Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shrimp Alla Crema

Sometimes it takes us a long time to try new recipes.  Sometimes a realllly long time.  Such was the case with this delicious, surprisingly easy, great for weeknight/perfect for company dish.  We have something we call an agenda book.  Essentially it’s a rather ratty three-ring binder that holds photocopies of recipes, divided by category, that we someday hope to try.  Since our everyday cookbook (also ratty, also three-ring – can you say classy?”) is so full of recipes that we love and are tried and true, it’s not often that I ever reach for the agenda book.  Today I had a craving for shrimp, and was looking for a new way to prepare it when I found this faded recipe, placed in our book nearly six and a half years ago.  Why did we wait? I asked my husband, my mouth full of succulent delicious shrimp, This recipe is amazing.  Truly, it is.  But then why shouldn’t it be?  It’s from a restaurant that has been known to provide one delicious dish after another, some of which I’ve posted previously on this blog.  Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, July 6, 2005 (See here), I cut it in half to serve two.  Give it a try; don’t wait six and a half years like I did.

Shrimp Alla Crema
Roberto's Trattoria
20 colossal shrimp (8 to 12 per pound), cleaned and deveined
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Dust shrimp lightly with flour. Combine 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Place over medium-high heat. When butter melts, add shrimp; cook 1 minute per side. Remove shrimp from the skillet; set aside.

Add mushrooms to the skillet; sauté until they release their liquid, about 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add brandy, then return the skillet to the heat. Sauté for 1 minute. Add cream and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add spinach; sauté until limp, about 4 to 5 minutes, adding the garlic during the last minute of cooking.

Just before serving, add shrimp to sauce; as soon as shrimp are warm, remove from heat.

Divide the spinach among four plates; top each with about 1/2 cup sauce, 5 shrimp and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. 

Yield: 4 servings.

 This post is linked to:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rosette Napkin Fold

As I mentioned in this blog post, the Holiday Home Tour came upon me before I was quite ready, and I forgot to put napkins on the table.  I was eager to try the rosette napkin fold that I saw on Yvonne’s Stone Gable blog (now, sadly, no longer being written, but still available online for viewing).  For our Boxing Day dinner, I did manage to add the napkins, and not only did they draw raves, but this is the easiest napkin fold ever! I knocked out ten of them in about 15 minutes, and the beauty of this particular fold is that the napkins don’t need to be ironed beforehand.
  Yvonne provided a wonderful tutorial, so have a look.  I can see how this fold would work for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter (think of the gorgeous pastels), or any type of spring luncheon. 

This post is linked to:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wrapping Presents

Like me, you’re probably all busily wrapping presents.  Hopefully, unlike me, you don’t feel yourself at the beginning of a cold, or (gasp) the flu.  At any rate, I’m not cooking much this week, but wrapping presents, so today I’m going to provide you with a holiday rerun in this post about wrapping pretty gifts the easy and inexpensive way.

Press on everyone!  You’re going to make it!
A wrapped gift employing the use of florals, a glue gun, and a recycled bow.
I made quite a score at Michael's the other day when they put their florals on sale for half off and THEN had a coupon to get an additional 15% off of an entire order including sale items.  Can you say, giddy with excitement?

Just a fraction of the items I got ON SALE at Michael's.

Looking at all of the beautiful winter flowers and greenery gave me an idea (helped, no doubt, by being stuck in a long and slow-moving line next to a rack of glue guns).  Why not skip the ribbons and bows on wrapped packages this year in favor of flowers and greenery? And wouldn't using a glue gun be so much faster?

Do you know what? It is!  And not only faster, but the packages are prettier and it looks like you've spent hours on them when essentially you've just spent minutes (plus the time it takes to you  heat up the glue gun and try to remember where you put the wire cutters).

In order to expedite things, it helps to snip all of the leaves and flowers from their stems using wire cutters, or a sharp and powerful pair of kitchen shears (The kind that cuts through a chicken carcass with ease works particularly well.).  Discard the stems, and divide into "leaf" piles and "flower" piles, then sort by color.

