Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cranberry Orange Muffins

After more than a decade of absence, I stumbled upon my old recipe for Cranberry Orange Muffins that used to be a staple of the bread bowl at Thanksgiving. I decided to whip up a batch to see if they were as good as I remembered.  As it turns out, they were! They are also forgiving as, midway through, I realized that I didn't have enough orange juice, so made up for its absence with Triple Sec. I think I just may have improved them!
If your holiday baking has begun, you may just want to give these a try. They freeze beautifully and are equally good at the breakfast table as they are Thanksgiving dinner.
Cranberry Orange Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
1 large egg
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about one and a half oranges)
1½ cups fresh whole cranberries

Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or use papers. Preheat oven 375° F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir in salt, sugar, and orange peel. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together egg with oil and orange juice. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid into the well. Mix together until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Using an ice cream scoop, dollop batter into muffin cups (you want them 1/2 to 3/4 full). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cooling on a rack for five minutes before removing them from the pan.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love, Welcome, Serve: Recipes That Gather and Give, Reviewed

I don't know what it is about Southern women and church ladies, but they really seem to know what they're doing when it comes to serving up a good meal. Amy Nelson Hannon, author of the new book Love, Welcome, Serve: Recipes That Gather and Give is both of these things -- Southern, and the wife of a preacher for more than 20 years, so she knows good cooking. She is also the owner of Euna Mae's one-of-a-kind kitchen boutique in Northwest Arkansas. Hannon, who feels strongly about hospitality, believes that cooking for people makes them feel cared for, and with this book, you can care for people in deliciously fine fashion!
A beautiful volume full of stunning photos and taste tempting recipes, it is unique, in part, because of the interesting division of these recipes. Let me explain. Sections are divided up as follows:

Bites That Welcome
Pickled, Tossed, and Chilled
Meats, Mains, and Sturdy Soups
Comforts and Casseroles
Serve Alongsides
Sweet tea, Sauces, and Such
For the Love of Sweets

Aren’t these the most engaging chapter titles? When I'm looking for comfort food in a cookbook, I’m often forced to endlessly page through in search of comfort. Here, Hannon has made it simple by allowing comfort its own chapter. I like that. Similarly, if a side dish is what you’re seeking, just turn to that chapter. In addition you’ll find helpful sections on gratitude, and another on recipes for homemade items that you can make to give.
The beginning features helpful sections on things such as what ingredients will yield the best results in cooking (for example real lemon juice, not the bottled stuff), what constitutes a well-equipped kitchen, and what you will need to have the definitive well-stocked pantry.
(I am making this for Thanksgiving. I’ll report!)
Being a southern cookbook, there are recipes I come to expect, and I wasn't let down. You will find Fried Green Tomatoes (with Zesty Cream Sauce), Roasted Red Pepper Pimiento Cheese, as well as one of my favorites, Shrimp and Grits. The Smoked Pulled Pork had my mouth watering, as did the Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Garlic Cream. The Salmon Croquettes with Cajun Alfredo Angel Hair Pasta is on my list to make next week.
The Comfort Food section offers up Cottage Pie with Puff Pastry (It looks phenomenal!), as well as Creamy Baked Spinach Ravioli, both of which are in my future.

My guess is that there is not a recipe in this book that you aren’t going to want to try; simply paging through had me ready to head to the kitchen.
This is a wonderfully engaging book with each recipe fronted by a comment from the author, easy-to-read lists of ingredients, concise instructions, and mouth-watering photographs. Equally appropriate for the novice cook or for the seasoned veteran like me, everything here is sure to please. Treat yourself or a friend, or treat yourself and a friend. This is a must-have.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Blazing Fall Tablescape

This is a very simple tablescape. There is no big, flashy centerpiece. There is no layering of plates. The star here is color -- bold, vibrant, color. Despite its simplicity, isn't this fabulous?
The centerpiece is nothing more than a pumpkin tureen. I’ve used it in various forms over the years as you can see here. 
Today as I was setting a table for a pizza party with my son and his family, I wanted to keep it simple. My grandchildren appreciate a nice table, but they don't quite get the point in stacked plates and a lot of cutlery. They will one day, but in the meantime, I try to keep things simple when they come for a visit.
While digging for the tureen in the “belly of the beast,” I happened to come across these darling little pilgrim hat treat holders that I bought years ago at Williams-Sonoma on clearance. The idea at the time I suppose, was to use them at the Thanksgiving children's table filled with goodies. In giving them a careful assessment I thought, Egad! It is going to take a lot of candy to fill these things, so I came up with another idea. Don’t they look great? I love the whimsy here. And it gives the table a nice flash of gold, and look of fun.
Having successfully retrieved the tureen, I placed it at center table along with the surround of bittersweet that was a part of a shop display.
The plates are a new addition this year. I know, I know, I do not need new plates. I know that. Honestly, it's a sickness, when I see something this gorgeous I just can't resist.
I don't think I've seen colors quite so bold. I also liked the fact that the edge of the plate is little wavy, so it's different from the average plate.
An additional justification to my purchase was assuring myself that, because this is a sunflower design, I will be able to use these from midsummer all the way until late fall.
Simple can be fabulous, as I've shown you here. A nice simple centerpiece (that can double as server for soup), gorgeous fall plates, a whimsical holder for napkins, some autumn flatware, and the table is set.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Jezebel Sauce

