Thursday, August 6, 2020

"Hunting" for Dinner Tablescape

A number of you have remarked on the scarcity of table settings that I have shared over the past year. There’s a reason for that. Generally, as you may have noticed, I set tables for four when I share them. But a lot of the dishes that I use regularly, I only have in two place settings. In many cases that’s all I could find or afford. I noticed, during lockdown, that many bloggers have been sharing tables for one and two as a result of their living alone, yet still wanting to dine in fine fashion. I decided to join in.
This is one of my most beloved china patterns. It is Staffordshire Hunting Scene, and I bought it back in the 80s. Once a week I used to go shopping with my mother. I would get a babysitter, and she and I would head out for a day of shopping and lunch. It was heaven! We had our favorite stores that we visited and re-visited, one of which was a high-end home decor store.  I can still remember the feeling I had when we walked in one day and saw a magnificent table set for 12 with this china. The centerpiece was a large ceramic huntsman, surrounded by ceramic hunting dogs and one lone fox. Immediately, I wanted everything. My wallet said no.
Over the course of the next few months, I tried to buy a piece each time that we went. Eventually they changed displays, and I was out of luck. I know that it is available on eBay, but the prices have gone up considerably. So, I will share this lovely English hunting scene table for one.
The runner is from Pottery Barn, placed on top of cranberry yardage from JOANN. The pitcher is from Fitz & Floyd, a purchase I made at the same time I started buying the dishes, and, according to the bottom of the pitcher, that was 1986.
The flatware and charger plates once belonged to my mother; the stemware is from Avon’s Cape Cod collection. The knobby brown dinner plate is from Pier One’s “Spice Collection.” Sadly, in the course of a number of moves, I lost track of the cup that goes with the saucer, so have used it to hold one of those ubiquitous Mottahedeh Musée de Arts Pots de Crème Cups.
Lastly, my Limoges box of the reclining soldier seems the perfect addition to the bowl.

I can hear the hunting horns now!
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Tablescape Thursday

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Sesame Pork

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The other day a number of us were talking about slow cookers. Yes, that is but one example of some of the exciting conversations that I have had with people during the lock-down. I was surprised by how many of them had admitted to only using their slow cookers in the winter. Why? I asked them. It’s the summer when you don’t want to heat up the house. Sure, slow cooker fare tends to be a bit heartier and more filling, so perhaps more appropriate for winter consumption, but when we have hot days,  the slow cooker is my salvation.

This is a recipe that is super easy to put together, and very delicious. It is intensely flavorful with the sesame oil, seasonings, and soy sauce. It’s excellent when cut into slices and served on a bed of white rice alongside some roasted vegetables. If you prefer it for lighter fare, shred it and use it to fill tacos, or mound it on a sandwich bun. If the latter, I can attest that it is really delicious when topped with a pile of fresh bean sprouts and extra scallions.
Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Sesame Pork

1 4-lb. pork tenderloin
½ c. brown sugar
2 T. white vinegar
¾ t. ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. toasted sesame seeds
2 lg. Melissa’s shallots, diced
2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
Extra sesame seeds, for garnish

Stir together, in a medium bowl, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame seed and

Place pork tenderloin into the slow cooker. Cover with sauce, and cook for 5-6 hours on low.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Cashew Chicken Casserole

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I enjoy casseroles, I admit it. I enjoy the fact that all of the ingredients can be put together and enjoyed as one. I enjoy that there is relatively little work, I enjoy the fact that they can be made in one or multiple servings and frozen for later. I just like the ease. I also like the taste, particularly in this case. I found this recipe on the Instagram feed of Patti of the Pandora’s Box blog. I altered it slightly to suit my tastes, and was very pleased with the outcome. It isn’t fancy, but it is good. The next time I make it I plan on adding a small can of sliced water chestnuts. If you like the crunch of water chestnuts, you may want to do the same.
Cashew Chicken Casserole

½ c. diced
Melissa’s shallots
1 c. chopped celery

1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 T. butter
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 can cream of celery soup
1/3 c. chicken broth
½-2 T. soy sauce
3 drops Tabasco sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 c. cooked, diced chicken
1 3-oz. can
La Choy Chinese noodles
½ c. cashews

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a
1½-qt. casserole dish with PAM; set aside.