Warm up your glue gun while wrapping gifts so you'll be ready.  Then, assembly-line style, hot glue flowers securely in place with dabs of glue in the center and on about half of the outside petals.  Then put a dot of glue underneath the base of the leaves and place them where desired beneath the flower, pressing down until the glue takes hold. Voila!  A beautifully-wrapped, professional-looking package in no time and on a budget.
I used a bit of sparkly gold curling ribbon on this package to bring out the gold on the flower.

After a while you'll develop both a rhythm and a real eye for design.  If you need some inspiration, I recommend Carolyne Roehm's book, Presentations: A Passion for Gift Wrapping.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce

Cranberries, I think, are highly underrated.  They tend to only show up on the Thanksgiving table and then are relegated to the back of the fridge until the following Thanksgiving when they are tossed out and replaced with new.  Sure there is the juice, and oh yes, the dried cranberries are very popular, but I’m talking cranberry sauce here.  Something that is most unappreciated.

Delicious and so beneficial to your health, did you know studies have shown that consumption of berries have potential health benefits against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections?  Or that the juice can protect against E.coli?  The berries also are known to prevent tooth surface plaque, and are a good source of many vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, ß-carotene, and minerals like potassium, and manganese.

Now, throw pineapple into the mix with its anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. Not to mention Vitamin A, C, the B-complex group, and collagen -- yes, ladies, COLLAGEN! -- and you have one heck of a healthy snack!

This recipe for Cranberry Pineapple relish came from a flyer from one of the local markets.  We made it on a whim this year and it won hands down over the other two varieties (one a 12-year staple) we served at the Thanksgiving dinner.  Think of it as not only a side for turkey, but for chicken, pork and ham as well.  Blend it slightly and use it to glaze the holiday ham, stir it into your morning oatmeal, or make a delicious parfait by layering it with plain or vanilla yogurt.  As for me, I can just eat it with a spoon, it is that good.

To your health!
Aren't the jewel-tone colors of these fruits just fabulous?

Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce
1 fresh,whole, cored pineapple
1 bag (12 oz). fresh cranberries
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup dark rum, optional
1/4 tsp. salt

Cut pineapple into 1/2" pieces.  Place pineapple, cranberries, brown sugar, water, rum (is using), and salt into a medium saucepan; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil 4 to 5 minutes or until most cranberries have burst, stirring occasionally.  Transfer cranberry sauce to bowl cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 1 week.

Copyright 2011 ShoptoCook Inc, NY via Schnucks Markets, St. Louis, MO

This post is linked to:


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Christmas Village

One of my favorite holiday decorations is this little village by Department 56 featuring buildings and accessories from the Dickens’ Village Series®.  There is something about a little illuminated Christmas village that enchants me.  I want to peer into the windows to see what is happening inside each little house.  I try to imagine what life would have been like in Dickens’ day, and listen to the sounds of the hustle and bustle as people carrying packages pass on the streets.  My collection of houses is starting to outgrow my space, so I’ll have to find a new location for it next year.  One of my goals is to eventually figure out how to use it as the centerpiece of my holiday table.  The only problem is doing so without causing people to trip over the electrical lines, or worse, have them duct-taped to the floor with that two-inch wide silver duct tape that is always so charming.  If anyone has done this or has any ideas for me, please let me know.  Meanwhile, enjoy your visit to Dickens’ London.

This post is linked to:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All Aboard!

In yesterday's blog post I made mention of the Holiday Historical House Tour of which we were a part.  Today I thought you might want to see some more pictures.  Largely the tour was successful.  We had a good crowd of very friendly people, all of whom were most complimentary, oohing and ahhing over the furnishings and decorations.  Three things seemed to make an impression again and again: my husband’s antique cleric robe cabinet in the entrance hall, the whopping big size of our backyard (that does look huge now that all of the tornado damage has been cleared), and the centerpiece on my dining room table.  The dishes (Old Curiosity Shop  by Royal China) seemed to make an impression as well.  Imagine my shock and surprise the following day when I went to photograph the table only to find two of the coffee cups were gone!  Considering that most of the people who passed through the house looked more like Miss Marple than Light-fingered Louie, it just goes to show that you can’t really trust anyone, even during the holiday season, alas.