I have to make a confession. What initially attracted me to Jezebel Sauce was the name. I mean, come on, how can you resist a name like that? So, knowing that it had so many uses, and that I had all of the ingredients, I decided to make it. There are a variety of recipes for Jezebel Sauce available, but I find this one suits me the best. It is served, primarily I believe, atop a brick of cream cheese surrounded by crackers or crudites. But I find it does amazing things to a ham, chicken, cheese, or turkey sandwich. In fact, the first time I made this I only made half a batch, and I was sorry that I did. Now I keep it in my refrigerator at all times. I suspect is going to be the "go to" sauce for corned beef come St. Patrick's Day, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is a festive and fun sauce, with a clever name, lots of flavor, and a pleasant kick. You can adjust the amount of mustard and horseradish to suit your taste. You need to make this; it is going to turn your dishes into something extra special that will have all of your guests talking.
Jezebel Sauce

½ cup orange marmalade
½ cup apricot preserves
2/3 cup apple jelly
1 tablespoon Creole mustard
1 tablespoon Gulden’s spicy brown mustard
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
½ cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Put into a sealed container and store in the fridge. It keeps indefinitely. Excellent when used on top of a brick of cream cheese as an appetizer, or as a sandwich spread. It's particularly good on turkey, chicken, ham, or cheese. It also makes an amazing dipper for fried shrimp. You also might consider stirring it into egg or ham salad for an added punch.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Suppers, Simple, Delicious Menus for Family Gatherings by Cynthia Graubart, a Book Review

When I was a kid, Sunday dinner meant that I had to eat the evening meal that I wasn't particularly interested in, earlier in the day. The plus was that, at the normal dinner time, I got to have a sandwich, so things kind of evened out for me. Occasionally on Sundays we’d go to my grandmother’s house to join other members of the family for corn, mashed potatoes, and grandma's fried chicken. Nobody made fried chicken like my grandma. Probably nobody makes fried chicken like your grandma. Grandmas are known for their fried chicken. I know my mother was, my boys are still talking about hers. Unfortunately that apple fell very far from the tree. In fact it not only fell, but gained momentum as it rolled down a hill, and into the next county; I can't make decent fried chicken to save my life.

Thank goodness, then, for
Sunday Suppers, Simple, Delicious Menus for Family Gatherings by Cynthia Graubart. As comforting and delicious as grandma's fried chicken is this book full of simple, easy-to-prepare meals. A fun volume with a homey, scrapbook feel, it is divided into five chapters -- “Just Us,” “Great Grilling,” Company’s Calling,” “Lighter Suppers,” and “ Sunday Upside Down” -- designed to help you create a tasty dinner without a whole lot of trouble. I found the chapter on “Just Us” of particular interest; the menus were engaging, the food tempting, the recipes appearing so easy that having a small intimate crowd of people every Sunday afternoon is going to be my goal.
Every recipe in this book is easy to read and incredibly doable. No oddball ingredients are called for, just common everyday things that you are going to have on hand. And you're going to turn those common everyday things into the most delicious dishes you've ever seen. Instructions are clear and concise, there are words of wisdom with each recipe, and the photos are going to make you drool.
The charming section "Sundays Past and Present" profiles popular authors and chefs who wax nostalgic about the Sunday dinners of their past, what they meant to them, and what they would like to see for Sunday dinners in the future. This is a book that you really should purchase not just for yourself, but for the young people in your life. They need to be made aware of the conviviality and importance Sunday dinner is meant to be.
There is a wonderful section after each menu called "Set the Scene" where the author adds personal notes, and offers advice on how to set the scene for your special dinner.
I always consider myself lucky if I find a cookbook that has 4 or 5 recipes that I'd like to try, that's a cookbook I'm inclined to buy. This book didn't have one recipe that I didn't want to try. Every single one in the book made my mouth water.
This needs to be on everybody's bookshelf. It evokes a wonderful feeling of family, togetherness, and teaches the importance of revering dining, something that seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years. It is attractive, fun, and full of great recipes that anyone of any age can prepare. This one's a keeper.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