Sauté shallots, celery, and mushrooms  in butter until soft. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Blend in soup, broth, soy sauce, Tabasco, and a dash of black pepper. Add chicken and pour into buttered casserole dish. Top with noodles and cashews. Bake until hot and bubbly about 25 to 35 minutes.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Breakfast al Fresco

I don’t know about the rest of you, but during the pandemic, my schedule has completely changed. I used to be one who stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, and didn’t get out of bed the next day until 9:30 AM, or even 10 AM. These days, I’m tired before midnight, and find myself awakening around 6:30. Frankly, I’m enjoying the change. During the summer, the early hours are the only ones where I can spend time out on the lanai without roasting in the heat, or melting in the humidity. As such, I now enjoy breakfast out there every morning.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be of any significance (although I will admit to ordering on occasion from First Watch and getting delivery), it can be simply toast, juice, and coffee. But, I love being around my plant friends, in a setting that is so serene.
I know I’m not alone in my love for plants. There is something so relaxing about being surrounded by them. I also get quite excited when I see a new leaf begin to unfurl. The small table that I have set up in the corner would comfortably serve two, but because I’m only serving one, the top is covered with my favorite things. I will often sit here in the evening when the sun has gone down, light the candle (there are many scattered around the area), and enjoy a cocktail.
On my table I have some of my favorite plants including an Australian tree fern, and a Lucille Ball head vase with baby tears.
My place setting is largely the result of purchases from Pier One. I have layered green leaf placemats beneath round, fringed, straw placemats, and topped them with a metal charger, all from Pier One. The tablecloth (if you can see it) is Tommy Bahama.
The brown, knobby-edged plate is also from Pier One, a part of their spice collection, the banana tree plate on top is a favorite from Fitz and Floyd.
Because of the bamboo edge of the top plate, I decided that bamboo-handled flatware would be perfect here. The napkin, tropical as well, is from Pottery Barn.
The brown stemware once belonged to my mother; the Moroccan tea glass that I use for juice, is from World Market.
These are not easy times, and I know that many people are despairing. You can fight that by treating yourself exceptionally well, getting out the good dinnerware, and relaxing and appreciating all that’s good in life.

Goodbye, July!

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

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July 30 is National Cheesecake Day and while, despite having made plenty of them, I am not a particular fan of cheesecake, I am a big fan of lemon, and found this interesting combination hard to resist. It’s a bit of work, but if, like me, you divide it into thirds, spreading out the construction over a period of three days, it won’t be difficult at all. I made the lemon curd the first day, cheesecake the second day, and the third morning made the meringue. I must say, that of all of the cheesecakes I’ve ever eaten, this one is the most flavorful and unique. If you’re looking for a way to delight an audience, this cheesecake is it.
Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

To Make Cheesecake:

2 c. shortbread cookie crumbs
¼ c. melted butter
3 (8-oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, room temperature
1 c. sour cream
1 c. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
¼ c. fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 t. vanilla extract
1 Meyer lemon, zested

To Make Meringue:

4 egg whites
¼ c. granulated sugar

1½ c. Lemon Curd* (See recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place cookies into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. Press evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat together cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix lemon juice, vanilla extract, and lemon zest into cream cheese mixture, scraping bottom and sides of the bowl.

Spread mixture over cookie crust in the springform pan. Bake until almost set in the center, about 1 hour. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate until completely cooled, at least 3 to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using a stand or hand-held mixer beat egg whites until soft peaks form; add sugar and cream of tartar, and beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.

Spread lemon curd over cheesecake. Mound whipped egg whites over the curd, sealing around all the edges.

Bake in the preheated oven until meringue is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Chill uncovered in refrigerator, about 1 hour. Run a very sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake, and carefully remove the side of the pan.

This can be made the day before and refrigerated, uncovered. If you would like to make this for the freezer, follow directions up to the meringue, wrap, and freeze. Add meringue when ready to serve, and follow directions form there.

