free pantry.

So today, in desperation, I raided the pantry and came up with what I now refer to as "Getting on my Last Nerve Chocolate Peanut Clusters."  The recipe is simple:  Raid the pantry for whatever chocolate chips you may find left in the bags.  Look into the corner of the cabinet in case some slipped out and lurk there.  Pour chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl.  Add some vanilla chips to offset the dark chocolate if that is all you can find, or shave chunks off of that big white piece of Callebaut you've been saving for reasons you can't now remember.  Look around for caramel in an attempt to create your own Snicker bar, grunt with disgust when you can't find it.  Rummage through the pantry for any jar you can find featuring a face that remotely resembles Mr. Peanut.  Dump into bowl with chocolate.  Microwave on high for one minute.  Stir.  Add more chocolate, if the nuts aren't completely covered, and microwave again for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Drop in mounds onto foil.  Let dry for as long as you can manage it. Remove from foil and serve on a paper napkin.

There is definitely something to the study that came to the conclusion that chocolate promotes feelings of well being.  This is science, people!  I personally know this to be true because I feel quite "un"-well when it is not coursing through my system, and I know I'm not alone.  I remember my late Aunt Marilyn telling me once that one night she was so desperate for chocolate that she popped the top off of a can of chocolate frosting and spread it on saltine crackers.  "You have no idea," she told me, "just how delicious a saltine can be."  Ummm, I think I do!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I love the "Outdoor Living Ideas" theme of today's Tablescape Thursday.  There is nothing I enjoy more, when the weather turns nice, than to have a libation, snack, or meal in the great outdoors.  These days, alas, our great outdoors is still loaded with debris, courtesy of the Good Friday tornado.  Debris that encompasses about 85% of our property, beneath which the grass continues to grow and, at last check, is roughly 18"  high.  So while I do still sit in my favorite spot on the back porch and have my morning coffee while listening to the sound of chain saws buzzing like killer bees and roofers hammering away like woodpeckers, I long to have things back in order and enjoy dining alfresco anew.

To maintain my sanity positive outlook, I've been paging through some wonderful books of Mexican Courtyards, Gardens, and Cocinas, longing for the day when our patio can be as festive.  I'm going to share these pages with you, and I dare you not to come away feeling festive, inspired, awestruck, and craving chips, salsa and a margarita!

Are you suitably inspired?

All photos in this post came from the following books, all of which are available on Amazon.  Any or all of these would make excellent additions to your cooking library as dining, as we all know, is so much more than food.

Mexicasa: The Enchanting Inns and Haciendas of MexicoMexicolor: The Spirit of Mexican DesignMexicocina: The Spirit and Style of the Mexican KitchenIn A Mexican Garden: Courtyards, Pools, and Open-Air Living Rooms