InStyle Parties, the Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining All Year Round, Reviewed

If you long to entertain, but have no idea what to do or where to begin, have I got a book for you! InStyle Parties, the Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining All Year Round is the Bible of entertaining. It provides you with 15 different celebrations from which to choose, including dinner parties, holiday parties (although, sadly, Christmas is lacking here), game day gatherings, a darling woodland baby shower, as well as summertime soirĂ©es including a fresh summer supper, and beach house lunch. I particularly loved the Latin Fusion Feast. When was the last time you attended one of those?! 
Each celebration has its own customized menu of recipes, including a signature cocktail, tabletop ideas, suggestions for party favors, group activities, even a timeline to tell you exactly what to do, and when. I would have loved to have had such an excellent resource when I was first starting out. Had I, I doubt that I would be suffering from party prep anxiety today!
I have never had a cookbook quite like this one; it is certainly unique. But, to call it a cookbook is selling it short. This is your own personal party planner.  The recipes are easy and doable, there are beautiful, helpful, mouthwatering photos, and copious information on party favors that complement your theme, and that guests can take home with them as a remembrance of the fabulous time they had at your gathering. Additionally, it is also a valuable resource, guiding you, step-by-step, through the party planning process, from invitations, to stocking the bar, to planning your menu, advising as to needed supplies, and setting a table. This book has it all.
There are so many good ideas here that I can't do it justice in this brief review, you're just going to have to pick up a copy for yourself. And if you know anyone who struggles with parties, or is just starting out and doesn't exactly know what to do, this book is their answer. It is a fairy godmother in book form, a “must have” for the holidays, and welcome addition to any cookbook library, large or small. The InStyle people know what they're doing, and it shines through here.

Buy it!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

How to Set a Table, a Review

If you read my recent book review on the holiday cookies book, then you are well aware of my love for books as gifts for the holidays. The first thing I thought upon holding How to Set a Table, Inspiration, Ideas, and Etiquette for Hosting Friends and Family by Clarkson Potter is that this slim, canvas-covered volume would make a wonderful holiday gift. It's a smallish, delightfully inexpensive book that, I'm guessing, would slip rather easily into a holiday stocking. How delightful would it be to have this little book sticking out the top, and then various other table setting components like napkins, napkin rings, flatware, place cardholders, and the like, all making up the contents of the stocking? Adorable!

By now you may have gotten the idea that I really like this book. For someone like me, who has been entertaining for more years than I care to admit, there wasn't a whole lot new here. But that didn't keep me from absolutely falling in love with the book, the lovely pictures, the clever table setting ideas, and the reminder that revering dining seems to have flown out the window beginning somewhere back in the 90s, and definitely needs to return!
If, like me, you would like to see the appreciation for beautiful dining, and Sunday dinners make a come back, then you can join that effort by buying as many copies of this book as possible, and dispersing it amongst your family and friends. Yes, I like this book just that much. In addition to making a great stocking stuffer for the holidays, it would also make a cute and thoughtful hostess gift either on its own, or stuffed into a basket of goodies.
How to Set a Table will guide you through the selection of your dining pieces, how to put all of it together, and then set a variety of lovely tables from a formal dining table, to a breakfast bar, coffee table, picnic table, bistro table, console, and even a serving tray. The breakfast in bed and teatime trays charmed me, and served as a reminder, that we probably don't enjoy small things like breakfast in bed and afternoon tea as much as we ought to.

For a small book, it is an excellent resource, providing information on dinnerware basics such as the types of plates and when to use them, various types of glassware and their proper usage, flatware essentials, information on linens and napkins, as well as a few useful napkin folds.
There are nice layouts in the book directing you on how to set a formal table, mixing and matching, introducing heirlooms to your table settings, and adding lovely finishing touches like candlelight, fresh flowers, and greenery.
The photos throughout will assist and guide you. The information is attractively presented, easy to read, and completely inspiring. A quotation at the beginning of the book from Virginia Woolf really says it all, "one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

You are going to want to get this book -- one copy for yourself, and as many as you can carry for family and friends. Highly recommended.

For purchase or additional information, click the image below.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.