* If you prefer not to make your own lemon curd, feel free to purchase some to use in place of homemade.
Microwave Lemon Curd
Slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction

1 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 c. fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 T. Meyer lemon zest
½ c. unsalted butter, melted

In a large microwave-safe bowl (I used Duralex), whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, and melted butter.

Cook in the microwave on full power for one-minute intervals, stirring after each minute. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending upon the wattage of your microwave. (Three minutes worked for me.) The lemon curd is done when it coats the back of a metal spoon.

Remove from the microwave, push through a fine, mesh sieve, and pour into sterile jars or a container.

Allow to cool to room temperature, and then cover it with a lid and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Fried Green Tomatoes

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I came to realize something over the weekend when I sacrificed one of my beautiful tomatoes before it turned red in order to make fried green tomatoes. I had never eaten nor made a fried green tomato in my life, and somehow, I felt I was missing something. I have been told, by someone who loves them, that this is a wonderful recipe. Indeed, the breading is crisp and crunchy, the tomato is tender, the sauce is phenomenal (and I love to toss baked shrimp in with it and serve it over rice), and yet, the love for these is lost on me. If, unlike me, you are a fan, you might want to give these a try. Set up a dipping station, and it goes very quickly. Let me know what you think.
Fried Green Tomatoes

2 green tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
½ c.
self-rising flour
½ t. seasoned salt
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. buttermilk

½ c. cornmeal
½ t. dried parsley
½ t. paprika
½ t.
Creole seasoning
¼ t. garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil

Season tomato slices with salt and pepper.

Set up a “dipping station.” In the first bowl combine flour, salt, and pepper. In the second bowl pour in buttermilk. In the third bowl combine cornmeal, parsley, paprika, Creole
seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.

Dredge each tomato slice in the flour mixture to coat, then into the buttermilk, and finish by pressing each side of the tomato into the cornmeal mixture to coat. Place tomato slices on a baking sheet and allow to rest to absorb the flavor of the coating, 10 to 15 minutes, while you heat up the oil.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or saucepan, or, as I did, a 9-inch sauté pan. Heat to 350°F.

Gently place tomato slices into the hot oil and cook until golden brown (floating if you’re using a deep fryer), 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Serve with remoulade. (Recipe follows)

This recipe yields eight slices. It can be doubled to serve more.
Spicy Remoulade
 Feel free to cut back on the cayenne to tame this tangy sauce.

½ c. mayonnaise
2 T. coarse-grained mustard
2 T. drained prepared horseradish
2 T. chopped scallions
½ t. paprika
½ t. cayenne pepper (or less)
½ t. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Duke's Mayonnaise Cookbook, Reviewed

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When I’m standing before a packed bookshelf chock-full of the latest new release cookbooks, wondering which one to buy, I’ll tell you my secret for selecting one that is certain to satisfy; look for the cookbook in which a product is involved.
Companies want to sell their products, and when they trouble themselves to select a fine author like Ashley Strickland Freeman to write that book and promote their product, you can be assured that they are going to give you delicious, easy-to-prepare, family friendly recipes. Their goal is to sell their wares, and a bad recipe isn’t going to do it.
A prime example of that is The Duke's Mayonnaise Cookbook. There are so many wonderful recipes in this book that you won’t know where to begin. It has a colorful, retro-look, and immediately draws you in, as you’re flipping pages with reckless abandon, and book-marking more recipes than you could ever imagine.
The recipes are preceded by a brief (but not overbearing) few words by the author, are, in nearly all cases, accompanied by a mouthwatering color photo, are written in a simple, easy-to-understand style, and call for ingredients that you are either likely to have on hand, or are generally easy to come by. 
Lest you think this cookbook contains recipes you’ve seen and prepared before, it also includes more exotic offerings such as farro salad, Israeli couscous, and lamb kabobs.
 Full of delicious comfort foods to take you from breakfast all of the way through dinner, and dessert, this book will send you straight into the kitchen, foraging for ingredients, and getting out equipment, so you can immediately dig in.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review.