You may have noticed that there are no napkins on the table.  In my haste to get everything ready I simply forgot them.  My plan for the holidays, however, is to use cranberry napkins in this rosette napkin fold.

Tablecloth - Bed, Bath & Beyond
Chargers - Pier 1
Transferware - Old Curiosity Shop (vintage)
Cranberry Glasses - Crate & Barrel
Clear Glasses - La Rochere
Greenery - Whole Foods
Snowflake Candles - Crate & Barrel
Train - Josephine's Gift Shop, Godfrey, IL
Salt & Pepper Shakers - Gift

This post is linked to:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree

My mother made me this ornament the year my first child was born.  It is her own design and sewn entirely by hand.

For the past 16 years my husband and I have occupied our Century Home, now boasting age 119.  Each of those 16 years, every spring, like clockwork, the organizer of the Summer Century Home Tour has appeared on our doorstep asking if we'd like to put our house on tour.  Every year our answer has always been the same.  No.  The thought of readying our half-acre yard that by mid-summer bursts with herbs, vegetables, and colorful blossoms, but looks rather bleak in June, not to mention cleaning and sprucing up the interior after a rather slothful winter seemed daunting.  "Ask us for the holiday tour," I'd call after her as she dejectedly descended our front steps.  My reasoning was that this would only require a cleaning of the interior, the placement of our holiday decorations, and that would be that.

So, the day after Thanksgiving, when my husband and I were delirious from exhaustion, the organizer of the Holiday Historical House Tour showed up at our door asking us if we'd like to participate.  Before I could stop the words from coming out of my mouth I'd said "yes."  We had a little over two weeks to prepare.  Initially this sounded like a lot of time.  It wasn't.  Cleaning and decorating takes time.  Lots of time.  Finding the decorations takes even more time.  If not for my son who gave up his day off and another free afternoon to the cause, we'd never have made it.

As a consequence, I did no cooking.  We ate out, or scrounged in the freezer, sometimes warming the food, other times just popping it out of its container and licking it like a beef-flavored Popsicle.  I'll be back later in the week with recipes, and tomorrow with my table setting, but for today I'd thought you might enjoy seeing some the ornaments that grace our tree.

When my boys were small Christmas was always dazzling.  I went to great lengths to transform the house into a holiday wonderland.  Each of our nine rooms had its own tree, each with a different theme.  Life and age has since caught up with me, so now each  tree is represented on the main tree in the living room.  This ornament featuring Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim was a part of the "Christmas Carol" tree, full of Dickens ornaments. Interestingly enough my youngest son gave an award-winning performance of Scrooge in his High School play.  I like to think this tree helped influence him.
I doubt there are many trees in the city of St. Louis that don't feature some form of Cardinal to pay homage to their favorite team. The sheet music behind represents our extensive musical background.

I collect an ornament from every place we visit.  This one of the St. Augustine Lighthouse is a pleasant reminder of a fun trip with friends.
This lovely ornament was a gift from my friend, Marilyn.  She rubber-stamped the top piece, cut it out and affixed it to a glass ball filled with a crystal snow-like substance.  She mailed it to me in a small Christmas tin filled with red and green excelsior.  The tin was NOT in a box, just taped shut and a label and postage attached directly to the tin.  It's always fun getting mail from Marilyn!
A lifelong lover of mysteries, this is but one of about two dozen ornaments that used to adorn the Sherlock tree in the Sherlock theme guest room.

Thanks for your visit.  What ornaments will grace your tree this year?
"I am sharing my holiday home decor for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls and Great Cleaners."

This post is linked to:Seasonal Sunday